Teacher Staffroom Episode 11: Books and school libraries

Thanks for downloading this episode of Teacher Staffroom, where we catch you up on the latest evidence, insight and action. I'm Rebecca Vukovic.

And just like that, we're already into a new school year and already in the full swing of things here at Teacher magazine. Throughout this episode, I'm going to be sharing some of the highlights of the past month and giving you a bit of an overview of what we've been working on. But remember, there's links to all the stories I mention in the transcript of this podcast, so if you'd like to delve deeper into any of the topics, you'll find everything you need at teachermagazine.com.au. Okay, let's get started.

The first article we published this year looked at themes and events taking place throughout 2020 that might inspire some of your lesson plans for the coming year. From the Tokyo Summer Olympics, to the Mars 2020 Rover that's due to be launched, to National Simultaneous Storytime – there are plenty of options to choose from.

Once you take a closer look at the article, I'd encourage you to discuss with a colleague the themes and commemorations occurring this year that you anticipate would fit in well with the units you're planning to teach.

Moving on now – as I looked back over the last month of content I noticed a theme emerging, that of literacy, books and school libraries. In fact, we published several interesting pieces that I'd like to share with you.

The first is a school example that came from St Joseph's College in New South Wales, where they share how they went about successfully engaging boys and changing their attitudes towards reading. It all stemmed from a student survey that revealed many students say they do not like reading because ‘reading is something girls do'. My colleague Dominique Russell spoke to the Head of Library, Linda Roden, about the initiatives, which include a ‘Books and Blokes' breakfast and pop-up libraries around the school.

Here's a quote from Lisa Roden from the article:

In this survey, over 30 per cent of boys who identified as being non-readers, or disengaged readers, nominated “reading is something girls do” as a response to explain why they did not like to read. We were concerned about this and began to brainstorm and research initiatives that we could implement to send the message that men read and value reading.

Here's something to think about: Students at St Joseph's College are invited to complete a survey each year on their reading habits. At your school, are you measuring the reading engagement of students? If so, how does this information inform your next steps in terms of implementing reading initiatives?

Okay, so the next piece is a short article that outlines the books most borrowed by students in 2018-2019, across fiction, non-fiction and picture book categories, according to the Civica Libraries Index.

For the past four years, Civica and the Australian Library Information Association have released the index which presents data on the books most borrowed by students across a 12 month period. The latest index details loan data from libraries across Australia and New Zealand between April 2018 and March 2019, which shows the most popular books in several categories and age groups. You'll find the full article on the Teacher magazine website.

Before I move on, here are some questions to think about: What books are you reading at the moment? As a teacher, how often do you speak with your students about what you're reading? And, do you recommend a wide range of books including both fiction and non-fiction books to students?

And finally, on the topic of libraries and reading, this month we published the next instalment in our Researching education: Five further readings… series. It's a monthly series where we take a look at some further readings available on a particular topic, including open access research papers from various online catalogues, and Teacher archive content that you may not have come across yet. To do this, the Teacher team is collaborating with Jenny Trevitt, a Senior Librarian at ACER's Cunningham Library. The theme for this month's edition is parental engagement.

The next piece I'd like to tell you about is a Reader Submission from teacher educators Dr Bryan Matera and Dr Joel Traver. Their piece explores how teachers can best support struggling learners in the classroom, and suggest five principles that can increase results when doing so. Here's a short quote from the article on assessing students:

Assessment with students cannot and should not be left to the end of a lesson. Rather, the assessment and monitoring of student understanding should be done throughout. Specifically, each phase of the release of responsibility framework should include a formative assessment feature.

We recommend assessments such as anecdotal records, observations/notes, strategic questioning, individual student whiteboards, etcetera, so that an immediate response can be implemented by the teacher. This assessment response can effectively direct the learner back to accurate work and an increased understanding of the concept.

Here are some questions to consider once you've taken a closer look at the article. How well do you know your own students? The authors of this article say: ‘Before expecting any learner to work independently or interdependently, effective teachers model via direct or explicit instruction.' Think about your own personal experience. Do you do this in your own teaching?

The final piece I'd like to share with you is one of my personal highlights. It's a podcast we recorded with Dr John Munro a Professor of Educational Psychology and Exceptional Learning at the Australian Catholic University. We sat down in Melbourne to record this episode on gifted learners – in particular, how to identify these learners, how to understand their learning needs and how to encourage them to reach their potential in the classroom and beyond. John offers some really interesting insights and practical strategies for teachers as well. Here's a short excerpt from the conversation:

If we think of a regular teaching session, really early in the piece I'll stimulate the students' existing knowledge for the topic. Then, I'll discuss with the group as a whole the key ideas. And then we'll have some time when the students practice the ideas, pursue them further and extend them. When I have the “stimulating their knowledge” phase, I can notice those students who can tell me more complex questions that they think might be answered by the topic. I can say, “What ideas do you think we'll be talking about?” A lot of students will give me a list of regular ideas, some students will give me many more ideas. So I can see gifted knowing really before I begin the teaching. While I'm teaching the group of kids, I can embed in my teaching, in my 15 or 20 minutes of discussion, I can embed high level inferential questions. I can embed questions that ask students to tell me what they think the topic is. So I can embed in my teaching, and we have in our work about eight types of questions that we embed in our teaching that all the students can respond to, but that some of the students will respond to in a much more elaborate way.

That was Dr John Munro there. After you've had a listen of the podcast, here are some questions for you to think about:

When you're teaching, how often do you ask students: ‘Did anyone think of anything I didn't mention?' And how often do you liaise with gifted learners about the ways they'd like to be taught in the classroom? What impact does this have on their engagement in your lessons?

That's all from me, and you're all caught up on the latest evidence, insight and action. If you would like to take a closer look at anything I've mentioned in this episode, remember, you'll find links to all you need in the transcript of this podcast at teachermagazine.com.au.

And, if you'd like to listen to more from Teacher, you'll find us by searching ‘Teacher ACER' wherever you get your podcasts – on Apple Podcasts, SoundCloud or Spotify. And while you're there, make sure you subscribe to the channel to ensure that new podcasts land in your feed as soon as they're available. You'll also get a notification straight to your device, which is really handy for making sure you never miss an episode.