Category Archives: Flash fiction

what do you love a post about a love of literacy

What do you love?

We use the word ‘love’ to mean care deeply about, as in people, or like a lot, as in food, objects and activities. Questions such as “Who do you love?” and “What do you love?” will elicit very different responses and we generally have little difficulty in distinguishing between the intensity of the feelings. Mostly the whos are more important to us than the whats, and it is easy to distinguish between the likes and the loves, though they can sit along a continuum.

love of vegetables on a continuum

For me, housework sits at the opposite end of the continuum from reading and writing. You won’t find me writing any posts about housework. But you will find lots of posts about reading and writing, especially encouraging a love of reading and writing in children. I find sharing a love of reading and writing to be almost equal in enjoyment as reading and writing for myself. To see children light up with enthusiasm for reading and writing is sheer joy.

the love of reading is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child

I have often said that one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is a love of reading. A love of reading and writing, and indeed for all learning, is the best gift a teacher can give.

the love of reading and writing is contagious

It is often said that a love of reading is caught, not taught. The same goes for writing. It is important for teachers to ensure that there is time every day to read aloud to children, to inspire them and excite their imaginations with wonderful literature and to provide them with time for expressing their own thoughts and imaginative ideas through writing and any other of the expressive arts.

I have written many blog posts, both here and for readilearn, with suggestions for making time for literature and literacy, but it was the prompt set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch that kept me thinking that way this week.

Carrot Ranch flash fiction challenge Valentines

You see, Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about valentines. It can be Valentine’s Day, the exchange, love for another, romance, or friendship. Have a heart and go where the prompt leads!

But, as well as being Valentine’s Day, 14 February is also Library Lovers’ Day and International Book Giving Day.

Why wouldn’t I write about one of my loves — reading and writing? I hope you enjoy it.

Just for the love of it

The teacher closed the book, but the children were abuzz.

“Keep going,” they urged.

“Will they be alright?”

“What will happen?”

The teacher looked at the clock. The minutes had passed like seconds. Was there time?

“Pleeeease!”

The teacher opened the book.

“Yay!” cheered the children, then hushed as the words flowed.

As the story unfolded, their eyes lit up and imaginations sparked. They discussed the story’s intricacies and contemplated outcomes as they journeyed with the author through good and fearsome times. Finally, just as the dragon was about to swoop, the teacher stopped. “Now write! What happens next?”

 

reading is a super power

Here are links to just five of the posts I’ve written about reading and writing:

A sprinkle of this, a pinch of that, and Poof! It’s reading — magic!

Wrapping up a year of books — the gift of reading

I love poems

Reading is all it’s cracked up to be: 10 tips for an early childhood classroom!

Writing poetry with children

And two more about libraries:

Libraries: A wondrous universe to explore — a guest post by Dimity Powell

Libraries, books and reading = infinite worlds to explore

Thank you blog post

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announcing the winners of the Old Time Radio Spot contest at the Carrot Ranch

Bonus Rodeo: Old Time Radio Winners

The winners of the Bonus Old Time Radio Contest at the Carrot Ranch are announced! Read the winning entries here, and link through to all entries. What a feat!
Thanks to the Continental Fire Company for their generous sponsorship and support.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

When I was a kid, riding in the rodeo and saddle horse show, our county had a unique event — wild cow milking. If you asked a cowboy if he’d rather ride a bull or milk a wild cow, he’d pick the bull any day. Thinking about these contests of skill, I recognize how vulnerable participants can feel, whether it’s racing the barrels, showing a horse, penning steers, or riding a bronc.

But the wild cow milking takes a team willing to be vulnerable.

The Old Time Radio Contest came about as a creative idea. And creativity makes us all vulnerable. As writers, we get used to putting our pages out there. We post and publish, we ask for critiques and edits, we receive feedback and reviews. Another layer of vulnerability comes when we work to get our literary art recognized as a platform.

We establish blogs, enter contests, and…

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teaching children to read signs in the environment

Reading signs in the environment

Our environment is rich in print. From their earliest days observing the environment, children are surrounded by print that may include words, symbols and images, each portraying meaning in different ways. We see:

  • names of stores
  • signs directing pedestrians and vehicles
  • instructions for entering and leaving buildings
  • labels on items
  • prices on goods
  • timetables
  • banners advertising local events
  • information about landmarks and points of interest

and so the list goes on.

Reading and understanding the plethora of signs is important to independent living and successful negotiation of our print-rich and print-dependent world. Although we often take our ability to do so for granted, one only has to visit a foreign place to realise how much we rely on print to navigate our way.

Helping children to read and understand signs is important, requires no planning and can occur effortlessly whenever parents are out and about with their children. All that is required of the parents is to point them out and explain their meaning.

Very young children can learn to recognise the entry and exit and signs on doors, particularly if colour is used as a clue, and the signs on restroom doors.

reading signs in the environment

Stop signs are easily recognisable as are other road signs such as those indicating speed humps, pedestrian and animal crossings, speed limits and left and right turns. Children quickly come to understand what is happening when the traffic lights change colour, but their learning is always enhanced by parental explanations. On journeys when children might become restless, it can be fun to keep their minds occupied by spotting particular signs.

It doesn’t take children long to recognise the logo of their favourite fast food or ice cream store. Names of other stores frequented by the family can also be pointed out for them to learn to recognise. It can also be useful to explain to children how items are being selected, how you know what the items are and where you locate the price. They can be shown how to use symbols and colours on packaging to identify items they like and may come to recognise (if not read) the names of some of their favourite products.

A fun activity for the first days of school is to provide children with an assortment of environmental print to identify. Often children begin school hoping to learn to read on the first day, little realising how much they can already ‘read’. Reading environmental print boosts their self-esteem and self-confidence by showing what they can do and makes a connection between school and what is familiar to them.

I used to like making an ‘I can read’ book on the first day with my children. I would supply children with a collection of advertisements cut from magazines and product labels that I thought children would readily recognise. I would also print signs, symbols and company logos from the computer.

I would provide children with six to ten pages, each labelled with the words ‘I can read’. Children would then select items they could ‘read’ (recognise) from the collection and paste each onto a page. When they were done, children would proudly read their books to their friends and to me, and take them home to read to their families.

Carrot Ranch Flash Fiction challenge signs by Charli Mills

I am thinking about signs in the environment as this week Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a sign. It can be a posted sign, a universal sign, a wonder. Go where the prompt leads.

I could have written a flash about children reading signs in the environment, as I’ve described. Or, still in keeping with my educational theme, I could have written about the signs that teachers look for everyday showing that progress has been made or that misconceptions and misunderstanding exist.

However, the environment worldwide is shouting to us loud and clear, with signs that can no longer be denied, that our climate is changing.

Since the beginning of this year, Australia has suffered unprecedented and catastrophic weather events. Across the country, the land has been ravaged by heatwaves that have seen record maximums in temperatures and bushfires have raged across large tracts of land. While much of the country is suffering from prolonged drought, other areas have been devastated by extraordinary rainfalls and flooding. In fact, some of the farming community, who had been crippled by drought, rejoiced when the rains began, only to lament when the rains didn’t end and the rain and floods caused massive stock losses.

It is of these farmers that I have chosen to write. Some of my family live and raise stock, some sheep and some cattle, in the devastated areas and have suffered enormous losses. The heartbreak is unimaginable. If you would like to help the farmers, you can find out how to do so in this article.

You can read more about the plight of the farmers in these articles:

Flood Affected Farmers Witness Entire Cattle Herds Wiped Out By Catastrophic Deluge

Queensland Farmers Confronted by Stock Losses

Torrential Rain in Queensland is Manna from Heaven for Some Farmers but Catastrophic for others

How to Help Farmers in Flood-Ravaged Queensland

I hope my flash goes a little way to recognising the plight of our stoic farmers.

Ominous Signs

Every day, the farmers scanned the skies for a sign, any sign, that a reprieve from the relentless drought was on its way. The dusty red soil yielded not a single blade of feed for the suffering stock. Bales of hay, donated by city folk, helped but soon it too would be gone. When the rains finally came, the farmers rejoiced. For four days it rained; beautiful, drenching, life-giving rains, soaked up by the thirsty soil. But it wouldn’t stop. It transformed their world into an enormous, red, muddy sea. Hopes drowned alongside precious stock leaving heartbreak and devastation.

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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.

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flash fiction about analysing in detail works of art

Meaning in each word

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about shards. You can write about the pieces, the item they once were, or who picks them up and why. Go where the prompt leads.

I had an idea I wanted to craft into a story. I’ve had a go. I’m not certain that it expresses quite what I was hoping, and certainly not as explicitly as I hoped. I had wanted it to stand alone, requiring no other explanation or padding and, while it fails, I’ve let it do just that.

Analyse the Detail

The artisan turned each piece to the light, this way and that, fitting and refitting, arranging and rearranging. Finally, it was done. Each piece necessary and perfectly positioned creating the whole— exquisite, harmonious, illuminating—not one greater nor outshining any other. It filled each open heart with hopes of dreams fulfilled.

Another sought to analyse its beauty, the power of its message to explore. He picked out all the pieces one by one and examined each in every detail. Too late he saw that, shattered and alone, not one shard revealed a secret. Only united did their meaning shine.

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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.

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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.