Monthly Archives: August 2018

be prepared - the casual teacher's motto

readilearn: Be prepared – a casual teacher’s motto

It’s not always easy being a casual teacher, taking over another teacher’s class for the day. You might be in a different class at a different school, working with a different age group and a different set of expectations, and probably playground duty, every day of the week.

But it does have its advantages too. You can arrive just before school begins and leave when it finishes. You don’t have to do assessment, write reports or be involved in parent meetings.

But it is important to be prepared.

Familiarise yourself with the class timetable and program

Many teachers leave a program for relief teachers to follow and, if one is available, it is important to follow it to maintain continuity for the children and to avoid interrupting the teaching and learning schedule. However, there may be days when a program is not available, and a casual teacher needs to be prepared for these.

Whether a day’s program is available or not, it is important to remember that it’s not your class. There will be established class expectations, procedures and timetables. The day will work best if these can be followed as closely as possible, particularly if teacher aides, support personnel and specialist teachers are involved.

Introduce yourself and your expectations

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Rainforest Rescue by Karen Tyrrell

Books on Wednesday — Rainforest Rescue by Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

A review of Rainforest Rescue the third in the Song Bird series of empowering junior fiction books by author Karen Tyrrell.

This week, I want to let you know about Rainforest Rescue, newly released and third junior fiction novel in the Song Bird series of empowering books for young people, by Karen Tyrrell.

I have previously interviewed Karen about the other books in her Song Bird series, Song Bird Superhero and The Battle of Bug World so wanted to let you know that the third is now available.

Song Bird, Tree Man, and Wonder Girl

I was delighted to attend the recent launch of Rainforest Rescue. Song Bird (Karen) and Tree Man (Karen’s husband and co-author, Steve) wowed their audience that included other superheroes as well as mere mortals like me.

Since the launch, Karen and Steve have been busy visiting schools and making bookshop appearances as part of Book Week Celebrations. If you would like a visit from Karen with one of her empowering presentations or pantomimes, you can contact her on her website here, or connect with her on social media — Twitter:  @Karen_Tyrrell. FB: @KarenTyrrellAuthor.

Visit Karen’s website for free teacher resources, a special offer for Australian readers, and information about purchasing Rainforest Rescue elsewhere.

This is my review of Rainforest Rescue, which you can read on Amazon here.

Rainforest Rescue is the third book in the Song Bird series by Karen Tyrrell and the best yet.

Continue reading: Books on Wednesday — Rainforest Rescue by Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

reading magic - read, talk, play, laugh, have fun

A sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, and poof! It’s reading — magic!

ArtbyJonz ©Norah Colvin 2015

My children were early readers. Both began reading real books well before their fourth birthdays. Of course, the timing, whether early or late, matters little now that they are adults. What matters is that they are readers who read competently and confidently for a range of purposes including for information and pleasure. They are readers by choice as well as purpose.

The ability to read is something that most of us take for granted. Many have no recollection of learning to read, only of being able to do so all of a sudden, as if we just could, by magic.

But, as with any spell, there are certain essential ingredients that make the magic happen and others that inhibit the process. Creating readers of choice and not just purpose is the real magic. Creating non-readers is the effect of a spell in reverse, of a bad mix of ingredients, that sadly occurs all too often.

Bec reading to herself at 12 months

Bec reading to herself at 12 months

My children were readers of choice long before they could read anything for themselves. I wouldn’t say I set out to “teach” them to read. In fact, I didn’t at all. I set out to encourage in them a love of books and writing. Their learning to read was a by-product of sharing the love of words, language and reading.

The magic ingredients for developing readers:

  • Talk
  • Play
  • Read
  • Write
  • Love
  • Fun

I loved having time with my children. Being with them, watching them grow and develop was special, the best and most magical of days. They taught me as much or more about love, life and learning as they learned from me.

Talk

From their earliest days I talked to them, explained things to them — what was happening, what we were doing, and how things worked. I pointed things out and told them what it was called, what it was doing, what it was used for, or how it worked. When we were out and about, I’d point out signs and explain how I knew to stop or where to go. I avoided “baby” talk and always used appropriate everyday language.

Play

We played and had fun together, using our imaginations to create our own games. Sometimes we played simple board games and completed jigsaw puzzles. Whatever we played, talk always accompanied it.

Nor and Bec reading the family book

Reading to Bec at about 12 months old.

