Tag Archives: holiday activities

 A celebration of Australian picture books #7 — celebrating Christmas

 

With Christmas just around the corner it is appropriate to continue my series in Celebration of Australian Picture Books with some Australian Christmas picture books. This post is the seventh in a series celebrating picture books by Australian authors. If you missed earlier posts, please follow these links to the introductionMem FoxKim Michelle ToftNarelle OliverJeannie Baker and Jackie French.

Christmas in Australia is unlike that in most other parts of the world that celebrate the holiday. In Australia, Christmas falls in summer and people generally head for the beach or somewhere with air conditioning to cool down. While many still follow the traditions of the Northern Hemisphere with baked dinner and plum puddings, many opt for seafood  and salad, and outdoor barbecues and picnics. Whatever the weather Christmas is a great time for catching up with family and friends (or not, depending on your family!)

I shared some thoughts about Christmas in Australia last year when I posted I’m (not) dreaming of a white Christmas. This year the post is specific to picture books.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Because our climate is so different and we have such a small population down here, most of what is available for us to read, sing or view deals with situations very different from our warm sunny days. I’m pleased to say, though, that there is an increasing number of songs and books with an Australian flavour available. However, many are merely innovations on the traditional such, as The Australian Twelve Days of ChristmasAussie Jingle Bells or An Aussie Night before Christmas.

12 underwater days of Christmas

One innovation I particularly like is The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas by Kim Michelle Toft. I celebrated Kim’s work previously in this series. Kim is an Australian who uses her talents as author and illustrator to educate children about things for which she is passionate: ocean life and coastal habitats. The stunning illustrations in this book, as in others, are hand-painted on silk; providing a richness of information through visual as well as textual features. In addition to the information about the animals, Kim includes a stunning six-page foldout poster, and information about the original carol.

Christmas Wombat

Jackie French, another whose work I have previously shared in this series, also has a Christmas picture book in the Wombat series, Christmas Wombat. It is just as delightful as the other wombat stories and tells of Wombat’s Christmas Day with sleep, adventure, sleep, and treats.

Wombat Divine

Using the traditional Nativity play as the setting, Mem Fox, another whose work I shared in this series created an original and fresh story in Wombat Divine. It is a delightful tale of Wombat who loved everything Christmas. When finally he was old enough to be in the Nativity Play he rushed along to the auditions. Unfortunately, it was difficult to find a role that was just right for Wombat. Can you guess which one he got? You’ll have to read the book to find out! Children all over the world will identify with Wombat and his predicament, and enjoy the heart-warming tale.

PS who stole santa's mail

For slightly older children there is the first chapter book PS: Who Stole Santa’s Mail by Dimity Powell, who is very active in the local SCBWI group. She blogs at  Dim’s Write Stuff. This is a fun story filled with mystery, magic and humour and a great first step into chapter books. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

We do have a few original Christmas songs to listen to as well. One that I enjoyed listening to on the radio as a child, and delight in now hearing my grandchildren sing, is Six White Boomers. It is a lovely tale of a joey kangaroo who is lost and alone in a zoo. Santa rescues Joey and reunites him with his mother on Christmas Day. Of course to get there, Joey is treated to a ride on Santa’s sleigh pulled by six huge white kangaroos.

Peter Combe has written two albums of original, but with a traditional rather than specifically Australian flavour, Christmas songs for children, including this one:

Children around Australia are finishing their last few days of the school year within the next week. They will then have five to six weeks of holidays before starting back for a new school year. I have shared previously about the importance of keeping children’s love of learning alive and described easy ways of incorporating learning into everyday family activities. If you know of any families in need of suggestions, please give them a copy of:

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

Counting on the holidays!

These are available free download in my Teachers Pay Teachers and Teach in a Box stores. Soon they will also available free on my website.

Of course books always make wonderful gifts and any of the books mentioned here would be a great addition to anyone’s collection.

Thank you

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

 

 

 

School’s out for another year!

Teaching is forever in my heart

It is almost the end of another school year in Australia. I can’t believe that it is now four years since I left the classroom, both sadly and probably, to never return. I often hear advice given to never say “never”, but although a large part of my heart remains in the classroom, I’m fairly certain that I’ll not physically return; not full-time anyway.

It is also the end of the first year of formal education for Gorgeous 1 (first-born grandchild). I’m pleased to say that he has had a wonderful year and very much enjoyed attending school. His parents are happy too and relate many positive things about the teacher and the ways in which she has nurtured the children. That makes grandma happy too.

