Monthly Archives: August 2014

Imagine that!

Recently Hope at Nanny Shecando sent me a tweet requesting some thoughts about imaginative play in a school setting. Sadly I would say that imaginative play has been just about pushed out in the ever-increasing content-driven and assessment focused curriculum. Seeing children as young as five spending much of their day sitting at desks filling in worksheets and parroting back isolated bits of information flashed at them in meaningless drill and practice sessions is about as far away from my thoughts about education as you could get. If it is difficult for early childhood teachers to squeeze time for imaginative play into their programs, imagine (there’s that word) how difficult it is for teachers of older children.

However, whenever I hear the above quote by Thomas Edison, I am reminded of how an early childhood classroom should be: a place for imagination, exploration and discovery.  Parents may tire of the cardboard box creations that children regularly bring home, wondering where each one can be stored (or discreetly disposed of!), but the value to be had from the opportunity to create, imagine and play must not be understated.

For imagination to flourish in an early childhood classroom, I suggest the following ingredients are essential:

A recognition of the importance of play and imagination in the healthy development of children and the prioritisation of opportunities for imaginative play every day by providing:

  • Time – lengthy and uninterrupted, with the opportunity for created play areas to be left intact over a number of days or weeks
  • Space – both indoor and outdoor with a variety of larger and smaller spaces
  • Opportunities for self-selection of activity and self-direction
  • Books for story reading and play acting
  • Variety of props: things such as dress-up items including lengths of fabric that can be a kings robe, a princess’s dress, a magic carpet, an apron, a bed; hats and scarves; toys like cars, dolls, animal toys; building blocks and cardboard boxes; paper, cardboard scissors and pens for creating signs, posters and crowns; areas for quiet play with cushions; open spaces for creating larger ‘worlds’ . . . the items that can be used to inspire imagination are limitless.

When children are showing interest in a particular topic, an observant teacher may gather up a variety of props and leave then in a box for children to discover and use as they decide.


In an earlier post, Learning at its best: A classroom of magic, Hope herself described a school with an open space ‘where magic happens’. She described a friendship tree where ‘friendship and freedom of speech are fostered’; an area with a ‘magic carpet . . . plush beaded cushions and Middle Eastern style blankets . . . a place for imagination to prosper. Anything is possible when dreamed, imagined or conjured whilst on the magic carpet.’

magic carpet

She described an area for drama and the opportunity of being and expressing yourself. She described a creativity corner where young inventors could create anything they could imagine; and spaces to read, explore, share and dream. One could think this school was in Hope’s dreams, her imagination of what is possible. But it is a real school educating real children in very positive ways that will have a very different effect that the scenario I described above. However it is not a typical school. There is not one like it in every suburb. In Hope’s words, it is a ‘very select private school’. But don’t all children deserve learning opportunities such as these?

After re-reading Hope’s post, I’m not entirely certain why she invited me to share my thoughts about imaginative play in a school setting. I think she has described a wonderful example of imagination in practice. The design of the school and the aspects of the program described above, show the value of imagination, not only of the students but of the school designers, administrators and teachers.

In a recent post Just imagine . . . the power of imagination I talked about the power of imagination to drive creativity and innovation, and suggested that much of what we now accept as commonplace was once only in someone’s imagination. Einstein said that,

‘Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.’

Maria Montessori is attributed with the idea that Play is child’s work’. In this article Thinking about Children’s Play David Elkind, refutes that idea citing works by both Freud and Piaget, a psychologist whose work greatly influenced thinking about child development and learning. Elkind, himself a professor of child development and of author of books such as The Hurried Child, The Power of Play  and Miseducation, says that ‘Although Montessori has made many important and lasting contributions to early childhood education, her identification of work and play in young children was unfortunate.’ He says that, in play, children are not preparing for life, they are living life.

Early-instruction - David Elkind

Elkind does not favour the imposition of formal learning situations upon children of increasingly younger ages.  The following excerpt from Miseducation, shared in Commentary: The ‘Miseducation’ of Young Children Elkind says, ‘When we instruct children in academic subjects, or in swimming, gymnastics, or ballet, at too early an age, we miseducate them; we put them at risk for short-term stress and long-term personality damage for no useful purpose. There is no evidence that such early instruction has lasting benefits, and considerable evidence that it can do lasting harm.’

