Category Archives: Creativity

Stars in the Sand #flashfiction

When I read Charli’s prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story using the phrase, “stars in the sand.” Your story can be any genre (or poem) and can use realism or fantasy. It’s a dreamy prompt. Go where the it leads!, all I could think of was the story about the boy and the starfish. I’m sure you know the one, written by Loren Eiseley.

It’s about a boy who was walking along the beach one day when hundreds of starfish were stranded on the sand and the tide was going out. The starfish would die if left on the sand. The boy picked up the starfish, one by one, and gently threw them into the water. A man walking by asked him what he was doing and suggested he couldn’t make a difference as there were too many starfish. The boy continued to pick up the starfish and throw them back into the ocean. “I made a difference to that one,” he said.

It’s a beautiful story with a wonderful message. What seems like a small act to one, a drop in the ocean, can make an enormous difference to another. We may never know what impact our actions, even a smile, can have on another.

Then there were the beautiful little origami wish stars that Bec and I used to make when she was young. We’d make them in all sorts of colours and fill jars with them (well, one or two at least). I don’t think we ever hid them in the sand, but we could have. What fun it would be to have a treasure hunt in the sand for stars.

This video explains how to make those little wish stars. Maybe you have made some too.

And of course, just like Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, stars were always popular in early childhood classrooms to denote good work, good effort or good behaviour, and classes often had a ‘star of the week’ for special recognition and privileges. And at the collage table, glitter and glitter stars were always popular. A little glitter and few stars did wonders to enhance any work of art.

The image in my title is of one such artwork created for me by my granddaughter when she was still in her pre-school days. It is called ‘Starry Night’ and hangs proudly beside a print of the other more famous ‘Starry Night’ in my dining room.

The collage table is where I’ve gone with my response to Charli’s prompt. I had wanted to write about someone with stars in her eyes but feet in the sand but couldn’t quite pull it off. Perhaps it was too autobiographical. I had big plans for what I wanted to write but the sand kept shifting beneath my feet and I couldn’t grab hold of anything. Anyway, this is my response. I hope you like it.

Stars in the Sand

Works of art, created from random pieces of this and that, were incomplete without a generous sprinkling of glitter. When stars were available, the children were in heaven. Though insignificant to others, the works held meaning for the artist, at least for a moment like a particle of glitter passing through a sandglass. Peta watched George painstakingly place his stars. She turned his paper around. “Stars don’t go in the sand, silly. They go in the sky.” George turned it back. “They’re starfish. Starfish go in the sand. Don’t you know anything?” “Oh,” said Peta. “They are beautiful starfish!”

Thank you blog post

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Saddle Up Saloon; Chattin’ With Norah Colvin

I had a great chat with my fellow Ranch-hand, writer and educator, D. Avery over at the Saddle Up Saloon at the Carrot Ranch. We discussed my favourite topics – children, education and writing. Not your usual saloon fare, eh? A bit dry for Kid and Pal too.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

“Hey Kid. Kinda quiet ‘round the Saloon. Ain’tcha got anythin’ lined up?”

“Nope. But as ya kin see, Pal, there’s a few folks in jist relaxin’ an’ chattin’ over a bev’rage a choice.”

“Yeah, I see thet. Look there, is that Norah Colvin?”

“Yep. Says she’s waitin’ on a buddy a hers.”

“Reckon thet buddy is here. Why it’s—”

“D. Avery? Them two’s buddies? What a they have in common?”

“Well, they both know their way ‘roun’ the Ranch.”

“Reckon, but Norah Colvin’s respectable an’ all, an’ our writer’s so…”

“Jist serve ‘em both Kid an’ leave ‘em be.”

******************************************************************************

Hello Norah! I’m so glad we have a place where we can finally hang out together. But it seems Kid is wondering that we’re buddies.

Hello D.

Buddies! I like that. Buddies is not a term commonly used in Australia, so I think this is the first time I’ve ever…

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Writer in Residence

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a new way to office. Has the office changed? Can we return to normal after big changes or time away? Go where the prompt leads!

As a teacher who also loved to write, I used to love inspiring and nurturing a love of writing in my children. The desire equalled my love of reading and of picture books. We wrote together every day (they wrote, and I wrote at the same time). We often wrote collaboratively, authoring stories, songs, and poems together before they wrote their own. They wrote independently and of their own volition, especially in free time. I, and they, would often say, “That would make a good story.” I loved reading and responding to the messages they wrote to me in a daily diary that gave me a window into their lives and the things that were important to them.

To encourage their writing, there was always a great variety of paper, pens and other essential equipment available to them. While I didn’t ever have a desk such as I describe in my flash fiction (it is fiction, you see), I can just imagine how they would have loved it and how they would have imagined themselves at it while writing in the office (writing corner). I hope you can imagine it too.

Writer in Residence

The large old oak writer’s desk with multiple drawers, pigeon holes, an ink well and leather writing mat faced the room.

Upon it, a multitude of cups stocked with pencils, pens and other writing and drawing tools sat ready. The pigeon holes held a magnificence of paper and cardboard, and the drawers essentials like scissors, glue, rulers, lettering guides, clips and stapler. It was a writer’s paradise — perfect for the daily Writer in Residence.

The children loved it. Especially when they were Writer for the day with freedom to organise, reorganise and create to their heart’s content — growing writers.

Thank you blog post

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Innovating on the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat – #readilearn

Innovating on familiar nursery rhymes and songs is an easy and fun way to encourage children to think creatively, to develop their writing skills and extend their vocabularies. There are many ways in which Row, Row, Row Your Boat can be used for these purposes. In this post, I share just some of them.

Rhyming words

stream/dream

What other words rhyme with stream and dream? List them.

beam, cream, gleam, meme, ream, seem, team

row

What other words rhyme with row? List them.

bow, blow, crow, dough, flow, go, hoe, Joe, know, low, mow, so, slow, show, tow, though, woe

Synonyms and alternatives

Substitute synonyms or other words to sing or write new versions.

Continue reading: Innovating on the nursery rhyme Row, Row, Row Your Boat – readilearn

The Importance of Daydreaming and Imagination — a Guest Post by #Josh Langley – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Australian author and illustrator Josh Langley who advocates for children’s mental health, including developing their self-esteem, friendship skills and creativity through his books and online course. These topics are close to my heart and regularly appear in our readilearn posts and feature in our teaching resources.

With next Wednesday 21 April being World Creativity and Innovation Day, I thought now was the perfect time to share with you Josh’s recent post Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Let Kids Daydream.

First let me tell you a little about Josh.

About Josh:

Josh is author of the award winning ‘Being You is Enough’ books series for kids and promotes positive mental and emotional health messages for kids through his books, presentations, primary school talks, videos, charity work and courses, like ‘Here I am!’.

Josh says,

After suffering childhood trauma, I feel driven to make sure kids don’t ever have to feel like I did. That’s why I want to give them the emotional and mental skills to be resilient to what is thrown at them and the inner knowing that they are ok the way they are. And the only way I can do that is in my own fun and unique way! Thankfully parents and kids love it.”

About Josh’s Books

Continue reading: The Importance of Daydreaming and Imagination — a Guest Post by #Josh Langley – readilearn

The Hero of Your Own Journey

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that “rethinks the hero.” Define the hero, comparing or contrasting to the classic definition. Break the mold. What happens to the hero in the cave? Is it epic or everyday? Is there resistance or acceptance? Go where the prompt leads!

If there’s one thing that writers can do is write their characters out of any situation. What many of them wish they could do is write themselves into a publishing contract. Whatever we choose, we all must be the hero of our own journey.

Nearly every class has a clown who becomes the hero for students by adding a humorous diversion that reduces the stresses of the day. The same student may frustrate the teacher by disrupting the class and not taking the lesson seriously.

While I was never the class clown—I wouldn’t have enjoyed the attention and would never have been considered funny—I always liked to consider alternative possibilities and was sometimes accused of not taking things seriously enough while fending off accusations of the opposite by others. You’ve probably noticed similar in my writing. What can I say? I’m a Gemini.

Both writers and class clowns think creatively, which is perfect for World Creativity and Innovation Week which begins this Thursday.

Not so much in the younger grades in which I mainly taught, but in the older grades, students are often provided with hypothetical situations for which they are required to provide survival strategies. I’ve gone for the opposite of the literal cave, as Charli suggested, but still the literary cave.

I hope you think my class clown/writer has used their creativity to solve the teacher’s survival puzzle. If only it were that easy.

Survival Hero

“Consider this,” said the teacher. “You’re stranded alone in the desert. Your vehicle has broken down about 15 kilometres from your destination. Your visit’s a surprise so you’re not expected. There’s no internet service and your phone is dead. You’ve packed water and a little food in a backpack. What else should you take to be the hero of your own journey?”

The students huddled, discussing options.

“Compass,” suggested one.

“Pocket knife,” said another.

“Flashlight.”

“Mirror.”

“A pencil.”

“Why?”

“I’d just add an ‘s’ — change that desert to dessert and she’s sweet.”

“You’re our hero,” the others agreed, laughing.

