A Complex Giveaway for Christmas


A beautiful and generous giveaway light catcher made by Pauline for you to gift to another. Be quick before November 30 to nominate someone deserving of this very special gift.

Originally posted on The Contented Crafter:

As my American friends celebrate Thanksgiving, and as Advent approaches it is time to not only be grateful for all we have, it is also time to think about those who maybe have less or maybe need a little brightening moment in their lives.  In keeping with the true spirit of the season, this is the time for giving.

Let’s join together and bring back a little of the giving spirit here in Contented Land and see what we can come up with.

I’ve made a traditionally coloured Christmas Light Catcher – one that can be kept especially for this time of the year or, if the winner is so inclined, to hang up all year round.


I love making these light catchers, to me they are a really special combination of textures, light and colour – they are always woven with the magic of intent and good wishes for…

View original 714 more words

@aussietony’s 20 gift suggestions for #life-long learning

Wrapped in living

Today I share with you a book by a passionate educator and life-long learner, Tony Ryan. I have shared material by Tony before. Here I wrote about his book The Ripple Effect, here I wrote about his Thinkers Keys, and about his seminar on Future-Proofing Kids here. In this post I nominated him as an educator I find inspiring.

The book, Wrapped in Living! 20 Gifts for Creating Passion in Your Life! is now in its twentieth year but has lost no relevance with the passing years. Its gifts are perennial and I find myself dipping back into it for reminders from time to time. With one of the busiest gift-giving times just around the corner you may consider the book as a gift for yourself or for someone else, or perhaps taking one or some of the ideas to make a gift of wishes.

Wrapped in Living is described as

A highly innovative approach to effective living and learning. Twenty special metaphorical gifts for re-discovering passion in life. Each of the gifts represents a vital principle for creating enthusiasm in life-long learning experiences. Full of entertaining stories and quotes.”

The gifts include such things as A Set of Sparklers to “unleash your imagination”; A Tapestry to “Become a life-long learner”; A Potplant to “create a peaceful environment”; A Hammock to “learn to relax; and An Hourglass to “take your time”. There are gifts for setting goals, for telling stories, for listening, for finding the magic in the everyday, and for knowing that you can make a difference, and more.

Tony describes each metaphorical gift, explains why it is important, and suggests how it might inspire you, how you might implement the gift in your daily life. He includes stories and quotes that add meaning and inspiration. For example I opened the book to a page at random and found a story by Anthony De Mello about a man sitting in a marketplace strumming one note on his guitar. A crowd gathered. Soon he was asked why he didn’t vary his playing like other musicians do. His response: Those fools. They’re searching for the right note. I’ve already found it.”

Tony’s message from this:

“You do not always have to search elsewhere for the information that you require. It already may be within you.”


Tony’s third gift, a tapestry, “offers a perspective from start to finish, and reminds you that you must Become A Life-Long Learner.

He says,

“Many famous tapestries display a long–term historical perspective on different cultures. They allow you to view events from beginning to end. You also should look at yourself in the same way. Think of life as a learning journey from start to finish. You are born to learn, and you should continue to learn until the day you die.”


Tony’s tenth gift is a jigsaw to “encourage you to Look For The Big Picture”.

He says,

“When you play with a jigsaw, you often use two strategies to finish the puzzle. The first is to assemble the parts. The second is to view the cover of the jigsaw packet. Your life needs both of these approaches, namely, to place the parts together, and also to look for the big picture.”


The final gift in Tony’s book is a very important one today when the problems around the world can seem insurmountable and overwhelming. It reminds us to look at what we can change rather than what we can’t; to find and focus on the positives, rather than seek out the negatives and allow them to destroy us; to focus on those things we have the power to influence.

It is a globe to “help you to Know That You Can Make A Difference”.

Tony says,

“When you look at your globe, you can see more easily that this beautiful planet is a single entity, rather than an infinite collection of people and problems. Suddenly the world does not appear quite so overwhelming. This can help you to believe that you actually can make a difference with your daily actions. In fact, because everything on this ONE planet is connected in mysterious and special ways, your actions can ripple out and benefit others around the world every day.”


He includes a story that takes place on a beach dotted with thousands of starfish which had been left stranded by the receding tide. A man was picking up the starfish one at a time and throwing them back into the sea. A passer-by questioned what he was doing and remarked that there were so many starfish he couldn’t possibly make a difference. As the man picked up one starfish and threw it into the water he replied,

“Made a difference to that one!”

