Category Archives: Early childhood education

Introducing Andrew King author of the Engibear series – Readilearn

Today, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Dr Andrew King from Brisbane Australia. Andrew is an engineer, teacher, and writer of the popular Engibears series of picture books, designed to introduce children to engineering through friendly characters and story. Each book focusses on a particular aspect of engineering and, through examples and accompanying activities, is designed to encourage children to try engineering — to “Dream, Design and Develop”.

Dream, Design and Develop

Engibears have been part of Andrew’s family for many years. They were created while Andrew played and shared stories with his children.

Andrew thinks he is very lucky to be working with Benjamin Johnston, a Sydney-based architect and illustrator. Ben’s fantastic illustrations have brought Engibears and Munnagong, the city in which they live, to life.

Andrew is passionate about the role that Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (the STEM subjects) will play in our sustainable future and equally passionate about the importance of STEM education. He regularly talks to students about engineering, and facilitates student-centred engineering activities and programs.

His kids think he enjoys building shelves in his spare time. However, Andrew really enjoys spending time with his family, playing bass guitar, walking his dogs and trying to play golf.

The Engibear series includes three books; Engibear’s Dream, Engibear’s Bridge and Engilina’s Trains. In the most recent, Engilina’s Trains, Engilina, Engibear and Bearbot are back to build transport for the future – a new maglev train that will run from Munnagong to Billaburra as fast as a plane. During the project, they discover an old steam engine which leads them on an interesting journey and creates an unexpected link to the past. It’s an interesting story of trains, teamwork, technology and time.

Now let’s meet Andrew. Welcome to readilearn, Andrew. We are looking forward to getting to know a little more about you and your books.

Thanks for inviting me.

Andrew, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Andrew King author of the Engibear series – Readilearn

readilearn: What parents can do to prepare their children for school

Parents often approach teachers wanting to know what they should teach their children or how to prepare their children for school—should they teach them the letter names or sounds or how far should they teach them to count?

However, for most teachers, these are not of highest priority.

What teachers value most is an ability to:

  • engage in conversation about experiences and ideas
  • get along with others and make friends
  • identify and organise personal belongings

and to have:

  • an interest in books
  • a curiosity about the world, and
  • a willingness to have a go and try new things.

The best way parents can prepare their children for school is by spending time with them, talking with them, playing games with them, reading stories to them and encouraging their curiosity by providing them with opportunities to question, learn and explore.

It is important for parents to see themselves as their children’s first and most important teachers. When their children start school, it is not time for them to relinquish their responsibility. Instead, it is important for them to work in partnership with teachers to ensure the best chance of success for their children.

Last week I shared an article, originally published in The Conversation, in which Kym Simoncini provided parents with suggestions for developing young children’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

This week, I share a letter to parents of children beginning school, congratulating them on their contribution and requesting their ongoing support.

Dear Parents,

Congratulations on teaching your child to speak!

Continue reading: What parents can do to prepare their children for school? – Readilearn

information about sun safety and being smart in the sun with Slip Slop Slap the article includes a story about children playing with shadows

How sun smart are you?

My home state of Queensland is the melanoma capital of the world. Melanoma is a form of skin cancer primarily caused by exposure to the sun’s UV rays. If not detected and treated early, it can quickly spread and often cause fatalities. In Australia, it is the fourth most commonly diagnosed form of cancer, and over one thousand deaths result from melanoma each year.

When I was a child, we didn’t know of the dangers of the sun and spent hours in the sun playing to our heart’s content. Although it was painful, we thought nothing of going home after a day at the beach with our backs as red as a beetroot, knowing that in a couple of days our siblings would be peeling huge chunks of skin from our backs.

Nowadays, there is plenty of information about sun safety and an abundance of products for protection from the sun. We are educated about the dangers of too much sun in the media. In the 80s there was a “Slip! Slop! Slap!” promotion – to slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat.

The slogan was later updated to include Seek (shade) and Slide (on sunglasses).

We teach children in school about sun safety as part of our Health and Physical Education programs and insist they wear a hat in the playground through our “No hat No play” policies.

no hat no play is a rule employed by many school in Australia to ensure children are sun safe when playing at lunchtime

While the Cancer Council believes the campaign to have been very effective in changing behaviour and reducing the incidence of sun cancer, many are still not heeding the advice.

In fact, as soon as the days become warm (as if they ever aren’t in this Sunshine State), people are told, that it’s a great day for the beach or the pool. No one warns about staying in the shade in the hottest part of the day or covering up for sun protection.

When Bec was little, a friend watched me apply a generous amount of sunscreen to her exposed skin. The friend asked if I was concerned about Vitamin D and if sunscreen would prevent her getting her daily dose. I had not previously given it a thought and, being in the pre-internet days (would you believe there were days before the internet?) I asked who I thought to be the most reliable source of information — the pharmacist. He scoffed at me for entertaining such a ridiculous thought. How could anyone in Australia not get enough Vitamin D?

Many years later, Bec did suffer a deficiency of Vitamin D and was “prescribed” a short walk in the sun each day.

Having done more than sufficient damage to my skin in younger days, I now tend to be an indoors girl and avoid being outdoors in the heat, for which I have little tolerance and less interest. I apply sunscreen as part of my morning routine and wear a hat whenever I’m out and about for more than a few minutes. I seek the shade whenever possible and closely follow the recommendation to

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek, Slide.

I’ve been thinking of the importance of sun safety and being sun smart in response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week in which Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a silly sun story. Up north, “sun silly” is the energetic and playful response to returning sunlight. It could also be an April Fool’s jest, a silly story, or a reaction to spring fever. Be silly and write playfully! Go where the prompt leads.

a photograph of a glorious spring day in Queensland with clear blue skies and wattle in bloom

In Queensland, we tend to have sun all year round. Our mid-winter June days are often glorious with the most amazing blue skies. It may be cool indoors but always warm in the sun.

In my last teaching position, my classroom opened onto a grassy area and, particularly on the cooler days, we could pop out for a few minutes to warm up in the sun between lessons. Sometimes the children had fun trying to catch their shadows.

I turned to fun with shadow play for my story. I hope you like it.

Running in the Sunshine, Dancing in Shadows

Dad was working and didn’t look up.

“Can we play outside?” the children asked.

“It’s very hot,” said Dad. “Wait until it cools down.”

“We’ll stay in the shade.”

“We’ve got sunscreen on.”

“I’ve got my hat.”

“And sunglasses.”

“There won’t be much shade,” said Dad.

“There is a little bit.”

“Can we?”

The deadline loomed.

“Well, stay in the shade,” he conceded.

When finished, Dad sought the children.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Dancing in each other’s shadows,” they laughed.

“But you’re in the sun.”

“We have to be. We don’t have shadows without the sun, silly.”

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Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age – Readilearn

The development of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) skills can be encouraged in children, even before they start school, by parents who are attuned to opportunities for learning.

I’ve previously introduced you to Rebecca Johnson, Narinda Sandry, Brenda Miles and Susan Sweet with their books and suggestions for including STEM in early childhood classroom learning, and soon I will be interviewing Andrew King about his beautiful Engibear series of picture books that focus on the engineering component in STEM. These supplement my own posts about incorporating STEM in the classroom here and here.

In this post, I share with you Five things parents can do every day to help develop stem skills from a young age by Kym Simoncini Assistant Professor in Early Childhood and Primary Education, University of Canberra. This article was first published in The Conversation. Throughout Kym’s article, you will notice links to other articles. Be sure to follow the links for even more great ideas and resources.

Now over to Kym Simoncini, University of Canberra

Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM

skills from a young age

Educators and researchers agree early literacy experiences are important for children’s cognitive and language development. For the past 30 years there has been a strong movement to foster children’s literacy skills. This has resulted in an abundance of information on how parents can do this by reading books, singing songs and nursery rhymes, playing word games and noticing print.

This is a good thing and should continue, given the importance of early literacy skills in learning to read, and how this leads to later success in school and life.

Continue reading: Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age – Readilearn

counting on fingers, mathematics, mathemagic,

Counting on fingers

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about fingers that fly. Think about the different ways we use our fingers and what happens when we add speed. Go where the prompt leads.

I thought about the use young children make of their fingers when counting. It may increase their speed and ease of calculation in the beginning, but continued use tends to slow them down.