He continues, saying that ‘The most important thing is an excitement about and enthusiasm for learning. Skills are easily learned when the motivation is there.’ I agree wholeheartedly and have joined in with a discussion of motivation in a number of posts, most recently in Motivation – why we do the things we do.

An-ounce-of-motivation David Elkind

In another article Can we play? shared on The Greater Good in 2008, Elkind explains that imaginative play is important to academic as well as social and emotional development. Unbelievably, he said that ‘More than 30,000 schools in the United States have eliminated recess to make more time for academics.’ It is difficult to imagine how unwelcoming and uninspiring a school without recess would be. I wonder how much lunch time those who made these rules allow themselves.

He says ‘Play is motivated by pleasure. It is instinctive and part of the maturational process. We cannot prevent children from self-initiated play; they will engage in it whenever they can. The problem is that we have curtailed the time and opportunities for such play.

In the words of Cat Stevens (Yusuf Islam), ‘Where do the children play?’  I add ‘and when?’


If you wish to read further, here are some links to get you started. I don’t agree with all the content. Some suggest a more structured approach than I would favour. However, as with everything, a broader knowledge helps one more clearly formulate one’s own position.

Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play by Deborah J. Leong and Elena Bodrova

Teachosaur thoughts ‘Play is the work of children’ … J. Piaget

Tools of the Mind Supporting Make-Believe Play

Psychology today The Need for Pretend Play in Child Development



I value your feedback. Please join in the discussion by sharing your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

The best of days

school cropped

It is often said that school days are the best days of our lives.

Considering that I have had far more days at school than not (as student and teacher) then I should probably agree, else I’d be saying that most of my days haven’t been the best.

For many adults it is not the in-class time that is most memorable or of which they have the most pleasant memories, it is the playtimes and the before and after walking to and from school times.

For some children, the in-class time drags while they daydream of long summer holidays and activities with family and friends. Other children thrive with the structured learning, soaking up everything offered to them.


In her post, School: A Suitable Place for Fiction? Anne Goodwin wrote that she is ‘always pleasantly surprised when children these days claim to enjoy school’. On the other hand, in a comment left on previous post here, Lori Schafer said that all her life she had ‘failed to understand why most children don’t like school. Why don’t they enjoy learning, and why don’t they enjoying studying, and why don’t they enjoy writing papers? Because, of course, there are a small percentage of us who do genuinely appreciate the discipline of schooling.’ She was one of them.

In his post, School’s Out – and Education’s In, Geoff Le Pard said that ‘People confuse school with education, as if they were synonymous’. (I have written a poem to express differences I see between education and schooling. You can read it here.) He goes on to say that ‘education is a constant, not a time limited schooling experience’ and disagrees with the cliché that school days are the best. He says that ‘all those days and bits of days when learning occurs make up the best days of your life’. I agree with Geoff that learning new things, particularly things one has an intrinsic motivation to learn, gives great joy.

Irene Waters said in her post about school that she loved her primary school days. As the end of her high school years approached, unable to see the point in continuing, Irene wanted to leave and start her nursing career. Her parents convinced her to stay and finish year twelve. While she didn’t at the time, she now appreciates the value in having done so and is grateful that her ‘parents laid down the law’.

Talking about education and schooling is nothing new for me, that’s what my blog is about after all. However for a lot of people, once finished, school is a thing of the past and not much thought is given to it later. The reason why so many others are talking about it this week is the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. Each week Charli challenges writers to pen a 99 word story about a particular topic. This week her topic is school.

old school room

In her post, Charli describes an abandoned one-room schoolhouse that is close to her home. She explains that these schoolhouses ‘were often among the first structures built by pioneers’ and comments on the importance that was placed on education in those pioneering days. Indeed education has been important throughout the history of humankind. It is what sets us apart from other creatures.

In the words of Jean Piaget,

The-principal-goal-of education - Piaget

I have touched on these aspects of education in previous posts and will definitely do so again in future posts.

In a tweet Anne Goodwin hinted that she thought I may find this post difficult to write as I have so many options to choose from. Charli Mills thought I might mention how we wrote on slates when I was at school (my children would probably have suggested I write about using dinosaur bones to scratch crude messages in the sand!)