As an individual we sometimes feel that we can’t make much difference to the world. But looking at it another way, we realise we can make a world of difference to another. How will you make a difference today? Tony has many suggestions in this book and other publications including The Ripple Effect.

Tony Ryan's 20 gifts

Which of these gifts have you received? Which would you like to receive? Which would you gift to another?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

The comfort zone

John Hattie

Creating a positive classroom environment in which students feel welcome, accepted and respected is probably high on the agenda for most teachers. It certainly was for me during all my years of classroom practice.

Students require an environment in which they feel comfortable and supported, as well as encouraged and challenged to stretch beyond current levels of skills and knowledge, to step beyond their current comfort zones with confidence in the knowledge that, while learning anything new can be a risky business, they will be supported in the process.

But this does not just come from a “feel good” place in teachers’ dreams and imaginations. Research provides evidence that it is true. Professor John Hattie, a researcher in education, undertook a very ambitious project, synthesising data from over 800 studies involving more than 80 million students. He published his findings in two books called Visible Learning and Visible Learning for Teachers.

Hattie says that

“It is teachers who have created positive teacher student relationships that are more likely to have the above average effects on student achievement”.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

This article, which summaries some of Hattie’s findings about teacher-student relationships, states that

“the quality and nature of the relationships you have with your students has a larger effect on their results than socio-economic status, professional development or Reading Recovery programs. It is not that these things don’t matter, but rather that your relationships with students matter more.”

It is wonderful to find that what I have always believed and practiced is now firmly backed up with research.

I have written before about my use of affirmation songs and of connecting literacy learning to children’s lives and interests. In this post I will share just a few of the physical attributes of the classroom that contributed to that overall positive and supportive environment I worked so hard to establish.

Readilearn bookmark

From the very first day of any school year I ensured that children not only felt welcome in the classroom but knew that it was their classroom, that they had part ownership of the space and its environment.

I would prepare a large welcome chart for the door with my name and photograph and the words: “Welcome to grade one.” Children’s names and photographs would be added by the close of the day.

Welcome to year one

In our school each child was allocated an individual desk with a tidy tray underneath for storing belongings. I would arrange the initial seating of children in groups based on what I knew of their friendship groups from the previous year. For each child I would place on the allocated desk:

  • A desk name (to identify the desk, to use as a model for writing, to assist children in learning to read each other’s names)
  • A welcome letter
  • A name badge (to identify them and their class at break time)
  • A small gift e.g. a pencil or keyring
Welcome pack

Welcome pack

During the day I would photograph each child and print two of each.

One of each child’s photographs would be added to the welcome chart  with the child’s name. (see above)

The other would be added to a self-portrait and displayed on a classroom wall.

I am Michael

I usually asked the children to complete these during the first session so that I could have them on display when the children returned to class after first break.

This was just the start. Throughout the year my classroom was a constantly changing display of children’s work. Children love to see their work displayed. It gives them an immediate sense of belonging, of being valued, and of ownership. Parents love to see it too, as this (unsolicited) letter written by a parent to the principal at the end of a school year testifies.

Marianne's letter

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a place of comfort that is a refuge.

My classroom welcomed everyone: children, parents, volunteers, aides and administrators. It was a comfortable place to be. Fortunately it was not often required to be a refuge in the true sense of the word, though allowing me to experience over and over the joys of being six certainly shielded me from many less pleasant situations that may have been met elsewhere.

While Marnie of my stories is a fictional character, sadly there are many children suffering as much as or more than I portray for her. It is for children like her that a warm, caring relationship with a special teacher can be empowering and life-changing, the one bright spot in an otherwise difficult life. I wish for all children a loving place of safety, acceptance, trust and respect. Marnie found it in a special teacher, Miss R.


Marnie loved art classes with Miss R. She loved art, but she loved Miss R. more. The days when art class was last were best; had been ever since that first time when she’d dallied, nervously, reluctant to leave, and Miss suggested she stay and “help”.