I also thought about magicians, and how the speed of their fingers amazes us with tricks and sleight of hand.

Combining both thoughts brought me to the mathemagician Arthur Benjamin who never ceases to astound with his calculations.

A performance of mathematic by Arthur Benjamin TED talk

Are you a math whiz, solving complicated problems and making calculations with large numbers effortlessly, or do you still need to count on your fingers at times?

I don’t think I was ever what would be considered a maths whiz, but I did have my confidence in maths taught out of me. Sadly, I think this happens to far too many.

Many children who have been provided experiences with number and engaged in discussions about number from a young age develop strong understandings and are able to calculate with little effort, arriving at answers almost intuitively. While it can be good to help them develop metacognition by asking them to explain how they knew, or how they worked it out, sometimes they don’t know how—they just know.

While some children need to be taught methods of working out answers, requiring maths intuitive thinkers to use the same working can cause them to second-guess themselves and to lose confidence by breaking what they know down into steps that only cause confusion.

I was interested to hear Arthur Benjamin’s plan for improving maths education when he is made “Czar of Mathematics”.

Arthur Benjamin Czar of Mathematics

His suggestions relate more to high school than primary, but probability and statistics still have their place in the early years, as I’ve shown with many readilearn resources.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I’ve considered what may occur if a child’s intuition with maths is neither appreciated nor encouraged.

Counting on fingers
Everyone said she had a way with numbers. Even when still in nappies she was counting effortlessly to large numbers in multiples of twos, fives and tens as well as ones. The parents didn’t dare think they’d bred a genius, an outlier. They wished for an ordinary child who fitted in, unnoticed, like them.  They strove to inhibit her talent and discourage her enthusiasm. She tried to hide her ability by delaying responses with finger actions resembling calculation aids. But they slowed her none and flew too fast, earning her the nickname “Flying fingers” and ridicule instead of appreciation. 

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#WATWB Dolly Parton Imagination Library 100 millionth book

#WATWB Imagination Library: Dolly Parton donates her 100 millionth book!

On the last Friday of each month, We Are the World Blogfest invites bloggers to join together in promoting positive news. If you would like to join in, please check out the rules and links below.

A statement of mission from the We are the World Blogfest website:

“There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.”

The co-hosts for this month are Belinda WitzenhausenSylvia McGrath, Sylvia Stein,  Shilpa Garg, Eric Lahti . Please pop over to their blogs to read their stories, comment and share.

This month I am sharing a story of Dolly Parton and the 100 millionth book she has given away through her non-profit Imagination Library.

According to the article by Helena Andrews-Dyer in the Washington Post Dolly Parton Likes to Give Away Books. She just donated her 100 millionth.

The article states that

“Parton is the founder of Imagination Library, a nonprofit that started out donating books in Sevier County, Tenn., and grew into a million-book-a-month operation. Families who sign up receive a book per month from birth to kindergarten. The singer donated her organization’s 100 millionth book to the nation’s library on Tuesday.”

Knowing the enormous potential that books and reading have for changing lives by improving the chances of success, not just in school, but in life, I couldn’t go past sharing this inspiring article, especially when International Children’s Book Day is celebrated in a few days on 2 April.

Click to read the whole article in the Washington Post.

Here are the guidelines for #WATWB:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blog, one that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

  1. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hashtag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.

Click here to join in and enter the link to your post. The bigger the #WATWB group each month, the greater the joy!

Thank you blog post

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

 

stories for discussing individual differences, diversity, inclusion, friendship

Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

While a classroom is filled with a group of unique individuals, it can be easy sometimes to get caught up in treating them as one, with one set of needs, expectations and rules. Everybody do this, everybody do that—a bit like Simon Says but not always as much fun.

It is useful to pause sometimes and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals in your class.

International Children’s Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen‘s birthday on 2 April provide excellent excuses for reading and celebrating children’s literature, as if we needed any. We can also find stories that help us celebrate individuality.

The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer of fairy tales, many of which are well-known and have been made into movies. One of my favourite films as a child was about Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye in the lead role. I was particularly touched by the story of The Ugly Duckling which Andersen told to a sad young boy whom no one would play with. You can watch the scene here.

The story is a great starting point for discussing individual differences,

Continue reading: #readilearn: Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn