Category Archives: Literacy education

Interview with Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World's Worst Pirate by Michelle Worthington

readilearn: Introducing Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate

This week I have enormous pleasure in introducing you to Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate, written by Michelle Worthington.

The World’s Worst Pirate is a captivating book about being true to yourself and unleashing your inner strengths.

Story Synopsis

One might wonder why Will, the world’s worst pirate, would want to be a pirate anyway. The truth is, he didn’t. There wasn’t much at all he liked about being at sea. He was happiest in the galley cooking cupcakes. The ship’s captain, his mother, on the other hand, couldn’t understand why he didn’t love being a pirate as much as she did. When the ship is attacked by a terrifying sea monster, no one could have predicted the outcome. Katrin Dreiling’s illustrations are a perfect fit or Michelle Worthington’s story. They add humour, delight, and a sub-plot of their own.

The Illustrator

The World’s Worst Pirate, published by Little Pink Dog Books in 2017, is Katrin’s first picture book. In 2018 the book received the CBCA Notable Book award, a wonderful achievement, especially for a first book. Prior to becoming an illustrator in Australia, Katrin studied languages in Germany to become a teacher. She loves to come up with quirky creations that inspire children to get creative themselves. Katrin’s second book, also written by Michelle and published by Little Pink Dog Books, will launch in September this year.  Katrin also enjoys writing for children and regularly teaches art classes in Newfarm, Brisbane.

The Interview

Welcome to readilearn, Katrin.

Thank you for inviting me.

Katrin, The World’s Worst Pirate was listed as a Notable Picture Book in the CBCA 2018 Book of the Year awards. Congratulations. Since it is your very first published picture book, that must have been very special. How did it make you feel?

Continue reading: readilearn: Introducing Katrin Dreiling illustrator of The World’s Worst Pirate

flash fiction story about peering from the bushes

Peering from the bushes

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

One of the multitude of my favourite picture books is Hattie and the Fox, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.

I am allowed a multitude of favourites, aren’t I?

Like children, it’s too hard to choose just one. I don’t mean just biological children, I mean the children I teach. They all become ‘my’ children the moment they enter my classroom and remain that way forevermore. How could I choose a favourite?

Hattie and the Fox is a fun story for reading aloud. The children love to join in, especially with the dialogue, and even enjoy acting it out. The cumulative and repetitive features of the story, along with the rhythmic text, support beginning readers who beg to read the story again and again.

While my daughter never liked it when I ‘put on voices’ to read, the children in my class did. Somehow they didn’t think it was me putting on voices. They became involved in the story and thought it was the characters speaking. I used to smile to myself when they’d say things like, “That cow, she’s so funny.” And mimic my reading. Although I am no Mem Fox (you can listen to her read the story here), they enjoyed it anyway.

In the story, Hattie the hen announces that she can see a nose in the bushes. The other animals show little interest. Even when Hattie announces that she can see two eyes, two legs, a body, four legs and a tail, they are not concerned. Only when she realises and announces that it’s a fox peering from the bushes, do the others respond.

Peering from the woods, Charli Mills flash fiction Carrot Ranch

I couldn’t help but think of Hattie and the eyes peering at her from the bushes when Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

We don’t have “the woods” in Australia. We have “the bush”. There could be any number of things peering at us from the bushes such as possums, koalas, kangaroos, drop bears, bunyips, or a great variety of birds. Most are fairly harmless. It was deer peering from the woods in Charli’s story.

While deer are not native to Australia, some were imported for hunting and farming purposes. Many of those escaped to freedom. Some roam the suburbs destroying vegetation and creating hazards for unsuspecting motorists. We’ve occasionally come across a group of them in the middle of the road when we come home late at night. At Christmas time the road signs warning of deer are decorated with tinsel and red pompom noses to add to the festive mood.

two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Last week, in response to Charli’s ‘yellow tent’ prompt, I attempted a romantic story which was rather well received. I decided to continue the story. You may remember that a reluctant camper, unable to find any further excuses, finally agreed to join her boyfriend. When she arrived, the campsite was deserted except for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” and her fears melted. But should she have dropped her guard?

Surprise!

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

Is that what he expected? What do you think was in the tent? Why was he peering from the bushes? What happens now?

Thank you blog post

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

interactive whiteboard teaching resources for kindergarten

readilearn: Interactive whiteboard resources for kindergarten

“I’ve got an interactive whiteboard in my room but I don’t know how to use it.”

“What readilearn resources can I use with my kindergarten children?’

“Schools have said they want our children to come to school able to listen and follow instructions. What resources can we use?”

These are some of the statements and questions that teachers of children in their kindergarten year, the year before they start formal schooling, have put to me.

The main focus of my preparation of readilearn teaching resources is on the first three years of school. I hadn’t considered their application with children aged four to five. However, teachers have assured me that some of the readilearn interactive whiteboard lessons are very suitable for children in kindergarten as one part of a rich play-based learning-focused environment.

Using readilearn lessons on the interactive whiteboard in kindergarten

  • provides variety,
  • introduces children to the use of technology and some of the skills involved such as drag and drop, and click to select items,
  • provides opportunities for children to take turns, work cooperatively, listen actively to the teacher and other children,
  • encourages vocabulary development – the lessons are intended to be teacher-led and involve discussion with the children.

readilearn lessons support kindergarten teachers with

  • lessons ready to teach – login in the morning, keep one tab open – stay logged in for the day,
  • opportunities for children to make the connection between print and spoken language,
  • providing children who are ready to read opportunities of doing so.

readilearn interactive resources and lessons suitable for use in kindergarten:

Continue reading: readilearn: Interactive whiteboard resources for kindergarten

interactive teaching resources for use on the interactive whiteboard for the first three years of school

readilearn: What place do worksheets have in your early childhood classroom?

How do you feel about worksheets? Love them? Hate them? Use them sparingly?

I would say I’ve never been greatly in favour of worksheets. I’m not saying I never used them, but I used them sparingly. If I could do something as well or better without using a worksheet I would. There were a few reasons for this:

  • I valued children’s own work and didn’t feel the need to “pretty” up their books with the work of others.
  • I always looked for ways to progress children’s learning as opposed to keeping them busy.
  • I liked to reduce our paper usage.

Available on the internet and in bookstores are oodles of collections of worksheets; worksheets for anything you can imagine. You can spend hours trawling through websites looking for a sheet to support learning or practice a specific concept. Some of that time could be better spent considering other opportunities you could provide children for learning or practice, or even doing something pleasant for yourself for a change. Now there’s a thought.

When you think you may want a worksheet, or come across a worksheet that you may want to use, stop and evaluate its potential benefit:

Continue reading: readilearn: What place do worksheets have in your early childhood classroom?

Interview with prolific author Jennifer Poulter about her pictrue book Hip Hop Hurrah Zoo Dance

readilearn: Introducing Jennifer Poulter, author of Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance

Meet Australian author J.R. Poulter as she discusses her beautiful picture book Hip Hop Hurrah Zoo Dance which is great for reading and getting kids moving.

This week I am delighted to introduce you to prolific Australian author Jennifer Poulter. Jennifer writes fiction and poetry for children, education and the literary market. She has had over 50 traditional books and thirteen digital picture books published. She writes under the names J.R. Poulter and J.R. McRae and has received numerous awards for both fiction and poetry writing.

Throughout her career, Jennifer has been employed in numerous roles including Senior Education Officer with the Queensland Studies Authority and Senior Librarian with the State Library of Queensland. She even once worked in a circus. In addition to writing, Jennifer is also an editor and artist. Now, under the banner of Word Wings, Jennifer collaborates with other creatives from over 20 countries.

Today I am talking with Jennifer about her picture book Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance.

What initially attracted me to this book is its ability to get children moving. What a great way to incorporate fun with movement and reading into any day.

The book also fits perfectly with a dance curriculum that encourages children to become aware of their bodies and how they move in space, to explore and improvise dance movements. Children can be encouraged to move like the zoo animals in the book or improvise movements for other animals and objects that move.

But Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance can also find its place in the literacy curriculum. Written in rhythmic verse, it encourages children to join in with the reading. It has a treasure of words to delight and extend vocabularies and add sparkle to writing; words like ‘limber, fandangle, prance and shimmies’. Children will laugh at the hippos with the backside wobbles and be intrigued by the combination of illustrations by Jade Potts and the variety of media used by designer Takara Beech in creating the double page spreads.

If you throw in some counting of animals and legs, needs and features of living things, and places they live, you can cover almost the entire curriculum with this one little book. But enough from me, let’s find out what Jennifer has to say.

Continue reading: Introducing Jennifer Poulter, author of Hip Hop HURRAH! Zoo Dance – Readilearn

Mending Fences flash fiction stories prompted by the Carrot Ranch challenge

Mending fences

What time is it when an elephant sits on the fence?

Time to get a new one!

Mending fences #flash fiction prompt from Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch

This week, when Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a broken fence. You can mend it, leave it, or explain its place in a story. Go where the prompt leads, I spent quite a bit of time fence sitting, undecided about which fence story to choose.

As you know, there are many types of fences: literal, metaphorical, even imagined. Fences are usually built to contain things, to keep people or things on one side or the other, or to define a boundary and possibly restrict passage. But the term “mending broken fences” has a different nuance of meaning. In this use, it means to repair a broken relationship as opposed to improving boundary security.

But which fence should I choose?

Should I share some history?

Rabbit-Proof Fence

This year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of my family (grandfather, grandmother and their young family – my father, the fifth of nine, was born three years later) taking up residence on a property owned by the Rabbit Board. My grandfather was a boundary rider until 1955, repairing the fence built to protect farming and grazing lands from the destructive introduced species. His youngest son replaced him, continuing until the role terminated in 1957. My uncle purchased the property from the Rabbit Board and lived there with his family until his death this year not long after the anniversary celebrations.

or perhaps reminisce?

The Cow Jumped Over the Fence

Until I was six, my parents were small crop farmers. The farm didn’t generate much income and there were more bad years than good. To help feed the growing family (there were six of us by then) Mum and Dad invested in chickens for both eggs and meat and a milking cow. The first cow knocked down the fence and escaped to freedom. Dad repaired it and bought another cow, which squeezed under the fence. After a third cow jumped the fence, Mum and Dad decided milk deliveries were a better option and we kids never learned to milk.

Note: I did write about this incident, a little differently, here.

Should I plan a lesson?

Teaching positional prepositions with The Elephant’s Fence

Make a fence from pop sticks.

Make an elephant using different-sized pom poms for body and head; pipe cleaners for legs, trunk and tail; paper or felt for ears; and googly eyes.

Place your elephant according to these instructions:

  • Beside the fence
  • In front of the fence
  • Behind the fence
  • Under the fence
  • Between the palings
  • Next to the fence
  • Above the fence
  • Below the fence
  • On the fence.

Now choose a place for your elephant to be. Tell your elephant’s story:

  • Why is it there?
  • How did it get there?
  • What is it doing?
  • What will happen next?

or attempt a story?

Sometimes it is the imaginary fences that can be more limiting. Sometimes it’s better to leave things that aren’t broken in the first place.

Broken with intent

The fence was too high to jump or even see over, no footholds to climb, and palings too close to squeeze or even peer through. It hugged the soil too compacted to dig. It seemed impenetrable, and so intrigued. He stacked boxes for makeshift steps—not high enough. Finally, he hatched a plan—balloons! He blew them big and tied them tight, attached some string, and waited. And waited. Then a gust of wind lifted him high, over the fence, where another, just like him, smiled and said, “Should’ve used the gate; latch is broken—always open to friends.”

Thank you blog post

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

teaching literacy skills with Bullfrog's Billabong, a week of literacy lessons and group activities

readilearn: A week’s reading instruction with Bullfrog’s Billabong

The readilearn Bullfrog’s Billabong suite of cross-curricular resources can be used as the foundation for planning a week’s reading instruction including lessons with the whole class and small groups and independent work. The activities cater for different ability levels in your early childhood classroom and can culminate in a performance to be presented to other members of the class, other classes in the school, or parents.

Bullfrog's Billabong, teaching effective reading strategies with covered cloze on the interactive whiteboard

Begin by introducing the story as a covered cloze activity (a lesson ready for you to teach) presented to the whole class on the interactive whiteboard. Although all children are engaged in reading the same story, the activity allows them to participate at their own level. The teacher-led discussion can be tailored to student needs, allowing each to contribute according to what they already know and extending their understanding by discussing cues for reading and irregular as well as regular spelling patterns. Children learn from each other as they actively participate in the cooperative reading activity. Refer to Covered cloze — teaching effective reading strategies and Bullfrog’s Billabong — Cloze — How to use this resource for suggestions.

As with introducing all new reading material, it is important to engage children’s interest by making connections with what they already know about the topic and explaining what may be unfamiliar; for example, a billabong, and encouraging them to make predictions about what might happen in the story. As the story unfolds, children may adjust their predictions and thoughts about the story.

Continue reading: readilearn: A week’s reading instruction with Bullfrog’s Billabong – Readilearn