Author Archives: Norah

About Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

The significance of number

It’s not always wise to follow the crowd.

Remember the story of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Andersen?

A pair of weavers tricked the conceited Emperor into believing they had made him a fine set of clothes; clothes so fine, they would be visible only to those worthy of their position, and invisible to anyone lacking intelligence. Not wanting to appear stupid, his subjects were quick to join in the admiration of his (invisible) clothes. It took a young child to see through the claims and announce the deception.

Honesty is a trait often admired, even found refreshing, in children. However, the same kind of honesty is not always endearing in an adult. As we grow, many of us learn to use a little more finesse when telling someone what we think of them or their work. It is sometimes wiser to take the side road, rather than the direct route.

I have always loved the story of the Emperor and his invisible clothes. I found the people’s dishonesty frustrating. I just wanted to shake them, “Can’t you see?” But I loved that it was a child who told it like it was.

The story is a wonderful allegory for so much that is going on in the world today, and probably always has. (The story was published 180 years ago.) Someone comes up with a bright new idea. It is promoted; and before long everyone is following the trend, proclaiming its, often-questionable, value. It happens in education too. Those who see through the hype are often ridiculed.

The importance of interrogating ideas to determine their worth cannot be overstated. The ability to question and to think critically is essential for an intelligent society. Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t make it wise, right, or best.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a wise story. It can be about wisdom, expressing wisdom or advice for turning 50! It can be a wise-cracking story, too. Go where wisdom leads you.

The reason for the prompt including the suggestion of “advice for turning 50” is that Charli celebrated her significant 50th birthday on the weekend.

I remember turning 50. I had a big party that I spent months organising. A magician helped break the ice early in the evening and prepared everyone for joining in games that were interspersed throughout the evening. People danced and were entertained by a musical duo who also liked to tell jokes. It was a memorable occasion for me, if not for anyone else. I’m pleased I did it then, as I wouldn’t be bothered now, though the numbers do seem to get significantly bigger each year.

It was about that time that I realised I wasn’t as mature and wise as I’d expected to be. Didn’t adults give the appearance of wisdom when I was a child? They’d certainly seemed convinced of what they were telling me, and rarely displayed hesitation in decision making. I figured, if I wasn’t mature and wise by then, I was never going to be. So what the hell. I’d just stay a six-year-old for life!

Remember the A. A. Milne poem?

“When I was One,
I had just begun.
When I was Two,
I was nearly new.
When I was Three
I was hardly me.
When I was Four,
I was not much more.
When I was Five, I was just alive.
But now I am Six, I’m as clever as clever,
So I think I’ll be six now for ever and ever.”

Anyway, I would like to wish Charli a very happy fiftieth birthday, and welcome her to the second half-century. I’ve been there a while and it’s not too bad. I’d hazard a guess that it’s better than the alternative. There are still plenty of new discoveries to be made. But you must make the most those years. They can just fly away.

Coinciding with her birthday, Charli has announced a new project on her website. Charli is a wonderful source of support and inspiration to writers all over the globe and, as you know, the instigator of the flash fiction I, and many others, write each week.

Charli says, “If I can raise the funds, I will start an imprint for Carrot Ranch, expand our platform to benefit those who write in this community and seek new ways to inspire and inform other writers beyond the ranch hands.” She is developing a Patreon. If you would like to help Charli get this work started, please ride on over to her website and donate to the project.

In the meantime, here is my response to her challenge to write a “wise” story. I hope you enjoy it.

Growing into wisdom.

“My Dad knows everything!” bragged six-year-old Billy.

“Parents,” grumbled Will E., at surly sixteen, “They know nothing.”

For thirty-year-old William, at the top of his game, conversations were strained. One more “In our day…” he’d surely explode.

By forty-five, with kids of his own, “But kids are different these days,” Will would state.

Dad would wink and suggest, “Not that different.”

Throughout the fifties, his recalcitrant teens mirrored those years of his own.

