Story Box Library

Story Box Library is melding the mediums of film and storytelling to create authentic online literature experiences. Australian content is delivered from a diverse range of storytellers for primary school aged students. The site also includes teacher resources, Australian curriculum links and a behind-the-scenes look at the creation of the stories. Teacher librarian Sharon McGuinness has discovered the extensive toolkit of Story Box Library and shares her use of it with us:

I am the teacher librarian at Thirroul PS which is just north of Wollongong on the NSW south coast. We are a school of approximately 360 students across 15 classes, with the vast majority of students speaking English as their first language.

The new NSW based Australian English curriculum, with its emphasis on literature, presents teacher librarians a golden opportunity. At Thirroul, our Stage 1 staff have been working with students using ‘Language, Learning and Literacy’ or L3,a NSW program which encourages the use and study of literature in the classroom. Working with staff, I have further expanded the suggested literature titles and am completing a similar task with regard to the suggested titles within the new curriculum – particularly those featuring sustainability, Australia’s engagement with Asia and Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

My aim is to make it easier for staff to use literature in each classroom and avoid duplicating titles across stages and grades.

Part of this strategy also includes using related online literature resources – whether it be author/illustrator websites, book trailers, interviews or multi modal texts. Story Box Library will bring more of an authentic literature experience into the classroom with its range of online storytelling segments. It also aims to give students the background of how the books are created, and classroom ideas. As a school we have already signed up and teachers are exploring the site, using the online storytelling segments on their interactive whiteboards in the classrooms. Teachers also appreciate the accompanying teaching notes and ideas as this fits in perfectly with our Stage 1 L3 program. I have also added several of the titles on the SL website to our Stage 1 L3 list of suggested texts.

Over the past couple of years, I have noticed the staff’s usage of printed teaching resources greatly decreasing and recognize that staff now rely on resources available online. Story Box Library fills a gap in resourcing online Australian children’s literature.

We are looking forward to the site’s further growth and development as it has the ability to provide us with a ‘one stop shop’ for a range quality Australian children’s literature.

To find out more about the services provided by the site, visit Story Box Library.

SLAV & NGV explore art, literature & stories

The details of the final SLAV conference for 2012, Art, literature and stories: exploring sharing across cultures have now been announced. This partnership between SLAV and the National Gallery of Victoria will be held at NGV International on Friday the 9th of November, 2012.

The program features two keynote addresses. The first by Anne E Stewart will explore storytelling as a sharing of heart and spirit. Helen Kent and Dr Larissa McLean Davies will discuss Literature in the Australian Curriciulum in a socio-historical context. The session will also explain some of the ways in which the NGV can be used with students studying Literature and English.

Explore NGV’s learning resources at their website

The conference also features a number of concurrent sessions that explore many aspects of literature and art. The day will finish with an intriguing discussion about the significance of frames and the choices made when presenting paintings to the public.

The full conference schedule is now available and registrations can be completed through SLAV. As always, you will also be able to participate in the event on Twitter using the #slavconf hashtag.

Texts in the City from the Wheeler Centre

The Wheeler Centre is an institution that is dedicated to the discussion of reading and writing. Based in Melbourne, the centre hosts a number of excellent events and panels related to reading. A regular event at the Wheeler Centre is the Texts in the City series which explores texts from the Victorian upper secondary (VCE) English reading lists. Many of the novels or plays discussed, such as The Quiet American or The Crucible, are being studied in other states as well. You can view or download all of the Texts in the City talks here.

One excellent aspect of these discussions is that they provide students with original and varied perspectives about a text. In senior levels when detailed text studies are being completed there can often be a level of fatigue that sets in amongst the students. Hearing the text discussed by fresh voices with new views helps to avoid this common problem. The talks would be perfect for a revision or homework task.

The Texts in the City recordings also provide a great example of how teachers might record their own video discussions or podcasts about texts. With relatively easy to use video and audio recording devices now available (even a mobile phone will do) there is an opportunity for teachers to record their own discussions about a text, which could then be shared across a whole year level and many classes. Check out free tools like Audacity or the YouTube Video Editor for some simple tools that can be used to edit together audio or video.

To keep up to date with the Texts in the City series and any other events you can follow  The Wheeler Centre on Twitter, or subscibe to the video and audio podcasts using the links below.

Subscribe to the Wheeler Centre Video Podcast

Subscribe to the Wheeler Centre Audio Podcast

The Publisher’s Office

Penguin USA has developed a very interesting website, that adds value to their publications. The Publisher’s Office.

Homepage
Homepage

From the website comes the following information:

At Penguin we know that readers have a wide variety of interests and that finding an in-depth look at a particular author or subject can be difficult, if not impossible. From the Publisher’s Office makes it easy to learn more about your favorite authors-and to discover a few new favorites in the process. We hope you’ll watch, listen to, and read the programs found on these pages.

WATCH! In the Screening Room you can watch shows produced by us on a wide range of topics-from whether hypnosis really works to what Jon Scieszka, Ambassador for Children’s Literature, thinks about when he’s sitting down to write. From how an author and illustrator collaborate to create beloved characters to a look at what vampire romance fans are after now.

LISTEN! In the Radio Room you can hear editors at Penguin Classics interview scholars about enduring works, get tips for running a great small business, learn how following your passion can lead to professional success, and peek inside a poet’s process.

READ! In the Reading Room you can read early excerpts from a soon-to-be-published novel and read articles from some of our biggest nonfiction authors. Be sure to come back to chat with the author in one of our scheduled live chats.

 The Young Adult Central section sees videos of author interviews conducted by young adults.

YA Central
YA Central

A wonderful website for anyone interested in books, and the adult section could be useful for schools where literature is taught. YA Central has much to offer teenagers and the school libraries that cater for them. It would be lovely to see Penguin Australia add some Australian content or even start their own version of The Publisher’s Office.

ANZ LitLovers: Lisa Hill’s personal book blog

As readers of Bright Ideas, you are probably already familiar with Lisa Hill. Lisa Hill is the Director of Curriculum and teacher librarian at Mossgiel Park Primary School in Endeavour Hills and has been the feature of two previous Bright Ideas posts: the first about her school library blog and the second focussing on her professional learning blog. Lisa is now kindly sharing her personal reading blog.

Having set up my professional LisaHillSchoolStuff blog in March last year, I found it wasn’t long before I wanted the same sort of space to write online about what really matters to me: reading books.  I am a voracious reader, and have been since childhood. My family travelled a lot but wherever we lived in the world, my father’s first task was to join us up at the nearest library so that we could resume our Saturday routine: a weekly walk to the library where we borrowed as many books as we were allowed, followed by loafing on our beds with a book until late in the afternoon when we were shooed out to play by my mother.

 In 1997 I began journaling my thoughts about the books I read, and I wish I’d started long before that.  When you read about a hundred books a year as I do, the details fade as the years go by.  Although it can be a pleasure to re-read a book, it’s chastening to have to do this when you don’t really want to, in order to join in a conversation about it.  My journal entries range from cursory dismissals of books I didn’t like to long reflections on more complex books such as The Masterby Colm Toibin.  Sometimes my response is deeply personal because the book relates to something in my own life; at other times it’s like an impersonal review.  I wrote pages and pages about my journey through Proust and almost as much again about Simon Schama’s Landscape and Memorybecause it helped me to clarify my thoughts about them.  I still do this journaling, often late at night in bed, even though most of what I read now ends up as a blog post on my ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

ANZ LitLovers home

ANZ LitLovers home

Back in 2002 I had set up ANZ LitLovers as an online reading group and developed a website as a resource for members – but it was always a pain to update it.  When I bought a new computer that didn’t have the necessary software, it seemed to me that a LitBlog was a much easier and more flexible alternative, and I would be part of a growing international LitBlog movement, celebrating Australian Literature in my own little niche.

In the beginning I had ambitious ideas about other members of the group joining in and posting, but this hasn’t happened.  My group members write fluently and with great perception in the privacy of our online group, but they don’t seem to want to publish.  The one exception is a journalist, as comfortable with public writing as I am, but after posting her BBRLMs (Best Books Read Last Month) three times, she hasn’t done so since.  So it has become, by default, my personal LitBlog, a place for me to post my book reviews, and ramble on about book-related topics. 

At the time of writing, it has nearly 9000 hits, and is linked to other LitBlogs around Australia, the UK and the US.  ClusterMaps tells me that I have readers all over the world, but I think the ones in Slovenia, Myanmar and the Maldives must have stumbled on the blog by accident LOL.  However, there have been nearly 2000 viewers in Australia and over 1500 from the US – and these would translate into healthy sales if my writing were a book and not a blog! A growing number of people are commenting on my posts – which now number around 145 and that’s an average of thirteen posts each month since July last year.  I think it’s popular because I’m not a professional reviewer and my style sits somewhere between academic and general reader.  I take care to add the titles and authors as tags, and I categorise my posts to make them easy to find.  And I write often – usually every weekend – so there’s always something new to read if they’ve subscribed using RSS.

My all time top post (not counting the page about our reading schedule and our About page) is the one about Google Books, followed by my review of The Slap   which is on the Miles Franklin shortlist and has been featured prominently in the media.  A post about Modernism  got 17 hits in less than 24 hours, which surprised me, but the one I’m about to write about Patrick White’s Voss won’t be nearly so well-received, I bet!  Another very popular page is our ANZLL Books You Must Read list and a Reading Challengespage, but mostly people find my blog when they Google a particular title: although Perry Middlemiss’s Matilda is theAustralian LitBlog, he has more diverse interests than I do, and there’s not a lot of people writing online about Australian literary fiction or classics like me.  (I write about international contemporary fiction and classics, and non-fiction,  too, but that’s not my focus.)

2009 schedule

2009 schedule

Many people blog solely for their own pleasure and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I think that the key to having a blog that others want to read is to find a niche, and to develop a personal style.  I’m a serious reader, and my reviews reflect that, but they’re informal rather than pompous (I hope!) and they’re always my honest opinion.  (The only books I’ve received as review copies are the children’s books I review for Allen and Unwin, and even so I was a bit brutal on one occasion where I really didn’t like the book.) But I don’t just review books, I blog about all kinds of book related things…

 I’ve written about philanthropy for booklovers, about meeting my favourite author Kate Grenville, about rearranging the bookshelves in my library ( that’s the one at home) and about reading by candlelight for Earth Hour. I’ve ticked off a columnist in The Age and suggested Christmas gifts for booklovers.  I succumb to Book Memes (twice), post about festivals that I go to, have a go at predicting who the winners of awards might be, and am not afraid to express my opinion about ‘sacred writers’ who in my opinion are victims of their own overblown status. I jazz up the blog with pictures, maps, videos that tie in with books, book-covers and even an Animoto and I hyperlink almost obsessively so that people can click straight through to anything on another site that I refer to.  These strategies all come courtesy of what I’ve learned from Sue Waters at EduBlogs which is an excellent place to start any learning journey about blogging.

Books you must read

Books you must read

However, the most important point about having a personal blog is that it ought to be something you enjoy.  For me, blogging at ANZ LitLovers is an adjunct to what I already do in my reading journals.  I write for pleasure, at home and online!

Lisa has certainly given so much to others through her blogs and by reflecting on what she has been reading and then writing this for an audience is a terrific skill to have and constantly refine. Once again, well done Lisa and thank you for sharing your passion for books and your amazing amount of work with others. As well as reading Lisa’s blog for personal pleasure, students of English Literature could find some useful and interesting information.

Scribblemaps

Scribblemaps is a fairly simple tool that uses Google Maps and tools such as the ability to add text, images, shapes and so on.

Scribblemap homepage

Scribblemap homepage

Students can easily map where the action in a book takes place, add an image of the cover and perhaps some images of the suburb or city where the book is set. Maps can be saved and accessed later but it is vital that the code on the address line is saved for the next session. Students do not need to register for the site, but need to enter a password and keep track of their map codes. Scribblemaps is available in twelve languages.

The best part of Scribblemaps is how easy it is to use.