# Monthly Archives: December 2017

### May 2018 be filled with love, good health, peace and joy.

Thank you for your support throughout 2017. We hope the year has been kind to you, and look forward to 2018 with hopes of even better times.

For a little inspiration at the end of the year and to get you started on the right foot in the new year, here is a wonderful talk by an amazing educator, Rita Pierson. If you’re ever feeling a little unsure about the difference you can make to even one child’s life, listen to Rita – she’ll tell you how important you are.

# Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #8

And the results of the TUFFest Contest of all in the Carrot Ranch #FFRODEO are out. Congratulations Liz Husebye Hartman for TUFFing it out to win the contest!

To many writers, 99 words may hardly seem enough to tell a story. And yet, week after week I witness writers achieve compelling, emotive and imaginitive stories in 99 words. Some are complete story arcs, some are snapshots of a moment, and some are character-driven. Much can be accomplished in flash fiction.

Contest #8 in the Flash Fiction Rodeo asked writers to show the bones of their story development, cut it to the strongest point, and build it back up into a complete story using TUFF: The Ultimate Flash Fiction. TUFF mimics what it takes to write a novel. It’s a process that begins with a 5-minute free write, reduces the draft to 99 words, 59 words, 9 words and then concludes with a 599-word flash fiction.

As a contest, TUFF asks entrants to be vulnerable. First drafts (free writes) are not often what any writer wants to share, especially…

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# Counting on daisies

Did you know that the number of petals on a flower, like the numbers of many other things in nature, is often a number from the Fibonacci sequence?

In the Fibonacci sequence, each number is the sum of the two preceding numbers: 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89.

Daisies commonly have 34, 55 or 89 petals, though those numbers may be an average rather than specific to an individual flower.

The game “He loves me, he loves me not,” is played by stating each phrase in turn while removing a petal from a daisy flower. The phrase accompanying removal of the last petal is considered to be true. The result would obviously depend upon the type of flower chosen, as well as the number of petals on the particular flower.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less) include white flowers in your story. This is a repeat prompt, but one that has an ability to be emotive. Humor, drama, irony — go wherever the white flowers lead.

The prompt led me to incorporate the two snippets of information above into an is true/isn’t true story on a topic often hotly debated by young children at this Christmassy time of the year.

You can count on it

“Is too,” he screamed, running away, blinded by tears.

Across the enormous park, he plonked himself down in a patch of wild daisies, and began pulling them up, ripping them apart.

“It can’t be. They don’t know anything.” Fists clenched against doubt that threatened annihilation.

As tears subsided to sobs, his petal removal became more rhythmical, purposeful: “Is true. Isn’t true. Is true. Isn’t true …” He crushed the remains, then plucked another: “Is true. Isn’t true. Is true …” Nooo!

He started again: “Isn’t true. Is true …”

“I knew it! Santa is true! White flowers don’t lie.”

If you are looking for activities to keep the children occupied during the holidays, check out the readilearn Christmas collection. Many are suitable for use at home as well as in the classroom.

Three free resources provide additional suggestions for keeping the children engaged in mathematical thinking, and reading and writing activities while they are having fun. Don’t let the year’s learning slide away during the holidays.

# Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #7

Did you enter Contest #7 of the Carrot Ranch #FFRodeo? The winner is announced. It wasn’t me. Could it have been you? Read the fabulous entries. Who would have thought a murder story could be told in so few words?

Murderous Musings

By Sherri Matthews

When I set my Murderous Musing’s prompt for Charli’s Flash Fiction Rodeo, I expected a few good folk to turn bad, but not thirty-two of them. And what a deliciously devious lot they are! Thank you so much to all who entered; my esteemed judges and I read wide-eyed and suitably horrified through a disturbingly chilling collection exploring the dark side of the Rodeo.

Some had us baying for the same sweet revenge, such was the pain of the story.  With others, we pondered the tragic price of a seething jealousy, bitter resentment and an all-consuming rage.  One or two gave a chuckle, clever in the twist at the end.  We enjoyed every flash and it was a close call, but we agreed our overall winner is Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon.

Mr Blamey by Marjorie Mallon

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# Only in Australia

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it. (Composed in the pool this morning.)

Only in Australia

The carollers woke her Christmas morning. After the preparation whirlwind, she’d collapsed into bed, only to continuously toss and turn, re-making each list and checking it twice. She groaned – please, just a few minutes more. The carollers insisted. She tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the door. They eagerly accepted her gifts. Breathing in the day’s freshness, she had to decide – bed? Nah – the pool! As each stroke soothed and each lap refreshed, she welcomed the day’s events. When a cockatoo’s shriek punctuated the chorus, the kookaburras laughed. “Only in Australia,” she thought. “It’s good to be home.”

And now for a little more, if you so choose:

Note: I’ve been kindly shown that some of my ‘only in Australia‘ statements are not quite correct. As I am not one for spreading falsehoods, I have added, in pink, corrections of which I have become aware. Thanks especially to Pauline King and Debby Gies for getting the ball rolling.

Only in Australia do you see people wearing thongs and singlets in winter (“thongs” are flip-flops worn on feet, singlets are sleeveless shirts). (I now know Canadians also refer to flip-flops as thongs.)

Only in Australia are there mammals that lay eggs (the monotremes – echidna and platypus. One species of echidna is found in New Guinea).

Only in Australia are the emblem animals eaten (the meat of kangaroo and emu – both on the Australian Coat of Arms – is available in supermarkets and from restaurant menus). The animals were chosen for the coat of arms as neither can walk backwards – a symbol of a forward-moving nation.

Only in Australia can you see these biggest things:

The world’s largest living organism The Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully it will remain that way for generations to come.

The world’s largest monolith – Uluru.

The world’s longest fence – the dingo fence, built to keep dingoes out of the fertile farming areas on the eastern coast,  over 5 500 km.

Only in Australia will you find the world’s oldest living culture.

Only in Australia could you visit a different beach every day of the year and still have more to see.

Only in Australia could you attend a cockroach race, a cane toad race and a boat race on a dry river bed.

Only in Australia would you not see an active volcano. (Australia, the world’s largest island or smallest continent, is the only continent without an active volcano, though there are many dormant and extinct volcanoes.)

Only in Australia do you have to travel overseas to travel internationally. (This is definitely not true – of course overseas and international travel are synonymous for any island nation, of which there are many, including New Zealand.)

Only in Australia will you hear “Fair dinkum” and “True Blue”.

Only in Australia, do we abbreviate everything, including names (is that why our years pass so fast – we abbreviate them too?) (Apparently, this habit is also prevalent across the ditch in New Zealand.)

And if you still want more, check out these 88 Crazy Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Australia.

And watch this video:

Or come for a visit!

I loved the addition of the interactive whiteboard to my classroom about ten years ago. I embraced the use of computer technology from when I bought my first home computer in 1985 and first used computers in my classroom in 1986. The interactive whiteboard was a way of making use of the technology inclusive. Instead of one or two children taking a turn on the computer while the rest of the class were engaged in other things, we could all be involved at the same time, if desired.

I used the interactive whiteboard with the whole class for introducing topics, brainstorming ideas and explaining concepts. It was great for modelled writing lessons and collaborative reading. I found it particularly useful for demonstrating the processes to follow in the computer lab.

I used some purchased software, but also spent a lot of time creating activities to teach or practice particular concepts or skills. Versions of many of these lessons are now available here on readilearn.

# Winner of Flash Fiction Contest #6

What fabulous stories in the Carrot Ranch #Contest 6 Bucking Bull go round, lead by the winner Kerry E.B. Black. Congratulations, Kerry, and to all the runners up, and entrants alike. Judge D. Avery says the judging was difficult. Reading these stories, that seems obvious. Well done, everyone!

Bucking Bull Go-Round

By D. Avery

The dust from the activities and events of the Flash Fiction Rodeo is still settling like snowflakes around Carrot Ranch while old friends and new continue to gather around the warming fire that Charli Mills stokes for us all. With still more winners to be disclosed, even the hype and anticipation of Christmas pales in comparison to the excitement of the rodeo.

My hat is off to the twenty-nine brave writers who took on the challenge of the Bucking Bull Go-Round event, in which they had to write a story in exactly 107 words and eight sentences, demonstrating style and control even as their unique two-word prompt twists and bucks, determined to dislodge these fearless flash fiction contestants. All rode well, making the responsibility of declaring a winner a wild ride of its own. I am immensely grateful to my two co-judges for…

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# How do you perform?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills talks about her years as a ballet-Mum, working behind the scenes to ensure the performers were ready to take to the stage.

She talks about the pleasure of watching from theatre stalls, a recent performance of dancers taught by the daughter she’d taken to lessons all those years before.

She sees connections between her role as stage-Mom and her role as Lead Buckaroo at the Carrot Ranch; and similarities between ballet performances and performing with flash fiction.

This, of course led to the week’s flash fiction prompt in which Charli challenged writers to

There is little in which Charli is unable to find an analogy to writing. Likewise, I am always keen to find the connections, similarities and analogies to teaching. I have long considered teaching to have elements consistent with entertaining and performing, with our classroom the stage, and the students the interactive audience, the participants for whom and by whom the daily enactment evolves. Regardless of how we feel, each day we enter our classrooms ready to perform, determined to give our students the best educational experience possible.

But I am also familiar with other performances. I performed in many plays as part of studying Speech and Drama throughout school. Both children had a big interest in drama at school also, and I spent many hours ferrying them to classes around the city, making costumes, and watching rehearsals as well as final performances.

As a teacher, I would provide opportunities for children to role play, improvise impromptu scenarios, create puppet plays, and perform songs or plays for parents throughout the year.

Then there are the other impromptu performances that toddlers are great at turning on when the inappropriate moment takes them.

Tonight, I had the pleasure of viewing a presentation, rather than performance, of a story written by local author Yvonne Mes. The story A Starry Christmas was animated and displayed in a spectacular light show on Brisbane City Hall. What an amazing way to have one’s work shared. Congratulations must go to Yvonne for writing the story, and the teams who animated it and produced it. You can watch a video of the story and read some additional information about the event on Yvonne’s website here.

I thought I’d combine a few of these ideas into my response to Charli’s flash fiction prompt this week. I hope you enjoy it.

Christmas lights

A two-day city visit is never enough, but they were determined – trekking the city, visiting in-store Santas, viewing Christmas-dressed windows, watching street performers, even attending a pantomime, with just a brief playground stop for lunch. The light show was the day’s finale.  The tired parents and niggly children collapsed onto the lawn in anticipation. Suddenly the littlest began to perform – crying, screaming, stamping, flailing. Nothing would soothe. The eldest observed, zombie-like. Soon the light-show distracted, occasionally interrupting the performance. Only when the fireworks began, drowning out his cries, did he give in to sleep, sprawled indecorously on the grass.