Archive | July 2015

MakerSpace Activity: Magnetic Book Marks

For our guided MakerSpace activity this week, I invited the kids to make magnetic book mark clips. I got the idea from this Instructable, although instead of using sticky tape as they suggested, I used scraps of left-over book covering, which worked well. We got lots of pretty sheets of scrap-booking paper from Spotlight for only fifty cents each, although the magnetic tape we got there was a dud – it wouldn’t stick and we had to use the hot glue gun to attach the magnets. We quickly used up all two metres of magnetic tape, as some of the kids wanted to make some for their friends.

Magnet making 3 Magnet making 4 Magnet making 5 Magnet making 7

Book Week Displays

Apart from the lighthouse my aide created (see post below), we’ve also made a number of other light-themed displays that I wanted to share with you.

When we were brainstorming famous lights in literature, we thought of the lamp post in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. My aide built a lamp post out of cardboard and wooden dowel, then we covered some bean bags with fluffy cotton wadding to represent snow. The armchairs which we had to move to make way for the lighthouse were placed near the lamp post to create a comfortable corner for reading. Pictures from the Narnia movies were placed on the back wall and we show clips from the movie on the TV screen in the wall.

Reading together Lampost


On the back wall of the library, we took down the existing posters and created a large rainbow using rolls of crepe paper, then used covers we’d saved from hardback books and fishing line to create book “birds”. We also used the fishing line to hang “light bulb moments” from the ceiling in our senior section. The light bulb moments consist of a laminated cardboard light bulb suspended from the ceiling. Hanging from each is a statement about a discovery, invention or idea eg “Malala Yousafzai fights for the rights of girls to an education”, then a colour copy of a book cover from one of our books on that topic. We tried to get a balance of light bulb moments across genders, cultures and past and present. They’ve generated some good discussions with the kids.

Rainbow and books (00000002) Light bulb moment

LEQ Support Teachers’ Network Meeting

Thank you to the Lutheran Education Qld Support Teachers for inviting me to give a presentation at their meeting today about reading trends, what students are currently reading and how to encourage our kids to read. It’s great to see so many people interested in promoting reading and understanding the value that reading has in our lives. I have included a link to my slides here if you want to follow up on anything: Reading Patterns and Trends

For those people who asked about my LibGuides page, the link is here.

Library Lighthouse

When we were brainstorming ideas for this week’s Book Week theme, Books Light up our World, we came up with the idea of having a large lighthouse as a central display. I left it to my library aide, Peta, who’s the creative one, to come up with how to actually create it. She explains below how it was built.

Lighthouse finished 2Building the lighthouse

When Ms Keen told us the theme for Book Week was ‘Books Light Up Our World’, we came up with the idea to build a lighthouse.  A light house, oh my goodness, how was I to do this?

I knew that it had to be strong enough so it wouldn’t fall over on top of anybody, so had to make the inside structure as strong as I could.

A few months before I had to build it, I had some furniture delivered and thought it would be a good idea to keep all the packaging in case we needed it here in the library to build something, hmmmm such as a lighthouse.  It turned out to be exactly what we needed.  I had lots of foam panels and solid foam shapes plus all the cardboard packaging.

I started by shaping the solid foam shapes into one solid piece and connected them with strong filament tape that we have in the library.  Once I had it how I wanted it and the position that I wanted I began to make the first half of the lighthouse.  I turned two large pieces of my cardboard boxes into a hexagon, taped the sides together and then cut the bottom of each side with flat panels, so that the bottom of the cardboard shape laid flat on the foam box.  I taped these panels to the foam with filament tape so that the first half of the lighthouse was now secure on the foam base.  I left an opening in the top of the lower half of the lighthouse large enough so that I would be able to put a light on a stand in it and thread the power lead through a hole I had cut out on the bottom corner of the hexagon – lighthouses have to have a light.lighthouse1

I then had to cut the foam panels to fit the hexagon shape of the lower half.  I measured them all, cut them to size, glued the panels to the cardboard shape and then reinforced each corner with filament tape.  I cut foam shapes to make a platform for the top of the lower half to stand the top of the next half of the lighthouse on to.

I then placed a tall lamp inside the lower half of the lighthouse and threaded the power lead to the outside as, once the top half was in place, I would not be able to put the light inside.

After making sure the platform was secure, the light in place, I then made the top half of the lighthouse, out of cardboard only, and in the exact same way as I did the bottom.  Once I had the six sides measured, I laid the shape on the floor and cut out the windows, covered them in yellow cellophane and then painted the inside of the top half before securing it in place.

lighthouse2 lighthouse 3 lighthouse 5

I painted the base black, the lighthouse white and then measured for the red panels which I then painted the next day.

I made the railing out of kebab skewers, stood them in foam and painted them black then placed them around the middle platform of the lighthouse and strung twine for the railing.

To top it off Shannon came up the great idea of putting an umbrella on the top to finish it completely (team work happening).

Working with foam you can imagine I made an absolute mess everywhere from the library office to the junior computer area and beyond and of course the principal, Dr Dolling, showed families through with me crawling around on the floor in a sea of paint, foam and cardboard.

A Visit from Nao

Nao, the humanoid robot, visited the school today along with Jonathan Kingsley from Brainary Interactive to speak to our Code Club kids and our library monitors as well as interested staff and a number of visiting principals. I’d seen Nao at the recent Edutech conference and he offers great opportunities for teaching students computer coding. Students can interact with Nao, teach him to play soccer or to dance, even speak to him in a foreign language. Nao can be programmed using simple drag and drop, block-based programming or more complex programming languages such as C++ or Python.

