Monthly Archives: January 2019

flash fiction about analysing in detail works of art

Meaning in each word

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about shards. You can write about the pieces, the item they once were, or who picks them up and why. Go where the prompt leads.

I had an idea I wanted to craft into a story. I’ve had a go. I’m not certain that it expresses quite what I was hoping, and certainly not as explicitly as I hoped. I had wanted it to stand alone, requiring no other explanation or padding and, while it fails, I’ve let it do just that.

Analyse the Detail

The artisan turned each piece to the light, this way and that, fitting and refitting, arranging and rearranging. Finally, it was done. Each piece necessary and perfectly positioned creating the whole— exquisite, harmonious, illuminating—not one greater nor outshining any other. It filled each open heart with hopes of dreams fulfilled.

Another sought to analyse its beauty, the power of its message to explore. He picked out all the pieces one by one and examined each in every detail. Too late he saw that, shattered and alone, not one shard revealed a secret. Only united did their meaning shine.

Thank you blog post

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

 

ideas for using puzzles in the classroom to teach logical thinking and problem-solving

What can you do with a puzzle? – Readilearn

Puzzles are a fun way to encourage thinking and problem solving as well as mathematical and language skills. The celebration of National Puzzle Day on 29 January is a great excuse to introduce some puzzles into the classroom. The day may be American in origin, but there’s no reason the rest of us can’t join in the fun too.

I have always enjoyed puzzles; both the fun of figuring something out or solving a problem and the satisfaction in having done so.  My favourite types of puzzles include (in no particular order):

  • Jigsaw
  • Sudoku
  • Crosswords
  • Logic puzzles
  • Block puzzles
  • Word puzzles
  • Lateral thinking puzzles

Puzzles aren’t just those that come in a box, a book or online. Life presents us with puzzles and problems with regular frequency. Most days we will be faced with something that will stretch our thinking in divergent, convergent or lateral ways. It is good to provide children with opportunities to think too. Brief interludes of puzzle solving throughout the day can add fun, energise and refocus.

A variety of puzzles and resources to develop children’s thinking are available in the readilearn collection. Some are interactive lessons ready to teach on the interactive whiteboard. Others are printable for offline use. All provide opportunities for learning in context with the greatest benefit coming from the discussions with the teacher and other students.

Check out this previous post for other thoughts about Logical thinking and problem solving.

Learning with readilearn puzzles

Sorting puzzles

Continue reading: What can you do with a puzzle? – Readilearn

a selection of multicultural picture books

From my bookshelf — 22 Multicultural picture books – Readilearn

In last week’s post, Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review, I suggested that the day “provides us with an opportunity to examine the collections of books in our classrooms and libraries to determine if they reflect the lives our children.”

I decided that perhaps I should examine my own personal picture book collection too. While I am happy with the collection, there are gaps and I’m sure more could be added. However, I know that a visit to my local or school library will provide me with access to many more.

readilearn’s multicultural teaching resources

As well as investigating my book collection, I had a look at readilearn teaching resources to see how they stacked up.

The establishment of a supportive classroom, one that is welcoming to all, is a recurrent theme on readilearn; as are activities for getting to know one another and establishing friendship skills.

I am proud to say that, when children are included in illustrations, children from diverse backgrounds, even if not in traditional costume, are portrayed. This is intentional. You can see evidence of this on the Home page and in the Literacy and History banners as well as in teaching resources such as Friendship superpower posters and Who am I? Friends at play.

Resources that encourage children to get to know each other rank highly in the readilearn collection. The reason for this is my belief that with knowledge comes understanding, respect and friendship.

Continue reading: From my bookshelf — 22 Multicultural picture books – Readilearn

 

Don't give up - a yet attitude and growth mindset

Don’t give up – Yet!

Discussions of the importance of having a ‘yet’ attitude or a growth mindset abound, including on this blog. I am very much in favour of the ‘yet’ thinking, as proposed by Carol Dweck.

Basically, it means that we don’t consider our ability to learn as finite. We believe our potential to be constantly expanding. We may not know or be able to do something ‘yet’, but we can work at it and with each attempt come closer to achieving it.