Note: ‘she’s sweet’ is an Australian saying for everything’s okay.

Thank you blog post

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We're All in This Together, a picture book by Skye Hughes

We’re All in This Together — a Picture Book by Skye Hughes #readilearn

The refrain ‘We’re all in this together’ echoed around the world in 2020 as we came to grips with the changes that living with a pandemic brought. Teaching online and children learning at home required major adjustments to programs and how they were delivered. Many started talking of the ‘new normal’ while most hoped that 2021 would bring a return to the old familiar ‘normal’. While it may eventually, it is still too soon to get overly comfortable.

Throughout 2020, many were finding creative ways of dealing with the restrictions, lockdowns and changing expectations. Others were using their creativity to help others cope. One of these creatives is Skye Hughes whose beautiful picture book We’re All in This Together illustrates how the changes were shared by many and provides opportunities for discussions between teachers, parents and children that help reduce anxieties and foster empathy.

About Skye Hughes

Skye Hughes was born in Adelaide but spent much of her childhood travelling around Australia in a caravan with her three younger siblings and parents. She is a school teacher, youth program facilitator and big fan of Nutella donuts. Skye currently lives in Melbourne and when she isn’t writing children’s books, looking after her house plants or teaching young people, you will find her travelling the globe and connecting with people from all walks of life. It is these connections that inspire her to keep growing, learning and creating beautiful memories.

About the picture book We’re All in this Together

School friends – Kiana, Amin, Roshan, Casey, Ming, and Tyler all have one thing in common — they can’t go to school. The world changed very quickly and now they have to stay home to keep themselves and their families and friends safe. They discover that even apart, they can find new and fun ways to be together.
At a time when the world looks a little different, this encouraging story promises young readers an opportunity to reflect on their own experience of this unique moment in history while promoting resilience and unity.

The interview

Continue reading: We’re All in This Together — a Picture Book by Skye Hughes — readilearn

teaching with nursery rhymes

The Cow Jumped Over the Moon — Really? – #readilearn

Nursery rhymes are fun, especially nonsense nursery rhymes like Hey Diddle, Diddle.

Benefits of Nursery Rhymes

But nursery rhymes are not just fun. They are often a child’s first introduction to our literary heritage and have many benefits for young children.

  • They help children learn the sounds and rhythms of the language.
  • They are short and easy to remember so help to develop memory.
  • They introduce children to rhyme and alliteration and help to develop phonemic awareness which is important to the development of skills in reading and writing.
  • They encourage a joy in language and inspire a playfulness that contributes to further language learning.

Australian author Mem Fox is often quoted as saying that

“Experts in literacy and child development have discovered that if children know eight nursery rhymes by heart by the time they’re four years old, they’re usually among the best readers by the time they’re eight.”

We know that success with literacy learning often correlates with success later in life. Most early childhood teachers agree that children who have been spoken to, sung to (including nursery rhymes) and read to before school find literacy learning much easier in our classrooms. However, the value of nursery rhymes doesn’t end when children begin school. They can be the focus of learning throughout school.

World Nursery Rhyme Week

If you are not already aware of it, you may wish to check out World Nursery Rhyme Week  that begins next week on 16 November and continues until 20 November. The purpose of World Nursery Rhyme Week is to promote the importance of nursery rhymes in early education. Follow the link to find lots of free resources to join in the worldwide celebration of nursery rhymes.

Learning with Hey Diddle, Diddle

Let’s begin with ten lesson ideas based upon the nonsense nursery rhyme Hey Diddle Diddle. I’m sure you are familiar with the rhyme.

Continue reading: The Cow Jumped Over the Moon — Really? – readilearn

Getting creative with Karen Hendricks and her book Go Away Foxy Foxy

Getting Creative with Karen Hendriks and her book Go Away, Foxy Foxy – #readilearn

In this special Books on Wednesday post, I am delighted to introduce you to Karen Hendricks and her lovely new picture book Go Away Foxy Foxy.

 In this post, written by Karen, she explains how creativity is explored in the picture book and suggests conversations you can have with children to encourage their creativity. The post is part of a Books on Tour promotion.

About Go Away, Foxy Foxy

© Karen Hendriks

Go Away, Foxy Foxy is a delightful story of three little bunnies who decide to sleep out in a tree house one night. Outside in the dark, Foxy Foxy prowls. He’d like nothing better than to make a feast of those little bunnies. The bunnies show different levels of fear and bravery and use their intelligence, without having to resort to using the Mummy bell, to scare the fox away.

Children will easily identify with the different emotions displayed and will be encouraged to discuss different ways they may respond to the situation and solve the problem.

