Thursday, September 29, 2011

Signs and wonders in the library part 2

This morning we took delivery of six large house plants. My colleague Robyn went out shopping with the school gardener on Monday and they selected the plants. Here in Turkey house plants can be expensive, especially ones of any size. Why are we adding plants to the library? We want to improve the environment and make the library more welcoming and comfortable.

According to the House of Plants website having house plants in the room leads to

  • Improved concentration levels leading to improved productivity particularly with those working with computers

  • Faster recovery from mental tiredness

  • Interiors feel spacious, looked after and clean

  • People prefer to occupy rooms that contain plants

  •  Already we have had many students commenting about how lovely the plants are. So these plants would fall into the "wonders" category.

    I did say a few weeks ago I would report on the impact the new, big and beautiful library signs had on the library. Our students like these very much. Some of the comments we have had include "Now this feels like a real library", "Everyone can see where things are". We have also noticed a purposeful atmosphere when our students are in here - with their teachers and when they are working unsupervised. Below you can see the contrast between the old sign and the new one.

    Sunday, September 25, 2011

    Book 13 - Mahtab's Story by Libby Gleeson - Afghanistan to Australia

    After her father is severly beaten and her grandfather disappears forever Mahtab's family must leave their home in Herat, Afghanistan and endure a harsh journey over the mountain passes into Pakistan. There her father makes the only decision he can - to go on ahead of his family all the way to Australia. Mahtab's best friend Leila went to Iran with her family but Mahtab's father knows an Australian man and he has decided to embark on the risky journey to the other side of the world so his family can know freedom and peace.

    Mahtab tells the story of their family's journey from Pakistan to Indonesia then on a small boat to Australia. They do not know if her father is still alive or even if he is in Australia. Once in the land they dream will be their safe haven Mahtab finds the Refugee Holding Centre to be like a prison and despite their new friend Catherine who is helping her learn English she falls into a dark pit of depression. A realistic portrayl of the fears and hopes of refugees - this story ends on a very hpeful and triumphant note.

    Inspired by the true stories of young women in year 11 at Holroyd High School western Sydney, Libby Gleeson wanted write a novel showing the escape from persecution in a homeland to a new lifestyle in Australia.

    Here is Libby Gleeson speaking about her book and what inspired her.

    Libby Gleeson's website

    Book 12 - Neil Armstrong is my uncle and other lies Muscle Man McGinty told me by Nan Marino - Long Island, New York, USA

    "Muscle Man McGinty is a squirrelly runt, a lying snake and a pitiful excuse for a ten-year-old. The problem is that no one on Ramble Street knows it, but me." Tamara Simpson begins this saga from the summer of 1969 - incredulous that no one else in her neighbourhood sees this new comer for the lying scondrel he is. It is true as we read further into the story Muscle Man McGinty we see that this child has a predilction for exaggeration unlike anything you have seen before. He is training for the Olympics, Neil Armstrong is his Uncle but when he challenges the whole street to a game of kick ball bragging he can beat them single handed Tamara senses all will soon be put to rights.

    Set against the backdrop of the historic moon walk Nan Marino explores what makes lasting memories and impressions on us. Tamara's best friend Kebsie has disappeared with no forwarding address. Her brother is away at College but there is still the underlying conflict between him and their father lingering in the home. There is something unusual about the way everyone is treating Muscle Man McGinty but Tamara is the last one to understand it - she is too caught up in her hatred of this usurper of her friend Kebsie. Tamara makes an interesting narrator - someone who always seems to be attracting trouble and totally unaware of the feelings of others because she is lost in her own feelings of emptiness at the loss of her friend. A quick read that has real depth.

    Nan Marino's website

    Saturday, September 24, 2011

    Book 11 - The death defying Pepper Roux by Geraldine McCraughrean - France

    I admire Geraldine McCraughrean - she is an amazing writer. I have read a few of her books and every one of them is different to the others. In this novel she masters the art of the French farce. A farce is a light dramatic work in which highly improbable plot situations, exaggerated characters, and often slapstick elements are used for humorous effect. In this farce she introduces the character of Pepper Roux - we meet him on the day of his fourteenth birthday which has alos been prophesied as the day of his death. His Aunt made this alarming prediction when he ws born and since then she had made it her mission to prepare Pepper for this inevitable end.

    However, Pepper makes the courageous decision to leap away from the boundaries of his home and the prophecy and try to out run the long arm of death. Thus begins his adventures. He takes on different identities all in the attempt to trick the angels that he is not Pepper Roux and therefore should not die. He becomes a ships captain, a shop assitant, a journalist, a horse musterer... and so on. With each twist and turn in this plot we see a young man who is determined to live life to the fullest. This is such an outrageous story executed at such a fast pace that the reader easily suspends disbelief to accompany Pepper in his adventures. I think this would make a great clas realoud.

    The Guardian review goes into much more detail.
    This book has a website with interviews with Geraldine McCraughrean and the news it has been shortlisted for the 2011 Cilip Carnegie Medal - a worthy contestant indeed.

    Sunday, September 18, 2011

    Book 10 - City of the Beasts by Isabel Allende - The Amazon, Brazil

    It is interesting how different these three covers are - all three give a different feel for the story within.  This is the story of fifteen year old Alex who is sent to stay with his Grandmother while his mother is undergoing treatment for cancer. Alex's Grandmother is not your usual grandparent. She is a writer for International Geographic and prefers that Alex call her Kate. What she lacks in the expected care and concern from a grandmother she more than makes up for in adventure and teaching Alex independence and self reliance. She takes him with her on expedition to Brazil, to track a yeti-like creature reported to inhabit remote portions of the Amazonian jungle. Alex and Kate become part of a group of journalists, an anthropologist, a doctor who is trying to save the natives from western diseases, a guide and his twelve year old daughter Nadia (pictured on the cover on the right). Nadia and Alex become close friends and through a series of dramatic events they get kidnapped by a local tribe and come face to face with the terrifying yeti creatures. Throughout the entire adventure Alex changes from a mollycoddled child to a young man who oversomes his fears, prejudices and dislike of most foods on offer in the jungle.

    This novel has had mixed reviews. I enjoyed the mix of adventure and magic but must admit that some characters are stereotypes - the anthropologist in particular and the people trying to exploit the resources found in the Amazon. I am not sure how students will receive this book - I have suggested it as a resource for a grade 6 unit of Inquiry on Anthropology. It would make for interesting discussion.

    For a positive review read Teenreads point of view

    Friday, September 16, 2011

    Book to movie movie to book

    From my Wordpress Blog April this year.

    My colleague Robyn and I just had the fun experience of walking into a book and DVD shop and spending 2300TL on DVD’s. It took about two hours of careful selection but we managed to find a wide range of titles for our k – 12 school. Our school PTA had worked very hard on a Scholastic Book Fair to raise the money. So did I feel any guilt about taking money raised in a Book Fair and spending it on movies? No guilt – none whatsoever.
    Many of the movies we purchased were of the books we have in the library. I have noticed over the years that there is indeed a desire to see a movie that is of a book that someone has read but it also goes the other way. Some students having seen the movie then seek out the book or books that the movie is based on.

    Working in an International School also means that the library provides resources for families as well as teachers and students. I have heard many times our students say as they are selecting DVD’s that what they choose will be used for a family night that week.

    I am very pleased with our purchases and I know our IICS families will continue to enjoy movies and books we provide. Actually – when I said I felt no guilt that wasn’t 100% true. I was surprised about how much I enjoyed spending that amount of money.

    Sunday, September 11, 2011

    Changing the World - through research skills - Taylor Mali poem

    Saw this today and had to share it. This Tuesday our ICT committee will be talking about literacies - I did have two brilliant articles to share with them but I think this poem is much better. It is by Taylor Mali a New York-based slam poet and teacher’s advocate who often writes poems about his students and the nobility of teaching. Thanks to the blog The Pursuit of Harpyness for sharing it with the world.

    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Lilly Wilson at my office door.
    Lilly Wilson, the recovering like addict,
    the worst I’ve ever seen.
    So, like, bad the whole eighth grade
    started calling her Like Lilly Like Wilson Like.
    Until I declared my classroom a Like-Free Zone,
    and she could not speak for days.

    But when she finally did, it was to say,
    Mr. Mali, this is . . . so hard.
    Now I have to think before I . . . say anything.

    Imagine that, Lilly.

    It’s for your own good.
    Even if you don’t like . . .

    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Lilly Wilson at my office door.
    Lilly is writing a research paper for me
    about how homosexuals shouldn’t be allowed
    to adopt children.
    I’m writing the poem that will change the world,
    and it’s Like Lilly Like Wilson at my office door.

    She’s having trouble finding sources,
    which is to say, ones that back her up.
    They all argue in favor of what I thought I was against.

    And it took four years of college,
    three years of graduate school,
    and every incidental teaching experience I have ever had
    to let out only,

    Well, that’s a real interesting problem, Lilly.
    But what do you propose to do about it?
    That’s what I want to know.

    And the eighth-grade mind is a beautiful thing;
    Like a new-born baby’s face, you can often see it
    change before your very eyes.

    I can’t believe I’m saying this, Mr. Mali,
    but I think I’d like to switch sides.

    And I want to tell her to do more than just believe it,
    but to enjoy it!
    That changing your mind is one of the best ways
    of finding out whether or not you still have one.
    Or even that minds are like parachutes,
    that it doesn’t matter what you pack
    them with so long as they open
    at the right time.
    O God, Lilly, I want to say
    you make me feel like a teacher,
    and who could ask to feel more than that?
    I want to say all this but manage only,
    Lilly, I am like so impressed with you!

    So I finally taught somebody something,
    namely, how to change her mind.
    And learned in the process that if I ever change the world
    it’s going to be one eighth grader at a time.

    Take a look at Taylor Mali's website - amazing poetry