Memory Game – a Step in the Programme

I just love those days when a colleague shares something and it sparks off an idea that makes your brain fizz and pop!


Yesterday was one of those days for me. It all started when the wonderful Desna Wallace shared a link to the Stylist list of 100 Best Opening Lines from Children’s Books

I just love the way it looks and works, with the pictures of the books and then hover over the picture to read the first line of it.  So it got me thinking …..


I am currently working on creating a set of resources to support a new Y7 & 8 library and research skills programme that I’m developing at my new school.  I have an absolutely fantastic group of teachers to work with here and the junior school staff are so willing to collaborate with me, welcoming me into their classrooms.

So when I saw this post I was immediately struck by how cool it would be to design a memory card game, using the covers of the books on one set and the corresponding first line from each book on another set.  The students could then play the game by either matching the pairs correctly, or have them working in groups to decide which bo0k went with which first line.

In a slightly simpler version, I will use the same concept with book covers and authors names.  Both of these ideas still require some fine-tuning and tweaking, but it’s simple, relatively easy to make and fun for the students, with the potential to incorporate a competitive element into it that all boys love.

So, a big thanks Desna and I would encourage everyone to keep sharing.  It’s gold!

Never Underestimate the Little Things

Trees at Queens Park in Invercargill

My baby boy is now 11.  It feels like it has just snuck up on me.  It seems such a short time ago that he was born and then later had his first day of school.  This year he has started high school and is absolutely loving it.  His favourite subject last week?  Latin!! I wouldn’t have picked that in a million years.

One of the joys of children at this age is watching them develop, become more independent and form opinions and ideas of their own.  No. 2 son has been selected for one of the Year 7 Living Minds groups which is part of the GATE programme and during their first session the students were asked to introduce themselves to each other as they are from different home rooms.  They had to say one thing about themselves that was funny, one thing that was interesting and one thing they loved doing.  I was curious to hear what he had shared and asking him resulted in an unexpected lesson and treasured gift.  I laughed along with the funny thing, nodded sagely at the interesting thing and was quite overcome when he shared the thing he loves to do the most.

And here it is, the thing that I thought was no big deal, but turns out to be pretty special to my lovely boy. Over the past few months we have developed a routine of going to our public library on a Saturday morning.  We pack our books to return in our backpacks, walk through our beautiful Queens Park (photo above) on our way to town where we visit the library to change our books and then we go across the road to the wonderful Three Bean Café and have breakfast. We do any other messages we might need to do while we’re in town and then walk home again. I enjoy it as we chat about things we might not otherwise on our way there and back and I satisfy myself that he’s got something he wants to read at school and at home, but I hadn’t realised just how much something so simple meant to him.

This has served as a lesson and a reminder for me. Don’t underestimate the little things. Enjoy just hanging out with your kids while you can. Start making your memories today!

Love Letter to Hargest

Love letter

I have loved every minute of my time at James Hargest College.  The school initially did a great job in educating me back in the 1970’s and 1980’s and I’ve always held very fond memories of my high school years.

When I started as a part time librarian back in October 2000 it felt odd to be sitting in the staff room alongside teachers who taught me (Yes, there were still quite a number continuing to teach here in 2000 and there are still some today – you know who you are Mr Elder and Miss Dunlop!!) but I felt welcomed and quickly became part of the life of the school.

Plans were already afoot for the redevelopment of our new library when I started and it was fantastic to be part of creating the wonderful space that all of the Hargest community now uses to great effect.

After having had a variety of different jobs from receptionist to administrator to radio producer through the years after high school I can say it is truly magical to finally know what I want to do when I grow up!  For me, the intersection of libraries and learning is what spins my wheels and gives my working life meaning and purpose. It has been both satisfying and rewarding to develop my understanding of how these two different facets of education work together to bring about the best outcomes for students and how to grow programmes and lessons that are enjoyable and meaningful for everyone.

I want to take the opportunity, as I embark on my last day working at Hargest, to say the biggest, heartfelt thank you to each and every current and past colleague who encouraged, listened, advised, responded, discussed, brainstormed and collaborated with me over the past 12 years.  You have all contributed to my professional journey in a myriad of ways which is incalculable in the continuing development of my unique role in a school teaching and learning team.  I am very excited to be moving on to the next chapter in a career I’ve grown to love with a passion. And I look forward to some of you at least, continuing to share in that journey alongside me.  I will always be very proud to say that I worked at James Hargest College.

