Author Archives: Norah

About Norah

Early childhood educator and resource developer.

The Swarm #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about swarms. What could swarm? How does the swarm impact the people or place in your story? Is there something unusual about the swarm? Go where the prompt leads!

I was pleased to have an extra week to respond to this one as I was unable to get it done during the first week due to family (holiday) commitments.

This is my response. I hope you like it and that it makes sense.

The Swarm

People swarmed like ants to a plate of jelly. Jodie stretched on tiptoes but saw nothing. She peered first left, then right, but heads blocked any view. There was nothing to hear — no singing, no instrument, no announcement. The crowd was silent and still. Jodie might have left but was trapped by others who’d filled the space behind. “What is it, Mummy?” her child whispered. Frowning faces pressed fingers to tight lips. “I can’t see anything,” the child declared. “Shhhhh!” the crowd admonished, breaking the spell. The swarm dispersed. “What was it, Mummy?” Jodie shrugged. “Nothing. It was nothing.”

So, what do you think? Did it make sense to you?

There were two things that influenced my story.

1. I was in the city recently and saw a long trail of people snaking through the mall. I wondered what they were queueing for, and whether they even knew.

Have you ever noticed that people like to crowd or queue when they see others doing so? I think it may be caused by a fear of missing out (FOMO) or perhaps a need to follow blindly. I’ve sometimes wondered how long it might take for a crowd to form if just one or two of us stood and stared at something (nothing) for a while.

I didn’t join the queue, but of course I was curious about what had attracted them. When I got near to the front of the queue, I could see a large wheel, what we call a ‘chocolate wheel’, that is spun for a prize to be won. Everyone was getting a turn to spin the wheel and win a prize. I don’t know what the prizes were but I’m fairly confident that they were probably nothing that anyone really wanted or needed, and quite likely required spending something to be of any benefit. Whether my assumption was correct, I’ll never know, but I find the whole queueing/crowding thing interesting.

2. These thoughts are similar to the theme of one of my favourite Hans Christian Andersen stories, The Emperor’s New Clothes. In this story, two fraudsters trick the emperor into believing they have designed his new clothes with a fabric that is visible only to clever people. Of course, word of this special fabric gets out to all his subjects who line the streets and ooh and aah when the emperor leads the parade in his ‘new clothes’. The only one who isn’t fooled (who didn’t get the memo) is a child who cries out that the emperor is naked and wearing nothing at all.

What do you think? Was I successful in linking these two ideas?

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Freedom, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

Learn about 100 and Celebrate 100 Days of School – #readilearn

The Australian school year consists of approximately 200 days. Depending on the length of terms and number of public holidays in each, the 100th day often falls towards the beginning of the third term in July. Knowing that many of you will be preparing to celebrate the 100th day with lessons investigating 100, I thought I’d share our readilearn resources that support you with that. It’s always exciting to count the 100th day, because once it’s reached, it’s time to start counting down to the end of the school year, which get closer with every day.

Celebrating 100 days of school

Although Busy Bees celebrate 100 days of school suggests ways of counting the days from day one, it also suggests ways of celebrating when the 100th day arrives. Suggestions include: count and collage 100 items and decorate a cake with 100 candles. There are party suggestions and an original game to play. (Also included with purchase of the Busy Bees 100 chart.)

The explanatory Celebrating 100 days of school – Letter to parents suggests items that may be suitable for children to bring in and count as part of the 100 days celebration. It is a Word document that can be personalised with your name and class before printing and distributing. (Also included with purchase of the Busy Bees 100 chart.)

Teaching numbers up to 100

Continue reading: Learn about 100 and Celebrate 100 Days of School – readilearn

Chocolate Anyone? – #readilearn

Next Thursday 7 July is World Chocolate Day. If you ever needed an excuse to indulge in a little chocolate, this could be it. If you follow the link, you will find out some fun facts about the history of chocolate that begins more than 2 000 years ago.

If only we were allowed a little chocolate in the classroom, there are so many wonderful learning opportunities it could provide, for example:

Counting — how many chocolates all together?

Subtraction — how many left if I eat x?

Sharing (children can make equal shares, teachers can have the remainders 😉)

Multiplication — blocks of chocolate are great for arrays (columns and rows of)

Data — surveys who likes/does not like chocolate, what is the class’s favourite chocolate?

Measurement — how many chocolate bars tall are you? how many blocks balance one chocolate bar?

Chemical science — mixing, adding and removing heat, how chocolate is made, following recipes to make chocolate cake and chocolate crackles (just for starters).

Biological science — the cacao plant, where it grows, how it grows, and what it needs.

Of course, while all of these are possible, my suggestions are a bit tongue-in-cheek. However, we do have some absolutely acceptable ideas for incorporating chocolate into your program on World Chocolate Day.

I’m sure you’ve all heard of Michael Rosen. Going on a Bear Hunt is probably one of his better known books, but he is a fabulous poet and storyteller, and his website is rich with material for teachers and children. If you’ve never checked it out, I suggest you do.

On of my favourite stories, that children really love too, is Chocolate Cake. I wrote about it in the post Storytelling with author Michael Rosen.

It’s really fun, so I’ll share it again here.

Source: Chocolate Anyone? – readilearn

Freedom #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about what freedom feels like. Whose point of view do you use? Does the idea of freedom cause tension or bring hope? Let the reader feel the freedom. Go where the prompt leads!

Last week, the prompt was Danger Zone. My story saw a couple of playful children ‘trapped by quicksand’. I thought it appropriate to free them this week. My story begins where the last one finished. I hope you enjoy it.

We’re Free!

Help! Save us!

What’s wrong?

Can’t you see? We’re sinking. It’s quicksand! Help!

I’ll save you! I’ll pull you out!

Quick!

Okay. Stay right there! I’ll get a rope.

Jane, Jane. Quick, Give me your rope. The boys are sinking in quicksand. We have to get them out — before it’s too late.

I’ll come too.

Where are you going?

We have to save the boys! They’re sinking! It’s quicksand!

Quicksand? I’ll help too.

Quick! Grab the rope! Now, everyone, on the count of three, one, two, three, pu-ull! Pu-ull! Pu-ull!

Made it! You saved us! We’re free! Thank you.

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Danger Zone, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

What’s an apostrophe for? – #readilearn

It’s not uncommon to see apostrophes used incorrectly, even in professional writing. But apostrophes don’t have to be difficult. They really have just two uses — for contractions and to show possession. Apostrophes aren’t confusing or tricky when the rules are understood.

To support your teaching of this punctuation mark and to encourage writers to get their writing right, I have produced an interactive resource that explains, demonstrates and provides practice in its correct use. It is called Apostrophes Please!

About Apostrophes Please!

Apostrophes Please! is an interactive resource, ready for use on the interactive whiteboard. It consists of enough material for a series of lessons teaching the correct use of apostrophes in both contractions and possessive nouns.

Like other readilearn resources, Apostrophes Please! recognises the value of teacher input and the importance of teacher-student discussion. It is not designed for children to use independently. It relies simply on effective teaching.

The resource provides flexibility for the teacher to choose activities which are relevant to student needs and teaching focus. All lessons and activities encourage explanation, stimulate discussion and provide opportunities for children to practise, explain and demonstrate what they have learned. There are nineteen interactive slides and over thirty slides in all.

Organisation of Apostrophes Please!

Contractions and possessive nouns are introduced separately.

Apostrophes Please! Contractions menu
Apostrophes Please Possession menu

Both sections include three subsections, each consisting of a number of slides:

  • Learn — explanatory teaching slides introduce how apostrophes are used
  • Practice — interactive activities provide opportunities for teachers and students to discuss, demonstrate and explain how apostrophes are used
  • Check — a review of the use of apostrophes provides additional opportunities for practice, discussion and explanation to consolidate learning.

Continue reading: What’s an apostrophe for? – readilearn

Danger Zone #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a danger zone. It can be an exciting plot-driven story (think “story spine”) or a situation a character must confront. Play with different genres, and use craft elements like tension, tone, and pacing. Go where the prompt leads!

Charli didn’t say it could be nonsense but that’s all I could come up with after a pretty heavy week of writing books about writing for an educational publisher. The work can be draining at times and nonsense is all that is left. I hope it gives you a smile anyway. Smile and carry on.

Quicksand

Stop!

Why?

That’s quicksand.

I can’t see it.

That’s why it’s so dangerous.

It doesn’t look like quick sand.

It never does. Until you start sinking in it.

I don’t believe you. You’re just trying to scare me. I’m going in anyway.

Suit yourself.

Help! Help! Save me!

You don’t look like you need saving to me.

But I’m sinking.

It’s just your imagination.

You said it was quicksand.

I know, but I was joking.

Then why am I sinking?

You’re not sinking. You’re just  — disappearing into the ground? Yikes! It really is quicksand. Help! We’re sinking! Save us!

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Stacking Stones, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

Supporting an ‘I can’ attitude with The Clever Children – #readilearn

Fostering self-esteem, a willingness to have a go and an ‘I can’ attitude was always important to me as both a teacher and a parent. These are important aspects of any supportive environment, whether in the home, in the classroom or in the workplace. I have written many posts and made many resources to help you develop a supportive classroom environment. In this post, I feature just one — a story you can personalise for your own class.

The Clever Children is a story about a kingdom in which a mean witch has put a spell on all the people, causing them to be confused and to forget everything they once knew. The king, who has heard about a class of very clever children (your class) asks for their help in teaching his subjects what they need to know. Every child suggests something they are good at and writes and draws a picture of them doing it on a page for inclusion in the book. When the children have taught their skill, the king throws a great party in the castle to celebrate and, of course, the children are invited.

The story not only helps develop an ‘I can do it’ growth mindset, but it helps develop friendship skills too. It was one of the first uploaded to the collection and includes a diversity of children and abilities gorgeously illustrated by Kari Rocha Jones.

The story is available in two formats.

It is an estory, ready to be displayed and read on the interactive whiteboard.

It is also a booklet that can be downloaded and printed, ready to be completed with pages written by your own children.

While both these formats are available to purchase independently, if you purchase the estory, the printable version is included.

Also included with purchase of the estory:

Continue reading: Supporting an ‘I can’ attitude with The Clever Children – readilearn

Stone-stacking #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that features stone-stacking. How does the activity fit into a story? Who is involved? What is the tone? Do the stones have special meaning? Go where the prompt leads!

I tried all week to find a fitting ending to my story beginning but couldn’t get anything I was hoping for to fit. I have ended up with ninety-nine though, so I hope it works, at least a little.

Stacking Stones

Active children were everywhere — throwing, skipping, climbing, swinging, laughing, playing. But over in the garden, on the gravel path, one child was stacking stones.

“What’s he doing?” a visiting teacher asked.

“Jack? Counting stones. He’s been doing it for days now. At the end of playtime, he tells me how many he stacked.”

“Why?”

His teacher shrugged. “He likes counting, I guess.”

“Is he okay, I mean, you know —”

“Oh, yes. He’s completely fine. He just wants to see how high he can count.”

“How high has he got?”

“Twelve.”

“How far does he want to get?”

“Ninety-nine.”

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Memorials, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.

Provide a Context and Purpose for Reading with Procedures – #readilearn

This post is a revisit of one of the first posts I published on readilearn almost six years ago in 2016. Since it was first shared, I have added many more procedures to the collection. All procedural texts and activities can be found in the Procedures subsection of Literacy resources.

Why teach procedures?

Reading and following procedures are a part of everyday life. We need to follow a procedure to make a cake, take medicine, repair a bicycle, treat head lice, assemble a DIY bookcase, or install an app on a digital device. The list in inexhaustible.

Sometimes procedures are presented as text, sometimes as illustrations or diagrams, and sometimes as a combination of both. They work best when each step of the sequence is accurately described and illustrated.

However, not all procedural texts are created equal. Sometimes the language may be inappropriate and unclear. Sometimes steps are omitted or sequenced incorrectly. Sometimes diagrams have little resemblance to what is required and confuse, rather than clarify, the process.

Trying to figure out what to do can cause a great deal of frustration in such circumstances.  The more practised we are with following procedures, the more adept we are at interpreting inadequate instructions to achieve a good outcome.

It is never too soon for children to learn to read and follow procedures. The inclusion of procedural texts in a classroom literacy program has many benefits.

Following a procedure provides a context and purpose for reading.  It requires children to interpret instructions through a combination of text and visual representation. It generally implies that children are doing or making something, which engages their interest and encourages participation. It develops an essential real-life skill that is transferrable to a range of situations. The sense of achievement in successfully completing a project is both affirming and empowering and often requires no other feedback.

Procedural texts can be easily incorporated into a class reading program as an independent or group reading activity. An assistant to support, encourage and oversee can be invaluable.

Features of procedural texts

The reading of procedural texts differs from reading fiction or other non-fiction texts.

Continue reading: Provide a Context and Purpose for Reading with Procedures – readilearn

Memorial #99wordstories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story behind a memorial. Is it a structure, plaque, or something else? What does it seek to remind those who view it? Go where the prompt leads!

Charli’s prompt was in honour of Memorial Day commemorated in the United States on 30th May.

In Australia, we have two main days for remembrance — ANZAC Day on 25th April (which we share with New Zealand), and Remembrance Day on 11th November (which we share with many other countries).

Every evening, The Ode is recited at many RSL (Returned and Services League) Clubs around Australia. The Ode is the fourth stanza of the poem “For The Fallen” by Laurence Binyon (1869-1943). 

At times such as these, I always think of my family members, especially my father, who fought in the Second World War. This is my response. I hope you like it. It is a #99wordstory but it is truth (as I know it), not #flashfiction.

Memorial

As a child, he lived at Yuleba, a tiny town in south-western Queensland. His father was a boundary rider on the fence bordering New South Wales, keeping rabbits out of Queensland. A peaceful if difficult life. Aged 20, he enlisted. His overseas service included the battle at Milne Bay, a turning point of the war. Upon their return, servicemen were told to forget. Memories and nightmares disagreed, but it was years before he could talk, let alone write, about his experiences. After his death, his words were engraved on a memorial in his home town, never to be forgotten.

These are the words on the memorial, a brief extract from a longer poem Ode to the Old Digger by RJ (John) Irwin.

You’ve seen him marching with his mates all in sombre mood;

For they march to pay homage, and remember fallen mates

But, they also remember the horrors of their fates

and they pray to God their sons will never have to face

 a similar situation for there’s never any winners only death.

Aah! But did you see him in his glory, as he stood among the dead

and he wondered why it had to be;

…So look upon him gently for he is not to blame

 For he only fought that all peoples may be free.

So let us honour him, and give him his just due

For he is only man, just like me and you;

But he was called upon to make a stand

against an inhuman ideology, too horrible for minds to grasp

and all he asks for now, is a chance to live in peace.

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt Well’s Gone Dry, including mine, can be read at the Carrot Ranch.