Read

I read to them, every day, not just one but many books. As I read, we discussed details in the illustrations and made predictions about the stories, sharing our thoughts. If a word was presented in a large or colourful font, I’d point to it as I read it. We’d laugh at the funny stories and cry at the sad and discuss all the story events. When they could read, they’d read to me, and we took turns reading together until they were early teens.

Write

When they first started to talk, I made books with pictures and words from their growing vocabulary. I labelled items in their rooms; for example, bed, shelf, window, door.

I made books about things we did with photographs and text. A book about our family made for my daughter’s first birthday was one of the favourites when cousins came to visit too.

The environment

I provided my children with an environment rich in language, books and opportunities for thinking. I’d read and write with them and to them, and they’d see me reading and writing for myself as well.

When son Rob was little, I didn’t yet know what I now know about the development of language, reading, and thinking. He taught me much that was later confirmed by my studies.

Rob reading to his toys at age two

Rob, aged two, reading to some of his toys.

When he was only two, Rob would line up his toys on the couch, sit in the middle, and “read” to them. He would almost recite the stories from beginning to end. He already knew that the words in a book remain the same each time they are read — an important concept for beginning readers to grasp. When he was only three, he’d jump into bed beside me in the early morning after Hub had gone to work, prise my eyes open, and read to me! Magic!

Daughter Bec was born twelve years after Rob. Meanwhile, I had returned to college and studied the development of reading and language. I was amazed to find that we had unwittingly created the essential mix of ingredients for his learning to occur

Naturally, armed with experience as well as understanding, I did things pretty much the same for Bec — talking, reading, writing, playing, having fun and enjoying time together.

Bec sharing one of her favourite books.

Bec sharing one of her favourite books.

When she was five, Bec was invited to participate in a study of children who learned to read before starting school. Of the children (maybe half a dozen) involved in the study, Bec was the only one the researcher considered to be really reading. She was reading fluently, with comprehension and at a higher level than the other children.

Some of the children were able to recognise isolated words, but not read them in continuous text. Others had been taught letters and sounds using flashcards and stopped to ‘sound’ out every word. They hadn’t become real readers.

Bec was not subjected to reading “lessons” as the other children had been. She was immersed in an environment that encouraged a love of learning, language and literacy.  The other parents had a need for their children to read as if their value as parents depended on it.

While I had an expectation that Bec would read, I was confident that she would come to it in her own time. My credibility as a parent was not tied to her ability. Having said that, both children (adults) are now very successful in their chosen fields, so I must have done something right. Or perhaps we were just lucky that we chanced upon the magic mix of ingredients.

I do wish that all parents would include a sprinkle of language and a pinch of reading mixed with love and fun into their children’s lives every day. It would contribute greatly toward eradicating illiteracy.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills: magic

What got me thinking about reading, and magic in particular, is the challenge by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes magic. It can be a supernatural force, a moment or idea, or use it as a verb. Go where the prompt leads.

The ability to be transported into other realms is pure magic. The ability to share this magic with others is bliss.

Mem Fox has more to say about that in her lovely book for parents Reading Magica book I always include when selecting gifts for first-time parents.

Reading Magic by Mem Fox

Here is my response to Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

A Sprinkle of This and a Pinch of That

“Whatcha doin?”

“Makin’ a spell.”

“What sorta spell?”

“A magic spell.”

“Can I help?”

“Sure.”

“Whadda I do?”

“Put stuff in the pot.”

“What sorta stuff?”

“Gotta read the recipe.”

“What’s it say?”

“Ya gotta read it.”

“I can’t.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll help. Look, it says …”

Mum stopped at the door to the kitchen. “Wha— What are you doing?”

“Nothin’,” mumbled the older.

“Makin’ magic spells,” grinned the younger, covered in flour from head to toe.

“What sort of magic spell?” asked Mum, wishing for her own magic spell.

“Take us to outa space.”

“Can I come too?”

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Smorgasbord End of Summer Party – Afternoon Tea – Colleen Chesebro, Sue Hampton, Jane Gogerty, Norah Colvin, Jane Risdon, Wendy Janes, Gigi Sedlmayer, Jena C. Henry and Darlene Foster

I’m absolutely delighted to be invited to Sally Cronin’s place for afternoon tea with an amazing line up of writerly guests, a delicious array of food, and music to please the ears. Thank you, Sally. 🙂

happy birthday readilearn early childhood teaching resources

readilearn: teaching resources for celebrating birthdays in the early childhood classroom

How do you celebrate birthdays in your early childhood classroom? Suggestions from readilearn help you make a birthday a special event in your classroom.

I’m excited! Today, 24 August 2018, marks readilearn’s second birthday. How quickly those years have passed and how the collection has grown in that time.

When I started out with the goal of reducing teachers’ workloads by preparing lessons ready for them to teach, I made a commitment to upload new resources regularly, write a weekly blog post focusing on topics of interest to early childhood teachers, including suggestions for teaching, and publish a newsletter on the last day of each month.

I am proud to say that I have fulfilled that commitment. With more than two hundred resources added to the collection since the launch, that’s an addition of an average of two new resources each week. More than forty resources in the collection are interactive lessons for teachers to teach on the interactive whiteboard, exceeding the ten percent minimum I set as a target.

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Are You Ready to Rodeo?

It’s on again! Are you game? It’s time to polish your boots!

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

To a buckaroo community, the annual rodeo was a chance to show off skills of the trade: reining a cow-horse, throwing a loop and dallying a rope, wrestling a steer to the ground, and tying a goat. Yours truly was the Goat Tying Champion of a long-forgotten rodeo.

I still remember the smell of horse apples condensed in the stalls where all the ranchers and buckaroos boarded their horses during the three-day event. My red hair sported gold yarn bows at the end of each braid, and I had a brand-new felt hat the color of a chocolate lab.

I’d been practicing with the migrant children down at the barn. We could all toss a goat with the same ease our fathers and uncles could take a steer to the ground — it was all about mastering leverage. After practice, we’d eat pinto beans and tortillas. Someone would pass around…

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flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

Wishing on a comet

Comet flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a comet. You can consider how it features into a story, influences a character, or creates a mood. Go where the prompt leads.

When I think of comets, I think of Halley’s Comet which passed by in 1986. At the time my son was twelve, my daughter was not yet born, and I was teaching a class of seven to nine-year-olds. My son and the children I taught may be lucky enough to see the comet for a second time when it returns in 2061. I wonder how many will still have the time capsule we made that year, and if they have it, think to open it. They will all be in their eighties.

It wasn’t an elaborate time capsule; really just a large envelope with stories and information about us, and I’m not sure what else. I was recently in contact with one of the girls from that class and she remembers the night we had a sleepover at school to look at the comet, and she still has the time capsule she made. I think that’s pretty cool. How special to create these shared memories that last.

My response to Charli’s prompt is about creating shared memories.

You may recall my previous two flash stories, the first of which was my first attempt at writing romance. He invited her to go camping. She was reluctant but gave in when she ran out of excuses. When she arrived at the campgrounds she saw the words “Marry me” spelled out with solar fairy lights. But he was nowhere to be seen.

It got such a good response that I continued the story the following week, leaving the conclusion open-ended. This too received a great response, thank you, and encouragement for me to continue the story along with lots of suggestions and ideas of how to do so. You were undecided about his intentions – were they honourable or not? At the end of the episode, she pushes back the tent flap and screams. But at what? It’s at this moment that I pick up the story, guided by Charli’s prompt. I hope you enjoy it.

flash fiction story about a comet and a marriage proposal

An Imperfect Proposal

“What the…?”

He scrambled through bushes, slipping and sliding on twigs and gravel in haste to his love. When he reached her, she was doubled over holding her belly.

“What happened?”

She shook her head.

“What’s wrong?”

“I thought…” Her body shook.

“What?” he soothed, wiping away tears.

“Snake… I thought…” She pointed.

On the bed lay the strap of his telescope bag coiled neatly.

“You’re laughing?”

She nodded.

——

Camping became their family tradition, but their children’s favourite story was of the “snake” that frightened Mum, not of the comet that graced the sky the night that he proposed.

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Interview with Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World's Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington

readilearn: Introducing Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate

This week I have enormous pleasure in introducing you to Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate, written by Michelle Worthington.

The World’s Worst Pirate is a captivating book about being true to yourself and unleashing your inner strengths.

Story Synopsis

One might wonder why Will, the world’s worst pirate, would want to be a pirate anyway. The truth is, he didn’t. There wasn’t much at all he liked about being at sea. He was happiest in the galley cooking cupcakes. The ship’s captain, his mother, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why he didn’t love being a pirate as much as she did. When the ship is attacked by a terrifying sea monster, no one could have predicted the outcome. Katrin Dreiling’s illustrations are a perfect fit or Michelle Worthington’s story. They add humour, delight, and a sub-plot of their own.

The Illustrator

The World’s Worst Pirate, published by Little Pink Dog Books in 2017, is Katrin’s first picture book. In 2018 the book received the CBCA Notable Book award, a wonderful achievement, especially for a first book. Prior to becoming an illustrator in Australia, Katrin studied languages in Germany to become a teacher. She loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative themselves. Katrin’s second book, also written by Michelle and published by Little Pink Dog Books, will launch in September this year.  Katrin also enjoys writing for children and regularly teaches art classes in Newfarm, Brisbane.

The Interview

Welcome to readilearn, Katrin.

Thank you for inviting me.

Katrin, The World’s Worst Pirate was listed as a Notable Picture Book in the CBCA 2018 Book of the Year awards. Congratulations. Since it is your very first published picture book, that must have been very special. How did it make you feel?

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flash fiction story about peering from the bushes

Peering from the bushes

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

One of the multitude of my favourite picture books is Hattie and the Fox, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.

I am allowed a multitude of favourites, aren’t I?

Like children, it’s too hard to choose just one. I don’t mean just biological children, I mean the children I teach. They all become ‘my’ children the moment they enter my classroom and remain that way forevermore. How could I choose a favourite?

Hattie and the Fox is a fun story for reading aloud. The children love to join in, especially with the dialogue, and even enjoy acting it out. The cumulative and repetitive features of the story, along with the rhythmic text, support beginning readers who beg to read the story again and again.

While my daughter never liked it when I ‘put on voices’ to read, the children in my class did. Somehow they didn’t think it was me putting on voices. They became involved in the story and thought it was the characters speaking. I used to smile to myself when they’d say things like, “That cow, she’s so funny.” And mimic my reading. Although I am no Mem Fox (you can listen to her read the story here), they enjoyed it anyway.

In the story, Hattie the hen announces that she can see a nose in the bushes. The other animals show little interest. Even when Hattie announces that she can see two eyes, two legs, a body, four legs and a tail, they are not concerned. Only when she realises and announces that it’s a fox peering from the bushes, do the others respond.

Peering from the woods, Charli Mills flash fiction Carrot Ranch

I couldn’t help but think of Hattie and the eyes peering at her from the bushes when Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

We don’t have “the woods” in Australia. We have “the bush”. There could be any number of things peering at us from the bushes such as possums, koalas, kangaroos, drop bears, bunyips, or a great variety of birds. Most are fairly harmless. It was deer peering from the woods in Charli’s story.

While deer are not native to Australia, some were imported for hunting and farming purposes. Many of those escaped to freedom. Some roam the suburbs destroying vegetation and creating hazards for unsuspecting motorists. We’ve occasionally come across a group of them in the middle of the road when we come home late at night. At Christmas time the road signs warning of deer are decorated with tinsel and red pompom noses to add to the festive mood.

two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Last week, in response to Charli’s ‘yellow tent’ prompt, I attempted a romantic story which was rather well received. I decided to continue the story. You may remember that a reluctant camper, unable to find any further excuses, finally agreed to join her boyfriend. When she arrived, the campsite was deserted except for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” and her fears melted. But should she have dropped her guard?

Surprise!

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

Is that what he expected? What do you think was in the tent? Why was he peering from the bushes? What happens now?

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interactive whiteboard teaching resources for kindergarten

readilearn: Interactive whiteboard resources for kindergarten

“I’ve got an interactive whiteboard in my room but I don’t know how to use it.”

“What readilearn resources can I use with my kindergarten children?’

“Schools have said they want our children to come to school able to listen and follow instructions. What resources can we use?”

These are some of the statements and questions that teachers of children in their kindergarten year, the year before they start formal schooling, have put to me.

The main focus of my preparation of readilearn teaching resources is on the first three years of school. I hadn’t considered their application with children aged four to five. However, teachers have assured me that some of the readilearn interactive whiteboard lessons are very suitable for children in kindergarten as one part of a rich play-based learning-focused environment.

Using readilearn lessons on the interactive whiteboard in kindergarten

  • provides variety,
  • introduces children to the use of technology and some of the skills involved such as drag and drop, and click to select items,
  • provides opportunities for children to take turns, work cooperatively, listen actively to the teacher and other children,
  • encourages vocabulary development – the lessons are intended to be teacher-led and involve discussion with the children.

readilearn lessons support kindergarten teachers with

  • lessons ready to teach – login in the morning, keep one tab open – stay logged in for the day,
  • opportunities for children to make the connection between print and spoken language,
  • providing children who are ready to read opportunities of doing so.

readilearn interactive resources and lessons suitable for use in kindergarten:

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