Greenaway Shadowing with SEN students—Joy Court talks to Caroline Fielding
I would like to think that Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Shadowing will always feature in a Great School Library, but do you realise how flexible the scheme can be? Here Caroline Fielding, Librarian at Charlton Park Academy—a Special Academy for students with complex, low incidence special educational needs—busts a few myths about shadowing only being for the more able and shares her experiences of Greenaway Shadowing.
“I have shadowed the Kate Greenaway medal in secondary schools for several years now, with years 7 and 8 in mainstream schools and with students aged 11–18 in the special school I currently work in, in groups of between 8 and 30 students. The wonderful thing about shadowing Greenaway rather than (or as well as) Carnegie is that you can plan as much or as little as you like—depending on the time you have and the age and ability of your students—and it doesn’t rely on them being able to read the books in the timeframe.
There are three ‘pathways’ in my school. Pathway Three students have a very structured timetable of sensory interaction to develop communication and awareness. Pathway Two students are more independent but still need a lot of sensory interaction. Pathway One students are the most independent but still have complex needs: concentration spans, literacy levels (average reading age of <7), and communication issues are real barriers for them, and they would not thrive in a mainstream school environment. I support all three pathways, but I mainly shadow the Greenaway with Pathway One and some Pathway Two. Once they know I’m not going to force them to try and read to me, the enthusiasm from students about coming into the library to listen to stories and discuss the illustrations is fantastic.
A great introduction to the shortlist is to literally ‘judge a book by its cover’: wrap the books in clingfilm (or instruct the students not to open them, if they can resist!) and ask them to think about what the cover tells us about what kind of book it is. A quick ‘book talk’ about the contents of each book from you will hopefully pique their interest and get them raring to look inside. In the same session, introduce them to the basic idea of the judging criteria and ask them to rank the books in order of how well, on first impressions, they match them. If you have a large group, have them working in small groups and rotate the books, then at the end of the session collate their scores and have a bigger discussion about why some are ‘favourites’ already.
Time and resources clearly dictate how deeply you can get into judging. I see the groups for 30-minute sessions once a week, and I’ve always had time to look at two of the books in more detail in each session and, at the end, vote one out (with a secret ballot), then have semi-finals and a final to choose the group’s winner. With shorter books, start with simply reading the story aloud to the group! You know your students and whether they’d enjoy reading aloud or drawing or moving, so plan accordingly. Ask students to practice doing a story time, paying attention to voices and emotions, and making sure everyone can see the pictures! Get them to recreate a page in their own style or create an alternative page copying the illustrator’s style. They could even just pick out the illustration they think is most effective (with a longer book, you might want to show them a selection to choose from) and explain why, act out portions of the story, or ask them to present their thoughts to the class. Certain books lend themselves to unique activities; for example, last year’s winner, There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith, got us doing some exercise and pretending to be all the animals, so try and think outside the box to have some fun around the books’ themes!
The students take the ‘judging’ very seriously, often voicing extremely astute observations about the pictures. Even those who rarely talk make some contribution to each session. I see them light up when I say “that is a brilliant point”, when they sit and pore over every single picture in a book, when they ask me to read a particular book aloud again or ask if they can show it to their teacher, and when they staunchly defend one book over another. The students behave in a far more concentrated way in the library than when I see them doing anything else. When it isn’t shadowing season, they still recognise books that we’ve looked at before and ask me to talk about others—I’d highly recommend doing it with the SEN cohort of a mainstream school if you want to develop a brilliant relationship with those students and get them to feel like the library is a place for them. Shadowing the Greenaway with SEN students is such a rewarding experience, for them and for you.”
If you want to find out more, Caroline is happy for you to contact her at [email protected].
For lots of new books, ideas and competitions for you to use this term, sign up to the Love Libraries newsletter. Email [email protected]