Category Archives: Creativity

Number combinations – Readilearn

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Mathematics is all around us. We use it every day for a wide range of purposes; from deciding on the sequence in which we dress ourselves, to calculating how much time we have available for an activity.

Number is just one component of mathematics but the ability to use it confidently and competently is essential to life in the 21st century; from managing one’s finances, to calculating time and distance, to knowing how many followers one has on social media.

The views that people hold of themselves as mathematicians, and their attitudes to mathematics in general, are formed early in life. It is important that we early childhood teachers provide children with mathematical experiences that are meaningful, engaging, and in context.

readilearn mathematics activities are designed to support you in doing so by providing a range of digital and printable resources that encourage mathematical thinking and discussion alongside hands-on experiences. It is important to provide children with a variety of learning contexts to encourage the development of “I can do it” attitude to number and maths.

Number combinations

A child’s ability to count is sometimes seen as an early indicator of ability with numbers. However, an understanding of number requires far more than

 

Continue reading at: Number combinations – Readilearn

Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

 

In this post I introduce you to Michael Rosen, the storyteller.  Michael’s story Going on a Bear Hunt many be more familiar to you than his name. But Michael Rosen is a storyteller extraordinaire and his website is a treasure trove to explore*.

*Note: Not all of Michael’s stories and videos are suitable for early childhood. Please preview them before presenting them to students.

One of my favourites of Michael’s stories is Chocolate Cake. Please follow the link to view it on his website.

In the story from when he was a boy, Michael sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night and eats all of the remaining chocolate cake, leaving not a skerrick for a lunchtime treat. If only he’d been able to restrain himself, then he would have had a treat as well.

Michael tells the humorous story with expressive voice and face. Children laugh out loud as they recognise themselves in the story, if only they dared (or did they?); and beg for it to be retold, often spontaneously joining in with the telling.

After a few repetitions, children are confident enough to retell the story independently, imitating many of Michael’s humorous gestures and intonations.

Listening to Michael tell stories is a great way to encourage the development of expression, in both telling and reading stories.

Suggestions for using the story:

Continue reading at: Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

I love poems – Readilearn

I love poems. Children do too. Poetry is a great way of introducing children to the joy of language, as well as to features such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes and metaphors. What is taught through poetry can be as simple or as complex as required by the ages of the children or your teaching purpose.

One of the great benefits of teaching young children through poetry is the fun aspect. It’s enjoyable for teachers and students alike and, when children innovate on poems to create poems of their own, very motivating.

With St Valentine’s Day not far away it is timely to read and write love poems. One of my favourite poems for writing with young children is based on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. I was taught the poem by the amazing literacy educator Bill Martin Jr at a reading conference in the 1980s, and used it with every group of children I taught thereafter. I have previously written about that on my other blog here.

The repetitive structure and easy melody invites children to join in and is easy for children to use in writing poems of their own, whether they are emergent, beginning, or advanced writers.  The poems can be completed using pictures or words.

This is one of my favourite versions of the song.

Continue reading: I love poems – Readilearn

What do you create?

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I am a fan of creativity. I like to develop my own creativity, and I like to encourage the development of creativity in others.

One thing I always loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative: writing stories, units of work, and lessons plans to interest and excite the children about learning. It is this love that drives me to write my blog posts each week, and to create new early childhood teaching resources for readilearn nearly every week.

Just as exciting was the opportunity to support the development of children’s thinking, imagination, and creativity. I am more in favour of treating children as individuals, than as one of a homogeneous group from which any difference is considered an aberration.  After all, imagination and creative thinking are what inspire and drive improvement, innovation and progress.

I affirm my belief in the power of creativity in my tagline: ‘Create the possibilities . . .’, a tagline I previously used for an independent school I was establishing.

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Preceding both was my first independent undertaking: Create-A-Way.  Create-A-Way provided a richer educational and social setting for my young daughter than what was generally available, allowed me to share my educational philosophy and knowledge, and provided the same rich learning opportunities for other children and their parents. The development of imagination and creativity was a focus.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

One of the things I love most about responding to the weekly flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is the additional opportunity to engage in something creative and to hone my writing skills. The supportive environment of a welcoming community makes it a safe and enjoyable experience. There is something affirming about belonging to a community of other creatives, online or in -person.

