Category Archives: Education

#BeBraveMakeChange in National Reconciliation Week 2022 – #readilearn

Today, Friday 27 May is the first day of National Reconciliation Week which runs until 3 June. The theme this year is ‘Be Brave. Make Change.’

As expressed on the Reconciliation Australia website, the theme ‘is a challenge to all Australians— individuals, families, communities, organisations and government—to Be Brave and tackle the unfinished business of reconciliation so we can Make Change for the benefit of all Australians.’

It ‘is a time for all Australians to learn about our shared histories, cultures, and achievements, and to explore how each of us can contribute to achieving reconciliation in Australia.’

The dates are chosen to commemorate two events:

On 27 May 1967, more than 90% of Australians voted ‘Yes’ in a referendum to ensure that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people would be recognised in the Census.

On 3 June 1992, the Australian High Court delivered the Mabo decision which recognised the incorrectness of the term ‘terra nullius’ (land belonging to no one). This decision led to the legal recognition of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as Traditional Owners and Custodians of the land and paved the way for recognition of Native Title.

The day before Reconciliation Week, 26 May, is National Sorry Day which remembers and honours the Stolen Generations.

The website lists actions we can all take to make a change toward reconciliation.

The basis of many of these actions is education. It begins with us, teaching our children to honour and respect the cultures of our First Nations, to learn the truth of our history, and to implement actions for change.

I rarely mention politics in my posts, but with our recent change in government, I was very proud to be an Australian when the incoming Prime Minister Anthony Albanese acknowledged our First Nations peoples in both the introduction and content of his victory speech. These are the words with which he opened his speech:

“I begin by acknowledging the traditional owners of the land on which we meet. I pay my respects to their elders past, present and emerging. And on behalf of the Australian Labor Party, I commit to the Uluru Statement from the heart in full.”

And these are the words which he used further in:

“And together we can embrace the Uluru Statement from the Heart.

“We can answer its patient, gracious call for a voice enshrined in our constitution. Because all of us ought to be proud that amongst our great multicultural society we count the oldest living continuous culture in the world.”

In further recognition, in his first press conference as Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese hung the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Flags alongside the Australian flag in the media room at Parliament House. These statements give me hope for the recognition that our First Nations deserve and is long overdue.

In this post, I share some wonderful books by our Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors and illustrators. This is only a small selection of the growing number available. Magabala Books is a great resource to check out as it publishes only books by First Nations authors and illustrators. Other publishers also have a collection of titles, so it is worth checking out others too. I will be adding these titles to the list already available in readilearn resources Indigenous Australian picture books and resources. A previous post Resources for teaching Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Histories and Culture has links to many other useful resources also.

Books for Reconciliation

Common Wealth by Gregg Dreise

Published by Scholastic in 2021

Dreise is the author of many wonderful picture books. I first came upon his delightful stories in books such as Kookoo Kookaburra and Mad Magpie which introduce children to the stories of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Common Wealth is different. It is a book that challenges us to acknowledge our true history and to ‘break down the barriers of division … by discussing without ammunition, a willingness to listen … to a true common wealth vision.’

The book may not be as suitable for sharing with our younger children, but it makes valuable reading for us anyway as it can empower us in our knowledge and discussions. The half-title page informs us that this book is ‘A Slam Poetry Persuasive — A picture book for older readers. Contains some confronting imagery.’

Dreise opens the book with the words, ‘All that I’m wishing, is that you take a moment to listen …You see, I’m on a mission, to spread unity — not division.’ He takes us on a journey through our national anthem and our history, pointing out the parts that are incorrect and what we need to do to make them more inclusive and true. His illustrations pull no punches and the text added to the illustrations add to the depth of the story and its message. There is much to contemplate and discuss. It may be challenging but it is also empowering and I, for one, can’t help myself wishing for change along with Gregg.

Finding Our Heart by Thomas Mayor, illustrated by Blak Douglas

Published by Hardie Grant 2020

Thomas Mayor was involved in the writing of the Uluru Statement of the Heart. His book for adults titled Finding the Heart of the Nation: The Journey of the Uluru Statement Towards Voice, Treaty and Truth talks about the writing of the statement and reports discussions with many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people whom Mayor met with as he took the Statement on a journey around Australia. It is a very valuable read for adults.

Continue reading: #BeBraveMakeChange in National Reconciliation Week 2022 – readilearn

Learning about Sustainability by Reducing Food Waste – #readilearn

This post is a little different from my usual post in that I am not sharing teaching resources for the first three years of school. Instead, I am sharing information about a food rescue organisation and a sustainability program for Years 5 and 6. While I don’t usually share resources for older classes, I thought this may be useful information to have and to share with your colleagues who teach upper primary classes.

OzHarvest

OzHarvest is an Australian food rescue organisation founded in 2004 by Ronni Kahn. I’m embarrassed to say that I wasn’t aware of it until I read Kahn’s book A Repurposed Life in 2020 and was blown away by her dedication to helping feed people in need by saving surplus food from going to landfill. (A Repurposed Life is a fascinating and inspiring memoir, and I am happy to recommend it.)

After reading her book, I began noticing bins for accepting donations of food in the local shopping centres. I was surprised that I’d never seen them before and wondered how many times I’d walked past them, oblivious.

A quote from the website explains the OzHarvest mission:

“We are committed to halving food waste by 2030, inspiring and influencing others to do the same, and transforming lives through education.”

You can read more about the OzHarvest story and Ronni Kahn on the website here.

This video gives a very brief introduction to Ronni.

Feast

What I really wanted to share with you, though, is the OzHarvest education program called Feast with the goal of ‘Inspiring kids to eat healthy, waste less and be change-makers in their local community.’

As I said earlier, the program is for Years 5 and 6. According to the website, it is a STEM project-based learning program that runs for 7-10 weeks. The program focuses on food and fibre and the cross-curriculum priority of Sustainability.

This video gives a quick introduction to the program.

Continue reading: Learning about Sustainability by Reducing Food Waste – Readilearn

Welcome to our new Children’s Laureate – #readilearn

This week the Australian Children’s Laureate Foundation announced our new Children’s Laureate for 2022-2023, Gabrielle Wang.

Gabrielle Wang is an Australian author and illustrator and our seventh Children’s Laureate. She was born in Melbourne of Chinese heritage. Her father is from Shanghai. Her maternal great grandfather came to Victoria during the Gold Rush.

Gabrielle has been an author for 21 years and has had 20 books published. She mainly writes for 8-12 year olds, but has written for older and younger children too. Her stories are a blend of Chinese and Western culture with a touch of fantasy.

You can find out more about Gabrielle on her own or the Australian Children’s Laureate’s website where Gabrielle has her own page.

Be inspired by Gabrielle’s journey in a video that can be viewed following this link.

The theme for Gabrielle’s term as Children’s Laureate is ‘Imagine a Story’.

She says,

“Your imagination is your most treasured possession and I want to encourage all children to use their imaginations regularly by reading, drawing and writing stories.”

What a wonderful theme.

In her two year ‘Follow the Dragon’ tour of Australia, visiting and conducting workshops in schools, galleries and libraries, Gabrielle has four key messages for children, parents and librarians:

Continue reading: Welcome to our new Children’s Laureate – readilearn

Lessons to teach 3-digit numbers – #readilearn

The recent audit of readilearn resources for teaching number showed that, while there were many lessons for teaching understanding of number and place value to 100, lessons for teaching numbers above 100 were scant. This is somewhat understandable as confidence with numbers relies upon a firm foundation in understanding the basics of our decimal system. However, it was a situation I needed to remedy.

Last week I added 1000 Pancakes to the collection, a lesson to help children visualise 1000 objects by counting in 1s to 10, 10s to 100 and 100s to 1000.

This week, I added Let’s Count Pancakes — 3-digit numbers, a lesson that helps children recognise and represent 3-digit numbers and understand the value of each numeral in its place. The interactive lesson ready to teach on the interactive whiteboard consists of ten different slides ready to discuss with the children.

On each slide, children count the pancakes and write the number of hundreds, tens and ones they count.

Continue reading: Lessons to teach 3-digit numbers – readilearn

Anxiety — First Day Jitters #99WordStories

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story that includes anxiety. Who has anxiety or what is the source? Is there conflict? How can you use anxiety to further a story? Go where the prompt leads!

Anxiety is probably familiar to most of us at some stage of our lives — starting a new job, public speaking, waiting for a medical diagnosis. We all feel it in lesser or greater degrees. Even children feel it. It’s not uncommon for children to feel some anxiety when starting a new school. But children aren’t the only ones. Parents may feel some anxiety about how their children will fare. It may or may not surprise you, that teachers feel it too. Having spent most of my life in schools as either student or teacher, where else could I go with this prompt?

First Day Jitters

“I feel sick.”

“My tummy feels all jumbly.”

“My head hurts.”

“I don’t want to go.”

“You’ll be okay once you’re there. Everyone feels the same on their first day at a new school.’

“But what if they don’t like me?”

“They will. Come on. You’ll feel better when you’re up.”

“But what if I mess up?”

“You won’t. Close your eyes. Take some deep breaths. Relax. You can do this.”

Everyone was already seated when he entered the room. They smiled. “Good morning, Mr Clarke.”

He smiled back. “Good morning, children.”

She was right. He could do this.

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The collection of stories made in response to the previous prompt The ’49ers can be read at the Carrot Ranch here.

Handouts for Parents to Support Children’s Learning – #readilearn

Here at readilearn we recognise that not all learning takes place in school. We know that learning can occur anywhere at any time and continues throughout life. It can be planned or incidental. It can be fun and joyful. It can even cause frustration at times. In fact, some frustration may encourage the learner to push further and try harder to find a solution. That is especially so when the frustration occurs in a purposeful activity in which the learner is engaged and feels a need to solve. Unsuccessful attempts don’t mean failure. They mean it’s time to try again. We see this in situations from a child learning to walk or ride a bike to scientists finding a cure for disease. What we most need to do to develop a love of learning is inspire curiosity and creativity and avoid ringbarking either through confinement.

As the end of the school year in Australia approaches, most teachers and parents are looking forward to the holidays as much as the students are. The last couple of years have been tough with changes to teaching and learning circumstances and the increased involvement of parents in monitoring their children’s school learning at home. While parents may have become more familiar with teaching methods used in the classroom, it is important for them to realise that learning can still occur during the holidays without the formality of classroom exercises.

The most important things parents can do for children, right from birth and through their developing years and beyond, is to talk with them, play with them and read to them — every day. The same can be said for teachers.

I previously shared this wonderful TEDtalk by 7-year-old Molly Wright in a post about The Importance of the Early Years. But it is inspiring and watching it gives me joy and I thought watching it might also give you joy. It is definitely worth sharing with parents to encourage and affirm positive interactions with their children.

We also have some handouts of suggestions which you are welcome to copy and send home to parents. You can find them in the Classroom Management — For Parents collection. They are all free resources and suggest ways of increasing the learning in everyday situations, mostly by being aware of the opportunities that arise incidentally throughout the day.

21 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the holidays

25 ways to keep the children thinking mathematically during the holidays

Continue reading: Handouts for Parents to Support Children’s Learning – readilearn

Australia Remembers Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly by Catherine Bauer – #readilearn

Today it is my pleasure to share with you the inspiring story of Kamilaroi man Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly, the third in the Australia Remembers Series published by Big Sky Publishing. This post is part of a Books on Tour promotion.

I previously shared information about the first in the Australia Remembers Series, Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials written by Allison Paterson in this post.

The second, Customs and Traditions of the Australian Defence Force was also written by Allison Paterson.

About Catherine Bauer

Catherine Bauer is the author of the 2019 Speech Pathology Australia Book of the Year Dreaming Soldiers, a moving story about the friendship of two boys from different cultures. Her picture book, Colourful Memories, was inspired by her father’s journey from post-World War II Germany to Australia in the 1950s. She has also written three children’s plays, all with Aboriginal themes.

Catherine has worked as a news and political journalist and features writer for various newspapers and publications and has advised both government and the corporate sector on media management and public relations. She is now working with the State Theatre Company, South Australia.

Her love of writing and storytelling began as an eight-year-old, when Catherine wrote and illustrated her first book about a mermaid. She aims for her stories to spark all or one of the following three reactions in readers: ‘that’s me’; ‘I wish that was me’ or ‘I’m glad that’s not me’.

Catherine lives in Adelaide, South Australia, with her three sones. She loves art, history, fitness, cats, chocolate and reading.

About Australia Remembers

Len Waters may have been born behind the gates of an Aboriginal reserve, but his big imagination and even bigger dreams took him soaring well beyond the reach of those who tried to confine him. Kamilaroi man Len Waters dreamed of taking to the skies. It was an unlikely dream at the time, but during WWII he beat the odds to become Australia’s first known Aboriginal fighter pilot.

Rules and restrictions controlled much of Len’s early life. Born in the 1920s, Len had a basic education and life was lacking in luxury. But Len had a sharp mind. He had a boundless work ethic. Len also had big dreams and a family who supported them. Australia Remembers 3: Len Waters – Boundless and Born to Fly takes readers on Len Waters’ soaring journey from making his home-made model aeroplanes at his kitchen table, to flying RAAF fighter jets in the south west Pacific in World War II.

Len was a history maker, a young man who didn’t let society’s prejudice, his culture or skin colour stand in his way. But when WWII was over, Len sadly discovered that his service and courage did not result in equality. Len once said that, out of his RAAF uniform, he simply ‘returned to being a black fellow’. Today, decades later, Len’s determination and achievements are recognised and honoured across Australia.

Ages: 6 – 12 years

Subject: RAAF, History

Sample Pages

Continue reading: Australia Remembers Len Waters Boundless and Born to Fly by Catherine Bauer – readilearn

The Winners! — Environment Award for Children’s Lit, 2021 – #readilearn

The winners of 2021 ENVIRONMENT AWARD FOR CHILDREN’S LITERATURE have been announced!

Recently, I shared with you the shortlist for the Environment Award for Children’s Literature. Today it is my pleasure to let you know the winners in each of the three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction and Picture Fiction.

