Tag Archives: teaching and learning

School Days Reminiscences of D. Avery

School Days, Reminiscences of D. Avery

Welcome to the School Days, Reminiscences series in which my champion bloggers and authors share reminiscences of their school days. It’s my small way of thanking them for their support and of letting you know about their services and publications.

This week, I am delighted to introduce D. Avery, poet, writer, blogger. I met D. when she rode up to the Carrot Ranch, dismounted and took a lead role around the campfire with her humorous tales and witty conversation. I also try not to miss her posts on ShiftnShake where she shares poetry, flash fiction and short stories sprinkled with philosophical pearls of wisdom and creates characters as like and unlike any you may chance to meet. Whatever the topic, there’s sure to be beauty in her words, wisdom in her ideas and smiles to lighten your day.

Books by D. Avery

I have read and enjoyed all three of D.’s books and was both honoured and delighted when she quoted me on the back cover of After Ever. This is what I wrote:

An interesting and eclectic collection of short stories and even shorter flash stories, this collection has something for everyone. Whether the situation be mundane or mystical, tragic or cheerful, D. Avery records events matter-of-factly, telling how it is or was, and leaves it to the reader to choose how to respond. After Ever is great for reading in bites or as an entire feast.

I thought I’d reviewed all three of D.’s books on Amazon, but all I could find was my review of For the Girls:

After receiving her own pre-Christmas un-gift of a cancer diagnosis, D. Avery unwrapped how the diagnosis affected her personal journey and view on life. Written from her own need and for others facing similar situations, D. Avery explores through poetry, the emotions that fluctuate in intensity from the moment of diagnosis until, hopefully, remission is declared. Anyone who has endured the pain of diagnosis or suffered alongside another who has, will find something with which to identify. None of us are ever free of the fear, but hope has a stronger pull. These poems are food for the soul.

Before we begin the interview, I’ll allow D. Avery to tell you a little of herself:

D. Avery, writer, fisherwoman

Born and raised in rural New England, D. Avery is never quite out of the woods, though she has been in other fields. She has been a veggie vendor, landscape gardener, and a teacher.

Cursed with a compulsion for wordplay and a growing addiction to writing, D. Avery blogs at Shiftnshake, where she pours flash fiction and shots of poetry for online sampling. D. Avery tweets ‪‪@daveryshiftn‪‪ and is a Rough Writer at Carrot Ranch. She is the author of two books of poems, Chicken Shift and For the Girls. Her latest release,  After Ever; Little Stories for Grown Children,  is a collection of flash and short fiction.

Welcome, D. Now let’s talk school. First of all, could you tell us where you attended school?

I attended public school, my first three years at a K-12 school in Skagway, Alaska, then third through sixth grade in a four room graded school in Vermont, before attending a 7-12 regional school that serves a number of small towns.

What is the highest level of education you achieved? What work or profession did you choose after school and was there anything in school that influenced this choice?

I experienced a year of small private liberal arts college in Ohio and that was enough of that. After a year off from school I completed a two-year program at the Stockbridge School of Agriculture at UMass Amherst, earning an Associate’s Degree in Science, Commercial Floriculture. This course of study had practical and immediate application for me, and served me well. I spent the off season from greenhouse work and landscape gardening subbing and volunteering in the elementary school and after a few years I decided to answer the call and get my teaching certificate. I got my Masters of Education at Antioch New England Graduate School and switched careers, becoming a fourth grade classroom teacher and more recently a sixth grade math teacher.

What is your earliest memory of school?

I have lots of early memories. I do think back on how cool it was to be in a small K-12 school that was the center of a small (and isolated) community. The entire school, K-12, took part in a Christmas pageant every year for the town to see. Likewise Field Day had everyone involved and the high school kids might be on the team of a kindergartner or would somehow be helping out.

What memories do you have of learning to read?

I was reading before attending school, something I picked up at home. We were read to, and there was plenty of print around. One day while looking through a comic I realized I knew the words. It was pretty exciting. I went through the stack of comics and numerous picture books. By second grade I had read all my brothers’ Hardy Boys books. And we had quite a stack of Classics Illustrated, classic novels condensed into comic book form; I started in on those at this time. When we moved back to VT I read every Vermont heroes and histories books on those dusty shelves of that old graded school. There was a collection of William O’Steele books too, historical fiction for kids, pioneers headed west. Of course there were the Little House books. Then they instituted the Dorothy Canfield Fisher program and our school library got built up with more modern young adult novels. I still enjoyed the historical fiction the most though.

What memories do you have of learning to write?

D. Avery was always confident as a writer

Norah, you might remember when I gave some detail about being taught to form my letters in school. It was kind of fun so here’s a LINK. But school did get better after that. My second grade teacher did a great job of integrating reading and writing. I became a writer the day that my writing was hanging in the hall and some of those high school kids were reading it and even complimented me for it. Throughout my school years some of my writing got some attention and publication. I had encouraging teachers and still remember the Poets in Schools program. I was always fairly confident as a writer, using it to baffle them with bullshit if I couldn’t dazzle them with brilliance.

What do you remember about math classes?

D. Avery: maths should be accessible and meaningful

I could neither baffle nor dazzle with math. Math was never taught very well, I realize now, and I did not like it. It was a lot of rote drill-and-kill work.

Fortunately, my great grandmother got me straightened out with times tables in one briefing so that helped.

