Tag Archives: Kim Michelle Toft

Preserving the world’s oceans with Coral Sea Dreaming – Readilearn

 

Preserve the oceans

Coral Sea Dreaming

Recently I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of Coral Sea Dreaming, the eleventh picture book by award-winning Australian author and illustrator Kim Michelle Toft.

Like her other books, Coral Sea Dreaming focuses on the underwater world and the importance of preserving it. One can’t help but be filled with wonder by the magnificence and beauty of her silk paintings with which she illustrated it.

Check out Kim’s home page for videos of her process of painting on silk, including this one of her painting the cover for Coral Sea Dreaming.

Continue reading: Preserving the world’s oceans with Coral Sea Dreaming – Readilearn

 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.

 

 

 

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:

2015-09-19 11.08.07

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.)

2015-09-19 11.06.39

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.

I’m (not) dreaming of a white Christmas

Last week the flash fiction prompt set by Charli Mills of the Carrot Ranch was to write a story using two objects, people or ideas that don’t go together. There was quite an assortment of responses, including mine. You can read them all here.

This week Charli has continued in the same vein, challenging us to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that pairs something seasonal with something odd. 

In Australia that’s easy. We’ve already got Christmas in summer. Most people around the world would say you can’t get much odder than that!

But it is summertime in Australia and Christmas is just around the corner.

While we enjoy warm days at the beach and in the pool, picnics in the park and barbecues in the back yard, hoping the big storm doesn’t get us this time (like the one that hit Brisbane on 27 November); those from whom we have inherited our Christmas traditions are cooling down in the Northern Hemisphere, many looking forward to a (not too) white Christmas.

 

Shops here are playing traditional (northern) carols with snow, sleighbells and mistletoe; decorations are tinged with fake snow and cards show snowy scenes with families huddled around the fireplace.

While there is an increasing number of songs and books with an Australian flavour many are merely innovations on the traditional such, as “The Australian Twelve Days of Christmas”, “Aussie Jingle Bells” or “An Aussie Night before Christmas”.

Some Australian Christmas picture books

Some Australian Christmas picture books

One innovation that I particularly like is The Twelve Underwater Days of Christmas by Kim Michelle Toft. Kim is an Australian who uses her talents as author and illustrator to educate children about the things she feels passionate about: ocean life and coastal habitats. Her illustrations, hand-painted on silk, are absolutely stunning.

12 Underwater days

In addition to the visual beauty of the book there is great value in the supporting information through which Kim explains the importance of conserving each of the creatures included in the book. While written by an Australian, the application of the book is not limited to our shores. Creatures from all over the world adorn the pages.  If you ever wished to own a book simply for the beauty of its illustrations, this is a great choice.

One original song I enjoyed listening to on the radio as a child is “Six White Boomers”. Despite the reasons that make me reluctant to mention it this year, it is a delightful tale of a joey who rides on Santa’s sleigh, pulled by six huge white kangaroos, to be reunited with his mother on Christmas Day.

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

Some Christmas traditions popular with Australian communities are Nativity plays, carols by candlelight and Christmas parades. Many classes and schools perform their own end-of-year “break-up” concerts to which parents and the wider community are invited.

Using the traditional Nativity play as the setting, Mem Fox 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 part that was just right for Wombat. Can you guess which part 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.

Books are wonderful gifts to give or receive at any time. The titles I have mentioned here are perfect for giving, reading and sharing at this time of year. When I was growing up there was always a book for Christmas and birthdays, a tradition that I have continued with my extended family and friends. You can almost, but not always, guarantee that if it is a gift from Norah, it is a book.

After my siblings and I had grown up and swelled the family numbers with partners and children of our own, my Mum used to say, “There’ll be no presents this year.” It wasn’t that she wasn’t a giving person, for she was. It was just that there were so many of us! When she passed away this year she had about fifteen grandchildren and eight grandchildren, in addition to her remaining nine children and their partners. (I’m saying ‘about’ for grandchildren and great-grandchildren in case I’ve missed some in the count!) You can imagine how daunting a task it would be to go shopping for all these people ranging in age from six months to sixty! However it was always surprising how frequently she did not follow her own rules and had a small something wrapped up to present to many of us.

