Tag Archives: Australia

remembering-anzac-day-in-the-classroom

Remembering: Anzac Day in the classroom – readilearn

Tomorrow, 25 April is Anzac Day, a day of national significance and a public holiday in both Australia and New Zealand. The day is the anniversary of the first major military campaign fought by Australian and New Zealand forces in World War I, but now commemorates all who have served in any military campaign or operation since. The acronym stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. Ceremonies are held around the country and well-attended by past and present servicemen and women, their families and friends, and the general public.

While most children and teachers in both Australia and New Zealand are still on school holidays, they will undoubtedly discuss, and conduct ceremonies in recognition of ANZAC Day when school returns.

To assist your discussions, I remind you of Allison Paterson’s wonderful book Australia Remembers: Anzac Day, Remembrance Day and War Memorials, about which I interviewed Allison in November last year as part of the Books on Tour promotion.

About the book

The book explains, in a way that is detailed but accessible for a young audience, the origins and significance of both Anzac Day and Remembrance Day. Explanations of the traditions and symbols ensure that children understand why it is important to observe these historical events and why we should never forget those who fought for our country and those who keep us safe today.

Here are some reminders of Allison’s book:

Continue reading: Remembering: Anzac Day in the classroom – readilearn

Only in Australia

Only in Australia - Australian Coat of Arms

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenges writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the phrase “only in…” It can be used to tell a story about a profession, a place or situation. Go were the prompt leads you.

This is my response. I hope you enjoy it. (Composed in the pool this morning.)

Only in Australia

The carollers woke her Christmas morning. After the preparation whirlwind, she’d collapsed into bed, only to continuously toss and turn, re-making each list and checking it twice. She groaned – please, just a few minutes more. The carollers insisted. She tumbled out of bed and stumbled to the door. They eagerly accepted her gifts. Breathing in the day’s freshness, she had to decide – bed? Nah – the pool! As each stroke soothed and each lap refreshed, she welcomed the day’s events. When a cockatoo’s shriek punctuated the chorus, the kookaburras laughed. “Only in Australia,” she thought. “It’s good to be home.”

And now for a little more, if you so choose:

Note: I’ve been kindly shown that some of my ‘only in Australia‘ statements are not quite correct. As I am not one for spreading falsehoods, I have added, in pink, corrections of which I have become aware. Thanks especially to Pauline King and Debby Gies for getting the ball rolling.

Only in Australia do you see people wearing thongs and singlets in winter (“thongs” are flip-flops worn on feet, singlets are sleeveless shirts). (I now know Canadians also refer to flip-flops as thongs.)

Only in Australia are there mammals that lay eggs (the monotremes – echidna and platypus. One species of echidna is found in New Guinea).

Only in Australia are the emblem animals eaten (the meat of kangaroo and emu – both on the Australian Coat of Arms – is available in supermarkets and from restaurant menus). The animals were chosen for the coat of arms as neither can walk backwards – a symbol of a forward-moving nation.

Only in Australia can you see these biggest things:

The world’s largest living organism The Great Barrier Reef. Hopefully it will remain that way for generations to come.

The world’s largest monolith – Uluru.

The world’s longest fence – the dingo fence, built to keep dingoes out of the fertile farming areas on the eastern coast,  over 5 500 km.

Only in Australia will you find the world’s oldest living culture.

Only in Australia could you visit a different beach every day of the year and still have more to see.

Only in Australia could you attend a cockroach race, a cane toad race and a boat race on a dry river bed.

Only in Australia would you not see an active volcano. (Australia, the world’s largest island or smallest continent, is the only continent without an active volcano, though there are many dormant and extinct volcanoes.)

Only in Australia do you have to travel overseas to travel internationally. (This is definitely not true – of course overseas and international travel are synonymous for any island nation, of which there are many, including New Zealand.)

Only in Australia will you hear “Fair dinkum” and “True Blue”.

Only in Australia, do we abbreviate everything, including names (is that why our years pass so fast – we abbreviate them too?) (Apparently, this habit is also prevalent across the ditch in New Zealand.)

 

And if you still want more, check out these 88 Crazy Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Australia.

And watch this video:

Or come for a visit!

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I hope you enjoyed finding out a little more about Australia. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.

 

Feeling a little prickly?

Australia is home to a great diversity of, and many unique animals. Most native Australians are not found anywhere beyond its territories. I guess that’s not surprising since it is the world largest island or smallest continent country with vast expanses of ocean between it and other continents.

feeling-prickly-marsupials

Australia is home to almost 70% of the world’s marsupials. Other marsupials are found in the Americas, mostly South America. Kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, possums, wombats, Tasmanian devils, numbats, bilbies, and quolls are among the species of marsupials found in Australia.

Marsupials are mammals that give birth to live young before they are fully developed. The young, usually referred to as joeys, continue to develop in the mother’s pouch for a number of months, suckling on their mother’s milk.

feeling-prickly-monotremes

There is another group of even more unusual mammals: the monotremes. Monotremes are egg-laying mammals. The platypus and the echidna, the only existing species of monotremes, are unique to Australia.

The platypus

When Europeans first saw a platypus, they thought it was a hoax with its bill like a duck’s, tail like a beaver’s, and feet like an otter’s. It has fur like other mammals but, unlike other mammals, it lays eggs.

The platypus lives in burrows on the banks of freshwater streams and small rivers in eastern Australia, including Tasmania. It spends much of its time foraging in the muddy river beds for crayfish, worms and insect larvae.

Female platypus usually lay two eggs. When the young hatch, the mother releases milk from pores in her skin. The milk pools on her abdomen and is lapped up by the young for about three to four months. There is no special baby name for baby platypus. They are simply called ‘baby platypus’.

The male platypus, with a poisonous spur on its hind foot, is one of only a few venomous mammals.

Platypus predators include crocodiles, eagles, dingoes, and introduced animals such as foxes and feral cats.

The echidna

Echidnas, the oldest surviving mammals, live all over Australia in many different habitats. They usually live alone and are not territorial. Although it is rare to see an echidna in the wild, they are considered common. They generally hide away under vegetation, in logs, or in the burrows of other animals.

Echidnas eat termites and ants, and sometimes the larvae of other insects. They use their long snouts to forage in leaf litter, rotting logs, or ant mounds in search of food. Their long tongues are covered in sticky saliva for catching prey.

Echidnas are covered with spines along the head, back and tail. The spines are sharp and used for defence against predators.

Female echidnas usually lay one egg at a time. When the young, called a “puggle”, hatches, it makes its way to the mother’s pouch area to suckle milk. When the puggle starts to develop spines, at about 50 days, it is removed from the pouch. The mother continues to suckle it until it is about six to seven months old, at which time she deposits it at the entrance to the burrow, then walks away and abandons it.

Predators include goannas, Tasmanian devils, dingoes, eagles, and introduced animals such as foxes and feral cats. When threatened an echidna may run away or curl up in a ball.

Although all have spines, echidnas are not related to either hedgehogs or porcupines.

Here is a great article about these amazing echidnas.

If you are looking for books about Australian animals, check out the Steve Parish Storybook Collection by Rebecca Johnson, featured in last month’s Author Spotlight, which includes stories about both monotremes, many marsupials, and other fabulous creatures.

Monotremes and marsupials feature in the readilearn stories Bullfrog’s Billabong and Little Koala’s Party and their suite of resources.

Bullfrog's Billabong - coverlittle-koalas-party-cover

I was prompted to think about the diversity and uniqueness of these Australian animals, especially the echidna, by this week’s flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. She challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a prickly story. I thought there was no better opportunity to share with you some of our amazing creatures, particularly since just last week I was lucky enough to see an echidna in the wild for the very first time.

The uniqueness and diversity of Australian animals reflects our own individual uniqueness and the diversity among us. We have much to learn about accepting difference, appreciating diversity, and acknowledging the unique characteristics each individual contributes to the enrichment of our collective humanity. Together we stand. Divided we fall.

Here is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

Stronger together

She bristled, warning platypus to stop. He didn’t.

“Feeling a little prickly, are we?”

Kookaburra, oblivious, laughed at the “joke”.

She smarted. Couldn’t he see the hurt in his words? Like a spur in her side, that last barb, really stung. Mocking difference pushed them apart.

The bush quietened. Not a breath of wind. Not a leaf’s rustle. Not a bird’s chirrup. Were all waiting for the victor to be decided?

Suddenly, out of the undergrowth, rushed a devil, hungry for blood.

Platypus turned to echidna. She contemplated leaving him. But stayed. Spur and spines together: a powerful defence.

