Periodic table of story telling – story starter activities

The Periodic Table of Storytelling  is one of those special treats that comes through your feed and gets your mind buzzing with ideas of how it could be used with students.

 ps

As well as being pretty funny, the table covers most of the major story types and character arcs, making it a great tool for engaging students in creative writing.

Each story element has an identifier, name and is grouped under one of the following categories – structure, setting, modifiers, plot devices, heroes, villains, archetypes, character modifiers, meta tropes, production and audience reaction.

Ideas for use with students

  • Give each student in the class one story element, making sure that all categories are represented. (You could make coloured cards for each element).
  • Ask them to form small groups (3-4) and collaborate on a story that incorporates all their individual story elements. This could easily be a homework assignment or even a competition with time limits
  • You could mix up the activity by asking them to write in different genres or mediums – film, play, poem, short story, tv show etc.
  • To make this an individual task, give each student three cards and ask them to include all three elements
  • You could also use these story elements to describe the books you’re reading. This would be a great way to build a shared vocabulary for understanding story and transferring knowledge of one story to other narratives
  • The story elements could be a prompt for a library creative writing challenge – how many story elements can you get in your story? or even a weekly writing challenge with one element as the focus each week
  • Put story element cards into a box and students choose one (or more) to prompt a free writing task

These kinds of forced association activities are a great way to get kids (and adults!) thinking creatively. If you have any other ideas or find something that works well for your students, let us know.

Text to speech – supporting online information access

There are a growing number of online tools to support students in need of literacy support. As part of a new series on web based literacy aids, this post from Catherine Hainstock talks about how text-to-speech programs can support students’ reading online.

Implementation of the Australian Curriculum  is in full swing across the nation and as a result schools are committing more resources towards their Literacy programs. The demands and opportunities for TL’s to support this literacy focus may vary, but as information specialists our core business is to ensure our students can effectively find and interact with information.

After giving a brief demonstration on advanced Google searching to our school’s Literacy Support teacher, I wondered about other ways to improve access to online information for students who may be struggling. Many of the mainstream tools students use for accessing information such as Google Search and Wikipedia do not support students with literacy needs as well as they could. There are a number of ways we can help improve this experience. First I turned my attention to browsers; I found they offered very different experiences and levels of assistance. Text-to-Speech support is available on most browsers (you can read about the options here). When I tried them I found:

  • Bing relies on Microsoft Window’s software being installed on your computer. The system was complicated and required a lot of reading to work out. The version we had installed on our computers used a very robotic voice
  • Firefox’s add-on Text to Voice app plays MP3’s of selected text so it’s very slow. Any words it doesn’t recognise, it spells out. Again it was a very robotic voice
  • Google’s Chrome Speak app (available from the Web Store) was easy to install and provided options for varying the rate, pitch and volume but once again the voice sounded very robotic
  • Once I added Google’s US English Female Text-to-speech voice extension to Chrome (available from the Web Store) and activated it in Chrome Speak’s options (found under Chrome Settings – Extensions – see image below), the voice offered pleasant web reading support.

It’s important to note different schools run different versions of software, different implementation programs and have preferred devices including mobile devices and BYOD programs. In mycase, I used desktop computers in a school library for testing. Every school is unique so it’s important to investigate and experiment with your own equipment.

Many schools in Victoria are also restricted to only one browser, usually Internet Explorer. As information specialists, it is vital that we recommend and push for technical decisions to be based on educational criteria, so explore browser tools and lobby for programs if you think they will benefit staff and students.

In the next instalment I’ll look at improving access via search engine tools and options.

Image credit: Chinese children in class with Australian kids at Carlton State School, H2002.199/1074,  State Library of Victoria Pictures Collection

 

Revamping your school library orientation

Does your library orientation plan for next year’s students feel a bit stale? Have you been doing the same lesson for the last few years (or more)? Do you feel bored just thinking about what you have planned? If yes, here are some great ideas to help revamp your next school library orientation, from teacher librarians and library technicians across Australia:

Introducing the school library:

  • Promo video: Have current students create a promo video about what they thought the library was going to be like, what it actually has to offer, and what they think the students will like about their library. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian.
  • Student presentation: If you have a library committee, get current members to create a presentation (such as a Powerpoint presentation) to tell new students the basics of the library, e.g. opening times, where the OPACs are, and how many items you can borrow. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Becoming familiar with the library:

  • Prior knowledge: Ask the students what they already know about school libraries. It will open up discussion. Barbara Braxton, retired teacher librarian
  • Library relay: Each pair of students takes a question card, searches the library for the answer, then returns with the answer for their next question card. The first team to complete all the cards wins a prize. All the questions are reviewed at the end of the lesson. Sue Crocombe from The Glennie School
  • QR code QnA: Students move around the library to approximately 25 QR codes and scan them for the questions they need to answer. It gets the students moving and asking questions. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • Research Frenzy: Students are divided into two groups, one using computers, one using books. In teams they draw a question from a central bowl. Once they find the answer (either via computers or books), back goes the slip and another is drawn. The students swap from computers to books (or visa-versa), and discuss what they found at the end of the lesson. Shelagh Walsh from Tennant Creek High School
  • The Great Race: Have five junior secondary school students run this race. They create cryptic clues to help participants explore the library. In teams, the students receive their clues, and have to be the first to find all the answers to receive a prize. The same group of students running this game hand out ‘treasure bags’ at the end of the lesson, consisting of things like pen, notepad, library brochure, bookmarks, chocolate frogs and jelly snakes. Rueleen Weeks from Dubbo Christian School

