It’s not what you see

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This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about the effect of changing a lens on how things are viewed. She says,

 “No matter what lens we apply, there is something to be seen in each of us that is worthy.

Perhaps if we focus differently, we might actually achieve peace.”

This is true too of children. Sadly, I think too often children are seen for what they are not yet, rather than appreciated for what they are. Childhood is all too fleeting, and with the current focus on assessment and teaching-to-the-test in many educational systems, it is becoming almost non-existent. Recess and free-play times are being eroded to cram in more cramming time.

I recently read an article in the Washington Post that told of children in a US school having to walk laps during a 20-minute recess. The supposed intention was to get the children active. However, most children would be naturally active if allowed the freedom to run and play. The benefits of free-play activities for health, well-being, and social development would be far greater than that of walking laps.

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This practice contrasts with one described in an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. Children in Finland have fifteen minutes of mandatory outdoor play every hour, whatever the weather. “Fresh air, nature and regular physical activity breaks are considered engines of learning.”

Each of these practices recognises the importance of activity, but each has a different way of providing for it, and only one is effective. I wonder why those with the power to make positive changes in education, fail to see the damage being done by didactic and test-driven practices that rob children of any love for or joy in learning. It seems to matter little what lens is used, they are unable to focus clearly on what matters most.

In this TEDx talk, Nancy Carlsson-Paige explains what happens When Education Goes Wrong: Taking the Creativity and Play out of Learning.

Towards the end of the talk, beginning at 12:45, Nancy says,

 “The difference between understanding concepts and reciting facts is very important for us to understand right now, because it captures the essence of what is happening in education today. There is a gross misunderstanding of what education is that has swept across the country, and the unfortunate belief is that you can direct teach, and you can measure and you can quantify learning; but the truth is, it is only the most superficial and the most mechanical aspects of learning that can be reduced to numbers. Unfortunately, this mistaken idea about the nature of education has pushed down to our youngest children. “

She says that when we “drill and grill” kids, we not only lose the power of the learning experience, we lose all the amazing capacities that children bring to us in education:

  • initiative
  • creativity
  • the ability to define and solve their own problems
  • originality of thought
  • invention of new ideas
  • perseverance
  • cooperation.

She says that when we take those capacities out, we take away the love of and joy in learning, not only from the children but from teachers too.

These are themes that are familiar to regular readers of my blog, and the most influential when I decided to leave the classroom. More than thirty years ago I wrote a poem to describe the differences between what often is, and what could be.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Sadly, I cannot say that nothing has changed. It has. The differences have become more stark.

Here is my response to Charli’s prompt to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using a lens. It can be literal, like looking at the world through rose-colored lenses or the need for spectacles.

pink-sunglasses-clipart-1

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my rose-coloured glasses.

What you see

They saw him for what he wasn’t and what he lacked, not for what he was and what he could be. Their ill-fitting garments failed to clothe, and their unpalatable diet failed to nourish. If only they’d zoomed in upon his potential. Instead the wide-angled lens showed a panorama of disadvantage: an excuse for failure to fulfil his needs or enable his possibilities. A lens in proper focus may have seen a burning curiosity, a rich imagination, a wisdom older than time, and a heart in harmony with the universe. Instead they considered the negatives not worthy of development.

Thank you

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

What’s the procedure?

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

sift

Reading and following procedures is a part of everyday life. We need to follow a procedure to make a cake, take medicine, repair a bicycle, treat head lice, assemble a DIY bookcase, or install an app on a digital device. The list in inexhaustible.

Sometimes procedures are presented as text, sometimes as illustrations or diagrams, and sometimes as a combination of both. They work best when each step of the sequence is accurately described and illustrated.

However, not all procedural texts are created equal. Sometimes the language may be inappropriate and unclear. Sometimes steps are omitted or sequenced incorrectly. Sometimes diagrams have little resemblance to what is required and confuse, rather than clarify, the process.

Trying to figure out what to do can cause a great deal of frustration in such circumstances.  The more practised we are with following procedures, the more adept we are at interpreting inadequate instructions to achieve a good outcome.

It is never too soon for children to learn to read and follow procedures. The inclusion of procedural texts in a classroom literacy program has many benefits.

Following a procedure provides a context and purpose for reading.  It requires children to interpret instructions through a combination of text and visual representation. It generally implies that children are doing or making something, which engages their interest and encourages participation. It develops an essential real-life skill that is transferrable to a range of situations. The sense of achievement in successfully completing a project is both affirming and empowering and often requires no other feedback.

