LisaHillSchoolStuff's Weblog

'If students can't learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn' (Ignacio Estrada, via Tomlinson)

Archive for March, 2008

Book Reviews

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 29, 2008

From time to time, I review books for Allen & Unwin – I’ve lost count of how many now.  Some of them are still online…. 

Extreme Lunch

The Hottest Boy Who Ever Lived by Anna Fienberg and Kim Gamble (This is a very special book and deserves to be nominated for the CBCA Book of the Year for Younger Readers).

The Diary of Laura’s Twin

Freckleface Strawberry (This is a very useful book about teasing).

Stable Structures (D & T Workshop Series)

Wool, Wagons and Clipper Ships and Steam Steel and Speed

Diego’s Pride

Teaching Boys

Greek Tales: The Lion’s Slave

Nim at Sea

Big Questions

The Name of this Book is Secret and the sequel If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late

The Dog that Dumped on my Doona

Wombat and Fox: Tales of the City


Freaks Ahoy

Let me know when these links are dead.

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Vale Australian text books?

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 29, 2008

Oh dear, it’s depressing to read in Jason Steger’s column (The Age 21-22.3.08) that Australian educational publishing is in trouble.  The latest ASA report shows that there are now fewer publishers and that digital publishing is likely to see off the remaining few before long.  Falling sales and greater concentration of ownership means that it’s only going to get worse.

Does it matter?  Maybe we’ve been a bit self-indulgent expecting the publishing industry to cater for 8 different state and territory school systems , but the books we use to teach our students ought not only to match our own curricula but also reflect our unique Aussie culture.   As a self-publisher of Indonesian teaching materials (LisaLearn Press), I know at first hand that there is no global market for such things – so we simply had to publish our own to meet the needs of students.  But the market was very small (and made smaller by illegal photocopying) and in the end it simply wasn’t worth the effort for such small returns.  

There’s no doubt that it would be good to see the end of kids lugging bulging backpacks full of text books to and from school.  However if Australian publishers are going to switch to digital publishing, they’re going to need the support of teachers to prevent piracy. 

Posted in Opinion | Comments Off on Vale Australian text books?

Boys and Reading

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 17, 2008

Today’s Age (17.3.2008) features an article by Paul Jennings about boys and reading.  Much of what he has to say makes a lot of sense, but I have to admit that I’m not a fan of Jennings.  I simply don’t want to read about toilet humour, and I don’t want to promote it because I don’t think it does promote a love of reading that lasts.  

I do like the suggested reading, labelled ‘Great Macho Reads for Boys’.  I’m a big fan of the Old Tom series, Asterix, Specky Magee, Rowan of Rin, and Artemis Fowl.  The boys at my school also love Goosebumps (of course), Deltora Quest books,  Carole Wilkinson’s Dragonkeeper series and – contrary to Jennings belief that boys won’t read books with female heroes – the Lily Quest series.  These are all books with meaty themes that we can talk about and remember long after the book has been returned to the shelf.  I also find that retellings of ancient Greek and Roman myths are very popular, especially Michael Morporgo’s versions: this year I’m reading his Beowulf and we’re doing a study of different illustration styles of this story since 1920.  (See  I think boys and girls of all ages love books with heroes who confront evil because they can admire them and emulate them.  In the 21st century kids don’t need to confront monsters but they do need to make choices which involve doing the right thing, standing up for their friends, and deciding which things are really worthwhile in the long term.  We’ve had some very fruitful discussions arising from these books.

Last year I began tagging books with genre stickers so that kids can more easily find the type of books they like (horror, sport, humour etc).  This has been very successful for those children who are exploring reading but get a bit lost amongst the shelves once they’ve exhausted their favourite authors. It’s taking a while, though.  I’ve only been in the library for four years and I haven’t read everything yet!

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Getting connected through Web 2.0

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 17, 2008

This is amazing.  I joined up with slideshare just yesterday so that I could upload a PPT, and already my little effort has been posted on the Lessons4learning2.0 group  This is a group which collects useful slideshows for schools and teachers so that they can be downloaded by anybody. It’s like a clearing house dedicated to school needs. There’s some really good stuff there, and it’s not just about Web 2.0.

Check out this one about paper art or the timeline of art 

There is also Shift Happens, which I’ve seen before at PD.  It’s a brilliant exploration of why we need to shake up our schools and bring them into the 21st century world of our students.

This one is about WebQuests:

I’m really excited about developments at school.  We’re getting a team together to do some online PD about Web 2.0 through SLAV and are going to make it a professional learning team project.  I love the way my colleagues grab new ideas and run with them!

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Branding in kids’ books?

Posted by Lisa Hill on March 16, 2008

Today I see in the Sunday Age that Harper and Collins have introduced product placement in their children’s books. (‘Are books for kids where little ideas – or big brands – grow? by John Mangan). Cashed up kids are the target, and the brands include the usual suspects: over-priced sneakers and cosmetics. H & C Australia claim not to be considering it for their Oz list authors, and ‘have not yet decided whether to distribute’ the US titles which do (and I’m not going to give them any publicity by naming them).
Fay Weldon started product placement, I think, with a (very forgettable) book promoting a certain type of jewellery, and of course it’s widespread in film, but the idea of marketers paying authors and publishers to include references to their products in books seems grotesque.

Here in Australia there are strict regulations against product placement in children’s TV programs but only a voluntary code against product placement in books. Children’s books are supposed to avoid using brand names and use generic terms such as ‘ice-cream’ or ‘fast food’ instead. Vigilant teachers and children’s librarians who care about exploiting kids as consumers will need to keep a keen eye out for breaches of this code in future, especially if purchasing books from overseas publishers online from that global bookstore.

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