Monthly Archives: February 2018

everything you wanted to know about unicorns

Everything you always wanted to know about unicorns

What do you know about unicorns?

  • mythical creatures
  • look similar to horses
  • usually white
  • have a single horn protruding from the forehead.

What else is there to know?

It appears there could be much more to learn by engaging in philosophical discussions, especially with young children, about the existence of unicorns and their features.

For many years I have been a fan of Philosophy for Children (P4C), a pedagogical approach for teaching children to think critically, to wonder, question and reason. The approach is “taught” through student-led discussion in which the teacher is present to offer support, rather than leadership. Students are presented with a stimulus, about which they initially ask questions. When there are no more questions to ask, children discuss their thoughts and responses.

I knew unicorns would be a great starting point for philosophical discussions with children, so wasn’t surprised to find suggestions for conducting an enquiry into Unicorn Horns – Thinking about Things that Don’t Exist by The Philosophy Foundation.

The suggested discussion centres around fictional characters, including the more controversial ones such as Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy which I’ve previously discussed here and here.

What intrigued me most in the article was

“The problem (is) characterized in this statement ‘The Tooth Fairy does not exist’, which seems to say ‘there is something that does not exist’, but then if it does not exist then how can it be anything?”

Or another way of putting it,

“‘If there is anything that can’t exist, then it exists, so there can’t be anything that can’t exist.’”

Totally confused?

Me too! Please pop over to the article for greater clarity. Then maybe you can explain it to me.

The article continued with suggestions of other questions about unicorns that could be discussed; for example:

  • Are unicorns real?
  • If something doesn’t exist, can it have any special features?
  • How many horns does a unicorn have?
  • What if a unicorn is born without a horn, is it still a unicorn?
  • What if a horse is born with a horn, would it be a unicorn?
  • Since ‘uni’ means one, is any animal with one horn a unicorn?
  • What about a narwhal? Is it a unicorn?

My thoughts of unicorns this week were instigated by the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a unicorn. It can be realistic or fantastical. Go where the prompt leads.

Now, I have written about unicorns before, here, here and here.

In a post about security comforters, I explained that a toy unicorn was of comfort to Marnie when she was feeling particularly vulnerable. Her need for it continued into her early school years and its appearance was an indicator to teachers that things were going badly for her again. When, as a confident adult, she returned to her childhood home, she found she had long outgrown the unicorn that had given her comfort as a child.

In some of Marnie’s stories, she was teased and bullied, mainly by a boy named Brucie. Fortunately, she had a good friend in Jasmine who was often there to offer her support.

In my response to Charli’s unicorn prompt, I revisit Marnie and Brucie and attempt to add a little philosophy to their discussion. I hope you like it.

Unicorns aren’t real

“What’s that supposed to be?” sneered Brucie.

Marnie bit her lip.

“Doesn’t look like anything to me,” he scoffed, inviting an audience.

“A unicorn,” she whispered.

“Miss said, ‘Draw your favourite animal.’ A unicorn can’t be your favourite animal–it’s not even real.”

Marnie continued drawing.

“Anyway, doesn’t look like a unicorn with those four horns.”

“They’re not horns.”

“Marnie’s unicorn’s got four horns,” laughed Brucie, a little too loudly.

Miss investigated.

“He said my unicorn’s got four horns. He said unicorns aren’t real.”

“How can unicorns have four horns if they’re not real?” asked Miss.

Brucie was silent.

Thank you blog post

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vending machines food for homeless

#WATWB Vending Machines for the Homeless

On the last Friday of each month We Are the World Blogfest invites bloggers to join together in promoting positive news. If you would like to join in, please check out the rules and links below.

“There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.”

This month I am sharing an inspiring story of vending machines that provide free food to the homeless.

Action Hunger, a non-profit organisation founded by Huzaifah Khaled in Nottingham, England, gives the homeless access to free food and other basic essentials such as toothbrushes and socks from vending machines. The items are accessed by use of key cards which are available through organisations that assist the homeless. Where other services are provided during restricted hours, the vending machines are available all day every day. Use of the service provided by the vending machines is considered a temporary measure for people who are working to improve their life situation.

The project Action Hunger was inspired when Khaled “learned that even access to basic necessities like food and water was sporadic and oftentimes cumbersome . . . [He] realized that there had to be a more effective way of at least ensuring the bare necessities were always available.”

The project plans to expand into the US in the near future. What a great initiative.

Click to read the whole article: These Vending Machines Give the Homeless Free Food

Here are the guidelines for #WATWB:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

  1. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.

The co-hosts for this month are:  :  Shilpa Garg, Peter Nena, Eric LahtiRoshan Radhakrishnan and Inderpreet Kaur Uppal. Please pop over to their blogs to read their stories, comment and share.

Click here to join in and enter the link to your post. The bigger the #WATWB group each month, the greater the joy!

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

 

pizza-themed lower primary cross-curricular teaching resources

readilearn: Engage learners with pizza-themed cross-curricular teaching and learning resources

Pizza is a popular food in many countries around the world and is often a children’s favourite. Why not capitalize on children’s interests to make learning fun and meaningful?

This week I have uploaded six new pizza-themed resources with suggestions for learning across the curriculum; including literacy, mathematics, and science.

pizza-themed interactive cross-curricular teaching resources for lower primary

The new interactive resource What’s on your pizza is a great stimulus for engaging children.  Children help Andy and Paige make their own pizza by choosing the toppings and working out the different combinations of toppings that are available. The resource can be used as a springboard for discussion, writing, mathematical investigations, science explorations and talking about healthy food choices.

In this post, I outline some ways pizza-themed learning can be incorporated across the curriculum. I anticipate the suggestions will inspire ideas of your own with relevance to your own group of children.

Literacy
Oral Language

Discussion is one of the best ways of developing children’s language. Starting with topics already familiar to and of interest to children facilities discussion into which new vocabulary and concepts can be added. Discussion could centre around; for example: who likes pizza, types of pizza, when children have pizza and their favourite pizzas.

Reading and spelling

Continue reading: readilearn: Engage learners with pizza-themed cross-curricula teaching and learning resources – Readilearn

Rough Writer Tour stops in Canada with Ann Edall-Robson

This week the Carrot Ranch Round the World Tour stops at Alberta in Canada with Ann Edall-Robson, celebrating Family Day, no less.

Read how Ann became one of the Rough Writers and how writing flash fiction adds to her writing process.

Find out what she writes about this beautiful little cottage.

Thanks, Ann. It’s a pleasure to ride the Ranch with you.

Salute to the Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1

Source: Ann Edall-Robson’s – Ann Edall-Robson

Would you like ice with that?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills writes about her daughter’s current lifestyle in Longyearbyen, the world’s most northern town. I thought the town may have been named for seeming to have a long year when the days are dark and sunless. But no, as I found out in this article, 12 facts you never knew about Longyearbyen, the world’s northernmost city, it was named after American John Longyear who started the Arctic Coal Company there in 1906.

The article is worth a read for the information it shares. What spoke strongest to me, in these times of horrific shootings, was a sign displayed on the entrances to buildings:

“All the polar bears in this shop are already dead, please leave your weapon with the staff.”

The article explains that, as polar bears are quite common in the area, locals are required to carry high-powered rifles when they are out and about. There is no need for them indoors.

It was thoughts of her daughter’s icy environment that inspired Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story on ice. It can be an event on ice, a game on ice or a drink on ice. Go where the prompt leads you.

My thoughts went immediately to Elsa in the movie Frozen, based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. In the movie, Elsa has the power to turn things to ice. The song Let It Go became very popular, and for a while I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a little girl dressed as Elsa, or hearing another one singing it. I didn’t mind. I love the song and blue is my favourite colour. I couldn’t help but smile at the enthusiasm with which the girls belted out the song.

Elsa’s ability to turn things to ice reminds me of the curse placed on King Midas to teach him a lesson about greed–everything he touched, including his beloved daughter, turned to gold.

Neither ice nor gold were particularly good outcomes. E.T.’s healing finger would bring better results.

If you had fingers with power to affect everything they touched, what would that power be? Perhaps it is impossible to know in advance all possible repercussions, but kindness would be a good place to start. We don’t have to try to heal the world.  It is best to start small and effect positive changes and heal hurts within our own circles of influence.

Back in the old days at school, we used to kiss small hurts better with a Band Aid. Nowadays, when children may be allergic to the materials used in plasters of any kind, ice has become the “kiss” of choice, with many children believing it to be imbued with magic healing powers.

That’s where I’ve gone with my flash, renewing acquaintance with some of the characters from the Marnie stories again. We’ve met Jasmine and Georgie before here and Mrs Tomkins here.

band aid ice

Ice Magic

Mrs Tomkins was sorting the mail when she noticed two big tear-filled eyes peering up at her–Liam.

“Can I have some ice, please?”

“Where does it hurt?”

“All over.”

She pointed to the chair and got him some ice.

“Now tell me what happened.”

“No one will play with me,” he said, holding the ice to his temple.

“Have you…”

Mrs Tomkins looked up as Jasmine and Georgie burst in.

“Liam. Come on. We’ve been looking for you.”

Liam thrust the ice at Mrs Tomkins.

“Thanks,” he said, smiling. “The ice worked.”

Mrs Tomkins smiled too. Ice magic.

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Jacqui Halpin Parmesan the Reluctant Racehorse

readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

This week, it is my pleasure to introduce you to Jacqui Halpin – author, founding member of Write Links (a local group of published and unpublished authors and illustrators of children’s books), a former nurse and tuckshop convenor.

Jacqui grew up in Brisbane where she still lives with her husband, one of her three adult children, and a cat called Loki. While writing and editing, Jacqui likes to sip tea from fine china and eat copious amounts of chocolate. She says she should never be allowed in a bookshop with a credit card in her possession.

Jacqui writes picture books and short stories, some of which appear in anthologies by Stringybark Publishing and Creative Kids’ Tales. She co-wrote and independently published her elderly father’s memoir, A Long Way from Misery.

Today Jacqui is talking with us about her first picture book Parmesan The Reluctant Racehorse, humorously illustrated by John Phillips and published by Little Pink Dog Books in October 2017. Jacqui’s second picture book, Where’s Lucky?, based on an orphaned swamp wallaby joey at a wildlife shelter, will be published in mid-2019.

Parmesan is a delightful story of a thoroughbred racehorse who should be winning races and earning lots of money for his owner. However, Parmesan thinks he’s a dog. Instead of training with the other horses, he’s off with his doggy friends doing doggy things like playing fetch. His owner is not happy. If Parmesan isn’t ready to run in the Spring Carnival, he’s getting rid of him. Parmesan’s trainer is worried. He knows Parmesan won’t be ready, but as they arrive at the Spring Carnival, he thinks of a brilliant way to get Parmesan to run around the track. Parmesan’s triumph proves you can be a winner and stay true to who you are.

Welcome to readilearn, Jacqui, we are looking forward to getting to know you better.

Thanks for inviting me.

Jacqui, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

I always liked writing stories and poems at school, but it wasn’t until I read picture books to my own children  Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Jacqui Halpin – picture book author – Readilearn

Every word counts #roughwriters #blogtour via @Annecdotist – annethology

The Congress of Rough Writers Anthology 1

Today my very own printed copy of the Congress of Rough writers’ Flash Fiction Anthology Vol 1, edited by Charli Mills, arrived in the post. How exciting! Have you got yours yet?

Anne Goodwin gives you all the details for purchasing in her contribution to the Rough Writer Tour Around the World.

Carrot ranch tour

Read Anne’s post to find out how she came to be one of the Rough Writers.: Every word counts #roughwriters #blogtour via @Annecdotist – annethology

Out of the fire comes hope

fireweed Charli Mills Carrot Ranch flash fiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it thus:

“the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.”

She then went on to challenge writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.

I don’t know of Charli’s fireweed, but I do know that Australia is home to a great variety of plants that are dependent on fire for regeneration. While large tracts of land destroyed by bushfires is devastating, a return to traditional land management practices of the indigenous peoples may see an  improved system.

There is an oft-repeated quote by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

While that may be true of Charli’s fireweed and much of Australia’s flora, I’m never convinced of the applicability of the saying to every situation, or of its power to lift one up when feeling personally devastated. What does not kill may require a good dose of determination and strength for it not to annihilate the spirit.