I managed, barely, but never “got” math until a course at ANE Graduate School. Since then I have taken a number of courses. Now I truly enjoy math and have enjoyed demystifying the subject for students third through sixth grades.

I don’t remember ever having fun in math class, but my own math students have had fun. Math students need to see patterns and to make connections, to keep math accessible and meaningful.

I also realize that the best math practice I ever had, and what really built number sense, was not from school at any level but from my summer work as a teenager on a truck farm where there was no cash register or calculator. My mental math got quite good. Working there and earlier helping my dad out with different projects also built my math skills.

What was your favourite subject?

D. Avery: it's the people who make a subject more interesting and more accessible

I have always enjoyed history and social studies, and those were probably my favorite subjects in high school. But I also enjoyed Latin and English (reading and writing). I also was very fortunate to have had some remarkable people as my teachers. That’s what one remembers as much as anything; it’s the people who make a subject more interesting and accessible.

What did you like best about school? 

D. Avery, what did you like best about school

I liked learning. I found most of my subjects interesting. There were some excellent teachers and also an excellent library. School had books and magazines to be read, it was a place to pursue ideas and interests. It was a path to possibilities. And school was where my audience was, it’s where I performed and entertained. But I did manage to learn in spite of myself.

What did you like least about school?

I liked being with friends at school, but people are also what I liked least in school. Kids are always having to navigate the social waters and to find their own balance between conformity and individuality. It’s stressful. I was always grateful and glad to be home at the end of the day, where I could have quiet alone time in the woods.

I feel bad for the kids today who, because of their devices, are never able to be alone and to decompress. I feel bad for people who do not have the outside time and space. I know it was vital for my time in school to have good work and play experiences out of school and time to get re-centered. People now are never alone and never lonelier. I still require lots of alone time.

How do you think schools have changed since your school days?

School girl D. Avery coming in from skiing

With the pervasiveness of computers and social media parents have an extra responsibility, an extra worry now, and most don’t fully comprehend the depths of that. Technology has made teaching and learning more difficult; it has distanced people from nature, from each other, from generational wisdom- from their selves. “Knowledge” at our fingertips is not lasting; internet access in many ways erodes curiosity and problem solving skills, critical reading and thinking skills, and the stamina required for meaningful learning.

I know arguments could be made in defence of technology, but I rarely see a healthy balance. Gaming addictions, cyber-bullying, plagiarism and general distractions are some of the issues that impact teaching and learning nowadays. That maybe didn’t really speak about schools, but these phones are a huge change in our society and so our schools.

What do you think schools (in general) do well?

Schools have changed, but they are still staffed with people, most often good caring people who are educated in their subject area and also in pedagogy and in best practices based on research. Educators take into account how students best learn, and how to engage them in that enterprise.

More than ever before, schools look out for and provide services for a student’s mental health, their social/emotional wellbeing. A person with trauma or health issues is not the best learner, and schools are learning to take a more holistic approach to all students.

How do you think schools could be improved?

D. Avery "Schools should be creative safe havens"

Our schools don’t always seem to measure up, but what is the measure? Not everyone is measuring up to standardized tests, but if we really want to close achievement gaps, if we really want to leave no children behind then we need to reform much more than our schools.

While I think we should first focus on out of school factors, within school we have to do more than give lip service to Gardner’s Multiple Intelligences. Which means schools need to not succumb to the testing culture; schools need to be less programmatic and prescriptive. Curricula should encourage empathy and build flexible and adaptive skills and strategies required for individuals to pursue their own interests and inclinations. Schools should be creative safe havens that sustain a sense of wonder and curiosity.

thank you for your participation

D., thank you for sharing your reminiscences of school and thoughts about education in general. I would have liked to take your responses to the last three questions and make them all quotes. You express it all so perfectly.  It’s been a delight to have you here. I learned so much from and about you. I enjoyed learning about your own school days and totally agree with what you have to say about education in general.

 

Find out more about D. Avery

from her website ShiftnShake

Connect with her on social media

Twitter: @daveryshiftn

Purchase your own copy of her books from

Amazon

If you missed previous reminiscences, check them out here:

Charli Mills

Sally Cronin

Anne Goodwin

Geoff Le Pard

Hugh Roberts

Debby Gies

Pauline King

JulesPaige

Look for future interviews in this series to be posted on Sunday evenings AEST.

Coming soon:

Christy Birmingham

Miriam Hurdle

Susan Scott

with more to follow.

Thank you blog post

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

Make STEM a part of everyday - suggestions for parents of young children

readilearn: How to make STEM learning a part of every day

Making STEM learning a part of every day is easy if one is mindful of the opportunities that arise. In a previous guest post, Narinda Sandry explained STEMtastic: making it easy — in every classroom, for every child and teacher.

Last month I shared with you an excellent article from The Conversation by Kym Simoncini of the University of Canberra about Five things parents can do every day to help develop STEM skills from a young age.

There is a thirst for information about STEM in the wider community, and articles such as these generate a lot of interest. In response, I have compiled some suggestions to help parents Incorporate STEM learning into everyday activities – suggestions for parents. The handout, located in Classroom ManagementFor parents, is available for teachers to distribute free to parents

Incorporate STEM learning into everyday activities

Continue reading: readilearn: How to make STEM learning a part of every day

Take a gander at this – #early childhood teaching resources

 

gander-1559843_1920

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write using the word gander as a verb.

