Monthly Archives: September 2017

Logical thinking and problem solving – Readilearn

logical thinking and problem solving

Logical thinking and problem solving are important skills for children of all ages to develop, including those in early childhood classrooms. We employ thinking skills each day, in many situations, from deciding the order in which to dress ourselves, complete simple tasks, collect items for dinner or set the table; through to more complex problems such as assembling furniture, writing work programs, juggling timetables, and organising class groupings for activities.

This week I am excited to upload a new interactive digital story that encourages children to use logical thinking to solve a problem.

Dragona's Lost Egg

Dragona has lost her egg and turns to her friend Artie, owner of a Lost and Found store, for help. Artie is confident of helping her as he has many eggs on his shelves. He asks Dragona to describe features of her egg, including size, shape, pattern and colour. He uses a process of elimination to identify which egg might be Dragona’s. Children join in the process by choosing eggs with the characteristic described.

What is Dragona’s egg really like, and will Artie be able to help her find it?

You’ll have to read the story to find out.

The process of writing this story also required a problem to be solved; and I love nothing better than a good problem to solve.

What’s an ovoid? Do you know?

what's an ovoid

 

To find out, continue reading at: Logical thinking and problem solving – Readilearn

Sucked out or sucked in

We often hear stories of swimmers being sucked out to sea by dangerous riptides and of the heroic efforts of lifeguards to save them. In Australia, life savers are volunteers who generously give up their time to help ensure the safety of others. According to this article from news.com.au,  most drownings in Australia occur in ocean rips; many because people are overconfident of their ability to recognise them. Though surf life savers who patrol our beaches clearly identify areas under surveillance, many beachgoers choose to swim outside the flags, believing they will be safe, that it won’t happen to them.

With summer on its way and warmer weather already (or still) here, people, including my grandchildren and their parents, are heading to the beaches for our spring school holidays. I urge everyone to stay safe and be wary of those unseen rips. I also offer a huge word of thanks to the generous volunteers who safeguard our swimmers.

swimmer

This news report, which aired on Saturday evening, explains some reasons for their generosity:

“Life is just that precious. If we can’t see you, we can’t help you.”

“We get paid nothing, but it’s worth it.”

“It’s about the community giving back to the community, and you know, helping out.”

dear life savers

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about riptides. She has sucked me along in the current with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a riptide. How can it be used to move a story? It could be a stretch of turbulent water or a pull of another kind. Go where the prompt leads even if you find it unexpected.

In her post, Charli repeats a line, reminiscent of a song of which I was unaware:

“I run down to the riptide”.

Each time Charli reaches the riptide, she opens a hatch of treasures and possibilities, of ideas and achievements with which she could swirl away. Me? At the mention of riptide, I was thinking of being sucked in and drowning, of being carried away from safety. But to be picked up and carried to a land of possibilities may be more enticing with more opportunities to explore. There may be more to currents than the ocean’s deadly pull. Let’s see where this one goes.

Where else but education?

For teachers, it’s important to not get carried away by the latest fads with their deceptive surfaces hiding dangers in their depths. Many teachers flounder in overwhelming workloads, unrealistic expectations, and defective advice. They lose sight of the shore and get dragged out to sea where, sadly, many drown.

It is also important for teachers to know where the (figurative) waters are safe for children, and where there are just enough ripples to challenge them, strengthening their grit and confidence.

Children themselves need to know how to interpret the waters, to avoid the dangers so that they might enjoy what is on offer. Standing on the edge in fear while others are having fun may spark “if only” thoughts of dissatisfaction. Jumping recklessly in too deep may be just as disastrous.

The same is true in life. If we don’t have a go, how will we ever know if success is possible?

readilearn

I jumped into blogging just over three years ago, tested the waters and developed my swimming skills. I thought I was doing okay. A little over a year ago, I dived in deeper, perhaps a little recklessly though it didn’t seem so at the time, with the launch of readilearn, an online collection of early childhood teaching resources. I sometimes feel that I am treading water, struggling to hold my head above the surface and avoid the rip that threatens to suck me under. I knew it would be a learning journey. I just didn’t realise how much I needed to learn.  Belief in what I’m doing and hope for what the future may hold, drives me forward. I swim, hoping to find the current that carries me towards my goal rather than away from it.

So, I’m thinking about the child on the beach, feeling the drag of the water underfoot, unsure of whether to enter or not. No dangerous undercurrents here. I hope you enjoy it.