Miss R. understood Marnie and Marnie trusted Miss R. Sometimes they would tidy in silence. Other times they’d chatter lightly about distracting things like television, music or books. But sometimes, when dark clouds loomed, Miss R. would gently ask, “What would you like to tell me?” Today the clouds looked about to burst.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

@cesarharada, Encouraging innovation and problem solving through science

Cesar Harada

I found this TED talk by Cesar Harada totally engaging. Cesar, who describes himself as half Japanese half French, teaches science and invention to students from aged 6 to 15 at the Harbour School in Hong Kong.

Cesar opens his talk by explaining that, when a child, he was allowed to make a mess, but only if he cleaned up after himself. As he grew up he realised that he had been lied to: adults make messes too but they are not very good at cleaning up after themselves.

He closes his talk by suggesting that children should not be lied to. He says,

“We can no longer afford to shield the kids from the ugly truth because we need their imagination to invent the solutions.”

He then adds,

” we must prepare the next generation that cares about the environment and people, and that can actually do something about it.”

In between he describes some scientific thinking and inventions made by his students to solve local problems initially, then problems that affected other kids remotely, and finally problems that have a global impact.

I’m sure that you too can only be impressed by the learning and the positive actions that are being undertaken by these innovative students and their inspirational teacher. When I hear (true) stories like this, it certainly gives me hope for a better future.

I hope you enjoy Cesar’s talk as much as I did.

You can also find Cesar on Twitter.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.



Freeze, or Musical statues as it is sometimes called, is a popular childhood game wherever groups of children gather.

While not suggesting that playing the game has any great educational benefit, it can be used with good effect from time to time in early childhood classrooms.

As with other games, it does provide opportunities for children to:

  • participate in a social situation
  • understand and follow game rules
  • accept game decisions, for example  being out
  • respond in positive ways to their own participation and the participation of others
  • have fun

It also provides opportunities for activity and to release tension.

In this post I describe how to play the basic game and a few variants and suggest some times suitable for its use.

How to play Freeze

The basic game


  •  a manager, often a teacher or parent but can be a child
  • a group of participants, often children but anyone can play
  • enough space for the participants to move about without bumping into each other, and
  • a source of music that can be played and paused.

How to play:

  • The participants find a spot within the defined space from which to start the game.
  • The manager plays a piece of music. Moving to the music, the participants move about the space without bumping into any other participants.
  • After a few seconds (varying duration between approximately 2-20 seconds) the manager pauses the music. As soon as the music is paused, the participants must “freeze”. Anyone seen moving is out of the game and sits to the side.
  • The game continues until only one participant remains.

Variant #1 — Topic words

No music is required.

Before the game commences the manager, or the manager in consultation with the participants, decides on a set of specific statues to be used in the game. These statues are explained and demonstrated to participants.

The manager turns away from the participants and counts loudly to ten, while participants form one of the statues. After ten the manager calls “freeze” and participants freeze in the statue they have chosen. The manager then calls out one of the statues and turns around to see who has made it. Those who did remain in the game. The others are out and sit to the side. (The reverse can also be played with the called statues going out and the others staying in. Participants would need to be informed of this before the game begins.)


Monarch butterfly


When learning about butterflies, participants could make these four statues:

egg — curled up in a ball on the floor

caterpillar — prone on the floor

chrysalis — standing with knees bent out to the sides and one hand pointing up while resting on the head (attached to a leaf or twig)

butterfly — fists on hips and elbows out to the side (for wings)



When learning about shapes, participants could make these four statues:

circle — fingers meeting above head, arms forming a circle, feet and legs together

square —arms out to side, elbows in line with shoulders, forearms and fingers facing upwards at right angles, feet and legs together

triangle — legs wide apart, and hands on hips with elbows out to the side, making three triangles in all

rectangle — lying on back on the floor with arms and legs extended straight upwards

Suggestion: the possible statues could be written or illustrated on a dice to be rolled or on cards to be selected.

Variant #2 — Groups

Music is required.

The manager calls a number from 2 – 5 then starts the music. While the music plays participants quickly form groups of that number. They must freeze in group formation when the music stops. Groups that do not freeze and participants who are not able to join or form a group are out of the game and sit to the side.

Play the game until four participants remain. Call all participants back into the game to move to the music once again.



This game can be a fun way of exploring groups using the number of children in a class. No one is out in this version.

Count the number of children in the class. Write the number on the board or chart. Play the music. Participants move to the music. When the music is paused call out a number. Children quickly form groups of that number and freeze. As a class count the number of groups, identify the number in each group, and how many “left over”.  Write the information on the board or chart. Repeat with all children participating for different numbers.

grouping 25

Variant #3 — Find a partner who

Music is required.

