Can you guess: Who am I? – Readilearn

can you guess - who am I

Last week I shared an interview revealing a little about myself and my hopes and plans for readilearn. I also uploaded some little Who am I? Easter caption books. It’s seems timely then to discuss the value of creating, writing, and reading Who am I? puzzles in the classroom.

Children love solving puzzles and it is good for them to engage in thinking activities. Who am I? puzzles involve deductive reasoning, and are easy for children to write. Solving them means listening attentively to the clues, remembering all the information, relating new information to existing information, and using the clues to eliminate options in order to identify the specific.

In addition, the puzzles can be used to discuss and teach the difference between statements and questions and the appropriate way of punctuating each.

Children can begin by writing statements about themselves, such as those they may have shared in About me booklets. They can also add interesting facts that others may not know about them. Remind children

Continue reading at: Can you guess: Who am I? – Readilearn

Are you coming or going?

© Norah Colvin

My mother used to sometimes say that she didn’t know whether she was coming or going, meaning that she was a bit frazzled with too much to do and too little time. With a small house filled ten children, is it any wonder?

Sometimes when asked “How are you going?” meaning “How are you going in life?” or simply, “How are you?” people respond, “Getting there”. Sometimes I wonder where they are getting, and wonder if they know too.

But does it matter? Is it important to know where we are getting? Is not there joy in the journey itself? What if the “there” turns out to be totally unexpected, a surprise? I have no idea where I’ll be after the door on this life’s journey closes. I hope it’s a pleasant surprise, but I’m more inclined to think it will be no surprise at all. This convinces me that it is important to enjoy the journey whether we’re coming or going or anywhere in between.

One of the purposes of education is to support people along their life’s journey, regardless of where they came from or where they are going.  I previously wrote about some issues affecting itinerant families in This too will pass. Saying goodbye to friends, if indeed there has been time to establish friendships can be difficult; so too the establishment of new friendships at each next place.

Robbie Cheadle, who blogs at Robbie’s Inspiration, recently shared her experiences in a comment on the readilearn blog. She said, “I changed schools 14 times during my primary school years and it was very hard. I was always the new girl and always having to start over. It does teach you to get on with people and to be resilient.” Robbie obviously learned to do so, but it doesn’t happen that way for all.

Sherri Matthews, another friend from the S.M.A.G. community, who blogs at A View from my Summerhouse recently shared her excitement at the publication of her essay Promise of a Rose Garden in Lady by the River: Stories of Perseverance, “a collection of  personal stories about facing everyday challenges”. This is a wonderful book and I have no hesitation in recommending it to you.

In her moving story, Sherri describes “having her heart ripped out” at ten years of age when she realises that the goodbyes exchanged between herself and her father as she left for school were more permanent than she expected. She says she kept her feelings inside, telling no one how she felt about her mother leaving her father. She says, “I cried alone at night, missing my dad so much that I thought my heart would break”.

These two experiences alone demonstrate that we may never know just what the children in our classrooms are experiencing. They may keep their feelings inside, not wanting to share. This is particularly so when the time that could be used for getting to know each other is pushed out to accommodate more drill and practice and standardised testing.

No child’s situation is the same as any other. There is no standard experience that puts everyone in the same spot on the graph at the same time. We need to make the effort to get to know individuals and to tailor the situation to their needs. This means providing opportunities for them to share their experiences, discuss their feelings, and follow their interests.

Of course, children should never be pressured to share more than they are comfortable with, but an open, welcoming, supportive classroom will provide them with a refuge from other issues that may confront them. I seem to keep returning to this point: the importance of a warm, welcoming, supportive classroom. I’m like a broken record, stuck in that groove. But it is the relationships that are vital and of greatest influence to a child’s ability to learn.

There are many simple activities which can be incorporated into the school day to help build community. I’ve talked before about the way I used to do the roll, with each child standing in turn to greet classmates. How much more effective it may have been had children said “good morning” in their mother tongue, teaching others the greeting, and receiving it in response. Children enjoy learning words from other languages.  What a great celebration of diversity this would be.