Gander, the verb, means to look. Since a gander, a male goose, has a long neck which is, without doubt, suitable for sticking out and into things, the meaning to take a look is probably apt. However, I must say that, until reading Charli’s flash pieces, I was unfamiliar with its use as a verb, and still feel a bit uncomfortable in using it so, but I’ll give it a go – later.

First: What I would love is for people to take a gander at readilearn, a website I have been working on for more years that I care to tally right now.

It is a year since I took the leap and engaged a company to develop the site. It was nine months (not the one month promised) before the site was launched, just over three months ago. To use the nine months analogy of pregnancy; it wasn’t an easy gestation or birth, and we’re still experiencing teething problems and growing pains, including “how to grow?” pains.

Audience wanted

chairs-1738738_1920

Marketing, as in attracting, building, and maintaining an audience, is difficult, as any writer knows. It is not just a matter of writing the stuff and hoping an audience finds it. It takes time, effort, and know-how. I’m a bit short on all three, but I’m going to stick my neck out, and ask if you’d be willing to help me a little with the know-how in finding my target audience.

readilearn-home-page

readilearn is a collection early childhood teaching resources. The target audience is teachers of children between 5 and 7 years of age, be they teaching in a school environment, or homeschooling their children. The resources are also suitable or use with children learning English as a second or other language, and with children with special needs.

resources

There are resources for most areas of the curriculum, with suggestions for integrating learning across curriculum areas in a meaningful context.

The materials are Australian (I’m Australian) but are suitable for use internationally.

There are:

  • Digital and interactive resources to access and use online
  • Word and PDF documents to download and print

Including:

  • Original stories
  • estories (digital stories)
  • Teaching ideas and suggestions
  • Lessons plans
  • Readilessons (lessons ready to use)
  • Games
  • Printouts for parents

Features

  • New resources are added almost every week
  • Many resources are free to registered users
  • An annual subscription of less than 50c per week (or less than the cost of 5 cups of coffee a year!) is easily affordable; and that’s Australian dollars – even less for UK and US subscribers! It’s even discounted until the end of 2016!

final-weeks

So what’s different?

I think that what differentiates readilearn is the integrated resources focusing on purposeful learning in context. The open-ended nature of many of interactive resources allows teachers to adjust the discussion to suit the needs of their students. readilearn is not just bunch of worksheets for repetitive practice of skills in isolation, or endless pretty charts to hang in the room. It is designed to support effective teaching and learning in meaningful contexts.

More than just resources

  • Each Friday I publish a blog post filled with teaching ideas and information, including how to get the most from readilearn resources.
  • I also email users each Friday to inform them of new resources uploaded during the week – no more wondering if there’s anything new or where to find it.
  • The newsletter, published on the last day of each month, includes a summary of blog posts, a list of new resources, and a preview of events in the coming month.

I would very much appreciate it if you could spread the word to any of my target audience in your circles: teachers of children from 5 – 7 years. I’d also love some suggestions for ways of connecting with my audience. Although my audience may differ from yours, what you have learned may also be useful for me.

Maybe you’d like to gift an early childhood teacher their first year’s subscription. It’s easy. Just email hello@readilearn.com.au to find out how.

special-gift-for-special-teacher-ad

Now back to Charli’s challenge to include gander as a verb in a 99-word story. It got me thinking about all the bird words in common use, even when not referring to birds. I decided to incorporate as many as I could into a story while still maintaining a certain amount of sense. I have used over twenty. Can you (bird)spot them all? I hope you think it’s grouse! (Well, maybe just a little bit not too bad. 🙂 )

grouse

Bird (non)sense

Finch’d had an eagle eye on the play all day.

Robin’d been hawking chicken pies. Now sold out, he wandered over to gander with Finch.

Robin craned his neck, just as “He’s out for a duck!” was announced.

“He’s out for a duck,” he parroted. “That’s something to crow about.”  One team was swanning around, exuberant as monarchs. The other was as despondent as miners on strike.

Martin was larking around. “Yeah,” he sniped. “The silly goose was distracted by the kite and missed altogether.”

“More like a turkey, I’d say,” Robin reterned swiftly.

“You’re a hoot!” chirped Finch.

thank-you-1200x757

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

One small step

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, NASA

It is no secret that I love having time with young children. Their development constantly amazes me. They are curious learners on a quest to find out as much as they can about the world and how it works. They are scientific researchers making observations, forming hypotheses, and drawing conclusions; always with a plan for the next step if the results aren’t what was expected.

How many times do they need to release a spoon to be confident that it will always be pulled towards the floor? How early do they laugh when something doesn’t perform as expected; for example, when a balloon floats up instead of falling down?

Many of a young child’s explorations seek answers to questions they ask of themselves; questions that may never be verbalised.

childrens-questions

After they have investigated their immediate environment, and their language begins to develop, they start to look at the wider world, and begin to ask questions about how things work and why things happen.

Here are a couple my granddaughter asked me recently:

“Norah, you know about gravity? Why do clouds stay up in the air? Why don’t they fall down?”

“If babies grow into adults, and adults give birth to babies. Which came first the baby or the mother?”

questions-children-ask

The determination and persistence of young children is also almost limitless. Watch them learning to roll, or to sit, or to stand. It is never achieved on the first attempt, but that doesn’t stop them. They don’t give up. They try and try again until they do it. The look of satisfaction on their faces is priceless. No stickers are required. Sometimes, when the result differs from expectation, the look is of surprise. But even then they are quickly deciding what to do next.