Instead, I thought about the strategies schools use to create uniformity, and of the many pathways that one may take through life after finishing school.  I hope the analogy makes sense to you.


Chocolate balls

The final school bell tolled and the students erupted from the building like a burst box of chocolate balls, scattering in every direction and at varying speeds. Some stuck together along pathways safe and sure. Others crashed and bumped over roads less traveled seeking excitement, new discoveries and secrets to explore. Others stopped abruptly, their journeys foiled by stubborn obstacles. Still others, rolling upwards, failed to maintain the momentum to carry them over and beyond with those more adventurous others.  

Who would know?

Inside the box, they were identical, centers hidden. Outside, their uniqueness was on show.

My year 10 class - only 20 went on to year 12.

My year 10 class – only 20 went on to year 12.

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Will you be my friend?

Having friends, people you connect with, is an essential part of life.

Children, whether at the park, the shops, kindy, school or anywhere else are always looking for someone to engage with or play.

Often when children come home from their first day at school or other activity, a parent will ask (if the information isn’t volunteered) “Did you meet a new friend today?”

Children of before school age are often happy to play alongside whomever happens to be around; everyone is their ‘friend’. As they get older interactions with others of similar interests become more important and they begin to form stronger friendships with individual or small groups of children.

If children have an unhappy day at school it is often because they have had no one to play with. Maybe their best friend was absent or chose to play with someone else; or they may have had a disagreement with a friend or group of friends.

A few years ago I was engaged to construct and implement a friendships skills program with early childhood classes. Through discussion, stories, song, role play and cooperative games, the program taught children strategies for initiating and maintaining friendships.


The need for friendship is just as important on the internet playground of social media as it is in the school playground. People seek out others with similar interests and form online communities collecting followers, favourites, friends and likes. Just as in the playground, there are certain strategies which should be followed online to maintain those friendships.

The home page of each platform is a good place to start for ‘rules’ of engagement. In addition, many bloggers offer recommendations for friendly behaviour. Some that I have found useful include:

I’m sure you are aware of, or will find, many others offering similar advice.

The one thing they all agree on is being friendly and polite, engaging in conversation and not making it all ‘me, me, me’. Just as one-sided in-person relationships have a limited life span, so too do one-sided friendships on social media.

In the ‘real’ world, people belong to different groups and organisations which are quite distinct in their goals and purposes. It is not always desirable to have these ‘worlds collide’ in a way that would provide information about oneself not previously revealed to a particular group; for example one may not wish to mix neighbourhood friends with work colleagues.

The same situation may also exist online with people publishing, or participating in groups that publish, very different material. The use of a pseudonym is sometimes suggested as a way of masking one’s identity or to keep separate two distinct styles of authorship.

While neighbourhood friendships are important to both children and adults and may be easier to maintain, the planning that is required to engage with like-minded friends who live further away is usually worth the effort.

The same is true online. Because I blog, and am already signed in, at WordPress, it is very easy for me to engage with (by following, commenting, liking and sharing) others who also blog at WordPress. Notifications of others’ posts are received in my everyday email inbox as well as my WordPress reader. Additionally, when I link to them in my posts, pingbacks are automatic.

Engaging with those using hosts other than WordPress requires effort, some more than others. It can often be difficult to leave a comment because doing so requires signing in using a platform to which I don’t already belong. Frustratingly, sometimes lengthy and well-thought out comments disappear if a mistake is made signing in or copying a captcha.  Oftentimes a like or share button can be impossible to find, and following can also be difficult as I miss notifications sent to an infrequently used email address. There are particular blog hosts that are so problematic that I now ignore them, regardless of how interesting I think the posts might be.

While following WordPress bloggers may be easier, I don’t follow all or only WordPress bloggers. Those I follow must meet my criteria for interest and engagement. The extra effort required to follow non-WordPress bloggers is worth it when we have interests in common and engage in conversations which expand my horizons and thinking. (I am thinking particularly of Anne Goodwin and Caroline Lodge, both non-WordPress users.)

I have talked about maintaining real-world friendships, the need to belong to different groups, and the desire to achieve separation between some of those groups. I have also discussed a similar situation with regards to online friendships.

Warnings about the dangers of forming online ‘friendships’ with unscrupulous people are publicised almost daily with their accompanying stories of tragic events. I agree that these are very real and very present dangers and one must practise extreme caution when forming any friendships, online as well as off. Of less interest to the media, but probably of greater magnitude, are the number of real friendships forged as a result of online communication.

So what do you think about mixing real-world with online friendships?

If the adage, ‘strangers are only friends that haven’t met’ is true, should one maintain separation from one’s online friends, or take the risk of meeting in person should the opportunity arise?

What is your experience? Which of your online friends would you like to meet in person?

I value your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

Here are two more of my favourite songs about friendship (just to help your thinking):


Motivation – why we do the things we do

Over at the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills is talking about motivation, specifically the motivation of fictional characters to do the things they do. She explains that ‘motivation can be external–a desire to please, to be found attractive, to be accepted’ or ‘internal–a drive to succeed, a passion to experience adventure, a fear of failure’.

Motivation is not a new concept to this blog and I have explored it in a number of previous posts.


In What did you do that for? Rewards and motivation I discussed the use of extrinsic rewards (such as stickers, awards and cash incentives) for school students; and questioned the authenticity of intrinsic motivation, which ‘is usually related to something of one’s own choice through interest, challenge or purpose’, in an institution at which attendance is compulsory.  I suggested some strategies that teachers may employ to stimulate an intrinsic love of learning.

why am I doing thiswhat's the point

Continuing the consideration of the effect of compulsory schooling on a learner’s motivation, the post Why do I have to? explored the use of philosophy as a tool for making the goals of education explicit. All three philosophers: Peter Worley, Michael Hand and Stephen Boulter agreed that if students knew why they were expected to learn certain things, they would be more motivated to do so.

the examined life

A discussion of the impact of praise upon a learners’ motivation and achievement was stimulated by reading The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz, a book recommended by Anne Goodwin.  The Post Seeking praise – Stephen Grosz revisited explored Grosz’s suggestion that praise could cause a loss of competence, especially if children were being praised for being clever. Responses to the post, including a guest post by Anne Goodwin, added greater depth to the discussion.

Other ideas about motivation abound.

Shelley Wilson’s blog Live every day with intention,  which promises to inspire and motivate you (‘A motivational blog about living life to the full, writing, reading and feeling inspired to follow your dreams’) is the basis of her new book ‘How I changed my life’.

In this TED talk The puzzle of motivation, Dan Pink explains that the value of intrinsic motivation is a scientific fact. While the focus of his talk is the business world, the findings are equally relevant to education. He says that external rewards may work in limited situations but that they often impede creativity. He says that ‘the secret to high performance isn’t rewards and punishments, but that unseen intrinsic drive – the drive to do things for their own sake. The drive to do things because they matter.

Which brings me back to my motivation for writing this post and sharing these thoughts: Charli’s post, mentioned at the beginning of this article, was an introduction to her flash fiction prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) show the underlying motivation of a character.

My motivations for engaging with the flash fiction challenges set by Charli are both intrinsic and extrinsic:

I enjoy:

  • the dual challenges of writing to a prompt with a clearly defined word count;
  • the opportunity of writing fiction;
  • exploring the application of Charli’s prompt, however tenuous, to education;
  • the camaraderie of the fellow writers and the opportunity to read and comment on their posts and flash fiction pieces; and

I appreciate the feedback, support and encouragement I receive in response to my writing.

In her prompt, Charli suggested that the character ‘may not even understand the motivation fully, but (that I should) let the reader grasp it.’ I have written two pieces in response to this prompt. I hope you enjoy them, and get an inkling of what motivates the characters.


More than numbers

The more he stared at the numbers the less sense they made.

They swirled and blurred. He just didn’t get it.

“Numbers don’t lie,” they’d admonished.

“But they don’t tell either,” he’d thought.

The hollowness left when all he knew had been extracted could not be filled with the smorgasbord of numbers loaded on the page.

The richness of lives reduced to mere squiggles.

“This is what’s important,” they’d said, fingers drumming tables of data.

With heaviness of heart he closed the book and walked away.

“They are not even numbers,” he thought. “If they were numbers, they’d count!”



More than words

“More!” they implored.