Robot 3 Robot 4 (00000002) Robot 5 (00000002)

Samantha Wheeler

Samantha Wheeler, author of Smooch and Rose and Spud and Charlie, visited the school today to speak to our Year 4-7 students about her work and to give some valuable tips about structuring a story. The students enjoyed her interactive presentation and had lots of questions at the end. samantha wheeler 1 samantha wheeler

Your new book, Mr Cassowary, is coming out in September. What’s it about?

Mister Cassowary is a mystery about a young boy, Flynn, who goes up to Mission Beach with his dad and discovers there’s a strange cover-up surrounding his grandfather’s death. Was it something to do with the large dinosaur-like cassowaries that live in the area?

You have a lot of animals. Have any of them made an appearance in your books?

Yes! Of course! Lizzie from Smooch and Rose was based on a dog we once owned. Mickey was my husband’s one and only horse and Spud was based on a lazy ex-racehorse I once owned.

 What does this year’s Book Week theme, Books Light up our World, mean to you?

Having travelled a lot as a child and as an adult, sometimes new cities can feel like dark and lonely places. But when you open up a book – whether to read or to write in – your world is suddenly alight. You can be whatever you want to be.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring author/illustrator?

Write about what you love. That way, you get to be where you want to be, have what you want, be with whomever you wish – every time you enter the story.

 How might teachers use your books to teach the Australian Curriculum, particularly the sustainability cross-curriculum priority?

My books all come with great teachers’ notes (notes for Smooch and Rose and Spud and Charlie are here: Nell) but more specifically can be used to teach sustainability such as:

  • living things depend on each other and the environment to survive
  • scientific knowledge is used to inform personal and community decisions
  • science knowledge helps people to understand the effect of their actions

Samantha has mapped Smooch and Rose against the Australian Curriculum. You can download the document here.Smooch and Rose and The Australian Curriculum

MakerSpace activity: Pinwheels

I’ve just started a MakerSpace in the library this term – lots of electronics, construction stuff, mini-computing like Arduinos and MaKey MaKey and, of course, craft materials. It’s available for student use during breaks and once a week I’m going to offer a set activity.

Today was the first one and I needed something simple and cheap, which could be made from our available materials, as I’d been run off my feet all week and left my planning too late. I decided to create pinwheels.

I got the idea from Instructables. I had about a dozen kids turn up from Year 3 to Year 7 – not bad for the first time. It only needed some brightly coloured paper, straws and paper fasteners and could be done in ten minutes.



Peter Carnavas

Award-winning author and illustrator Peter Carnavas visited the school today to do workshops with our Year 8 English students, who have just started a unit on analysing and creating picture books. This is the fourth time Peter’s been to the school. He must be getting sick of us but we keep getting him back because the students and teachers find him enormously engaging and informative.

My interview with Peter is below.

Peter 1 (2) Peter 5

What would you say to schools is the benefit of getting an author or illustrator in?

It gives students and teachers the opportunity to gain an insight into the creative process of writing and illustrating a story. The visit aligns with many English concepts, including author perspective and visual literacy. Most if all, it hopefully provides inspiration for students to write and illustrate their own stories.

What does this year’s Book Week theme, “Books Light up our World”, mean to you?

Stories illuminate us in many ways. They provide new perspectives, shed light on otherwise silent issues and give voice to many different people. They also light up our world by simply making us feel more alive and more connected.

What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to an aspiring author/illustrator?

Tell the story you want to tell. Leave the trends and commercial ideas to others and just write the story you are passionate about. also, becoming an author/illustrator may be difficult, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible,

What was it like going to the Bologna Children’s Book Fair?

It was quite inspirational and incredibly overwhelming. The size of the fair and the number of publishers and creators made me feel very small but still rather wonderful to be a part of it.

What effect, if any, did libraries have on you as a child?

I discovered my heroes in library shelves – Roald Dahl and Quentin Blake. I still remember plucking Matilda from the shelf in primary school. I was hooked. I continue to find heroes in libraries to this day.

Voices on the Coast

Aleesah Darlison 3 Barry Jonsberg 2 Mark Wilson 2

(left to right: Aleesah Darlison, Barry Jonsberg, Mark Wilson)

It’s always lovely when students and parents take the time to tell you how much they enjoyed an activity, and this week three separate parents came to tell me how their kids raved about their experiences at Voices on the Coast Literature Festival. Thanks to TL extraordinaire, Kelly Dunham, and her team at Immanuel Lutheran College for organizing another great event. I’ve got students in senior college now who’ve been going every year since Year 5 and they look forward to it eagerly.

This year our students saw Aleesah Darlison, Oliver Phommavanh, Mark Wilson, Catherine Jinks, Barry Jonsberg (my personal favourite – hilarious!), Sean Williams, Skye Melki-Wegner, Belinda Murrell and many more. Despite the bitter wind, it was a great couple of days and really inspires those kids to read the books of the authors they’ve seen.


Why “The Book Light”?

The literal meaning reminds me of my childhood, the book light attached to my bed head so I could read far into the night, long after I was supposed to be asleep. In a more metaphorical sense, it refers to the light that books have brought into my life, as they have into the lives of millions of people around the world – the light of knowledge, of imagination, of empathy, shining a light on other people and other cultures and other times. And in a practical sense it ties in nicely with the International Year of Light and the Book Week theme “Books Light up our World”.

Unfortunately, having “book” in the title meant my blog was considered potential spam and was shut down for a couple of days by Edublogs until they could verify who I was. I always knew books were dangerous, giving people ideas, but that’s ridiculous. It does remind me though of a quote I have up in my library:

“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.”

Helen Exley