Author Archives: Norah

About Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

This month I am delighted to introduce you to the very talented illustrator Muza Ulasowski. I’m certain you will find her illustrations to be quite remarkable.

Although Muza has illustrated many books, I first came across her work in the beautiful picture book Forest Wonder, written by Caroline Tuohey. It is Forest Wonder, a winner of international awards, that Muza and I are discussing today. Before we get started on the interview, first let me tell you a little about Muza.

 Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that

Continue reading: Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

Ready for landing

Air travel wasn’t available when I was a child, or not for me anyway. I am unable to recall anyone in my circles, family or friend, who travelled anywhere by air. Perhaps we weren’t an adventurous lot, but air travel wasn’t as easy, affordable, comfortable, quick, or commonplace as it is now.

Though I’d often thought I’d love to be a bird soaring above the world, I was a young adult before I experienced my first flight. I was entranced by the land below as I sailed on the wind in a glider, like a bird on the wing.

It was a couple of years later that I had my first plane fight, and many years later before I travelled internationally. Yes, I’ve lived a sheltered life. Like many of the younger generations, my grandchildren have already experienced air travel, both within Australia and internationally. They would require almost as many fingers as I to count plane trips.

Whether travelling or not, airports are always a great place to visit with children. There is much to observe, learn, wonder about, and imagine.

Watching planes take off and land can fascinate children, and encourage all sort of questions, not only about the physics of flight, but the types and features of planes, the airlines, and where they are going to or coming from.

People watching can also be absorbing and encourage even more questions about the jobs people are doing and the reasons for them, where the people are going to or coming from, and who they are travelling with.

There is much to see and learn about, like passports, boarding passes, security scanners, customs officers, flight attendants, cleaners, retailers, baggage handlers, check-in operators. Or there were, until recently. Some of these roles have now been automated.

The boards showing arrivals and departures can spark discussions about places around the world, the people who live there, and who might be travelling to or from each location and for what purpose.

The currency exchange tellers with their constantly changing figures can lead to even more discussions.

I’m sure I’ve omitted more than I’ve included and that you can add many other points of interest.

But knowledge of what goes on in airports is not all that can be developed. Children’s imaginations can also be inspired. Observation tells so much. The gaps can be filled by imaginations creating stories of what might be.

I was doing my share of people watching recently while waiting for the arrival of daughter Bec on a flight from Canberra. People were coming and going, some hurriedly, others more relaxed. Some were obviously waiting for their own flights, others waited with them. Others, like I was, were waiting for the arrival of family or friend.

Sadly, we were all to be disappointed. Brisbane experienced an unusual weather event – dense evening fog which prevented planes from landing or taking off. Bec’s plane turned back to Canberra mid-flight. At least she was returned home. It wasn’t so for some of the other passengers, stranded for additional days away from their destination, be it home, holiday or other.

Evening fog in Brisbane is unusual; morning fog, less so. Last year when returning from LA, my flight was diverted to Coolangatta. Fortunately, disruptions to travel caused by fog are not frequent.

But why am I thinking about planes and airports?

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an unexpected landing. It can be acrobatic, an unplanned move or created into a metaphor. Go where the prompt, or chickens, lead.

This is where my thoughts landed after a foggy start.

Ready for landing

“Are we there yet?”’

“Not yet, Honey. Look. This is us. This is where we’re going. Another couple of hours. Watch a movie. Then we’ll be almost there.”

Mum replaced her mask and earplugs. Soon there’d be others to entertain Flossie while she relaxed on the beach or caught up with old friends.

She hadn’t realised she’d drifted off until Flossie’s insistent, “How much longer?” awakened her.

“Must be soon,” she flicked on the flight tracker.

“Please fasten your seatbelts for landing.”

“Yep. Almost there.”

“DIVERTED” flashed on and off the screen.

“What! Where?” She squinted. “Home! Why?”

Fog!

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

Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Learning about life on a farm holds great interest for children and many opportunities for integrated learning across the curriculum. Most of today’s children are town-dwellers and have little experience with rural and farm life. Many have no idea where their food comes from beyond the attractive supermarket shelves.

This week I have uploaded some new resources which support an early childhood K-2 unit of work about farms. However, they can be used as part of a literacy program, independent of a farm unit. Sight words and phonic skills can be developed through reading in a context that is both meaningful and interesting to children.

New resources include:

On the farm Who am I? This interactive digital story is great for use on the interactive whiteboard. Children are presented with a series of clues to help them identify an animal that lives on a farm. Children select the answer from those provided. The resource includes both domestic and “wild” animals.

Continue reading: Learning about life on a farm – Readilearn

Shine a light

The flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about a beacon. It can be from a lighthouse or other source. Use the word literally or figuratively and go where the prompt leads you.

Charli writes about our fear of change, fear of the unknown, and of the need for guides “to bring us in to a new harbor, a light to show us the rocky shoals.” She suggests that “Perhaps blogging, writing, are mediums of light that shine a path to bridge cultural differences.” but also acknowledges that, “Instead of looking for a way, some people have backed out of the water and barricaded themselves on the beach.

I see education as the way that will bring us to a “new harbour”, the light that will “shine a path to bridge cultural differences”. Sadly, as I say in my poem about education, there is far too much emphasis on schooling and not enough on education, too much desire to keep the masses down by the insistence on conformity and ignorance rather than the encouragement of creativity.

© Norah Colvin

I was well-schooled as a child, but have spent my adulthood exploring what it means to be educated and promoting the benefits of a learner-centred education as opposed to other-directed schooling. I read of a book about “teaching backward”, beginning with what the student needs to know and working backwards. (Needs as determined by others, not the student.) I’d rather teach forwards, beginning with what the student wants to know and going from there.

When my earliest teaching experiences fell short of my expectations, I searched for the beacons to guide my way out of the murkiness in which I found myself. I devoured books by John Holt, A. S. Neill, Ivan Illich, Paolo Freire, and others, with ideas about education and schooling that were as challenging as they were exciting. I read of innovative educators such as John Dewey, Maria Montessori, and Rudolf Steiner.

The ideas challenged what I’d been taught but blended comfortably what I had learned through observation of children, including my own young child, and relating it to my own experiences. The pieces began to fit.

At about the same time, I undertook further studies in literacy learning and was fortunate to work with a team of inspired educators led by Brian Cambourne, whose work and guidance placed the piece that helped the puzzle take shape, and guided my learning journey.

Beacons, or shining lights, that guide and inspire us, are as essential to our growth as sunlight is for plants. Educators such as those mentioned, and more recently, Ken Robinson, Rita Pierson, and many others, are such beacons. We are constantly told of the success of the Finnish school system and I wonder why it is that those holding the power in other school systems fail to see their light. We need at least one to rise above the fog of number crunching and data collecting to see the bright lights shining on the hill.

Is it fear, as Charli suggests, that keeps them out of the water? I watched the movie Monsters Inc on the weekend. It seems to deal with the issue of controlling the masses with falsehoods and fear quite well. It is also a great laugh – one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen for a while. If you haven’t seen it yet, I recommend it.

I’ve attempted a similar situation with my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope it works.

Let there be light

Eyes squinted in the dim light under low ceilings. Immobilised by never-ending paperwork, the menials dared not look up. Flickering numbers on data scoreboards mesmerised supervisors. Inconsistencies meant remonstrations, even punishment, from above. Heads down, keep working, don’t ask questions. The system worked fine, until … Maxwell nodded off. His pencil fell, tapped first, then rolled away. Startled, Maxwell went after it. The room stilled. Sliding too fast, he slammed into the wall, activating a button that illuminated a set of stairs leading up. Everyone gasped. Maxwell hesitated, took one step, then another. Nothing happened. He continued. Everyone followed.

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

 

Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

This week, from 2 – 9 July, is NAIDOC Week in Australia with celebrations occurring all around the country. The purpose of the week is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Islander Peoples and acknowledge their contributions to our country. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

The theme of this year’s celebration is Our Languages Matter. When Europeans first arrived in Australia a little more than 200 years ago, more than 250 Indigenous languages were in use across the land. As the languages were spoken, not written, many of these languages have been erased. Fewer than half that number remain, and many of the young people are no longer familiar with the language of their ancestors.

According to the NAIDOC website,

“The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.”

This article in the Conversation provides a little more information about Australian Indigenous languages and the Dreaming.

By now, NAIDOC Week celebrations are almost over, and most Australian school children are enjoying their mid-year break. However, many teachers will be looking for ways to share the celebrations with their students when school resumes. As any time is a good time to incorporate learning about Indigenous culture and history, in this post, I provide links

Continue reading: Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

Security comforters

Many young children have a favourite soft toy or item which they cart around with them and can’t be without. Linus with his security blanket in the Charlie Brown comics is a good example.

The strong emotional attachment to an object, most commonly something soft and cuddly, generally occurs during  those years before school age when children are making the transition from total dependence to independence.

One of my children had a mohair blanket which seemed to be constantly with her. She would twirl and tease the hair until she had a little ball of fluff which she rolled between her fingers and used to caress her nose as she sucked her thumb. I would find little balls of fluff all over the house and, over a couple of years of such treatment, ‘Blankie” became quite threadbare.

I knew children who had favourite dolls they dragged around everywhere. They would become quite distressed if their dolls could not be found.

I knew children who could not be without their “Blankie” so mothers bought two identical so that one could replace the other while it was being washed.

Whatever the focus, it never seemed to matter how old, tatty, and frayed the items became, they were loved no less.

Newer toys and blankets made of microfibres are very soft and comforting, and perhaps more durable.

I don’t remember having a special toy or blanket for security. Do you?

Chances are, if I had one, I would have destroyed it somehow in attempting to discover its properties, as I was known to do with other toys. In my mind it wasn’t destruction, it was discovery. (Is that the excuse of those who invent weapons of mass destruction?)

Or possibly my lack of memory is more related to the fact that we have very few memories of our earliest years. According to this article by Australian science communicator Dr Karl Kruszelnicki, childhood amnesia may be related to neurogenesis. The rapid increase of new nerve cells in those formative years means that the old nerve cells are over-written and hence memories erased.

The need for these comforters in young children is generally outgrown by the time children are of school age. The toys and blankets are discarded and forgotten as the children mature and other activities fill their time and minds.

But for children experiencing higher levels of insecurity and anxiety, the need may continue. For Marnie, a character about whom I wrote many flash fiction stories, a unicorn toy was of comfort 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..

I’m thinking about security objects and flash fiction again this week in response to Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something frayed. It could be fabric, like a flag or garment. It could also be nerves or temper. What is it to be frayed?

However, I haven’t written about Marnie and her unicorn this time, but something else that’s frayed. I hope you enjoy it.

Second-hand store

He’d perched on the stool for longer than anyone knew. Though his coat was threadbare and his bowtie frayed, nothing could erase his smile as he waited daily for a tinkle announcing a potential buyer. The days, though long, were not too long for one as imaginative as he, conjuring stories for items cluttering the shelves.

One day a woman in a large blue hat and floral coat examined everything in the store, so quietly, he’d forgotten she was there. She startled him saying, “I’ll take him.”

Lovingly restored, he took his place alongside others in the Toy Museum.

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

 

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn