Monthly Archives: February 2016

Are we finished?

I am a work in progress. I reflect on the past, predict the future, and live in the present moment. Nearly everything I do is a work in progress. Some things just make more progress than others!

Over the past few years I have been preparing resources for my readilearn website. It’s slow going, slower than I expected, but I’m getting … somewhere. Even when the website launches it will be a work in progress as I update old and add new resources.

Launching soon - readilearn2

In a flurry of activity, with the intention of completing additional resources as development of the website nears completion, I experimented with making a product promotional video. My intention is to make a number of these, possibly explaining the use of each interactive resource. Doing so is far more time consuming that I had expected.

Below is my first attempt. But please don’t let that word “first” mislead you into mistakenly thinking it was my only attempt. I lost count of the number of takes and couldn’t believe how difficult it was to utter just a few short sentences. While I am sharing it, please consider it a work in progress. Making promotional videos for my products is something I need much more practice with.

My purpose in sharing the video is to illustrate the importance of being a lifelong learner, which involves a combination of persistence, resilience and confidence, including:

  • a willingness to make mistakes and repeated attempts
  • a growth mindset without an expectation of immediate success
  • confidence to say “I haven’t got it yet, but I’m working on it”
  • belief in the ability to succeed, either independently or with support
  • an ability to adjust future attempts according to feedback provided from the past.

I learned a lot in making this video, perhaps more about what doesn’t work than what does. But eliminating what doesn’t work is crucial in finding out what does. For example, I learned after repeated attempts on both, that selfie videos recorded with phone or iPad just weren’t going to be good enough. I learned that neither of the software programs for making videos I owned would allow me to achieve what I wanted on its own. I needed to combine recordings from each. After many trials I finally made something that at least has the semblance of an attempt.

Included in my passion for learning is a passion for learning about learning: how we learn, why we learn and the conditions that contribute to our learning. I am fascinated by learning that occurs at all ages, but particularly during early childhood.

In the process of repeated attempts described above, I responded constantly to feedback provided, and adjusted each new attempt accordingly. Feedback is necessary for learning. But perhaps more important than the feedback is the response to it.

Hopeful of getting some other feedback, I shared the video with my family on the weekend. They made some helpful suggestions. But perhaps the most interesting feedback, about feedback, was that given by my four-year-old granddaughter, G2.

G2 watched the video with her mother and immediately wanted to play the game. I was delighted, of course, and opened the resource on the iPad for her to use. She had no trouble manipulating the objects to make the ice creams and quickly made a few combinations. When I asked if a mango with strawberry on the top was the same as, or different from, a strawberry with mango on the top, she confidently explained that they were different because “this one’s got the strawberry on the top and this one’s got the mango on the top”. She went on making combinations.

icecreams

© Norah Colvin

After she’d made about ten combinations she asked, “Are we finished yet?” I said, “We can finish whenever you like.” I wasn’t using it as a “teaching episode”, simply as something fun for her to do. She asked again, “But are we finished? You know –“ and she indicated for something to happen on the screen showing that we had finished.

Suddenly I realised that she was wanting feedback from the program to tell her that she was finished, that she was successful; perhaps some bells, whistles or fireworks. Because I designed the resource as an open-ended teaching episode, for use by a teacher with a class rather than by individual children, the resource does not have any inbuilt feedback. The feedback occurs in the discussion between teacher and students.

What I intended as a teaching episode became, for me, a learning episode; thinking and learning about feedback.

  • G2 expected to receive feedback about completion, and
  • she wished to continue until she received that feedback.

However,

  • she doesn’t’ require feedback about completion from all apps, for example, drawing programs: she decides when she is finished, and
  • during play she decides which activity she will take up and when she will finish.

G2 has a good balance of activities with home and Kindy; indoor and outdoor with a variety self-selected and self-directed imaginative play mixed with cooperative activities including reading, board games and screen time with a variety of apps.

With such variety she receives feedback from many sources including self and others, as well as from manipulation with real and electronic objects. I think her question “Are we finished yet?” was related to use of the specific device and type of activity (game to her), not indicative of a generalised need for feedback from outside.

But what of children who are more engaged with electronic games, have less time for self-directed activity, and fewer opportunities to engage with others? Will the need for feedback from an outside source overtake the ability to provide feedback for self? I hope not. I believe the abilities to self-monitor, self-regulate and self-determine to be extremely important to life-long learning. What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. It is important to me! Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

A tooth for a tooth

lost tooth - Artie Feb 13 16

My gorgeous grandson has just lost his first tooth, an event much anticipated and causing a great deal of excitement. In the months leading up to the event I had wondered how the family might mark the occasion and if the Tooth Fairy might visit. Though I shared the myths of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy with my children when young, as adults they have debated the ethics of perpetuating these myths with their own.

As a teacher of 5 – 7 year olds it was not uncommon for me to encounter gappy grins and lost teeth through the course of the year. Mostly children would arrive at school proudly displaying a new gap, or a new tooth peeking through. Sometimes the tooth would dislodge at school and there would be great excitement. I would carefully place the tooth in the centre of a tissue, fold the edges down around it and sticky tape below the tooth to make a little “tooth fairy” to keep the tooth safe for the return home.

tooth fairy

Sometimes the children would discuss how their families marked the occasion of a lost tooth. Although there were children from diverse backgrounds in the classes I taught, I don’t remember any great divergence from the, to me, traditional tooth fairy story.

When I was a child, I put my tooth in a glass of water and placed it on the kitchen windowsill. The following morning, if I was lucky (for sometimes she’d forget), the Tooth Fairy would have been and left me a shiny silver threepence.

Some children I taught put their teeth under their pillows, some in a special box by their bedside, but what most had in common was the fact that the tooth had been taken and replaced with a shiny coin. Sometimes, when a child lost a tooth, we would read a story such as What do the fairies do with all those teeth? or Moose’s Loose Tooth.

tooth books

While I was contemplating what the response might be to my grandson’s lost tooth, I read about a book called Throw Your Tooth on the Roof: Tooth Traditions from Around the World by Selby Beeler with illustrations by G. Brian Karas.

throw your tooth on the roof

I wondered if it would be a suitable gift to mark the occasion and went ahead and ordered it. I wasn’t disappointed. The book briefly describes traditions from many cultures and countries around the world. While the Tooth Fairy’s visit and gift of a coin is familiar to those of us living in the UK, US, Canada and Australia, it is not so familiar to all. In Mexico and Venezuela a mouse replaces the tooth with money. In El Salvador a rabbit does the same. In Guatemala it is El Ratόn.

The title of the book comes from the tooth traditions of Botswana and the Dominican Republic. In some countries children receive coins, as described above, or a gift in exchange for the tooth. In other countries they ask for a new tooth. In Costa Rica and Chile the tooth is made into an item of jewellery. What surprised me was the great variety of traditions, of which I have mentioned only a few.

In her Author’s Note at the end of the book Selby Beeler explains the chance discussion, with a friend from Brazil who hadn’t heard of the Tooth Fairly, that piqued her interest and lead to the writing of the book. She says,

“I quickly discovered that the best way to learn what people do with their baby teeth is simply to ask them. While collecting customs for this book I stopped people wherever I went. I smiled, introduced myself, and asked them the question I had asked my friend, ‘What did you do with your baby teeth when you lost them?’”

The result is fascinating. Thank you Selby for being curious and asking a question that elicited so many interesting responses. Thank you also for selecting some of the hundreds of traditions and compiling them into this lovely book that enables us to find out a little more about each other; some things that are the same and some that are different. I’d be delighted too if you, esteemed readers, shared your traditions in the comments.

In the introduction to the book Beeler says,

“Has this ever happened to you?

You find a loose tooth in your mouth.

It happens to everyone, everywhere, all over the world.”

I am disappointed that, in all the years I was teaching children in the “loose tooth” age group I hadn’t ever thought to investigate different traditions. Although I took many opportunities to celebrate the diversity in the classroom (I’ve shared some of those here), I wonder what other opportunities I missed. If I was still working with year one children this book would be essential to my collection and sit alongside another favourite for discussing diversity and acceptance, Whoever You Are by Mem Fox. I am pleased I found it in time to gift to my grandson to mark his first missing tooth.

Whoever you are.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is also talking about diversity and has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story of a character who is diverse. Who is this person? Does this character know, accept or reject being perceived as different? As writers, consider how we break stereotypes. Tell you own story of “otherness” if you feel compelled. Or, select a story of diversity, such as rainbows revealing gold. How is diversity needed? How is your character needed?

