Tuesday, October 16, 2018

What’s So Great about School Libraries?



by Deborah Robins and Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com




To those in the know, a school library is a vital resource for students. As author, Jackie French, says:



Yet some still have questions, and others haven’t taken time to think about it.

“If students have Google, why do they need a school library?”

“Our school doesn’t have a library any more, and my kid gets by.”

“A school library - just some place with books where you need to be quiet, right?”

I asked teacher librarian, Deb Robins, passionate advocate for school libraries, to help us understand what a really great school library would look like. She chose to explain with this clever acrostic:


Today, October 16, is an important time to think about school libraries because tonight at 7.00 pm AEDT is the launch of the Students Need School Libraries Campaign. Play "spot the celebrity" while you check out the excellent videos made by the campaign - videos that will be shared widely via social media.

This worthwhile campaign's mission is:

... to ensure student access to high quality school library services. School libraries, and the qualified staff that run them are vital for ensuring that all students are equipped with the research and literacy skills they need throughout their life. Our vision to is ensure that every student has access to a dynamic, well-resourced school library led by a qualified teacher librarian alongside qualified library staff.

HOW CAN YOU HELP? 

The campaign aims to take over social media by getting the hashtag #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries to trend and having other media take it up. If you understand how important school libraries are for ALL Australian students is, please show your support by:

* visiting studentsneedschoolibraries.org.au

* sharing this post widely on Facebook, Twitter and other social media

* letting us know how you feel by using the hashtag #StudentsNeedSchoolLibraries

If you'd like to download the Thriving School Library poster (above) that Deb made, in PDF format, it is available for free to teachers, librarians and parents via my website.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Create a Story with Google Slides


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com





Google Slides can be really useful. It’s a free tool in your Google Drive to create presentations. You can choose from different themes and fonts, embed videos and add animations. You can collaborate with others, and share via email, download etc. The thing I love about Google Drive is the way saving is automatic, something that also makes it very useful for kids. You can even convert PowerPoint Slides to Google Slides and vice versa. As well as working through your browser (I find Chrome is best) there’s an app for your mobile device.

(If a child is under 13 (or your country's applicable age) it may be best to collaborate on a class story, using the teacher's account. Some kids under 13 may have a Family Link and be able to access Slides for themselves but it depends on what permissions parents have set.)

We can tell a story via Google Slides by simply writing a narrative, and dividing it into suitable sections. Each slide then has a section of the story. It's a an engaging way to create a digital story, and helps kids learn new technology skills.

How do you start? Once you open your Google Drive, choose New, and slide down to Google Slides, choosing Blank rather than From a Template. For my story example, I decided to write about a koala. I made a title page, inserting a title and my name, then inserting an illustration. Next, I added a slide. In this second slide, I deleted the top box where I’d put my title in the first slide, because I didn’t need it. I re-sized the bottom box to make a half page for the text, added a rectangle via Shapes, made it transparent (transparent is found inside the fill pot) and set it to the right for my illustration. I added a border to each box via border dash to the left of the font menu.

I wanted to add my own illustrations, but you can search for safe images via Insert, add from the computer, from Google Drive or from a camera. It’s very versatile. I added some leaves and my koala clipart (made with Assembly app on my iPad.) Then I repeated the process, each time adding a new slide via the + top left. Finally I went to Transition and set directions for animating the slides, then I published it to the web. The results should be visible below. If not, you can see it here.



Once kids have mastered a simple linear narrative, they might like to try an interactive story, something like a choose-your-own adventure story. This works because Google Slides allows us to embed links and also choose to link to different slides. Here’s a great video with an example and explanation.

Google Slides would be a good presentation tool for something like a short poem, a short graphic story, a cartoon, a joke, or a collection of illustrated sayings, similes or metaphors. Younger kids could try innovating on a known text like I Wish that I Had Duck Feet or Mrs Wishy Washy, or a repetitive song like The Ants Went Marching. There are some examples of Google Slide stories and extra resources on this page at Control Alt Achieve.

For more inspiration, check out my Creative Prompt series. You might also like to read Creating Picture Puzzles - Seek and Find.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Children’s Book Review, The Heart of a Whale



Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



The Heart of a Whale is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Anna Pignataro and published by Scholastic (2018.) RRP: $Au 24.99 HB.

From the publisher:

Whale’s song was so beautiful it could reach the furthest of faraways. It sang of happiness and hope, magic and wonder, always and everywhere. But Whale wishes with all his heart to find a friend somewhere in the vast, endless sea. Can his wish be carried over the ocean for someone to follow?

This is a beautiful picture book, both in the way it looks and the text. Whale has a far-reaching song that does so much good in the underwater world. It settles a wriggly octopus, it cheers a sad urchin, it even provides a musical backdrop for a ballet of ocean flowers. But Whale himself knows there is no song that can fill his empty heart. Can his loneliness be assuaged?

