Tag Archives: Stories

Fractured Fairy Tales Contest for the Carrot Ranch Rodeo

Once Upon a Rodeo Time

As promised, here’s some information to start your thinking in preparation for the fractured fairy tale flash fiction contest in the Carrot Ranch Rodeo next month. (Try saying that five times real fast!)

Please note: The correct date is Oct 24, not Oct 17 as shown below.

Carrot Ranch Literary Community

From the remote reaches of northern Idaho, the Carrot Ranch Weekly Challenges launched in March of 2014. From around the world, Norah Colvin accepted the first challenge from Australia. She’s held a special place at the Ranch ever since.

Norah cultivates the kind of growth mindset that marks a life-long learner. But she’s also a teacher. Norah frames her entries in posts that focus on education, giving her readers new points of learning or discussion. Last year she launched readilearn (a sponsor of the 2018 Flash Fiction Rodeo, so be sure to check out the site).

You can always expect to learn something new from Norah, and her Rodeo Contests is no exception.

INTRO

Rodeo #4 Fractured Fairy Tales
By Norah Colvin

Do you love fairy tales? Chances are, unless you are a parent or grandparent of young children or an early childhood educator as I am, you may not…

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how important is classroom decoration

How important is classroom decoration?

For a relative newcomer, in my terms anyway, Pinterest has made quite an impact on the world, particularly on the world of the classroom.

If you’re in doubt, just Google ‘Pinterest classroom’. Your search will bring up hundreds, indeed thousands, of ‘best’ classroom décor ideas.

Decorating classrooms seems to be the thing of the moment. It would be easy to believe that an elaborately decorated classroom is of greatest importance to teachers today. While we always did it (decorated our classrooms), we didn’t share and compare on social media. How could we? Social media didn’t exist. Oh, horrors! Really? Really. Pinterest is not only new to this century. It’s new to this decade, and the sharing phenomenon isn’t exclusive to Pinterest.

Concerns about harmful effects of social media messages on young, and not-so-young, people’s body image are often expressed. I wonder if there may be similar harmful effects of these classroom images. If teachers compare their classroom décor with that of others, perhaps in very different situations, will they constantly come up short? If they spend copious amounts of time, and money, on decorating their room, how much will they have left for professional reading and planning? As with body image, are these images sending the wrong message?

While I agree with the importance of setting up a bright, welcoming classroom, I also believe that space must be left for the display of children’s work. While I don’t believe in the bare wall theory as proposed by some, if there is too much on the walls, and particularly if they didn’t contribute to it, children may either ignore it or simply find it distracting.

What do you think? Do you remember the walls of your childhood classroom? Mine were mostly bare. I don’t remember anything other than a Crucifix (I went to a Catholic school), a photo of the Queen, and a flip book of large cloth charts.

What about your children’s classrooms, or your own (if you are a teacher)? How are they decorated? I’d love to know your thoughts.

flash fiction prompt to write about an epic workplace

While I had been contemplating a post about Pinterest classrooms for a while, this week seemed the perfect time, even if this isn’t the post I had been planning. You see, Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write about an epic workplace. It can be real or imagined. Go where the prompt leads.

Most of my working life (and all of my school days, which together equate to most of my life 😊) has taken place in a classroom. I had brief tilts at other minor roles, but overall, the classroom has been my workplace. With a career spanning five decades (but not fifty years – yet), I think it could be categorised as epic.

However, rather than tackle my career, I realised that Pinterest-Inspired Classrooms fitted neatly into the EPIC acronym. as long as I could find that exceptional ‘e’ word. This is my response. I’d love to know what you think.

It’s EPIC

Roll up! Roll up! Come one, come all. This new attraction will have you enthralled. Bring parents, bring partners, siblings and friends. No one’s excluded. It’s Earth’s latest trend. Your eyes won’t believe. Your ears won’t deceive. It’s a sensory explosion, for all to explore. It’s entertaining, electrifying, edifying too. It’s a universe first, and it happened on Earth. It’s empowering, engrossing. There’s so much to see. With no space left empty, it’s elaborate, exciting, extols energy. With exquisite exhibits and enlightening exposures, it’s the most, enticing, enriching, educational environment, established on Earth. It’s EPIC, the Exceptional Pinterest-Inspired Classroom.