Procedural texts can be easily incorporated into a class reading program as an independent or group reading activity. An assistant to support, encourage and oversee can be invaluable.

Features of procedural texts

The reading of a procedural texts differs from reading fiction or non-fiction texts.

  • The title, and sometimes a short description, tells what will be done or made.
  • There is generally a list of requirements.
  • The body of the procedure is written as a sequential series of commands.
  • The verb, telling the action to be performed, occurs at the beginning of the sentence.
  • The sentence is directed to the reader, and means, “You do this.”
  • Each sentence is generally short with one action to be performed in each step.

There is a range of readilearn resources to involve children in reading and following procedural texts. Many of the procedures are provided in different formats for use with the whole class or with small groups or by individuals. Some are supported by additional resources, and How to make a paper plate cat face is presented with two levels of text.

These include:

How to make a paper plate cat face

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How to make a 2D bus with wheels that move

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How to make a friendship tree

how-to-make-a-friendship-tree-readilesson

Make your own paper plate clock face

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How to make moon cake

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How to make a book cover

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How to make a healthy smiley face sandwich

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I hope you and your children enjoy using these resources. They were always enjoyed in my own classroom, and have been the most popular resources in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I welcome your feedback, especially suggestions for improvements to existing resources and ideas for new ones.

Remember, if you haven’t yet subscribed, an introductory discount of 20% is available to all who subscribe this year. Just use the coupon code welcome2 at the checkout to receive your discount.

I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning,

Norah

 

You can contact me:

via email hello@readilearn.com.au

via the Contact page

on Twitter @readilearn or @NorahColvin

on Facebook @readilearnteachingresources

on my other blog NorahColvin.com

I invite you to rate and review any resources you use, and to share information about readilearn on social media.

 

One small step

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

It is no secret that I love having time with young children. Their development constantly amazes me. They are curious learners on a quest to find out as much as they can about the world and how it works. They are scientific researchers making observations, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions; always with a plan for the next step if the results aren’t what was expected.

How many times do they need to release a spoon to be confident that it will always be pulled towards the floor? How early do they laugh when something doesn’t perform as expected; for example, when a balloon floats up instead of falling down?

Many of a young child’s explorations seek answers to questions they ask of themselves; questions that may never be verbalised.

childrens-questions

After they have investigated their immediate environment, and their language begins to develop, they start to look at the wider world, and begin to ask questions about how things work and why things happen.

Here are a couple my granddaughter asked me recently:

“Norah, you know about gravity? Why do clouds stay up in the air? Why don’t they fall down?”

“If babies grow into adults, and adults give birth to babies. Which came first the baby or the mother?”

questions-children-ask

The determination and persistence of young children is also almost limitless. Watch them learning to roll, or to sit, or to stand. It is never achieved on the first attempt, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up. They try and try again until they do it. The look of satisfaction on their faces is priceless. No stickers are required. Sometimes, when the result differs from expectation, the look is of surprise. But even then they are quickly deciding what to do next.

Without formal instruction of any kind, in their first few years, children perform amazing feats. Without the imposition of test requirements or standardised assessment, children are driven to learn. Intrinsic rewards, accompanied by the encouragement of significant others, for example, parents, are sufficient.  Children are driven by a “yet” mindset and a belief that there is no such thing as “can’t”. This ensures they continue to practice until they succeed. Immediately they succeed, they set themselves another challenge. That is, unless they are taught otherwise.

When they are nurtured in an environment that is encouraging and supportive, with a balance of comfort and challenge, and well-timed feedback, children will thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally. They will learn through their observations and interactions with people and objects. Each question answered will stimulate the next.

These are just a few of the remarkable achievements made by children before setting foot inside any formal education establishment. They learn to

  • interact
  • roll over
  • sit up
  • crawl
  • clap hands
  • stand
  • walk
  • place things inside, and take things out of, other objects
  • feed oneself
  • talk
  • run
  • undo and do up buttons
  • push buttons (of all sorts)
  • open doors
  • play games

Given an encouraging, supportive environment with caring adults who respond to their needs, surround them with language, love them, and model behaviour, children learn amazing things.

This week at The Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. My response is a tribute to the amazing feats performed by little ones every day.

One small step

Everything she had ever done was preparation for this moment. All eyes were on her. The audience’s expectation was palpable, bolstering her determination. She pulled herself up to full height and looked around, smiling. The audience waited. She checked the positioning of her feet, and her balance. She held up one hand, signifying that an attempt was imminent. She put one foot forward; then raised the other hand as she brought her back foot alongside the first. She paused, poised, momentarily. Immediately cameras clicked and cheers erupted. After two more steps, she launched, triumphant, into her father’s waiting arms.

Here are photos of my two little (now big) ones. While not of their first steps, these photos were taken within the first month each of them walked.

 

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

bec-walking

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

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

 

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Johnson

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, welcome to the readilearn blog and the first in our Author Spotlight series.

Spring is here and summer is on its way in Australia. The excitement of new life is everywhere as flowers bloom, birds sing, and insects abound. The excitement flows into the classroom as children observe and record the life stages of the amazing minibeasts that inhabit our world.

There is no better time than spring to introduce you to Brisbane author Rebecca Johnson and her Insect Series which was awarded the 2014 Whitley Certificate of Commendation for Best Educational Series.

rebecca

Rebecca Johnson: award-winning author and primary school science teacher

about-rebecca-johnsons-books

Rebecca’s Insect Series of ten books focuses on metamorphosis, survival, adaptations, properties of natural materials and the usefulness of insects through fiction stories. The stories are accompanied by stunning close-up photos of insects of all kinds.

The books, which won the 2014 Whitley Award for Best Educational Series, have strong listed links to the Australian Curriculum for many year levels. They are a great resource for teaching and learning about insects. The fiction stories that accompany the facts make the learning even more fun. Two free blackline masters support the use of each book. The blackline masters can be accessed on the Blake Education Website.

While the books feature Australian insects and have links to the Australian curriculum, they are loved by children all over the world. I am happy to introduce you to Rebecca and her lovely series of books.

Welcome to readilearn, Rebecca. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was reading a lot of picture books to my very young children and could see how much they loved them.

Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

I do most of my ‘writing’ in my head.  I think about my stories for ages and pitch them verbally to victims until I am sure I have it all sorted in my head, then I sit to write in my lovely, quiet study overlooking my garden. I encourage children to tell their stories out loud before they write too, because, in my opinion, it is almost impossible to write a good story if you can’t tell one.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

Head first. VERY few drafts, then I type it into the computer. I can type a 7000 word novel in a week that is publisher-ready, but I have thought about it and pitched it and sounded it out in my head for weeks beforehand. I hate sitting down all day, and I hate re-doing things over and over even more, so I do heaps of my drafting mentally whilst I do other (fun) stuff like gardening, then by the time I sit down to write, it’s like typing out a movie I know really well. People give you more honest feedback too, when you tell them a story. They feel less nervous about letting you know how they really feel about it. Try it some time.

When is the best time for you to write?

I do my best work from 5am when the house is really quiet. I’m always too tired at night (I still teach three days a week) for anything too creative.

When and where do you get your ideas?

From my life’s experiences as a mother, teacher, child and my own children. I think you have to write about what you know and love.

What gave you the idea for this series about insects?

I am a science teacher and I love insects, and I just couldn’t find the books I needed to succinctly and factually tell kids about the life-cycles and characteristics of insects in a fun way, so I wrote some.

What do you like best about the series?

Kids love them because they are funny and a bit silly, but they are still full of facts and information. I think they remember things better if it is presented in more appealing and humorous way.

What can you tell us about the photographs that illustrate the books?

My sister (Narinda Sandry) took most of them and it was hilarious. We didn’t want to harm any of the insects, so we had to put some, like the mealworms, in the fridge for a while to slow them down to get the shots. I will always smile as I recall the day we sat around a cow pat in a paddock trying to photograph dung beetles before they re-dug themselves in! The old farmer that had let us into the paddock stood to the side scratching his head in disbelief.

caterpillar-spread

How did your feel when you wrote these stories?

I was really pleased when they came out because the photos are just gorgeous, and they were very well received by schools and parents. Winning the Whitley awards was really lovely recognition too.

How do you hope readers will feel?

Hopefully empowered with more information and knowledge, and perhaps inspired to look more closely at the wonderful world of insects and an appreciation of the benefits they bring.

How would you like teachers to present your books to children?

I’d love them to make them part of their science lesson, and even team them with some real insects (like mealworms) to make it all so much more engaging. There are two free blackline masters for each one too, that are designed to be able to be used independently by children in reading groups etc. There are heaps of facts inside the covers, and a glossary of terms, so plenty to learn in each one.

Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

The main thing is that insects are so important and not just a good excuse to whack something!

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

As I said earlier….talk before writing as much as you can. It is amazing how hard kids find it to describe something verbally and yet we ask them to do it in the written form all the time with disappointing results.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

Tell, tell, tell, and don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a long time to get it right. It took me five years to get my first book published.

What is your favourite picture book? What do you like about it?

I have so many favourites, but Bob Graham’s Greetings from Sandy Beach always makes me laugh out loud, and humour is really important to me in a book.

Who is your favourite children’s author? What do you like about his or her work?

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis).  He made me see a movie in my head. I could picture every scene, decades before there was a movie.  I remember thinking that one day, I wanted to make a reader feel like that.

thank-you-authors-and-illustrators

Thank you Rebecca Johnson for sharing these insights about your Insect Series and your writing process. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

To find out more about Rebecca and her award winning books visit her website at rebeccajohnson.com.au. You can find out about and purchase her Insect Series and other books on her website.

Look what's new

This interview and information about Rebecca is available as a printable resource in a new subcategory in readilearn literacy resources: Author Spotlight. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

Check out the readilearn resources My Minibeast ABC and Minibeast Alphabet – A list for teachers which can also be used when learning about minibeasts.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning.

Norah

 

You can contact me:

via email hello@readilearn.com.au

via the Contact page

on Twitter @readilearn or @NorahColvin

on Facebook @readilearnteachingresources

on my other blog NorahColvin.com

I invite you to rate and review any resources you use, and to share information about readilearn on social media.

Love For Learning #Readilearn #ShoutOutSeptember

This week, I was delighted to be invited by Gulara Vincent to discuss my new website readilearn on her blog.
Gulara is an amazing writer herself and offers support for writers who struggle to find their inner voice or to complete their manuscripts. Please pop over to her website and blog to check out her wonderful work.
Thank you, Gulara, for offering me your support. I very much appreciate it.

Dr Gulara Vincent

Without a doubt, education and my love for learning changed the course of my life for the better on more than one occasion. This is why it gives me an immense pleasure to introduce you Norah Colvin, whose passion for learning shines through on her blog, and now also through her early learning resources she shares through readilearn.

bullfrogs-billabong-learning-across-the-curriculumHi Norah, Welcome to my blog.

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to be here.

Norah, congratulations on the recent launch of your website. Tell us a little about readilearn.

Thank you. I am very excited about my new website. readilearn is a collection of early childhood teaching resources that I have written. Many of the resources I used, trialled if you like, in my own classroom. I had always thought about sharing them with others but, when I was teaching full time, didn’t have the time to…

View original post 871 more words

Caps off for maths!

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, and welcome again to the readilearn blog. I hope you’ve had a good week.

Rarely, when the costs of education are being calculated, is the contribution made by teachers from their own pockets acknowledged. It is not very well publicised that many teachers spend a lot of their own money resourcing their classrooms, which would be far less interesting places if teachers refused to contribute in this way.

Today I demonstrate that not all resources need be expensive. A versatile, free, and readily available resource is the humble bottle cap or lid, which  is often discarded, but can fulfill a number of functions in the classroom.

collection

It doesn’t take long to gather an extensive collection of lids even on your own. But ask your children to bring in lids from home and the collection builds even quicker.

Lids have many uses.

Children can, for example:

Sort by colour or size

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Order according to size – diameter or height

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Make patterns – repeating or growing

growing-pattern repeating-ab-pattern

Count – by ones, twos or fives

count-in-onescount-in-2s count-in-5s

Learn to subitise, and discover conservation of number

conservation

Compare, add, substract and share

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Measure length and mass

measure-length measure-mass

Use for collage or craft, or as tokens when playing games

collage snakes-and-ladders

These are just a few ideas. What other uses have you found for lids? Please share in the comments below.

Look what's new

What’s new – Uploaded this week!

These ideas and others are  now available in a free maths resource Caps off for maths.

caps-off-for-maths

have-you-used

Getting to know readilearn resources

Snakes and Ladders is a popular game and great for maths groups. With some guidance from an adult, the game can be used to stimulate mathematical thinking alongside practice of computations. The readilearn resource Snakes and Ladders – An activity for maths groups provides suggestions that can be given to an assistant to maximise learning opportunities while playing the game.

snakes-and-ladders-printable-preview

Please contact me if you have any questions. I welcome your feedback, especially suggestions for improvements to existing resources and ideas for new ones.

Remember, if you haven’t yet subscribed, an introductory discount of 20% is available to all who subscribe during 2016. Just use the coupon code welcome1 at the checkout to receive your discount.

I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning,

Norah

You can contact me:

via email hello@readilearn.com.au

via the Contact page

on Twitter @readilearn or @NorahColvin

on Facebook @readilearnteachingresources

on my other blog NorahColvin.com

I invite you to rate and review any resources you use, and to share information about readilearn on social media.

All images in this post are copyright Norah Colvin.

The first goodbye

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The first goodbye between a parent and a child will elicit a range of emotions from each. The feelings, and responses, of both parent and child, are dependent upon a range of factors including who the child is being left with, how well the child and the substitute carer know each other, the feelings of all parties about each other, the circumstances, the environment, and the list goes on.

A parent who feels empowered by the decision, and views the child’s new situation positively, will accept and adjust to the change more easily. That’s not to say a parent won’t feel some sense of loss and anxiety as well, but it is important that the child is prepared with reassurance rather than the negativity of anxiety or concerns. A more confident and secure child will view the situation with positive expectations.

Anne Goodwin, on her blog Annecdotal, often refers to attachment theory, and the responses of children to real or imagined abandonment. In her post Compassion: Something we all need Anne shares the following video, explaining that

“Research psychologist Mary Ainsworth developed an ingenious method of assessing whether or not an infant has developed secure attachments. In the Strange Situation, babies play in a comfortable room until, at a given signal, the mother leaves. What distinguishes securely from insecurely attached infants, is not how they behave when the mother (or other primary carer) leaves, but whether they are able to settle on her return.”

She continues

“Research suggests that about two thirds of the population can be categorised as securely attached. That’s a whopping one third of us who aren’t.”

The research also suggests that how secure children feel in their infancy influences how secure they feel later in life. A sense of security influences one’s ability to adapt to change and new situations.

It is not unusual for children, or anyone, to feel a little apprehension in a new situation. A more secure individual generally accepts and adapts more easily.  When carers drop their children at child care, kindy, or school, they may be advised to “drop and go”. Mostly the children are fine once the parents have disappeared and the children have time to settle.

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If children experience more difficulty than most, or if it occurs for a prolonged period, causes may need to be investigated. Sometimes a child may suffer from anxiety. Sometimes the environment may not be welcoming or appropriate to the child’s needs. Happy, secure, confident children will always face new situations better than those who feel anxious and insecure.

father and child

Parents can help children prepare for that first day of kindy or school by:

  • Talking about what to expect and the fun things they will do
  • Having special items for the child to take or wear; for example, a back pack or lunch container, hat or shoes
  • Rehearsing the journey
  • Visiting the kindy or school, and meeting the carers or teachers if possible
  • Writing happy messages (in words or pictures) to be found in bags, or lunchboxes
  • Establishing routines, including the goodbye routine

Hey I love you with quote

While the routine doesn’t have to be as elaborate or serious as that in Ian Whybrow’s Hey, I Love You!, a signal that the parent is leaving is useful in making the break. It doesn’t have to be immediate. Depending on the practices established, parents may be able to accompany the child to the door, or into the room.

I always welcomed parents to come in with their children in the morning. The children could show their parents around and discuss work we were doing. Parents could help children organise their belongings, and talk to other parents and children. When it was time for work to begin, I would play music that would signal children to join the song or dance, and parents to take their leave.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about goodbyes. She is on the move from a place to which she felt attached, to a situation unfamiliar. She is sad at leaving but is able to view with hopefulness the situation to which she is moving. Charli has challenged writers to

In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a goodbye. It can be the last polka until next time; a farewell without end; a quick see ya later. How does the goodbye inform the story. What is the tone, the character’s mood, the twist? Go where the prompt leads.

Usually I post my response as the deadline draws close. However, as she is on the move, Charli has extended the submission period. If you would like to join in with a flash fiction “goodbye”, you have another week until September 13 to do so.

Here is my response to the challenge.

A goodbye clapping song

(Parent and child chant the verses together or take turns, changing the pronouns to suit. They begin by clapping their own, then each other’s’ hands. On the last three beats of each line, they clap each other’s hands. The pattern for each line is “Own, other’s, own other’s, own, other’s. other’s. other’s. On the last line they smile, wave, blow a kiss, and leave! It’s meant to be a bit of nonsense and a bit of fun establishing a goodbye routine.)

It’s time for you to go, go, go

I’ve lots to do and can’t be slow.

It’s time for me to fly, fly, fly

Upon my broom into the sky.

It’s time for you to leave, leave, leave

I will be happy, do not grieve.

It’s time for me to run, run, run

And jump so high I touch the sun

It’s time to say goodbye, bye, bye

You’ve work to do and so have I.

I’ll blow a kiss, and smile, smile, smile

I’ll see you in a little while.

Bye. Have a good day. Love you!

 Thank you

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