Pigntaro has used watercolours to great effect in the watery landscapes. Sea creatures glow against a blurred blue backdrop. Fronds and fish drift with the tide, and it seems we can almost hear that eerie whale music.

The Heart of a Whale is a lyrical and heart-warming story that will appeal to different aged children, and indeed to their parents, for different reasons. I hope you’ll grab it soon for the children you know who appreciate beautiful things.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Creative Prompt for Kids - Start with a Vegetable


by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



I enjoy challenging kids to respond to prompts and love to celebrate their creativity with them. So today I have a new prompt. It asks kids to start with the concept of a vegetable or with a real vegetable, and use this as the spark for any kind of creativity. Remember, the important thing is that kids create SOMETHING, so deviating from my suggestions is definitely to be encouraged. You’ll find all my creative prompts to date in the list far below.

* Use bits and pieces to transform a vegetable into something else - a potato could become an alien creature, broccoli might be someone having a bad hair day. You might like to limit yourself to a set number of extras eg only raw spaghetti and blu-tak. Or you can just let yourself go!

* Here are some story titles you might develop: Beware the Black Potato, Look out Brussel Sprout, Peter Parsnip Superhero, A Day in the Life of a Pumpkin. Or invent some of your own!

* What’s the most delicious menu you can create, using only vegetables?

* Learn how to make a carrot cake and bring a taste to school for your class.

* Create an advertisement for your transformed vegetable, persuading people to buy it.

* Choose any vegetable to base a cartoon character on. Create some adventures for your vegetable.

* Write a poem about a purple pea.

* Create a house for your transformed vegetable to live in.

* Retell the story of the three little pigs using your vegetable of choice. What villain will your story have?

* Create a short video starring your transformed vegetable and give him/her some vegetable friends.

* What if someone wished very hard for a baby and they got one, but it was a vegetable. How would they dress it and look after it? What might happen? Make a story about that baby.

* Have a game of Hot Potato with your friends/class. One person tosses a ball or beanbag to their right around a circle until the music stops, when the person holding the ball becomes the hot potato and is out. Invent another game with a vegetable name and teach your friends the rules so everyone can play.

* Choose names for a gang of vegetables that are causing trouble in the local community. What mischief do they get up to? Who or what solves the problem?

* If there were a battle between a cauliflower and a carrot, who would win? Create a cartoon about it.

* Join some friends to collect and illustrates some jokes about vegetables.

* Find a version of The Enormous Turnip, a Russian folk tale. Re-tell this story the way you choose.

* Design a new vegetable, one that children will love to eat. Draw and label your design.

* Make teeny tiny vegetables out of any kind of material.

* Transform yourself into a vegetable. Invent a language for yourself. Take some vegetable selfies.

* Learn how to make vegetable soup.

* Plant some vegetable seeds and grow your own vegetables.

* Invent a car for a vegetable to ride in.

* Imagine if Spudzilla escaped from The Institute for Weird Experiments on Vegetables. Where might it go? What would it do? How would it sound? What might happen next?


Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Children’s Book Review, Old Hat



Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson, www.thebookchook.com



Old Hat is a children’s picture book written and illustrated by Emily Gravett and published by Two Hoots, an imprint of PanMacmillan (2018.) RRP: $Au 14.99 PB .

From the publisher:

Harbet likes his comfy knitted hat, but the others keep jeering at him - OLD HAT! OLD HAT! No matter what headwear he buys - be it a towering fruit platter hat, an old-boot-on-the-head hat or a brightly lit traffic cone hat, Harbet cannot keep up with the latest fashions. As soon as he gets a brand new hat it is already... OLD HAT! It seems that Harbet will never fit in. But when one day he decides to go his own way, Harbet discovers just how much more fun it is to stop following others and think for yourself.

There’s a great message in Old Hat. I think some kids will feel compassion for Harbet, who is teased constantly about his hat not being up-to-date enough. Harbet tries and tries but no sooner does he copy the latest style than a new style pops up and he is once again “old hat”! Children will definitely appreciate the visual humour - Gravett’s colourful hats are superb - and the textual humour is lots of fun too. We read about one hat that is “low in fat, high in fibre, and could provide 80% of his daily vitamins.” But when Harbet thinks for himself and creates a feathery hat of his very own, suddenly his “friends” want to copy him. The final spread is very silly and very cute.

Old Hat would be good to compare with other books about hats. Consider traditional tales like Caps for Sale, or picture books like We Found a Hat, Feathers for Phoebe, and NSS 2016 title, I Got this Hat. You'll find lots of hat activities in that last article.

Can kids recognise the expression “old hat”? What does it mean? We call an expression like this an idiom. Do kids know any others? (It cost an arm and a leg. You can talk until you’re blue in the face. He’ll be there until the cows come home.) Make a class list of idioms and add to them over time.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.
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