Tag Archives: Flash fiction

Rocks in her head

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This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills is talking about rocks; rock formations in the landscape and rocks in the middle of the road, literally and figuratively.

She talks about the mesas in Zion National Park near to where she is living in Utah.

She describes it as 250 million years old with sandstone cliffs reaching ¾ mile, or 1207 m, high.

Uluru © Norah Colvin

Uluru © Norah Colvin

Of course, I can’t think of large sandstone rocks without thinking of Australia’s Uluru/Ayers Rock, the world’s largest sandstone inselberg or “island mountain”, which I was lucky enough to visit a couple of years ago.

We’re not going into competition here, but Uluru is estimated to be about 600 million years old. Reaching (only) 348 metres high, it is not as high as Zion’s cliffs.  However, it goes deeper under the ground than above.

While indigenous peoples of Australia have lived near Uluru for at least 10 000 years, it was only “discovered” by European explorers in the mid-nineteenth century. They named it Ayers Rock after the then Chief Secretary of South Australia Sir Henry Ayers. Since 1993 it has borne the dual name Uluru/Ayers Rock.

I couldn’t imagine what it must have been like for those first European explorers when they came across the enormous rock which reaches further below ground than it does above, though I guess they didn’t know that at the time. There are also many other hazards to negotiate in Central Australia.

With Charli’s challenge to write about a rock, I was tempted to innovate on Michael Rosen’s Going on a Bear Hunt.

“Oh-oh, a rock.

A big red rock.

Can’t go over it.

Can’t go under it.

Oh no! We’ve got to go around it.

Huff-puff. Huff-puff.”

But Charli moves on from the literal to the figurative as she describes challenges; the ones, unlike sand that is easy to sweep away; as “rocks in the road”, rocks that “cannot be ignored . . . (that) call us to change or be changed.”

Sometimes the rocks have been placed by someone or something else. Sometimes they are of own making. Sometimes they reside only in our heads. Often the rock’s size and our ability to move it depends on our attitude.

There is a rock in my path at the moment; small but, like a pebble in a shoe, bothersome. I have tried many alternatives but not yet found the solution. There is a popular saying that “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.” I’m ready and waiting.

Sometimes I feel that my attempts are a bit like those Sisyphus moving his rock, but without the physical effort. Sometimes I just think I’ve got rocks in my head. Most people don’t understand why I bother; but how can I not?

Edison said,

“I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10 000 ways that won’t work.”

I don’t think I’m quite to 10 000 yet, but the number is growing.

As Charli says, those rocks call us to change; they give us an opportunity for new learning. I’m never against learning something new. I’ve combined these ideas in my story.

But before I take you there, I want to tell you about Charli. She has been squeezed between a rock and a hard place since she was kicked out of her beautiful home over six months ago. You can only admire her tenacity in remaining positive. With all the rocks that have been pelted at her, she still takes up the broom to sweep away the rocks that fall in others’ paths. Please check out her post and read of the J-Family, who have finally found a home after months of homelessness. Charli is hosting a Amazon Housewarming party to help them acquire basic household items. The seven-year old boy would also love some books to read.  If you can help, please visit Charli’s post for details.

Now, back to my response to Charli’s challenge to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a rock in the road. It can be physical, adding to a plot twist, or it can be metaphorical for a barrier or hardship. Go where you find the rock.” I hope you like it.

Rocks in her head

The newcomer was intrigued. Every morning she’d be there, filling a battered barrow with rocks from the road. You’d think that, after a day or two, she’d have removed them all. But, every morning, even earlier, a quarry truck would rumble by, spilling more.

Longer-term residents shrugged indifferently, “She’s got rocks in her head.”

When he asked her one day, she replied, “Come and see.”

He followed into her back garden, and watched. She stood at the edge of a pit and threw in the rocks. After each she listened, hopeful of a sound, of one day filling it.

Thank you

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What do you create?

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I am a fan of creativity. I like to develop my own creativity, and I like to encourage the development of creativity in others.