PS:  If you don’t know who Miss Dunlop is, ask Nadia.

Thank You

The Commonplace Book Idea

Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson

This is one of my top reads from 2012 …. In fact it would probably rank as one of my top reads ever!  It certainly qualifies as one of the most inspirational books I’ve read.

On the back cover of my copy (loved it so much I bought a copy for my school staff professional library and purchased a copy for myself.  And I intend to gift it to my 22 year old son as well.) it says:

“If you want to create a space for innovation, you won’t get far by cloistering yourself away from the world and waiting for inspiration to hit you.  Chance favours the connected mind”.  

I had light-bulbs going off all over the place when I read this book.  There was so much to think about! So I’ve restricted myself in this blog posting  to highlighting just one of the key ideas for me.  This came from chapter III, The Slow Hunch, and the key idea was The Commonplace Book. I cannot believe I hadn’t come across this concept before.  Thank you Steven Johnson for being the person to enlighten me.


[Commonplace book], [mid. 17th c.]

Commonplace books were used extensively during the 17th & 18th centuries by scholars, scientists and anyone with intellectual ambition as a way of recording information, facts, ideas and thoughts that were particularly important or relevant to them.  Here is how Wikipedia describes them:

Such books were essentially scrapbooks filled with items of every kind: medical recipes, quotes, letters, poems, tables of weights and measures, proverbs, prayers, legal formulas and each commonplace book was unique to its creator’s particular interests.


Grandma's Commonplace Book

Personal Context

This concept really resonated for me as I’m continually thinking about all sorts of things related to my work in libraries and the intersection of this with information and education, and I am regularly excited by how seemingly disparate ideas from various places all come together for me to create an idea or activity.  I’m also convinced, by the number of times I have that “I know I read something about that somewhere and now I don’t know where I read it,  when I read or even who wrote it” moment, that I really needed to be more deliberate in noting down these things along with my reflections of them. The commonplace concept was my perfect solution!

It’s like when I attend a conference or a workshop or some other type of professional learning opportunity.  It’s not so much the guts of the presentation that I take notes on, most presenters give you access to that anyway, it’s my thoughts and reflections on the ideas that stand out for me that I make my notes about.  Of course you need to spend time soon afterwards, preferably within the next day or two, expanding and explaining the notes to yourself for future reference.  After all, who has had the experience of going back to notes you’ve taken at a conference after a few months or even a year and not had any clue about what it was you thought was important in the first place!  Having your own commonplace book could be the answer to that.


Pages from my Commonplace Book

I have a friend who, about a decade ago, spent a year religiously writing in her diary every day about what was happening on the farm, what her children were doing, what the family was involved in.  She said it was a huge commitment of her time but now they have this wonderful snapshot of a year in their lives to look back on.  What an amazing gift to leave your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  An insight into your thoughts and ideas as they developed.

Of course nowadays, a commonplace book doesn’t have to just be a physical journal or a scrapbook you note things down in.  In the current electronic age this could be an online journal or blog that you can very easily add to and refer back to whenever you want or need.

Educational Context

I got to thinking about how we could use this commonplace book idea with students.  Here’s some of the possible applications that I see:

  • Use it as a tool right from Year 9 to get students to reflect on their own learning, challenges, successes, strategies, accomplishments and then have them do something with it as a senior student each year they are still at school
  • A particular curriculum area could incorporate it into their senior programme and build it through from Year 11 to Year 13
  • A  class could use it as a version of a time capsule where students make regular entries though the year after setting goals at the beginning and reflecting on their success or otherwise at the end of the year, including reflection of what led to the result they attained

I see the commonplace book concept as potentially being a very powerful tool for learning planning skills,  self-management and intentional thinking.  The multi-year approach could be managed relatively simply by having students create their own blogs which won’t potentially  get lost or destroyed in the transition between years.  I know there are pitfalls to this idea, but I do believe there are huge benefits to be gained for students if the fish-hooks are ironed out.

There are bound to be a number of other great ways of incorporating this into the school or library programme that I haven’t thought of yet.  I’d love to hear any other practical applications you might come up with.

So have I sold you on the commonplace book?  Do you want to know more about Steven Johnson’s fantastic book?  Here’s the very creative book trailer for it

Want to know even more?  Here’s Steven at a Ted Talks event talking about the history of innovation

Inspired to read his book now?  Can I suggest you run (and I mean literally, run!) to your local library or bookshop and invest in this treasure trove of ideas for yourself.  Happy innovating!