Without formal instruction of any kind, in their first few years, children perform amazing feats. Without the imposition of test requirements or standardised assessment, children are driven to learn. Intrinsic rewards, accompanied by the encouragement of significant others, for example, parents, are sufficient.  Children are driven by a “yet” mindset and a belief that there is no such thing as “can’t”. This ensures they continue to practice until they succeed. Immediately they succeed, they set themselves another challenge. That is, unless they are taught otherwise.

When they are nurtured in an environment that is encouraging and supportive, with a balance of comfort and challenge, and well-timed feedback, children will thrive physically, emotionally, and mentally. They will learn through their observations and interactions with people and objects. Each question answered will stimulate the next.

These are just a few of the remarkable achievements made by children before setting foot inside any formal education establishment. They learn to

  • interact
  • roll over
  • sit up
  • crawl
  • clap hands
  • stand
  • walk
  • place things inside, and take things out of, other objects
  • feed oneself
  • talk
  • run
  • undo and do up buttons
  • push buttons (of all sorts)
  • open doors
  • play games

Given an encouraging, supportive environment with caring adults who respond to their needs, surround them with language, love them, and model behaviour, children learn amazing things.

This week at The Carrot Ranch Charli Mills challenged writers to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about an amazing feat. My response is a tribute to the amazing feats performed by little ones every day.

One small step

Everything she had ever done was preparation for this moment. All eyes were on her. The audience’s expectation was palpable, bolstering her determination. She pulled herself up to full height and looked around, smiling. The audience waited. She checked the positioning of her feet, and her balance. She held up one hand, signifying that an attempt was imminent. She put one foot forward; then raised the other hand as she brought her back foot alongside the first. She paused, poised, momentarily. Immediately cameras clicked and cheers erupted. After two more steps, she launched, triumphant, into her father’s waiting arms.

Here are photos of my two little (now big) ones. While not of their first steps, these photos were taken within the first month each of them walked.

 

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

bec-walking

© Norah Colvin

Thank you

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

 

Author Spotlight: Rebecca Johnson

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

Hi, welcome to the readilearn blog and the first in our Author Spotlight series.

Spring is here and summer is on its way in Australia. The excitement of new life is everywhere as flowers bloom, birds sing, and insects abound. The excitement flows into the classroom as children observe and record the life stages of the amazing minibeasts that inhabit our world.

There is no better time than spring to introduce you to Brisbane author Rebecca Johnson and her Insect Series which was awarded the 2014 Whitley Certificate of Commendation for Best Educational Series.

rebecca

Rebecca Johnson: award-winning author and primary school science teacher

about-rebecca-johnsons-books

Rebecca’s Insect Series of ten books focuses on metamorphosis, survival, adaptations, properties of natural materials and the usefulness of insects through fiction stories. The stories are accompanied by stunning close-up photos of insects of all kinds.

The books, which won the 2014 Whitley Award for Best Educational Series, have strong listed links to the Australian Curriculum for many year levels. They are a great resource for teaching and learning about insects. The fiction stories that accompany the facts make the learning even more fun. Two free blackline masters support the use of each book. The blackline masters can be accessed on the Blake Education Website.

While the books feature Australian insects and have links to the Australian curriculum, they are loved by children all over the world. I am happy to introduce you to Rebecca and her lovely series of books.

Welcome to readilearn, Rebecca. We are looking forward to getting to know you a little better.

Thanks for inviting me!

When did you know you wanted to be a writer?

When I was reading a lot of picture books to my very young children and could see how much they loved them.

Where do you write? Do you like to be by yourself in the quiet, or do you like to write in a noisy space?

I do most of my ‘writing’ in my head.  I think about my stories for ages and pitch them verbally to victims until I am sure I have it all sorted in my head, then I sit to write in my lovely, quiet study overlooking my garden. I encourage children to tell their stories out loud before they write too, because, in my opinion, it is almost impossible to write a good story if you can’t tell one.

What do you use to write – pencil and paper or computer?

Head first. VERY few drafts, then I type it into the computer. I can type a 7000 word novel in a week that is publisher-ready, but I have thought about it and pitched it and sounded it out in my head for weeks beforehand. I hate sitting down all day, and I hate re-doing things over and over even more, so I do heaps of my drafting mentally whilst I do other (fun) stuff like gardening, then by the time I sit down to write, it’s like typing out a movie I know really well. People give you more honest feedback too, when you tell them a story. They feel less nervous about letting you know how they really feel about it. Try it some time.

When is the best time for you to write?

I do my best work from 5am when the house is really quiet. I’m always too tired at night (I still teach three days a week) for anything too creative.

When and where do you get your ideas?

From my life’s experiences as a mother, teacher, child and my own children. I think you have to write about what you know and love.

What gave you the idea for this series about insects?

I am a science teacher and I love insects, and I just couldn’t find the books I needed to succinctly and factually tell kids about the life-cycles and characteristics of insects in a fun way, so I wrote some.

What do you like best about the series?

Kids love them because they are funny and a bit silly, but they are still full of facts and information. I think they remember things better if it is presented in more appealing and humorous way.

What can you tell us about the photographs that illustrate the books?