Over to the Wilderness Society for their announcement:

The winners for this year’s Environment Award for Children’s Literature have been announced by the Wilderness Society during Nature Book Week, which runs between 6 – 12 September.

Now in its 27th year, the Wilderness Society shortlists the best children’s nature books before a panel of judges crowns a winner for three categories: Fiction, Non-Fiction, and Picture Fiction. The award showcases and celebrates some of the best writers and illustrators working in children’s literature.

Continue reading: The Winners! — Environment Award for Children’s Lit, 2021 – readilearn

The Importance of the Early Years – #readilearn

Note: This article was first written for and published at the Carrot Ranch Literary Community as part of a series supporting parents with children learning at home. The focus of the article is early childhood development and contains information and ideas that teachers and schools may find suitable for sharing with parents.

The early years are crucial to child development and what happens in those years can be used to predict, to some extent, what will happen in that’s child’s future.

I had already intended sharing videos about early childhood development in this post, and still will. But when my sister told me about this Ted Talk by Molly Wright, a pretty amazing 7-year-old, I just knew I had to share it first. She does a great job of summing up the importance of the early years. I’m not going to summarise her talk for you as it’s only 7 ½ minutes long and I’m sure you will enjoy it more coming from Molly.

For me, the only thing she leaves out that I wish she had included is reading stories. Although it’s probably understood, I would like to have heard it mentioned.

Now back to my original plan of sharing two Ted Talks.

(Tip: I understand that watching talks can be time consuming. I find I can often follow them just as well, or better, when I watch them at increased speed. In case you don’t know, to do this is easy. Click on the Settings cogwheel, select Playback speed and choose the speed that suits you. I often try 1.75 first and adjust down if necessary.)

The first talk is Lessons from the longest study on human development by Helen Pearson.

Continue reading: The Importance of the Early Years – readilearn

Flying Pigs #flash fiction

The phrase ‘when pigs fly’ means that something is impossible, it will never happen. The phrase is an adynaton — don’t you love that word? I just learned it — an exaggeration, hyperbole. I seem to think I heard the term many times growing up, though I can’t recall about what in particular. Maybe it was life in general.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a flight of pigs. It can be farm or fantasy-related. The idea can be a tale, poem or memory. You can use the phrase as an expression. Go where the prompt leads!

The first thing I thought about when reading Charli’s prompt is a hilariously delightful picture book by the fabulous author-illustrator Mo Willems: An Elephant and Piggie Book Today I Will Fly!

If you don’t already know the story, I suggest you acquaint yourself with it with this video. It will only take a couple of minutes.

I remember when I was first introduced to Mo Willem’s work. A colleague came rushing into my room one morning and pushed Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! at me, saying, “You’ve got to read this!’

I would have to say, the book didn’t have instant cover appeal, but she left it with me, and I continued with my preparations for the day. Later, when I sat down to read, I knew this book was something special. I loved it and the children loved it. We read it and read and read it. It had us in stitches. Unsurprisingly, it was a Caldecott Honor book.

After that, we read all the Mo Willems books we could get our hands on. The children brought in those they’d purchased or borrowed from the local library, and I couldn’t resist buying additional titles whenever I saw a new one in a book store I just happened to be passing.

When I visited New York in 2016, I was delighted to find an exhibition of the Art and Whimsy of Mo Willems at a museum not far from my accommodation. I couldn’t go through the exhibition shop without purchasing a book or two or more and also came home with a pigeon and a duckie soft toy. I am, unreservedly, a Mo Willems fan and I have the enthusiasm of my colleague to thank for that. If you would like to find out more, please visit the Mo Willems website.

And Mo is not just for little kids. He is for big kids (like us) and writers too. He has wonderful advice for teachers and writers alike when he discusses creativity, the need to play and the ever-present failure. If you haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting Mo, please watch his video on The Joy of Creation. It will inspire you.

In another video on his website, Mo explains how to draw a piggie from the Elephant and Piggie books. The inspiration for my flash came from this video. The flash is also a nod to my favourite ever principal Peter Kidston who not only valued my work as a teacher, he respected it enough to provide me the freedom to teach how I wanted, knowing that the children and their learning was at the centre of all I did. I wrote about Peter in this post.

I hope you enjoy my story.

Flying Pigs

Children’s squeals drew the principal to the window. Ms Irena’s children were running about the yard tossing bits of paper in the air. What were they up to this time?

“We read a book about a flying pig,” explained Ms Irena. “The children decided to make their own pigs and see if they could fly. Then they wanted to see whose would fly the farthest or highest. After, we’ll write stories about our pigs. So, it’s literacy, art, maths and science rolled into one — STEAM!”

The principal smiled. “A flight of pigs. With Irena, even the impossible seems possible.”

Thank you blog post

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