Last month, I was invited by the Science Teachers Association of Queensland (STAQ) to present a talk about using picture books in science lessons as part of their Growing Science webinars in the lead up to Science Week. What a great opportunity — picture books and science. What’s to not like? Picture books are one of the best ways I know of turning young children onto two of my favourite things — reading and learning.
You can find out more about the webinar series and access recordings and free resources on the STAQ website here.
Below is a brief version of the article I wrote as the basis of my presentation.
Deidre laughed, sang and clapped on cue at her first-ever real live Christmas pantomime, until … the clowns prepared the cake. Deidre knew how to make cakes — she’d made them with her mum. The clowns obviously didn’t — tipping more flour over each other than into the pan, splashing the milk, and cracking in eggs, shells and all. The audience roared as the clowns placed a lid on the pan, shook it vigorously, then tipped out a magnificent cake. When offered a slice, Deidre folded her arms and clamped her lips. A cake made like that could never taste good.
This story is inspired by a true event. However, the only thing I remember is being horrified at the way the clowns put everything into the pan, including the egg shells, and turned out a cake. In writing, I tried to get back to what an expanded memory may have included. I hope it has worked.
The thought of being horrified at everything going into the pan in which the cake is to be cooked is now quite funny, as I know there are quite a few recipes made that way; including one of my favourites to make with children. If I was to ever be in a cooking show, this is what I’d make. And there’s not even an egg in sight.
1 1/2 cups plain flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 tablespoons cocoa powder
5 tablespoons butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon bi-carbonate of soda (baking soda)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 cup milk
2/3 cup miniature marshmallows
A cake pan
A cup measure
A mixing spoon
1. Preheat the oven to 180° (350⁰F, Gas mark #4)
2. Put the flour, sugars, salt and cocoa in the cake pan. Mix them carefully. You will have the light brown moon sand.
3. Use the mixing spoon to make a big crater in the middle so the bottom of the pan shows through. Make another medium-sized crater and a little crater.
4. Put the baking soda in the medium-sized crater.
5. Pour the melted butter into the big crater.
6. Pour the vanilla into the little crater.
7. Pour the vinegar onto the bi-carb soda in the medium-sized crater. Watch it become a bubbling, foaming volcano.
8. When the volcano stops foaming, pour the milk over the moon sand and carefully mix it all together until it looks like smooth moon mud.
9. Scatter marshmallow rocks over the surface.
10. Bake it for around 35 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck in the centre comes out dry. Let the cake cool in the pan.
Here is a wonderful video promoting fruits and vegetables for the International Year.
The video is fun to watch and makes my mouth water with all the bright and colourful photographs of delicious fruits and vegetables. If you watch the video with your students, it may lead to many and varied follow-up discussions and activities. Here are just a few suggestions.
What fruits and vegetables can you name?
Which of them are fruits and which are vegetables?
What is the difference between fruit and vegetables?
Which of these fruits and vegetables have you tried?
Which is/are your favourites?
Is your favourite included in the video?
What is your favourite way to eat these fruits and vegetables?
Extend vocabulary — make a list describing the fruits and vegetables and what children like about them; for example: sweet, juicy, crunchy, soft, ripe, nutritious, delicious, raw, cooked, bitter, exotic.
Have children draw or write about their favourite fruit or vegetable treat.
Set up a fruit and vegetable market in the classroom using laminated children’s drawings or images cut from magazines; plastic, wooden or paper mache fruit and vegetables, and use it for a variety of activities including sorting and shopping.
Make a fruit salad or fruit kebabs. Invite every child to contribute a piece of fruit. Share it for brain break or morning tea.
Make vegetable soup. Invite children to contribute a vegetable. Serve it with bread or savoury scones, which you could also make, for lunch.
These readilearn resources provide suggestions for other lunch ideas that are easily prepared at school.
How to make a healthy smiley face sandwich is a procedural text with step-by-step instructions that are easy enough for children to follow on their own with the supervision of an adult in a small group. The activity is suitable for use in literacy groups. It could be incorporated into a unit focusing on healthy eating.
Next Friday 30 July is the International Day of Friendship. One of the aims of the International Day of Friendship is to foster a culture of peace through education. It is “based on the recognition of the relevance and importance of friendship as a noble and valuable sentiment in the lives of human beings around the world”.
Some children find it easy to make friends. Others may find it a little more difficult. While some of us enjoy time on our own, there’s no denying that days are often brighter with friends. This is especially true of children at school. Without a friend to play with, children can feel left out and alone. They may feel they don’t belong and begin to think ‘What’s wrong with me?’ Having a friend or two can influence how they feel about attending school and impact the whole school experience.
The establishment of a welcoming and supportive classroom in which all children have a sense of belonging is essential and underpins a great year of learning and teaching for all involved. Part of that classroom is the social dynamics and friendship groups. They don’t always form naturally and, especially when some friendship groups are already established, newcomers may have difficulty being accepted when they try to fit in.
Here at readilearn, we have a variety of lessons, activities and teaching resources to assist the teaching of friendship skills in your classroom. They can all be found in the Friendship Skills collection in the section Character Development.
Getting to know each other
Getting to know you surveys are a great way for teachers and children to get to know each other at the beginning of the year, and support the establishment of a welcoming, supportive environment in which individuals are respected and appreciated. Topics to survey are limited only by your imagination. With the incidental development of literacy and mathematical skills, they make an all-round great introduction to school.
Me and my friends Children interview their friends to find out ways in which they are similar and how they differ from each other
As children get to know each other, they come to realise that they have some characteristics in common and some that differ. Those characteristics do not make them better or worse. They make them who they are.
Me and My Buddy is a great activity for your children’s first session with their buddy class.
Children interview their buddies to find out more about them and discuss ways in which they and their buddies are similar and different.
This week, I am delighted to tell you that I have finished making and have uploaded a lesson for each letter of the alphabet ready to teach on the interactive whiteboard. I had hoped to have them finished by the end of June, but I don’t feel too bad that it took me until 4 July — not too far over my goal.
Each letter is introduced in its own lesson with its most common sound, as is the expectation of most English curricula and phonics programs. This includes 20 consonants and the short sound for each of the 5 vowels (a, e, i, o and u). The letter ‘x’ is the exception. Its most common sound is ‘ks’ as heard in ‘box’, so that is how it is introduced.
The lessons are available individually and can be used in any order.
Every day is a good day for caring for our environment and for ensuring that the next generation accept their role in doing so with enthusiasm. However, in June, some days provide an opportunity for participating in an international movement focusing on the environment:
5 June World Environment Day
8 June World Oceans Day
22 June World Rainforest Day
Although Queensland Day on 6 June is not specifically about the environment, I’ve included it as it’s a celebration of my home state.
The theme of this year’s World Environment Day is “Reimagine. Recreate. Restore” focusing on ecosystem restoration.
You can find out more about how to be involved on the website and download a free Ecosystem Restoration Playbook here.
There are numerous readilearn resources about minibeasts and other animals such as turtles and alpacas to support learning about the environment and biodiversity. These can all be found in the science biology resources.
World Oceans Day is a day for celebrating, protecting and conserving the world’s oceans. ‘The purpose of the Day is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizens for the ocean, and mobilize and unite the world’s population on a project for the sustainable management of the world’s oceans.’
The theme for 2021 is ‘One Ocean, One Climate, One Future — Together”.
Here at readilearn we have many turtle-themed resources which are suitable for celebrating World Oceans Day, including:
World Bee Day will be celebrated next week on 20 May. The purpose of World Bee Day is to celebrate these wonderful pollinators upon whom we are so dependent, and not just for their delicious honey. Without bees, there’d be a lot less, and many fewer varieties of, food for us to eat.
Note: As for all videos, I recommend you watch them first to ascertain suitability before sharing them with your class.
The World Bee Day website contains useful advice and many resources to assist your involvement in the day, including a fun waggle dance challenge you and your children will enjoy.
Innovating on familiar nursery rhymes and songs is an easy and fun way to encourage children to think creatively, to develop their writing skills and extend their vocabularies. There are many ways in which Row, Row, Row Your Boat can be used for these purposes. In this post, I share just some of them.
What other words rhyme with stream and dream? List them.
Today it is my pleasure to introduce you to Australian author and illustrator Josh Langley who advocates for children’s mental health, including developing their self-esteem, friendship skills and creativity through his books and online course. These topics are close to my heart and regularly appear in our readilearn posts and feature in our teaching resources.
With next Wednesday 21 April being World Creativity and Innovation Day, I thought now was the perfect time to share with you Josh’s recent post Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Let Kids Daydream.
First let me tell you a little about Josh.
Josh is author of the award winning ‘Being You is Enough’ books series for kids and promotes positive mental and emotional health messages for kids through his books, presentations, primary school talks, videos, charity work and courses, like ‘Here I am!’.
“After suffering childhood trauma, I feel driven to make sure kids don’t ever have to feel like I did. That’s why I want to give them the emotional and mental skills to be resilient to what is thrown at them and the inner knowing that they are ok the way they are. And the only way I can do that is in my own fun and unique way! Thankfully parents and kids love it.”