She surveyed their eager faces then glanced at the clock.

“Just one more?”

“Okay. Just one more.”

Before she could choose, a book landed in her lap.

“This one,” he said.

“Yes,” they chorused. “It’s a good one!”

She smiled agreement, then started to read.

They joined in, remembering, anticipating.

She turned the page.

“Wait!” he said. “Go back.”

“Did you see that?” He pointed to the page.

“But look what he’s doing,” someone else chimed in.

They all laughed.

The shared joy of a beloved book. Each time the same. Each time a little more.


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

What would happen if . . . ?

The message of this video alone provides reason enough to ensure children are provided opportunities to question, be creative and think critically.

Listen to Nikolai Begg convince you!


Just imagine . . . the power of imagination

Have you ever wished you could:

  • be in two places at once?
  • clone yourself to ensure you get everything done?
  • slow time down so that you could achieve all you wanted?
  • make time stand still so you could stay in the present moment forever?
  • pop back in time to undo that embarrassing moment, or peek forward to see the result of a decision that is pending?
  • choose both options and follow each through consecutively, as in parallel universes?

I have.

Multiple invitations or engagements often occur on the same date. Deciding between desired activities is not always easy. Cloning would make choosing unnecessary. Additionally, sending a clone to an unpleasant but unavoidable engagement could also be desirable.


Sometimes the number of must-do tasks can be overwhelming. The ability to engage the assistance of clones, especially to complete less desirable tasks would be great.

Time travel, wormholes and parallel universes are the stuff of science fiction; and while I am not a fan of the science fiction genre, I wouldn’t mind having access to some of its features. However, whether any, or which, of those features ever move from science fiction to science fact remains to be seen.

The power of imagination to drive creativity and innovation cannot be overstated. Much of what we now accept as commonplace was once a part of science fiction. Imagination, the stuff of science fiction and scientific exploration and investigation, has brought them to reality.

You are probably familiar with following quote, initially attributed to George Bernard Shaw but also made famous by Robert F. Kennedy:

 “Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

These words highlight the importance of questioning to stimulate imagination, and when paired with creative thinking, innovation can occur.

Einstein said that,

 “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

He also said that,

 “Education is what remains after one has forgotten everything he learned in school.”

Although I cannot be certain, from those quotes, what Einstein’s attitude to the current trends in schooling would be (he did attend school and was very advanced in maths and sciences but did not perform so well in the humanities) I think he would not favour a content-driven curriculum which excluded opportunities for imagination and creativity.

On the other hand, Thomas Edison, the world’s most prolific inventor, was mostly educated at home by his mother who was able to encourage his experimentation and love of learning. He said,

 “To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.”

If these significant thinkers of the 20th century, each of whom followed different educational pathways, recognise the importance of imagination, why would anyone argue against it?

Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications certainly doesn’t. As a fiction writer she embraces imagination. It is the tool of her trade, creating stories where before there were none. This week her challenge is to In 99 words (no more, no less) craft a multiverse situation, setting or character(s)

Now the term ‘multiverse’ takes me back to the science fiction genre: wormholes, parallel universes and time travel, for example. I’m not sure how well I’ll do with this unfamiliar genre, but I will call upon my imagination and give it a try. See what you think – does my piece fit the criteria?


Clone Magic

Clone magic

All night Leone had huddled in line, sleepless with excitement, waiting for the release.

Now she had them! Clone pills!

‘Take one with water. Cloning occurs in 30 minutes and lasts 24 hours.’

Leone swallowed one tablet, then another, and another; ignoring the small print: ‘Do not take multiple tablets. Effects are unpredictable.’ 

When three clones appeared she instructed:

“1. Clean the house. 2. Exercise. 3. Weed the garden.”

She flopped on the couch. “Now to read.”

But — their hands grabbed for her book, pulling her hair and clawing her eyes.

“Me read! Me read! Me read!”


Thanks for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this article or my multiverse flash.



Benefits of inclusion

Recently I listened to a compelling TEDx talk by Dan Habib. You can listen to it here:

Dan opens his talk by asking the audience some questions about their school days:

Did kids with and without disabilities study together and learn together?

Did they have a best friend who had a disability?

Did they have a boyfriend or girlfriend that had a significant disability?

