Never Let a Chance Go By ……..

I’ve had two very different opportunities in the past two weeks.

The first was to work closely with a Year 13 student who sought help from me with understanding the essay questions for his English novel study.  His class is studying Bulibasha and after some discussion around setting, theme, character and plot I confirmed what I had suspected, he hadn’t actually read the text!  I confessed to him that I also hadn’t read this novel and so I struck a contract with him – if he read the book, I would also read the book and we’d meet weekly to discuss it in relation to his essay questions.  Reading the first 50 pages was like chewing cardboard.  I had no stomach for it. But we had agreed to read the first 100 pages before our next get-together so I persevered.  As I neared the 100 page mark I began to find I had become invested in the outcome for these characters. I wanted to discover the end of their story so I kept going and finished the entire novel the next day.  As a result, the student and myself (he had read our agreed-to 100 pages) had an in-depth discussion which has helped him focus on a clearer approach.  An unexpected result was the gratitude from his Year 13 teacher that I would “go the extra mile” to help and the acknowledgement of being an extra professional as part of the team.  All because of a conversation with a student who asked me a question.

The second opportunity came during one of the lessons I taught today – a Year 10 Social Studies class who need to write a Time Magazine article about an important event in the 20th Century.  Today’s focus was on gathering information in a format that will help them use it to write their article. (More about this is a future post about note-taking).  The teacher who was in charge of this class today was relieving for their regular teacher, however he is also a full-time member of staff.  Once the session was finished and we’d set the boys to working he began to talk to me about his Year 11 History class which is due to begin a new research assignment next term.  

After a great discussion and exchange of ideas I will now be working with this group for several consecutive lessons with a focus on research skills:  note-taking, searching techniques and using the History in Context Resource Centre through EPIC.  This is a successful, if somewhat serendipitous outcome which allows me to work in depth with a new group of students.  All because one teacher was relieving another teacher’s class in the library.

I encourage you to snatch, grasp, grab, pluck and seize every potential opportunity and then turn it into a successful collaborative working opportunity with your teachers and students.


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Visual Pathway to Analysing Texts


I am becoming increasingly aware of myself as a visual learner. This blog post from the wonderful Sally Pewhairangi is a great reminder of this for me.
This had a dual effect on me.
Firstly, I immediately saw the potential for English teachers to use this as an analysis tool for their class novel studies. The students could create their own key as to how to analyse the text, maybe as a plot summary or maybe as a way of charting use of language, or possibly even plotting a character’s movement or development during the novel. I’m sure there are other ways to use it too.
Secondly, it reminded me of why it’s so important to share your ideas with others, and how exciting it is to have new ideas sparked by others sharing their experiences.

Originally posted on Finding Heroes:


Contender for the World: Whiskey Beach by Nora Roberts.
My Verdict: I was expecting to be swept off my feet by the ‘Queen of Romance’ but was terribly disappointed. A bit too homely for my liking.

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Filed under Book reviews, Classroom ideas, Creative Ideas, Inspirations, Lesson Plans

The Power of Quotes for Inspiration

At the end of last term we settled on a very simple idea to fill space above our fiction shelves and the ceiling so it didn’t look so bare.

Christine, one of our part-time staff had been processing the new Bear Grylls’ book  A Survival Guide for Life:  how to achieve your goals, thrive in adversity and grow in character. She made an off-hand comment about how striking some of Bear’s sayings are that are scattered throughout the book.  The ensuing conversation led to a brainstorming session which resulted in us deciding to create a series of posters with great sayings to inspire our boys.

Quotes posters

I sent an email out to staff asking them to send me some of their favourite quotes they either use in the classroom or would like to use with students and was pleased with the response.  I also trawled through ones I’d saved and others on some good websites and came up with 50.

After typing up the quotes we printed them on buff coloured A3 paper, laminated them and then stuck them up on the wall.

I was a happy librarian.  But what has made me an ecstatic librarian was observing a Year 7 teacher using these with her class during the last five minutes of her library visits both last week and this week.  She asked the boys to have a look and choose one that they liked or that they wanted to share with the rest of the class. She then gave them the opportunity to read out their chosen quote and invited them to share what it meant to them or what deeper meaning it might have.

Here are three they chose today:

No. 26

No. 13

No. 35

My own personal favourite is:

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right” – Henry Ford

I want to make it a round 60 so I need another few yet.  Have you got a special inspirational quote?  I’d love you to share it here so I can find my final 10.


Filed under Creative Ideas, Displays, Inspirations, Southland Boys High School

Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry

Yesterday was a big day for me!  About a month ago I had been invited to speak to student teachers studying at Otago University in Dunedin about the process of scaffolding research and guided inquiry as part of their Literacy Across the Curriculum paper. I was a little nostalgic and it felt even more surreal walking into a lecture theatre I had sat in during my year at teachers college back in the early 1980′s, only this time I was the one standing at the front talking to students, some of whom had already completed degrees and were now training to go into classrooms as teachers.

The time allocated just wasn’t long enough! There was so much to tell them, share with them and discuss with them.  I easily had enough content to spread across two sessions, but we were constrained to one and so I made the best of it.  My hope is that our short 50 minutes has only just opened up potential discussions as they all contemplate graduation and beginning in their own classes next year.  To that end I have invited them to join me in the new Scaffolding Research and Guided Inquiry Group on the Virtual Learning Network.  I hope we can continue to discuss what guided research and inquiry can look like in classrooms, as these skills are relevant to all subject disciplines in all schools across every year level.

