Tag Archives: Writing

Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

 

In this post I introduce you to Michael Rosen, the storyteller.  Michael’s story Going on a Bear Hunt many be more familiar to you than his name. But Michael Rosen is a storyteller extraordinaire and his website is a treasure trove to explore*.

*Note: Not all of Michael’s stories and videos are suitable for early childhood. Please preview them before presenting them to students.

One of my favourites of Michael’s stories is Chocolate Cake. Please follow the link to view it on his website.

In the story from when he was a boy, Michael sneaks downstairs in the middle of the night and eats all of the remaining chocolate cake, leaving not a skerrick for a lunchtime treat. If only he’d been able to restrain himself, then he would have had a treat as well.

Michael tells the humorous story with expressive voice and face. Children laugh out loud as they recognise themselves in the story, if only they dared (or did they?); and beg for it to be retold, often spontaneously joining in with the telling.

After a few repetitions, children are confident enough to retell the story independently, imitating many of Michael’s humorous gestures and intonations.

Listening to Michael tell stories is a great way to encourage the development of expression, in both telling and reading stories.

Suggestions for using the story:

Continue reading at: Storytelling with author Michael Rosen – Readilearn

I love poems – Readilearn

I love poems. Children do too. Poetry is a great way of introducing children to the joy of language, as well as to features such as rhythm, rhyme, alliteration, similes and metaphors. What is taught through poetry can be as simple or as complex as required by the ages of the children or your teaching purpose.

One of the great benefits of teaching young children through poetry is the fun aspect. It’s enjoyable for teachers and students alike and, when children innovate on poems to create poems of their own, very motivating.

With St Valentine’s Day not far away it is timely to read and write love poems. One of my favourite poems for writing with young children is based on the traditional camping song I love the mountains. I was taught the poem by the amazing literacy educator Bill Martin Jr at a reading conference in the 1980s, and used it with every group of children I taught thereafter. I have previously written about that on my other blog here.

The repetitive structure and easy melody invites children to join in and is easy for children to use in writing poems of their own, whether they are emergent, beginning, or advanced writers.  The poems can be completed using pictures or words.

This is one of my favourite versions of the song.

Continue reading: I love poems – Readilearn

What do you create?

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I am a fan of creativity. I like to develop my own creativity, and I like to encourage the development of creativity in others.

One thing I always loved about teaching was the opportunity it gave me to be creative: writing stories, units of work, and lessons plans to interest and excite the children about learning. It is this love that drives me to write my blog posts each week, and to create new early childhood teaching resources for readilearn nearly every week.

Just as exciting was the opportunity to support the development of children’s thinking, imagination, and creativity. I am more in favour of treating children as individuals, than as one of a homogeneous group from which any difference is considered an aberration.  After all, imagination and creative thinking are what inspire and drive improvement, innovation and progress.

I affirm my belief in the power of creativity in my tagline: ‘Create the possibilities . . .’, a tagline I previously used for an independent school I was establishing.

create-the-possibilities

Preceding both was my first independent undertaking: Create-A-Way.  Create-A-Way provided a richer educational and social setting for my young daughter than what was generally available, allowed me to share my educational philosophy and knowledge, and provided the same rich learning opportunities for other children and their parents. The development of imagination and creativity was a focus.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

One of the things I love most about responding to the weekly flash fiction challenges set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch is the additional opportunity to engage in something creative and to hone my writing skills. The supportive environment of a welcoming community makes it a safe and enjoyable experience. There is something affirming about belonging to a community of other creatives, online or in -person.

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On Saturday I, along with a whole bunch of other women creatives, attended an excellent Book Marketing Masterclass conducted by authorpreneur Karen Tyrrell. (I am looking forward to interviewing Karen for the Author Spotlight series on readilearn in March.) The class was attended by writers of a variety of genres; including memoir, romance, science fiction, fantasy, YA, and picture books.

One of the attendees Chrissy Byers has created a lovely picture book The Magic in Boxes which “aims to capture the imagination of young readers and inspire creative play.”

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Not only does the book suggest ways of stimulating creativity using recycled materials such as cardboard boxes, the book is made from recycled paper. I think that’s pretty awesome. It’s a beautiful book with a wonderful aim.

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For a little more on creativity; in a previous post, Are you a lemon or a grapefruit? I shared ten articles about creativity. They are still relevant and worthy of a read if you haven’t yet done so.

I also shared one of my favourite TED talks by Sir Ken Robinson How schools kill creativity. If yours is not yet one of the over 41 million views, I urge you to watch it. As well as sharing a very important message, Ken is hugely entertaining.

I hope I have convinced you of the importance and power of creativity. I thank Charli and her flash fiction prompt for the opportunity of revisiting some of my favourite articles and talks about creativity. This week her challenge is to “In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story using the theme, “women create.” It can be art, sewing, ideas, babies. What is at the heart of women as creators? Go where the prompt takes you.”

I’m a woman, and I create, and education is in my heart.

In response to Charli’s challenge, I thought I’d get a little dirty. I hope you like it.

Prize pies

“Life’s not on a plate. It’s what you create.”

Two little girls in their Sunday best

Snuck outside when they should have been at rest;

Splashed in the puddles, laughed in the rain,

Shared mud pies and murky champagne.

 

Two young girls with flour in their hair

Climbed on the bench from the back of a chair;

Opened up the cupboards, emptied out the shelves,

Less in the bowl and more on themselves.

 

Two young women watching TV

Decide master chefs are what they will be;

Enter the contest, invent new pies,

Wow the judges and win the prize.

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

 

 

Scratching around the quarry

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This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills has challenged writers to

“In 99 words (no more, no less) write a about a quarry. It can be a place or include the the by-product. The quarry can be operational, abandoned, it can be in real-tie or mentioned from another time. Where will the quarry take you? Go where the prompt leads.”

I usually find Charli’s prompts a challenge but, with a bit of digging around in the old brain cells, I can usually concoct something with which I am reasonably happy. This time I’ve been scratching around the surface but have found little worthy of further investigation.

I considered a story of epic proportions, as I can’t think of a quarry without thinking of Gilgamesh.

Many years ago, I took my teenage son and a friend to a performance of the ancient story in a disused quarry. Whether it was part of their English or theatre studies, or what prompted the outing, I can’t recall. I think they were no more familiar with this “first great work of literature” than I; and I knew nothing. The performance made a lasting impression, both for its setting and the repetitious dialogue. I recall little of the hero’s epic journey. We were amused rather than awed.

From Gilgamesh, I considered play of a different, but more familiar kind: play in a sandpit or the dirt with diggers and trucks.

The sandpit was always popular for play at lunchtime, particularly if diggers, trucks, and other tools were available. Often the same children would play day after day, creating and re-creating the same scene with roads, rivers, bridges, and cities. Each seemed to have a particular role and responsibility. Found objects; like leaves, bark, feathers, sticks, and stones, would also be incorporated into the designs.

This play was great for the imagination, and for developing the friendship skills of cooperation and getting along, teamwork and working together. Surely I could find a story in there? But any ideas disintegrated faster than the sandpit structures.

It seems timely then, to revisit previous discussions of the difficulty experienced by children when expected to write to a prompt that may have little significance for them, and about which they may have little opportunity for discussion, reflection or planning.

I discussed this in both Writing to order – done in a flash! and Writing woes – Flash fiction. I suggested that, rather than  using a one-piece response to a prompt to assess children’s writing, the use of portfolios would provide more valuable information about children’s writing development.

A portfolio, similar to that of professional writers, would consist of work at various stages: some as ideas jotted on slips of paper, some in planning stages, others in draft form, others completed and waiting for the next step, and others in publication. Rarely would a piece need to be completed in one sitting, let alone judged for it worth on the spot.

I believe that:

  • a one-off writing assessment task does not give students an opportunity to show their best work and puts pressure on them to perform
  • a portfolio of work collected over time provides a clear picture of student ability, development, and next steps for learning.

However, that writers have a choice about responding to Charli’s flash fiction prompts, makes the process quite different from that experienced by children responding to a prompt as a requirement.

Writers have a choice whether to participate, in what genre to respond, and how to interpret the prompt.

In recent posts Charli has discussed the importance of accepting our first drafts as “raw literature”, as part of the process. She provide us with the opportunity to hone our writing skills, and share and receive feedback on our writing in a safe, supportive environment. Surely this is no less important when encouraging young writers.

Out of sympathy for the requirements imposed on children almost every day, I thought it only fair to respond to Charli’s prompt. This is it.

The Quarry

Old and disused, the bare earth was dry with no hint of topsoil or sign of life. Rock fragments, remnants of its past, littered the surface still pockmarked by tyre tracks. One wall, etched by diggers’ teeth, stood silently telling its story. Circles of ash littered with shards of glass and cigarette butts told another. But tonight it was to tell a story as old as time.  Where once huge trucks had carted away boulders carved from its interior, now rough timber platforms stood.  As darkness fell, flaming torches cast an eerie light as storytellers wove their epic tale.

Thank you

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Introducing author and poet – June Perkins – Readilearn

This week on the readilearn blog I am talking to June Perkins about her wonderful collection of poems for children Magic Fish Dreaming. With the beautiful illustrations by Helene Magisson, this collection is a delight for the ears, the eyes, and the spirit. Read about June’s inspiration for the poems, and use them as inspiration for poems of your own, or use them to inspire poetry writing in your students.

Read June’s story at readilearn: Introducing author and poet – June Perkins – Readilearn

5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

I love to write poems. Children do too.

Giving young children a simple structure or a repetitive pattern to start from gets them thinking about words, how they sound, what they mean, the number of syllables and letters. All the while they are having fun, playing with words and sounds, and learning about language.

Five easy poems to write with children are:

  • Acrostic poems
  • Sound poems
  • Haiku
  • “I love” poems, and
  • Shape poems

Acrostic poems are one of the easiest. They don’t need to rhyme or follow a set rhythmic pattern.

Click to continue reading: 5 forms of poetry to write with children – Readilearn

 

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.

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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

 

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