preparing for a new school year lower primary

And so it begins — a New School Year – #readilearn

Teachers around Australia are already thinking about how they will organise their classrooms to maximise learning when the new school year begins at the end of January. They are as excited as the children with hopes and expectations of a successful and enjoyable school year.

To ensure a rewarding year, it is important to begin with a clear idea of what you want to achieve and the steps that will contribute to success. It is useful to keep in mind that one of the most significant contributors to children’s learning is the classroom environment, especially the relationship with the teacher. A supportive classroom environment that welcomes students and their families is essential so that children have a sense both of belonging and ownership.

Rita Pierson makes this quite clear in her TED Talk Every kid needs a champion.

Here at readilearn, our focus is on supporting teachers with lessons that are ready for them to teach rather than on worksheets for children to complete. We recognise the beneficial role of discussions that involve both teachers and students sharing ideas. We also assist teachers to establish a welcoming and supportive classroom environment.

Establish a welcoming environment

getting ready for the first day of school

Continue reading: And so it begins — a New School Year – readilearn

A Butterfly Promise #flashfiction

A Butterfly Promise #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the contrasting prompts butterfly and stones. The two can be used in any way in your story. Go where the prompt leads!

Charli is a collector of stones and I love butterflies. I don’t collect them, but I welcome them into my garden, and one of my favourite things of the year while teaching was having a butterfly house in the classroom.

We would acquire some butterfly eggs or just-hatched caterpillars, watch them grow and pupate, wait while they metamorphosed, and gaze in wonder as they emerged and prepared for flight.

The children and I enjoyed the experience so much, I gave my granddaughter a butterfly house for her birthday one year and re-filled it for her on successive years. It was enjoyed by all the family.

I have written about our classroom butterfly experience many times, both here and at readilearn where minibeasts (including butterflies) are star attractions. Some of those posts include:

I Spy Butterflies

Classroom Minibeasts

Who’s on the Move? (includes FF but not butterfly-related)

Bug Me, Please (includes FF but not butterfly-related)

Learning about minibeasts at home or at school

I have also written other butterfly-themed flash fiction in response to Charli’s previous prompts, including:

First Flight

Once upon a time … the power of story

Which brings me to this week’s story linking butterflies and stones. I hope you enjoy it.

A Butterfly Promise

Jack scrambled over the rocks to their favourite place for discussing the wonders of the universe and the meaning of life. And death. He took Grandma’s special stone from his pocket, turned it this way and that in the sunlight, and admired its iridescence. ‘Like butterfly wings. Like life.’ Grandma said she’d come back as a butterfly, if she could.

‘You shouldn’t have left me, Grandma!’ Jack didn’t try to stop his tears. He blinked when a beautiful butterfly alighted on the stone, tickled his nose and circled his head before fluttering away. ‘Grandma!’ called Jack. ‘You came back!’

Thank you blog post

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We're All in This Together, a picture book by Skye Hughes

We’re All in This Together — a Picture Book by Skye Hughes #readilearn

The refrain ‘We’re all in this together’ echoed around the world in 2020 as we came to grips with the changes that living with a pandemic brought. Teaching online and children learning at home required major adjustments to programs and how they were delivered. Many started talking of the ‘new normal’ while most hoped that 2021 would bring a return to the old familiar ‘normal’. While it may eventually, it is still too soon to get overly comfortable.

Throughout 2020, many were finding creative ways of dealing with the restrictions, lockdowns and changing expectations. Others were using their creativity to help others cope. One of these creatives is Skye Hughes whose beautiful picture book We’re All in This Together illustrates how the changes were shared by many and provides opportunities for discussions between teachers, parents and children that help reduce anxieties and foster empathy.

About Skye Hughes

Skye Hughes was born in Adelaide but spent much of her childhood travelling around Australia in a caravan with her three younger siblings and parents. She is a school teacher, youth program facilitator and big fan of Nutella donuts. Skye currently lives in Melbourne and when she isn’t writing children’s books, looking after her house plants or teaching young people, you will find her travelling the globe and connecting with people from all walks of life. It is these connections that inspire her to keep growing, learning and creating beautiful memories.

About the picture book We’re All in this Together

School friends – Kiana, Amin, Roshan, Casey, Ming, and Tyler all have one thing in common — they can’t go to school. The world changed very quickly and now they have to stay home to keep themselves and their families and friends safe. They discover that even apart, they can find new and fun ways to be together.
At a time when the world looks a little different, this encouraging story promises young readers an opportunity to reflect on their own experience of this unique moment in history while promoting resilience and unity.

