Tag Archives: Stories

#WATWB The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

On the last Friday of each month in the We Are The World Blogfest, bloggers post positive news items that demonstrate that “love, humanity, and brotherhood” still exist in a world where negative news items seem to proliferate. They encourage as many bloggers as possible to join in and share good news stories.

I’m a bit late joining in this week, but I wanted to ensure you heard this wonderful news about teachers and children helping out those affected by the recent devastating hurricanes  – education of the heart.

Books, children, reading, children helping children, teachers, compassion, empathy. Great ingredients for a better world.

If you would like to join in, click Here to enter their link . As they say, “Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!”

The cohosts for this month are: Michelle Wallace , Shilpa GargAndrea MichaelsPeter NenaEmerald Barnes. Check out their posts, and others, for stories to warm your heart.

This is the story I share with you as part of the Blogfest this month:

When Hurricane Harvey struck this week, second grade teacher Kathryn Butler Mills of Katy, Texas quickly learned how many of her students were affected. In photos on social media, she saw “several of my students, past and present, sitting under staircases, in bathrooms, and in pantries, waiting out tornado watches and warnings.” She wanted to find a way to “bring a little normal to them in very not normal circumstances.” After seeing a number of kids pictured with books in hand, she hit on the idea of creating an online boo

Source: The Teacher Helping Hurricane Harvey’s Youngest Victims – And How You Can Help / A Mighty Girl | A Mighty Girl

Crystalline wonders

This week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications challenged writers to: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the word crystalline.

In her post, Charli wrote about hunting for agates. She also mentioned many other types of rock, including quartz, chert, silica, gneiss, granite, mica… She used terms like metamorphic and fossilised, and I was transported back to my high school science classes. Sadly, I wasn’t inspired to be a rock-hound like Charli, and needed to check my understanding of these words and terms.

My research uncovered both science facts and assorted beliefs about the seemingly magical properties of agate, some of which I’ll share with you.

#12 Science facts about agate (without getting too technical):

  • A type of quartz
  • Most commonly found in volcanic rock, sometimes metamorphic
  • Fine grains and bright colours, often in bands
  • Many are hollow geodes
  • Weather resistant
  • Often found in soil or on the shoreline of waterways
  • Many different types of agate
  • Found in many different countries
  • Many uses including art and jewellery
  • Polishing, often by tumbling, helps to expose their inner beauty of colours and patterns
  • Each agate is unique
  • Can vary in size and value

Sources: Wikipedia, Minerals.net, International Gem Society

Due to the bands of colour, agate is also known as Earth’s rainbow.

A collection of beliefs about the metaphysical properties and healing powers of agate

Can be used to create balance in emotional, physical and intellectual energy of an individual and of the universe.

Worn as an amulet, it provides protection.

Different colours and types of agate are considered to have different metaphysical properties, for example; some are thought to be calming, some uplifting, others bring abundance, some have healing powers, and others bestow strength. In fact, it seems agate can help with almost everything from marketing your writing and managing your overwhelming multitude of tasks to preventing traffic accidents.

Agate is a zodiac stone for my birth sign Gemini. While I may not dare agree with it (pass me the agate. I’m sure it will help me), I rather like the description. It tells me that Gemini is the sign of the inventor and that,

Those born under this sign can see both sides of an issue. They’re flexible and can go with the flow, and can be lively and talkative, or restless and nervous depending on their setting. Those born when the Sun is in Gemini are quick thinkers, quick-witted, and quick on their feet.

Disappointingly for me, I was not born in summer. I’m a Southern Hemisphere winter Gemini baby. Does that make me the opposite?

Sources: Crystal Vaults, Crystal Healing, Crystals and Jewellery

It seems that with a small collection of differently coloured agates one could conquer almost everything, be self-aware and self-confident, courageous and strong, peaceful and healthy.  Perhaps a collection in every home, on every corner, and in every classroom, could be the answer to humanity’s problems.

#12 Agates for a classroom collection?