One thing I always loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative: writing stories, units of work, and lessons plans to interest and excite the children about learning. It is this love that drives me to write my blog posts each week, and to create new early childhood teaching resources for readilearn nearly every week.

Just as exciting was the opportunity to support the development of children’s thinking, imagination, and creativity. I am more in favour of treating children as individuals, than as one of a homogeneous group from which any difference is considered an aberration.  After all, imagination and creative thinking are what inspire and drive improvement, innovation and progress.

I affirm my belief in the power of creativity in my tagline: ‘Create the possibilities . . .’, a tagline I previously used for an independent school I was establishing.

create-the-possibilities

Preceding both was my first independent undertaking: Create-A-Way.  Create-A-Way provided a richer educational and social setting for my young daughter than what was generally available, allowed me to share my educational philosophy and knowledge, and provided the same rich learning opportunities for other children and their parents. The development of imagination and creativity was a focus.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

One of the things I love most about responding to the weekly flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is the additional opportunity to engage in something creative and to hone my writing skills. The supportive environment of a welcoming community makes it a safe and enjoyable experience. There is something affirming about belonging to a community of other creatives, online or in -person.

karen

On Saturday I, along with a whole bunch of other women creatives, attended an excellent Book Marketing Masterclass conducted by authorpreneur Karen Tyrrell. (I am looking forward to interviewing Karen for the Author Spotlight series on readilearn in March.) The class was attended by writers of a variety of genres; including memoir, romance, science fiction, fantasy, YA, and picture books.

One of the attendees Chrissy Byers has created a lovely picture book The Magic in Boxes which “aims to capture the imagination of young readers and inspire creative play.”

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Not only does the book suggest ways of stimulating creativity using recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, the book is made from recycled paper. I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s a beautiful book with a wonderful aim.

lemons and grapefruit

For a little more on creativity; in a previous post, Are you a lemon or a grapefruit? I shared ten articles about creativity. They are still relevant and worthy of a read if you haven’t yet done so.

I also shared one of my favourite TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson How schools kill creativity. If yours is not yet one of the over 41 million views, I urge you to watch it. As well as sharing a very important message, Ken is hugely entertaining.

I hope I have convinced you of the importance and power of creativity. I thank Charli and her flash fiction prompt for the opportunity of revisiting some of my favourite articles and talks about creativity. This week her challenge is to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.”

I’m a woman, and I create, and education is in my heart.

In response to Charli’s challenge, I thought I’d get a little dirty. I hope you like it.

Prize pies

“Life’s not on a plate. It’s what you create.”

Two little girls in their Sunday best

Snuck outside when they should have been at rest;

Splashed in the puddles, laughed in the rain,

Shared mud pies and murky champagne.

 

Two young girls with flour in their hair

Climbed on the bench from the back of a chair;

Opened up the cupboards, emptied out the shelves,

Less in the bowl and more on themselves.

 

Two young women watching TV

Decide master chefs are what they will be;

Enter the contest, invent new pies,

Wow the judges and win the prize.

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

 

 

Scratching around the quarry

charlis-quarry

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to

“In 99 words (no more, no less) write a about a quarry. It can be a place or include the the by-product. The quarry can be operational, abandoned, it can be in real-tie or mentioned from another time. Where will the quarry take you? Go where the prompt leads.”

I usually find Charli’s prompts a challenge but, with a bit of digging around in the old brain cells, I can usually concoct something with which I am reasonably happy. This time I’ve been scratching around the surface but have found little worthy of further investigation.

I considered a story of epic proportions, as I can’t think of a quarry without thinking of Gilgamesh.

Many years ago, I took my teenage son and a friend to a performance of the ancient story in a disused quarry. Whether it was part of their English or theatre studies, or what prompted the outing, I can’t recall. I think they were no more familiar with this “first great work of literature” than I; and I knew nothing. The performance made a lasting impression, both for its setting and the repetitious dialogue. I recall little of the hero’s epic journey. We were amused rather than awed.

