Hong Kong, like many other countries, has been plagued by a perpetual cycle of home learning since the pandemic began. During this time, I’ve worked hard on engaging students at a distance and found myself learning a great deal about the benefits of technology when redefining tasks and keeping students motivated.
Our school decided to focus on themed weeks to try and lift the spirits of students and families and help keep their momentum going when learning from home. Today I’d like to share some Book Week tips with you, which as an English lead starting out, I would have loved someone to have shared with me!
Arrange Author Visits to inspire the children. These can be via Zoom or in-person and are a great way of showing the children how careers as authors and illustrators can become a reality. Reach out to your parent community- there may be an author among them!
Use your socials: School newspapers, Twitter and Instagram are a great way to build up hype around your book day/ book week and get the students excited ahead of time. Sharing a video message from an author or information on competitions the children can look forward to is a great way to get students excited. Food and Dress Up - We all know the power of a well kitted-out reading corner. There are many more ways to promote reading for pleasure. Consider letting the kids get cosy and comfortable! How about a pyjama day or providing ‘A book and a biscuit?!’ And don’t forget the excitement you can create around a whole school dress-up parade!
Enlist help! Many hands make lightER work at school. Teachers are super busy and we have lots of ideas that often don’t come to fruition mainly because we don’t have the time and sometimes the brainpower after the hundreds of jobs we need to do in one day. Asking your specialist teachers to contribute is a great way to make your book week cross-curricular and more interesting. This year, our Art department provided draw-along videos for the children to create book illustrations and our Digital Tech team worked wonders inspiring book reviews through vlogs. We also recorded a whole school sing-a-long via Zoom with the help of our Music department!
Kick the week off with an Assembly - Promote your competitions and get students excited for the week ahead. Here is the link to my assembly this year. I love to use photos from previous years in my assemblies. Make sure you collect lots of pictures and video footage throughout the week. This makes next year's assembly a lot easier to create. Also, the kids love seeing their faces pop up! Who doesn’t like seeing themselves on the big screen!?
Make the most of your Apps! Green screen, iMotive and Apple Clips are my absolute go-to apps when it comes to creating assemblies. You are waaay more likely to hold the attention of your children if you include a bit of theatrics! Involving the kids as much as possible is key as well. I like to enlist the help of our Student Council or School Musical group to help record themselves or contribute videos to my assemblies. A great way to communicate these with students, whether you are at school or home learning, is through setting up a Seesaw or Google Classroom with them. I found it so much easier than chasing hundreds of emails!
Competitions… can be a nightmare! Let’s face it! Creating posters, rules, guidelines, and communicating with teachers, parents and students can be enough admin to put any teacher off entering them! But the reward for the children is all worth it and there are a few things you can do to make your life a little easier: Padlet!!! If competition entries are uploaded to a Padlet, you are not then scrolling through your emails to find all the entries you will inevitably misplace. Check out one of my examples here. House points! Instead of worrying about the school budget and running to the book shop for vouchers, link your prizes to your school reward system. Be kind to yourself and announce your winners at least a week after your book week. Choosing winners can be time-consuming and the wait will keep the children excited and keep the heat off of you- so it’s a win-win! Finally, announce your winners with some umph! Reading a list of winners can be made far more engaging for the children with a few special effects. Even in a live assembly – the use of video from apps such as Apple clips and iMovie can create the feel of a real awards ceremony!
Jess Reynolds is English Lead at Kellett School - British International School Hong Kong. You can find her on Twitter @JessReynoldsHK