Sucked in

The older ones squealed, dropped their towels, and raced for the water. The little one toddled beside Mum, each laborious step prolonged by distractions of beach debris, flapping gulls, and footprints in soft white sand. Mum’s eyes flitted between him and the two in the waves. Thankfully, guards were on duty. When they reached the water’s edge, he baulked, shook his head, and plopped backwards. Gentle waves lapped his feet, then tickled as they sucked out the sand. Mesmerised, he chuckled. His siblings joined him. When they offered their hands, he accepted, stepping joyfully alongside them in the shallows.

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

Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet

This month I have great pleasure in introducing you to two fine authors, Brenda S. Miles and Susan D. Sweet, who co-wrote the wonderful picture book Cinderstella: A Tale of Planets Not Princes.

With both World Space Week and International Day of the Girl Child just a few weeks away, I couldn’t think of a better book and authors to spotlight this month. This year’s theme for World Space Week is “Exploring new worlds and space”, and the theme for International Day of the Girl Child is “Girls’ Progress = Goals’ Progress: What Counts for Girls.”

princes and parties

Cinderstella sees no prince in her happily ever after. She’d rather be an astronaut exploring space. Challenging the role of girls as portrayed in traditional fairy tales, Cinderstella determines to take control of her own destiny and be what she wants to be in a universe of unlimited possibilities. The story encourages girls, and boys, to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and break the limits imposed by gender stereotypes and biases.

Continue reading: Introducing co-authors Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet – Readilearn

Busy work

What does being busy mean to you?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community, Charli Mills asks readers to contemplate that question, wondering “Is it a danger or a joy to become so busy?”

She then challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a busy character. It could be a busy beaver, gnawing birch trees endlessly or an executive on the go. Go where the prompt leads.

What about a busy toddler? Toddlers are some of the busiest people I know. And they are generally quite joyous in their busyness, demonstrating the true meaning of being in the present moment.

girl smelling flowers

For me, being busy is a joy when the activities are of my choice and for my purposes. I have no need to find things to keep me busy. There is more I wish to do than I will ever have time to complete. I resent tasks that keep me busy and away from what I’d rather be doing. But even in the busyness, there still must be time for fun.

As a teacher, I was never in favour of setting children “busy work”, preferring instead to provide opportunities to progress learning. By busy work I refer to meaningless tasks with the sole purpose of keeping children quiet and busy. They may involve things such as copying a passage of text or completing a worksheet unrelated to either learning goals or needs; tasks that offer little to either interest or challenge children, and certainly no fun. Now, while there is nothing wrong with having some downtime in which to relax, daydream and imagine, keeping children busy with meaningless tasks has none of these benefits.

busy bee of the week

Having said that, I used to call my class The Busy Bees. We had a Busy Bees chant and Busy Bee awards. In fact, there are 20+ Busy Bee themed teaching resources available on readilearn. How the busy work of busy bees differs from classroom “busy work”, is that it is purposeful and productive, not busy for the sake of it, and whenever possible, lots of fun.

For my response to Charli’s challenge, I thought I’d stick with a busy toddler.

leaves incoming

Never too busy for fun

After days of endless rain, the chorus of birds and bees urged them outdoors. Mum bustled about the garden; thinning weeds, pinching off dead flowers, trimming ragged edges, tidying fallen leaves, enjoying the sunshine. Jamie, with toddler-sized wheelbarrow and infinite determination, filled the barrow, again and again, adding to the growing piles of detritus. Back and forth, back and forth, he went. Until … leaves crackling underfoot and crunching under wheels, called him to play. Jamie giggled as armfuls scooped up swooshed into the air and fluttered to earth. Mum, about to reprimand, hesitated, then joined in the fun.

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

Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

inspiring creativity - dot day

Next Friday 15 September is International Dot Day, a day for celebrating and promoting creativity, courage and collaboration.

Celebration of the day was initiated in 2009 with teacher Terry Shay introducing his class to the picture book The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.

The story is of Vashti and a teacher who encouraged her to make a mark and have a go. Lacking self-belief and courage, Vashti was reluctant to participate in art class. When the teacher framed and hung her signed painting of a tiny dot, Vashti was determined to do better. She painted all kinds of dots that wowed the people at the school art fair. What happened when one little boy admitted to Vashti that he wished he could draw will inspire children everywhere to be brave, have a go, and be creative.

For a wealth of celebratory suggestions, visit the International Dot Day Get Started page and sign up to download a free Educator’s Handbook, which includes a lovely certificate of participation which can be printed and personalised for each child.

I have included a link to the page in the new resource Getting creative with dots in which I suggest additional ideas to add to the celebration.

getting creative with dots

The suggestions, of which examples are shown below, can be used in conjunction with International Dot Day, or any day when you feel like going a little dotty.