It was these thoughts that went around and around in my head this week when Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a hello or a goodbye. You can pick any greeting that grabs you from howdy to fare thee well. It will be interesting to see how the collection intertwines the opposite greetings. Charli herself has experienced a series of hellos and goodbyes in recent times, with another goodbye imminent.

For my goodbye story, I have taken another turn and gone full circle. I hope you like it.

Round and round

He felt tall, grown up, sitting in the saddle, holding the reins, feet in the stirrups.

Mum was watching.

“Hold tight,” she whispered. “Love you.”

He smiled.  Then they were off. He turned, letting go quickly to wave one hand.

“Goodbye,” he called. His lip quivered. How soon before he’d see her again? He turned, but she’d disappeared.

Suddenly she was in front of him.

“Hello,” she called.

“Hello,” he smiled.

Again, she was gone. “Goodbye,” he heard; then “Hello again!” He giggled.

“Going around in circles,” she thought. “Life’s like a carousel. You’ve got to enjoy the ride.”

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

#WATWB Thank you SES Volunteers

Susan Scott and Debby Gies have alerted me to a new blog hop that aims to spread light, rather than negativity, across the world.

I thought this was a great opportunity to acknowledge the very generous work of the SES (State Emergency Service). These volunteers work tirelessly to give support to those who are affected by disasters such as cyclones, storms, floods, landslides, you name it.

This week has seen many in Queensland and New South Wales suffer from the disastrous effects of Cyclone Debbie which has wreaked havoc down much of the eastern coastline of Australia.

The SES volunteers have been there to assist people as the weather unleashed its fury, and in its aftermath.

While I am one of the fortunate ones who have not required their services personally, I greatly value the assistance they provide to our communities, and recognise the light that their generosity spreads in the world. Our communities would struggle to cope without their services. I find it hard to believe that the essential services these amazing people provide is done voluntarily.

Thank you, SES Volunteers, one and all, for your enormous generosity.

Susan Scott says:
Please join us if you would like to, and spread the word by adding your own personal story or some other enlightening event. Let’s set about diluting/dissolving the negativity around the world and bringing in the light. This is the link.

Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

About six months ago, not long after the launch of readilearn, I was invited by Dr Gulara Vincent to talk a little about it on her wonderful blog through which she provides support for writers as they find their inner voice. I thought you might be interested in finding out a little more about how readilearn came to be. Although I share the interview here, please click through to meet Gulara and read the interview on her blog.

Hi Norah, Welcome to my blog.

Thank you for inviting me. I am delighted to be here.

Norah, congratulations on the recent launch of your website. Tell us a little about readilearn.

Thank you. I am very excited about my new website. readilearn is a collection of early childhood teaching resources that I have written. Many of the resources I used, trialled if you like, in my own classroom. I had always thought about sharing them with others but, when I was teaching full time, didn’t have the time to present them professionally or even think about marketing them.

Norah, what makes your resources different? Why would people choose readilearn resources?

Continue reading at: Are you ready to learn? A shout out for readilearn – Readilearn

Is anybody watching?

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to consider audience, and to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an audience. It can be broad or small, and gathered for any reason. How does your character react to an audience? Is the audience itself a character.

I have always considered audience important for children’s writing. Too often in school, writing is done simply for the teacher, to complete an exercise. It is read and marked (corrected) without any real concern for the writer and the writer’s purpose. That’s if, in fact, there was a purpose other than to complete the task set by the teacher.

However, it is possible to give children in school a sense of audience. They can write for the class as an audience, “publishing” their work to place in the book corner for independent self-selected reading. They can write for parents or other relatives and friends to mark special occasions such as Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, Christmas and Easter. They can write for younger siblings or buddies. Letters can be written to residents in nursing homes, characters in books, the principal, politicians, and the local newspaper. Diaries can be written and shared with teachers. Audiences can be found everywhere.

But an audience is not essential for every piece of writing. Sometimes we write just for ourselves. Sometimes even we are not an audience for our writing; when it is simply the act of writing, of expressing our thoughts that is important. Express, understand, release.  That can be all there is.

While I think this is less so for young children, as they move towards double figures they may like to have a private lockable diary in which to confide. As you would wish your privacy to be respected, so should theirs. This is not true for their online communication though.

There is the lovely saying  that includes the words “Dance like there’s nobody watching” and “Sing like there’s nobody listening”. The words are meant to be encouraging: “It doesn’t matter if you suck at it, just do it anyway.” I wonder why it doesn’t include the words:  “Write like there’s nobody reading.” Would you? Do you?

Recently I admired and envied my 5-year-old granddaughter’s uninhibited self-expression as she sang and danced her way through the shopping centre. She didn’t care if anyone was watching or not. She was in the moment, in flow, sharing her joy in simply being. This is not a characteristic unique to my granddaughter. I have observed the same exuberance in other children.

Most often the children’s behaviour draws smiles from passing adults; but what would the reaction be if it were an adult singing and dancing through the shopping centre? The occurrence, at least with such enthusiasm, is much less common. Breaking into song and dance may seem normal in musicals but doesn’t generally happen in real life.

How would you respond? Would you smile, ignore, or hasten away?

I was fascinated by some videos I came across when I Googled “Dance like nobody’s watching”. Here’s one:

Children seem to vacillate through stages of “Watch me!” and “Don’t look at me!”, from pride to embarrassment.

I think it is that embarrassment that kicks in with writing, as it does with most other things. We learn to compare ourselves with others, and generally find ourselves lacking,  If only we realised those “more confident” others probably feel the same.

Or we might be reluctant to share out of fear of what others may think? Elizabeth Gilbert makes a good point in her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. She says,

“Recognizing that people’s reactions don’t belong to you is the only sane way to create. If people enjoy what you’ve created, terrific. If people ignore what you’ve created, too bad. If people misunderstand what you’ve created, don’t sweat it. And what if people absolutely hate what you’ve created? What if people attack you with savage vitriol, and insult your intelligence, and malign your motives, and drag your good name through the mud? Just smile sweetly and suggest – as politely as you possibly can – that they go make their own fucking art. Then stubbornly continue making yours.” 

Gilbert says that we shouldn’t take “art” too seriously and quotes Tom Waits who once told her:

 “You know, artists—we take it so seriously. And we get so freaked out about it, and we think that what we’re doing is so deadly important. But really, as a songwriter, the only thing I do is make jewelry for the inside of people’s minds. That’s it.”

 

I shared Elizabeth Gilbert’s TED Talk Your elusive creative genius in a previous post Whose idea is it anyway? over three years ago, but it is worth sharing again. With over 12 million views, I know I’m not the only one to find it worthy.

 

So, I’ve gone from audience to creativity. But what is creativity for, if not for audience? If your writing or artwork is not created to share with an audience; is the lack of an audience still uppermost in your mind as you create? Audience or no audience, self or other, how does it influence the process and product? Can you sing or dance without an audience, at least of self?

For my flash story, I’m going back to the carefree days of childhood when life was fun and there was not a care in the world, and you danced and sang, whether anyone was watching or not. Really?

The joy of childhood

The cool grass teased her toes and the breeze tugged at her skirt, begging her to dance. She flung wide her arms to embrace the world as she lifted her face to the skies.  They smiled approval and she began to sway. Her fingertips tingled with expectation as her gentle hum intensified, summoning the music of the spheres to play for her. And play they did. She twirled and swirled to their rhythm singing her own melody in perfect harmony. Suddenly she was done. She clapped her hands to silence the orchestra and went back to her sandpit friends.

Thank you for being my audience. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

Delivery – just in time for Easter! – Readilearn

 

Many children around the world eagerly await the arrival of the Easter Bunny and his delivery of coloured, candy, or chocolate eggs or toys. The Easter Bunny has been delivering his gifts for more than three hundred years.

When Europeans arrived in Australia a little over two hundred years ago, they not only brought the Easter Bunny tradition, they brought real rabbits as a food source and for hunting. Cute little rabbits, you may say, but the rabbits were quick to breed. Without any natural predators, they soon became widespread, and created an enormous environmental problem. They contributed to the destruction of habitats and the loss of native animals and plants. They also became a serious problem for farmers.

One of the animals that suffered as a result of the introduced species is the bilby, a now vulnerable marsupial, native to the deserts of Central Australia. The cute bilby with its long rabbit-like ears and cute face is considered a possible native substitute for the Easter Bunny in Australia.  Chocolate makers and other organisations used the idea of an Easter Bilby to draw attention to its plight and to the Save the Bilby Fund, established to help its survival. (Check out the Save the Bilby Fund’s free education resources.)

This week I have uploaded some new Easter resources featuring bilbies. I hope you and your children enjoy them.

Continue reading: Delivery – just in time for Easter! – Readilearn

Can you imagine a world without The Arts?

Salvador Dalí [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How much time do you think should be devoted to the creative arts in school? How much time do you think is spent on creative arts in school? Is it a match?

The arts include such things as:

  • Visual Arts
  • Drama
  • Music
  • Dance

Educational policies promote The Arts for their potential to develop creativity and critical thinking. For example, the rationale for The Arts in the Australian Curriculum states that

“The arts have the capacity to engage, inspire and enrich all students, exciting the imagination and encouraging them to reach their creative and expressive potential.”

Creativity and critical thinking are mentioned first in the aims.

How do The Arts contribute to our world?

If nothing else, they add beauty to uplift and inspire. In many ways, they are time capsules, carrying stories from the past through our present and into the future. While I am neither artist nor art connoisseur, I see the value in each form and the importance of sharing them with younger generations.  I also consider it important for young children to have freedom to explore each of the arts as a medium of self-expression.

I have shared some thoughts about each of the arts in previous posts, including

Let’s Dance!

image courtesy of openclipart.org

I’ve got the music in me!

Imagine that!

and introduced you to some amazing illustrators including Jeannie Baker, Kim Michelle Toft, Narelle Oliver, Helene Magisson. Today I have received two beautiful picture books illustrated by the very talented Muza Ulasowski who I’ll be interviewing later this year.

At the Carrot Ranch this week Charli Mills challenges us to consider what a nation may be like if art was gone. The picture she creates of a possible “post-truth era dystopian” future is not pretty. I’m not into dystopian futures where “everything is unpleasant or bad”. Tell me, we’re not there yet, are we?

Although The Arts get a good rap in the Australian Curriculum, and other curricula too I’m sure, many teachers grumble that time for creativity and the arts is pushed out as schools focus on the formal tests that pit school against school, state against state, and country against country.

Hopefully that situation is not as dire in early childhood situations. Fortunately, young children are constantly exposed to some aspects of the visual arts through beautifully illustrated picture books. Hopefully they also enjoy copious amounts of music, song, and movement each day, and lots of time for imaginative play. How much more than that, and how much time for self-expression, may vary from school to school and teacher to teacher.

Involvement in art programs can also be therapeutic, giving children opportunities for quiet, almost meditative times, in which they can turn off their brains for a little while, relax, and express themselves.

For Marnie, a character I have been developing through responses to Charli’s flash fiction prompts, art is more than just a release. Art classes with her favourite teacher Miss R., who sees and encourages the possibilities and potential that lie within, offer her welcome respites from the harshness of her reality.

I introduced this notion in a flash piece Safety, and extended the idea in a longer piece The story behind brown paint.

In this response to Charli’s prompt to In 99 words (no more, no less) go down the rabbit hole to a place where art is not allowed. It could be a small story or a dystopian vision. Is there a power struggle over art? Would the general public miss it? Is the end of art a natural evolution? I have considered what it might be like for Marnie should her should she be robbed of her treasured art class. I hope you enjoy it.

No Art

She’d survived! In just minutes, art class with Miss R. Without Art today, she’d be somewhere else; anywhere. Or nowhere. Breathing deeply, imagining sunshine and calm waters, as Miss R. taught, helped quell the warmth rising from her feet, threatening to explode her heart and head. Somehow she’d avoided Brucie and his bully mates, escaping their lunchtime taunts. Now Art: sanctuary. Suddenly, tears obliterated hope as she read: “No Art today. Classes cancelled.” Where was that white rabbit with a hole down which she could disappear?

Later, during class, Miss R. asked, “Has anyone seen Marnie?” Brucie just smirked.

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