 

Author’s note: Tasmanian devils have been known to eat echidnas, spines and all!

Thank you

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

A celebration of Australian picture books #3 — Kim Michelle Toft

Australia is a land of geographic diversity: of grassy plains, stony deserts, forested mountains, snow-capped peaks, golden beaches and sparking blue water.

It is home to world’s largest coral reef system, the Great Barrier Reef, one of the seven wonders of the world and a popular tourist destination.

Conservation of the Great Barrier Reef, along with other marine environments is important to the health of our planet.

Kim Michelle Toft is an Australian silk artist who makes beautiful picture books with an environmental message aimed at increasing an appreciation of our oceans and their precious creatures and raising awareness of the importance of protecting them.

Kim Michelle Toft's books

I own these five of Kim’s books; each of which has an engaging story supported by child-friendly information about the marine environment and its importance, and is beautifully illustrated with magnificent silk paintings, which are delightful in themselves:

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One Less Fish counts back from twelve to zero and contains the message “Without constant care we will lose some of the world’s most beautiful natural resources. Remember: fish that die one by one may soon become none by none.”

2015-09-19 11.08.56

Reef Superstar introduces many creatures of the reef and provides supporting information about the reef and each creature featured. (Does not appear to be available at the moment.)

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The World That We Want contains forty-five creatures to be found in illustrations of nine different habitats and explains the inter-connectedness of ecosystems and their importance. The beautiful last pages open out to four pages in width showing the world that we want, from the forest to the ocean.

2015-09-19 11.07.32

A Sea of Words and accompanying Wall Frieze provide an alphabet of beautiful sea creatures with accompanying information.

12 underwater days of Christmas

The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas is an innovation on the original carol using beautiful illustrations of marine creatures. As well as information about all the animals it includes a stunning six-page foldout poster, and information about the original carol.

In this video Kim invites you into her gallery and studio and explains her silk painting technique.

Kim is also available for visits to schools. When she visited “my” school she read from her books, engaged students in related activities and demonstrated silk painting by creating an original which the school was able to purchase. Her vast knowledge, experience, and passion for her work and the marine environment make these visits worthwhile.

Kim’s books can be enjoyed by adults and children for the beauty of their illustrations alone. However the combination of visual appeal, richness of information and encouraging (strong, but gentle) environmental message provides even more reason to have them on your bookshelf or, better still, coffee table. They make perfect gifts for people of any age. I am happy to recommend Kim’s books to you.

Thank you

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

My time, your time, springtime!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is a snapshot of spring.

 

At the moment approximately 90% of the world’s population are experiencing the season of spring. The rest of us, the 10% who live in the Southern Hemisphere are entering the cooler months. How those seasons are experienced varies from place to place. I have never experienced an autumn that would fit the description of ‘fall’; nor have I experienced a winter with snow. Those concepts are foreign to me. That is not to say that some living in the southern states of Australia haven’t experienced them. It all depends where one lives.

The Australian Government describes Australia as having two main seasonal patterns in six different climatic zones. The Indigenous Peoples of Australia describe the changes as holistic changes in nature and life. In Australia, attitudes to and understanding of the seasons are as diverse as the experiences. While the weather doesn’t always know it, spring is marked on the Australian calendar from September to November. It doesn’t matter to which part of the country you travel, there is always something to see and do in spring.

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

Part of the daily routine in an early childhood classroom is observing and discussing the daily and seasonal changes in the weather. Each day the children observe the weather and discuss how it may influence their clothing and activities and the impact that changes may have to their local environment and other things including animals.

Many classrooms have a calendar prominently displayed on which the children’s observations can be recorded and compared. Children are often invited to draw symbols and write words such as those shown here.

weather symbols

Discussions about how warm or how cool it is may also occur, though in some parts there is never really what could be called ‘cold’, just ‘cooler’.

temperature chart

 

Reading stories was always an integral part of my classroom practice and I needed little excuse to read another. When the seasons changed I was always looking for suitable books to read and the first I thought of at springtime was Wake Up Bear by Lynley Dodd, a New Zealander.

Wake up bear

While we don’t have bears in Australia, just these cute koalas often incorrectly called bears;

or hibernating animals, except for this cute little mountain pygmy-possum;

Wake Up Bear is a delightful story to herald spring. In the story, bear has slept all through winter, but when spring arrives he is not quite ready to wake up. The animals each try to wake him up and finally they succeed.

While it was not Dodd’s intention with the story, it made me think about children learning in their own time, “waking up” when they are ready. Sometimes they need to be shown something just once. Sometimes they need a great deal of exposure and support to “get” it. Sometimes it’s better to leave them alone until the time is right. There have been previous discussions about this here my blog, including In their own time and Not Yet.

I thought Charli’s spring challenge was perhaps another opportunity for talking about individual differences and the need to respect a learner’s journey. I’ve gone back to my early childhood roots. I hope you enjoy it.

 

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

 Spring

Bees buzz

Wildflowers bloom

Cockatoos squawk

“Gone is the gloom!”

 

Mother duck waits

For her babies to hatch.

Here they come now

The first of the batch

 

So cute and cuddly

All covered in fluff

Eager and ready

To show off their stuff

 

“Patience!“ quacks mother

“There’s no need to rush.”

“One more is coming.

Stand back. Please don’t crush.”

 

With one final crack

Last one’s out of his shell

“I’m proud of you babies.

You’ve all done so well.”

 

Mother duck smiles

As they waddle in line

She knows that each duckling’s

Own time will be fine.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

Springtime in Tasmania 2014

Happy spring to most of you! For the others: enjoy the cooler respite from the relentless heat!

 

I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thought about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

December reflections

The end of the school year in Australia has approached swiftly and silently this year, for me at least. You see, now that I am not in the classroom I am not absorbed by all the things that the end of the school year brings.

In Australia the school year coincides with the calendar year so November and early December are frantic for teachers completing the final assessment and reporting for the year, preparing their students (and themselves) for separation after spending so much of the year together, and making preparations to welcome a new class in the new year.

The classroom remains busy with learning and curriculum matters until the last day. Both teachers and students begin to tire and the warming (hot, in most parts of Australia) days in classrooms without air-conditioning add to the fraying edges of all as they anticipate the long summer holidays.

teacher beginning and end

One thing I always enjoyed about the end of the year, that made all the extra work and the increasing heat tolerable, was the learning about family traditions and celebrations, including Christmas.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Last year I wrote about some of the Christmas activities I did with my class, such as making friendship trees

Friendship treeand a co-operative 3D display.

3D Christmas tree display

3D Christmas tree display

I shared some suggestions for parents to support their children’s  reading, writing and maths development in fun ways during the holidays. (These and other items are available in my TeachersPayTeachers store.)

I also provoked a lively discussion about whether Christmas should be included in a school program by suggesting tens reasons for its inclusion. Many readers joined in explaining their position either in support or against.

I always enjoyed this special time of year. I loved hunting through discount stores for items with which children could make cards and gifts for their families and decorations for their home. Often we talked about “free” gifts they could give and made vouchers for things like a free car wash, breakfast in bed or unlimited smiles and hugs.

As well as the gifts they made for each other in class, such as the friendship trees and Christmas crackers, I always gave each child a small gift, usually a book to read, a pencil and notebook for writing in; something to do over the holidays.

While it was never expected, but always very much appreciated, many of the parents and children presented me with lovely ‘thank you’ cards, letters and gifts, some purchased, many home-made; all treasured. While the consumables were long ago enjoyed, many other items still adorn my shelves!

A selection of gifts from over the yeats

A selection of gifts from over the years

Brian

Sometimes it was difficult to know what to give as a gift to recognise a special teacher. This year Bec has come up with, what I think, is the perfect gift, though she didn’t design it for that purpose. It’s the apple cozy: a special little bag for carrying an apple safely, protecting it from bumps and bruises. They are available in her Made It and Etsy stores. An apple for the teacher in its own special bag: how cute!

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Apple Cozy // Joyce

Although there are no preparations for Christmas at work this year (except for Secret Santa) there is still much to do at home. The traditional time for putting up the tree and decorations is December 1, and I usually have mine up by the end of the first week in December. Now that both my children are grown and living in homes of their own, I thought I would have the lonely experience of decorating on my own this year (Hub says he helps by not helping, but actually he gets tree and decorations down from the roof space for me!)

What a delightful surprise it was to have both my children and grandchildren (all two of each) visit on the day I was putting up the tree and help me out. The joy that the excitement of a 3- and a 5-year old bring to such activities cannot be matched. I think we did a pretty good job! When I look at it I relive the fun we had together.

Christmas 2014

Christmas 2014

Although to most it would appear simply a Christmas tree, and some may consider many decorations to be ready for the discard pile, most decorations have a story to tell. For me it is a memory tree. It holds decorations made by my own children over the years, and now some by my grandchildren.  There are gifts from family and friends, and children I have taught. Each item, as it is placed on the tree, provides a time for reflecting upon the wonderful people whose lives have touched mine over the years. Each has its own story to tell of the joy that others’ kindnesses can bring. But it is more even that just a memory tree. It is a giving tree; a time for remembering and being grateful.

What are you family traditions? What and how do you celebrate?

Thank you

 

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

Whose story is it anyway?

Nor and Bec reading

Children love stories.

They love being read stories and beg for them to be read, over and over again.

Equally as much, if not more, they love being told stories, especially stories of their own lives. They beg for them to be told over and over, listening attentively and with wonder as their own stories (her story and his story) are being revealed. They commit these tales to memory so that eventually it is difficult to distinguish the genuine experiential memory from the telling. Even as adults they seem to not tire of hearing tales of the cute things they did when they were little, or of shared experiences.

They also love being told stories of their parents’ lives. These are the stories that help define them and their existence: how they came to be. The stories tell of times gone by, and of how things used to be. They marvel that their parents were once children and try to imagine how that might have been.

My daughter would often ask for stories about herself, her brother, myself or other family members. One day when she was about six, she asked again, ‘Tell me a story about when you were a little girl.’ Before I could respond she jumped in with, ‘What were the dinosaurs like?’ She was teasing, of course, and her comedic timing was perfect. A story was created, one that has been shared many times.

History is a story, though at school I never saw it as such. Had it been a story of lives, as its name implies, I may have been interested. But history at school was a list of wars and dates, and kings and queens to be memorised and regurgitated for a test at the end of the term. There was no story, no human emotion, no semblance to any narrative that may have lured me in.

I hope that today’s students of history are not required to commit sterile lists of facts to memory without the stories that would give them meaning and significance, some human element to help the information stick.

History, as a subject, had always been relegated to high school. It was not a discrete part of the primary school curriculum, though aspects were explored in other subject areas such as ‘Social Studies’ when I was at school, or more recently ‘Studies of Society and Environment’. With the introduction of the new Australian Curriculum, History is now a stand-alone subject.

As an early childhood teacher I was a bit terrified that young children would be required to memorise lists of seemingly random facts and dates. I’m pleased to say that, for the early years anyway, this is not so. Children in the early years start by exploring their own history and the history of their family, considering similarities and differences between their lives, the lives of their parents, and of their friends.

I applaud this as an excellent starting point. I believe, when working with children, connections must always be made with their lives and what they know. What better starting point than investigating the traditions of their own family and culture.

In Australia, as I am sure it is in many other places, a great diversity of cultures is represented in each classroom. Encouraging children to share similarities and differences of traditions with their classmates helps to develop understanding of each other’s traditions and beliefs, which in turn fosters respect and empathy. For this purpose, I developed some materials to make it easy for children to share their traditions. These are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

Whoever you areMem Fox has written a beautiful picture book Whoever you are that I love to share with children when discussing their cultures and traditions. It explains in a simple and beautiful way that although children around the world may live in different houses, wear different clothes, eat different foods, for example ‘inside, their hearts are just like yours.’ Mem Fox explains the story on her website.

I also like to sing I am Freedom’s Child by Bill Martin Jr.; and in Australia we have a great song that tells about our different beginnings, I am, you are, we are Australian by Bruce Woodley.

Heal the World by Michael Jackson is another great one for appreciating diversity and fostering inclusivity.

What got me thinking about history in particular for this post is the flash fiction prompt posted by Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications. Charli’s challenge is to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that considers history, near or far.

 

This is my contribution:

washing 1949

Washing day

Her freckled, calloused hands were red and chaffed as they gripped the wooden stick and stirred Monday’s sheets in the large copper pot heating over burning blocks of wood.

The children played in the dirt nearby, scratching like chickens, hopeful of an interesting find.

The dirt embedded under her torn and splitting fingernails began to ease away in the warm sudsy water as she heaved the sodden sheets and plopped them onto the wooden mangles.

The children fought to turn the handle, smearing dirty handprints on the sheets.

She sighed, and hung them over the line. One chore done.

 

I welcome your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of the article or my flash fiction piece.