My sister (Narinda Sandry) took most of them and it was hilarious. We didn’t want to harm any of the insects, so we had to put some, like the mealworms, in the fridge for a while to slow them down to get the shots. I will always smile as I recall the day we sat around a cow pat in a paddock trying to photograph dung beetles before they re-dug themselves in! The old farmer that had let us into the paddock stood to the side scratching his head in disbelief.

caterpillar-spread

How did your feel when you wrote these stories?

I was really pleased when they came out because the photos are just gorgeous, and they were very well received by schools and parents. Winning the Whitley awards was really lovely recognition too.

How do you hope readers will feel?

Hopefully empowered with more information and knowledge, and perhaps inspired to look more closely at the wonderful world of insects and an appreciation of the benefits they bring.

How would you like teachers to present your books to children?

I’d love them to make them part of their science lesson, and even team them with some real insects (like mealworms) to make it all so much more engaging. There are two free blackline masters for each one too, that are designed to be able to be used independently by children in reading groups etc. There are heaps of facts inside the covers, and a glossary of terms, so plenty to learn in each one.

Are there any messages you would like them to discuss?

The main thing is that insects are so important and not just a good excuse to whack something!

Do you have any advice for teachers in their role as writing guides?

As I said earlier….talk before writing as much as you can. It is amazing how hard kids find it to describe something verbally and yet we ask them to do it in the written form all the time with disappointing results.

Do you have any advice for children as writers?

Tell, tell, tell, and don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes a long time to get it right. It took me five years to get my first book published.

What is your favourite picture book? What do you like about it?

I have so many favourites, but Bob Graham’s Greetings from Sandy Beach always makes me laugh out loud, and humour is really important to me in a book.

Who is your favourite children’s author? What do you like about his or her work?

The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (CS Lewis).  He made me see a movie in my head. I could picture every scene, decades before there was a movie.  I remember thinking that one day, I wanted to make a reader feel like that.

thank-you-authors-and-illustrators

Thank you Rebecca Johnson for sharing these insights about your Insect Series and your writing process. We wish you success.

Thank you, and thanks for having me!

To find out more about Rebecca and her award winning books visit her website at rebeccajohnson.com.au. You can find out about and purchase her Insect Series and other books on her website.

Look what's new

This interview and information about Rebecca is available as a printable resource in a new subcategory in readilearn literacy resources: Author Spotlight. The information may be displayed in your classroom or included in a class book about authors and illustrators.

Check out the readilearn resources My Minibeast ABC and Minibeast Alphabet – A list for teachers which can also be used when learning about minibeasts.

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.

Welcome to spring!

Responses to a previous post on the importance of feedback suggested that I trial republishing readilearn posts here.  As the suggestion came from a number of people I considered it sound advice and worth trying. As always, I will be interested to hear what you think.

This post is republished from the readilearn blog.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

The first day of September marks the first day of spring in Australia. It is also recognised throughout Australia as Wattle Day.  The golden wattle is our national floral emblem. Its colours give the recognisable green and gold to our sporting teams.

Like the people of our land, it is a plant that shows both diversity and resilience. There are hundreds of species of wattle growing in many different habitats across Australia.  They may be seen growing wild in bush areas and national parks, and cultivated in botanic gardens, on footpaths and in home gardens.

© Bec Colvin

© Bec Colvin

I have three varieties of wattle growing in my garden. Last year, when the plants were one-year-old, they flowered abundantly and were home to ladybirds. It was wonderful to watch each stage of the ladybird’s growth, from egg to adult. This year, the trees were more heavily laden with blossoms, but there were no ladybirds. I was disappointed as I was looking forward to seeing the ladybirds again. However, it has been suggested that the absence of ladybirds may indicate the tree is healthier this year. I don’t know.

In Australia we generally refer to seasons as occurring in particular months:

Spring in September, October, and November

Summer in December, January, and February

Autumn in March, April, and May

Winter in June, July, and August.

However, it is not as simple as that.  Australia is a land of extremes, with different climate zones and types of weather experienced across the country. It can be cooler in the summers of southern areas than it is the months called winter in the north. For example, the average January (summer) daytime temperature in Hobart is 21.7⁰C, and the average July (winter) daytime temperature for Darwin is 30.5⁰C.

Spring is a great time for exploring the garden and it’s inhabitants. What is spring like where you are?

Getting to know readilearn resources

Also coinciding with the beginning of spring is the Australian Father’s Day, celebrated on the first Sunday in September. It is a day not just for dads, but for grandfathers, stepfathers, and other male carers and role models. It is a day to let them know how much they are appreciated.

 

how to make a book cover - cover

One great way of providing children with a purpose and targeted audience for writing is to get them to make a book for their father figure. I have provided some ideas to get the writing started in the resource How to make a book cover. The resource itself provides step by step instructions for making a cover for a book using complementary colours. The instructions can be displayed on the white board for children to read and follow.

Suggestions for writing include:

  • A list of statements about their Dad e.g. My Dad goes to work. My Dad makes my breakfast. My Dad has curly hair and a bushy beard. Children write and illustrate one statement on each page.
  • A recount or memoir about a favourite holiday or activity they do with their Dad.
  • A series of things about fathers e.g. Some fathers ride motorbikes. Some fathers ride horses. Children finish with a statement about their own dads, for example; But my father rides a skateboard.
  • A list of things that Dad likes, one to each page.

Five Fabulous books to read for Father’s Day

2015-09-19 10.52.00

Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, illustrated by Anita Jeram

My Dad

My Dad by Anthony Browne

going on a bear hunt

We’re Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Helen Oxenbury

Just Me and My Dad

Just Me and My Dad by Mercer Mayer

2015-09-19 10.54.00

Hey, I Love You by Ian Whybrow, illustrated by Rosie Reeve

Of course, there are many more too.

The Ice Cream Shop - estory

The readilearn estory The Ice Cream Shop also features an outing with Dad. However, before reading it with your children, decide if you wish to use the interactive covered cloze version with them.  If desired, for most effective teaching and learning, the covered cloze should be used prior to any other familiarisation with the story. (You can find information about covered cloze as a teaching strategy here.)

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

Remember to use your coupon codes at the checkout to activate your discount. If you can’t see where to enter the coupon code, select “View basket“.

ncblog firstin2

 

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You’d have to be mad!

That is, as in M.A.D. — Making a Difference.

I love to hear of children being involved in projects that help others, that aim to make a difference to the world. I have previously written about some of those projects here, here, and here.  Sarah Brentyn, who blogs at Lemon Shark, often shares about the wonderful ways in which she and her boys are making a positive difference in their community.

This week I read about the M.A.D. projects of Canadian teacher Peter Cameron (a.k.a. Mr. C) and his students. At the beginning of the school year Mr. C challenged his students with the question, What will you do to make a difference? The projects, which were selected, organised, and conducted by the students, were recently completed. They included things such as:

  • Helping others on snowy days by shovelling driveways
  • Helping parents, grandparents, and great grandparents
  • Giving compliments
  • Supporting Doctors Without Borders
  • Helping the elderly
  • Helping at the Humane Society
  • Keeping their school tidy
  • Assisting the homeless by collecting socks, making supper, and hot chocolate
  • Encouraging kids to eat healthy, and to spend more time outdoors.
  • You can see a celebration of their projects in this video.

Mr. C. said that it was one of the most rewarding aspects of his 20+ years teaching career. The acknowledgement received from their member of parliament in the Canadian House of Commons, and his encouragement for others to join in, further affirmed the merit of the project.

Now Mr C. is reaching out to other classes around the world to join in with their M.A.D. projects and form a Global Make a Difference Team in which participants complete a M.A.D Project to help make our world an even better, happier, healthier place to live”.  Their goal is to have 100+ classes join in. Will yours be one of them?

To make it easy, Mr. C is making available to teachers all of his resources which may be modified to suit individual classes and situations. He says,

“The goal is simple: challenge your school, class, clubs and individual or groups of students to make a difference and see where it takes them! Be sure to let us know that your school/class will be participating and fill in the form to add your class to our M.A.D map!”

Places on the map are so far confined to North America. How wonderful it would be for locations to be added from all around the world. Children would see not only the differences they are making in their own communities, but also the positive actions of others around the world, which may in turn, inspire further projects.

Be sure to let us know of other projects that involve children in making a difference. I know there are many, some conducted by organisations, and others by individuals and families. They are what give us hope for the future.

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Writing poetry with children

Horses go galloping

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to write about galloping. What keeps replaying in my head is the phrase “The horses go galloping, galloping, galloping” interspersed with the lines from “The Highwayman” by Alfred Noyes, a poem I learned at school.

The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding,

The Highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

tomas_arad_heart

Learning poems at school was a joy. I love poetry and, in younger years, used to read a lot of it, less currently. Perhaps I should say I loved poetry, but that would unfair, just as it would be unfair to say that I no longer love an old friend that I haven’t seen for years, for at the moment we meet up again the connection is just as strong as ever, the ties never broken.

Oftentimes when I read Charli’s challenges I know how I will respond immediately. Other times I need to massage the idea until I hit just the right spot. This time the horse has bolted and the paddock is left empty without a horse in sight. All I’m left with are my thoughts of poetry.

Fortunately, as an early childhood teacher with a love of picture books, recent years haven’t been completely devoid of the poetic form. While not necessarily written in what might be considered “poetic language”, many are written in rhythmic rhyming verse. Others contain verses within the story, such as the refrain in The Gingerbread Man or the song in Love You Forever by Robert Munsch.

The gingerbread man

A title recently added to my list of favourites, through repeated readings and recitations by my grandchildren, is Piranhas Don’t Eat Bananas by Australian author Aaron Blabey. Its rhythm, rhyme and sense of fun is an absolute joy. We laughed together at every reading by G1, and every recitation by G2. It begs to be read and re-read, recited and recited again. Sadly, I got to read it aloud only once, and even then not all the way through! “Hey,” I protested in vain. “I like to read picture books too!

piranhas don't eat bananas

Of course there are also many books of poems and rhymes written for children, including Nursery Rhymes, though many of those weren’t written with children in mind. There are also some that fit into a horsey theme such as

In addition to reading poems and stories to my class I also enjoyed writing poems with them. At this early childhood stage the poems would be more rhythmical verse, sometimes rhyming and sometimes not, with only the hint of an introduction to poetic language.  I have previously written about writing our versions of I Love the Mountains, a traditional camping song.

I have also written some resources for supporting teachers when Writing Christmas poems with early childhood students. These are available in my Teachers Pay Teachers store and soon to be included in readilearn resources. With easy-to-follow structures, writing these poems give children immediate boosts to their writing confidence.