This activity will be noisier and require more time than other versions.

In this version participants try to link up with someone with a similarity; for example the same colour eyes, the same number of people in the family, the same favourite colour, or who plays the same sport.

Before the music starts tell the participants who they need to find. When the music stops, those who have not found a match sit to the side, as the others explain their matches.

Everyone joins in again for each new round.

Suggestion: Add a bit more fun with this one by having partners freeze  touching the same body parts together, for example, ankles, elbows, tops of head, or bottoms.


Suitable times for playing Freeze

  • To transition from a noisy activity to a quiet activity
  • To provide an opportunity for movement during lengthy sessions of seated work
  • To dismiss children for recess (use Variant #1 rather than the basic game)
  • To ease a tense situation
  • To settle children and prepare them for the next activity
  • To have fun in a few ‘spare’ moments
  • Whenever you think it’s appropriate

The stimulus for my thinking about the game Freeze this week is the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a frozen story. Charli suggested that the freeze could be related to weather, emotion or time.

My first thought was to the movie “Frozen” which my granddaughter enjoys, being completely captivated by Elsa and her beautiful blue dress. I thought she should prefer Anna who shares her name (though pronounced differently) and hair colour.

My second thought was to the scientific explanation of cold as the removal of heat. It’s all relative. Instead I decided to go with a bit of fun. However, for my flash I did incorporate a little science thinking spurred by the question “Why do ice cubes crack when you drop them in drinks?”


To an external observer she would have appeared immobile as if frozen in place and time. But her insides churned as the heat engulfed her body in a wave from toes to head. She thought her heart would erupt from her chest and wasn’t sure she could contain the contents of her noncompliant belly or from which end of her body they would spew. Others mouthed soundless words, their messages obliterated by the relentless pounding in her head. Just when she thought she’d crack, like ice exposed to sudden temperature change, she breathed deep, composing her tumultuous fear-fuelled mind.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

Have you got a handle on it? Tweet!


tweet bird

Each week I read and comment on more than 50 blog posts. If I read a post I enjoy, and I rarely read one I don’t, I like to share it on Twitter. I usually share it immediately and then use Hootsuite to schedule future shares for hashtag days. It is quick, easy, and allows me to assist others to build a wider audience. I am happy to do it and have no expectation or need of “Thank you” tweets in return.

thank you - rose

Some blogs and posts are not easy to share as they have no sharing buttons, or their sharing buttons are difficult to find. While it is possible to copy the URL and paste it into Twitter or Hootsuite, it takes a little more effort to do so and is not something a reader should, in my opinion, be expected to do.

If bloggers wish others to share their posts on any of the Social Media Platforms, I believe they should make doing it as easy as possible.

I am familiar with WordPress only so am not sure how it works with others. However I do know that when I visit non-WordPress blogs, sharing doesn’t seem to be as straightforward.

This next section is for WordPress users only.

To add sharing buttons in WordPress, go to

Dashboard — Settings — Sharing — Publicize

WP -publicize

  1. Select in turn each of the social networking sites to which you belong and add your “address” to each. This is important. It means that people will be able to find you on those sites. It means that when your post is shared on Twitter you will know because the tweet will include your “handle”, your Twitter username.

For example, when my posts are shared the tweet includes my username @NorahColvin and I know it has been shared; like this:

tweet -me

If the username is not included the tweet will have @wordpressdotcom; like this:

tweet - WP

That’s not very exciting and you will never know that your post has been shared.

Sometimes, if I know the blogger’s Twitter handle I will change the tweet to include it, but as I said before

If bloggers wish others to share their posts on any of the Social Media Platforms, I believe they should make doing it as easy as possible.

More often, if the handle is not included, I am less inclined to share more than once.

2. Choose the buttons for each platform on which you wish to share your blog.

sharing buttons

I think it is a good idea to have the buttons appear on every post and page. Remember to save any changes you make!

sharing buttons on

I assume there are similar ways of adding sharing buttons on other sites. I know it is possible in Weebly as Anne Goodwin added her username after I alerted her to its absence. If there are ways, I recommend you use them. If you have chosen to not add your handle to your sharing buttons, I’d be interested to know your reasons.