From Gilgamesh, I considered play of a different, but more familiar kind: play in a sandpit or the dirt with diggers and trucks.

The sandpit was always popular for play at lunchtime, particularly if diggers, trucks, and other tools were available. Often the same children would play day after day, creating and re-creating the same scene with roads, rivers, bridges, and cities. Each seemed to have a particular role and responsibility. Found objects; like leaves, bark, feathers, sticks, and stones, would also be incorporated into the designs.

This play was great for the imagination, and for developing the friendship skills of cooperation and getting along, teamwork and working together. Surely I could find a story in there? But any ideas disintegrated faster than the sandpit structures.

It seems timely then, to revisit previous discussions of the difficulty experienced by children when expected to write to a prompt that may have little significance for them, and about which they may have little opportunity for discussion, reflection or planning.

I discussed this in both Writing to order – done in a flash! and Writing woes – Flash fiction. I suggested that, rather than  using a one-piece response to a prompt to assess children’s writing, the use of portfolios would provide more valuable information about children’s writing development.

A portfolio, similar to that of professional writers, would consist of work at various stages: some as ideas jotted on slips of paper, some in planning stages, others in draft form, others completed and waiting for the next step, and others in publication. Rarely would a piece need to be completed in one sitting, let alone judged for it worth on the spot.

I believe that:

  • a one-off writing assessment task does not give students an opportunity to show their best work and puts pressure on them to perform
  • a portfolio of work collected over time provides a clear picture of student ability, development, and next steps for learning.

However, that writers have a choice about responding to Charli’s flash fiction prompts, makes the process quite different from that experienced by children responding to a prompt as a requirement.

Writers have a choice whether to participate, in what genre to respond, and how to interpret the prompt.

In recent posts Charli has discussed the importance of accepting our first drafts as “raw literature”, as part of the process. She provide us with the opportunity to hone our writing skills, and share and receive feedback on our writing in a safe, supportive environment. Surely this is no less important when encouraging young writers.

Out of sympathy for the requirements imposed on children almost every day, I thought it only fair to respond to Charli’s prompt. This is it.

The Quarry

Old and disused, the bare earth was dry with no hint of topsoil or sign of life. Rock fragments, remnants of its past, littered the surface still pockmarked by tyre tracks. One wall, etched by diggers’ teeth, stood silently telling its story. Circles of ash littered with shards of glass and cigarette butts told another. But tonight it was to tell a story as old as time.  Where once huge trucks had carted away boulders carved from its interior, now rough timber platforms stood.  As darkness fell, flaming torches cast an eerie light as storytellers wove their epic tale.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

 

You know who you are

I am one of ten children, though none of us are children any more. The youngest has turned 50, and the oldest is nearing 70 (but don’t tell her that).

My mother sometimes had difficulty retrieving the correct name and often went through a list before hitting on the child she wanted. I know what it’s like. Sometimes it is difficult enough when there are only two or three to choose from! Maybe you’ve experienced it too. There’s probably a name for this phenomenon, but if there is, I’m not aware of it.

well-you-know-who-you-are

One day, when wanting to give me a direction, she rattled off a few names, but not mine.  Finally, exasperated, she said, “Well, you know who you are.” It has become a family joke. It’s mostly true that I do know who I am. However, sometimes I’m not so sure! I must say that Mum had a wonderful memory until the day she passed just a few weeks before her 91st birthday.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills is talking about the importance of being able to name things and experiences. She says, “Names are such a human attribute,” and asks, “What is in a name?

The ability to name things is important and a young child’s vocabulary often begins with the names of people and objects in the environment; for example, Mum, Dad, dog, car, cookie, juice.

I read once that children don’t really become aware of an object until they are able to apply a name to it. This doesn’t mean they must be able to say the name, just recognise it by name. Unfortunately I don’t remember the source and was unable to verify it with a Google search; but there is no denying that a well-developed vocabulary is a definite advantage to learning.

growing-vocabulary

Children also quickly learn to recognise their own names. Choosing names for children can be a difficult process for parents, with much to consider; for example:

  • The name’s meaning
  • Whether anyone else in the family has the name
  • How it is spelled
  • What the initials will be
  • How the first and last names sound together

Teachers always have the extra burden of being influenced by the names of children they have taught.

