Category Archives: Education

Just Rigt

Just Right

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge - gnome

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to in 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a gnome. It can be a garden gnome, a Christmas Joulutonttu, or a sauna protector. You can write magical realism, or feature contemporary gnome-like product.  Go where the prompt leads!

In my story, I have combined three themes: Christmas wishes, growth mindset and self-acceptance. I hope you like it.

Just Right

Longing for height, Gnomie joined Santa’s queue in the mall. Unfortunately, the queue hardly moved, and people grumbled when the air became hot and still. Elves demanded everyone disperse. Gnomie didn’t want to disperse. He wanted to be tall. Elves spotted him approaching Santa. “Hey! You there!” He froze. Santa glared, then said, “He looks about right.” The elves quickly explained — in the heat, Santa’s ring had slipped off and into the air conditioner, jamming the controls. No one could reach it. “I can!” said Gnomie, and he did. Elves cheered; Santa smiled, and Gnomie contemplated a new request.

Thank you blog post

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

special days and events for classroom celebrations

Special Days and Events for Classroom Celebrations #readilearn

Teachers are forward thinkers and future planners. Even though 2019 is not yet done, many will already be thinking ahead and planning for the 2020 teaching year.

To assist in that planning, I have compiled a list of special days and events you may wish to celebrate in your classroom throughout the year. While the information provided in this list is brief, on the last Friday of each month, I will publish a more detailed list of the special days for the following month with accompanying teaching suggestions. By the end of 2020 we should have a substantial list of days to celebrate and suggestions for doing so. Please let me know of any days I have omitted that you would like to see included.

Of course, it is not intended that you would celebrate all the days. Rather, that you would choose those of interest to you and your children and those that fit with your program.

A printable copy of this list is available to download free here.

Leap into 2020 the International Year of Plant Health

2020 is a leap year so get ready to celebrate. It is also the International Year of Plant Health with the theme Protecting Plants, Protecting Life.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations,  the year is

a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.”

Now would be a good time to begin thinking about what you can do throughout the year to celebrate and protect plants, perhaps using the topic as an overarching theme for the year.

Ideas for teaching and learning about plant health:

Continue reading: Special Days and Events for Classroom Celebrations – Readilearn

author Dimity Powell discusses her picture book Pippa

Fly away with Pippa and her author Dimity Powell – reblogged from readilearn

Have you ever wished you could fly? Or perhaps wished for a chance to explore but were held back by rules and restrictions?

I always thought it would be marvellous to be a bird, soaring above the earth, looking down upon its beauty. Oh, the freedom it would bring. Looking out at the world from a plane’s window is, for me, the nearest thing. But for Dimity Powell’s latest endearing character Pippa, flight is a reality.

About Pippa

You see, Pippa is a pigeon, and, like all pigeons, Pippa was born to fly. She wants nothing more than to spread her wings and go exploring. However, her parents aren’t sure she’s ready and fill her head with fears and days with restrictions to keep her close at home. It works for a while. But, one day when her parents are otherwise occupied, Pippa discovers she can fly, and that’s where her adventures, explorations and discoveries begin.

Pippa is a delightful new picture book that is bound to win hearts and spread joy. Award-winning author Dimity Powell describes her book thus:

Pippa is a light-hearted adventure tale about striking out alone, following your dreams and desires and experiencing what it’s like when you get there. It is a tale that acknowledges the sometimes-suffocating affection parents have for their offspring, which can temper and frustrate a child’s sense of freedom and adventure, and suggests that it’s okay to take risks from time to time. Although the adventure may be perilous, it is still worth experiencing for you never know what glorious discoveries lie ahead.

Pippa is small, determined, stubborn, and wilful, just like many other six-year-olds. And, like many youngsters who’ve wanted more than they can handle, when she finally does return to her flock, she realises that when it comes to true security and contentment, it’s family that matter most.”

About Dimity Powell

I previously introduced Dimity to you in her popular guest post Libraries: A wonderous universe to explore and in an interview about her  picture book At the End of Holyrood Lane for which she was recently awarded the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators’ Crystal Kite Members’ Choice 2019 Award, Australia and New Zealand region.

Dimity likes to fill every spare moment with words. She writes and reviews stories exclusively for kids and is the Managing Editor for Kids’ Book Review. Her word webs appear in anthologies, school magazines, junior novels, as creative digital content, and picture books including The Fix-It Man (2017), At The End of Holyrood Lane (2018) and Pippa (2019) with more to follow in 2020 and beyond.

She is a seasoned presenter both in Australia and overseas, an accredited Write Like An Author facilitator and a Books in Homes Role Model Volunteer in Australia.

Dimity believes picture books are soul food, to be consumed at least 10 times a week. If these aren’t available, she’ll settle for ice-cream. She lives just around the corner from Bat Man on the Gold Coast although she still prefers hanging out in libraries than with superheroes.

Dimity’s inspiration for writing about Pippa

Continue reading: Fly away with Pippa and her author Dimity Powell – readilearn

teaching and learning with nursery rhymes

Teaching and learning with nursery rhymes – reblogged from readilearn

Nursery rhymes are often a child’s first introduction to our literary heritage. Parents sing nursery rhyme lullabies to soothe their babies to sleep and play nursery rhyme games to entertain them in their waking hours. All the while, children are learning the rhythms and tones of our language, developing vocabulary, ideas and imagination. When children learn the repetitive patterns of nursery rhymes, they are also developing their memories.

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.”

While I am aware that others question the existence of research to back up that statement, I think most teachers would agree that children who have been spoken to, sung to (including nursery rhymes) and read to before school will find literacy learning much easier in our classrooms. Success with literacy learning often correlates with success later in life.

Already on the readilearn website, there are resources to support your literacy teaching using the nursery rhymes Humpty Dumpty and Little Miss Muffet. More are in development. While some nursery rhymes may be considered to have questionable origins, those origins have no place when teaching them to children. The benefits flow from having fun with the rhythms and rhymes of language.

Teaching literacy skills & developing creative thinking with Humpty Dumpty

The Humpty Dumpty suite of resources includes:

Continue reading: Teaching and learning with nursery rhymes – readilearn

appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms

Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – reblogged from readilearn

Poetry is a wonderful tool for learning language. When children listen to or recite poetry, they are learning the rhythms and sounds of language, exploring ideas and how to express them, expanding vocabularies, deepening understanding in nuances of meaning, and having fun with thoughts and their expression.

Children are exposed to rhythm and rhyme from their earliest days through nursery rhymes, chants and songs as well as the text of picture books. It is important for children to have opportunities for appreciating and exploring poetry into and throughout their school years. The Australian Curriculum places poetry firmly into the literature strand of English teaching each year. But it is not necessary to relegate poetry just to a poetry unit of work when stipulated by the curriculum. Poetry, rhymes, chants and songs can be easily incorporated into the daily class program.

Michael Rosen, who you may know as the author of Going on a Bear Hunt and who I previously introduced to you in this post, shares some recommendations for teaching poetry on his blog. Although the suggestions were written for a year one teacher, I think the suggestions could be extended out to other years. Following his recommendations would more than cover the expectations of the Australian Curriculum, and what a wonderful way to turn children (and yourself) onto poetry.

I’m only sharing a few of his recommendations here. Please visit his website to read the others.

Michael Rosen’s suggestions for teaching poetry

  • Get as many poetry books into your classroom as possible. Encourage the children in pairs to browse, choose and read.
  • Read poems to them every day, use vids of poets (check out Michael Rosen’s YouTube channel) , use national poetry archive. Writing poems with no poems in your head is too big an ask. Fill their heads with ‘What poetry can do’ ie loads of poems.

Continue reading: Appreciating and exploring poetry in lower primary classrooms – readilearn

empowerment through reading instruction

Empowerment through reading instruction – reblogged from readilearn

The importance of reading to children every day is never far from my mind. It comes from a passion for all things literacy as well as the knowledge that reading means empowerment. Reading is the key that unlocks so much that is meaningful in today’s world.

Whether at home or in the classroom, children need to listen to stories read aloud to them every day. It should be non-negotiable and prioritised. I would also add time for independent reading of self-selected material to that non-negotiable list and, in the classroom, time for independent writing on self-chosen topics.

Listening to stories benefits children in many ways; including, but not limited to:

  • Sheer enjoyment
  • Connection with others and other ideas which leads to understanding, respect and empathy
  • Exposure to language and vocabulary which in turns develops language and vocabulary
  • Positive feelings for books as a source of pleasure and information and a stimulus for imagination and creativity
  • A model of fluent and expressive reading behaviour that can be aspired to and emulate
  • A desire to read for oneself.

Keeping in mind that reading aloud to children and making time for their independent reading are non-negotiable and occur in the classroom every day, children also require purposeful instruction in the process of reading.

While some children appear to learn easily and without effort before starting school, as my own two children did, others struggle to understand the marks on the page. Most children fall somewhere on a continuum between, benefitting from instruction along the way.

The readilearn collection of teaching resources for teachers of the first three years of school includes many to support your teaching of reading. Many resources are free, others are available for no more than a few dollars, or you can access all the resources for one low annual subscription of just A$25. (That’s about £13, €15, US$17 or CAN$22) I’m sure you’ll agree that’s great value.

Browse resources now

readilearn supports teachers teaching reading

Reading aloud

As part of our support for reading aloud, on the readilearn blog we regularly conduct interviews with authors and illustrators about their new books. Many of these interviews are available to download free from the Author and Illustrator Spotlight resources.  We also publish free lists of books on different topics for you to download; for example,

multicultural picture book

Continue reading: Empowerment through reading instruction – readilearn

School Days Reminiscences of Yvette Prior

School Days, Reminiscences of Yvette Prior

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am pleased to introduce Yvette Prior, a blogger and multi-talented friend. Yvette writes about a wide range of topics and in a variety of genres on her priorhouse blog. I always appreciate her different ways of looking at things and her positive views of the world. Do pop over to take a look. I’m sure you will enjoy it.

It’s probably best I allow Yvette to tell you a little of herself before we get started on the interview:

Yvette Prior is a blogger, author, teacher, psychologist, and researcher. Yvette has been married to Chris for 22 years and they live on the East Coast of Virginia. They have two boys, now adults, and a step-daughter who is expecting her second child next year. Yvette has been teaching — on and off  — elementary students and college level, since the 1990s. In 2018, Yvette became a Certified Higher Education Professional and currently teaches college and works part-time as a work psychologist.

In middle school, Yvette won public speaking awards, which led to the wonderful opportunity of attending a Performing Arts High School.

In college, she changed her major a few times before finally discovering the Education department.

Right after graduating, she decided to put her career to the side in order to stay home and raise her children. While doing so, she still worked part-time, which included teaching science education and five years of teaching elementary art.

As her children grew, she had the chance to go back to school and earn advanced degrees in psychology. While finishing up her dissertation, she healed from an invasive fungal infection, which was a challenging nightmare, but then also had positive outcomes. She now has a stronger bioterrian and continues to feel empowered by knowing alternative medicine and by remembering how precious life is. She is not a religious person, but she is a woman of faith and gives God all the glory for any and every success.

Yvette Prior and books

Welcome, Yvette.

Let’s talk school. First, could you tell us where you attended school?

Buffalo, New York.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

Yvette Prior early school days

I started off at private for preschool and kindergarten. My mother became a Presbyterian and we withdrew from private Catholic and went to public. I went to a public “magnet” school for high school where I majored in performing arts.

What is the highest level of education you achieved? 

I earned my Ph.D. in Industrial and Organizational Psychology.

What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

Yvette Prior working life

As noted in the intro, after earning my undergrad in Education, I stayed home with children. I worked part-time (to stay fresh and bring in some money) and at first worked in a restaurant, where I was promoted to management and it was becoming a career. However, we then moved coast to coast, twice, and I taught at the Youth Science Institute of California and the Science Museum of Virginia. I then taught elementary art at two different private schools. I currently teach college and work part-time as a psychologist. In the next few years, I hope to do more research about work rewards and motivation and also hope to finish up some writing projects. 

What is your earliest memory of school?

An early memory from school was when my 4th grade, silver-haired teacher, said she was, “flabbergasted” with me. She had left the room and a few of us started dancing around. When she returned, she scolded everyone, but then got close to my face and said, “I am especially flabbergasted with you, Yvette.” I went home and asked my mother what it meant… and then she found out about it. That word always reminds me of that teacher.

What memories do you have of learning to read? 

I remember reading stations and recall the teacher using a jumbo book and audio recording to teach us words.

What memories do you have of learning to write? 

My 6th grade English teacher, Mr. Calderelli, taught me to write. However, on the second day of school, he threw an eraser towards my desk because a few of us were still talking. I cannot recall all the details, but he apologized and I was moved to the front of the room. We then connected and he became my favorite teacher. I had perfect attendance and won little awards. He published my writing in Buffalo’s “Our Best” – a short piece arguing against the death penalty. In hindsight, I see how that eraser event could have had a different outcome, and I am grateful it was a catalyst for bonding.

I have a post on my blog dedicated to Mr. C here.

(Norah’s note: If you haven’t yet read that post, or even if you have, I recommend you visit it and have a read. It is a fine example of Yvette’s work.)

What do you remember about math classes? 

I recall Mr. Smyth, in 7th grade honors math, showing us newspaper ads and having us figure out sale prices using percentages. I sometimes think of him when I see holiday ads.

What do you remember about history classes?

Yvette Prior on quality teaching

My 8th grade teacher gave fun assignments for extra credit. Sometimes a little extra credit allows more students to “win” and attain that sense of success with a better grade. Recently, I heard a teacher brag about how “tough” she was, but I think she is missing out on what makes a great teacher. Quality teaching is not defined by toughness, or being the sage on the stage; instead, the goal is to engage diverse learners and help them effectively meet course objectives. And sometimes – a little extra credit option can breathe needed motivation into students 

What was your favourite subject?

Yvette Prior favourite subject

My favorite subject was Trigonometry in high school. I started off by blowing off class. However, midway through the year, school became important to me and I buckled down and got caught up on my own. I studied hard using Barron’s review books — and even skipped a few parties to study. I finished the class well, but the best takeaways were discovering that self-learning mode and finding such a fun area of math. 

What did you like best about school? 

I liked the structure.  I also liked when teachers were nice to students – like Mrs. Short and Mrs. George.

What did you like least about school?  

My least favorite part about schools is that teachers (and the system) can sometimes be too harsh. There are mean teachers and sometimes the punishment for small infractions are overly punitive. This means students do not always connect the punishment with the behavior and so instead of behavior change – we have hurt students. Sometimes teachers are “too concerned about tasks” and not “concerned enough with the learner.”

What do you think schools (in general) do well? 

Today’s schools are culturally sensitive, still improving, but they have come a long way over the last 40 years. I like the work of Ruby Payne with regards to culture and economic differences.

Many schools also do a great job at educating a large number of students at one time.  I know an art teacher who provides art lessons to 2,000 students a week – and she says it is awesome.

I also think schools do well with “certain” students (the ones that conform, right-handed girls, etc.).

How do you think schools could be improved? 

I think schools could be improved if teachers were better trained with behavioral conditioning strategies and learned more about the powerful use of reinforcements. Teachers also need to make sure they are in tune with cognitive factors of learning (free will, moods, thoughts, and feelings) and the biological changes that growing children go through on their educational journey. Also, we need to sometimes give students a little power, along with rules and structure, but we need to empower more – especially for breeding leaders.

Classrooms need less sitting and more physical activity. Not just PE, but we need to let students move more.

Schools can also be improved if we taught emotion management at earlier ages and target the five Emotional Intelligence domains before middle school.

thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school, Yvette, then and now. It seems education is as much a part of your life as it is of mine. I appreciate your suggestions for improving schools and agree with what you say about the system. It is always good to hear from an educator and how their early experiences being schooled affect their attitudes to learning and teaching. Thank you for contributing your voice to this series.

Thank you, Norah, for inviting me to share in this series. And thanks to all the teachers out there who give so much of their lives to invest in students and help them on their educational journey.

 Find out more about Yvette Prior on her blog.
Find out more about Yvette’s books here.

To purchase your own copy of her books, click on the book title or image.

Lady by the River (stories of perseverance and self-help resources)

Avian Friends (Poems about nature, faith, appreciating life, and coping with grief)

Conversate (Tips for Parenting Teens)

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here and here.

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Thank you blog post

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