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On Saturday I, along with a whole bunch of other women creatives, attended an excellent Book Marketing Masterclass conducted by authorpreneur Karen Tyrrell. (I am looking forward to interviewing Karen for the Author Spotlight series on readilearn in March.) The class was attended by writers of a variety of genres; including memoir, romance, science fiction, fantasy, YA, and picture books.

One of the attendees Chrissy Byers has created a lovely picture book The Magic in Boxes which “aims to capture the imagination of young readers and inspire creative play.”

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Not only does the book suggest ways of stimulating creativity using recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, the book is made from recycled paper. I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s a beautiful book with a wonderful aim.

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For a little more on creativity; in a previous post, Are you a lemon or a grapefruit? I shared ten articles about creativity. They are still relevant and worthy of a read if you haven’t yet done so.

I also shared one of my favourite TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson How schools kill creativity. If yours is not yet one of the over 41 million views, I urge you to watch it. As well as sharing a very important message, Ken is hugely entertaining.

I hope I have convinced you of the importance and power of creativity. I thank Charli and her flash fiction prompt for the opportunity of revisiting some of my favourite articles and talks about creativity. This week her challenge is to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.”

I’m a woman, and I create, and education is in my heart.

In response to Charli’s challenge, I thought I’d get a little dirty. I hope you like it.

Prize pies

“Life’s not on a plate. It’s what you create.”

Two little girls in their Sunday best

Snuck outside when they should have been at rest;

Splashed in the puddles, laughed in the rain,

Shared mud pies and murky champagne.

 

Two young girls with flour in their hair

Climbed on the bench from the back of a chair;

Opened up the cupboards, emptied out the shelves,

Less in the bowl and more on themselves.

 

Two young women watching TV

Decide master chefs are what they will be;

Enter the contest, invent new pies,

Wow the judges and win the prize.

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

 

 

Scratching around the quarry

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This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to

“In 99 words (no more, no less) write a about a quarry. It can be a place or include the the by-product. The quarry can be operational, abandoned, it can be in real-tie or mentioned from another time. Where will the quarry take you? Go where the prompt leads.”

I usually find Charli’s prompts a challenge but, with a bit of digging around in the old brain cells, I can usually concoct something with which I am reasonably happy. This time I’ve been scratching around the surface but have found little worthy of further investigation.

I considered a story of epic proportions, as I can’t think of a quarry without thinking of Gilgamesh.

Many years ago, I took my teenage son and a friend to a performance of the ancient story in a disused quarry. Whether it was part of their English or theatre studies, or what prompted the outing, I can’t recall. I think they were no more familiar with this “first great work of literature” than I; and I knew nothing. The performance made a lasting impression, both for its setting and the repetitious dialogue. I recall little of the hero’s epic journey. We were amused rather than awed.

From Gilgamesh, I considered play of a different, but more familiar kind: play in a sandpit or the dirt with diggers and trucks.

The sandpit was always popular for play at lunchtime, particularly if diggers, trucks, and other tools were available. Often the same children would play day after day, creating and re-creating the same scene with roads, rivers, bridges, and cities. Each seemed to have a particular role and responsibility. Found objects; like leaves, bark, feathers, sticks, and stones, would also be incorporated into the designs.

This play was great for the imagination, and for developing the friendship skills of cooperation and getting along, teamwork and working together. Surely I could find a story in there? But any ideas disintegrated faster than the sandpit structures.

It seems timely then, to revisit previous discussions of the difficulty experienced by children when expected to write to a prompt that may have little significance for them, and about which they may have little opportunity for discussion, reflection or planning.

I discussed this in both Writing to order – done in a flash! and Writing woes – Flash fiction. I suggested that, rather than  using a one-piece response to a prompt to assess children’s writing, the use of portfolios would provide more valuable information about children’s writing development.