Earlier I expressed that I have no requirement for “Thank you” tweets in return for my sharing of a post. I consider the best way of saying “Thank you” to be sharing a post of mine in return. If you have shared one of my posts in a tweet, it is extremely likely that very soon I will sharing one of yours. I’m not talking about retweeting someone else’s shares here. I treat those differently.

I mentioned scheduling tweets in advance. There are a number of hashtag days on Twitter. These are the ones I use most frequently. Not all posts are suitable for every hashtag. I generally share a post on each of the next 2-4 suitable days.






#wwwblogs (Wednesday – Women Writers)

#BeWOW (Wednesday – all)


#TBT (Throwback Thursday)

#LinkYourLife (Friday)


#ArchiveDay (Saturday)

Nothing says that I am right of course. What I have shared here is what works for me, at the moment. I’d love to know what works for you. How do you share on Twitter? Do you think it’s important to include the username in tweets? How often to you share the posts of other bloggers?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Power tools


This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) include a tool in a story. I open this post with a quote by Jackie French I used to close my previous post.

Jackie French - books - tools

Books are a great tool. So is the ability to think creatively.

Being literate is a key that opens many doors. Being able to think opens many more. You could say they are the power tools of education and success.

In his book The Outliers (recommended to me by Rowena who blogs at Beyond the Flow), Malcolm Gladwell talks about the role of intelligence in success. He says that “intelligence only matters up to a point”, and that “past that point, other things — things that have nothing to do with intelligence — must start to matter more”. He raises the question of what those things are.

He makes a suggestion to

“Write down as many different uses that you can think of for the following objects:

  1. a brick
  2. a blanket”

and calls it a “divergence test”. Rather than asking you to come up with a one right answer, a divergence test “requires you to use your imagination and take your mind in as many different directions as possible.”

Gladwell describes the test as a measure of creativity, of the ability to come up with imaginative and unique responses rather than a list of commonplace uses. He considers this imaginative thinking combined with intelligence, not intelligence alone, to be what is required to make new discoveries such as those that may be awarded Nobel Prizes.

Can this sort of creative thinking be taught?

Edward de Bono certainly thinks so. As long ago, dare I say, as the late 60s I read (and did) The Five Day Course in Thinking, a series of puzzles to help readers (thinkers) understand their thinking strategies. The puzzles in the book are divided into three sections: Insight Thinking, Sequential Thinking, and Strategic Thinking.

Over the years I read a number of de Bono’s books including but not limited to Lateral Thinking, Six Thinking Hats, How to Have a Beautiful Mind, Teach Your Child How to Think, Textbook of Wisdom and Why I Want to Be King of Australia. I had a thirst for learning how to think, as thinking had not been encouraged and memorising content had not come easily in my younger years. Discovering that I was able to think, and think outside the box, was empowering.

I enjoyed using de Bono’s strategies and teaching them to my own children as well as to children in my classrooms over the years. His Six Thinking Hats are used in classrooms worldwide as are many others of his thinking strategies.

six hats

In this video de Bono talks about creativity, creative thinking, and thinking “outside the box”:

Tony Ryan is another educator who believes it can. He has published a number of books that aim to get students thinking in creative ways. His Thinkers Keys “a powerful program for teaching children to become extraordinary thinkers” is designed to do just that.

Tony Ryan says that we now need to think beyond the square and think “outside the dodecahedron”.

In a comment on a previous post about Lifetime Changes, Steven linked to an amusing video showing the reactions of 21st century children to our earliest computers, tools of technology. This is it in case you missed it:

I combined the notions of books, creative thinking and technology as tools for learning, productivity and success with a little bit of backward (historical) thinking to inspire my futuristic flash this week. I hope you enjoy it.

tools for learning


The family shuffled amongst the haphazard collection of primitive artefacts without attempting to disguise disinterest or disdain. The waiting seemed interminable in this “so-last-century” outpost.

Haven’s seen one of these before,” they’d been told. “I’ll need to order a specialized tool as well as the part. Shouldn’t take long though. Look around while you wait.”

Confidence in the simpleton’s tools “upstairs”, even if the correct parts arrived, was as low as their interest.

Hey look!” one called. “Is this …?”

Can’t be.”

All destroyed centuries ago.”

Would be worth a fortune though.’’

They opened it.

A book!” they gasped.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.