Very few of the approximate one hundred in the audience answered in the affirmative.

Then Habib asked the audience to consider and answer the following question:

Did you feel some fear or nervousness when you were a kid about talking to a kid with a disability?

The majority of the audience affirmed they did.

Had I been in the audience, my responses would have been similar.

When I was a kid, there were no children with disabilities in my classes. Children with disabilities were hidden away as an embarrassment and were segregated into what where called ‘opportunity schools’.

Thinking back, my impression is that people with disabilities were not visible in the community and their needs were not catered for. They were not expected to have any participation in society. Often they were targets of taunts and laughter, but mostly ignored and avoided.

However, when I was a kid discrimination wasn’t restricted to people with disabilities. It was a time in which racial discrimination and segregation was more prevalent; before the emergence of women’s rights and children’s rights.

Sometimes when we see how far humanity still has to go towards equality, tolerance and compassion it is hard to see how far we have come. But looking back on the changes that have occurred in just my life time, the progress is obvious, if still insufficient.

Even into my college years I had little contact with people with disabilities and my teacher training made no mention (that I can remember) of catering for students with disabilities, who were still segregated into what became called ‘special’ schools. I don’t recall catering for individual differences being high on the agenda back then.

I worked as a remedial teacher for a few years, supporting students who were achieving below the expected level, of reading mainly. These children were generally of average intelligence but experiencing a learning difficulty. Children falling below average on an intelligence test would still be shunted away to special schools.

I cannot recall the inclusion of any students with intellectual or physical disabilities at any school at which I taught prior to the 1990s when integration and mainstreaming was introduced. Dan Habib says in his talk that, as he was growing up, ‘disability was just a blip on the radar screen’ as well. Maybe this experience was similar to yours?

When Dan came to accept that his son Samuel had a disability and that he would have that disability for life, he realized that they had to create a vision for Samuel, and let ‘Samuel create a vision for himself“.

Part of this was the need for a sense of belonging: to the neighbourhood, the community and the local school. It was this that got Dan thinking about inclusion. Dan goes on to describe the ways in which Samuel was included in the school and the community, and the benefits, for both Samuel and others.

He urges everyone to advocate for inclusive education as the benefits include better communication skills, higher academic achievements, wider social networks and fewer behaviour problems. He decries the fact that, despite the benefits, most kids with disabilities still spend their day segregated.

He explains that the benefits are just as valuable for typical kids who achieve higher academically while learning to be patient, caring, compassionate, and loving. In my more recent years of teaching, I got to see these benefits of inclusion first hand. Not only did the children learn, so did I.

I didn’t just chance upon this TEDx talk. It was included in a great guest post by Gary Dietz on The Cool Cat Teacher’s blog. The post introduced a book, written by Gary, about dads of kids with disabilities and proposed 5 practical lessons for elementary classroom inclusion. The book Dads with Disabilities is described as inspiring and ‘a must read for any teacher working with special needs kids’.

The five suggestions (which I think are based on respect and are applicable for all students) are:

  1. ‘Meet the student “where the student lives” (where they need to be, at their level of development)
  2. Presume competence
  3. Be creative in your use of ‘adaptive’ technology (e.g. use of video and Skype or Facetime)
  4. Listen to parents and help them listen to the child
  5. Give “overlooked” children the same chance to shine as the superstars


Vicki Davis is the Cool Cat Teacher. Her blog is consistently among the top 50 education blogs worldwide. Her byline is “A real teacher helping teachers be really excellent”. I agree that she is and recommend her blog to you.

Update from Gary Dietz (12/08/2014):

“The book ‘Dads of Disability’ is now a FREE loan if you subscribe to Amazon Prime or Kindle Unlimited. And if not, it is on sales as an ebook for $4.99. Look it up on Amazon. (Of course the paperback is still available!)”


How do you view inclusion? What is your experience?

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.


Reading is all it’s cracked up to be: 10 tips for an early childhood classroom!

This post almost didn’t get published. It almost fell through a crack into the never-never. But just in time the safety net sprang into action and saved it from obscurity.

That may matter more to me than it does to you, but as an educator I hear too often about children who ‘fall through the cracks’, who fail to thrive in the school system, who miss out on the inspiration and timely support that would empower them on their journey to life-long learning.