I had been thinking for a while that I should write some new versions suited to other times of the year, but hadn’t prioritised it. However, when I read Rowena Dreamer’s post Mr’s Poem: Through My Window on her blog beyondtheflow, another idea sprang to mind. Rowena discussed the writing of a poem “Through my window” that had been set as homework for her son.  I immediately thought of the sound poems that I had taught my students and wondered if the structure could be adapted for sight poems.

The structure of a sound poem

This is what I came up with:

I saw as I looked through my window

You’ll notice that I haven’t exactly maintained the structure. This is what happens, particularly when young children are writing their versions. It is to be expected and accepted. The purpose of the structure is to support, not restrict.

I then wondered if it could be used with the other senses and, at the same time, realised that four verses, four senses, would just about reach the target of Charli’s challenge to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about galloping. With no other ideas galloping into view, how could I resist giving it a go?

Disappointingly, I found the structure less accommodating for smell and taste, and had difficulty in conjuring different words to use for each. For example, I wanted to smell and taste the freshness of bread and the sweetness of apples. I had thought touch would be more difficult but have realised that’s not the case. The repetition of the word “felt” for both touch and emotion is perhaps not ideal though.

I would love to say more here about the necessity for teachers to experiment before setting tasks for children, and of the value of learning from the process rather than the product, but I think I’ve probably said enough in this post.  I will just share what I’ve written which, though responding to Charli’s challenge, doesn’t actually fit the criteria of flash fiction. However, if you’d be kind enough, I’d still love to know what you think.

Market Day

I heard

as I sat curled with a book

the thundering of hooves

the snorting of nostrils

the jangle of stirrups.

I felt anxious.

I saw

as I looked through the window

the horse at the gate

the rider on the path

the bag in his hand.

I felt excited.

I smelled

As I opened the bag

The freshness of bread

The sweetness of apples

The promise of coffee.

I felt famished.

I felt

As I savoured my lunch

The crunchiness of crusts

The crispness of apple

The warming of coffee.

I felt satisfied.

Yum! Fresh produce.

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Are we finished?

I am a work in progress. I reflect on the past, predict the future, and live in the present moment. Nearly everything I do is a work in progress. Some things just make more progress than others!

Over the past few years I have been preparing resources for my readilearn website. It’s slow going, slower than I expected, but I’m getting … somewhere. Even when the website launches it will be a work in progress as I update old and add new resources.

Launching soon - readilearn2

In a flurry of activity, with the intention of completing additional resources as development of the website nears completion, I experimented with making a product promotional video. My intention is to make a number of these, possibly explaining the use of each interactive resource. Doing so is far more time consuming that I had expected.

Below is my first attempt. But please don’t let that word “first” mislead you into mistakenly thinking it was my only attempt. I lost count of the number of takes and couldn’t believe how difficult it was to utter just a few short sentences. While I am sharing it, please consider it a work in progress. Making promotional videos for my products is something I need much more practice with.

My purpose in sharing the video is to illustrate the importance of being a lifelong learner, which involves a combination of persistence, resilience and confidence, including:

  • a willingness to make mistakes and repeated attempts
  • a growth mindset without an expectation of immediate success
  • confidence to say “I haven’t got it yet, but I’m working on it”
  • belief in the ability to succeed, either independently or with support
  • an ability to adjust future attempts according to feedback provided from the past.

I learned a lot in making this video, perhaps more about what doesn’t work than what does. But eliminating what doesn’t work is crucial in finding out what does. For example, I learned after repeated attempts on both, that selfie videos recorded with phone or iPad just weren’t going to be good enough. I learned that neither of the software programs for making videos I owned would allow me to achieve what I wanted on its own. I needed to combine recordings from each. After many trials I finally made something that at least has the semblance of an attempt.

Included in my passion for learning is a passion for learning about learning: how we learn, why we learn and the conditions that contribute to our learning. I am fascinated by learning that occurs at all ages, but particularly during early childhood.

In the process of repeated attempts described above, I responded constantly to feedback provided, and adjusted each new attempt accordingly. Feedback is necessary for learning. But perhaps more important than the feedback is the response to it.

Hopeful of getting some other feedback, I shared the video with my family on the weekend. They made some helpful suggestions. But perhaps the most interesting feedback, about feedback, was that given by my four-year-old granddaughter, G2.

G2 watched the video with her mother and immediately wanted to play the game. I was delighted, of course, and opened the resource on the iPad for her to use. She had no trouble manipulating the objects to make the ice creams and quickly made a few combinations. When I asked if a mango with strawberry on the top was the same as, or different from, a strawberry with mango on the top, she confidently explained that they were different because “this one’s got the strawberry on the top and this one’s got the mango on the top”. She went on making combinations.

icecreams

© Norah Colvin

After she’d made about ten combinations she asked, “Are we finished yet?” I said, “We can finish whenever you like.” I wasn’t using it as a “teaching episode”, simply as something fun for her to do. She asked again, “But are we finished? You know –“ and she indicated for something to happen on the screen showing that we had finished.

Suddenly I realised that she was wanting feedback from the program to tell her that she was finished, that she was successful; perhaps some bells, whistles or fireworks. Because I designed the resource as an open-ended teaching episode, for use by a teacher with a class rather than by individual children, the resource does not have any inbuilt feedback. The feedback occurs in the discussion between teacher and students.

What I intended as a teaching episode became, for me, a learning episode; thinking and learning about feedback.

  • G2 expected to receive feedback about completion, and
  • she wished to continue until she received that feedback.

However,

  • she doesn’t’ require feedback about completion from all apps, for example, drawing programs: she decides when she is finished, and
  • during play she decides which activity she will take up and when she will finish.

G2 has a good balance of activities with home and Kindy; indoor and outdoor with a variety self-selected and self-directed imaginative play mixed with cooperative activities including reading, board games and screen time with a variety of apps.

With such variety she receives feedback from many sources including self and others, as well as from manipulation with real and electronic objects. I think her question “Are we finished yet?” was related to use of the specific device and type of activity (game to her), not indicative of a generalised need for feedback from outside.

But what of children who are more engaged with electronic games, have less time for self-directed activity, and fewer opportunities to engage with others? Will the need for feedback from an outside source overtake the ability to provide feedback for self? I hope not. I believe the abilities to self-monitor, self-regulate and self-determine to be extremely important to life-long learning. What do you think?

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Which school? I found one!

school cropped

Most parents want to provide what is best for their children. However, they don’t always know what that best is, where it is available or how to get it. This is just as true of schooling as it is of anything else. Fortunately, most children are adequately schooled locally, be it at a state or privately run facility.

I attended a Catholic school and have taught in both the Catholic and State systems. I see little real difference between what is offered in local private and local public schools as far as philosophy, pedagogy and quality of teaching goes. The differences, as I see them, are more due to the inequities in funding for facilities and resources, the restriction to accessibility by the imposition of fees, and the ability of privately run organisations to decline students as opposed to the state’s willingness to cater for all.

While I think most schools do an excellent job of schooling, there are aspects I don’t like.

© Norah Colvin

© Norah Colvin

Fortunately, most children survive school and graduate adequately prepared for life in the adult world. But the scarring carried by many, whether visible or hidden, emotional or intellectual, is a cost that should not be accepted.

In this TED talk Sir Ken Robinson asks “Do Schools Kill Creativity? He explains why he thinks they do and the manner in which they do it. He ends the talk saying,

“our task is to educate their whole being, so they can face this future. … we may not see this future, but they will. And our job is to help them make something of it. “

By the time Bec was born I had already decided that I wanted more than schooling for her. I had read voraciously about learning and education. I had observed the magic of learning as my son wondered, questioned, explored and reignited my own curiosity, during his before school years. I saw those same traits inhibited by uninspiring teachers. I have written about this before here and in an article published in a teachers’ magazine when Bec was of school starting age. At that time, it was necessary to make decisions about her ongoing education.

To school or not to school

I had already explored local (and not-so local) alternatives. I attended information sessions, read their publications (no Google back then), and visited schools to observe their practices and speak with teachers, children and parents. Disappointingly I found none that met all of my criteria.

Some “schools” provided little stimulus or input to extend or challenge children’s thinking. Some were very structured and without flexibility in their approach. Some that claimed to be alternative appeared to be not so with uniforms and strict rules and timetables. Some that claimed to be mainstream were more child-focused with an organic curriculum matched to children’s interests, but lacked other things I sought.

When the pluses and minuses of each were considered, there wasn’t one with a compelling scoresheet. There was nothing for it but to found my own, a possibility I had been contemplating for some time and a “dream” shared by many teachers. The Centre of Learning Opportunities was born. These are some of the original documents drawn up by the team back then.

Vision

Symbol

outside

COLO brochure inside

While working to establish this alternative to school, I began an MPhil research project “Educational Diversity: Why school? What school?” which, as well as exploring educational alternatives, was to record the first year of an (my) alternative school. As part of the project I conducted a survey of local alternative schools with the aim of recording the diversity of approaches available in order to demonstrate that there is more than one way to obtain a quality education.

Although the degree went down the same dead end path as the school, I was able to (self) publish and distribute the results of my research to participating schools in a document titled “Diversity in Schooling: Discovering educational alternatives in South-East Queensland.” (Surprise, surprise, I have just discovered it in a Google search. How weird is that!)

Diversity

I was reminded of my research and this document by a recent discussion with Pauline King, The Contented Crafter in response to my post Life — A “choose your own” adventure. When I alluded to the wisdom of young children and “our” efforts to obliterate it, Pauline agreed and suggested that she could do a post-long comment on the topic.  I jumped at the chance and immediately invited her to do so. Pauline again agreed but suggested I refine a set of questions as she could fill a book with her ideas. I”m working on it.

Responding to The Industrious Child Pauline wrote,

“Teachers need to be SO flexible in their ability to see their world, their work, their class as a whole and their individual students – it is never a one step process and different expectations and challenges can be laid down for different abilities. Almost every child will shine somewhere within the curriculum and many struggle somewhere else. After all, we all have our different talents and abilities. Schools are structured to meet the needs of a certain academic ability and those who fall above or below that parameter are, in my opinion, so often mis-educated.”

It is obvious that Pauline, Ken Robinson, and I, along with many others, are part of the same revolution.

In another comment on my post I found it first Pauline shared that she had spent many years trying to establish a school of her own but had found “an already working alternative system and never regretted it.”

I think I have questions enough for Pauline to fill a book’s worth of posts and look forward to sharing some of these in the future. If you have questions of your own, please pop them into a comment and we’ll see what we can do.

Thank you

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