A portfolio, similar to that of professional writers, would consist of work at various stages: some as ideas jotted on slips of paper, some in planning stages, others in draft form, others completed and waiting for the next step, and others in publication. Rarely would a piece need to be completed in one sitting, let alone judged for it worth on the spot.

I believe that:

  • a one-off writing assessment task does not give students an opportunity to show their best work and puts pressure on them to perform
  • a portfolio of work collected over time provides a clear picture of student ability, development, and next steps for learning.

However, that writers have a choice about responding to Charli’s flash fiction prompts, makes the process quite different from that experienced by children responding to a prompt as a requirement.

Writers have a choice whether to participate, in what genre to respond, and how to interpret the prompt.

In recent posts Charli has discussed the importance of accepting our first drafts as “raw literature”, as part of the process. She provide us with the opportunity to hone our writing skills, and share and receive feedback on our writing in a safe, supportive environment. Surely this is no less important when encouraging young writers.

Out of sympathy for the requirements imposed on children almost every day, I thought it only fair to respond to Charli’s prompt. This is it.

The Quarry

Old and disused, the bare earth was dry with no hint of topsoil or sign of life. Rock fragments, remnants of its past, littered the surface still pockmarked by tyre tracks. One wall, etched by diggers’ teeth, stood silently telling its story. Circles of ash littered with shards of glass and cigarette butts told another. But tonight it was to tell a story as old as time.  Where once huge trucks had carted away boulders carved from its interior, now rough timber platforms stood.  As darkness fell, flaming torches cast an eerie light as storytellers wove their epic tale.

Thank you

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What lies beyond

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that steps beyond.

She says,

“The paths often fork and always seem steep. You just have to keep stepping out, risk being vulnerable, learn as you go from both masters and your own observations, and explore what could be.” 

How apt a description for learners and teachers alike. The focus of a teacher’s work is always on what lies beyond; encouraging learners to step out, take those risks, embrace vulnerability, and explore the unknown. Each journey is unique with its own periods of calm interrupted by rough patches and inclines that require both teacher and learner to step beyond comfort and what is familiar.

While learners are appreciated for who they are, and for their achievements, in each moment, a teacher is always stretching them to grow towards the possibilities of an unknown future; preparing learners to grasp, and create, new opportunities.

In Are you ready to embrace the future? published in July 2014, I introduced you to Tony Ryan, learning consultant and futurist. In his online seminar Future-proofing Kids, Tony says,

“Many of the children alive today in Western societies will still be around in the 22nd Century. How can we possibly predict what they will experience between now and then? And if we can’t do that, then how do we best prepare them for whatever is up ahead?”

I listed, as essential to successfully living in that unknown future, the development of the following attitudes and character traits:

  •  Confidence
  • Persistence
  • Resourcefulness
  • Resilience
  • Able to seek solutions to problems
  • Openness to new ideas and possibilities
  • Creativity
  • Divergent thinking
  • Questioning
  • Optimism

These add to basic levels of literacy and numeracy and the ability to critically evaluate material; for example, using information about an author’s credentials and purpose, and understanding the ways texts are constructed to persuade.

On his website, Tony Ryan says,

“The world up ahead will be amazing, but it will take each of us to push our intellect and our spirit beyond all previous possibilities.”

He describes the focus of his work as supporting others to do just that

In addition to educating for the future, teachers need to see past the labels to the truths that lie within, encouraging all learners to stretch beyond what they thought was possible. I hope there was a teacher in your life who enriched your journey.

For the teachers among you: know the importance of your role and the effect on all learners when you help them see the value of self and open their eyes to their own potential. When you help them step beyond the limits imposed by others, you help them create possibilities in their own, and our collective, futures.

It is from this perspective that I have written my response to Charli’s flash challenge.

Beyond surface features

The registrar ushered him to the doorway and promptly disappeared.  He stared blankly: hair askew, face dotted with remnants of meals past, shirt lopsided and collar awry, shoes scruffy. Another needy child. You name it, he had it: split family, mother in jail, successive foster homes, sixth school in two years, learning difficulties, generally unresponsive, prone to aggressive outbursts …  

No magic ball, just a futures optimism, she saw beyond the exterior to the potential within. In a moment, she was there, smiling, taking his hand, reassuring. “Everyone, say good morning to Zane. Let’s welcome him into our class.”

Thank you

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

You know who you are

I am one of ten children, though none of us are children any more. The youngest has turned 50, and the oldest is nearing 70 (but don’t tell her that).

My mother sometimes had difficulty retrieving the correct name and often went through a list before hitting on the child she wanted. I know what it’s like. Sometimes it is difficult enough when there are only two or three to choose from! Maybe you’ve experienced it too. There’s probably a name for this phenomenon, but if there is, I’m not aware of it.

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One day, when wanting to give me a direction, she rattled off a few names, but not mine.  Finally, exasperated, she said, “Well, you know who you are.” It has become a family joke. It’s mostly true that I do know who I am. However, sometimes I’m not so sure! I must say that Mum had a wonderful memory until the day she passed just a few weeks before her 91st birthday.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about the importance of being able to name things and experiences. She says, “Names are such a human attribute,” and asks, “What is in a name?

The ability to name things is important and a young child’s vocabulary often begins with the names of people and objects in the environment; for example, Mum, Dad, dog, car, cookie, juice.

I read once that children don’t really become aware of an object until they are able to apply a name to it. This doesn’t mean they must be able to say the name, just recognise it by name. Unfortunately I don’t remember the source and was unable to verify it with a Google search; but there is no denying that a well-developed vocabulary is a definite advantage to learning.

growing-vocabulary

Children also quickly learn to recognise their own names. Choosing names for children can be a difficult process for parents, with much to consider; for example:

  • The name’s meaning
  • Whether anyone else in the family has the name
  • How it is spelled
  • What the initials will be
  • How the first and last names sound together

Teachers always have the extra burden of being influenced by the names of children they have taught.

Although this blog simply bears my name, choosing a name for my website was a more involved process. Years ago, I ran a home business called Create-a-Way. I chose the name as I thought it expressed the purpose of my business perfectly: children were encouraged to be creative, and it created a way for me to work with children in the way I wanted. I hoped to reuse the name for my website. Unfortunately, the domain names were not available, and I had to think even more creatively.

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I eventually settled on the name readilearn as I love reading, and I love learning, and the ‘i’ in the centre puts the focus on the individual learner. I wanted the name of my website to show the importance of reading and learning to an individual’s growth and empowerment. However, when I say the name, I pronounce it “ready learn”. This refers to an individual’s innate readiness to learn, as well as to the resources which are ready for teachers to use in their support of learners.

One of the most important things for a teacher is to get to know the children. I used to pride myself on knowing the children’s names before morning tea on the first day. Of course, I had many strategies in place to help me with that. I have written about some of these strategies before, and there are readilearn resources to support teachers with that as well. In fact, writing this post has stimulated ideas for new resources to create, including resources that help children get to know each other. (Thanks, Charli!)

I have always found it fun to notice when people’s names are a good match for their profession; for example, Matt Dry the weather forecaster.

When Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) explore the importance of a name within a story, and reminded us of the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s on First, I decided I’d try a bit of fun with names as well. I hope it works.

 

Doctor Morana

The community hall was abuzz. Everyone was outtalking the other, except Ms Penn who quietly recorded everything.

“I’m pretty cut up about it,” complained Mr Carver.

“He fired me,” moaned Mr Burns.

“Said I was just loafing around,” grumbled Mr Leaven.

“Could’ve floored me,” griped Mr Lay.

“He was fishing for something,” remarked Ms Salmon.

“Said he’d top me,” sprouted Ms Bean.

“Another nail in his coffin,” whined Mr Chips.

Ms Chalk took the stand. “It’s not just black or white. He knows why you all avoid him like, well … Give him a chance. He’s not his name.”

Did you recognise them all: the journalist, the butcher, the fireman, the baker, the tiler, the fishmonger, the greengrocer, the carpenter, the teacher; and, of course, the one they’re all talking about: the new doctor.

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