Understanding Fiction and Non-Fiction shelving:

  • The coded letter: An activity to get students used to where things are in the non-fiction section is a letter from someone on holiday with words left out and Dewey numbers in their places.  Students go to the Dewey number and work out the subject there and place that in the space until their letter is complete (and makes sense).  You can have a simple letter and a more complicated one depending on the class.Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Class A-Z: Put the class in fiction order by their surname and then get them to take themselves to the shelf where they would live if they were a book. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Marco Polo:  Call out a subject or type of resource and the students have to run to that place. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School
  • Where in the Dewey?: The aim of this game is to get students thinking about the context of what they are searching for, and where it may be located in the Dewey system. In groups the students need to find books that have information about specific topics, such as: wood – how trees grow; a guide to Australian timber for furniture making; how trees are used as habitats, or; the environmental impact of deforestation. Peta Wilson from Lyneham High School

Remember, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Ask your colleagues for suggestions. Your State Library (such as State Library of Victoria) may offer library orientation tours and that will provide students with knowledge transferable to the school library. Thank you to all those who contributed ideas via OZTL_NET and Twitter.

Image credit: Enokson on Flickr

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.

Splash: multimedia resources, games and online events from the ABC

Splash is a new educational initiative developed in partnership between the Australian Broadcasting Commission and Education Services Australia. The site includes a large library of media clips, audio, games and activities for teachers and students mapped against the Australian Curriculum.

The multimedia library provides access to the ABC’s impressive archive, including age-appropriate notes and questions. There is also information for parents, including a brief guide to the Australian Curriculum. All resources are free and can be accessed from any device.

In addition to resources, Splash is also the hub for live national events facilitated through online conferencing, connecting students to experts and each other.

This brief introductory video provides background to the project and highlights key resources.

New writers in residence on Inside a Dog

Jordi Kerr, Learning Programs Officer at the Centre for Youth Literature talks about upcoming writers in residence on insideadog.

Ever wanted to break into a writer’s mind and find out the true story – how do they do it? What makes them tick? Where did that idea come from? Welcome to insideadog’s Residence blog.

insideadog hosts a different YA writer each month – they hang around the kennel, and write posts that give an insight into their lives and writing process. It’s a unique opportunity for students, regardless of their geographical location, to pick the brains of an author. By commenting on the blog posts, students can interact with professional writers, and have their questions about reading and writing answered.

In March, debut author Myke Bartlett provided candid and humorous explorations of his background and process, as well as exclusive glimpses at some of his unpublished work, and his upcoming sequel to Fire in the Sea.  (You can easily access all of Myke’s posts here.)

Myke has also aptly demonstrated that blog writing is an art form in its own right. In the classroom the Residence blog can be used as a launch pad to discuss and explore how writing for an online audience is different to writing for print. What makes a good blog? How is blog success measured? How can readers be encouraged to become involved?

In April, American graphic novelist (artist and writer) Raina Telgemeier was at the helm. (You may have heard of her multi-award winning book Smile?) If you’ve ever been uncertain about how to introduce graphic novels into your classroom, this is your chance. Raina’s got some great posts from how a graphic novel is born (and raised), advice for budding cartoonists and graphic novel recommendations for young readers. You can access all her posts here.

Insideadog endeavours to publish the names of upcoming resident authors ahead of time, to give teachers the opportunity to prepare and plan. Students can familiarise themselves with the author’s books, and research them online. There is also a blogging worksheet included in the site’s teacher resources, which you can use or adapt to foster discussion.

You may notice that over the next few months the writers hosted on insideadog are also involved in our Reading Matters Student Day program. For those students lucky enough to be attending Reading Matters, the residence blog gives them a chance to get to know the authors beforehand.

Bamboo Dirt: I need a digital research tool to …

Whenever we are faced with learning new skills or new methods we tend to focus on the tools. However, when we shift our focus from  the tools to what can be done with them, real transformation occurs. Mastery and success become possible; it’s the same whether you are learning to paint with oils or teach research skills at a 1:1 netbook/iPad/BYOD school.

Bamboo Dirt is an online registry created to help educators make that shift. Its focus is on research tools and the Bamboo Dirt search function is organised around the idea of purpose.

Bamboo Dirt’s home page offers lots of browsing categories based around tasks. Categories include:

  • visualise data
  • organise research materials
  • manage tasks
  • manage bibliographic information
  • communicate with colleagues
  • author an interactive work
  •  build and share collections

Users can also search or browse by keyword, tags, recommended resources, and new resources. Each result has a short description plus information on cost, licensing and platforms.