Into his sixties, with kids gone and more time for chatting with Dad, he discovered, almost too late, they shared more than he had ever appreciated.

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

Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

This month I am pleased to welcome first time author Cynthia Mackey to the readilearn blog.

Cynthia has always loved children’s literature.  After years of teaching preschool and kindergarten, she is proud to have written her first children’s book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker.  Cynthia writes in her spare time and has plans to publish more picture books for children.  She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her family and her piano where she faithfully continues her weekend pancake tradition.

Synopsis: In Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker, Katie is too young to use the stove so she dreams of making her very own pancakes. Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion

for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie’s pancake dream!  This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike.  The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds.  Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality!

Welcome to readilearn, Cynthia. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

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

Continue reading: Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

Fair trade – what’s it to you?

What do you think of when you hear the word “trading”?

International trade? Stock market trading? Trading one item for another? Perhaps a Trade Fair, or selling items at a market stall? Trading as your *business name*? Maybe you are committed to purchasing “Fair Trade” in support of the  World Fair Trade Organisation’s aim of making international trade more equitable?

As an early childhood teacher, I think of trading games that we use in maths lessons to help children understand place value. In our decimal system, we use ten digits in various combinations to represent numbers. Placement of each digit is vital; for example, 290 is very different from 902.

Without a firm understanding of place value, it is difficult to work with numbers efficiently. I believe that many difficulties with number stem from insufficient understanding of place value. Children need to experience numbers in a variety of contexts to fully understand the decimal system.

For younger children just beginning to learn about two-digit numbers, we may connect interlocking blocks or bundle popsticks to form groups of ten.

 

When children have a firm understanding of the grouping process, and the way the numbers are represented with two digits, they move to a similar process with numbers over one hundred. It is at this time that we introduce trading.

Instead of using interlocking cubes or other items that can be linked or bundled, ten individual cubes are traded for one ten, and ten tens are traded for a one hundred flat, and so on.

I feel so strongly about the importance of children learning place value, that I have made a variety of resources for teaching it. The resources, available from readilearn; include:

Beginning place value – the train game

Race to 99 – A place value game for maths groups

The interactive resources

Let’s read 2-digit numbers

and Let’s write 2-digit numbers

Playing games has always been a favourite activity for me, and always popular for family gatherings. We’d quite often we’d spend holidays, like Christmas and Easter, when the children were growing up, playing board games or card games. One of our favourite games, especially if there were larger numbers of people (up to ten) was a trading game called “Billionaire”. It is a raucous game. Everyone is engaged all the time. Play involves trading cards (commodities) with each other, and this involves much shouting (over the top of each other) and laughter. If you have never played it, but enjoy games, and have a group of four or more to play, I highly recommend it. (Sorry, I couldn’t find it to add a photo. It’s hidden away in the games cupboard somewhere.)

I couldn’t write about trading without mentioning Jack and the Beanstalk. Mother sends Jack off to the market to sell the cow. Along the way, he meets a man with a handful of “magic” beans which he offers to trade for the cow. Not having heard the saying, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, Jack agrees. Of course, Mother is none too pleased and throws the seeds out the window. But, as the story shows, Jack was right to trade and rewarded for his ignorance of the oft-touted adage. (The story also raises other issues regarding trespass, theft, and causing fatal injuries. But we won’t go there this time.)

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about trading. It can be the profession of old or of modern day traders on Wall Street. It can be trading places or lunches at school. What is traded? Is it a fair deal or a dupe? Trade away and go where the prompt leads you.

For my response I’ve ended up in the playground yet again. It involves a little trading of cards, but more a trading of power. I hope it works.

Trade fair

Cards, were coveted like gold. To belong, one was enough; more better. Each lunchtime the boys showed off new acquisitions, compared intelligence and strength points, and traded duplicates. Fair and friendly battles pitted minds, the winner claiming card supremacy. Then bully Boris won, and none dared challenge. Until Justin, tired of Boris’s tactics, dared.  The group gasped. It seemed Justin would be crushed. But clever cardless Frank slipped in and showed the winning move.  Boris growled, “Inadmissible” and threatened repercussions. Defiant, Justin handed Frank a card, bestowing membership. Empowered, each boy followed, declaring Frank the Master, and trading opened.