The resolve to maintain a growth mindset can be challenged at times when the going gets tough and there is no obvious solution. It can be difficult knowing when enough is enough and it’s time to move on; or if success is hiding just around the corner or on a slight detour.

I often debate with myself about how to interpret the truth in the messages the universe seems to be sending, weighing up giving up against exerting just a little more persistence and patience. Consequently, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the unplanned theme in my response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week.

charli mill's flash fiction challenge - colonnades

Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads.

What could colonnades possibly have to do with a growth mindset you might think, as would I. But when I sat at the keyboard, without a clue of what to write, this is what developed. I hope you like it.

Never Give Up

The solid grey wall stretched without end, both left and right —impenetrable, no way around, no way through. Perhaps a way over? Even from that distance, it appeared unscaleable.

He removed his backpack and rested his head upon it as he lay, gazing upward. He sighed heavily. He’d trekked so far believing this was the way. How could he have been so wrong?

He closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Refreshed, upon awakening, he decided to continue rather than retreat.

As he drew closer, the wall separated into columns spaced perfectly to allow an easy passage.

Do you see what I saw emerge? A story about not giving up? Of the importance of adjusting focus when it seems a dead end is reached, when there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else to try? Or is the theme significant to only me as I try to find a way through the colonnades in my path?

As I was writing this story, I was reminded of one I wrote for children using the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty as a stimulus. In a similar way to Charli’s prompts, I was prompting children to think about possible reasons for Humpty Dumpty to be sitting on a wall and causes for him to fall.

The accident - an innovation on the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty

Of course, I couldn’t do the prompting without writing a story of my own: The Accident – Humpty Dumpty’s Fall.

In the story, ‘Humpty looked at the wall. He couldn’t see through it. He couldn’t see over it. And there was no way around it.’ He thought it was ‘no use’. Fortunately, his friend Pomble wasn’t one to give up quite so easily and found a way for them to see over the wall. It was what occurred when Humpty was looking over the wall that caused him to fall. I won’t tell you what happened but, unlike the nursery rhyme, my story has a happy ending.

Thank you blog post

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

Multicultural Children's Book Day review of I am Farmer

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review – Readilearn

Now in its sixth year and held on the last Friday in January, Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD) celebrates books that celebrate diversity. As classrooms are increasingly filled with children from a diversity of backgrounds, it is important to provide them with books that reflect their lives, books in which they can find themselves.

The purpose of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to create awareness of books that celebrate diversity and to get more of them into classrooms and libraries.

Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, co-founders of MCBD, define multicultural books as:

  • Books that contain characters of color as well as main characters that represent a minority point of view.
  • Books written by an author of diversity or color from their perspective. Search #ownvoices to discover diverse books written by diverse authors.
  • Books that share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, and traditions. These books can be non-fiction, but still written in a way that kids will find entertaining and informative.
  • Books that embrace special needs or even “hidden disabilities” like ADHD, ADD, and anxiety.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day provides us with an opportunity to examine the collections of books in our classrooms and libraries to determine if they reflect the lives our children.

This year, for the first time, I am participating in the MCBD celebrations with a review of I am Farmer, a picture book written by Miranda and Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. I am grateful to Miranda and Paul and publisher Millbrook Press for providing me with a link to access the book on NetGallery prior to its publication in early February.

I am Farmer - the story of a farmer in Cameroon who became an environmental hero

Continue reading: Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review – Readilearn

enriching lives and communities with education

Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

Education has the power to enrich lives. By education, I mean all of life’s experiences that contribute to learning. Sometimes these experiences occur in school. Mostly they don’t.

Schooling is but a small part of ones’ education, and its ability to enrich varies depending on:

  • an individual’s circumstances and attitudes to school and learning.
  • the school culture and attitudes to children and learning.
  • and the teacher’s attitude to children and learning.