You can make the site even better by joining and contributing. Registration is free and members can:
  • add resources
  • review them
  • comment/describe how you have used a tool
  • recommend good resources and those appropriate for beginners
  • submit tips and tricks to help others understand the value of the tool
This service is an ongoing collaborative effort between Bamboo Partner Institutions (UC Berkeley, UChicago, UW Madison), Bamboo affiliates (University of Alabama, NINES), and individuals dedicated to helping connect people with digital resources. It’s a welcome addition to any educator’s  research toolkit.

 

Learnist: visual literacy in action

You may be familiar with the addictive pinboard site, Pinterest. Now comes Learnist, which takes many visual clues from Pinterest, builds on similar organisational principles, and adds a whole range of functionality.

Image of learnist homepage

Still in beta, Learnist is designed around the idea of collecting resources on topics or themes and presenting them in a visually appealing and social format. Resources such as videos, images and links aren’t just collections in Learnist: they are arranged in step-by-step lessons or processes, so you can work your way through the information or tasks and tick them off as you go. It’s not only for formal education, but has an Education category and we anticipate it’ll be perfect for quick online learning projects, introducing students to new concepts, or for digital storytelling.

You can share resources and collections uploaded by other teachers or librarians, and add your own. (At this early stage, the ability to curate  collections isn’t provided for all users, but it will be.)

Here’s an introduction to Learnist from its creators:

Request an invitation, have a play, and let us know what you think.

Pinterest: beyond the buzz

You may have heard of Pinterest, the new social media platform that is taking the web by storm. Pinterest is like a virtual pinboard, where you share images you like either gathered from the web (like a shared bookmark) or uploaded from your own collection. Users can create boards on any theme and these are also tagged in categories, so you can browse through History or Technology, for example, and re-pin other people’s favourites to your own pin boards. You can follow other people’s boards and you can also integrate it with your facebook or Twitter accounts.

 

Image of Pinterest Education category

A Pin it! bookmarklet to add to your browser makes it easy to grab web content.

The joy of Pinterest is its visual nature – you can’t save text-only content, only material with images attached (even if it’s a web page with lots of text and only one image). That makes it perfect for gathering items together like a scrapbook.

Interestingly, most data so far indicates that the vast majority of its users are women. That’s not surprising, as many of the early users did use it as a scrapbook, so that some of the most glorious image collections are in themes like historical fashion and home decor – including drool-worthy bookshelves and libraries (there are also a lot of recipes).

Image of Pinterest board

But dig a little deeper – if you can – and you’ll soon recognise Pinterest’s value as an image repository, link sharing community, and easy-to-use site for students or classes to quickly assemble project materials on a huge range of topics.

Under the Education category you’ll find teaching materials and classroom activities gathered together by educators all over the world, and in other categories you and your students can find everything from historic photos of Victorian London or World War 1, to images of shoes worn in 1770 or wildlife or botanical drawings.

These “pins” can be shared on social media or embedded in blogs or websites.

 

Image of Pinterest pin

Pinterest is deceptively simple and dangerously addictive. Beware.

Google Lit Trips @ Mooroopna SC

Teacher librarian Rachel Fidock has kindly shared information on how she has been developing Google Lit Trips with her colleagues and students at Mooroopna Secondary College.
Mooroopna 4
Google Earth and Google Lit Trips:
Google Earth provides a tool for students to present oral presentations on their novels (where appropriate (i.e. aspects of the book can be highlighted by Google Earth)). We have low VELS levels in Speaking and Listening, possibly because students are not at ease giving oral presentations (often the way they are assessed for Speaking and Listening). Google Earth helps students to divert the attention from themselves. For example, they can show the class a trip they create that follows the journey taken by the main character in the novel (e.g. Swerve Google Lit Trip Presentation).
There are options to add images (creative commons-licensed images from Flickr), or show pictures that are already on Google Earth. There are so many options in Google Earth that students can make it as in-depth as they wish. The best part is they can record their voice over their journey so they have another option of meeting the requirements of Speaking and Listening. I have put together a guide to using Google Earth for the English staff that highlights how a Google Lit Trip can be used as an alternate assessment item for students to meet the requirements of VELS levels in Speaking and Listening, and created a Google Lit Trip on the novel Swerve as an example of its use.
We are now in the Ultranet training stage and are looking for ways the Library services, particularly our website, can become part of the student’s virtual space.
Rachel has taken the hard work out of learning how to introduce Google Lit Trips to students by providing readers of Bright Ideas with a Guide to Google Earth and Google Lit Trips which includes step by step instructions (including screenshots) for teachers and even assessment rubrics. A brilliant resource for teachers.
The Lit Trip that Rachel has created for Phillip Gwynne’s Swerve is an excellent example of what can be created. Please note that you will need to have Google Earth installed to view Rachel’s fantastic presentation.