Grandma's books - the magic of storytelling

The magic of storytelling

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Telling stories to and with young children has many benefits. Including other things, it helps to develop:

  • relationships with the storyteller and other listeners
  • language – vocabulary, language structure, imagery
  • understanding of narrative structure as it applies to fiction and non-fiction accounts
  • curiosity about one’s family, the immediate environment, and other places
  • empathy for others
  • interest in books and reading
  • imagination

There is something very special about telling, as opposed to reading, stories. The telling can be more fluid, more interactive, and change with the mood and with input from teller and listener. The distinction between teller and listener can blur and roles can change as the story flows.

Sometimes it is the routine and the relationships that are more important and more memorable than any one story. For example, a parent telling stories as part of the bedtime ritual, stories told by a visiting grandparent, aunt or uncle, or even stories told in the classroom. Jennie Fitzkee often tells us about the magic effect of her storytelling sessions in her preschool classroom on her blog A Teacher’s Reflections.

What were the dinosaurs like?

Story telling doesn’t require any special talents, or even an especially exciting story. When my daughter was young she would often ask for a story about my childhood. (She loved hearing about the dinosaurs!) Stories such as these can occur at any time during the day, though storytelling times may need to be scheduled in a school day. A special treat for me as a young child was when, after dinner, Dad would sing us the story song asking, “Who made Little Boy Blue?”

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes boots. Whose boots are they, where do they go and what is their significance? Go where the prompt leads.

I immediately thought of a Grandmother, a storytelling expert, whose boots signified when a magical storytelling session was about to begin. I hope you like where the story leads. In fact, it can lead wherever you wish–

Grandma’s boots

Jess peered out, waiting, hoping, to glimpse Grandma arrive. Rainbow stars exploded outside her window just as the doorbell chimed–missed it again. Disappointment faded as she flung herself into Grandma’s enveloping arms. Grandma’s soft kisses promised secrets through scents of far-off places and unfamiliar things. Grandma’s boots sparkled, announcing story time. Jess and Grandma snuggled into their special chair. Clasping hands, they whispered their story-time chant. The chair shuddered and lifted off the floor. The roof opened and, quick as a wink, Jess and Grandma were whooshing across the sky to somewhere, “Once upon a time and faraway…”

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multicultural Australia

readilearn: I am Australian – Readilearn

Australia is a continent populated mostly by immigrants or their descendants. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in 2016, the number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples living in Australia was less than 3 per cent of the population. This means that over 97 have ancestors who were born elsewhere, though most will feel the influence of no more than two previous generations and consider themselves firmly Australian. In fact, the number of Australians born overseas is still increasing and was over 28 per cent in 2016.

What this means for teachers in Australia, is that the composition of their classes will include children from a great diversity of cultural backgrounds. Possibly it is the same for you.

This proxy Australian anthem I Am Australian, written by Bruce Woodley and Dobe Newton, is a moving song that honours the diversity of cultures in Australia, from the First Australians to more recent immigrants. It is often sung in schools to help develop an understanding of and appreciation for the richness of the Australian peoples.

It is important to teach children acceptance of and appreciation for each other and their traditions. A supportive classroom will value each child’s contribution and heritage. Getting to know each other at the beginning of a school year provides the perfect opportunity for learning about the traditions of others. However, it can be done at any time of the year.

readilearn resources that assist you do this are: Continue reading.

Source: readilearn: I am Australian  – Readilearn

watching in dry flash fiction feature

Watching ink dry

Sometimes we think change occurs at an incredible pace. Other times it’s too slow–like watching paint dry. But what about watching ink dry?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wet ink. It can be artistic, writerly or something completely off-the-wall. Go where the prompt leads.

Where would I go? To school–where else?

In my first year of school we wrote on slates (no, not on stone tablets as my children may tease).

In subsequent years, we wrote in exercise books and special handwriting books with lead pencils (which contain graphite rather than lead).

As we moved up through the grades, we still used pencils for most work, but were also introduced to pens with nibs which we dipped into inkwells recessed in our desks for handwriting or “copybook” lessons. It was important to get just the right amount of ink on the nib–too little and the nib would scratch but not sufficiently to make a readable mark–too much and the ink would run, blot and smudge.

In upper primary, we graduated to fountain pens for our copybook work. It was just as difficult to get the right amount of ink, even with the cartridge variety. Should we err and make a blot on our copybook, it was treated as a most serious offence. Luckily, our trusty blotting paper was at the ready to soak up any excess. We always had to begin writing at the top and continue down the page. There was no going back and inserting or altering something at the top, unless we were absolutely certain the ink was dry, lest we smudge the writing with our hand.

Although ball point pens, commonly called biros in my circles, had been invented–as early as 1888 according to this history, would you believe–we were not allowed to use them in school for fear our handwriting skills would deteriorate. They had their own set of ink issues too–some would fail to write, other would supply too much thick ink. Others would leave ink all over hands, or leak in pockets or bags.

Over the years, ballpoint pens improved in quality and have now replaced dip nib pens except for specialist writing, and fountain pens are considered more a luxury item. Now the concern is that the use of digital devices; such as, computers, tablets and phones will have a harmful effect upon children’s handwriting skills. I wonder were there similar concerns when papyrus replaced stone tablets; and what those concerns will be in the future, should handwriting have a future.

I didn’t wish to “blot my copybook” by responding to Charli’s prompt with a story unrelated to education or children. I hope you enjoy it.

A blot on whose copybook?

Ever so carefully, she dipped the nib in and out of the inkwell. Her tongue protruded, guiding the pen as she copied the black squiggly lines dancing across the page.

“Start at the top. Go across; then down. Lift, dip…,“ the teacher droned.

“Start at the top!” The cane stung her knuckles, sending the nib skidding across the page.

“Now look what you’ve done!” The teacher grasped the book and held it aloft, sending ink in rivulets down the page. Her thumb intercepted one, smearing another opportunity for humiliation across the page.

“Girls, this is what not to do!”

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observing living thing local environment

readilearn: Observing living things in the local environment – animals – Readilearn

Observing living things in the local environment helps children develop an appreciation for all living things, not just the exotic animals that feature most commonly in picture books and wildlife shows. It also helps them appreciate the diversity of living things in their local area and may stimulate an interest to know more.

Conducted over a week, including a weekend, observations can reveal a surprising number of creatures. If the observations are repeated throughout the year; for example, during different seasons, a greater diversity may be observed.

Be part of a larger project

While observations can be conducted independently as part of the class curriculum, sometimes you can be involved in larger citizen science projects such as these two Australian projects: the Aussie Backyard Bird Count and The Atlas of Living Australia. Data on The Atlas of Living Australia enables you to find out what living things others have observed in your local (Australian) area.

For those living outside Australia, you may find resources specific to your location by searching National Geographic, Scientific American or simply by conducting an internet search.

Books and other resources

While many species observed may be identified through an internet search, particularly using the resource section of your local museums, it is also useful to source books about the wildlife of your area, or to seek out local groups and experts to assist identification and to develop understanding of local habitats and living things.

Circle picture book by Jeannie Baker

Include picture books if possible too. For example, earlier this week I had the pleasure of attending the launch of an exhibition of collages created by Australian author and illustrator Jeannie Baker to continue reading

Source: readilearn: Observing living things in the local environment – animals – Readilearn

copper pots and pans

Spend a copper penny

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Millis challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about Copper Country. It can be any place, fictional, historical, or on another planet. Go where the copper leads.

It may not be a country, but it seems as far away and foreign as any country might be–the country of my childhood, when:

Mum washing in copper

  • My mum did the laundry in a big copper pot heated over burning logs. She’d fill the pot and heat the water then use a long wooden stick to swirl around the sheets or clothes before hanging them over the line to dry in the sun. I wrote about this in a previous flash (nearly four years ago!): Washing Day.

general store Australia

  • Items were bought from a general store in exchange for coins or notes. There were no supermarkets, credit cards, pay pass or online shopping. Storekeepers were friendly and knew each member of the family by name.

My favourite coin was the penny with the Queen on the head, and a kangaroo on the tail. Though made from a bronze alloy and only 97% copper, we called it copper nonetheless.

  • Almost all water pipes, hot and cold, were made of copper. Most still are, but some have been replaced by plastic which is initially cheaper but not as long-lasting. I remember the colourful pipes leading to the concrete wash tubs when we moved to suburbia and Mum got a real washing machine. The hot water pipes were wrapped in asbestos.

police and robber

  • Policemen (I don’t recall too many policewomen back then) were respected, and we had fun playing cops and robbers. There was always a debate over who was going to be the copper and who was going to be the robber, but it went without saying that the copper always won.

Coppertone girl

  • I was a (naturally) copper-haired child, one of four in a family of ten. With our very fair skin, the sun wasn’t kind to us and our skin had no resemblance to that of the Coppertone girl who started to appear on billboards a little later.
  • We would “spend a penny” to use public facilities, sometimes handing our coin to an attendant, or even putting it into a slot in the door!
  • Days were long, and time and possibilities were infinite. Life was black and white, and we children had not a care in the world as parents knew everything and took care of everything.

It’s to this childhood country of laid back times, when the whole world was open to us and copper pennies could buy happiness, that I have returned–it may not be the real world of my childhood, but rather one of my dreams.  I hope you like it.

Spend a penny or two

Coins jingled in his pocket as bare feet squeaked out every step along the sandy road. Every so often, he’d finger them–such big coins. In his mind, he spent and re-spent them: a dress for Mum, a hat for Dad, a pull-a-long toy for Baby–nothing for himself.

He watched the boy place the copper on the counter. He followed the hopeful gaze, shook his head and pointed to lolly jars. The boy held up four fingers; he held up one. The boy hesitated, then shoved the coins back in his pocket–to spend another day.

“Hold on…”

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establishing a supportive classroom environment from the first day of school in early childhood classrooms

readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one builds a strong foundation of positive relationships and attitudes to school and learning. It is important to begin the year as you wish it to continue, and a welcoming classroom helps children and families feel valued. Having an organised classroom is just a part of it.

Many existing readilearn resources support the establishment of a supportive classroom environment.

The free resource Getting ready for the first day with Busy Bee resources lists some of the available resources and suggestions for using them; including:

busy Bees welcome to first day of school package

These resources are available to download individually, or as a collection in the zip folder Busy Bee – Welcome resources for Day one.

In many of the schools in which I have worked, children are expected to bring their own set of supplies – books, pencils, scissors, glue, paint shirts, even tissues. I recognise that not all schools have this requirement, so ignore any suggestions that are not relevant to your situation.

Whether children are required to bring their own supplies or not, it is useful to have spares

Source: readilearn: Establishing a supportive classroom environment from day one – Readilearn

wishing star

When you wish upon a star

This week Charli Mills from the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a wishing star. It can be central to the story or used in a different way. You can have a character interact or not. Go where the prompt leads.

My mind skipped immediately to a song from my childhood, remembering Sunday evenings when we huddled around the television set to watch The Wonderful World of Disney:

“When you wish upon a star

Makes no difference who you are”

What a wonderful thought – all success stories have to start somewhere – why not with us?

But there is another saying too, Be careful what you wish for.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

The wish

The words replayed continuously as he sat on the step searching the sky for a wishing star: “When you wish upon a star …”

Inside, the adults’ voices grew louder and harsher. He covered his ears and sang through his tears.

A crash followed a thump, then all went quiet. He held his breath.

He crept to the door and peeked in. Mum, slumped on the floor, cradled Dad’s head in her lap. Blood was everywhere.

“Call triple zero.”

Huddled together they watched paramedics try to revive him.

“I didn’t mean …” each whispered to themselves, but weren’t convinced.

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