Category Archives: Education

Beach adventures and sea mist

Beach adventures and sea mist

Growing up near the beach

Beach adventures were a big part of my childhood. I spent many long days swimming, sunbaking and exploring with friends and siblings at the beach no more than 500 metres from home. Generally, the instruction was to be home by tea time so, on our long summer holidays, we could spend as much time on the beach as we liked.

It wasn’t the most beautiful of beaches. The sand was coarse and yellow and the shore rocky in places. The water was often filled with jellyfish and seaweed. The narrow beach was edged by tall red cliffs which prompted Captain James Cook to name the area Redcliffe when he passed by in 1770. But we loved it anyway.

There were huge cotton trees, as perfect for climbing as the red cliffs were for scaling, and a playground with swings and slides, many of which are no longer considered child-safe. But we survived.

We’d explore the rocks for sea life, avoiding the jellyfish and seaweed as best we could, both in and out of the water. We’d play in the water and on the sand and lie on our towels talking, laughing and dreaming of whatever we did as children back then.

Sun safety

It may sound idyllic and perhaps it was, though to us, it just was. Most of us are now paying for those long days at the beach with sun damaged skin. If anyone was aware of the dangers of being too long in the sun back then, we certainly weren’t. We considered a bad dose of sunburn as nothing more than inconvenient and we took turns to peel layers of skin off each other’s backs when the blisters burst.

Nowadays, my beach adventures are mostly confined to observations of sparkling white sands and perfect blue water from a shady deck with a cool drink in hand. However, I may venture out for a stroll in the late afternoon when the sun’s light has dimmed, leaving the water and sky to meet and greet in shades of pink and lilac.

Our Australian culture has a love-hate relationship with the beach and sunshine. At the first hint of warm summer weather, we’ll be told it’s a great day for the beach and we’ll be presented with images of beaches crowded with sunbathers. On another occasion, we’ll be advised to stay out of the sun and avoid the damage to our skin. Queensland is, after all, the skin cancer capital of the world. I’ve never figured out why we don’t get a more sensible approach that combines enjoyment with safety.

But let’s not dwell too long on the negatives. Hopefully now with better education and the availability of protective products, the younger generation will not be so nonchalant about time spent in the sun.

A beach excursion

A beach excursion, whether with school or family, presents as many opportunities for learning as it does for fun. There are phenomena to inspire wonder and stimulate curiosity, and countless questions to ask and answers to discover; for example,

Ten beach-inspired questions

  • What makes the waves?
  • Why does the tide come in and out?
  • How is sand made?
  • Where do the shells come from?
  • Why does the sand squeak when we walk on it?
  • What lives in the ocean?
  • Why should we take our rubbish home with us or put it in a bin?
  • How do fish breathe?
  • What made these tracks on the sand?
  • My sandcastle was here this morning. What happened to it?

Some answers can be discovered through investigation and exploration at the beach. Others require research.

Three fun beach activities that involve learning

Shells are not only fun to collect, they are great for sorting and counting, measuring and making, creating patterns and trading.

Fish might be fun to catch (for some); but they can also be identified, measured and weighed. Children can research the different types of fish and regulations for catching them.

Photographs provide a great record of beach adventures. Children can be encouraged to compile them and write a recount or report about the outing.

And of course, there are always wonderful books to read about the beach; such as:

Ten beach or ocean themed picture books

The Magic Beach by Alison Lester

Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker

Circle by Jeannie Baker

The Hidden Forest by Jeannie Baker

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

Mister Seahorse by Eric Carle

One Less Fish by Kim Michelle Toft

Coral Sea Dreaming by Kim Michelle Toft

Neptune’s Nursery by Kim Michelle Toft

Swimmy by Leo Lionni

Beach-inspired flash fiction

Charli Mills's flash fiction challenge at the Carrot Ranch

I was taken back to the beach this week by the challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch to  In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about sea mist. How does it create an environment for a story? It can set the stage or take the stage. Go where the prompt leads.

This is my response. I hope you like it.

Canned Sea Mist

No more than a hint of sea spray and she was flown back on wings of joy to carefree childhood days frolicking in the shallows, basking on golden sands, fossicking for hints of life in rockpools and amassing precious collections of shells and other treasures arranged for her pleasure by the tide. Lulled by a gentle breeze and waves whispering a heart’s rhythm, she dozed, uninterrupted by seagulls squawking, murmured conversations, hushed laughter, or the shuffle of approaching and receding footsteps. As the sun glowed bright above, she sighed her last, now and forever one with the sea’s mist.

Thank you blog post

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Don't give up - a yet attitude and growth mindset

Don’t give up – Yet!

Discussions of the importance of having a ‘yet’ attitude or a growth mindset abound, including on this blog. I am very much in favour of the ‘yet’ thinking, as proposed by Carol Dweck.

Basically, it means that we don’t consider our ability to learn as finite. We believe our potential to be constantly expanding. We may not know or be able to do something ‘yet’, but we can work at it and with each attempt come closer to achieving it.

The resolve to maintain a growth mindset can be challenged at times when the going gets tough and there is no obvious solution. It can be difficult knowing when enough is enough and it’s time to move on; or if success is hiding just around the corner or on a slight detour.

I often debate with myself about how to interpret the truth in the messages the universe seems to be sending, weighing up giving up against exerting just a little more persistence and patience. Consequently, I shouldn’t have been surprised by the unplanned theme in my response to the flash fiction prompt at the Carrot Ranch this week.

charli mill's flash fiction challenge - colonnades

Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes colonnades. It can be natural, architectural, or a metaphor. Take a stroll and go where the prompt leads.

What could colonnades possibly have to do with a growth mindset you might think, as would I. But when I sat at the keyboard, without a clue of what to write, this is what developed. I hope you like it.

Never Give Up

The solid grey wall stretched without end, both left and right —impenetrable, no way around, no way through. Perhaps a way over? Even from that distance, it appeared unscaleable.

He removed his backpack and rested his head upon it as he lay, gazing upward. He sighed heavily. He’d trekked so far believing this was the way. How could he have been so wrong?

He closed his eyes and drifted into a deep sleep. Refreshed, upon awakening, he decided to continue rather than retreat.

As he drew closer, the wall separated into columns spaced perfectly to allow an easy passage.

Do you see what I saw emerge? A story about not giving up? Of the importance of adjusting focus when it seems a dead end is reached, when there’s nowhere else to go and nothing else to try? Or is the theme significant to only me as I try to find a way through the colonnades in my path?

As I was writing this story, I was reminded of one I wrote for children using the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty as a stimulus. In a similar way to Charli’s prompts, I was prompting children to think about possible reasons for Humpty Dumpty to be sitting on a wall and causes for him to fall.

The accident - an innovation on the nursery rhyme Humpty Dumpty

Of course, I couldn’t do the prompting without writing a story of my own: The Accident – Humpty Dumpty’s Fall.

In the story, ‘Humpty looked at the wall. He couldn’t see through it. He couldn’t see over it. And there was no way around it.’ He thought it was ‘no use’. Fortunately, his friend Pomble wasn’t one to give up quite so easily and found a way for them to see over the wall. It was what occurred when Humpty was looking over the wall that caused him to fall. I won’t tell you what happened but, unlike the nursery rhyme, my story has a happy ending.

Thank you blog post

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Multicultural Children's Book Day review of I am Farmer

Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review – Readilearn

Now in its sixth year and held on the last Friday in January, Multicultural Children’s Book Day (MCBD) celebrates books that celebrate diversity. As classrooms are increasingly filled with children from a diversity of backgrounds, it is important to provide them with books that reflect their lives, books in which they can find themselves.

The purpose of Multicultural Children’s Book Day is to create awareness of books that celebrate diversity and to get more of them into classrooms and libraries.

