Category Archives: Literacy education

The Student Blogging Challenge - How you can be involved

The Student Blogging Challenge — How you can be involved – readilearn

The Student Blogging Challenge is a project that encourages students around the world to create a blog and experience the benefits of publishing online including:

  • developing digital writing skills
  • becoming aware of the possibilities and responsibilities of digital citizenship
  • writing for and developing an authentic audience
  • making connections with others around the world.

Founded in 2008 by Sue Wyatt, who I had the pleasure of meeting up with in Hobart a few years ago, the challenge has been held twice a year since then in March and October. The next Challenge, hosted by Kathleen Morris and Sue Waters, begins on 6 October and runs for eight weeks. A different blogging task is to be completed each week. Students can join in as part of a class group or individually. Participation is free.

Who can be involved?

The challenge is open to students from K–12 around the world. However, organisers suggest that it is most suited to students from 8–16 years.

There are three ways to participate:

As a teacher, you can register your class.

Students can register individually.

As an adult, you can register as a commenter on the student blogs.

I joined in as a commenter for the first time in the March Challenge this year and have this lovely certificate to prove it.

Continue reading: The Student Blogging Challenge — How you can be involved – readilearn

School Days Reminiscences -- Some Data

School Days Reminiscences — Some Data

School days and their impact on our lives has been a major topic of discussion here over the past six months when authors and bloggers have shared their reminiscences. (You can catch up on any reminiscences you missed here.)With no one else quite ready to share just yet, I thought it would be interesting to have a look over some aspects of the reviews.

The first questions I asked were related to where schools had been attended and whether the schools were government, private or independent.

Where did the interviewees attend school?

A total of twelve countries were listed:

  • USA (8)
  • England (7)
  • Canada (3)
  • South Africa (3)
  • India (1)
  • Wales (1)
  • Australia (1)
  • Malaysia (1)
  • Singapore (1)
  • New Zealand (1)
  • Malta (1)
  • Zimbabwe (1)
  • And the British Colony of Hong Kong (1)

Three interviewees attended schools in two or more countries (two attended in three).

This gives us quite an international flavour to the interviews.

Were the schools government, private or independent?

This one is a little more difficult to summarise as the systems seem to be classed differently from country to country. However, the majority of interviewees appear to have attended government schools, with a smattering attending private or independent schools, and some a mixture of both.

Was there an overall favourite subject?

graph - what was your favourite subject

Discussions on the posts indicated that there might have been a trend towards a liking for English and a dislike of physical education and maths. I think the trend away from PE and maths especially may have emerged through the discussions themselves, as when I went back through the posts, it wasn’t so obvious. However, I didn’t specifically ask which subject was most disliked.

English with its related subjects like reading and writing was definitely the overall favourite with eleven listing it as such.

The list of favourites includes:

  • English (11)
  • History (4)
  • Music (2)
  • Geography (2)
  • Social Studies (2)
  • French (1)
  • PE (1)
  • Art (1)
  • Humanities (1)
  • Maths (1)
  • Drama (1)

(Note: If people listed more than one, I may have included it.)

What aspect of school was most disliked?

As I didn’t ask the question about subjects that were disliked, but what was most disliked about school, I received a variety of responses.

PE did figure in the responses of six respondents, but the social aspect of fitting in and making friends, including when changing schools was listed by seven. Subjects such as maths, physics, geography, biology and geometry rated only one mention each. Other dislikes included disruption due to war, rules, long distances to and from school, and being picked out to answer questions. Others said that there was nothing they had disliked about school.

It is interesting that the social aspect of school and physical education ranked so highly. I wonder how much of the dislike for physical education was related to the social aspect of it.

Thank you blog post

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



School Days Reminiscences of Pete Springer

School Days, Reminiscences of Pete Springer

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 Pete Springer, teacher, author and blogger. Pete joined in these conversations about school days right from the beginning. Like me, he is a passionate educator and has spent many years in the classroom changing lives.