The interview

Continue reading: We’re All in This Together — a Picture Book by Skye Hughes — readilearn

Happy New Year 2021 readilearn

Wishing you a Happy New Year 2021! #readilearn

I wish all my wonderful readilearn readers and supporters a happy and healthy 2021. I think most of us are ready to welcome in the new year with its promise of better things to come. I thank you all for you support throughout 2020 and look forward to what 2021 has to offer.

I am excited that 2021 is both the International Year of Peace and Trust and the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables. I am hoping that it fulfils the expectation of a peaceful year in which trust in each other becomes the norm and a healthy diet of fruits and vegetables becomes available for every one of us.

During the week, I uploaded some new calendars and calendar bookmarks to celebrate both themes of the coming year:

Contine reading: Wishing you a Happy New Year 2021 — readilearn

Wishing you a happy and safe Christmas 2020

Wishing you a happy and safe Christmas 2020 — #readilearn

Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and safe Christmas season.

For some light Christmas entertainment, Norah reads Who’s Hiding at Christmas?

Since this this the last post for this year, I take the opportunity of thanking you for your support throughout the year and look forward to sharing more lessons and teaching ideas in 2021.

Best wishes,

Norah

Continue reading: Wishing you a happy and safe Christmas 2020 — readilearn

flash fiction The Princess wore Stilettos

The Princess wore Stilettos.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stilettos. Who will wear them and why? Go where the prompt leads!

Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt Stilettos

Here is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

The Princess wore Stilettos

The princess clattered around in stilettos and beads, giving orders and making demands. Servants attempted to fulfill her requirements, but nothing was ever quite right.

“Do this.”

“Don’t do that.”

“No!”

“Now!”

“Not now!”

Should they dare bring her juice in the wrong cup, she’d bat it away, “Not that cup. My special cup.”

They would quickly consult, but no one knew what was deemed special for this occasion.

As she grew more unbearable and uncompromising, the suggestion that she retire to her chambers triggered more hostility.

When she finally surrendered to sleep, crumpled on the floor, peace reigned.

Thank you blog post

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holiday activities for the family at home

An A–Z of Holiday Activities for Families at Home – #readilearn

In this post, I share suggestions for easy, fun and inexpensive activities you can do with family and friends of all ages over the holiday period. Most of the suggestions aren’t new but are simply reminders of easy ways to have fun together that are often forgotten during hectic preparations and celebrations. They are great for the lull times and the ‘What can we do?’ times. Enjoy!

A — Acrostic

Write an acrostic poem for yourself. Each person writes their name vertically and writes a word or phrase about what Christmas means to them for each letter.

For example, here’s one for me:

Naughty or nice? Why, nice of course.

Opening gifts — loving the look on recipient’s faces

Recipes for celebrating — pavlova, everyone’s favourite

All the family together playing games and having fun

Home is the place to be.

B — Book

Everyone choses a favourite book, perhaps one received for Christmas, and reads uninterrupted for half an hour (or more!).

C — Charades

Continue reading: An A–Z of Holiday Activities for Families at Home – readilearn

In your dreams #flash fiction

In Your Dreams #flashfiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about something a character never dreamed would happen. The situation can be fortuitous, funny, or disappointing. Go where the prompt leads!

When I began my blogging journey in 2013, I never dreamed that I would:

  • continue writing two or more posts a week for more than seven years
  • participate in weekly flash fiction prompts at the Carrot Ranch year after year
  • meet so many fascinating people from nearly every continent with varied backgrounds and interests
  • make so many wonderful friends in the blogosphere whose encouragement and support is constant (thank you)
  • become addicted to the conversations that occur on my blog and theirs
  • enter into a rodeo contest, a writing one at that, and receive honourable mentions for my efforts.

(99 words)

The 2020 rodeo is over now, the winners have been announced and prizes been distributed. All submissions (except for the TUFF contest) and winning entries for all contests are available to read at the Carrot Ranch on the Rodeo Contests page.

Scroll below my response to this week’s prompt for my rodeo submissions.

Dreams Fulfilled

She dreamed she could control the weather, but never believed she could. Until she did.

She wished it would rain.

 ‘It always rains in spring,’ they scoffed.

‘From a blue sky?’

‘Sometimes,’ they said.

She wished the rain would stop.

‘Showers never last long,’ they said.

‘I love rain,’ another said. ‘Can you make it rain forever?’

She wished.

Rain fell, first gently, then in torrents. It rained for months, overfilling rivers and washing villages away.

They begged her to make it stop.

‘I can’t,’ she said. ‘I must have dreamed three wishes. I never dreamed this would happen.’

My participation in the 2020 Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction Rodeo

I write and rodeo

I entered three of the weekly challenges and was a judge in the fourth. I also entered the TUFF contest that was held over four weeks.

Here is a brief description of each contest and my entry. I hope you enjoy them.

#1 Folk Tales and Fables — Kerry E.B. Black asked participants to write an original folk tale or fable with a western feel in 99 words.

My entry (earned an honourable mention):

Snow White and the Seven Gunslingers

The huntsman made the all-too-common mistake of revealing everything before enacting the deed. Snow White kicked him in the shins and escaped into the forest.

Exhausted, she chanced upon a cottage. It appeared abandoned so she went inside and soon fell asleep on one of the seven beds. She was startled awake by a septet of menacing heavily-armed gunslingers.

When she explained her predicament, the gunslingers were outraged. “He’s a bad one, and she’s the worst. Stay here. We’re onto it.”

She heard them say as they rode out of sight, “Hi Ho! We’ve got a job to do.”

#2 Double Ennead Syllabic Poetry — Colleen M. Chesebro asked participants to write in a new 99-syllable poetic form she created for Carrot Ranch.

My entry:

Pain — Inside and Out

Hoofs pound across the roof

Hunting a way in

The pillow muffles but still they thump so loud

Relentless drenching rains

Over all around

Hoofs pound inside my head

Brutal throbbing pains

Lightning lasers pierce my eyes I cry dry tears

The torture does not cease

Blinding like a rage

Hoofs pound inside my chest

Warning it will burst

While my clammy skin pours sweat in waterfalls

Pain grips my heart and shreds

What remains of me

#3 Git Along and Start Writin’ — Marsha Ingrao asked participants to write a 3-act story based on a western song in 99 words.

I was a judge, hence no entry.

#4 Wanted Alive — Sam “Goldie” Kirk asked participants to write a 99 word story in response to a wanted poster and the words ‘Reach for it, mister!’

My entry (earned an honourable mention):

Squirreled Candy

“Reach for it, mister, and you’re dead!”

Henry meant it. He hadn’t squirreled his penny candy away to let others help themselves to it. Every night, more disappeared. He’d wanted to catch the culprits alive and receive restitution, but they’d become too greedy.

His wanted posters hadn’t helped. A stake-out was the only way.

Night after night he tried to stay awake, but every night he failed and every morning, more candy had disappeared … until now.

The startled intruder dropped the candy jar and disappeared into the darkness.

“I’ll get you next time!” Henry fired after the squirrel.

4-week TUFF Love contest —  Carrot Ranch’s lead buckaroo Charli Mills asked participants to revise an original western romance through a 99-59-9-99 word process with each step requiring a different craft twist. Since the contest required all parts to be submitted, only the winning entry is published on the site.

My entry:

Spaghetti Western

TUFF Part 1: Original 99-word draft

Fortune teller said love’d arrive on a stage coach, but she’d given up waitin’, watchin’ and hopin’ years ago. The only thing ever arrived was trouble, and most of them in a skirt. She’d done alright for herself, runnin’ the only eatin’ house in town, servin’ up meals to ‘spectable folks, not them gunslingers and their sportin’ women types. She’d only had trouble once – addin’ a new dish to the menu and servin’ it up unannounced-like. Customers weren’t none too pleased when she served ‘em worms. “’tain’t worms,” she said. “It’s spaghetti. We’re in a spaghetti western, ain’t we?”

TUFF Part 2: 59-word Story with Original POV

Always independent that one, tough inside an’ out. Never needed no man, she said. No man ever good enough, as like. Spent her time ‘sperimentin’ and servin’ up grub in her eatin’ house. Never liked no trouble. One night trouble found ‘er. She served up some Eyetalian dish — spaghetti. Everyone spat it out, thought she was feedin’ ‘em worms.

TUFF Part 2: 59-word Story with Different POV

The fortune teller said love would arrive on a stage coach. I watched every coach for ten years. Not one eligible candidate stepped down — only gunslingers and floosies. Then one day, this elegant gentleman arrived. I thought I’d impress him with a new Italian recipe. He spat it everywhere. ‘Worms,’ he said. Like he’d never heard of spaghetti westerns.

TUFF Part 3: Three 9-word Taglines for Your Story

  1. Stage coach fails to deliver fortune’s promise of love.
  2. Serving meals no substitute for a helping of love.
  3. Italian spaghetti rejected. Spray deems it unsuitable for westerners.

TUFF Part 4: Final Revised 99-word Story with Prop

“I see love,” the fortune teller crooned, “arriving on a stage coach.”

She cut words from a travel brochure and pasted them above the door: “Amore. Prendere per la gola”. For years she waited, but no eligible men arrived — only gunslingers and floosies.

One day, an elegant gentleman with an exquisite companion stepped from the coach. Hearing they were siblings, she hoped an exotic dish might impress. Unfortunately, he accused her of serving worms. However, she was besotted. As they held each other close, she sighed, “I never expected to find love in a spaghetti western dish like you.”

Thank you blog post

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book reviews and author interviews from readilearn in 2020

2020 — A Year of Books – #readilearn

 

Books make wonderful gifts at any time and Christmas is no exception. As a child, I loved nothing more than receiving a new book of my own for birthdays and Christmas. While I borrowed and read many books from the school and local library, there was something very special about having a book of my own to enjoy and treasure.

I loved breathing in the smell of a fresh, new book and feeling the smoothness of its fresh, new covers. But even more than that, I loved its promise of escape and adventure. In a book, I could escape the ordinariness of the everyday and participate in adventures at locations and with friends that I would never meet outside its pages.

If you are looking for a book to gift a special child this year, then I’d love to help you choose. In this post, I list all the lovely books I have reviewed or whose authors I have interviewed for the readilearn blog this year. These are only a small selection of wonderful books that are available.

A year of books on readilearn

In this list, I provide you with a short description of each book and a link to the post where you can find further information, including where to purchase the book.

Picture books

Continue reading: 2020 — A Year of Books – readilearn

Traditions Yours and Mine

Traditions — Yours and Mine #flashfiction

Traditions — Yours and Mine

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes family traditions. It can be related to any holiday or situation. How does the tradition impact the story or change the character? Go where the prompt leads!

This is a wonderful opportunity to help everyone get to know a little more about each other, or it would be if we were sharing actual, as opposed to fictional, traditions, which some might of course.

I think learning about each other’s traditions is a valuable way to get to know each other, to expand our knowledge of the world’s people and develop understanding and empathy. It was for this reason that I created several resources for the readilearn collection that help children get to know each other.

One of the main resources for this purposes is a unit of work called Family Traditions and Celebrations. It includes worksheets and surveys to help children learn about the traditions of their own family as well as of other families.

When I was implementing this unit in my classroom, I was surprised that third and fourth generation Aussies thought they didn’t have any traditions to write about, that theirs were nothing out of the ordinary. That changed when I explained that every family has its own traditions and its own way of interpreting the traditions of the wider community. Sometimes, those traditions are secret.

I recently watched a video in which Australia’s popular Coronavirus medical spokesperson explained his family’s secret tradition of Christmas celebrations when growing up Jewish in Scotland. It’s an interesting story, particularly when his family discovered they weren’t the only ones with a secret.  

Sadly, I can’t find a way of sharing the video here, but it can be viewed on Facebook.

And if you’d like to know a little more about the man, you may enjoy this interview.

Some traditions may be passed down through generations. Other traditions may change, be abandoned or introduced as families change, combine and grow.

When my children were growing up, we had a quiet Christmas day at home with only us. We would just hang out together (I can’t say ‘chill’ when we sweltered on most Christmas Days), eating and playing board games. We would visit with family and friends on other days, but not on Christmas Day.

This tradition continued when they grew into adulthood and even when they brought partners to share our day. The tradition was interrupted when the grandchildren arrived, and they required a different sort of attention and were too young to play the games. They are now old enough to play so the tradition is re-established.

However, our celebration has now changed from Christmas Day to Christmas Eve (for this year anyway) to accommodate the needs of other families (in-laws) and the grandchildren have decided we need a new tradition.

Last Christmas Eve we celebrated here with both our children, their partners and our two grandchildren. We had a Christmas lunch and an afternoon of playing board games and having fun in the pool. After tea (the evening meal), we opened our gifts. And then the fun began — a wrapping paper fight. Perhaps I should say here that the fight was initiated by Hub, perhaps the biggest child of them all. Everyone scrunched up balls of wrapping paper and threw them at each other. The children thought it was amazing fun and they want to do it again this year. And why not? It won’t elicit the same feelings as the lovely tradition shown in the following video, but it’s a great indication of our family that loves to have fun together.

I think the only one who wasn’t so keen on the activity was the housekeeper who was still finding balls of wrapping paper behind and under furniture six months later. Perhaps she should have done a better job earlier on! 😊

Thanks to Jim Borden for alerting me to this wonderful video.

So, now it’s time to share my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

Out with the Old. In with the New.

Lizzie pressed her lips together and shook her head.

“Come on,” said Mum. “Just a little bit.”

“No!”

“Try it. You’ll like it.”

“I won’t.”

“You can’t have dessert, until you eat your veg.”

“Dessert first. Then veg.”

“We don’t do it that way, Lizzie. Veg first, then dessert.”

“No! Dessert first!”

“If you have dessert first, you won’t eat your veg.”

“Will so.”

“Promise?”

“Promise.”

Lizzie ate her dessert. Then she ate her veg. A promise is a promise.

Now, when Lizzie’s children’s friends ask why they always eat dessert first, they shrug. “Dunno. Always have,” they say.

Thank you blog post

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