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Filed under Classroom ideas, Collaboration, Critical Literacy, Databases, Information Literacy, Lesson Plans, Otago University, Presentations, Recording Information, Reflective practice, Research, Resources

Action and Reflection: Aligning and Mapping the Work of a Library to Its Community of Learning


As part of my workshop at the SLANZA 2013 conference on engaging with your school community I talked about the importance of articulating your school vision. Here is a concept from Buffy Hamilton which will enable you to take that vision for your school library and puts meat on the bones of it so that everyone can see. I love not only the visual aspect to this idea of mapping the work you are doing in your library but also the connection to the work being done in collaboration with the rest of the school. It makes those links very clear and understandable for anyone who is involved or has an interest. I also think the idea of having this both physically in the library as well as online is important for the sharing of these ideas and projects as well as the promotion of further discussion and brainstorming. Mapping this work will also provide intersections for further collaboration and allows you to identify and follow through on areas for potential evidence based practice. Thanks so much to Buffy for sharing this. Great idea, and I look forward to seeing how this progresses.

Originally posted on The Unquiet Librarian:

Photo by Buffy Hamilton

Photo by Buffy Hamilton

While I was in Cleveland, Ohio as Learning Strategist for the Cleveland Public Library, I was fortunate to see the work of many different kinds of organizations outside of education who were interested in supporting learning for people of all ages in formal and informal spaces.  One of the most interesting experiences was going with my friend and colleague Jennifer Schwelik of INFOhio to visit Patti Choby at the Cobalt Group.  During my visit there, I had the opportunity to learn about their work with the Broadway P-16 initiative [learn more here] and how they were mapping and aligning their work with other community organizations and initiatives with a simple yet effective approach utilizing old-fashioned bulletin board material, giant Post-It notes, construction paper, notecards, and painter’s tape.  The effect, though, was anything but stale—this living organic wall really invited me in to the work…

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Filed under Collaboration, Inspirations, Reflective practice, School Community

Evidence Based Library and Information Practice

AASL Fall Forum

EBLIP, The Evidence Based Library and Information Practice Journal is a rich source of articles and research findings, the purpose of which is to contribute to the decision making of information professionals and their professional practice.

The latest edition has just been released and as explained by editor Alison Brettle in her editorial, while the journal is hosted by the University of Alberta in Canada, it has a global perspective and influence with contributors and editorial members in the US and the UK as well as Canada.

I have found it to be a important source of quality articles related to research in the field of librarianship, which I have tapped into regularly in the four years since I discovered it.

I have downloaded two articles from Vol. 8 No. 3 to read: Developing and Applying an Information Literacy Rubric to Student Annotated Bibliographies and What Five Minutes in the Classroom Can Do to Uncover the Basic Information Literacy Skills of Your College Students: A Multiyear Assessment Study.

The first one will be particularly useful as I have been focussing on using senior students’ bibliographies as a way of collecting evidence on range and depth of resources chosen for assignments and have been investigating the use of annotated bibliographies at either Year 12 or 13.  The second one will be useful in the continuing work I’m doing in the field of transitioning students from secondary to tertiary study.

I also downloaded an evidence summary of the seven distinct roles children display when searching online at home and a brief commentary on the librarian as a practitioner/researcher.

As well as being a very useful source of relevant articles for your professional practice, some could also serve as entries for your revalidation journal if you are a RLIANZA, professionally registered librarian.

Why not consider using an article that you have found particularly pertinent or relevant as a way of promoting discussion with other library professionals. If you share it with colleagues in your local area, why not suggest either a coffee or dinner meeting where you can get together and discuss it or brainstorm ways of implementing ideas shared into our schools or our daily practice.

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Filed under Collaboration, Professional Development, Reflective practice

Q.U.I.C.K method for Evaluating Websites

Weighing it up

Dr Susan Sandretto from Otago University gave a stunning keynote address at the recent SLANZA Conference in Wellington on Planning for Critical Literacy. She is an engaging speaker and able to communicate well the need for us as teachers and librarians to create opportunities for teaching students about critical literacy and have them explore what it means to analyse text critically.  I have been fortunate enough to hear Susan speak on two previous occasions and she has been pivotal in giving me the necessary skills to design these two lessons, which help students grasp this concept in a digital environment.

This is the poster I developed using information Susan gave in hand-out form at her workshop I attended about two years ago.   I had several teaching colleagues also attend this workshop, and these posters were ultimately displayed in classrooms throughout the school.  I even saw it on the wall of my friend’s home office when I was visited her recently – she also happens to a former teaching colleague!

Critical Literacy Poster

Lesson 1: How to Evaluate a Website – Q.U.I.C.K

Searching the NetThrough observing typical 12 and 13 year old students’ behaviour in using computers to research, I realised they needed a lot of guidance to achieve effective results.

As part of developing an embedded programme towards achieving this aim, I designed this lesson to get Y8 students thinking about how to decide whether a website they are looking at is a good choice for their research needs.

I would typically teach this lesson after having already taught the class about keyword searching and selecting websites from their results.

The Quality Information Checklist is a great resource to engage students with how to evaluate websites and promote discussion in small groups about why it’s important to do this.


Lesson 2: Evaluating Websites

I have designed another lesson activity that I typically teach in either Year 9 or 10 where I remind them of the Q.U.I.C.K steps and get them to use as many as necessary to evaluate an assigned website. Here’s the lesson plan and a link to the Livebinder resource:

Evaluating Websites - Hoax lesson

It really brings home the message to students that just because a website looks slick and has lots of bells and whistles, doesn’t make it appropriate, relevant, correct or even true.

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Filed under Critical Literacy, Critical Literacy, Information Literacy, Lesson Plans, Research, Resources