Although this blog simply bears my name, choosing a name for my website was a more involved process. Years ago, I ran a home business called Create-a-Way. I chose the name as I thought it expressed the purpose of my business perfectly: children were encouraged to be creative, and it created a way for me to work with children in the way I wanted. I hoped to reuse the name for my website. Unfortunately, the domain names were not available, and I had to think even more creatively.

registered-logo

I eventually settled on the name readilearn as I love reading, and I love learning, and the ‘i’ in the centre puts the focus on the individual learner. I wanted the name of my website to show the importance of reading and learning to an individual’s growth and empowerment. However, when I say the name, I pronounce it “ready learn”. This refers to an individual’s innate readiness to learn, as well as to the resources which are ready for teachers to use in their support of learners.

One of the most important things for a teacher is to get to know the children. I used to pride myself on knowing the children’s names before morning tea on the first day. Of course, I had many strategies in place to help me with that. I have written about some of these strategies before, and there are readilearn resources to support teachers with that as well. In fact, writing this post has stimulated ideas for new resources to create, including resources that help children get to know each other. (Thanks, Charli!)

I have always found it fun to notice when people’s names are a good match for their profession; for example, Matt Dry the weather forecaster.

When Charli challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) explore the importance of a name within a story, and reminded us of the classic Abbott and Costello Who’s on First, I decided I’d try a bit of fun with names as well. I hope it works.

 

Doctor Morana

The community hall was abuzz. Everyone was outtalking the other, except Ms Penn who quietly recorded everything.

“I’m pretty cut up about it,” complained Mr Carver.

“He fired me,” moaned Mr Burns.

“Said I was just loafing around,” grumbled Mr Leaven.

“Could’ve floored me,” griped Mr Lay.

“He was fishing for something,” remarked Ms Salmon.

“Said he’d top me,” sprouted Ms Bean.

“Another nail in his coffin,” whined Mr Chips.

Ms Chalk took the stand. “It’s not just black or white. He knows why you all avoid him like, well … Give him a chance. He’s not his name.”

Did you recognise them all: the journalist, the butcher, the fireman, the baker, the tiler, the fishmonger, the greengrocer, the carpenter, the teacher; and, of course, the one they’re all talking about: the new doctor.

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

 

Toes in the sand

 

bruny-island-beach

Bruny Island, Tasmania © Norah Colvin

I grew up near the beach (but sadly not the one pictured) and my siblings and I would spend many long hours playing on the cliffs, climbing the trees, and splashing in the water. Sometimes we’d even lie on the sand and sunbake. Most of us are paying for it now as our fair skin, even with sunscreen, or without as it was then, was not designed for the hot Queensland sun.

One of the nicest things to do was to stand at the water’s edge as the waves receded, and feel the sand withdraw from beneath my feet, leaving me standing in hollows. If I stood there through successive comings and goings of waves, I could end up standing in quite large holes. The meditative effect was calming and reassuring, placing me firmly in nature.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Of course, the beach is not the only place that sand can be found. There are the hot red sands of Central Australia; and of Utah, where Charli Mills has recently relocated.

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© Charli Mills

There are the cruel sands of time that flow too fast and can’t be upturned for a do-over.

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But these sands are not the focus of my post. I am thinking of the sandpits, or sandboxes, common to playgrounds for young children in early learning centres, schools, and parks. I would probably not be taking much of a risk if I were to suggest that most of you played in a sandpit when you were young. Maybe you were involved in an accident of some sort: getting sand in your eye or hit by a spade, possibly fighting over a toy.

There are many friendship lessons to be learned when playing in the sandpit, even if playing alongside, rather than with, others:

  • Play nicely
  • Share
  • Take turns
  • Cooperate
  • Sand stays in the sandpit: it’s for digging, filling, building, and sifting; but not throwing.