This year there will be no presents from Mum, and more sadly, we will be without her presence.

Although I have borrowed my Mum’s words, “No presents” for both flash fiction pieces included in this post, the stories do not cast aspersions on her generosity. I have simply explored how the oddness of no presents or presence at Christmas time may have impacted Marnie, a character I have been developing in my flash fiction pieces, at different times in her life. At this stage of my writing I am still investigating her character, discovering a little more with each flash piece as her once indistinct figure begins to step out of the shadows and take shape.

This first piece is written about a difficult time for teenager Marnie and a situation that may be the catalyst for her leaving home.

 

No presents

Marnie jerked backwards avoiding the predictable grope. In so doing she collided with her mother, sending her sprawling onto the tattered sofa.

“Aargh!” her mother screamed. “Look what you’ve done!”

Marnie watched the liquid from the upturned glass merge with the patchwork of stains collected in the carpet. If it was her blood it would not have mattered more.

“I … I’m sorry,” she stammered. But her sorry was for all the years it had been like this.

He smirked, raising his hand to strike, “No presents for you this year!”

“That’s right!” She ducked. “No presence!”

 

So as to not be too dismal at this time of year, I have written a second piece about a younger Marnie for whom there still seems a glimmer of hope.

 

No presence

With faces as bright as their Christmas wear, the children bubbled into the room, each carrying gifts for the Kindness tree, “for those less fortunate”.

Parents fussed, removing smudges and replacing wayward hair before blowing kisses and hurrying off for the parade.

And there was Marnie: no parent, no Christmas dress, no gift, no smoothed-down hair; no smile.

One last chance.

“Marnie!” I beckoned, and held out my Christmas cape and crown. “Will you be my special helper?”

Our eyes locked communicating more than any words. Her smile was my reward.

“I’m proud of you,” I whispered.

Thank you

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

Counting on the holidays!

algebra

When the topic “Maths” is mentioned in conversation among adults, including teachers, many of them moan, “I hate maths. It’s too abstract. I could never understand it. I can’t see the point in it.”

I think it is a sad situation that many such adults were turned off maths in school by teachers who didn’t introduce them to the beauty of maths, who didn’t teach maths in the context of real-life purposes and whose pedagogical kit bag was entirely filled with worksheets of meaningless and endless algorithms to complete.

I am one of those adults too. In my final years of high school I had a “teacher” who could do the math but couldn’t teach the math; couldn’t explain the why or the how, or any of the steps required to achieve understanding. Maths became an impenetrable forest of meaningless algorithms, formulae and theorems.

As both a parent and teacher of young children, I was determined to not be an instrument of math torture. Granted this may be easier with young children than it is with older students, but I’m sure there are still ways of making maths fun and meaningful in high school classrooms.

The suggestions in this article provide parents of young children with ways of finding maths in everyday contexts and incorporating mathematical learning effortlessly into holiday activities. Of course, the activities are of benefit at any time, not just during the holidays!

If you don’t have young children to inspire, or inspire you, please move on to the end of the article for some suggestions to excite your own interest in maths!

Although the word “counting” appears in the title, it is important to remember that maths is not just counting.

The strands of maths as described by The Australian Curriculum include:

  • Number and place value
  • Patterns and algebra
  • Measurement and geometry
  • Probability and statistics

My list includes just a few suggestions for each of those strands to get you started. Need I say there is an infinite number of possibilities?

25 ways to keep children thinking mathematically during the holidays:

Number and place value

  1. Count items e.g. birds in the sky, shells collected from the beach, people for lunch, steps in a staircase, windows on a house, seats in a bus . . .
  2. Count out the cutlery required for each person at dinner
  3. Include your child in shopping activities by helping them to:
    • Recognise the coins and notes
    • Count the value of coins and notes
    • Predict whether they have enough money to purchase an item, and whether there will be change
    • Tender the money in payment for an item
  4. When your child is sharing e.g. the biscuits, balloons or slices of fruit, ask them to:
    • Predict if there will be enough for everyone to have one, or more than one each
    • Share out the items, allocating the same number to each
    • Determine if there are any left over and what to do with them
  5. Use terms like half and quarter correctly, e.g. when cutting apples, oranges, sandwiches, pizza, to indicate pieces of equal size
  6. Play games that involve counting, e.g. counting the number of skips, balls in hoops, pins knocked down or dice games like snakes and ladders that require adding as well as number recognition and counting
  7. Make up number stories e.g. “We had five apples in the bowl. I ate one, and you ate one, how many are left?” “
  8. Read books with number concepts e.g. Pat Hutchins The Doorbell Rang, Eric Carle Rooster’s off to see the world  or Kim Michelle Toft One Less Fish

doorbell rang

Rooster's off to see world

One less fish

Patterns and algebra

  1. Use items to make patterns e.g. sort and create a pattern from shells collected at the beach, building blocks or toy cars
  2. Look for patterns in the environment e.g. fences, tiles, walls and window, zebra crossings
  3. Decorate cards and drawings with a patterned frame
  4. Make gift wrapping paper by decorating with potato prints or stamp patterns

Measurement and geometry

  1. Include your child in cooking activities and allow or support them to:
  • measure the ingredientscooking-man
  • set the temperature on the oven
  • work out the cooking finish time

2.  A child’s understanding of volume and capacity can be developed when they:

  • pour glasses of water from the jug and discuss terms such as enough, full, empty, half or part full, more, less
  • pour from one container into another of a different shape to compare which holds more and which holds less

3.  Scales can be used to compare the mass of different items or quantities e.g. compare an apple and an orange, measure the mass of butter required for a recipe

4.  Measuring length can be included by:

  • measuring and comparing height
  • cutting a length of string to tie a package
  • measuring who is closest to the jack in a backyard game of lawn bowls

5.  Use the calendar to

  • Learn the names and sequence of days in the week or months in the year
  • count the passing days or the number of days until an event

6.  Identify shapes in the home and environment e.g.

  • 2D shapes: tiles on floor and walls, shapes of windows, sections of footpath
  • 3D shapes: cereal boxes (rectangular prism), balls (sphere), bottles or cans (cylinder), dice (cube)

7.  Play games that involve shapes e.g. jigsaw puzzles, tangrams

8.  Talk about directions e.g. left, right, forwards, backwards and follow directions on a grid

9.  Play games that involve directions and movement in space e.g. battleship, Hokey Pokey, Simon Says, snakes and ladders, ludo

10.  Read and discuss books that include measurement concepts e.g. Pamela Allen: Who Sank the Boat? (volume); Eric Carle: The Very Hungry Caterpillar (days of the week) and The Bad Tempered Ladybird (time); Penny Matthews and Andrew McLean A Year on our Farm (months and seasons); and for looking at places on a map Mem Fox Sail Away The ballad of Skip and Nell or Annette Langen & Constanza Droop Letters from Felix

who sank the boat

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

A year on our farm

sail awayLetters from Felix

Probability and statistics

spite_sun_rain

  1. When discussing the weather or desired activities include the language of probability e.g. possible, certain, likely, unlikely, impossible
  2. Encourage children to collect data about family or friends by asking yes/no questions e.g. do you like swimming, or making a graph of the family’s favourite colour or meal.
  3. Play games with spinners and dice and talk about the likelihood of spinning or throwing a particular number

This list is really just a beginning. I’m sure you will add many more suggestions of your own.

For your convenience, the list is available to download FREE in my TEACHERSpayTEACHERS store.

As promised I will leave you with a few suggestions to spark your own interest in and love of maths. Be sure to check them out:

These are must listen TED talks by Arthur Benjamin:

The magic of Fibonacci numbers

and A performance of “Mathemagic”

 And a fascinating one for the Christmas season “The 12 days of Pascal’s triangular Christmas” by Michael Rose on The Conversation.

If you want to delve a bit deeper, here are some interesting reads to get you started:

Charles Seife Zero: The Biography of a Dangerous Idea

Mario Livio The Golden Ratio: The Story of PHI, The World’s Most Astonishing Number

Rozsa Peter Playing with Infinity: Mathematical Explorations and Excursions

I listened to the biography of zero on audiobooks this year. It was a fascinating listen.

What do you think of maths? Do you love it or hate it?

I hope you enjoy your adventures in maths! A world of possibilities awaits!