  • Blue – creativity, problem solving, courage
  • Banded – creates a healthy environment, removes negativity, cuts ties to negative relationships, helps seek solutions and to try new things, offers protection, encourages creativity
  • Blue lace – healing and calming, nurturing and supportive, reduces anger, reduces fear of being judged, assists with verbal expression
  • Botswana – creativity, problem solving, quit smoking, energises the brain
  • Bull’s eye – focus
  • Colorin – helps accept changes associated with aging
  • Crackled fire – energy and protection, prevents burn-out
  • Crazy lace – focus, reduces negativity
  • Dendritic – abundance, peace
  • Green – enhances thinking, improves decision making, resolving disputes
  • Laguna – builds community, improves learning, especially in mathematics
  • Moss – self-esteem, friendship skills, try again

What do you think? Is it worth a try? I know of at least one teacher who thought so. I was employed to replace her when other teachers and parents became concerned that the children weren’t learning anything useful. She may have found a sense of calm and balance, but the children were disrupted, distracted, and disengaged. Like many things, the power is in the actions we take, and not manifested by the object itself.

Charli likens rock hunting to writing. She says,

the more you show up to the beach and the page, the better your chances of finding a crystalline wonder.

I think polishing the agates to reveal their inner beauty must be a little like writing, and teaching too.

That’s one reason why I keep showing up. I don’t know that I’ll ever find a crystalline wonder, but I’m prepared to put in some effort to find out.

This is my response to Charli’s challenge. It didn’t go quite where I intended and maybe not where you’d expect, but I hope you enjoy it anyway.

Darling Crystalline

Her mother wanted Chrystal; father, Clementine. Calm registrar decided: Baby Crystalline.

Parental spats continued as Crystalline grew up. Never in agreement, it made her so messed-up.

Crystalline retreated, spent days all on her own, searching by the water, for brightly coloured stones.

She gathered a collection that healed her aching heart, ignited self-compassion and made a brand-new start.

Believing stones worked magic, curing each and every woe, she took the heart stones with her, wherever she would go.

She shared their healing powers, with any she could find, she told them “Pay it forward. She became their darling Crystalline.

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

Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

This month I am delighted to introduce you to the very talented illustrator Muza Ulasowski. I’m certain you will find her illustrations to be quite remarkable.

Although Muza has illustrated many books, I first came across her work in the beautiful picture book Forest Wonder, written by Caroline Tuohey. It is Forest Wonder, a winner of international awards, that Muza and I are discussing today. Before we get started on the interview, first let me tell you a little about Muza.

 Muza Ulasowski is a graphic designer and children’s book illustrator based in the leafy western suburb of Brookfield in Brisbane, Queensland. Australia. She is inspired and surrounded by a vast array of local birds and animals who tend to make their appearances in her book illustrations. She shares her life with her wonderfully patient husband, their charismatic bulldog called Charlie and a black magic cat named Basil.

In 2010, she was invited to illustrate her first children’s picture book and enjoyed it so much, that

Continue reading: Introducing illustrator Muza Ulasowski – Readilearn

Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

This week, from 2 – 9 July, is NAIDOC Week in Australia with celebrations occurring all around the country. The purpose of the week is to celebrate the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Islander Peoples and acknowledge their contributions to our country. The acronym NAIDOC stands for National Aborigines and Islanders Day Observance Committee.

The theme of this year’s celebration is Our Languages Matter. When Europeans first arrived in Australia a little more than 200 years ago, more than 250 Indigenous languages were in use across the land. As the languages were spoken, not written, many of these languages have been erased. Fewer than half that number remain, and many of the young people are no longer familiar with the language of their ancestors.

According to the NAIDOC website,

“The 2017 theme – Our Languages Matter – aims to emphasise and celebrate the unique and essential role that Indigenous languages play in cultural identity, linking people to their land and water and in the transmission of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history, spirituality and rites, through story and song.”

This article in the Conversation provides a little more information about Australian Indigenous languages and the Dreaming.

By now, NAIDOC Week celebrations are almost over, and most Australian school children are enjoying their mid-year break. However, many teachers will be looking for ways to share the celebrations with their students when school resumes. As any time is a good time to incorporate learning about Indigenous culture and history, in this post, I provide links

Continue reading: Celebrating NAIDOC Week – Readilearn

Around the campfire

camping-1289930_1920

You could count the number of times I have been camping on one hand with a few fingers chopped off. And those times, in the main, could not even be considered real camping. They involved cabins, water on tap, and flushing loos. Only once was I required to sleep in a tent, and the experience wasn’t one I wished to repeat: as much to do with other campers as with facilities.

I am not into roughing it. I like the convenience of warm showers, flushable toilets, and power at the touch of a button. I acknowledge my privilege in being able to take these things for granted and, when I holiday, to choose accommodation at which they are available. I recognise that for much of the world’s population, that privilege is as unattainable as a dream.

toilet-1033443_1280

So, for this week, in which the flash fiction prompt by Charli Mills coincides with World Toilet Day, it is fitting to combine the two.

World Toilet Day is a day to raise awareness and inspire action to tackle the global sanitation crisis – a topic often neglected and shrouded in taboos. Today, 2.4 billion people are struggling to stay well, keep their children alive and work their way to a better future – all for the want of a toilet.

Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal has also combined Charli’s flash fiction prompt in her post about Fictional Toilets for World Toilet Day. Anne has included snippets of toileting issues from novelists whose characters, unlike most “fictional characters, (who) like royalty, don’t have to suffer the indignity of urinating or opening their bowels”, deal with the inconveniences of life. Her own novel Sugar and Snails is among those quoted. You can read the post here.

who-gives-a-crap

For a while now I have been supporting Who Gives a Crap, a company that takes toileting seriously. In its production of toilet paper, tissues, and paper towels it uses only 100% recycled paper, bamboo, or sugarcane. It also donates 50% of its profits to providing toilets for those in need. I am in favour of both those practices.

I am also in favour of helping children recognise their privilege and to understand that not everyone in the world can take for granted what they can. With Christmas celebrations just around the corner, a picture book that encourages children to think of others, rather than just what they can get, is useful in starting the discussion.

dear-santa-please-dont-come-this-year

Dear Santa: Please Don’t Come This Year written by Michael Twinn and illustrated by Patricia D. Ludlow explains that Santa has tired of children’s requests, of their always wanting more, and of their lack of gratitude. He considers making this Christmas delivery his last; until he receives one final letter that turns his thinking around.

The letter is from a group of children who write:

“Dear Santa,

Please don’t come this year … we have almost everything we want.

So, we don’t want presents for ourselves this year  …

We want to help other children, instead.

And old people and animals in need …”

Santa feels heartened by the children’s selflessness, and he spends the year travelling the world, sharing the gifts suggested by the children:

“The gift of food

The gift of health

The gift of sight

The gift of water

The gift of technology

The gift of hard work

The gift of peace

The gift of learning

The gift of survival”

At the end of the year, Santa realises that “The greatest gift is yourself.”

(Note: I’m not sure if it is still so, but at the time of its publication, sales of the book helped raise funds for UNICEF.)

Now, I seem to have strayed a little, but I’m thinking that’s probably what happens when a group is sitting around the campfire discussing life. I’m sure no subject is taboo, Blazing Saddles proved that, and that the conversation would flow from one topic to another with just a few meagre threads to hold it together.

Song, too, would be a big part of the campfire tradition. I learned a campfire song from Bill Martin Jr. at a reading conference years ago. (I’ve written about that previously here.)

The song “I love the mountains” is perfect for teaching to children and as a structure that children can use to write poems of their own. Sample innovations; for example, “Christmas in Australia” have been included just for that purpose in readilearn resources.

poetry-examples-and-templates

Writing “I love” poems is also a good way for children to express gratitude in their everyday lives, which fits perfectly with Thanksgiving celebrations in the United States, also this week.

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers!

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that is told around a campfire. It can be a bonfire, burning trash can, a fire pit, something flaming outdoors. It can be a prop, and you can tell the story of anything — ghosts, ancients, jokes. Who is gathered and listening?

Even if you don’t intend joining in the challenge, and there is an extra week with this prompt if you are tempted, please pop over to the Carrot Ranch to read Charli’s fascinating report of her explorations of The Zion Valley area and of the historical artefacts and remnants she found there. You’re sure to find a gem or two, as she did.

Here is my response to her challenge.

Around the campfire

“Smile,” they said. “It could be worse.”

Than what: a compulsory “adventure”? navigating scrub lugging a loaded rucksack? avoiding plant and animal nasties? digging a toilet? erecting a recalcitrant tent? enduring inane chatter and laughter roaring as insanely as the campfire flames?

“You’ll learn something,” they’d said.

Fat chance.

Darkness hung low like her spirits.

Along with the dying flames, the mood quietened and, one by one, each told a story of horrors beyond her imaginings: of fleeing famine, war, abuse, hate …

Along with the sky, her heart softened with the light of a new day, and gratitude.

Thank you

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

 

About Bullfrog’s Billabong

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, and welcome again to the readilearn blog. I hope you’ve had a good week. Thank you for your interest in readilearn. I apologise to those who have experienced difficulty in applying the discount coupon codes at the checkout. Know that I will honour the coupon offer with a PayPal discount refund if your subscription goes through with payment in full. I appreciate your persistence and patience while we improve flow with the payment system. Please contact me if you experience any difficulties.

Bullfrog's Billabong - cover

Getting to know readilearn resources

In this post I discuss the Bullfrog’s Billabong suite of resources.

Bullfrog’s Billabong is a cumulative story which takes place at a fictitious Australian Billabong. Bullfrog is the first to arrive at the billabong. He decides it would be a great place to live and makes it his home. Each day, more animals arrive at the billabong. They too think it would be a good home and, after asking permission, decide to stay. Unfortunately, as the billabong becomes more and more crowded, the animals have difficulty in getting along. Their racket attracts another visitor who also sees the potential of the billabong as a home.

The story includes mathematical concepts including counting, growing patterns and days of the week.

The repetitive structure supports children’s reading and encourages them to make predictions based upon obvious patterns involving counting and days of the week. Their knowledge of narrative structure encourages prediction of possible events and conclusion. The end may surprise some children and they may or may not approve of the author’s choice. A discussion of alternative ways to conclude the story could lead to some interesting writing, and an understanding that what happens in stories is a choice made by the author.

While the animals will be familiar to Australian children, the story provides a great opportunity for children from other countries to find out about them too.

I hope you and your children enjoy reading the story and using the resources.

The suite of existing resources includes:

Bullfrog’s Billabong – an estory (The story can be displayed on the whiteboard for reading to, with, or by the children.)

Bullfrog’s Billabong – Covered cloze (This interactive resource for use on the whiteboard is great for teaching effective reading strategies. For best effect, it should be used before any other Bullfrog’s Billabong resources.)

Bullfrog’s Billabong – Cloze – How to use this resource  (Refer to this resource for suggested use of the covered cloze interactive resource. For more information about covered cloze as a teaching strategy, refer to Covered Cloze – teaching effective reading strategies)

Bullfrog’s Billabong – Covered cloze Sampler (This is a free one-page sneak peek at how the interactivity works before making a commitment to purchase a subscription.)

 Look what's new

What’s new – uploaded this week!

I have been working on new resources to support and complement the existing Bullfrog’s Billabong resources.

This week I have added three new resources to the collection:

Bullfrog’s Billabong – The facts (This information sheet explains what a billabong is and verifies that all the story’s animals may live in a billabong, though possibly not the same one.)

Bullfrog’s Billabong – the next chapter (Children draw and write what they think happens next on this printable sheet.)

Bullfrog’s Billabong – Days of the week (Use these three sets of printable cards when teaching or revising the days of the week. There are A5 cards for use with the whole class, and smaller cards for use by individuals or small groups.)

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

I am working on other resources to add to the suite, including presentation of the story as a play. There is also a set of animals to print that can be used to make pop stick puppets for a performance. Watch for these, and others, coming soon.

I hope you and your children enjoy using these resources. I had fun making them and thinking about the responses of children.

Please contact me if you have any questions. I welcome your feedback, especially suggestions for improvements to existing resources and ideas for new ones.

Introductory discount

Remember, if you haven’t yet subscribed, an introductory discount of 20% is available to all who subscribe this year. Just use the coupon code welcome2 at the checkout to receive your discount.

ncblog welcome2

I’ll see you next week. In the meantime, enjoy the weekend.

Thank you

Thank you for reading.

Happy teaching and learning,

Norah

 

You can contact me:

via email hello@readilearn.com.au

via the Contact page

on Twitter @readilearn or @NorahColvin

on Facebook @readilearnteachingresources

on my other blog NorahColvin.com

I invite you to rate and review any resources you use, and to share information about readilearn on social media.

 

Once upon a time … the power of story

 

Alan Rickman

In stories we find our hopes, our dreams, our inspirations, and our fears.  In stories our imaginations take flight as we contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Stories help us figure out the world and our place in it. We come to understand the stories of others and develop compassion and empathy. We find ways of confronting our fears in safety. We escape the ordinariness of the everyday with dreams as much of the impossible as the possible.

The love of reading is gift

Stories can be shared orally, in print, or through a variety of media. All are valid and valuable sources, but sharing the stories presented in books is especially important to the development of young children, and anything that can put books into the hearts and hands of children is to be encouraged. The ability to read is empowering and the love of books is one of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child. Not only can reading change the life of an individual, it can improve the lives of many through education.

This week I read a post by Paul Thomas  on his blog the becoming radical. In this post, entitled “Please—a little less love, and a little more common decency. Paul said,

“If we cannot change the world (and I suspect we can’t), we can provide all children the sorts of environments all children deserve in their school day—environments of kindness, compassion, safety, and challenges.”

I think Paul meant that we can’t change the whole world, that would be a rather daunting task, but the provisions mentioned are vital and change the lives of individuals in important ways, just as reading does. I like to think of changing the world with one thought, one word, one action at a time, or as Mem Fox says, also quoted in my post The magic effect – why children need books,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

malala

Another post I read this week was by Michelle Eastman Calling all Book Lovers and Authors to make a Difference to a Child in Need on her blog Michelle Eastman’s Books. In that post Michelle explains that, last year, she initiated a project “MARCHing books to Kids”. The purpose of this project is to raise awareness of and provide books for children of incarcerated parents. Michelle goes on to say,

“I believe that every child’s Bill of Rights should be indelibly inked with the right to have picture books read to him/her and to own their very own books. “

I agree with her of course and consider her project to be very worthwhile. It reminds me of another very worthwhile program mentioned by Caroline Lodge, who blogs at Book Word, about providing books to prisoners. Both of these projects have the ability to change lives, to empower people and by so doing, change the world, not only their world.

As well as changing lives, stories influence our attitudes. If they encourage feelings of kindness and compassion, as Paul Thomas says, that may be a good thing.  But what of the stereotypes that seem so pervasive? How many stories have you read about princesses in dire circumstances waiting to be rescued by handsome princes or knights in shining armour who must slay a dragon in doing so? What effect do these stories have upon the developing self-image of a young girl or boy? It is important to teach children to think critically about the stories they read, and about the portrayal of characters and their attitudes, especially stereotypes.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

But that is in reading stories. What of writing stories? Writing stories, whether factual accounts or imagined events, is also empowering. In writing stories children, and adults, can express and explore their hopes, dreams, inspirations, and fears.  In writing stories their imaginations take flight as they contemplate ideas never before encountered.  Writing stories helps us figure out the world and our place in it.

In her post Storytelling as Personal Metaphor Anne Goodwin who blogs at Annecdotal raised the question of how much of the self is revealed in fiction.

Paula Reed Nancarrow, whose blog tagline is Essays, Stories, Ephemera, talked about working towards an understanding of contentment: what it is and how it is experienced; in her post Enough Already: Exploring the Art of Contentment,

Contentment is something that I too wonder about, and am especially perplexed by the need to push myself into new territory and new learning when others are content to sit back and watch the clouds pass by. Why are there so many things I feel I must do? Pretty soon I’ll be gone and it won’t matter a hoot. I have sometimes thought that if I were to write a fictionalised account of my life I would begin with the words She was an unremarkable woman”.

I have connected these thoughts: about the power of story to change lives, the revelation of self in fiction and the quest for contentment; to write my response to the one who initiated my thinking about stories this week, Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch Communications with her flash fiction challenge to in 99 words (no more, no less) begin a story with, “Once upon a time …”  I’d love to know what you think.

Contentment

Once upon a time there was an ordinary girl who lived an ordinary life with her ordinary family. She did all the ordinary things that others did and dreamed of nothing else. Each day followed one after the other with little difference. There was no magic. There were no fairies, and there were no dragons to slay. She just did what she had to do and took little notice of others doing the same. Strangely enough she was content for, from somewhere deep within, she knew that this ordinary life was but preparation for the extraordinariness of the next.

Monarch butterfly

Thank you

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