Teachers Tell Stories PechaKucha-Style

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“Storytelling as the root of community is a culture that we librarians cultivate. Creating a space that allows the sharing of stories— as well as a platform for listening to the tales of others—  builds bridges.”

Wednesday evening’s inaugural “Neno Kwa Neno” event at a local café brought together about forty members of the school community for a fun evening under the stars. The atmosphere was relaxed, with dinner and drinks served by friendly staff:  a delightful way to top off a busy day of teaching and professional workshops.

Kiswahili for word for word, the “Neno Kwa Neno” gathering was a cross-campus challenge to “tell a story- any story” using the PechaKucha– style of presentation.

The format is simple: 20 slides, 20 seconds. Presenters have exactly 6 minutes and 40 seconds to tell their story as the kiosk of slides flip through in 20 second intervals. Touching on a variety of interesting and surprising topics, seven speakers, mainly teachers, shared their stories.  The curious audience was rapt in attention. High in the sky, through the leaves of the bougainvillea, the moon shone bright.  The Q&A session after each talk allowed audience members to interact with the storytellers.

Storytelling as the root of community is a culture that we librarians cultivate. Creating a space that allows the sharing of stories— as well as a platform for listening to the tales of others—  builds bridges. Events like these highlight the fact that there is more to our colleagues than what we see during the work week.  We teach, yes. And we love it. But we also live interesting lives outside of our careers. We’re goal-setting inspirers, ambulance drivers, Dungeon Masters, recycling activists, career jumpers, surfers, and carnival dancers.

Here’s to nurturing a story-telling culture and to the plans we are formulating to set up another Neno Kwa Neno gathering. Most of all? Here’s to celebrating the lives that we live after work hours.

 

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Library Breakout Launched

IMG_2093What has teachers running through the library to find clues, using blacklight torches to reveal messages written in invisible ink, and solving riddles that lead to a key that opens a treasure box?  Library Breakout!

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An interactive game I designed for teacher library orientation, it mirrors the popular physical adventure game Escape the Room. The 35-minute game challenges players to beat the clock while exploring the physical layout of the library, solving secret clues hidden in library books, and using online resources to break the combination codes to open locks.

Currently piloting the program with student and teacher teams,  I plan to open the Library Breakout! challenge to teachers and administrators teams from the three schools on campus next month.  

Breakout.edu lessons teach problem-solving, teamwork, and critical thinking. They can be used in all content areas. Library Breakout! is a custom-designed game which models the ways librarians can collaborate with teachers to create similar lessons in their classes.

 

Books & the Creative Process

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The Learning Commons recently featured two members of the ISG community in our Author/Illustrator Spotlight. A group of over 100 students and teachers gathered to listen to author León Kevin Clarke and illustrator Abdul-Aziz Ahmad share how they worked together to publish the children’s book Slonkey the Christmas Donkey. The creative duo had a number of fans in the audience, possibly because they hail from DBGS, one of our campus schools. Mr. Clark is a Year 4 teacher and Abdul-Aziz is a Year 5 student. The two shared a reading of the book, photos of their creative process, and stories of how they collaborated to publish. clark readingBy working together as a team, the two designers collaborated to find solutions, publishing a truly original children’s book that has reached not only our campus community, but a global audience.

The Learning Commons is honored to have hosted Mr. Clarke and Abdul-Azziz. Their imaginations and their stories are really what the creative process is all about: being unafraid to make mistakes and being willing share with others. In the process, they enrich the lives of us all.

 

Connecting with Authors: Snail Mail in the Digital Age

In an age of email, texting and blogging: is there a case for sending a letter?

It all started with my fourth and fifth grade students begging to set up class Skype sessions with some of their favorite authors. In the past, we had arranged teleconferencing with classrooms and students in other countries during World Read-Aloud Day, so why not invite the authors that we love?

“Okay,” I said. “If we’re going to contact authors, how do we reach them?” And thus began the Great Library Scavengimg_3514er Hunt to find contact information of favorite authors.   As a class we searched within author websites, looked in books for publishers, and then paired up for an online search. We discovered that most well-known authors prefer to be contacted by mail, via their publishers.

I set up a quick lesson in letter writing: the envelope, the stamp, the return address. About 25% of my students have sent letters by post, so we listened to their experiences. “I received a letter from my grandmother in India,” said one. “I wrote to my aunt in Colombia,” said another.

The class settled into a quiet hush, when I told them that when I was their age the internet as we know it didn’t exist, and neither did email. By the wide-eyed expressions on their faces, I might as well have said, “I am an alien from another planet.” They tried to imagine a world where a telephone phone call or postal mail was the only way to communicate with someone far away.

Fast forward to our present world: the autumn of 2016. Here we are at a school in Saudi Arabia, engaged and connected in a digital landscape of cell phones, Instagram and Facebook.  Today’s discovery? To reach most of the authors who we love, we must write a good, old-fashioned letter.
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