Saturday, October 13, 2012

Charity Project 2012 begins - yay!

On Friday morning, our Year 8 students began to get into groups to discuss what they will do for this year's Pathways charity project. I'm not sure what will happen next year when Pathways has been cut back to one period a week because the maths department wanted more time, but for now, the kids are about to have a wonderful time and learn plenty. Perhaps, if we haven't all been moved to other campuses or had our allotments changed, we might be able to start a bit earlier in the year. I do hope this isn't the last time for a wonderful unit of work that engages even the less able students, as well as the capable ones, but you have no control over what the school wants you to do.

My colleague Jasna and I invited in some of last year's Year 8 students, not Year 9, to speak to the combined classes. Brittany, Taylor and Paige nattered away cheerfully about whathad worked, what didn't and how to make sure you choose the right group and handle things when you had two bossy people in the group - all the things we wanted them to know. Pepa, whom I invited to talk about what her group had done - truffle-making - also said what I hoped she would, that they had chosen an activity that didn't cost much, used ingredients you mostly had in your pantry, didn't take long to do and  made a very nice profit.

It was funny, really - she was part of a quiet, well-behaved group of girls who got on beautifully and never had arguments. The other group was a great bunch also, but far more passionate and likely to get into arguments (they themselves said they felt their group had been rather too large, though we allowed the large group because they were reliable). It was like having representatives of a board of directors and a hippie commune. And yet both groups did very well and made a large profit and the girls from the large group have chosen Business Studies this year, because they had enjoyed the project so much last year, and they will have the chance to do it again.

After the talk, we asked the guest speakers to walk around and chat with the groups, answering any questions they might have, which they did. Jasna and I watched, amazed, as the laziest boys in the class animatedly discussed the project.

Fingers crossed this  isn't the last time!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Book Club Fights Back! From My Other Blog

It has just occurred to me that I haven't posted the original reference to my book club's Banned Books Week activity, so here it is.

Today Book Club and I, and one of the staff, Faye, filmed readings from banned or challenged books. Dylan wanted a copy of his file so he could put it on YouTube, but otherwise the understanding was that the readings would go on to a DVD which will only be used at school. Of course, all my readers will get a copy of the DVD and hopefully I can show it to staff at a meeting.

The project was a huge success! I have never seen my students so excited about anything. I am not sure how I could have done this with kids who don't like reading, but I'll think of something. Meanwhile, they looked at a list I had prepared, of books, some of them classics, that have been challenged or banned over the years. I only chose some that we probably had in the library so that they were available to be read immediately. They read the list, exclaimed in amazement - "They BANNED Harry Potter?" - and sat down to work out what they should choose. I had readings from Harry Potter, Vampire Academy, Twilight, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Hunger Games, Anthony Horowitz's Alex Rider novel Snakehead and, from Faye, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-Time. That one is being studied by our Year 10 students, who love it. Faye didn't want her face to be seen("I'm too ugly today!") so Dylan had to film her with her face behind the book. She said she thought she knew which bit had probably caused the ban and made sure that was the part she read.

We even had a Year 7 student who said,"How wonderful!" and joined in. My Year 8 student Robert went to his locker to fetch a Robert Harris book, which was well-loved, judging by its battered state. I didn't hear his reading as I had to go check out a library book, but I overheard someone say "My God, no wonder it was banned!" Well, I'm not his mother and she is okay with it, as far as I know.

Dylan took over the filming, only stopping to get Selena to film him reading from Harry Potter And The Half-blood Prince. Selena was halfway through her reading of Snakehead(she read the entire Alex Rider series, followed by  Charlie Higson's Young James Bond and Gabrielle Lord's Conspiracy 365 series... For such a mild-mannered young woman, she is amazingly keen on action-adventure!) when the camera battery ran out and we had to recharge it. There were three more readings to do at that stage and while Dylan, Selena and Ryan were going to be there, Kristen had to go to her Foods class, so I promised to come and fetch her when the camera was running again. In the event, she changed her mind, as she was not feeling well and had substantial work to do in class, so I did a reading instead, from Harry Potter And The Chamber of Secrets. I am sure I can film her early next term if she's up to it, because nothing is actually  going on YouTube except Dylan's file and maybe mine; these holidays I will edit it in iMovie and I can simply add a scene for her before I finish and burn it to DVD. Thando was reading while I was off in Kristen's class, so I have no idea what she read, but it should be a nice surprise. Paige may not have been at school today and will perhaps want to add to the film when she returns; I can film her if/when I do Kristen.

 Taylor made a mistake and stopped, waving her arms in frustration; I might keep those bits for a blooper reel. Brittany, like Faye, read with the book held up to cover her face, while her little brother Braydon, a true camera ham, read with his face showing, of course.

After the holidays, the first Book Club event will be an opening screening of what Dylan wants to call "Book Club Fights Back". He suggested we have a group scene with all the readers giving the finger to censorship. Perhaps, if time, but not on YouTube, I'm afraid - I'm not allowed!

This is one of my National Year of Reading events. It's nice to be able to do something, even after my budget has run out, and I am very lucky to have such wonderful young men and women in my class and my library.

Editing "Book Club Fights Back" from my other blog

First published on The Great Raven - I have since fiddled with it a bit more and my friend and colleague Jasna has said she wants to add a readout. With Emily's reading to finish, I can add it easily enough before finishing and burning.

I have to turn off and head for my mother's place shortly, but after a long evening spent on editing my book club movie last night I had to come back and do a little more today. I still have to add Emily's reading when i get back; I couldn't get it downloaded before I left, or the scene where my students all gave the finger to book bans crying, "Book bans suck!" For some reason the computer didn't recognise the card reader that it had happily recognised for all the other downloads from the camera, but the day I get back I will have a computer technician to consult, Tam, who is with us for another term or so.

I've done this before, with last year's Literature Circles movie (and I finally managed to download the last video to this year's Lit Circles movie), but I still have plenty to learn. For example, putting together the first set of credits and the first scene into a single chapter. I'm hoping that if I do Play All on the DVD it might work. The tune I chose to go with the opening credits also plays over a delightfully silly scene Dylan shot by accident, in which some of our Psychology students (also book clubbers) are on their laptops between the library shelves while Selena is choosing her reading and Dylan jokes that he is filming them before realising he actually IS filming, then another credits page which pays tribute to a certain space TV series, before the first reading. It works well and that scene was too good to put in the bloopers, but the chapters are separate.

I put the readings in a certain order, with individual books broken up, but also readings in order from the first three Twilight books - Natasha, Taylor and Braydon and three Harry Potter books - Caitlyn, myself and Dylan. Then there are the bloopers, readings that were messed up or interrupted - we did this in the school library and there were bells between periods, announcements over the PA and students coming out of the library's interactive whiteboard room, on their way to their next class. Finally, there is me doing the reading I put up on YouTube, in the DVD "extras" - and a final bunch of credits giving names and books they read. The final credits need some music to go with them, but it's a matter of finding something appropriate that fits within the length. The music may not be Creative Commons because it's not going on line, just in my library and given to the readers, so I have a bigger choice.

Anyway, it's been great fun and highly successful and I look forward to showing it in the library at lunchtime when we get back, and hopefully to staff at a staff meeting, as an example of how you can engage students. These were all enthusiastic readers, but I think I could find a way to use it to engage reluctant ones. I have a few in my Year 8 who might enjoy it.

Fingers crossed the finished product works as well as I think it will!