Although he is no longer in the classroom, his passion for education remains strong. He has established a Facebook page to support teachers and has written a book sharing his experience as a teacher with the intention of supporting other teachers, especially those just starting their journey.

He titled his book They Call Me Mom. What a fabulous title. As a teacher, I was called Mum (or even Dad, sometimes) many times. I always considered it a lovely testimony to our respectful relationship. As a parent, I was also sometimes called Mrs x and was just as honoured. I’m sure that, as you read through Pete’s bio and interview, you will be impressed by his ongoing contribution to education and our world.

But, before we get into Pete’s interview, I’ll allow him to tell you a little of himself:

I taught elementary school (grades 2-6) for thirty-one years in California.  I loved everything about being a teacher.  I loved my students as if they were my own, and I follow their progress today even though I’ve been retired for three years. I’ve been invited to many extracurricular events (I tried to attend one each for all of my students during the year), birthday, graduations, weddings, and even a housewarming party.  One of my funniest memories was being invited (I obviously didn’t go) to a sleepover party thrown by one of my second graders.

I don’t like to make a big deal about it, but I was chosen for the Excellence in Teaching Award in 2006. This award is presented annually to ten of the top teachers in the County each year.

My favorite thing to do in school on a daily basis was to read to kids, and I decided that if I ever got the opportunity that I would try writing books for children when I retired.  I got sidetracked by another project first.  I decided to write a combination memoir/advice book, They Call Me Mom for future teachers.  The title of the book was inspired by the fact that elementary children consistently refer to their teachers as mom (by accident).  I took this as the ultimate compliment because moms are pretty great! I have spoken to college students at my alma mater, Humboldt St. who are studying to become teachers.  I was most touched when one of my former Superintendents purchased my book for all of the new teachers in his district. 

I am now following my dream and attempting to write books for middle grades that deal with the issues that kids deal with at home and at school.  I’ve joined a critique group (one of the members is my former principal, Nancy Wheeler, who is one of my biggest role models in education serving as one of my master teachers and then as my principal.  (She is 81 and still volunteers in schools, and I couldn’t have a better role model.) My wife, Debbie, was also a career educator, serving as a preschool teacher and then Director.

In addition, as an advocate for literacy, I joined the Humboldt County Author’s Festival Committee which brings twenty-five children’s authors from across the country to our local schools biennially.  (I someday would love to be one of the presenters.)  I also volunteer for an organization called the Society for the Blind.  This organization helps people who are visually impaired. Once a week I read our local newspaper and send in the articles (using voice memos on my cellphone) where they can be accessed by those who are blind or have low vision. 

Having been a master teacher for four student teachers, I try to always be an advocate for education, children, and teachers.  I started a Facebook group about eighteen months ago called Supporters of Teachers to highlight positive things that are happening in education. 

They Call Me Mom by Pete Springer

Welcome, Pete.

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

I attended school for thirteen years (K-12) in the United States.  I then attended Humboldt St. (California) where I graduated and went on to earn my teaching credential.

Did you attend a government, private or independent school?

All of the school I attended were government (public) schools.

What is the highest level of education you achieved?

The highest level of education I achieved was a Bachelor’s Degree from Humboldt St.

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

I come from a family of teachers, but I think school also influenced my career path because I was inspired by some of the teachers I had. I never planned on becoming a teacher, but I fell into an education job as a one on one aid to a boy who had muscular dystrophy.  I fell in love with working with children from that moment on.

What is your earliest memory of school?

My earliest memory of school was attending preschool.  One of the other kids in the class ate a purple crayon and threw it up a few minutes later.  The poor teacher had to deal with the mess.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

What do you remember of learning to read, Pete Springer

I remember loving to read from an early age.  I was read to a lot when I was a child, and I developed an appreciation for books then. I remember reading all of the books in the Hardy Boys series when I was in elementary school.  One of my favorite things to do as a dad was to read with my own son who has gone on to earn his Master’s Degree in education. I still read every night before I go to bed.  John Grisham is my favorite author.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

I recall writing stories at a young age.  When I got to high school I became much more self-conscious about having my work read aloud.  When I became a teacher, I often wrote plays that my class and I performed.

What do you remember about math classes?

Math came easy to me.  I was always good with numbers and teachers were very impressed with my mental math abilities.  Math was such an intuitive concept to me—I loved it until geometry reared its ugly head.

What was your favourite subject?

What was your favourite subject, Pete Springer

I liked pretty much all subjects, but I would say math because It made me feel smart.

What did you like best about school?

I liked the elementary and middle school years because I had a lot of friends.  High school was my least favorite time. I would say that college was my happiest time because I could be myself, and I liked the opportunity for free thinking.

What did you like least about school?

My least favorite thing about school was my high school years because it was so cliquish.  We moved to a new place when I was starting high school, and I didn’t have the self-confidence that I possess today.  I tended to withdraw instead of putting myself out there. If I could have one do-over in my life, it would be those years because it was the one time in my life that I wasn’t happy.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

Pete Springer on how schools have changed

I think I’m very qualified to answer questions about schools.  One way that schools have changed today is the greater emphasis on technology.  I certainly am a proponent of the basics, but you have to play to your audience as well.  Kids love technology, and we live in a technological society.  Another change is the great emphasis that schools put on state testing.  That is quite unfortunate because it takes the joy out of learning for students and teachers.  While there are always going to be great kids in a school, there is a higher percentage of students with anger and mental health issues.  It makes the job harder to be a teacher and a student in a hostile environment.

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

I think schools generally give kids a well-rounded education.  One of the things schools are getting better at recognizing is that not every student is bound for college.  They are providing a path for students who will learn a trade.  There are still plenty of educators who recognize how important it is to keep the arts alive in schools, but I worry about cuts in this area.

How do you think schools could be improved?

Pete Springer on how schools could be improved

Besides de-emphasizing state testing, schools have an increasingly challenging job of dealing with bullying.  Violence is prevalent in our culture, and schools have increasing numbers of violent students who are dealing with mental health issues. The school has to be a safe place for kids; a place that they can learn in a nonthreatening environment with role models who inspire them.  Teaching educators how to equip themselves with firearms is not the answer!


thank you for your participation

Thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general, Pete. It’s been wonderful to have you here. I always love meeting other educators, especially those who are as passionate about children and learning as I am. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been a teacher can ever understand the passion and dedication we have for our roles as life changers.

Find out more about Pete Springer

on his blog:  Pete Springer Author

Connect with him on social media

Facebook: Pete Springer Author

Twitter: Pete Springer

They Call Me Mom by Pete Springer

Purchase your own copy of They Call Me Mom

from Amazon

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King


D. Avery

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Robbie Cheadle

Marsha Ingrao

Ritu Bhathal

Joy Lennick

Darlene Foster

Susan Scott

Barbara Vitelli

Sherri Matthews

Mabel Kwong

Chelsea Owens

Carol Taylor

Pamela Wight

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

Yvette Prior

Colleen Chesebro

Balroop Singh

Thank you blog post

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


Celebrating Book Week's Secret Power - Reading

Celebrating Book Week’s Secret Power — Reading – readilearn

The CBCA (Children’s Book Council of Australia) Book Week kicks off tomorrow 17 August for a week of activities celebrating Australian Literature. Book Week is heralded by the announcement of the book awards on the third Friday in August at 12 noon.

The awards are presented to books in the following categories:

  • Older Readers
  • Younger Readers
  • Early Childhood
  • Picture Book
  • Eve Pownall (for information books)

(Click this link to see the Notables, a fine collection of books) from which the Short List was compiled and from which Winners were selected in each category.)

2019 Book Week Theme and Resources

The theme for this year’s Book Week is Reading is My Secret Power.

To celebrate, poet Mike Lucas has written a great poem. You can download a copy of Mike’s poem Reading is my Secret Power here.

The CBCA website provides these useful links to resources to help you celebrate Book Week.

Children’s Rights to Read

Reading may be a secret power, but it is also a superpower and a right of every child. Book Week is an appropriate time during which to reflect upon our classroom practices and consider how well they meet the International Literacy Association’s Children’s Rights to Read. (You can download and support the rights through this link.)

Continue reading: Celebrating Book Week’s Secret Power — Reading – readilearn

great app for teaching reading - Word Zoo

Great App for Future Readers: Word Zoo | Ask a Tech Teacher – readilearn

This week I am pleased to share with you information about a new reading app, Word Zoo, reviewed by Jacqui Murray on her website Ask a Tech Teacher. If you need to know anything about using technology in the classroom, Jacqui will be able to help you out.

Over to you, Jacqui:

Reading is defined as “the action or skill of absorbing written or printed matter silently or aloud.” Sounds dry, maybe even boring, but the ability to read has been credited with exercising the mind, saving lives, bringing people together, and predicting success in school. It alleviates boredom in the bits of free time that pop up between soccer and dinner and it can be done alone or in a group.

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends…”
― Charles William Eliot

So when I find an app that organically encourages reading, I get excited. But I’m fussy. Here’s what I look for–the red answers are how this mystery ready app sized up:

Continue reading: Great App for Future Readers: Word Zoo | Ask a Tech Teacher – readilearn


Lessons ready to teach critical thinking in early childhood classrooms – readilearn

Even young children in early childhood classrooms can be taught to think critically about material that is presented to them. Being able to discern the accuracy of what they read is increasingly important in this era of fake news.

In this post, I provide some suggestions with lessons ready to teach using children’s picture books. The types of questions and ideas can be applied to other books for checking the accuracy of information.

To assist in verification of information, children can be encouraged to ask and answer questions such as:

  • What do we already know?
  • Does this match what we already know?
  • What do we want to find out?
  • How can we find out?
  • How can we be sure the information is true?
  • Is it fact or is it fiction?

Children, and adults, need to be aware that misinformation, often cleverly disguised as fact, is available everywhere, including on the internet. Being able to navigate one’s way through it all is a very important skill, regardless of age. This article by Tech Teacher Jacqui Murray has some useful advice about Fake News or Fact? How do you tell?

We don’t need to present young children with fake news stories to teach them the skills of critical thinking. We can begin with discussions of stories and information we present to them each day.

Continue reading: Lessons ready to teach critical thinking in early childhood classrooms – Readilearn

teaching apostrophes

Teaching apostrophes with lessons ready to teach – readilearn

Do your children have difficulty spelling contractions or using apostrophes for possession correctly? If so, you are not alone. Many, and not only young children, do.

To support your teaching of this punctuation mark that many find tricky, I have produced an interactive resource that explains, demonstrates and provides practice in its correct use.

I have called the resource Apostrophes Please! to encourage young writers to get their writing right.

About Apostrophes Please!

Apostrophes Please! is an interactive resource, ready for use on the interactive whiteboard. It consists of enough material for a series of lessons teaching the correct use of apostrophes in both contractions and possessive nouns.

Like other readilearn resources, Apostrophes Please! recognises the value of teacher input and the importance of teacher-student discussion. It is not designed for children to use independently. While the activities have interactive features, there are no bells, whistles and gimmicks. It relies simply on effective teaching.

The resource provides flexibility for the teacher to choose activities which are relevant to student needs and teaching focus. All lessons and activities encourage explanation, stimulate discussion and provide opportunities for children to practise, explain and demonstrate what they have learned. There are nineteen interactive slides and over thirty slides in all.

Organisation of Apostrophes Please!

Contractions and possessive nouns are introduced separately.

Continue reading: Teaching apostrophes with lessons ready to teach – readilearn