Continue reading: Inspiring creativity – celebrating Dot Day – Readilearn

Invention vs gobbledegook

kids writing

One thing I love about working with beginning literacy learners is their use of invented spellings.  To avoid inhibiting the flow of ideas, children are encouraged to “have a go”. This invention involves an interaction of

  • knowledge of letter sound correspondence
  • recall of familiar words, such as basic sight words
  • memory of words previously encountered including words of interest or meaning to them,
  • in conjunction with available resources such as classroom word walls or lists.

The purpose is to encourage them to write, to express their ideas. There’s plenty of time for attention to the finer details later.

We early childhood teachers become experts at reading children’s writing. Like all effective readers, we use a combination of letter-sound knowledge, syntax, and meaning. If we are ever unable to decode a message, the writer is always happy to read the work to us, and may never realise the request stemmed from our reading disability.

As children’s knowledge of written language develops, their spellings more closely approximate the conventional. The comparison of writing samples taken over time informs teachers of the child’s progress. Consonants, especially beginning consonants, usually appear first; then a combination of first and last consonants. Vowels may be the last to be included.

© Norah Colvin

It is not surprising that vowels are the last to appear. They are more difficult to hear and distinguish, and not only may they be represented in more than one way (think of the long ī sound from my recent post A piece of pie), their pronunciation may (does) vary from locale to locale. Not only that, they are less important to reading than consonants. Think of text messages on the phone, or check out this article A World Without Vowels.

Or maybe now with predictive text available on phones, you are less likely to use the abbreviated form of words and allow your phone to predict what you want to write. That tends to work less than perfectly for me. It doesn’t always predict what I’m thinking and is just as likely to accept gobbledegook as any real word, let alone the correct one. Give me children’s invented spellings any day. At least I can use meaning and prior knowledge to help me unlock the message.

As a literacy educator, I am particularly interested in written language and fascinated by children’s development. I enjoyed the opportunity to write about children’s writing in a guest post on the Carrot Ranch A Class of Raw Literature earlier this year. I previously shared thoughts about spelling tests and the difficulty of knowing how to spell a word if its meaning is unknown. A variety of resources for teaching writing also appear in the readilearn collection.

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a speller. It can be one who spells or a primer like Lawrence once had. You can deviate from the primary meaning if magic catches your imagination. Go where the prompt leads. Thanks, Charli. I love this challenge. Spelling: my forte. But which meaning should I choose?

  • To represent a word in written form
  • To create an event using magic
  • To have a rest
  • To signal the occurrence of something (usual disastrous)

Can I include all four?

Here goes.

MISSPELLING SPELLING DISASTER AVERTED: NEW SPELL RELEASES OLD FOR A SPELL

Chatter erupted as assessment commenced. A pass would grant membership to the Spellnovators, but the best would replace Imara, who, for her final duty, mixed their potions and tested their spells. She praised ingenuity as stars exploded, flowers blossomed, and extinct animals reappeared. Choosing her replacement would be difficult. Suddenly her glare in Ruby’s direction spelled trouble. The chatter ceased. “What’s this?” she demanded. “Mix in happy witches!?” Ruby’s lip quivered. “Wishes. I meant to spell wishes.” Voices united in wishes. Instantaneously, everywhere, hearts opened with love.  Goodwill rained down, filling all with hope. Imara would spell in peace.

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

The value of parent volunteers in the classroom – Readilearn

value of parent volunteers

I have always welcomed and appreciated parent volunteers in the classroom. The value they add to the classroom program and children’s learning is enormous. I always loved that we could do much more with the assistance of parent volunteers than we could without.

But effective use of the parent volunteer’s time requires a certain amount of organisation and preparation. Just as there is little point in a parent volunteer turning up at a scheduled time if you are unprepared; there is also little value in a parent appearing at the door during class time and asking, “Can I help?”

Parent volunteers can play a very important role in the classroom, especially with group work in literacy and maths, assisting with art lessons, outdoor activities and work in the computer lab. They may also help in administrative-type roles such as changing reading books and checking sight words. Perhaps they could read to groups or individual children, or listen to children read.

utilising parent volunteers

How their support is utilised will depend upon their availability and your class program.

For a variety of reasons, not every parent is able to offer regular assistance in the classroom. Indeed, parent help should not be viewed as an expectation but appreciated as a gift of their precious time.

when parents volunteer

Sometimes parents welcome the opportunity to share a special skill or information related to their

Continue reading: The value of parent volunteers in the classroom – Readilearn