Over the years I have been aware of enrichment programs offered in some schools. The programs were available to children considered ‘brighter’, having greater potential and, possibly, even ‘gifted’. The children were those who pleased their teachers with compliant behaviour and diligent work, and whose well-to-do families contributed to school facilities. Often, the program was a reward for children who needed neither incentive nor enrichment (their lives already had both) and an easy way for schools to say they were catering for diversity and individual differences.

The model of enrichment with which I was most familiar was a selective program offered one afternoon a week. Children were withdrawn from their regular classrooms to participate. Activities included things such as problem-solving, advanced science and maths, chess, reading and writing clubs.

In my opinion, these are activities which would benefit all children, especially those from impoverished homes who received little encouragement for learning, either in school or out, or opportunity for enrichment. My belief is that ‘enriched’ individuals enrich their communities and society as a whole. My suggestion of an early learning caravan, if implemented, would help remedy the situation for some.

early learning caravan

Surely education should be about enriching all lives, not just a few. It should be about asking, ‘What can I do to enrich your life, to provide opportunities for you to learn, and enhance your potential for a successful life?’ It shouldn’t just be ‘What can I cram into you for the test at the end of the week/month/term/year?’ I summed up some of these differences in my poem Education is.

poem about the difference between education and schooling

© Norah Colvin

Of course, not all schooling is a nightmare. Much of it is enriching. You only have to read the blogs of wonderful teachers like Jennie Fitzkee, Jacqui Murray, Marie Forst, Adam Hill and others, to realise that children’s lives are enriched by inspired teachers, every day.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

My life’s work has been an attempt to enrich the lives of others through education; from my years in the classroom to my current work on readilearn where I support teachers with resources to enhance their teaching and lighten their workload.

In so doing, my own life has been enriched in many ways. You see, I consider enrichment to be something that fills one up on the inside:

  • with feelings of self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence,
  • with a sense of purpose and empowerment,
  • with trust, understanding and empathy,
  • with compassion and love for others,
  • and an interest in all that is.

Enrichment has little to do with external riches (though most of us wouldn’t say ‘no’ to sufficient to make our lives comfortable).

I have always seen my roles as both parent and teacher, so closely entwined, to be not only a giving back but a paying forward to the future of the universe. My children, biological and in the classroom, have enriched my life enormously, and for that I am very grateful.

Enrichment flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

But why am I writing about enrichment this week? You might have guessed —in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the idea of enrichment. Use many of its different manifestations or explore reasons why it matters to the character. Go where the prompt leads.

I hope you like my story:

What Kind of Enrichment?

The meeting dragged. After analysing data, discussing duty rosters and responsibilities, lockdown and evacuation procedures, enthusiasm flagged. Jocelyn itched.  Last on the agenda; her topic was enrichment.

As she took the floor, groans and tapping pencils defied her resolve. A phone ban meant some eyes were on her, at least. Her suggestions of enrichment were met with derision.

“They don’t learn what we teach ‘em. ‘ow are we gonna’ enrich ‘em?’ Everyone laughed.

Jocelyn’s mouth opened to respond but gaped as Taya burst in bearing an enormous cake with candles ablaze.

“Now that’s my kind of enrichment.” Everyone cheered.

Thank you blog post

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

lessons and suggestions for teaching writing in the first three years of school

Establishing a writing classroom – Readilearn

Establishing a writing classroom, one in which children want to write, develop confidence in writing and develop the skills to write with accuracy and clarity, begins from the first day of school.

Characteristics of a writing classroom

Nine characteristics of a writing classroom are:

  • purposeful writing occurs throughout the day in all areas of the curriculum,
  • the process of writing is modelled,
  • children’s writing is scaffolded,
  • children write in response to set tasks,
  • children write about topics and in genres of their own choice,
  • the message is paramount,
  • writing conventions; such as spelling, punctuation and grammar, are learned by writing,
  • children’s writing is celebrated, and
  • children enjoy writing.

If children are provided only with writing tasks and topics set by the teacher, they may view writing simply as a task to perform, something to please the teacher, rather than as a vehicle for self-expression or for sharing imaginative and creative thoughts and stories or information.

Opportunities for writing occur throughout the day and should include:

Continue reading: Establishing a writing classroom – Readilearn