Valarie Budayr and Mia Wenjen, co-founders of MCBD, define multicultural books as:

  • Books that contain characters of color as well as main characters that represent a minority point of view.
  • Books written by an author of diversity or color from their perspective. Search #ownvoices to discover diverse books written by diverse authors.
  • Books that share ideas, stories, and information about cultures, race, religion, language, and traditions. These books can be non-fiction, but still written in a way that kids will find entertaining and informative.
  • Books that embrace special needs or even “hidden disabilities” like ADHD, ADD, and anxiety.

Multicultural Children’s Book Day provides us with an opportunity to examine the collections of books in our classrooms and libraries to determine if they reflect the lives our children.

This year, for the first time, I am participating in the MCBD celebrations with a review of I am Farmer, a picture book written by Miranda and Baptiste Paul and illustrated by Elizabeth Zunon. I am grateful to Miranda and Paul and publisher Millbrook Press for providing me with a link to access the book on NetGallery prior to its publication in early February.

I am Farmer - the story of a farmer in Cameroon who became an environmental hero

Continue reading: Multicultural Children’s Book Day: Book Review – Readilearn

enriching lives and communities with education

Enriching Lives and Communities with Education

Education has the power to enrich lives. By education, I mean all of life’s experiences that contribute to learning. Sometimes these experiences occur in school. Mostly they don’t.

Schooling is but a small part of ones’ education, and its ability to enrich varies depending on:

  • an individual’s circumstances and attitudes to school and learning.
  • the school culture and attitudes to children and learning.
  • and the teacher’s attitude to children and learning.

Over the years I have been aware of enrichment programs offered in some schools. The programs were available to children considered ‘brighter’, having greater potential and, possibly, even ‘gifted’. The children were those who pleased their teachers with compliant behaviour and diligent work, and whose well-to-do families contributed to school facilities. Often, the program was a reward for children who needed neither incentive nor enrichment (their lives already had both) and an easy way for schools to say they were catering for diversity and individual differences.

The model of enrichment with which I was most familiar was a selective program offered one afternoon a week. Children were withdrawn from their regular classrooms to participate. Activities included things such as problem-solving, advanced science and maths, chess, reading and writing clubs.

In my opinion, these are activities which would benefit all children, especially those from impoverished homes who received little encouragement for learning, either in school or out, or opportunity for enrichment. My belief is that ‘enriched’ individuals enrich their communities and society as a whole. My suggestion of an early learning caravan, if implemented, would help remedy the situation for some.

early learning caravan

Surely education should be about enriching all lives, not just a few. It should be about asking, ‘What can I do to enrich your life, to provide opportunities for you to learn, and enhance your potential for a successful life?’ It shouldn’t just be ‘What can I cram into you for the test at the end of the week/month/term/year?’ I summed up some of these differences in my poem Education is.

poem about the difference between education and schooling

© Norah Colvin

Of course, not all schooling is a nightmare. Much of it is enriching. You only have to read the blogs of wonderful teachers like Jennie Fitzkee, Jacqui Murray, Marie Forst, Adam Hill and others, to realise that children’s lives are enriched by inspired teachers, every day.

readilearn teaching resources for the first three years of school

My life’s work has been an attempt to enrich the lives of others through education; from my years in the classroom to my current work on readilearn where I support teachers with resources to enhance their teaching and lighten their workload.

In so doing, my own life has been enriched in many ways. You see, I consider enrichment to be something that fills one up on the inside:

  • with feelings of self-worth, self-respect and self-confidence,
  • with a sense of purpose and empowerment,
  • with trust, understanding and empathy,
  • with compassion and love for others,
  • and an interest in all that is.

Enrichment has little to do with external riches (though most of us wouldn’t say ‘no’ to sufficient to make our lives comfortable).

I have always seen my roles as both parent and teacher, so closely entwined, to be not only a giving back but a paying forward to the future of the universe. My children, biological and in the classroom, have enriched my life enormously, and for that I am very grateful.

Enrichment flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

But why am I writing about enrichment this week? You might have guessed —in response to the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes the idea of enrichment. Use many of its different manifestations or explore reasons why it matters to the character. Go where the prompt leads.

I hope you like my story:

What Kind of Enrichment?

The meeting dragged. After analysing data, discussing duty rosters and responsibilities, lockdown and evacuation procedures, enthusiasm flagged. Jocelyn itched.  Last on the agenda; her topic was enrichment.

As she took the floor, groans and tapping pencils defied her resolve. A phone ban meant some eyes were on her, at least. Her suggestions of enrichment were met with derision.

“They don’t learn what we teach ‘em. ‘ow are we gonna’ enrich ‘em?’ Everyone laughed.

Jocelyn’s mouth opened to respond but gaped as Taya burst in bearing an enormous cake with candles ablaze.

“Now that’s my kind of enrichment.” Everyone cheered.

Thank you blog post

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

holiday wishes and inspiring teaching videos

Holiday wishes and inspiring teaching videos 2018 – Readilearn

Holiday wishes

As the holiday season draws nigh, I wish you and your loved ones a very happy and safe holiday season. May you have time to relax, refresh, rejuvenate and, most of all, have fun.

Teaching inspiration

Holiday time can be perfect for catching up on things missed during the busyness of work. To both affirm and inspire you, I have curated a short list of some of my favourite videos. I hope you find time to enjoy them too.

Ten inspiring videos

Kate DiCamillo on the magic of reading aloud

Continue reading: Holiday wishes and inspiring teaching videos 2018 – Readilearn

Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning

Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning – Readilearn

As Christmas draws near, keeping children focussed on their lessons can be a challenge for teachers. But it’s not impossible. It is not necessary to fill every moment with Christmas themed activities, but a few interspersed throughout the day can be motivating and lift everyone’s spirits. Activities that promote children’s learning should always take precedence over time fillers.

To assist teachers keep the focus on learning while children would rather be thinking of Christmas and holidays, I have prepared a range of lessons and suggestions for use in different subject areas. Many of the lessons and suggestions integrate learning across curriculum areas. All readilearn Christmas themed activities can be found under the Cultural Studies tab in the subcategory Christmas.

Focus on the children

A great place to start is always with the children and their family’s traditions.

Begin with a survey to find out which children in the class do and do not celebrate Christmas. While you will already have an idea of which children do, it can be an interesting way to begin the discussion of different cultural traditions celebrated by children in your class.

The main ingredient in any of these discussions should always be respect, and it is important to find ways of making classroom activities inclusive.

How many school days until Christmas?

Advent Calendars that count down the twenty-five December days until Christmas are great for families to use in the home but not so suitable for school. What about counting down the school days until Christmas? Twenty-five school days would mean starting at least five weeks before school finishes, which might be a bit soon, so choose another number which suits your program. Fifteen (three weeks) could be a good number. (Note: If, for inclusivity, you didn’t wish to count down to Christmas, you could count down to the holidays.)

A countdown calendar

Schedule opportunities for the children to present information about their family traditions as part of the countdown.

Continue reading: Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning – Readilearn

Interview with Allison Paterson author of Australia Remembers

Interview with Allison Paterson about her non-fiction book Australia Remembers – just in time for Remembrance Day – readilearn

This week, I have great pleasure in introducing you to Allison Paterson and her beautiful non-fiction picture book Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials. With the observance of Remembrance Day occurring on the weekend, the interview is timely.

This post is but one of several celebrating Elizabeth’s beautiful picture book in Romi Sharp’s Books on Tour. Please read to the end of the post for details of other posts celebrating Elizabeth’s work.

About the book

The book explains, in a way that is detailed but accessible for a young audience, the origins and significance of both Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Explanations of the traditions and symbols ensure that children understand why it is important to observe these historical events and why we should never forget those who fought for our country, and those who keep us safe today.

This volume is the first in a series. The second volume Australia Remembers: Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force will be released in 2019.

About the author

Continue reading: Interview with Allison Paterson about her non-fiction book Australia Remembers – just in time for Remembrance Day – readilearn