Sandpits are generally popular during lunch breaks at school, particularly if suitable toys and implements are available. I have seen groups of children spend successive lunch times building roads, cities, and rivers; working together constructively in ways we only dream of in our artificially designed group-work activities. The fluidity of the group ensures that fresh ideas are always available; and sees some suggestions implemented, and others discarded.

But the sandpit is not just for playtime and recess. Utilising it during class time provides a welcome break from the indoors. There is nothing like a bit of physical activity in the fresh air to awaken the brain cells and stimulate thinking. While opportunities for free play may offer the best of learning experiences for children, I’m providing a few suggestions in case justification of something more academic is ever required.

Introduce each sandpit session with some tactile experiences. It cannot be taken for granted that all children have experienced sand play and may be unfamiliar with how it feels underfoot, to walk on, or hold in their hands. Also, having a bit of play in the beginning will help the children concentrate as the lesson progresses.

It is also a good idea to set some rules for sand play. Ask the children, they probably know best.

Experiencing sand

Have everyone remove their shoes and socks and stand in the sand, then ask them to (for example):

  • twist on the spot, feeling their feet dig into the sand
  • wriggle their toes, feeling the sand squish between them
  • stamp their feet, noticing the difference from concrete, or grass
  • sit at the edge, stretch out their legs, and push their feet under the sand, then slowly lift them up, letting the sand slowly fall off
  • pick up handfuls of sand and then let it slowly fall through their fingers
  • pick up handfuls of sand, bring their hands together, then rub them together as they watch the sand slowly fall

Counting

Have children sit around the edge and count the number of children (in ones), feet and hands (in twos), fingers and toes (in fives, and the tens)

Pouring and measuring volume

Ask children to estimate and measure; for example:

  • How many of these containers does it take to fill that one?
  • How many of these containers can I fill from that one?
  • Which container holds more?

Digging for buried treasure

Hide items in the sandpit for children to find. They may need to find a certain number, follow clues, or understand a grid. It could even be set up like a battleship game with children hiding and guessing the placement of toys in the sand.

Measuring length

Have children use arbitrary units to measure the width or length of the sandpit; for example: using feet, hands, blocks, containers.

Recognising shapes

Have children look for shapes in the construction of the sandpit and other playground equipment. Have them draw shapes in the sand.

Creating artworks

Have children draw a picture or pattern with glue on a heavy piece of card then sprinkle with sand. Mix in some powder paint to add colour.

Of course, there is nothing better than giving them time to play and conduct their own learning: talking, negotiating, planning, and problem solving. Although I wouldn’t go so far as to say that everything one needs to learn could be learned in a sandpit, it’s probably not too far from the truth.

The title of a book written by Robert L. Fulgham and published in 1988 declares All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten: Uncommon Thoughts on Common Things. Surprisingly, I must confess to not having read it, but the words have infiltrated society and become an oft-repeated adage. I feel as if I have read it, and agree with the simplicity of the truth it espouses.

Fulgham writes:

robert-fulgham-everything-learned-in-kindergarten

According to Lessons from the Sandbox written by Patricia Leigh Brown and published in the New York Times in 1989, the book was almost an accident. I could carry the link a little further and suggest perhaps, an accident occurring in the sandpit. The story of its publication and success should give a writer heart. We can never predict how a story will develop, let alone end.

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a walk across the sand. This is my response. I hope you enjoy it.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Building sandcastles

The sun shone. A gentle breeze kissed the children’s cheeks, cooling them, as they shared the bucket and spade to build castles and dig moats. She gathered shells and seaweed for decoration. He filled the moat. Parents smiled, satisfied.

Suddenly, he jumped onto the castle, gleefully twisting from side to side. She protested; she’d not finished. He laughed. She cast aside the last of her ornaments and stomped away. He shrugged.

Remorseful, he went after her, “Wait. I’m sorry. Let’s build it again.”

“Really?”

“But make it bigger this time.”

Hand in hand they raced back to start again.