Like those children, this post was an also-ran. It didn’t quite get it, didn’t quite reach the expectations. But then I read something that confirmed for me the importance of sharing my message.

You see, the love of reading is contagious. It can be caught from anyone, anytime.

However, it can just as easily be extinguished; and the danger of that happening seems to be lurking in school systems packed too tight with lists of must do, must learn and must achieve expectations.

I consider it imperative that teachers prioritize time for children to develop a love of literature and reading that will expand their horizons and create a worthwhile companion on the journey of their lifetime.

Here are 10 easy tips for keeping the love of books alive in an early childhood classroom:
  1. Read aloud to children every day, ensuring that a variety of books and genres are being read and shared.
  2. Have a great supply and variety of children’s books available: picture books, fiction and non-fiction, collections of poetry, beginning chapter books, funny books, sad books, books about animals, space, people . . .
  3. Display books with covers facing out and give them pride of place. Make a display of ‘favourite reads’.
  4. “Sell” books to children (you won’t have time to read them all) by showing the cover and some illustrations; by telling what they are about, what happens, and what the children will enjoy about them.
  5. Make a reading corner with carpet, pillows and bean bags that invites children to get comfy while they read.
  6. Provide time for children to choose and read independently.
    • This can occur during quiet times set aside on a daily basis in which everyone, including the teacher, reads for 10 – 15 minutes. e.g. D.E.A.R. (drop everything and read) or U.S.S.R. (uninterrupted silent sustained reading).
    • It can also be integrated into reading group or literacy centre activities.
  7. Share the enthusiasm for books by providing time for children to excite each other about the books they are reading in a sharing circle.
  8. Display books written by the children and allow access to them for independent choice. Include them in the sharing and ‘selling’ sessions also.
  9. Make a time to visit the school library for reading and borrowing.
  10. Invite other adults to the class to read to the children e.g. teacher-librarian, administrators, support personnel, parents and grandparents.

Let me know in the comment box a favourite tip of yours.

This week I have read some fabulous posts by teachers who are making sure there is time for joy and independent choice in their literacy classrooms. I will share these with you below.

The article that convinced me to share my thoughts was one that was not so joyful.

Written by Alexander Nazaryan, a first-year teacher, the article appeared in the Opinion Pages of the New York Times on July 6, 2014. He talked about not being able to meet the needs of his students and explained that it was not the fault of the students though, the fault was that they were mostly of poor and immigrant families.

He felt that asking these students to write about their own experiences did not have ‘the pedagogical value of a deep dive into sentence structure or a plain old vocab quiz.’

I was immediately struck by the similarity of a statement made to me by my son’s teacher thirty years ago. At the time I was leading an in-service workshop about teaching writing. I would have been talking about ways of engaging students in the writing process by giving them opportunities to write at length about things of interest to them; by encouraging the writing of a first draft to get the ideas down; by providing opportunities for redrafting, rewriting and editing; and opportunities for feedback by sharing their writing with peers; and by making the most of teachable moments through individual conferences with each student.

This teacher exclaimed that there was no way the children would be able to write anything of length as not one knew what a paragraph was, or indeed what a sentence was. The students were ten years of age and in their fifth year of school. I believe the statement to be more an indictment of the teacher’s inability to appreciate what the children could do, rather than an accurate estimation of their abilities. I knew for a fact that at least one student was more than capable of writing at length with a variety of sentence structures and correct paragraphing. I was certain he wasn’t the only one.

I am inclined to agree with Nazaryan that ‘Expecting children to independently discover the rules of written language is like expecting them to independently discover the rules of differential calculus.’

However trying to teach the skills of literacy through a barrage of meaningless drill and practice exercises in a joyless classroom is doomed to failure, and the children, sadly, will fall through the cracks.

What the children need, in my opinion and unlike that of Nazaryan, is a balanced approach. The skills of literacy need to be taught in a meaningful context.

That article and others, like this one from HuffPostParents about a year one girl who had to sit on the floor for weeks while her classmates sat at desks make me want to cry.

However it is not all bad, and there are some wonderful things happening.

Below are links to posts by or about teachers who are being far more inspirational to their students and other teachers on a daily basis.

very inspiring blogger

Tracking back to my post of July 9 The Very Inspiring Blogger Award (nominated by Geoff le Pard) I hereby nominate them for A Very Inspiring Blogger Award:

Vicki Vinton, blogging at To Make a Prairie

Matt Renwick at Reading By Example

This article by Brett Vogelsinger and posted on the Nerdy Book Club

Steven Peterson at Inside the Dog

Julianne at To Read To Write To Be

Carrie Gelson at There’s a Book for That

Used Books in Class

Three Teachers Talk


This brings me back to the reason that got me thinking about cracks, and children falling through the cracks in the first place. This week’s flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves a crack. 

Here’s my response:

The Crack

She willed the earth to open up and swallow her whole. But it didn’t. She just stood there trembling, attempting to hold back the deluge that threatened to engulf her.

She strained to remember, knocking her head with her fist. Quick. Try. Try. What’s the rule: i? e?  

She stammered an answer.  Wrong again!  Too many rules! Stupid rules! Broken – just like her.

She fled, eyes stinging, mouth twitching; and as she passed, with one hand grasped the confiscated unicorn sitting askew the teacher’s desk.

Away they flew, the assault of mocking laughter fading far below.



Thanks for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post, including my flash piece.



Celebrating 100!

Welcome to my 100th post!

I’m excited!

When I started this blog just under a year ago (I published my first post on August 15 2013) I set myself the goal of writing two posts a week. I am pleased that I have maintained that output, with only an occasional variance.

Thank_you_pinned_noteI thank you all, my readers, whether you have been with me from the beginning, joined in along the way, or pop in occasionally to see what I am up to. I really appreciate your support and encouragement. If it wasn’t for your interest I may not have achieved my goal.

One of the most rewarding things about blogging is belonging to a very special online community of readers and bloggers from whom I have learned a lot, and from whose encouragement I have developed the confidence to share my ideas.

Celebrating 100 anything is a milestone.

In Australia if you live to celebrate your 100th birthday you can receive a letter from the Prime Minister, the Governor-General and the Queen.

In my year one classroom we would celebrate 100 days of school. In the ‘old’ days, when pre-school was part-time and not compulsory, before prep became the first year of formal schooling, year one was the first year of ‘real’ school, and the celebration really was of the first 100 days of school. After the advent of prep it simply became a celebration of the first 100 days of year one.

Many valuable learning opportunities accompany the celebration.

Preparation for the celebration would begin on the first day of school. We would count off each day on the number board, counting up the days we had been at school and how many more days there would be until we reached 100.

Closer to the day we would explore what 100 items ‘looked like’ and count 100 children lined up for class, a tower built of 100 blocks, or 100 paperclips arranged around the edge of a piece of paper. We would count and collage 100 different items, and play games that involved counting to 100.

celebratory cake

One of the things that I enjoyed most was discussing with the children what they thought they would be like at 100 years of age. We would read A. A. Milne’s poem Now I am Six and talk about them being six or seven – what they looked like, things they could do, and their favourite things and activities. They would draw a self-portrait and write a description of themselves to accompany it.

Then we would read books about growing older and discuss what it might be like to be 100 years old. They would do a self-portrait to show what they thought they would look like and write about what they would be able to do and activities they would enjoy.









I wish I had some of their portraits and descriptions to share with you. They wrote about having grey hair, wrinkly skin and wearing glasses. They wrote about using walking sticks, living in nursing homes and having a lot of grandchildren. Overwhelmingly, they were happy.

The last group of year one children I taught were born this century. They turned seven in year one in 2011. They will not celebrate their 100th birthdays until 2105! Chances are, with improvements to health and the increasing length of life expectancy, many of these children will get to celebrate that milestone.

While the children had no difficulty imagining themselves as 100 years of age, I can’t imagine what life will be like for them in the next century; or even fifty years ahead. One hundred posts ago, I couldn’t even be sure if I would still be here writing this blog; but I am, and I thank you very much for reading and participating.

To mark my 100th post, I have placed a new item in my Teachers Pay Teachers store with suggestions for celebrating 100 days of school. This also coincides with a storewide sale on Teachers Pay Teachers; so, for any teachers out there, it may be worth taking a look.


Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or my blog in general.