Thank you blog post

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

flash fiction story about peering from the bushes

Peering from the bushes

Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox

One of the multitude of my favourite picture books is Hattie and the Fox, written by Mem Fox and illustrated by Patricia Mullins.

I am allowed a multitude of favourites, aren’t I?

Like children, it’s too hard to choose just one. I don’t mean just biological children, I mean the children I teach. They all become ‘my’ children the moment they enter my classroom and remain that way forevermore. How could I choose a favourite?

Hattie and the Fox is a fun story for reading aloud. The children love to join in, especially with the dialogue, and even enjoy acting it out. The cumulative and repetitive features of the story, along with the rhythmic text, support beginning readers who beg to read the story again and again.

While my daughter never liked it when I ‘put on voices’ to read, the children in my class did. Somehow they didn’t think it was me putting on voices. They became involved in the story and thought it was the characters speaking. I used to smile to myself when they’d say things like, “That cow, she’s so funny.” And mimic my reading. Although I am no Mem Fox (you can listen to her read the story here), they enjoyed it anyway.

In the story, Hattie the hen announces that she can see a nose in the bushes. The other animals show little interest. Even when Hattie announces that she can see two eyes, two legs, a body, four legs and a tail, they are not concerned. Only when she realises and announces that it’s a fox peering from the bushes, do the others respond.

Peering from the woods, Charli Mills flash fiction Carrot Ranch

I couldn’t help but think of Hattie and the eyes peering at her from the bushes when Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that includes  an act of “peering from the woods.” Go where the prompt leads.

We don’t have “the woods” in Australia. We have “the bush”. There could be any number of things peering at us from the bushes such as possums, koalas, kangaroos, drop bears, bunyips, or a great variety of birds. Most are fairly harmless. It was deer peering from the woods in Charli’s story.

While deer are not native to Australia, some were imported for hunting and farming purposes. Many of those escaped to freedom. Some roam the suburbs destroying vegetation and creating hazards for unsuspecting motorists. We’ve occasionally come across a group of them in the middle of the road when we come home late at night. At Christmas time the road signs warning of deer are decorated with tinsel and red pompom noses to add to the festive mood.

two flash fiction pieces about yellow tents

Last week, in response to Charli’s ‘yellow tent’ prompt, I attempted a romantic story which was rather well received. I decided to continue the story. You may remember that a reluctant camper, unable to find any further excuses, finally agreed to join her boyfriend. When she arrived, the campsite was deserted except for one yellow tent lit by solar fairy lights spelling the words, “Marry me,” and her fears melted. But should she have dropped her guard?

Surprise!

She parked her car beside his and grabbed her bag. As she locked the car, she looked around. Where was he? He said he’d be watching for her. Cicadas buzzed louder than her footsteps crunched the gravel. A bird startled as it squawked and flapped overhead. Where was he? He must know she’d arrived. Even with the fairy lights, it was darker than she liked.  Peering from the bushes, he willed her to be brave, to open the tent, to find what he’d made for her. Finally, tentatively, she pushed aside the flap. Her screams silenced the night chorus.

Is that what he expected? What do you think was in the tent? Why was he peering from the bushes? What happens now?

Thank you blog post

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

teaching literacy skills with Bullfrog's Billabong, a week of literacy lessons and group activities

readilearn: A week’s reading instruction with Bullfrog’s Billabong

The readilearn Bullfrog’s Billabong suite of cross-curricular resources can be used as the foundation for planning a week’s reading instruction including lessons with the whole class and small groups and independent work. The activities cater for different ability levels in your early childhood classroom and can culminate in a performance to be presented to other members of the class, other classes in the school, or parents.

Bullfrog's Billabong, teaching effective reading strategies with covered cloze on the interactive whiteboard

Begin by introducing the story as a covered cloze activity (a lesson ready for you to teach) presented to the whole class on the interactive whiteboard. Although all children are engaged in reading the same story, the activity allows them to participate at their own level. The teacher-led discussion can be tailored to student needs, allowing each to contribute according to what they already know and extending their understanding by discussing cues for reading and irregular as well as regular spelling patterns. Children learn from each other as they actively participate in the cooperative reading activity. Refer to Covered cloze — teaching effective reading strategies and Bullfrog’s Billabong — Cloze — How to use this resource for suggestions.

As with introducing all new reading material, it is important to engage children’s interest by making connections with what they already know about the topic and explaining what may be unfamiliar; for example, a billabong, and encouraging them to make predictions about what might happen in the story. As the story unfolds, children may adjust their predictions and thoughts about the story.

Continue reading: readilearn: A week’s reading instruction with Bullfrog’s Billabong – Readilearn

stories for discussing individual differences, diversity, inclusion, friendship

Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

While a classroom is filled with a group of unique individuals, it can be easy sometimes to get caught up in treating them as one, with one set of needs, expectations and rules. Everybody do this, everybody do that—a bit like Simon Says but not always as much fun.

It is useful to pause sometimes and celebrate the uniqueness of individuals in your class.

International Children’s Book Day and Hans Christian Andersen‘s birthday on 2 April provide excellent excuses for reading and celebrating children’s literature, as if we needed any. We can also find stories that help us celebrate individuality.

The Ugly Duckling Hans Christian Andersen

Hans Christian Andersen was a prolific writer of fairy tales, many of which are well-known and have been made into movies. One of my favourite films as a child was about Hans Christian Anderson with Danny Kaye in the lead role. I was particularly touched by the story of The Ugly Duckling which Andersen told to a sad young boy whom no one would play with. You can watch the scene here.

The story is a great starting point for discussing individual differences,

Continue reading: #readilearn: Celebrating individuals in your classroom using stories – Readilearn

Marnie's graduation of dreams and nightmares flash fiction

Of dreams and nightmares

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme “follow your dreams.” Bonus points for throwing a badge into the tale. Go where the prompt leads.

The prompt led me back to Marnie, a character about whom I have written a number of flash stories, as I try to figure out who she is and what her world is like. We know that she was both neglected and abused at home and bullied at school. One special teacher Miss R has been her confidante and champion over the years, instilling in Marnie an inkling of self-worth and giving her the will to survive. This story takes us to her graduation day.

Of dreams and nightmares

Marnie snuck into the back row. The ceremony was underway. “Follow your dream” and “What is your dream?” were displayed on the large screen above the stage. As each graduating student took the microphone to share their dreams for the future, images of past achievements were projected onto the screen. Marnie should have been there too: but what could she share? Who would listen or even care? Only Miss R. Marnie craned her neck for a farewell glimpse, then left as quietly as she had entered. Once she had escaped her nightmare, perhaps then she could begin to dream.

You can read more of Marnie’s story here.

Thank you blog post

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

Can you have your carrot cake and eat it too - flash fiction

Can you have your carrot cake and eat it too?

Charli Mills flash fiction prompt "Carrot cake"

This week at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about carrot cake. It can be classic or unusual. Why is there cake? How does it feature in the story. Go where the prompt leads.

Carrot cake is great for a celebration, and with Easter just around the corner, I decided to combine the two. I hope you like it.

A carrot cake for Easter

“What will we cook today?” asked Mum.

“Carrot cake!” chimed the twins.

“But you don’t like carrot cake.”

“Carrot cake. Carrot cake.”

“Why?”

“Well, it’s going to be–“

“Easter soon, and we want–“

“to give the Easter Bunny–“

“a surprise–”

“present.”

The twins smiled at each other.

“Okay,” smiled Mum. “Carrot cake it is.”

“Yay!”

“First, we need the carrots.”

The children raced ahead to the veggie patch.

“What–“

“happened?”

Their eyes opened wide. The carrot patch was devastated; not one carrot left.

“Carrot cake’s off,” said Mum. “That old rabbit can’t have carrot cake and eat them too.”

bunny eating carrot public domain picture

Thank you blog post

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback, please share your thoughts; and if you can help me with the following two questions, that would be wonderful.

  1. How should I punctuate the twins’ dialogue to show that they are finishing each other sentences? Have I done it correctly? If not, how should I have shown it? I checked my style guide and online and couldn’t find an explanation.
  2. Word counted the em dashes I have used to punctuate the interruptions, but I haven’t. Should I have? Most punctuation is not counted as words.

Thanks for your advice.