The Scottish Teenage Book Prize - A Fantastic Cross-Curricular Opportunity

Elgin Academy has been embracing the Scottish Teenage Book Prize for a number of years and this year has been no exception. However, thanks to the fantastic support from Scottish Book Trust, we have been able to take the project to new heights as Scottish Teenage Book Prize Schools Champion for 2018.

Activities this year have included creative writing, book reviews, creating book covers and a variety of discussion and debates

The Project

The process begins in September with collaborative planning by the librarian and class teacher for the project on a range of activities including reading, group discussions and group work in the library and a variety of tasks in the classroom.

One S3 class is chosen for the project, which runs from October through to February and gives pupils the opportunity to develop and demonstrate skills in literacy, team work and independent learning. The first book is read over the October holidays and all three books on the shortlist are completed by the end of January. A dedicated weekly library period focuses on group discussions which, although led by the librarian, invariably take on a life of their own as the pupils take ownership of the project and discuss plot, narrative, characterisation, style and setting and the relevance it may have for them.

In the classroom, tasks are linked to the shortlisted books and the links and themes within them and the resources provided by Scottish Book Trust offer plenty of ideas and suggestions. Activities this year have included creative writing, book reviews, creating book covers and a variety of discussion and debates.

Champions!

In all three books on this year’s shortlist, the main characters are children who, in one way or another, we believe, are denied their rights. For us, at Elgin Academy, this seemed the ideal opportunity to base a project around the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). This has enabled the project to take on a truly cross-curricular approach and formed the basis of our successful bid to be Champions. As our School Improvement Plan will see us working towards becoming a Rights Respecting School and 2018 is Scotland’s Year of Young People, it seemed the perfect focus.

Pupils have embraced the role of Champions and have been busy spreading the word about shortlisted books and reading in general. Peer recommendation has always been an effective way to encourage reader engagement and so they were tasked with replacing librarian Mrs Toonen in February’s monthly Book Talk to our S2s. They have risen fantastically to the challenge and produced and delivered their own presentations on one of the shortlisted books.

Activities

Elgin Academy pupils with Richard Lochhead MSP
We invited Jen Price from UNICEF in to school to talk to the class about the UN convention, which provoked a lively discussion session; pupils received cross-curricular inputs on the Suffragette movement and women’s rights and also the history of devolved government in Scotland. The funding received from Scottish Book Trust facilitated a two-day trip to Edinburgh, the highlight of the project. We received a fantastic welcome from the Education team at Holyrood, got to sit in on a live debate and met two of our MSPs for a great question and answer session. This was preceded by a visit to Blackwell’s bookshop, where the lovely staff lifted the lid on publishing and selling books (and offered some great discounts.) A visit to Edinburgh Castle also provided the opportunity for some excellent footage that later appeared in several of the book trailers pupils created for Scottish Book Trust’s book trailer competition.

The Competitions

A group of pupils working at Elgin Academy
As the project develops, pupils work in smaller groups to focus on the competitions. The standard of creativity at Elgin Academy has always been high and this year has been no exception. Groups choose their novel and discuss which scenes they will recreate as graphic novels and develop a greater understanding of how graphic novels can tell a story and the variety of techniques that can be used. For the book trailer competition, we look at media techniques and analyse how to create a trailer that draws on the themes of the novel. With no budget and a limited time the pupils have to be creative, organised and work together.

Drum roll….

A group shot of Elgin Academy's Schools Champion pupils
The competition entries are in, the ballot box has been wheeled out and votes cast and verified. We now eagerly await the big announcement on Wednesday. Will our class favourite be the overall winner? More importantly, have we lived up to the standards set by previous years at Elgin Academy and will we find ourselves among the competition winners?!

This is a fantastic project to get involved in. It offers great opportunities for partnership working, both in and out of school, is a fantastic way of developing a whole-school reading culture and gives pupils in their final BGE year real personalisation and choice in their learning. More importantly, it is inspiring, really engages pupils and is great fun.

If you're looking for more ideas and information about the Scottish Teenage Book Prize, you can check out the home page  or read some previous blog posts  from schools explaining how they took part.

Stand by for our special video announcement of the winning book on Wednesday 28 November!

Shelagh Toonen, Helen Bodiam

Shelagh is the librarian and Helen is an English teacher at Elgin Academy.