Monthly Archives: September 2017

Award winning Rainforest Camp – interview with Rebecca Johnson – Readilearn

Just over a year ago, in my very first author interview, when I introduced you to Rebecca Johnson and her award winning Insect Series, I shared the following information about her publications and awards:

Since then, Rebecca’s list of publications has continued to grow, including two new series of books:

Vet Cadets “an exciting new four book series for smart, animal and science-loving girls who aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty!”

First Facts “designed to give children a clear understanding of the six main groups of animals.”

Rebecca’s popular junior fiction series Juliet nearly a Vet, for readers from about 7 years of age, continues to attract attention. The series features ten-year-old Juliet who believes she is nearly a vet after watching her mother, who is a vet, at work.

Rebecca’s purpose in telling these stories is to blend science with fiction in a way that engages children’s interest in wildlife and nature. She does it successfully. In 2014, the fourth in the series Bush Baby Rescue won the Wilderness Society Environment Award for Children’s Literature. This year, the most recent title Rainforest Camp received the same award.

Continue reading at: Award winning Rainforest Camp – interview with Rebecca Johnson – Readilearn

Get Ready to Rodeo!

Come, join in the Flash Fiction writing rodeo. Eight different challenges, eight prizes, tons of fun! Starts next week at the Carrot Ranch.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

Norah Colvin writes in the upcoming The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology, Vol. 1:

“Flash fiction is a form of short writing. In its various forms, it may be known as, for example, micro fiction, sudden fiction, or six-word stories; the length may vary from as few as six to as many as 1,000 words. Brevity is a constraint, and writers attempt to pack as much story as they can into few words. Each word must count. There is no room for ‘darlings’, let alone a need for them to be killed.”

Carrot Ranch is hosting a Flash Fiction Rodeo with eight different contests throughout the month of October. It’s free and includes first place prizes in each category of $25. The best of all eight winning entries will be dubbed the All-Around Best Writer of 2017 Flash Fiction Rodeo and win an extra $50. You can enter…

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Peace in a pod

© Norah Colvin

Gardeners understand that effort is required to create a garden that provides the desired outcome. The same is true for raising children, with the adage “we reap what we sow” appropriate in both instances.

A school principal surmised once, after observing my interactions with children, that I must have a beautiful garden. But such was not so. The time that may have been spent nurturing plants, I turned instead to nurturing minds, including my own.

While the sowing is important, so too is the nurturing. Just as there is more to raising a seed than simply sowing one, there is more to raising a child than simply having one. The amount of care required depends on the stage of growth. How they are nurtured in the beginning stages sets the foundation for future growth and determines the harvest.

Susan Scott was thinking along similar lines when she wrote New Moon, Rosh Hoshanah and the Equinox for her Garden of Eden blog this week. She says,

“A good time to plant – seeds of whatever kind – love, patience, kindness, joy are a few that come to mind – anything that blossoms in receptive and fertile soil.”

The words resonate with me at any time, but especially this week when writing my response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community. Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about what it is to gather a harvest.

With the International Day of Peace and its 2017 theme Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All falling just a few days ago on 21 September, it all seems very timely.

Jennie Fitzkee, a remarkable early childhood teacher who blogs at A Teacher’s Reflections, shared her, and her students’, thoughts  about peace on the International Day of Peace. Jennie is a wonderful role model for peace and is passionate about nurturing young children.  She says,

“peace is about the heart, thinking and doing the right thing. The little things are the most important of all, because they’re the foundation for the big things.  By teaching children’s heart they come to understand peace.”

In a previous post Plant the seeds of literacy, I included this excerpt from Jackie French’s 2015 Senior Australian of the Year Valedictory Speech:

“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.

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.”

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 also employed the garden analogy in a post entitled  The classroom garden.  Responding to Charli’s prompt to write about “fruit”, I included the word “harvest”.  Rather than simply repeat that story, which would be pleasingly easy but teach me little, I’ve gone in a different direction this time.

In her post, Charli talks about harvesting peas; peas in a pod. It doesn’t take much imagination to turn this into “Peace in a pod.”

Wouldn’t that be wonderful, to plant a seed of peace with “respect, safety, and dignity for all”; “love, patience, kindness, joy”; and “universal tolerance and justice”; nurture it, watch it grow, and then harvest the bountiful rewards. It’s not only the role of teachers and parents, it’s the responsibility of society at large.

Here’s my story. I hope you like it:

Peace in a pod

“The Peace Prize goes to …”

The applause was deafening. It took minutes to realise it was their life’s work being recognised. Who’d have thought? Against a long-range solar-powered superstealth aircraft with adaptive camouflage, how would a peace capsule stand a chance? They stumbled to the stage, minds a-tumble with words, phrases, and blank spaces. In their years of preparation, of tweaking combinations of ingredients, they’d never prepared for this. The standing ovation relieved them of the necessity, drowning each word. Finally, peace pods were ready for harvest and distribution. With mass inoculation, peace was now a real possibility.

 

After writing the story, I realised that such a pill may not be the panacea I was initially contemplating. Any pill that controls the thoughts and behaviour of the masses could be just as easily used for evil as for good. I may have to send those two back to the lab for further tweaking.

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

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.