However a few queries have been raised in recent discussions. One of these is with regard to class allocations for next year. The parents commented that Gorgeous 1 won’t know what class he is in, including teacher, classmates or classroom, until he turns up for school on the first day. They wondered if this was common practice and about its purpose.

Sadly, I think it is a fairly common practice for which a variety of reasons may be given. However I’m not convinced that any of the stated reasons are justified or have any real validity.

I very much liked the way my most recent school dealt with class allocations. I thought it worked well for everyone: children, parents and teachers.

Towards the middle of October children were asked to identify three friends they would like to be in the same class with the following year, and any they wouldn’t. I never emphasised the “not like” part but made sure that children knew it was there if they wished to use it. Few did.

friendship choices

 

At the same time parents were invited to submit in writing things they wished included for consideration when class allocations were made. Requests were to be specific to their child’s needs; for example friendship issues or the type of teacher thought best suited to the temperament,  learning style or needs of the child. Identifying a teacher by name would invalidate the request.

The process of allocating children to classes was time consuming with many things to be considered; including, for example, the distribution of children of high, mid and low achievement levels; boys and girls; children from non-English speaking backgrounds; children with disabilities or requiring support with learning or behaviour.

Current class teachers collaborated to draw up lists which were checked by an administrator to ensure even spreads and that parent requests (not revealed to the teachers) were complied with. It was no small feat. We would go into the meetings armed with lists of children’s friendship groups on sticky notes, scissors, coloured pencils, erasers, and more sticky notes. It was always amazing to see the classes come together.

The best part of this process occurred in the second-last week of term when teachers and children met their new classes for the following year. Another feat of organisation. Class teachers told children which class they would be in and distributed to each their portfolio of work to be given to the new teacher.

All year levels met in their respective assembly areas, divided into their new classes, met their new teachers and went off to their new classrooms for about 45 minutes. The new teacher would explain class expectations and topics the children would learn about. Sometimes the teacher would read a story or engage the students in discussions about what they had learned in the current year and what they were hoping to learn in the following year. Oftentimes children returned with a small gift from their new teacher; for example a book mark, pencil or eraser. They always returned excited.

In addition to stories and discussions, I would always ask my new students to draw a picture of themselves, write their name and anything else they would like to tell me about themselves or their picture. I would also take their photograph and attach it to their drawing. In addition to the portfolio of information coming from the previous teacher, this would provide me with valuable information that I could use when preparing for the new year.

Michael likes dogs

In addition I would have a letter and a small gift ready for my new students. The letter helps to create a positive connection, makes them feel special and helps to ease the transition back to school after the holidays. It also ensures they remember what class they are in and who their teacher is. It lets their parents know as well.

end of year letter

 

I think this is a wonderful process and one that should be adopted in all schools. It has many benefits; including:

  • helping teachers get to know important information about students before the year begins and aiding preparation.
  • reducing the anxieties of children and parents over the holidays, wondering about which class they would be in and which teacher, even whether they would be in the same class as their friends.

Once children knew their new classes I arranged their seating and named their groups to match. This provided opportunities for children to bond with future class mates as well as identify their class for the following year. There would be no unnecessary confusion or anxiety on the first day of school.

I’d love to know what you think of this process or of other processes with which you are familiar.

With the holidays just around the corner I provide links back to previous posts which provide suggestions for maintaining children’s learning in informal and fun situations.

Learning fun for the holidays, without a slide in sight!

Counting on the holidays!

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

20 suggestions for maintaining reading momentum during the school holidays

The lists are all available for free download and distribution to parents from my Teachers Pay Teachers or Teach in a Box stores.

 

Thank you

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

Let the children write! 20 suggestions to get children writing during the school holidays

writing

The school year in Australia is over and the long summer holidays have begun.

Parents often wonder how they will keep their children entertained during the long days with few structured or timetabled activities.

When returning to school after many weeks without the formal practice of skills taught during the previous year, teachers often lament that children’s writing ability (content, sentence structure, spelling, punctuation and handwriting) has declined. Sometimes this is an illusory effect of comparing end-of-the-previous-year results with those of students who are just beginning the same school year level. However some of it is a result of the natural attrition that occurs when ongoing practice is not maintained.

One solution to this issue is as simple as:

Let the children write!

Let them have paper, e.g.

  • loose paper in all sizes and colours, adhesive notepaper, letter writing paper, cards and postcards
  • plain paper, lined paper and patterned paper
  • bound paper in notebooks, exercise books, diaries and lockable ‘secret’ journals
  • envelopes and stamps
  • tablets and computer with word processing and drawing software

Let them have implements, e.g.

  • lead pencils, coloured pencils, fine pencils, thick pencils
  • jumbo crayons, fine crayons, wind-up crayons
  • charcoal
  • felt-tipped pens (thick and thin tips), black, silver, gold, pastel and bright shades
  • paints
  • tablets and computer with word processing and drawing software

Any of these make wonderful gifts that keep on giving, for a child of any age.

Here are 20 suggestions for keeping your children entertained while maintaining their writing skills.

The suitability of each suggestion will depend upon the abilities of the individual child and the level of support required. The focus and response should always be upon the content of the message, rather than the spelling, punctuation or handwriting. The idea is to encourage a love a writing; not to discourage it through negative attention to details which will improve with practice – and reading!

Just as writing is a great way of improving reading, reading is a great way to develop writing skills through exposure to correct use of grammar, spelling and punctuation, as well as the richness of language!

The possibilities for writing opportunities are limited only by your imagination!

  1. Use adhesive notepaper to write messages to your child and encourage your child to write a message back.
  2. Encourage children to write letters or emails, cards or postcards to grandparents, aunties, uncles and friends. These can be to inform them of the holiday or the year’s activities, or to thank them for a visit or gift.
  3. Demonstrate that you value writing by making time for your own writing, e.g. keeping a diary, writing letters and cards to family or friends, writing a shopping list.
  4. Display a message board prominently in the home and list important events, reminders and messages. Encourage your child to add their own messages to the board.
  5. Provide a calendar or diary and ask your child to note family birthdays, holidays and events for future reference.
  6. Encourage your child to keep a diary in which important events and feelings are noted.
  7. Play word games e.g. Scrabble and other crossword games; Boggle or ‘hangman’. (If you don’t like the connotation of ‘hangman’, give each player ten counters to start with. Each time an incorrect guess is made, they give away a counter. If all counters are used then they miss that word.)
  8. Write poems and songs together.
  9. Encourage children to write and perform ‘plays’ for the family.
  10. Take photos of events during the day and use them to make a photo book. This can be done instantly on a computer with photos taken using a phone or tablet and emailed with accompanying text.
  11. Insert photos from a phone, digital camera or tablet into a slideshow program such as PowerPoint, then add text to create a digital story or record. With one click these can be saved as an automatic show or MP 4 video.
  12. Involve children in planning the weekly meals by selecting recipes for a menu they write, and for which they create a shopping list of required ingredients.
  13. Write rebus messages to your children and ask them to write a rebus message back, e.g.                                                                               I think you are great
  14. Invite your child to create lists e.g. activities they would like to do over the holidays, movies they would like to see or friends they would like to invite to a sleep over.
  15. Encourage your children to write the step-by-step instructions for making a craft item they have just designed, or to write down the rules for a game so that everybody is sure how to play.
  16. Suggest that your child write down questions they would like answered, and then write the information discovered during research (by interviewing or asking people, reading books or internet search).
  17. Suggest to children that they make a storybook for a younger sibling or friend.
  18. When going out for the day, or journeying further away on a holiday, children could be asked to write directions for the journey as discovered by consulting paper or online maps.
  19. Help children to set up and maintain a blog to create a record of activities and events to be shared with family and friends. The posts could be regular e.g. daily or weekly, or follow particular activities.
  20. Make the most of every writing opportunity that occurs throughout the day!

What are your favourite ideas?

When I was a child I spent many hours reading, but I also spent many hours writing. I would write songs, poems, stories and plays which would be performed by myself and siblings for an appreciative audience (if one could be found) or just for the fun of it. My love of writing has continued throughout my life and, although most of my writing is now done on the computer, I still love all the different types of paper, pencils and pens that are available and beckon ownership.

The trick is to not make writing an onerous task that must be endured, but one that gives pleasure for its own sake e.g. stories and poems; or for a purpose e.g. writing a shopping list or things to remember.

Setting aside time to write alongside your child and share the enjoyment of each other’s creativity will do much to encourage a real love of writing; for yourself, maybe, as well as for your child.

Click here to download this document FREE from my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.