Elephant display made from pages of a dictionary
I thought a full-size elephant display would have some impact with the kids, but I couldn’t decide how to relate it to books. Until, one day when I was working in the library and disposing of some old student dictionaries, I realised that the grey print of the dictionary pages would suit an elephant’s hide. I drew the outline of an elephant onto large paper, then pasted pages of the dictionary over the whole thing. By orientating the pages in different directions, I found that the stripes of the text gave some definition to different parts of the animal, then I simply painted in some shading to give some roundness to the end product.
To involve every kid in the school, I asked them to choose to decorate either a flower or a water drip, which I then individually blue-tacked to the wall. Their efforts gave the finished display both colour and movement, and they were delighted with the results.
To maintain interest in this display over the course of the term, each week I added a few little mice to the picture. Each mouse was reading, holding or playing with a book. Each class enjoyed trying to spot the tiny mice hidden on the display.
I suspect when we take this display down we’ll have lots of entries into the draw to win the elephant – most of the kids are very keen to put this one up on their bedroom wall!
For some time, I had been quite keen on the idea of a tree in the library. It was only after I started to draw it that I realised how big an undertaking it was. Even without leaves it took up an entire wall of my house!
On the bright side, it didn’t actually matter if my drawing wasn’t accurate (unlike the time I chose to paint a representational picture of the Earth). On this occasion it didn’t matter too much how I drew or painted the branches – if they weren’t quite correct it just added to the charm. Being partial to the graphics used in the computer game “Plants & Zombies”, I shamelessly copied their grassy knoll as a base for the tree, and stuck the whole thing up in the library with Blu-Tak.
Every child in the school was given a leaf on which to write their favourite reading topic and decorate to their heart’s content, and it was exciting for them to see the tree “grow” as their efforts were added. Each week (along with their leaves) I added an extra part of the picture: a kookaburra, a koala, a possum, a treehouse, a tyre swing, a goanna, a worm and a beetle. By adding something week after week, I’ve found that these displays avoid becoming background wallpaper. When each class arrives in the library for their weekly lesson, the first thing they do is rush to the display to find the new addition.
I painted this quick-and-easy display for the London Olympic Games. I simply found a couple of small pictures and, using a grid to ensure the figures were vaguely in proportion, transferred them onto large paper. Time was short, so I painted them quickly in flat colours.
To link the theme to the library, I gave the weightlifter a barbell made of books, and I gave the hurdler a large book to jump over. Then, to get the students involved, I drew a simple medal with the words “Champion Reader” written on it and photocopied it onto gold cardboard. Each of the kids in the school wrote their name on a medal, cut it out and punched a hole in it to attach a ribbon. It looked great when several hundred medals were hanging from the ceiling, swaying nicely in the breeze.
The display made a great backdrop when the school was visited by Paralympian Matthew Cowdrey. And when the display came down, each child proudly wore their own medal home.
Planet earth library display
Close-up of Australia with popular children’s books
This display was more of a challenge than I expected. Most of the displays I had done to date were simply fun illustrations rather than accurate representations. After all, who would notice if a bridge were wider than it should be, or a tree was off-centre, or if a nose was a bit bigger than it really ought to be? But when I started drawing this poster I suddenly realised that if I left off an Indonesian island, or if Taiwan was in the wrong spot, or if my map of Australia was missing a bay… disaster! Anyway, it worked out OK in the end (or at least no-one in our multi-cultural school complained that I’d left off their birthplace) and my map-drawing skills improved to boot! Every child in the school decorated a star and placed it on the wall, so the end product looked great with around 400 colourful stars surrounding the earth.
I made this poster to highlight the spooky and scary books we had in the library. The mini-books on the poster could be opened to show information on vampires, werewolves, ghosts, etc. The kids were tremendously excited by the appearance of this poster, and vast numbers participated in the raffle to win it when it was taken down.
One of our students, who rarely showed any interest in anything school-related, put up his hand in the library and suggested that the next poster should be a space scene. We were so excited at his unprecedented enthusiasm that I got to work immediately to produce this poster. It wasn’t quite complete at the time, but I was keen to put it up as soon as possible… which turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Each week I added something to it (a martian, some comets, a rocket, etc), so the kids were quite excited to visit the library and spot each new addition. Towards the end of the term, kids were making suggestions for the next addition, which was great!
School library sign
Our new librarian noticed that new students and their parents had no idea where the library was. Even when she pointed it out, many were unsure which door she was referring to. So she tentatively asked me if I was interested in making her a library sign. Well, there was only one thing I could say to that: “Goody!” I bought a large sheet of craftwood from the local hardware story and drew a lovely big oval on it. My husband very kindly cut it out for me and a friend and I spent a couple of happy afternoons painting it.
I particularly like the lively colours and “cartoony” feel of this design. And, not to waste an opportunity for a giggle, we’ve given each of the books a fun title/author combination like “Late for School” by Miss D. Buss.
Close-up of children’s artwork
A friend and I had such fun making this display. The theme for book week was “Across the Story Bridge”, so we thought it would be appropriate to use the Sydney Harbour Bridge and involve every child in the school. I drew up four male and four female figures, each holding a book. Each child chose a figure and wrote their name and favourite book title on the cover. I’ve got to say, it was extremely awkward laying out so much paper across my friend’s dining room floor to paint the bridge. It was also very difficult to stick it up on the wall. And after all that, we also required lots of help from parent volunteers to cut out the figures for the littlies who weren’t so good with scissors. However, it was definitely all worth it in the end. The kids loved colouring their pictures and searching for their artworks after they’d been added to the display. Most importantly, they eagerly spent time discussing which book was their favourite. In the end, there were around 350 children represented, and it looked more spectacular than these photos show.
Library poster for book week
This was my first attempt at a poster for book week. I was only a parent volunteer at the time, so I can’t remember why the librarian asked me to make a display, but I enthusiastically complied.
I bought an end-roll of printer’s paper from a recycling store. The quality of the paper is lovely and the size makes it easy to do large displays without having to fiddle about sticking lots of smaller pieces together. I printed out a bunch of book jackets to use as the bricks in the bridge, and the kids enjoyed identifying their favourites.
I was astonished at the response from the kids – I thought they’d be a little blase about a new poster in the library, but they absolutely loved it. The larger displays have the most impact, and it’s great to see them goggling at a new picture I’ve just put up in the library. Anyway, this was my first one and it has since led to many more, which I’ll put on this blog in coming days.
Once a year I do a larger display which involves every kid in the school, and they are by far the most satisfying for all concerned. But posters like this one continue to be popular – so much so that when we take them down we now hold a raffle. The winner takes it home to put on their bedroom wall.
I’m a school mum. That’s not so very unusual; there are a lot of us about. However, I also happen to be a school library assistant. I also work (occasionally) in the school office. I am a regular — though largely silent — member of the P&C. During the past four years I have painted school murals, helped with reading groups, covered endless library books on my dining room table, volunteered for cake stalls, turned up for working bees in the school garden (even though my home garden is in a sorry state of neglect), and have generally put my hand up for anything and everything that would help make my son’s school a better place.
My further qualifications for writing a blog about Australian school life include having personally attended an Australian primary school and secondary school and having two parents who were both dedicated and enthusiastic (not to mention exhausted, frustrated and under-appreciated) teachers for decades before their retirement.
When I decided to write a blog, I pondered which of my many and varied interests to focus on. It wasn’t long before I was forced to admit to being a hobby whore, flitting from short-lived passion to short-lived passion — from cooking to piano to writing to crochet to running to jigsaws — not really very suitable for a coherent long-term blogging experience. Then I realised that school was the answer. It is a never-ending source of potential topics, and in the near future I hope to entertain both you and myself with some of my anecdotes.
Let’s just hope that blogging isn’t just my latest short-lived passion…