Coincidentally I am reading a book about diversity at the moment. The book, The Social Brain: How Diversity Made the Modern Mind by Richard Crisp was reviewed by Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal. In her review Anne says,

“I’m pleased to say that Richard Crisp’s highly accessible overview of recent research into cultural diversity has not only revitalised my interest in social psychology but is highly relevant to how we all live today. I touched on one of his papers in my recent post on Looking at difference, embracing diversityThe Social Brain develops those ideas in more depth and detail.

social brain

I am compelled to add my voice to Anne’s recommendation. It is a fascinating, challenging and enlightening read.

In a comment on her post, Charli stated that diversity is in the small things, not just the big. I believe she is right. It is the attitudes and actions we incorporate into our everyday lives that can make the big difference in another’s world. I’m sticking to my tooth theme for my flash with a wish for recognition of commonality, acceptance and respect. Richard Crisp’s book goes a long way towards helping understand what drives us, and why.

A friendship born

The invisible wall was a fortress built of fear and prejudice. On either side a child played alone. The rules were accepted without question.

Then they saw each other, and a challenge was born.

At first they kept their distance, staring across the divide, until scolding adults bustled them away.

Curiosity and loneliness won over fear as they mirrored each other in play.

One day they drew close enough to touch, but hesitated. Simultaneously they bared their teeth, each proudly displaying a gap, in the middle on the bottom, a first. Surprised, they laughed together: more same than different.

Thank you

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

If You Aren’t Making it Better, You Might Be Making it Worse

Jackie french - raindrops

Last week I shared some of the wisdom of Jackie French, including these wise words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

When I read this post I thought, “Here is someone putting it into action”. What wonderful ideals this school and these children are working towards. A great example for all.

kinderconfidential

This is going to be a rather short post, but I have been thinking something in the document Play For a Change which mentions two views of children- one where we are waiting for them to be adults, and one where they are fully functioning and valuable members of society already. I think I used to think the former (you are learning to be a well balanced happy adult), until I realized that I am still learning to be a well balanced happy adult (and to be fair I know plenty of adults who are less balanced and unhappier than children I know).

Simultaneously, I have been annoyed at the once a year charity blitz that I see in December, all of a sudden the homeless need coats? They didn’t need coats in November? They won’t need more coats in January? And I am so guilty of this, off…

View original post 520 more words

Wild spaces

wilderness

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about the importance of preserving natural wilderness areas. She says,

“Wild places matter, even to those who are not active hikers or hunters. It’s important to our psyche to know that wild places exist.”

To say it is important for our wellbeing acknowledges its anthropocentric value. However, I believe, as I know Charli does too, that its value is intrinsic with significance beyond its importance specifically to humans. Wilderness areas are the lifeblood of our planet, of all species. They are just as beautiful and just as necessary whether any human lays an eye on them or not.

if a wilderness

I am not a hiker, definitely not a hunter, and have never been one to spend a great deal of time in the wilderness. However, I have a deep appreciation for the beauty and value of wilderness areas. I strongly believe in the importance of protecting them to ensure the health of our planet and the survival of our, and every other, species. Sometimes I wonder if our survival is deserved with the seeming disregard many of us have for our Earth, but I am a meliorist and place my hope with future generations.

To ensure this meliorism is well-founded, we need to nurture in young children their innate interest in and love of nature. There is probably no better way of doing this than through first hand experiences observing nature in wild spaces. Share with children their wonder, be intrigued with their explorations and extend your own understanding through their discoveries. At the same time develop in them an appreciation of and respect for our earth and its gifts.

Encounters with nature don’t always have to occur in large nature reserves in distant places. In fact, a real appreciation of nature is an attitude, a way of thinking about the world and can be fostered as a part of daily life with observations in the backyard, in wild places along the roadside, or in a pot on the window sill.

© Bec Colvin

Ladybirds in my backyard © Bec Colvin

Books also serve a purpose in nurturing an interest in the world around us. In addition to books of beautiful photographs, fiction can also be used.

4 of Jeannie Baker's books

Last year in a series celebrating Australian picture books I wrote a post about collage-artist and author Jeannie Baker who shares her passion for the environment through her picture books.

2015-09-19 11.09.45

Window tells, in beautifully detailed collage, of the transformation of a landscape from natural bush to city-scape. The changes are observed through a window by a boy as he celebrates alternate birthdays from birth to 24 years. Jeannie shares an important environmental message in a note at the end of the book with these words:

Jeannie Baker - planet changing

In 2004 Jeannie published a companion book to Window called Belonging, which, in 2005, also received a number of awards, including one from the Wilderness Society.

2015-09-19 11.11.04

This textless picture book tells the story of a changing landscape over a number of years as a city is transformed with plants and welcoming spaces for children and families. In a note at the end of this book, Jeannie says,

Jeannie Baker - time

I think these messages, together with those shared in Charli’s post, are important for children to not only hear, but to see modelled by adults in their everyday lives. I am happy to say that members of my family are proactive in the ways they care, and advocate, for the environment. I have much to learn from them.

For my flash I drew upon a recollection of a place visited in my much-younger years, a favourite place for calming mind travel, and Charli’s recognition of the benefits of wilderness areas to our psyche, to our very essence.

Charli’s challenge was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about wild spaces. Is it a wilderness or a patch of weeds in a vacant lot that attract songbirds. What is vital to the human psyche about wild spaces? Bonus points for inducing something cute and furry. I’ve also tried for the extra points. I’d love to know what you think.

stream

Renewal

Cocooned in shadows of tall forest trees, clear spring water soothing tired feet, she sighed. Speckles of sunlight dancing from rock to ripple were unnoticed as she envied a leaf escaping downstream.

“Why?” she asked of the stream, more of herself. “Why are you here?”

The stream whispered,

“We all have our purpose’

We’re all meant to be,

We’re connected, we’re one,

Not just you or me.”

A birdsong repeating the chorus lifted her gaze towards a flutter of rare blue butterflies. A possum yawned and winked. She breathed in awe. Refreshed, with lighter heart, she was whole again.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

 

Plant the seeds of literacy

About this time last year, I shared my excitement when Jackie French was recognised for her “long and distinguished career as a beloved children’s author” as Senior Australian of the Year. At the time she was halfway through her two-year role as Australian’s Children’s Laureate with the task of promoting the importance and transformational power of reading, creativity and story in the lives of young Australians.

If-you-want-intelligent children

Later in the year, in a series of posts celebrating Australian picture books, I shared more of Jackie’s work.

jackie french's books

Now the roles of Children’s Laureate and Senior Australian of the Year have been passed to others. Jackie has obviously been asked what she is now going to do with all her “free” time. In her newsletter she says, “if one more person says ‘now you can relax’ if (sic) will bite them like a wombat, the snappish kind” because it means that work is finished, which it isn’t. I feel exactly the same way when people ask me about my retirement, though I fear Jackie and I work at a very different pace and the occupation of my time may seem like retirement in comparison to hers.

While an author may not have received the top recognition as Australian of the Year 2016, three advocates of children’s literature each became a Member of the Order of Australia:

Jackie French for significant service to literature as an author of children’s books, and as an advocate for improved youth literacy’.

Ann James for ‘significant service to children’s literature as an author and illustrator and through advocacy roles with literacy and professional bodies’.

Ann Haddon for significant services to children’s literature, as a fundraiser and supporter of Indigenous literacy, and to professional organisations’.

It is wonderful to see the recognition given to authors, and to the importance of reading.

lucy_goosey_cover_lowres

One of my favourite books, illustrated by Ann James is Lucy Goosey. It is a beautiful story, written by Margaret Wild, about the love between mother and child. I can’t read it all the way through without crying. But in a good way. It is very touching.

Ann talks about illustrating the story here:

I’m also pleased to say that I have an original Ann James, done for Bec at a literary festival many years ago, hanging on my wall.

Ann James

In her Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech, Jackie French says,

“You never know what seeds you plant will grow; if they will keep growing; who will take them and tend them. But there is one thing I have learned in my 62 years: keep planting seeds.

Jackie French - keep planting seeds

 Never think: I am 62 and still have not achieved world peace, universal tolerance and justice, or even an Australia where every single child is given the chance to learn to read.

Change is never fast enough for any person of goodwill.

A rain drop is just a rain drop. But together we are a flood.  Together we have changed the world.

Jackie french - raindrops

She concludes her speech with these words:

“Let us give our children role models who do not, will not despair, no matter how long it takes to change the world. And let us never surrender, no matter how tired we are, or how long it takes. Because with these weapons we shape the future of our planet.”

I like her words of hope. She is a meliorist. But even more than that, she is an active meliorist. She puts her words into action. She may no longer carry the title of Children’s Laureate or Australian of the Year, but her advocacy doesn’t stop.

Thank you

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

You’ve got the power

 

Super s

If I had the ability to bestow upon each of you a super power of your choosing, what would you choose?

I’m sure you’d be eager to accept with a suggestion immediately. I am not an exception. I would love to be able to control time, to make it go faster or slower when I want, and basically to just have more of it.

But the reality is that each of us reading this post, myself included, already has one of the most amazing super powers available: the ability to read. Living in a print saturated world as we do, the ability to read is essential for full participation. Not surprisingly, but perhaps also a little sadly, those of us who can, tend to take it for granted.

The love of reading is gift

I am a compulsive reader. I read everything everywhere. I wish I could stop myself reading the signs on the back of the toilet doors for the umpteenth time, but it’s virtually impossible. This is not my genre of choice. Many of us bemoan the fact that we do not have enough time to read all the wonderful material available to us.

studentbooks

Time is not my only reading frustration. As I age my eyesight is changing and even with the assistance of reading glasses I struggle (and often fail) to read the fine print on labels or in instructions. Not only that, my eyes tire more quickly now than ever before and the physical act of reading is not as pleasurable as it once was.

However, even with these frustrations, I am one of the lucky ones.  Not everyone in the world is as fortunate as I with my lack of time and failing sight. While the literacy rates around the world are improving, there are still too many suffering the disadvantages that result from inadequate opportunities to acquire an education in general, and specifically, the ability to read. Even in our midst there are those who, for various reasons, have failed to become literate.

The empowering effect of the ability to read and of acquiring a quality education is never far from my mind or my blog. If you were to type the word “power” into the search button at the top right of my blog you would find at least ten posts with the word “power” or “empowerment” in the title, including

The power of reading

The power of imagination

The power of words, and

Empowerment – the importance of having a voice.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Communications Charli Mills is talking about power and has challenged writer to in 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that explores the question, “What good is power?”  What choice did I have but to discuss the empowering effect of reading, an ability that is a right of everyone.

reading

Super Power

Bored with responses as repetitious as their store-bought costumes, he scanned the room of superheros, wondering how many more interviews to fulfil his quota. Spying a child sans costume, he winked at the camera crew and moved in, the opportunity to highlight another’s inadequacies all too alluring.

“And what superhero are you?” he smirked.

The child held out a book, drawing artefacts from within its pages. “I am a reader. I can soar on dragon wings, explore the Earth, and the farthest galaxy. I can fill my head with imaginings, or discoveries new and old. Reading: my Super Power.”

Thank you

Thank you for using your Super Power. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Thankful and inspired: schools and education

In recent posts there was some discussion about the importance of education, the value of schools and the role of teachers. I thought it timely to re-share this post, first published in July 2015.

Earlier this week I read a post by Kimmie of Stuck In Scared about Ten Things of Thankful. I have also read many other posts about things to be thankful for. These posts prompted me to share something for which I am thankful: schools and education.

I know that I often write about what I consider the shortcomings of traditional schooling and make suggestions of how schools could be improved. However I live in a country that values education and in which every child has a right to a free education. For that I am thankful. Those of us who have access to schools and education are the lucky ones.

This week I have been listening to Malala The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Changed the World by Malala Yousafzia with Patricia McCormick (Indigo).

Malala-The-Girl-Who-Stood-Up

Malala’s is an inspirational story of courage, and how one person can change the world. In this trailer for the movie of her story to be released later this year, she says,

“One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world.”

(Note: I haven’t seen the movie yet. I’d love to know if any readers have.)

In her speech accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014, Malala says,

“I am just a committed and even stubborn person who wants to see every child getting quality education, who wants to see women having equal rights and who wants peace in every corner of the world.”

The Malala Fund, of which she and her father are co-founders and to which she donated her prize, “empowers girls through quality secondary education to achieve their potential and inspire positive change in their communities.”

She calls world leaders and people everywhere to take action and make education their top priority, for all the children of the world, not just their own children.

This is one of my favourite quotes from the book:

Malala - teachers

I think one of her most influential teachers must be her father.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I’m sure you have found Malala’s story just as inspirational as I have.

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.