Tag Archives: junior high

Grades 7-12 Riveted By Tales from Storyteller Gail de Vos

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Gail de Vos at Swan Hills School

Following in the tradition of storytelling throughout the ages of humanity, storyteller Gail de Vos captivates her audience with tales that hit home. On October 15, our Junior and Senior High students were fully engaged as she told old and new tales. Perfectly timed with the upcoming Halloween atmosphere, Gail told her version of urban myths like ‘The Exploding Toilet’ and ‘The Vanishing Hitchhiker’.

Gail explained that anyone that has ever made up an excuse, engaged in gossip or told a friend about a book or a movie, is a storyteller. Like the way we improvise, elaborate and spin words to suit our ‘audience’, Gail explained how the most effective stories are those that are modified to meet the present time and place. Gail told a story that she performed  for a Halloween Graveyard event at Fort Edmonton Park. She craftily incorporated surrounding sounds, scents and objects to increase the ‘fear factor’ of the tale. Readers may have heard the story of the sunbather who woke up with a cheek full of hatching spiders, which is a contemporary adaptation of an ancient cautionary story. Gail told about the 60’s version of the story, which was told with effect to girls with elaborate beehive hairdos who might end up having spiders nesting in it  if they didn’t wash their hair more often.

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The Wendigo from Deadliest Fiction.com (click)

Gail also delved into ancient characters who have stood the test of time and how their stories vary by region and culture. There are many stories told about La Llorona (Weeping Woman), who watches over the lake where she drowned her own children and herself, variously drowning children or protecting them from drowning and/or murdering men, who represent the husband who rejected her. The Golem, from Jewish folklore has appeared in 6 major comics in the past 2 years. The Vanishing Hitchhiker is a 400 year-old-story that has taken on many forms including the 1960s hit ‘Tell Laura I Love Her’. Gail set her version on Alberta Highway 2 near Blackfalds. Canada’s Sasquach and the First Nations’ Wendego also fit into that category.

Gail talked about the current fad of ‘Legend Tripping’ – going into haunted houses and other scary situations – as well as the vicarious version, where we watch YouTube videos of other people doing it. ‘Bloody Mary’ (locking oneself in a dark bathroom and performing the ritual expected to call the murderess through the mirror) is a form of this game that is familiar to many of our students. As our students were not able to name a local haunted house, more creative means have likely been found for Legend Tripping possibly involving the forests surrounding our town.

Comics, graphic novels, animated movies and even computer games are all in the realm of Gail’s interest in popular culture.  She explained how ballads are stories told in song and that Disney’s Mulan started out as an ancient ballad. She warned of the danger of progressing from enjoying old and new myths to immersing oneself and losing perspective as in the case of the Slenderman  tragedy earlier this year.

Books

Click for the books on Gail de Vos’ website

Gail de Vos is a professor at the University of Alberta, an award-winning author and a leader in the international storytelling community. She specializes in Urban Legends – those tales we almost believe are news until the truth comes out. She has published several books including the following, which we have in our library and which I’ve linked to their Goodreads entries:

We feel very fortunate to be able to host a literary artist thanks to the Young Alberta Book Society’s Taleblazers festival, which covers expenses. We cover artists’ fees with the income from our annual Scholastic Book Fair.

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Filed under Education, Library Programs

Text Polling on Reading Habits With Grades 7-9

The kids were surprised that I asked them to bring their mobile devices to library classes and they surprised me too!

Hands holding phone texting

By Jhaymesisviphotography on Flickr

Mostly I was surprised that only about half of them had devices with them and a few of them were not text-capable. So the sample in my poll was quite small, although I did get some more answers by a raise of hands.

Not Enough Reading For Fun

I used PollEverywhere (a free and friendly site) and embedded the questions in a Power Point. I found that only about half of the students often read for enjoyment, and some did rarely or not at all, which was a little disappointing. Although I know that reading for fun is not part of some kids’ lives, I guess I had always hoped that most of those who were not checking out materials from the library were finding their reading materials elsewhere.

I also discovered that print magazines are still more popular than those online, however there is a possibility that some students weren’t identifying some of their online reading as ‘magazines’ and I will have to show and discuss more of this medium in the future.

Asleep with book in hand

By Quinn Dombrowski
on Flickr

Most of the readers did most of their pleasure reading in bed, which didn’t surprise me and is why I encourage parents to set bedtime at least a half-hour earlier than they expect their children to be asleep, and allow reading-only during that time. Most readers like series and most still buy from bookstores in spite of the fact that there is not one within 200 km. of our town. A few buy online or get from the public or school library and (another surprise) none swap with friends or buy used books.

Books/Movies Divide

When I asked the question: “More than anything else, I want stories (movies & books) to be: exciting, funny, realistic, romantic or supernatural”, there were choices across the spectrum. But curiously, most chose “funny”. However, when I asked them to name some funny books they liked they had no suggestions! It turned out that most thought only of movies when they answered the question. I do wonder then whether I need to purchase and promote humourous teen fiction. I also need to either rephrase the questions or ask it about books and movies separately.

Teenager reading by window

By Demi-Brooke
on Flickr

So, although the sample was too small to be really instructive, I did learn a few things. There are still students who are not reading for pleasure at all and some rarely. Since research is showing that reading for pleasure is one of the most important factors influencing life skills and academic success (one source), even one in that category is too many. I need to identify and target those kids. These non-readers tend to put up a brick wall when approached directly with book suggestions so I need to find out why they’re non-readers and then find some kind of back-door to sneakily get them to open a book that will grab their attention. Are they ‘reluctant readers’ or just too busy with other things?

What to Do?

I touched on teens and home reading in my September newsletter but maybe there’s more I can do. Junior High library classes have always been their book exchange and silent reading time. With their teachers’ approval, this year I will be showing online resources, book trailers and discussing books more as a group for part of their class. I’m also printing QR codes to attach to books so students can access trailers, reviews and series lists on their mobile devices.

By  Jayel Aheram on Flickr

By Jayel Aheram
on Flickr

Here is some of the reading I’m doing to strategize my approach to those kids who haven’t discovered or have forgotten the joy of reading for pleasure. If you know of any great tips or sites to share, please do in the comments.

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Filed under Education, Library Class, Library Management, Library Programs, Online Resources, Reading

Grades 7-12 Inspired by Comic Books Presentation

Last Friday I had the pleasure of hosting three visitors from Happy Harbor Comics in Edmonton. Store owner Jay Bardala, along with two very talented comic book artists inspired and enlightened our junior and senior high students through four sessions.

Jay Bardala from Happy Harbor Comics with artists Tracey Risser and Dan Schneider

Jay Bardala from Happy Harbor Comics with artists Tracey Risser and Dan Schneider

Jay’s extensive knowledge of the comic book industry and entertaining style kept us all captivated as he described the complex process of comic book production. I for one had never imagined that after a writer has written the script and planned all the panels, there are at least three artists involved in the drawings.

The penciller does the initial drawings after whihch the inker defines the light, shadow and emphasis with black lines and shapes. The colourer then, after determining the mood of the story adds colour, usually digitally. Then there’s the letterer, the editor, printer, distributor, retailer and others. It was all quite fascinating to discover the impressive collaboration that goes into the production and distribution of a $3.00 comic book.

Artist Tracey Risser draws the students' choices of superheroes.

Artist Tracey Risser draws the students’ choices of superheroes.

While Jay spoke, artists Tracey Risser and Dan Schneider drew superheroes in action from student requests. Tracey is a professional graphic artist and works on comics in his spare time. Dan works full time illustrating comic books. Jay writes scripts for comic books some of which Dan has illustrated, but he just does it for fun and doesn’t market them. That’s love.

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Two of the drawings the artists left with us. Tracey’s is on the left and Dan’s on the right.

The 8 amazing drawings, 2 from each artist at each session, will be displayed in the school for a while, then offered to the students as contest prizes.

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Artist Dan Schneider shares tips with a talented student, while other students and artist Tracey Risser look on.

After the sessions, Dan and Tracey offered to share their expertise with any students who brought artwork to share. It was amazing to see some of the work our students were producing and they appreciated the artists’ advice. I’m hoping to see a few students fleshing out some of those brilliant ideas percolating within, as scripts or drawings.

See also:

Happy Harbor Comics services for schools and libraries
Dan Schneider’s Website
Dan Schneider Artist in Residence interview (2011)
Tracey Risser at Harper PR

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Filed under Art & Design, Library Programs