While thoughts of how to approach Charli’s challenge were swirling around in my head, notification of a new post by The Wordy Wizard popped into my inbox. At the top of the post was this quote by  J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

 “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

The addition of these words of J.K. Rowling to those of Friedrich Nietzsche, for me, complete the thought. Without acceptance there is denial and an inability to move on, with acceptance we can begin to repair and renew.

Intermittently, over the past four years while I have been responding to Charli’s flash challenges, I have written about Marnie, an abused child who was able, with determination and support of caring others, to overcome the impact of her dysfunctional upbringing and make a better life for herself.

Just as we look for green shoots of hope in the blackness of a bushfire’s destruction, we must look for signs of hope and renewal in those who have suffered.

Bono quote about why he's a megalomaniac

While at times the negatives of children “burnt” by dysfunctional home lives, poverty, poor nutrition, lack of mental stimulation, and other factors that appear to obliterate potential can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it is important to see within every child that seed of unlimited possibility and hope that needs to be nurtured.

Marnie’s teacher Miss R. saw it in her. In one story, “Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Perhaps it would be just as apt to describe her as fireweed, “a defier of the odds when life is bleakest”. This is where Charli’s challenge took me this time:

Burning with hope

Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.

“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“

She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.

“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”

She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The feature image after the bushfire by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

 

readilearn –Learning sight words by reading and writing in context – Readilearn

Learning lists of sight words is an activity familiar to beginning readers, their parents and teachers. There’s no denying the importance of being able to recognise words by sight, and the aid it is to reading fluency and comprehension. Yes, comprehension. Due to the constraints of short-term memory, it is difficult to think about meaning, when working memory is employed in attempts to figure out individual words.

Many lists of basic sight words are available, but there is a consistency to the words included and their number, generally varying between one and two hundred. Many of the words do not have a regular letter-sound correspondence and cannot be “sounded out” using knowledge of phonics. They are also words that have meaning only in context and cannot be “pictured”. The words make up a high percentage of those appearing in texts for beginning readers and so are often referred to as high frequency words.

Children are often given lists of words to take home and learn with the assistance of parents. Not all parents know how to encourage children to learn the words and it can be a battle if children struggle to remember them. If you are sending children home with words to learn, it is important to provide parents with strategies as well as what they need; for example:

Provide the words on strips or in small booklets with the word written on one side and a short sentence with a picture on the other for checking.

sight words sentence strips

Provide one set of words. Spread the words face up on the table. Ask the child to find the word; for example, put. This is easier at first as other letter/sound cues can be used. Later, as the child is

Continue reading: readilearn –Learning sight words by reading and writing in context – Readilearn

The Congress of Rough Writers Flash Fiction Anthology Vol. 1 or Flash Fiction: My (Small) Part In Its The Journey. #Carrotranch #congressofroughwriters #anthology

Carrot ranch tour

I am so excited to be in the company of many wonderful writers in this first anthology of flash fiction by Rough Writers at the Carrot Ranch. Geoff Le Pard is one of those writers and kicks off the promotional Around the World Blog tour. Hop on board to meet others of the talented writers and find out to purchase your own copy of the book.

TanGental

In my fourth ever post I tried my hand at flash fiction for the first time. This…

Dogged

Harry dropped his gaze to avoid looking at Sally. No point; she didn’t know he existed. He looked at the dog.
Milton looked back; he scratched his ear before lowering himself into a squat.
“No. Christ. Not here.”
Milton held Harry’s gaze as he shat on the pavement.
“Great” Harry stared at the sticky turd. He patted his pocket. No bags.
Harry glanced up, wondering if he could leave it. To his horror, Sally was a few paces away. She held out her crisp packet. “Here.”
“What?”
“For that.”
As Harry cleared up, Sally rubbed Milton’s head. “Cute dog.”

99 words, inspired by Charli Mills over at her Carrot Ranch. When I look at it, I’m struck by the following:

  • there’s poo
  • there’s a certain attempt at humour
  • ditto cuteness
  • but it’s…

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