Thank you

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

Digging for dinosaur bones

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich © NorahColvin

Dinosaur Adventure, Norwich
© NorahColvin

My family has had a love affair, some might say obsession, certainly a fascination, with dinosaurs for almost forty years. My son initiated the affair when he was about three after being undecided whether to watch or not when dinosaurs burst onto the drive-in screen in One Million Years BC. I’m not sure when I first discovered dinosaurs, but It may have been at the same time.

By the time Rob was four, like many children, he knew the names of a great number of dinosaurs and could rattle off screeds of information about them. It had been a steep learning curve for all of us, though he remembered far more than I. A travelling encyclopedia salesman was so impressed by his knowledge that he gave him a book about dinosaurs. (I’d already purchased; it wasn’t an incentive.) Later, his little sister Bec shared his interest.

dinosaurs at museum Jan 91

© Norah Colvin

Now the affair continues with Rob’s own children. Six-year-old G1 can name and identify far more dinosaurs than I realised existed.  His younger sister G2 is not far behind. Such is the power of these mighty, and not so mighty, beasts to excite the imagination. The entire family become dinosaur experts in support of the children’s quest for knowledge.

I recently accompanied the family to the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, and the American Museum of Natural History in New York. I have mentioned this previously here. Both were wonderful learning experiences.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

La Brea Tar Pits is a museum located at a fossil site where there are ongoing excavations. In the grounds, we saw realistic sculptures of prehistoric woolly mammoths trapped in the tar. Inside, we saw fossilised skeletons removed from the tar pits; including skeletons of animals such as mammoths, sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, and camels. Yes, camels originated in North America.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Walking the grounds, we had to sidestep the smelly tar that still oozes in puddles around the site. It’s an amazing experience, walking on the same land where these prehistoric creatures walked, their presence almost tangible. In an enclosed area, a group of paleontologists were working with fossils recovered from the site. Scientists use these fossils to help construct our understanding of life before human history began.

What I find interesting about the understandings derived from these fossils, is that much of it is guesswork; educated guesswork, yes, but fossils tell only part of the story. The rest must be filled in using knowledge of contemporary and recorded life. Sometimes assumptions are made, especially when only partial skeletons are found, that must be altered when, or if, complete skeletons are found.

American Museum of Natural History © Norah Colvin

American Museum of Natural History © Norah Colvin

I was very impressed with the way this aspect of science was dealt with in the American Museum of Natural History. Many signs informed us that scientists don’t know for sure, but that they have substantial evidence for making their assumptions. Other signs told of claims that had been revised as new information was discovered. I appreciated being told, in essence: “This is what we know, this is what we think, and this is the evidence to support our claims.”

This talk by palaeontologist Jack Horner, which I discovered via a link from Charli Millspost, demonstrates the process with some fascinating dinosaur discoveries and assumptions.

This recent BBC article Meet Nanotyrannus, the dinosaur that never really existed provides additional evidence to support Horner’s claims.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

A study of dinosaurs provides many opportunities for learning across the curriculum and what a great way to incorporate children’s natural interests and curiosity when looking at topics such as scientific method, evolution and climate change.

I’m grateful to Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch for the incentive to write about this topic with her challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that features a fossil or uses the word in its variant forms (fossilize, dino bones, petrification, gastroliths, ichnofossils, etc.)

Since “discovering dinosaurs”, so to speak, I’ve always thought how wonderful it must be to unearth a great find. I haven’t made it an ambition, but I appreciate the potential for excitement. Here’s my response to Charli’s challenge. I hope you enjoy it.

Old Bones

She scratched at the surface tentatively at first, all senses keened, certain of imminent success. She’d uncovered bones here before. Usually one meant there’d be more. All it required was patience and persistence. Suddenly she contacted something more solid than the surrounding earth. She froze. Then exhaled. Could this be the object of her search? Frantically she scraped away the surrounding soil, exposing her find. She stepped back momentarily, assessing it, assuring herself it was real. Then with one final swoop, she removed the bone as carefully and proudly as any paleontologist would a dinosaur bone. “Woof!”

