School Library Activities: Of D&D, MtG, Board games and other activities

The library is as busy, if not busier than ever, especially during leisure times – in the morning before classes start and at lunchtimes.  Pupils can do a variety of activities at these times.  There are the regular activities, described below, as well as our annual events.  Our Poetry Picnic is this Thursday, 6th October to celebrate National Poetry Day.  The theme is ‘Messages’. After the October Holidays we will have another lunchtime session of storytelling for Spooky Happenings.

A small cohort of pupils come to the library before its official opening time, presumably because they want first dibs on the PCs, but they come on the condition that they help with shelving and shelf tidying.  Their ‘enthusiasm’ for this means the shelving trolley is usually not too full.  Sometimes books aren’t in the correct place, but this is a minor inconvenience.  Mornings are often the time when some pupils are frantically finishing (in some cases starting, I suspect) homework, or printing it out.  Others will read quietly, but in the main mornings are a gentle run in to the school day with a bit of a chat.

Many will go on the computers to play games in the morning or at lunchtime, although those wanting to do school work will always get priority.  This system seems to work well, with only the occasional gripe when someone is asked to come off a PC to let someone work.  We keep an eye to the games pupils are playing as well as ensuring both games and any YouTube videos they watch are appropriate for viewing in the school.  Pupils are aware of and accept these limitations to use.

Board games such as chess, draughts and Connect4 are popular at lunchtime.  These are kept on shelves so pupils can help themselves.  A new Draughts set has recently been purchased and donated by the Librarian as we only had one set.  One wonders whether there is scope for a peedie competition?

Magic the GaDSCN5566thering, an RPG card game where opponents battle each other is still very popular, both at lunchtime and during Friday afternoon activities.  It was introduced to the library in the late 90’s and has been played ever since.  We have also run a couple of tournaments in the past, and the time may well be ripe for another one.  Watch this space!


Friday afternoon Role Playing Games activity is also more popular than ever with 23 pupils attending. Eight play Magic the Gathering in the Upper Library whilst the rest play Dungeons & Dragons, in three groups.  This year we have 7 beginners which bodes well for the future of this activity.  The beginners group of 5 very enthusiastic S1 pupils is DM’d (Dungeon Mastered) by the Librarian, Mrs Sinclair, playing the published Starter Set adventure, Lost Mine of Phandelver from Wizards of the Coast.   An S3 pupil leads two older beginners in his more experienced group of players playing a 5e D&D homebrew Sci-fi type of game.  A further group led by an S3 girl playing 3.5e D&D.  More information on the history of D&D at Stromness Academy can be found here.

PC “Can I use toilet?”

NPC “Outhouse is out back”

3 min later same question

NPC Same reply

Pupil asks again

DM “Oh YOU want to go”

c0sOn Tuesday after school a small group of five experienced D&D players meet.  This includes one of the pupil DMs so it gives him a chance to play as well.  Currently we are playing the Curse of Strahd campaign set in Ravenloft.  This adventure will be full of suspense, a little measure of horror and maybe even some hope.  The characters find themselves transported through mists to a different place to where they were the night before.  They are in a forest clearing near a road.  They have two options: go east into the mist (back to where they think they came from) or go west.  They find out that the mist is rather dangerous so go west along the forest track.

Player: “How would I know I am in a forest?”

DM: “Erm!” Looks at other players.

Other players: Bemused! Roll eyes!

The characters find their way to the village of Barovia where two little children ask them to chase a monster out of their house.  The players are now currently ‘stuck’ in The Death House (no it isn’t really as bad as it sounds – actually, yes it is!) which is an introductory adventure getting them used to the emphasis on the role-playing aspect of this campaign, as opposed to the dice rolling of lots of combat.  It is making the players think much more carefully about their character’s actions, how they work together as a group and how they affect the other characters in the group. For example, maybe hitting a group of statuettes with a maul, which you saw briefly in the guise of your adventuring companions, might have consequences! One of the party took a lot of damage!

The main thing with D&D is that the players have fun.  The great thing is it also teaches pupils lots of skills in terms of numeracy, literacy and social skills.  More information is found on the D&D page of this blog.

January in the Library

It has been some time since the last post here.  January has been and gone and we are already in February.  A lot of things have been going on in the library as shown below (in no particular order).

Activities: Dungeons & Dragons – The increasingly popular D&D activity on Tuesday after school and Friday afternoons continues.  On Tuesdays, a small group of 5-6 pupils meets to play a game run by myself.  We are using the 5th edition Starter set running The Lost Mines of Phandelver adventure.  It is proving quite taxing for the pupils’ characters at times.  Just a pity we only have 50 minutes to play it in.



On Friday afternoons, there are three D&D groups run by pupils.  This gives me a chance to play for a change, in a slightly steampunk game designed and run by a second year pupil.  This game also is a bit of a hybrid between 4e and 5e which is working fairly well.  Our characters are running from an army and have now found themselves in a cave system to get through the mountains.  We were last seen to be trying to deal with a horde of goblins and a sleepy troll cuddling a chicken – don’t ask!

Lunchtimes – The library continues to be a busy place with anywhere between half a dozen and 30 pupils visiting, depending on time, over the course of the split lunch.  Computers are well used, mostly for leisure use, but work will always get priority.  Some folks come in to read and / or chat quietly which in most cases is acceptable, but when noise levels rise words will be said.

It is important that food and drink are NOT brought into the library.  This Librarian was rather put out on the weather closure last Friday – tidying a very messy fiction section is tedious enough but to find stale, hard, mouldy bread and empty bottles of milk shake behind the books was beyond a joke.

Tidying in progress.  The books on the floor indicate how much has been randomly shelved, let alone those just dumped at the end of shelves.  Please help to keep everything tidy.
Tidying in progress. The books on the floor indicate how much has been randomly shelved and needing put in the right section, let alone those just dumped at the end of shelves. Please help to keep everything tidy.

More words will be said about this.  Both the Junior and Senior Fiction sections have now bee given a good tidy and I would hope that library users respect this and take responsibility for helping to keep everything tidy and food free.


The trading card game, Magic the Gathering, continues to be very popular as a self-directed lunchtime activity and I am not averse to a game or two myself.  MtG is also a popular Friday afternoon activity.  A couple of other table top games have also been tried – Necromunda and another, whose name currently escapes me.  Warhammer occasionally features too.



Lessons – January was fairly quiet in terms of class bookings with the English department library periods being the only ones.  In mid-February S2 PSE will have five weeks in here doing Careers Information Literacy Skills prior to their S3 subject choice.  Planning meetings, emails and discussions have already taken place and the tricky logistics appear to have been worked out – time will tell.

Last term, S1 pupils submitted ‘alternative book reviews’ as part of the Library & Information Literacy Skills course.  They could do whatever they wanted, whether it was a poster, mobile, model or game as long as it wasn’t a traditional written review.  Their imagination was the only limit.  A great selection of ideas was produced.  Pupils, in library period, spoke about what they did and about the book.  The work was displayed in the English corridor and now some is in the library.


P1090347    P1090355    P1090356

Recently S1 and S2 pupils, during library periods, were given the opportunity to browse catalogues, leaflets and the excellent Teen Titles magazine and make some selections for the library.  This gives them an opportunity to get involved in stock choices.  Budget constraints do mean that not everyone’s suggestions can be acted upon, but at least they can go on a wishlist.

Careers Resources – We are expecting a delivery of new careers books any day now (weather and boats (or planes) permitting).  Back in November / December an offer of free books was flagged up on School Librarians’ Network and I looked into it.  In this economic climate, this was too good an offer to miss so a number of books on different careers were ordered.  Parents or pupils interested in getting their own copies can find a list of resources available here: How2Become.  The website itself could also offer useful careers and choice information.  More information on these books will be provided in due course, when they arrive in school.

Links to careers websites and LiveBinders are available in the LibLinks section of the blog.

Stan Lee Excelsior Award for Graphic Novels & Manga – At the time of writing the eight graphic novels on the 2016 shortlist should be winging their way to Orkney, having been delayed by lack of stock.  This is frustrating as the order was placed just before Christmas and we have now lost a month of reading the books and shadowing this award.  The display is nearly read and just awaiting the addition of the books.  Pupils are invited to come along to a meeting on Thursday so that we can get the shadowing of this award started –  books or no books!  We have also ordered the five books of the Junior Award, even though we are not eligible to shadow that.  They will make a good addition to our growing collection of Graphic Novels.

GN poster     Manga poster

For further information on SLEA, please visit the website: Stan Lee Excelsior Award.

Online Resources – We have continued to subscribe to Complete Issues.  This potentially useful resource  has been under used despite termly reminders to staff and pupils.  The subscription will be reviewed at the next renewal, but please do look at it in the meantime as it is potentially a very good resource for current and moral issues for discursive essay, etc. Further information can be found here.  Username and password is available from the library.


FS 1 Feb 2016

Recent Activities in the Library


The library can be a very busy place at lunchtimes. Pupils read, go on computers or play computer games. The atmosphere is somewhat relaxed with around 25 – 30 pupils regularly visiting. Board games such as chess and draughts prove popular as do the computers. Despite the informal nature of the lunchtime sessions some pupils do manage to do school work and all the regular library users know that work will always get priority on the computers over leisure use.

Tuesday after School and Friday Afternoon Activities

Friday activities started back in the first week of term and the librayr activity of ‘Dungeons and Dragons’ saw 15 pupils taking part. A number of whom were beginners to the game. The first session for the beginners was an overview of the game and the complicated character sheet and an introduction to basic combat using the miniatures and dungeon tiles to help explain movement and positioning of characters. Meanwhile the more experienced players got straight back into role-playing as though they had never been away.

The after school opening of the library restarted on Tuesday 31st August and this saw the usual regulars coming a long to play ‘Dungeons and Dragons’. After some discussion the eight experienced pupils and one beginner split into two groups. A pupil DM’d (Dungeon Mastered) one group whilst Mrs Sinclair, the Librarian, led the other group through a goblin lair.

Pupils enjoy this activity and gain a lot of benefit from playing. Games are developed by pupils or myself in our own time at home and require a considerable amount of creative input. D&D certainly meets aspects of the ‘4 Capacities’ in Curriculum for Excelllence with pupils becoming:

Successful Learners – literacy (reading the manuals), communication (using role-playing) and numeracy (maths with up to 20-sided dice, additions, subtractions, negative numbers when calculating attacks and defenses and health points) skills; Think creatively and independently (making up stories on the spur of the moment)

Responsible Citizens – Learning to respect each other (taking turns, etc)

Confident Individuals – Relating to others; assessing risk and take informed decisions (albeit in a role-play / imaginary context, but these decisions can affect how the character in the game acts)

Effective Contributors – Communicating in different ways (they have to be able to communicate with each other); Work in partnership and teams; Taking the initiative; Critical thinking; Solving problems.

S1 Library Induction

Lessons on how to use the school Library got underway in the first week of term with pupils discussing the library rules and being issued with their library cards. The following week they were introduced to the layout of the library and other general information (opening times, borrowing books, etc). This week they are being introduced to the fiction section of the library, being shown how to successfully browse the shelves and to use the library catalogue. In future weeks, they will learn about the arrangement of non-fiction books, the Dewey Classification and more advanced catalogue searching.

Practising alphabetical order
Using the library website to find out about the library

S2 English Library Time

During the first couple of weeks of the new session S2 classes, during their library periods, are reminded about the library rules and what activities the library can be used for. They have group discussions, then each group creates a poster suggesting key rules and informing others what the library can offer.