Category Archives: Self esteem

Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning

Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning – Readilearn

As Christmas draws near, keeping children focussed on their lessons can be a challenge for teachers. But it’s not impossible. It is not necessary to fill every moment with Christmas themed activities, but a few interspersed throughout the day can be motivating and lift everyone’s spirits. Activities that promote children’s learning should always take precedence over time fillers.

To assist teachers keep the focus on learning while children would rather be thinking of Christmas and holidays, I have prepared a range of lessons and suggestions for use in different subject areas. Many of the lessons and suggestions integrate learning across curriculum areas. All readilearn Christmas themed activities can be found under the Cultural Studies tab in the subcategory Christmas.

Focus on the children

A great place to start is always with the children and their family’s traditions.

Begin with a survey to find out which children in the class do and do not celebrate Christmas. While you will already have an idea of which children do, it can be an interesting way to begin the discussion of different cultural traditions celebrated by children in your class.

The main ingredient in any of these discussions should always be respect, and it is important to find ways of making classroom activities inclusive.

How many school days until Christmas?

Advent Calendars that count down the twenty-five December days until Christmas are great for families to use in the home but not so suitable for school. What about counting down the school days until Christmas? Twenty-five school days would mean starting at least five weeks before school finishes, which might be a bit soon, so choose another number which suits your program. Fifteen (three weeks) could be a good number. (Note: If, for inclusivity, you didn’t wish to count down to Christmas, you could count down to the holidays.)

A countdown calendar

Schedule opportunities for the children to present information about their family traditions as part of the countdown.

Continue reading: Christmas classroom activities that focus on learning – Readilearn

Kathy Hoopman on teaching children with ASD in the classroom

readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann

Do you have children with Asperger Syndrome in your classroom and wonder how best to cater to their needs? Do you have friends with Asperger Syndrome, or maybe have it yourself? This week’s guest Kathy Hoopmann has a wealth of suggestions to help you understand, appreciate and enjoy the complex syndrome that is known as ASD.

Combining her knowledge of Asperger Syndrome with her teaching background, Kathy has written over twenty books for children and adults.  She is best known for her photo-illustrated books that deal with Asperger Syndrome, ADHD and anxiety.  The simplicity, charm and insight of these books has made them must-haves for children and adults around the world.

Kathy has won and been shortlisted for many literary awards including the Children’s Book Council of Australia Award, and she has four times been awarded a silver Nautilus Award (US).  Her books have been translated into thirteen languages and sell widely in Australia, the UK, the US and the Middle East.

The books help children and adults with ASD recognise that they are not alone and provide support to carers, teachers and other professionals working with people with ASD.  In any home, school or classroom library Kathy’s books would help everyone learn to understand and support each other.

Welcome to readilearn, Kathy. Over to you.

The boy crawled under a table, his cap pulled low.  All eyes were on me to watch what I would do.  I was the relief teacher, or ‘light relief’ and the class was eager for a good show.  But I had been a relief teacher for too long to take the bait.  Besides, I recognised the behavior.  The boy displayed many characteristics of Autism Spectrum Disorder and frankly under the table was the very best place he could be, for his sake and mine. 

‘Miss?’ a child ventured, ‘Billy’s under the table and he’s wearing a hat indoors.’

Continue reading: readilearn: Teaching children with ASD — ideas for the classroom- with guest author Kathy Hoopmann – Readilearn

and be sure to check out the generous discount offered to readers during the month of July.

Out of the fire comes hope

fireweed Charli Mills Carrot Ranch flash fiction

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills wrote about fireweed. She describes it thus:

“the purple and pink flower that grows like a tall spear in a tribe of flower warriors. After a forest fire, mining reclamation, road grading or any kind of soil disturbance, fireweed grows back first from seeds born of despair. It’s a phoenix flower, a soil nourisher, a defier of the odds when life is bleakest.”

She then went on to challenge writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes fireweed. You can use it as the plant, a flower, a metaphor or as the name of someone or something. Go where the prompt leads. Burn bright when you write.

I don’t know of Charli’s fireweed, but I do know that Australia is home to a great variety of plants that are dependent on fire for regeneration. While large tracts of land destroyed by bushfires is devastating, a return to traditional land management practices of the indigenous peoples may see an  improved system.

There is an oft-repeated quote by German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche.

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

While that may be true of Charli’s fireweed and much of Australia’s flora, I’m never convinced of the applicability of the saying to every situation, or of its power to lift one up when feeling personally devastated. What does not kill may require a good dose of determination and strength for it not to annihilate the spirit.

While thoughts of how to approach Charli’s challenge were swirling around in my head, notification of a new post by The Wordy Wizard popped into my inbox. At the top of the post was this quote by  J.K. Rowling from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire:

 “Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.”

The addition of these words of J.K. Rowling to those of Friedrich Nietzsche, for me, complete the thought. Without acceptance there is denial and an inability to move on, with acceptance we can begin to repair and renew.

Intermittently, over the past four years while I have been responding to Charli’s flash challenges, I have written about Marnie, an abused child who was able, with determination and support of caring others, to overcome the impact of her dysfunctional upbringing and make a better life for herself.

Just as we look for green shoots of hope in the blackness of a bushfire’s destruction, we must look for signs of hope and renewal in those who have suffered.

Bono quote about why he's a megalomaniac

While at times the negatives of children “burnt” by dysfunctional home lives, poverty, poor nutrition, lack of mental stimulation, and other factors that appear to obliterate potential can seem overwhelming and insurmountable, it is important to see within every child that seed of unlimited possibility and hope that needs to be nurtured.

Marnie’s teacher Miss R. saw it in her. In one story, “Miss R. handed her a rose from the vase saying, “You are that rose. You may be surrounded by thorns, but the beauty of the rose is inside you. Remember that always. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.

Perhaps it would be just as apt to describe her as fireweed, “a defier of the odds when life is bleakest”. This is where Charli’s challenge took me this time:

Burning with hope

Miss R. avoided the staffroom’s negativity, popping in, like today, only if necessary. When she glanced over instinctively on hearing her name, regret flooded immediately.

“Annette, we were just talking about you and that weed–from that noxious family–you know, Marnie-“

She bristled, failing to withhold the words that exploded, singeing all with their ferocity.

“Just look at yourselves. If Marnie’s a weed, she’s fireweed. Better than you will ever be. She’ll beat her odds and succeed, despite your belittling words and unhelpful opinions.”

She left the silenced room, believing in her heart that her words were true.

Thank you blog post

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

Note: The feature image after the bushfire by freeaussiestock.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

 

 

The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

This week I have the pleasure of welcoming Karen Tyrrell back to the blog. I previously interviewed Karen about her book Songbird Superhero for the Author Spotlight series. Karen has now published a second book in the Song Bird Series The Battle of Bug World.

I enjoyed Songbird Superhero, so was delighted when Karen approached me to participate in her blog tour. The fact that the book is about bugs may have something to do with it. As you saw last week, I am a fan of minibeasts, including bugs.

As soon as Karen announced the release of her book, I purchased an advance copy and was able to post a pre-review on Goodreads. This is what I wrote:

I loved Song Bird Superhero and wondered if a sequel could possibly match it. But with The Battle of Bug World, Karen Tyrrell didn’t just match it, she surpassed it!
This fast-paced page-turning story is packed with disasters that even Song Bird is not sure she can fix.
What is that nasty Frank Furter up to now? And what’s with the severe thunder storm hovering above his house? What’s happened to all the bees? And why has Song Bird’s sister

Continue reading: The Battle of Bug World – Interview with Karen Tyrrell – Readilearn

You’re not allowed!

child-1439468_1920

How many of these did you hear when you were a child?

  • You’re too small
  • You’re too big
  • You’re too young
  • You’re too old
  • It’s too far
  • It costs too much
  • It’s too dangerous
  • Girls don’t do that
  • Boys don’t do that
  • It’s too …

Sometimes it was difficult to find an activity that, like Baby Bear’s bed, was just right. Oftentimes it was only ‘just right’ in the eyes someone wielding the power; and not always in the eyes of the one wishing to have, do, go, or be. Setting limits is often easier than chasing possibilities.

starr-cline-creativity

Many years ago I read What Would Happen If I Said Yes?… A Guide to Creativity for Parents and Teachers by Starr Cline.  Cline writes about creativity, emotional intelligence, giftedness, intelligences, diversity, and the power of “Yes”. On her website, she makes this statement:

“After years of observation and research, I have drawn the following conclusions:

  • Everyone has the ability to create.
  • The external environment is critical in the development of one’s potential, whether it be in mathematics, language, the arts, etc.
  • Individuals may have one or more areas in which they excel
  • IQ scores do not reflect specific talents or abilities
  • Creativity begins diminishing at about third grade”

I’m inclined to agree, and feel especially sad about the last point she makes.

What Would Happen If I Said Yes? challenged me to think about ways in which I could parent (and teach) more positively and encourage, rather than inhibit, creativity; encourage a willingness to try new things; and to avoid placing unnecessary limitations upon others and myself. I can’t say I was entirely successful, but I did make some gains.

In the book, Cline suggests that you “STOP every time you are about to say no. THINK about what might happen if you said yes!”  Consider the worst scenario that could occur if you said yes, and whether it would be really that bad, or even likely.

She says to consider why you may say No.

“Is it because …

You don’t want to be bothered

It wasn’t your idea

It’s a habit

Someone treated you that way

It makes you feel powerful”

She reminds that the messages saying “No” often sends are:

“Your idea is stupid

You are stupid

You’re not capable

You’re not worth it.”

In the long term, are these negative messages more important than a temporary inconvenience, or than the benefits that would accrue from positive responses?

But don’t get me wrong. Cline doesn’t suggest you just say “Yes” to everything. She says that sometimes you may need to come up with a creative way of saying no. She provides many ways of doing so in her book, which I recommend as a great read for both parents and teachers.

Even as adults we can find ourselves in situations where certain things are not allowed and rules are imposed, such as in the workplace or in clubs and other organisations.

Sometimes the things we are not allowed to do are self-imposed limits; we may not allow ourselves to do things because:

  • It’s scary
  • It’s unfamiliar
  • We feel uncomfortable
  • We don’t know anybody there
  • It costs too much

camping-1289930_1920

Sometimes, as I explained about my attitude to camping in a previous post Around the campfire, we make choices and find ways of justifying our decisions, at least to ourselves if not to anyone else. There are many reasons I choose to avoid camping, many other things I’d prefer to do, and I don’t often consider myself to be missing out.

Although I can appreciate camping’s appeal to others, it was only when I read a late comment by Bruce Mitchell that I began to consider some of the wonders, including Antarctica, I had missed. Maybe I’ll be more adventurous next time round!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about something or someone not allowed

In her post, Charli speaks of many injustices, including the rules that say who is and is not allowed to vote in elections in the United States. The rules affect many, for many different reasons (or petty excuses based on power) and tend to be divisive rather than inclusive.

charli-mills-gift

Charli says that,

“The greatest gift you can give is to allow another. Allow someone else to listen to their favorite music. Allow someone else to tell you their story. Allow someone to connect to you even if you feel harried. Smile back, nod, acknowledge, empathize. Be loving. Some among us have denials you can’t see stamped upon their countenances because of circumstances.”

While deciding what we will or will not allow our children to do may seem trivial in comparison, surely bringing up our younger generations to be confident, independent, responsible, and accepting of others, allowing them to join in; creating an inclusive society, is something to strive towards. Perhaps if we allow our children, they will allow others.

For my response to Charli’s flash, I’ve gone back to childhood. Where else? I hope you enjoy it.

Not allowed

She knew they were in there. She heard their chatter. Her knocks began timidly, then louder. The room hushed. There was rustling, then padding feet. She waited. The door opened a peek. Her loving sister’s smiling face appeared, then contorted unrecognisably.

“You’re not allowed!” the monster screeched, and slammed the door.

She froze – obliterated, erased, smashed to smithereens. She was nowhere, nothing. Why? What had she done?

She could only shrug when Mum asked why she wasn’t playing with her sister.

Later, at dinner, she viewed her sister’s sweet smiles cautiously. Was she real? When would the monster reappear?

thank-you-1200x757

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

Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

Republished from readilearn

In this post I suggest ways of helping children develop friendship skills, and describe some readilearn resources for celebrating friendship.

Developing a welcoming, happy, supportive classroom environment, a place where children want to be, is essential for learners of all ages, but especially so in early childhood. These classrooms are the first that children experience and influence lifelong attitudes to school and learning. It is important to establish strong foundations with positive attitudes, respect, and friendship.

Making friends doesn’t come easily to everyone. Simply being put with a whole bunch of other children of similar ages doesn’t ensure friendships will be established, or that children will be accepting of, and respectful to, others.

Strategies for helping children develop effective social skills need to be interwoven throughout the curriculum. Respect, kindness, and empathy need to be modelled and taught. It is especially important for children who have had limited experience mixing with others, or for those who respond to others in inappropriate or unkind ways.

Some useful strategies include:

  • Develop a vocabulary of words used to describe feelings. Words

Source: Early childhood resources for celebrating friendship – Readilearn

#Sugar and Snails BirthdayBlog Tour – The legacy of a Catholic childhood

I have been friends with Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal for almost as long as I have been blogging. While there are many differences in our experiences, there is the right balance of agreement and divergence for friendly and robust discussion to occur. Anne regularly contributes to the conversations on my blog through her thoughtful comments.

Anne has also visited as a guest blogger twice before. The first was a discussion of The Examined Life by Stephen Grosz. In the second she wrote about the treatment of friendship in her debut novel Sugar and Snails. This post celebrates that novel’s first birthday! Congratulations, Anne. I wish you much success with this and future writing.

sugar-and-snails cover

In this post, Anne discusses the legacy of a Catholic childhood. I hope you will join me in welcoming Anne to my blog.

The legacy of a Catholic childhood

It was our last evening in Rome, and we’d grown weary of churches, even when they hosted a Caravaggio painting or a Bellini sculpture. But it seemed a shame to leave without a peek inside the church we’d passed almost every day that week on the way to some museum or other attraction. So while my husband walked back to our rented apartment for a pre-dinner cocktail, I pushed through the heavy door.

Just inside, I hesitated. I hadn’t expected there’d be a service in progress. I was mesmerised: the golden light; the scent of incense, the mournful melody of human voices accompanied by an organ. I registered this, not so much with my eyes and nose and ears, but in my gut. In another country, in a less magnificent church, this had been my childhood.

Ignoring the disapproving gaze of the usher, I passed through the rope barrier holding back the tourists, to take my place among the congregation. I no longer shared their faith, but I felt entitled to share the ritual.

My childhood, at Catholic schools, was passed within a bubble. It was something of a culture-shock to discover, at university, that the majority of people I encountered belonged to other religions, or none. Later still, more at ease in the secular world, it was always interesting when friends and colleagues outed themselves as former Catholics. Then there’d be that nod of recognition, a shared heritage marking our psyche more indelibly than the ashen cross the priest would thumb on our foreheads at the beginning of Lent.

I believe that we are strongly shaped by the past, so what is the legacy of a Catholic childhood? Some have found solace in the beauty of the liturgy and the sense of community while others have had their personalities destroyed through unimpeded clerical abuse. Many, like me, would place themselves somewhere in the middle, regarding Catholicism not as something to celebrate but to recover from.

The threat of eternal damnation incites fear, or disbelief, and neither is conducive to developing a person’s moral compass. Telling a child what she must believe, rather than letting her discover it, doesn’t facilitate an enquiring mind. While it might seem comforting to be able to believe there’s a God who will always take care of you, you’ve a more secure base if you’ve been brought up by parents who are responsive to your earthly needs. There seems to be a very fine line between putting your faith in magical solutions and the “delusions” of the psychotic mind. And the veneration of suffering and a tortuous death through crucifixion is decidedly odd. As for sex, the risky business of discovering a new kind of intimacy in adolescence is further distorted by the taint of shame.

sugar-and-snails cover

When it came to writing my debut novel, Sugar and Snails, it made sense to give my main character a Catholic childhood. Uncomfortable in her skin from childhood, Diana finds no salvation in the church. She recalls morbid childhood games and, aged about eleven, being taken on pilgrimage to Lourdes for a miracle cure for a problem no-one will name. As an adolescent in the 1970s, her knowledge of menstruation comes from the bizarre instruction manual, My Dear Daughter, an exercise in obfuscation of North-Korean proportions, which her mother surreptitiously places on her bed along with a packet of bulky sanitary towels. Although it would be unfair to blame it entirely on Catholicism, she doesn’t have sex until the age of twenty-five and then it’s so dreadful she is celibate for the next twenty years.

Yet I didn’t want to stuff my novel with my own issues. Firstly, because I don’t think that makes for a good read; secondly, I didn’t want to alienate potential readers, especially not the old school friends to whom my novel is partly dedicated, most of whom have stayed loyal to their childhood beliefs. Fortunately, my novel’s first year of feedback suggests I’ve managed on both counts.

In preparing this post, I realised that less than half the Catholic scenes from earlier drafts survived to the final version. While there are solid structural reasons for these deletions, it also strikes me that, in the almost seven years I’ve been writing this novel, I’ve become less angry about the past. Perhaps it’s because I’ve worked through it or maybe simply because, as in that church in Rome, I’ve been able to reclaim the good bits. No, I don’t go to church, but I do sing with a marvellous mixed-voice choir. While we have an eclectic repertoire, it’s the sacred works – Verdi’s Requiem, Handel’s Messiah and the like – that really make me tingle inside. For more on the music that shaped my novel, see my forthcoming post on the undercover soundtrack.

birthday blog tour final

Please check out some other stops and posts on the Birthday Blog Tour.

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails, about a woman who has kept her past identity a secret for thirty years, was published in July 2015 by Inspired Quill and longlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, about a man who keeps a woman captive in his cellar, is scheduled for publication in May 2017. Anne is also a book blogger and author of over 60 published short stories. Catch up with Anne on her website: annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

In honour of its first birthday, Sugar and Snails is available in Kindle format at only £0.99 / $0.99 until 31 July 2016.

Amazon UK 

Amazon.com

Thank you

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