While it is not news to me that books are a great resource to have in the classroom, until recently it didn’t really occur to me to go out of my way to source books that tied in with our learning themes. Once or twice I had had a poke through the classroom library and tried to showcase any books that did tie in with the current theme by placing them on the display face of the unit. But the limited number of books available in this collection meant that I was able to find only limited examples of books related to any one theme.
It wasn’t until we were contacted by a local librarian on our Twitter page, and I had a chance to exchange emails with her, that I realised the potential for expanding on a topic by sourcing a wide selection of books that tied in with that theme. Maria from Children’s Services in South Dublin County Libraries, pointed out to me that the staff at the library would be happy to help me source books in relation to a given topic.
Immediately, I began to consider the potential for this. We were about to move on to the topic of Space (also thanks to Twitter), so I decided to visit Tallaght library and see what kind of literature I could rustle up. I came home with a basket full of Space-related books; fictional stories that took place in Space or had alien characters, as well as factual books about rockets and space travel, stars and planets. I was able to supplement these with a couple of similarly themed books and children’s encyclopaedias that I had at home, and one or two from the classroom library.
I left the basket on a table in the classroom and began to direct early finishers to the basket to select a book. It wasn’t long until the children recognised that all of the books were related to what we were currently learning, and I found that this encouraged them to engage with the content, particularly of the non-fiction books. They would exclaim; ‘aw teacher, that looks like the space station Commander Hadfield is on’ or ‘that’s the bit that falls off the rocket when it takes off’.
In fact, the children were so aware of the thematic link between our reading and our learning that when Ms. Neville (Home School Liaison) came to the class with a selection of books for the children to choose from for the Bedtime Reading Club, the children noticed any space themed ones and asked could we add them to our basket! We soon had Ms. Neville and Ms. Dee dropping in to us with any space themed books they came across, to help contribute to the effort!
When we moved off Space and onto the topic of water, I was able to restock the basket with similarly appropriate books. Our most recent theme is Summer Holidays. In the role play area, this means that we have set up a Travel Agent. My trip to the library this time entailed collecting non-fiction books about every country I had heard the children mention during our initial summer holidays brainstorm, as well as books about the nationalities of our multinational pupils. They are now laid out as brochures at the Travel Agent and the children really enjoy looking through the pictures in the books to help them select which country they will holiday in during their playtime.
I am delighted by the additional level of depth that the presence of a wide selection of books has been able to add to our thematic learning, and how it has extended the children’s awareness of what we are hoping to learn about in any given unit, and we owe it all to @MariaMernagh. While it does take a little more effort to try to get down to the library once every fortnight-ish, it is well worth the time.