Tag Archives: early childhood

Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

This month I am pleased to welcome first time author Cynthia Mackey to the readilearn blog.

Cynthia has always loved children’s literature.  After years of teaching preschool and kindergarten, she is proud to have written her first children’s book, Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker.  Cynthia writes in her spare time and has plans to publish more picture books for children.  She lives on the west coast of British Columbia, Canada with her family and her piano where she faithfully continues her weekend pancake tradition.

Synopsis: In Katie Shaeffer Pancake Maker, Katie is too young to use the stove so she dreams of making her very own pancakes. Join Katie and her friend Baxter in this fun story as they use a passion

for collecting and building to find a way to realize Katie’s pancake dream!  This upbeat energetic tale with great potential for reading aloud will appeal to adults and young children alike.  The book includes a predictable rhyme that will have children chiming in as the story unfolds.  Children will celebrate with Katie and Baxter as their pancake dream becomes reality!

Welcome to readilearn, Cynthia. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

Cynthia, when did you know you wanted to be a writer?

Continue reading: Introducing author Cynthia Mackey – Readilearn

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.

Who’s watching?

This week in her fascinating post at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes a watcher.

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From the moment of birth children are watchers, learning from their observations of the world around them – objects, people, actions, interactions. The adage “Do what I say, not what I do” holds little significance for young children. They may do what you say, but they are more likely to mirror what you do. For this reason, it is important to model the behaviours you wish children to emulate; for example, kindness, patience, empathy, truthfulness, tolerance, understanding. You need to be the type of human being you wish them to be. Example is a powerful teacher.

Dorothy Law Nolte summed it up in her poem Children Learn What They Live.

Watching is also important to teachers, especially early childhood teachers who spend a lot of time observing children to discover more about their learning needs. Learning in this sense is not confined to the academic. It involves regard for the whole person, especially social-emotional development. So much of what we learn about getting along with others is learned in the early years. While the teachers are watching the children, the children are watching them.

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

Thank you to my wonderful students, and their lovely Mum who made this for me!

But children’s observations are not confined to the home or classroom. They are constantly watching the behaviour of others, learning about interactions and what is, and is not, acceptable. The responsibility for developing the kind of world citizens we want lies not solely with parents and teachers. We must all be mindful of the influence our actions may have upon the expanding world knowledge of those around us. That’s not to say we should be perfect. (Thank goodness, or I’d have been shot long ago!) We just need to be aware that little eyes (and big eyes) are watching and learning.

The way new situations are approached can vary according to personality as much as to the behaviour that has been observed in similar circumstances. Sometimes the expectation seems to be that, if children are put with a whole bunch of other kids their age, they will make friends easily. But that is no more likely than if a bunch of people my age were thrown together. Some of us are outgoing and feel comfortable talking with unknown others. Some like to observe for a while to determine an approach with which we may feel more comfortable.  Some require support to venture into unknown territory.

For my response to Charli’s prompt, I have written about a little one, hurt in the past and now facing a new situation, hesitant to make the first move. When children are taught to be accepting of and friendly towards others, reluctance can turn into confidence. I hope it works.

Friends

He stood at the periphery, silently observing, calculating their disposition, weighing his chances. Were they friend or foe? Appearances could be deceiving, as could his gut reaction.

They seemed harmless enough; but his sweaty palms, throbbing temples, and churning belly turned his legs to jelly. Even breathing was a struggle.

He became aware of someone tugging his shirt. Though unsure if she was talking or mouthing, he understood, “Would you like to play?”

His head would neither nod nor shake, but she led him by the hand anyway.

“Hey, everyone! This is Amir,” she announced.

“Hi Amir!” they chorused.

Thank you

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

I love poems – Readilearn

I love poems. Children do too. Poetry is a great way of introducing children to the joy of language, as well as to features such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes and metaphors. What is taught through poetry can be as simple or as complex as required by the ages of the children or your teaching purpose.

One of the great benefits of teaching young children through poetry is the fun aspect. It’s enjoyable for teachers and students alike and, when children innovate on poems to create poems of their own, very motivating.

With St Valentine’s Day not far away it is timely to read and write love poems. One of my favourite poems for writing with young children is based on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. I was taught the poem by the amazing literacy educator Bill Martin Jr at a reading conference in the 1980s, and used it with every group of children I taught thereafter. I have previously written about that on my other blog here.

The repetitive structure and easy melody invites children to join in and is easy for children to use in writing poems of their own, whether they are emergent, beginning, or advanced writers.  The poems can be completed using pictures or words.

This is one of my favourite versions of the song.

Continue reading: I love poems – Readilearn

Reading across the curriculum – Readilearn

The importance of reading cannot be overstated. It is an essential skill, integral to almost everything we do. Teaching children to read is one of the most important, and most rewarding, aspects of our role as early childhood educators.

Some children come to school already reading. Others come not yet reading, but with a love of books and an expectation that they will learn to read. They understand that reading involves making sense of the squiggles on the page. These children usually learn to read effortlessly regardless of what we do.

Other children come to school with little experience of books and reading. For them, learning to read is a mystery and a greater challenge. For these children especially, it is important that we provide an environment rich in language and book experiences. We need to excite them about books and reading, interest them in words and language, and show them that books can be both a source of enjoyment and information.

I often hear teachers lament that there’s just not enough time in the crowded curriculum to read to children any more. But reading aloud to children, especially early childhood children, should be non-negotiable and a priority every day. How can we excite them about books, and interest them in reading, if we don’t read to them?

It is impossible to turn children onto books in one isolated reading lesson each day. In fact, reading lessons as such probably don’t turn children onto reading at all. That is not their purpose. Their purpose is to teach skills. But those skills should always be taught in context, and never in isolation. Nor should they be confined to lessons timetabled for English. Reading must occur across the curriculum and for a multitude of purposes throughout the day, from noting who is at school, interpreting the job roster and group allocations, to understanding connected text in various subject areas.

Many readilearn resources are designed to provide children with opportunities for reading across the curriculum. Even those designed specifically to develop reading skills have application in other subject areas.

Continue reading at: Reading across the curriculum – Readilearn

Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn

With the commencement of the Australian school year still two weeks away, it might seem a bit early to be thinking about the 100th day. Let me assure you it’s not. It’s great to be ready to start counting from day one. However, if you miss the start, you can always go back and count the days on a calendar. For those of you in the US and UK, the one hundredth day will be coming up soon in February.

In Australia there are 200 school days in a year. So, once you have counted up to 100 days, you are half way through and can then count down the number of days remaining. The US and UK have fewer school days: 180 in the US and 190 in the UK; so they are more than half-way through by the time they reach their 100th days.

Whatever their year level, children are always excited to count the days to this milestone, and it provides wonderful opportunities for learning about number.

Several readilearn resources support you and your students as you count up to and celebrate one hundred days, including:

The interactive digital resource Busy Bees 100 chart is great for all your usual number board activities, and can be used to keep a count of how many days you’ve been at school. Simply display the resource at the beginning of each day and move the bee to the next number.

Just this week, I have uploaded a short video explaining how to use the resource. I am also including it here. I’d love to know what you think.

Click to continue reading: Counting one hundred days of school – Readilearn