About Karen Hendriks

Continue reading: Getting Creative with Karen Hendriks and her book Go Away, Foxy Foxy – readilearn

First flight #flash fiction

First Flight #flashfiction

It’s almost spring here in the Southern Hemisphere. The garden is dressing up in blooms of many colours and filling the yard with the sweet scents of wattle, jasmine and other flowers. Bees busily collect the pollen, butterflies flutter from one flower to another, the butcherbirds sing joyously from the treetops, while the cockatoos noisily crack the wattle pods and prune the tree.

Things are starting to feel fresh and new again and encouraging me to emerge from my recent writerly hibernation. While, for the previous six years I’d hardly missed responding to a weekly flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch, I’ve not joined in for the past few months due to the demands of other work responsibilities. I finished that work a couple of weeks ago but have found it difficult to shake off the cobwebs and give creativity some air again. Perhaps spring and this week’s (extended) challenge provides the impetus for doing so.

In the current prompt, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a first flight. It can be anything or anyone that flies. What is significant about the first? Go where the prompt leads!

When thinking of a first flight and spring, how could I not think of butterflies?

butterflies in the classroom

One of my favourite things to do with my children in the classroom was to have a butterfly house and observe the magic of all the life stages from egg to butterfly. It was wonderful to have this special little piece of nature up close in the classroom where we could see what you don’t always get to see in the world outside.

Every day we would watch, fascinated, as the caterpillars munched their way through leaf after leaf, growing bigger and bigger. We eagerly awaited the moment they would form themselves into ‘j’ shapes, alerting us that they were about to pupate.

We were amazed at how quickly they shed their last skin to reveal the beautiful chrysalis they had become. Then we would watch and wait until they were ready to emerge as butterflies.

We knew when it was almost time as the chrysalis would become transparent and we could see the wings through the case. When they finally emerged, we would give them time to spread and dry their wings before releasing them into the garden for their first flight.

The growth of a butterfly is a great analogy for creativity or the development of an idea or project. Sometimes a lot of hard work has to be expended before the idea is ready to take flight and the beauty becomes a reality.

Here is my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you like it.

Dear Butterfly, Love Caterpillar

Dear Butterfly,

You make the impossible seem possible. You inspire our thoughts, our hopes, our dreams. How can I be like you?

Dear Caterpillar,

Dreams create possibilities but now you are exactly who you were meant to be.

Dear Butterfly,

Life is monotonous. Everyone does the same thing, day after day. Shouldn’t life be more than this?

Dear Caterpillar,

Nothing happens overnight. Patience, determination and persistence will reward you in the end.

Dear Butterfly,

I’m tired. I can’t do this anymore. I think I will sleep forever. Goodbye.

 

Wake up, butterfly. It’s time to spread your wings and fly!

 

Another angle

butterfly clipart image

venkatrao, A butterfly flying with a dotted path over a hill background https://openclipart.org/detail/69967/1278212857

I thought I’d also share a poem that I wrote many years ago in response to an inspector’s visit to our school. As the title says, it is not really about a butterfly and was written long before I became the Butterfly Lady at another school.

I had always believed, and still do, that the children are the most important thing in the classroom and that we do our best for them every day. The teacher next-door wasn’t of the same view. We were in a large teaching space with our own areas separated by some cupboards arranged between us.

She spent a lot of time sitting at her desk, barking at the children to pay attention to her words. She had little of interest on display in the classroom and even less of the children’s own work. It was quite a contrast to my own space which was filled with activity, colour and children’s work.

When the inspector’s visit was announced, she suddenly decided to decorate her room and display children’s work. I was so flummoxed by this, that I was almost tempted to do the opposite. I believed that if what I did on a daily basis wasn’t good enough for the inspector, then it wasn’t good enough for the children either. I resisted the urge to tear everything down in protest (which might have been considered a flight from the situation) and wrote this poem instead.

Before reading it, I want you to know that the teacher and I were both teaching (perhaps I use that word lightly) year two and she was considerably younger than I.

Not Really About A Butterfly

Look at you now.

You put on your show.

Your butterfly colours are warmly aglow.

 

It’s hard to imagine

That not long ago

You were a mere silent pupa

With nowhere to go.

 

You flit and you flutter,

Cry, “Hey, look at me!”

And all turn their heads,

Wondrous beauty to see.

 

But where have you come from?

And how can this be?

 

Before . . .

Not one head would have turned.

There was nothing to see

— just a little green ball,

curled up on a tree.

 

Is it dishonest

to change rapidly?

Thank you blog post

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