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

 

Thinking mathematically – Readilearn

Mathematical thinking involves more than just being able to count and recite number facts. The ability to solve mathematical problems requires us to think flexibly and creatively with numbers. We need to see that there are multiple ways of interpreting a situation and reaching a solution. It is never too early to get children thinking.

An easy way to get started is to give children a variety of objects to count. Rather than always counting groups of similar objects; for example, counters, bottle caps, or teddy bears, it is important for children to realise that collections for counting

Continue reading: Thinking mathematically – Readilearn

Stone fruit salad

Soup, especially chicken soup is one of those foods considered good for the soul, mind, and body, and often suggested to speed recovery after an illness. There may be more to the belief than simple folklore. It’s healing properties are what inspired the popular series of Chicken Soup for the Soul books. As Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen saidthey wanted it to soothe and provide comfort, just like their grandmothers’ cooking.

I was reminded of this when Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch dished up her flash fiction prompt this week, challenging writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about comfort food.

How could I go past soup? But what soup? Chicken soup? Pumpkin soup? Tomato soup? No, stone soup.

I’m sure you are familiar with at least one of the versions of the story Stone Soup. Basically, some hungry travellers come to a village. They cannot afford to buy food and, although they ask, the townspeople refuse to share with them. Undaunted, the travellers heat up a pot of hot water with a stone in it. They explain to the curious villagers that their “soup” would taste better with the addition of certain ingredients. Intrigued, the villagers happily provide the ingredients. When the soup is ready, the stone is removed and the travellers share the delicious and nutritious soup with the villagers.

With its messages about sharing, working together, and improving things by combined participation, it is a great story to read to and discuss with young children. It could be used to introduce a class cooking activity, such as making soup or stew, to which each child contributes an ingredient.

Although English can be confusing with its multi-meaning words and phrases that have little apparent connection to the individual words used, I think children would understand the story and realise that the stone was not eaten but removed from the soup once it had served its purpose.

Wouldn’t they?

I wondered how it might be interpreted if children were asked to contribute a piece of fruit to a class fruit salad.

Fruit salad

Billy barely paused to say, “Hi, Mum,” as he tossed her a piece of paper and kept going.

The back door slammed, startling Baby. ‘In one door and out the other,” Mum said, as Dad appeared. “What’s he up to?”

Dad watched from the window as Billy took pebbles from the garden, inspected them carefully, then arranged them in neat piles.

“Strange,” said Dad. “I don’t know. He seems to be looking for something. Said they’re making fruit salad at school tomorrow.”

Mum read the note he’d tossed at her, then smiled.

“He’s to take stone fruit,” she said.

 

I guess if Billy contributes a stone, and the other children contribute fruit, they’ll have a delicious, nutritious, and refreshing snack to comfort them on a warm summer’s day. What do you think?

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

 

 

 

Celebrating Mums – Readilearn

Six early years activities for celebrating Mother’s Day. Develop literacy skills while making a personalised and special gift for Mums.

Mother’s Day is celebrated on the second Sunday in May in many countries, including Australia, the United States, and Canada. With the celebration little more than a week away, I thought I’d share some suggestions that are low on cost but packed with learning opportunities to incorporate into your class literacy and art programs.

Encouraging children to create and give a gift from the heart demonstrates that not all gifts need come from a shop. It allows children from even the poorest families to give their Mums a special Mother’s Day gift. It helps develop their creativity and teaches them skills that they can apply in future gift-giving situations. It shows how thoughtfulness and imagination can combine to make a unique gift that will be treasured.

A gift of love lasts longer than many store-bought gifts.

  1. Read picture books featuring mothers

A few of my favourites are:

Continue reading: Celebrating Mums – Readilearn

An oily problem

It would be difficult to imagine our daily lives without access to oil and oil products. Transportation is one of the most obvious uses of oil, but did you know that many items we use every day are made from oil or its by-products?

Some of these products include:

  • Plastics such as food containers, toys, computers and printers, white goods, CD cases
  • Synthetics used in items such as clothing, curtains, furniture upholstery, carpets
  • Cosmetics such lipsticks, moisturisers, deodorants and antiperspirants
  • Nylons used in stockings, ropes, tents, parachutes
  • Polystyrene used in cups, coolers, packaging
  • Toothpaste, chewing gum, dentures, contact lenses

The list, unlike oil, is almost inexhaustible.

But there is a downside to oil too. Oil spills in the ocean are an enormous issue for marine life. In this Ted talk The Great Penguin Rescue, “the penguin lady” Dyan deNapoli talks about an oil spill that occurred when a ship sank off the coast of South Africa in the year 2000, oiling nearly 20,000 (almost half) of the total population of African penguins, and the efforts made to rescue them.

deNapoli explains that a degreaser used to remove the oil from the pelicans was invented by a 17-year-old boy. How cool is that. She says that more than 1,000 volunteers turned up each day to help with the rescue, and continues

“After half a million hours of grueling volunteer labor, more than 90 percent of those oiled penguins were successfully returned to the wild. And we know from follow-up studies that they have lived just as long as never-oiled penguins, and bred nearly as successfully.”

It is an inspiring story, not only for the penguin rescue, but for the learning deNapoli credits to the rescue. She says,

“Personally, I learned that I am capable of handling so much more than I ever dreamed possible. And I learned that one person can make a huge difference. Just look at that 17-year-old. And when we come together and work as one, we can achieve extraordinary things. And truly, to be a part of something so much larger than yourself is the most rewarding experience you can possibly have.”

deNapoli finishes her talk with the words,

“Humans have always been the greatest threat to penguins, but we are now their only hope.”

I hope you find time to listen to the entire talk. It is what inspired my flash fiction story in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills this week at the Carrot Ranch. Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes oil. It can be an oil refinery, the raw product or used as a commodity. How does oil fit into a plot or a genre? Go where the prompt leads.

Child citizen to scientist

Familiar sounds heralded his arrival: feet scraped stairs, bag thudded deck, screen door crashed.

Shouts of “Mum! Mum!” preceded him as he charged down the hallway, arms flailing, holding something aloft.

His words exploded in a jumble.  She deciphered few. Baby stopped suckling, curious.

“Slow down,” she said, patting the sofa with her free hand.

He thrust the brochure at her.

“I wanna adopt a penguin. Please, Mum. Can I?”

“Penguins can’t live here. It’s too hot,” Mum teased.

“Mu-um!” The words tumbled again. “Scientist… school… oil… penguins dying… ‘dangered… We have to save them from going extinct! Please!”

The title Child citizen to scientist refers to the now welcome involvement of citizens in the collection of scientific data, as described, for example, in this article on Fast Company about the collection of pollution data around the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

About 18 months ago, I published a post about a project led by science teacher Cesar Harada who encouraged his students to innovate and problem solve through science. He explained his project in this Ted Talk.

I particularly appreciated Harada’s conclusion about children and their involvement:

Who knows, if my young penguin adopter is encouraged, he may grow up to be scientist too.

For a picture book that introduces children to the concept of caring for our oceans, One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft and Allan Sheather is a great starting point. With its beautiful silk paintings, the book helps to educate children about the oceans, the way we pollute them, and what we need to do to protect them and their inhabitants.

If you are interested, there are a number of organisations through which you can adopt a penguin. These are just a few. I’ll leave it to you to investigate your best option. Just remember: you can’t take it home. 😊

Seabirds. Adopt a penguin

The Penguin Foundation

The World Wildlife Fund

Wildlife Adoption and Gift Centre

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