Thank you

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

 

The importance of feedback

 

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Feedback, whether inherent in the task itself or supplied by another, is essential to learning. This is true whether figuring out what happens when an item is dropped from a high chair (will it always land on the floor; will a carer always retrieve it?), how hard and at what angle to kick a ball to send it over the goalpost; how much a sibling can be antagonised before retaliation ensues; or whether your performance meets expectations.

In almost all of these cases, the tasks are self-selected and the feedback is integral and immediate, enabling the learner to adjust what happens next accordingly. While those conditions may also be true when considering the success of performance; such as our own assessment of our output, it is not always so.

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Students and employees may be engaged in tasks that are not of their choosing, which provide little inherent feedback, and are reliant upon feedback from others that may be neither timely nor specific to the learners’ needs. Sometimes the feedback can be unhelpful and hinder, rather than encourage, learning, without any real explanation of how improvement could be made.

As a teacher, I found it necessary for an exchange of feedback between me and my students. This was sometimes supplemented with feedback from carers and other school personnel. How well the students engaged in the classroom, participated in class activities and performed tasks provided me with feedback on my performance as a teacher and provided important information about what to do next, which in turn involved feedback to students.

While feedback is an essential ingredient in any classroom task, one of the most enjoyable for me was the daily journal. Each morning the children would write to me and every afternoon after they had gone home I would read and respond to their messages. The children loved writing these diaries as much as I loved reading and responding to them. Responding was time consuming but I believe it was worth it:

  • The children had a purpose for writing
  • Their writing had an audience
  • They saw writing as a tool for communication

When responding to their writing, I would make neither corrections nor changes. However, I would model correct grammar, spelling and punctuation as I responded to the content of their messages. The children were then able to refer to my comment when writing their next message.

Sometimes the children would tell me about something different each day. Sometimes we would have conversations that could extend over weeks. I always felt it a privilege to have this window into the children’s lives. At the same time, it provided a record of their development as writers.

At the end of the year I would bundle up all of the journals that had been filled during the year and present them to the children to take home. Recently when I was talking to the mother of a child I taught in the eighties, she told me how they had been looking at those journals with his young children who are now at a similar age to his when he wrote them. How gratifying it is to know that they were treasured by at least one family.

thank you - rose

When I started blogging, unbelievably, almost three years ago, I had no idea of what to expect. I am a little more knowledgeable now, with thanks to those who provide feedback by reading and commenting. I am very grateful to all who have joined me along the way. The conversations here or on your own blogs are what have made the journey enjoyable and worthwhile.

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Now I have a decision to make and I would appreciate your feedback in helping reach it.

At the same time as I have been blogging, I have been preparing early childhood teaching resources for my website readilearn. I always expected readilearn to include a blog and a newsletter. I knew I couldn’t write that additional content alongside posting twice weekly here and preparing new readilearn resources as well. I thought to:

  • post once a week on this original blog by continuing to participate in the flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch, as I have done for more than two years; and
  • post once a week on the readilearn blog with content written specifically for early childhood teachers rather than general readership.

However, it has recently come to my attention that it may not be possible for readers to leave comments on the readilearn blog, which leads to my quandary.

I enjoy the discussions in response to posts almost as much as writing them; and

I am disappointed when I am unable to “like”, leave a comment on, or share another’s blog post I have enjoyed.

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It seems some bloggers are more interested in broadcasting than engaging with a community, but that is not my way.

Newsletters differ from blogs, though, and the readilearn newsletter, which will provide information about new resources, teaching suggestions and other educational content, will “broadcast” and not invite feedback.

How important, then, is it to have a blog that doesn’t invite feedback. I’m thinking that, without feedback, I’ll quickly lose motivation.

What do you think?

When you read blogs, do you look for an opportunity to add your voice through a “like” button, leaving a comment, or sharing content on social media? Is the ability to engage with the writer important to you, or do you simply read?

As a blogger, do you welcome comments and discussion, or is it more important just to get your ideas out there?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I am very interested to know what you think and appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts.