Category Archives: Creativity

Is the ‘right way’ always the best way?

Giving children opportunities to question, to be creative, and to problem solve are high on my priorities. Children need to be given the time and opportunity to figure out things for themselves. While it is sometimes easier just to tell or show them what to do, or even do it for them, it is generally better for their development, to let them have a go at finding a method or solution. Please note: I am not talking about dangerous things here like playing with fire, testing to see how fierce that dog really is, or driving a car.

If children are constantly told there is a right way of doing things, they will stop exploring, discovering, and inventing their own or new ways of doing things. This is an issue because, if we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll never progress. There is generally no harm in, but much to learn from, each successive attempt.

Opportunities to explore, discover, and use intuition are also important to the development of mathematical thinking. When children are developing understanding of number, they often invent their own strategies for working with numbers. Sometimes, as attested in this paper by Heirdsfield, Cooper and Irons, the strategies used display more advanced thinking, and are more efficient, than those taught as ‘the’ correct way of solving a problem using pencil and paper.

I have noticed a change in the speed and agility with which my seven-year-old grandson works with numbers now that he has learned there are certain ways of; for example, adding two numbers. He tends to second-guess himself as he attempts to mentally calculate using the pencil and paper method he has been taught, rather than other more effective strategies he had previously invented and used. Perhaps you have noticed something similar.

Provocations, such as these 3 Fun Inquiry Maths Activities for the Last Week of School by Steph Groshell on Education Rickshaw,  are great to get children thinking about different ways of solving real problems.

Little Koala’s Party – a story for problem solving in the readilearn mathematics resources also encourages mathematical thinking and planning. Children help Little Koala organise a party for her family and friends, deciding who will be invited, the number of guests, and what’s on the menu. The suggestion is made that children plan a party of their own and they are asked to consider how they would go about it. The discussion and sharing of ideas, rather than the imposition of one ‘right’ way, is the important thing in developing mathematical thinking.

Now it might seem a stretch to tie this in with a piece of flash fiction, but I hope you’ll be able to follow my thinking through the mist and into the light.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, D. Avery took the reins from Charli Mills and challenged writers to in In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that symbolically, mythically, mystically, or realistically involves dawn, as a noun or verb. Write about the dawn of time or the time of dawn, or the dawning of an idea. As always, go where the prompt leads.

The right way

Father and Son sat side by side. Father cracked his knuckles and sighed repeatedly while Son sharpened his pencils, each pencil, and arranged them meticulously according to undisclosed criteria.

“Come on. Just get it done. Then you can play.”

“I’m thinking.”

“Think faster.”

“I know it’s 96.”

“Well write it down.”

“Sir says I have to do the working out.”

“Then do it.”

“I don’t know how.”

“Like this. See.”

“That’s not how we do it. Sir says…”

“Then do what Sir says.”

Slowly it dawned on Dad: Sir’s way may not be the best way for all.

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

 

Introducing author-illustrator Gregg Dreise – Readilearn

This month it is my pleasure to introduce you to Gregg Dreise, gifted artist, storyteller and musician. Gregg is a descendant of the Kamilaroi and Yuwalayaay people of south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. He is a proud ex-student of St George State School. When he visits schools and is involved in festivals, he features the didgeridoo and guitar in his performances.

Gregg is author and illustrator of three award-winning books Silly Birds, Kookoo Kookaburra  and Mad Magpie. A fourth book Why are you Smiling is to be released soon. All four stories are about teaching morals. They address friendship, kindness, tempers and bullying.

Gregg also illustrated Di Irving’s retelling of the classic story Tiddalik the Frog, and Elaine Ousten’s second megafauna picture book Megal the Massive Megalania.

In this post, I am talking with Gregg about his award-winning book, Kookoo Kookaburra.

Oh, here he is now!

Yarma – hello, I’m Gregg Dreise the author and sillystrator of Kookoo Kookaburra. This is a story about

 

Continue reading: Introducing author-illustrator Gregg Dreise – Readilearn

A long shot

I love the opportunity of finding out something I didn’t know before, and because there is so much  that I don’t know, the opportunities seem to arise quite frequently. Perhaps if I’d taken more advantage of them in earlier years, there’d be less for me to know now, and I’d be more help on a trivia team.

Curiosity is an essential ingredient to learning and it is important for parents and teachers to encourage it in children, as well as themselves. Providing children with the opportunity of asking questions and helping them find out about what they want to know helps keep curiosity alive. Michael Rosen’s book Good Ideas: How to be Your Child’s (and Your Own) Best Teacher has many wonderful suggestions for doing just that. I wrote about that before here and here.

Over the past few weeks, I have felt increasingly challenged by the flash fiction prompts dished out by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch. This week she had me (almost) completely stumped with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a (story) that includes the word longhorn. Charli’s in Kansas at the moment, and her reference is to longhorn cattle, a breed not familiar to most Australians. I was aware of a longhorn beetle, but knew little about them too.

Observing photographs of longhorn cattle, these were my thoughts:

  • Aren’t those horns heavy? How do they hold their heads up?
  • Wouldn’t the horns be dangerous – to the horn owner, as well as to others?
  • What would happen if the animals tried to move through scrub? They could get caught between trees, or knock their horns off.
  • What is the purpose of the long horns?
  • Imagine giving birth to something with horns like that!
  • Are they bred for beef or diary?

How could I write anything without doing a little research?

Fortunately, research is no longer as difficult as it was when I was a child. Press a few buttons on the computer, and a world of information awaits. My first stop was Wikipedia, but I investigated other sites too, including The Longhorn Cattle Society and Texas Longhorns. Here’s some of what I discovered in answer to my questions:

  • Longhorns are the descendants of the first cattle to arrive in the Americas with Christopher Columbus and Spanish colonists. Many escaped or were set free on the plains and were mostly feral for about two hundred years.
  • Horns form part of the skull and are difficult to weigh on a live animal. As the horns may continue to grow for several years, there are some differences, and steer horns are usually longer (and presumably heavier) that those of bulls and cows.
  • Horns start to grow at about three weeks. Phew – after birth! In fact, The Longhorn Cattle Society states that the cows are great breeders and have few calving problems.
  • Although the cattle may appear dangerous with their large horns, they are actually quite docile. However, they may experience damage to their horns if they are kept in confined spaces.
  • According to Texas Longhorns, the horns are considered non-functional. I can’t imagine walking around with something that appears so heavy and unwieldy on my head, just for adornment!
  • The cattle have many advantages, just some of which include ease of breeding, longevity and disease resistance. They produce lean meat and cheese has been produced from their milk.
  • There are some Longhorns in Australia, even an association for Texas Longhorns.

In my explorations, I was surprised to find this article which tells of an Australian Longhorn JR that earned a position in the 2013 Guinness Book of Records for the longest horns.

JR was pipped at the post in 2014 by Lazy J’s Bluegrass with horns measuring 297.8 cm (117.25 in)

Watch Bluegrass here.

The owner says his horns probably weigh about 200 to 300 lbs (90 to 136 kg)!

I hope you enjoyed finding out about longhorn cattle as much as I did. Or maybe you already knew. When I read that many of the cattle had escaped or been released onto the plains by early settlers, I was reminded of the cow experience on the farm when I was a child.

Holy Cow! It’s a long shot

The enclosure was built, the hay delivered, the trough filled. We children watched from the rails, as Dad and Mum manoeuvred Cow #1 into the yard.

Everyone clambered to be first to milk her.

“We can all milk her – in the morning,” assured Dad.

But in the morning, the cow was gone. The gate lay crumpled on the ground.

A stronger gate contained Cow #2, but she squeezed under the fence.

More repairs must secure Cow #3? She jumped over to flee.

Defeated, Mum replenished her powdered supply, and we kids never learned to milk.

Should’ve got a longhorn?

For a fun picture book (also based on a true story) about a cow, without any horns, check out A Particular Cow written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Terry Denton. It’s hilarious!

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.

 

 

 

Meet author-illustrator Chrissy Byers – Readilearn

This month it is my pleasure to introduce you to Chrissy Byers – author, illustrator, and early childhood educator. It was only after many years in the classroom and becoming a parent herself that Chrissy was able to fulfil her lifelong dream of being an author and illustrator. With the success of her first book The Magic in Boxes, and another on its way, Chrissy shows us that dreams can come true.

Chrissy, what was your motivation for writing this book?

As an experienced early years class teacher, I had noticed that, with the rise in technology there was a decline in the amount of time children spent engaging in imaginative play.  I was compelled to write and illustrate a children’s book which would remind parents, and inspire children, to see the magic in everyday household junk.

Unlike a traditional children’s book, I felt that the recount genre would suit my intentions better than a narrative.  I saw this as being an additional bonus for primary teachers, as there are very few examples of recount picture books.

The repetitive text elements encourage pre-reading children to join in a shared reading experience.  It also provides opportunity to incorporate hand gestures when reading, which helps focus young minds and occupy little hands during carpet time.  The rhyming couplets assist in reading prediction and keep the beat of a fast-moving text.

Do you think of yourself more as a writer or an illustrator?

Continue reading: Meet author-illustrator Chrissy Byers – Readilearn

Easter holiday wishes – Readilearn

 

This week I have uploaded two new resources which are just as suitable for Easter holiday fun at home as they are for learning in the classroom.

Whose egg? A logic puzzle can be used with the whole class to introduce children to the steps involved in completing logic puzzles; or as an independent or buddy activity if children already know how to complete logic puzzles on their own.

Three friends, three eggs, and three baskets. But which friend has which egg and which basket?

Children read the story scenario and the clues, then use the information to deduce which friend bought which egg in which basket.

Great for reading comprehension and creative thinking; and for collaboration in a paired activity!

Continue reading: Easter holiday wishes – Readilearn