Where happiness lives by Barry Timms and Greg Abbott


Where does happiness live? How do you find it and hold onto it?


This delightful picture book Where happiness lives by Barry Timms and Greg Abbott is not only a cleverly rhymed story but the illustrations are intricate and the peep holes through to the adjoining pages make the story lots of fun.

The story begins at Grey Mouse’s house. It i safe, roomy and filled with friends and family. Grey Mouse thinks he has a wonderful life until he spies a much bigger house far off in the distance.

Thinking that a big house with many beautiful things must mean happiness, little grey mouse and his friend White mouse go on a journey to find what they think will make them happy.

But it is along the way that the reader can pick up on the things that the little mice are not noticing – the fluttering butterflies, the singing birds and the sweet smelling flowers – and wonder why they think that a big house with lots of treasures will somehow give them more.

It isn’t until they meet the brown mouse that they realise what true happiness is.

This book will spark conversations about what makes us happy and why we feel that things make this happiness. We live in a society where we are told to buy more and spend up to feel good – but we need to start to teach our children that this is not the pathway to be taken.

Where happiness lives by Barry Timms and Greg Abbott is a great springboard to inspire young children to stop and look at what they have, appreciate the goodness in the simplicity of life and the beauty that friendships can bring.

Buy here today

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For the wild – links to great books and actions.

Without oceans in pristine condition, life as we know it will not be one any more…

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A recent mapping exercise has outlined that only 13% of the world’s oceans are in true pristine condition.

This means that only 13% can sufficiently support wildlife in all it’s forms – free of stressors such as plastics, shipping, overfishing, chemical pollution, run off, human activity and many more ways we change the world.

We need to take action now and you can take action in some very easy steps.

For the wild ocean

And check out these books to start some great conversations about water and the wonders it holds – so we don’t lose it!

If shark’s disappeared

The Coral Kingdom

Zobi and the Zoox 

Ori’s clean up

Tilly’ reef adventure

 

Love chocolate? Read on

I am sure that most of the population love a piece of chocolate here or there but do we ever think about where it comes from?

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A recent article discusses some major chocolate companies and their bid to decrease deforestation and child labour in key areas where cocoa is grown.

A lesson in the classroom or at home that involves chocolate is always a fun lesson

So how about:

For the love of chocolate (and humanity)-3

Stories make us determined

The theme from the Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs, for this month is

Reading stories make us determined

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But why?  

  • We can be determined to finish a book. Finishing a great book brings about satisfaction that we can read and Enjoyment that we read a great book (and perhaps learnt something). (any great book!)

  • We can be inspired to do something we have only dreamed out once we read about a character  doing something amazing. (<Once Upon a Small Rhinoceros by Meg McKinlay)

  • We can protest about a wrong doing in society because we read about the injustices of the world.  (The ones that disappeared by Zana Frallion)

  • We can look towards people who are determined to save wildlife from extinction and aspire to be like them. (Phasmid by Coral Tulloch and Rhino in the house by Daniel Kirk)

  • We can be in awe of the determination of the main character to keep on keeping on despite adversity (Once and Then by Morris Gleitzman)

  • We can be determined to rights the wrongs of the past and make the future a better place (Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh)

 

Do you know of some great books that show determination?

When the mountains roared by Jess Butterworth

Ever since her mum died, Ruby has been afraid. Of cars. Of the dark. Of going to sleep and never waking up. But then the last remaining leopards of the mountain are threatened and everything changes. 

Without warning Ruby’s mother is killed in outback Australia. Her mother, a herpetologist  leaves a gaping hole in Ruby and because of this sudden loss, she doesn’t know how to cope.

Ruby’s father and grandmother are also struggling to deal with this loss and we see this in the first chapter when they race to get away from Australia and on a boat into India without warning – to manage an abandoned hotel at the foot of the Himalayas.

At first Ruby hates living in this remote location but as time goes on she makes a friend, learns about the mountains and sees how much help she can be to the local wildlife.

But despite this new found love of the mountains she soon discovers a dark secret that it hides – poachers. These poachers are on the hunt for endangered leopards and will do anything to hide what they are up to.

You will fall in love with the mountains of India and be in awe of the determination and strength that Ruby displays despite the loss she has just experienced.

Children will relate to Ruby and Praveen and their ability to see beyond what adults see when it comes to making a difference in the world.

When the mountains roared by Jess Butterworth is an excellent read, set out in small chapters and adorned with leopard print, young readers will find this book a page turner yet a mananagable one.

When the mountains roared is a great book for a class novel study as it links in India and Australia, animal conservation and natural disasters.

So what else can you do with this book?

 – Find out where Ruby moves to from reading the description in the novel. Work out how long it would take to get there by boat and bus.

– Does this book have any similarities to Jess Butterworth’s other book ‘Running on the roof of the world”?

– Where in the world are animals poached and why does this happen? Explore what poaching means and measures in place to stop this from happening.

– Explore the differences in children’s lives around the world. Compare Ruby’s life in Australia to Praveen’s life in India as a goat herder.

– What are superstitions and why do they exist? Do you have any superstitions? How can superstitions be helpful and harmful?

– How many leopards (different types) are left in the world? Is poaching the only reason they are endangered?

Teacher notes written by Vanessa

Have a look at the notes I have produced recently and ask me how I can help develop teacher notes for your novel or picture book.

‘The teachers’ notes Vanessa prepared for me were well thought out, comprehensive and completed in a timely manner. They captured the essence of Esme’s Wish very well and would make a valuable addition to any teacher’s tool kit.’ Elizabeth Foster, Esme’s wish. 
 

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster, http://elizabethfoster.com.au

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Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh

Alfred had fought in the Great war, but his bravery was not part of the nation’s remembering. He was one of the forgotten soldiers.

A powerful picture book for children aged 7+, Alfred’s War by Rachel Bin Salleh highlights the lack of recognition given to Australian Indigenous servicemen who returned from WWI.

Alfred lived where he liked to live, outside, under the stars, beneath gum trees or by the fire. He lived free and happy as a gardener and labourer, far from home. When he signed up for war not only did he experience the horror of war but also the horror of returning home without recognition for what he did to save Australia.

Many men and women returned from war, scarred from the awful experience they had and many did not receive the support they should have – but to be forgotten would have added more insult to the injuries he sustained.

Indigenous Australians have had many injustices done to them since 1788

Rachel Bin Salleh has written a beautiful story and it really pulls at the heart strings. Children will have so many questions to ask and this is a wonderful thing. We talked about war and we talked about indigenous Australians. We talked about many things I didn’t think younger children would want to listen to, but they did because they saw an injustice in the world.

Samantha Fry’s illustrations add more emotion to each page of the story, giving more meaning to who Alfred was and what he did for Australia.

Creating stories that are told through picture like this are so important and we need to make more of them so that the mistakes of history are not created again and again.

What else can you do?

  •  Talk about war – be honest without too many details. Talk about wars that have been and wars that are still raging. Explore why they start and how they finish.
  • Talk about indigenous people of Australia, what happened to them and why. Look at the indigenous language map of Australia to see where different tribes lived and where some still live today.
  • Why were the indigenous people forgotten about?
  • Look at the different colours used on each page and how those colours make you feel.

BUY HERE – click on book below.

Alfred's War

Draw a story

This month, The Australian Children’s Laureate, Leigh Hobbs has suggested that we focus on drawing a story.


The idea behind drawing a story is to show how much the illustrations can change how we see the story. The illustrations can give us the viewpoint of someone or something in the story or just allow us to be observers.

Illustrations can help us to feel stronger emotions or to understand what the author really means.

Illustrations play a vital role in picture books and allow us to stop and think about what we have just read, search the page for more meaning and look at how different illustrators portray ideas.

There are more great graphic novels coming out – picture book and comic style.  And these types of books are a great place to start looking at how illustrations can tell a story all on thier own.

There are some wonderful ideas on the website and also an event but how can you use these ideas if you don’t have access to the books at home or at your school?

  • Last week my son (3) and I sat down. He drew three pictures then put them in order and told me a story as he looked back on what he had drawn. He learnt how to sequence the story, how to start a story and how to finish it – He even managed a complication in between! It was fun, it was easy and he learnt a lot – learning doesn’t always have to be formalised when it comes to books!
  • Explore Graphic novels that I have reviewed: Illegal, The arrival
  • Find an image and make up your own story. Try Bronwyn Bancroft’s art

National Threatened species day

Today is National threatened species day and a great day to pull out a book so you can learn more about an animal that is in need of help.

What is a threatened species?

A threatened species is an animal or plant that has numbers which are becoming lower. This could be due to loss of habitat, feral animals or disease.

Why celebrate?

This day is celebrated in order to raise awareness of how we can start to reverse the decline in numbers and reflect on the past – where we have let animals become critically endangered or extinct.

What can you do?

Pick up some books:

CLICK ON IMAGE TO BUY FROM FISHPOND – FREE DELIVERY! 

Koala Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect Rhino in the House: The Story of Saving Samia One Small Island   A-Z of Endangered Animals

CLICK ON IMAGE TO READ BOOK REVIEW AND TEACHER NOTES

Koala by Claire Saxby

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Phasmid by Rohan Cleve

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Rhino in the House by Daniel Kirk

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A-Z of Endangered animals by

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One small island  by Alison Lester

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Create a poster to share with otherscheck out my blog post on this activity.

Encourage a public speaking competition where children creatively teach others about endangered species

Write your own stories about an endangered animal who has been saved just like Rhino in the House or Phasmid or The Hairy Nosed Wombats Find a new home.  

Check out my simple lesson plan here: Writing a non fiction picture book

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What will do to to help children learn more on threatened species day?

Finding your child’s gift

Have you ever wondered if your child is gifted?

Perhaps they taught themselves to read at an early age?

Maybe they display empathy towards others beyond their years?

Some gifted children can manipulate numbers ten years before their age peers.

Being gifted can be seen in many different ways and although my blog has a strong focus on books and global issues, gifted education is something very close to my heart.

Having a masters in Gifted ed and working closely with gifted children over many years of teaching I have come across gifted children in all different types of classrooms.

One issue many gifted children have is not being recognised by their teacher. Parents often have a good sense (but sometimes doubt themselves or don’t know who to compare their children to) of what their children can and can’t do – and need to pass this onto their child’s teacher.

In order for our children to be supported we need to recognise the gifts they have and support them.

Here are some possible ways you can recognise if your child is gifted

  • Walk and/or talk early
  • Have an unusual sense of humour
  • Be very curious and ask complex questions
  • Show an early or intense interest in books, often learning to read at a young age
  • Make unusual connections between topics
  • Be self motivated, perfectionist, persistent or independent
  • Have a long attention span and unusual memory for details or facts
  • Learn rapidly, with little practice
  • Think faster than they are able to write
  • Prefer the company of older children
  • Have unusual perception and problem solving ability
  • Worry about adult issues and problems
  • Need less sleep than most children
  • Not always show their abilities in a school setting

It is important to remember that:

  1. Giftedness is not static – it is always changing so don’t arum just because your child can’t read at two that they are not gifted.
  2. Anyone can be gifted – It is not restricted to age, race, gender or disabilities/abilties.
  3. Being gifted does not always mean you are gifted in everything – You may only be gifted in one particular area

 

There are many different ways gifted children can be supported depending on their needs, some are:

  • Subject acceleration
  • Grade acceleration
  • Mentoring
  • External programs with like minded peers
  • Working alongside teachers in planning how they learn.

There was a great article in the Australian today stating that one of the key problems gifted students face is boredom in the classroom which can lead to low self esteem, poor behaviour and disengagement with education. As parents and teachers we need to make ourselves aware of what to look for in order to identify gifted students and then how we can best support them so that their gifts turn into talents.

I will be running a course for both parents and teachers later on this year, please register your name by emailing me if you are interested: nes.ryan@bigpond.com

 

Gifted Ed - The Australian 21st July.jpg

 

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle.

Mrs White and the Red Desert by Josie Boyle, illustrated by Maggie Prewett is a fascinating story about life in the desert for three children and the trouble with the red dust that blows in and over everything in it’s path!


This group of desert children invite their school teacher, Mrs White, home for dinner to show her why they always bring in grubby homework. BUT – little do they know what mother nature has in store for them all!

They live in a higgledy-piggledy house with a higgledy -piggledy garden but they play outside, tell stories in the sand, have vivid imaginations and love learning.

Maggie Prewett’s illustrations highlight the spareness of the desert and dominance of the red sand after a sand storm! It reminded me of the many times I have spent in the desert and the fact that even months after returning home, I still found that red dust in pockets of clothes and gaps in the car seals!

I loved reading this story to my children and to classes at my school during library lessons as I was able to tell them about the desert and the amazing landscape we have in Australia. We were able to discuss how theses people live near waterways and if they don’t – water needs to be trucked in – a very foreign concept to city based children.

When we read books to children we open their minds to how other children live and therefore increase empathy and awareness of the world around them.

So what can you do with this story at home or in the classroom?

  • Look at a map of Australia and see where remote communities live. How do these people live in these areas?
  • How do children go to school when they live remotely? Explore School of the Air and Central schools. Compare how you go to school to how they do. Look at this school in Broken Hill 
  • How did the children in this story pass on stories and learn? Have you ever told a story without writing it down? Try and tell a story or two using only spoken word and perhaps a drawing or two as you talk.
  • How did they use their imagination when they heard unusual sounds? Close your eyes and listen to the outside world – imagine what those different sounds could be.
  • Explore personification throughout this story. How does making the objects alive add to the story? Create your own personification sentences.

Looking further:

 

 

Don’t forget the numeracy skills

There is a lot of focus on Literacy skills – and so there should be BUT numeracy is equally important and the embedding of those basic skills in the early years is really important.

However, many parents may feel that numeracy doesn’t play a role in home readers and sight words BUT it can.

  •  Count the letters in each word in the selected group of sight words. Group them according the number of letters in each group.
  •  Clap out and talk about or write down the amount of syllables in each word.
  •  Stretch out each word and count how many sounds there are in the word as opposed to just letters. (e.g. shop has ‘sh’ ‘o’ ‘p’)

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When reading:

  •  Look at the page numbers – discuss odd and even numbers. Look at how many pages there are and count on from the last number.
  • How many illustrations are in the story?
  • How many full stops?
  • How long is the book? Use informal measurements such as fingerspaces before you measure in centimetres.
  • How heavy is the book? What might it weigh the same as?
  • What shape is the book? What else is shaped like this? Count sides and then think about why books are square and not triangle or circular!

 

And perhaps consider this article, a very good reason to help your child to love mathematics: http://www.smh.com.au/national/education/a-dire-lack-of-interest-in-students-wanting-to-pursue-maths-careers-20170330-gv9pwa.html

 

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan

‘Never step on a snail’

Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan explores a relationship between two boys or brothers over the course of the summer holidays. This book is shelved in the Fiction section of our library and although younger readers may enjoy the pictures – it really is a book for readers who can think more deeply about what is happening as each page is turned.

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There is no particular narrative in this story but rather a series of rules that one must not forget if they are to survive summer.

Each page adds more intrigue to the story being told through pictures and leaves many questions being asked by the reader. You may find many questions of self reflection being asked about children’s own approach to different situations and why that crow appears in nearly every page.

We had a lot of fun working through this picture book in four lessons. If you would like to go on a summer journey too: Visit my TPT store to purchase the lesson outline you can use with your group to explore:

– Details of the pictures

– The role adults play in the lives of children.

– Changing perspective.

– Creative thinking through the KAPLAN model.

Playing a role in your child’s education

How can I play the best role in my child’s education is one question that many parents ask. 

This is a great question and more parents need to ask this. It seems that many parents see school as a separate entity where they send their child to learn and there is no connection with what they do or day at home with how their child achieves at school

But, there is a strong link and if parents become positively involved in their child’s education their child will be more motivated, have higher self esteem and higher self efficacy. It is important to note that we do not want to smother our children if we are to be involved in their education, we just need to support them in a positive manner.

There are some simple steps you can follow.

  1. Understand your child, where they excel and where they need support.
  2. Know the school and the best schooling option for your child. Understand their policies, teaching methods and how they cater for different children within the classroom.
  3. Connect with the school – this could be through meeting the teacher, taking part in parent and family school activities, volunteering somewhere in the school, reading the school newsletter etc.
  4. Get to know other parents in the school community. This will make your school experience positive and influence how you speak about the school. Getting to know the parents of the children your child is friends with is also a positive step in knowing your child better.
  5. Don’t be negative in front of your child. When you are unhappy with something that has happened at school try to find out as much as possible before commenting. Your child needs to see you being fair to the school and the teachers.
  6. Trust your instincts about your child. You know what is best for them so support them in the way that is best for them.
  7. Involve your child in the decision making process throughout their schooling. Remember it is ultimately their education. You can help them make their decisions but make sure it is in the best interest of your child.

But what else? 

Ultimately, at school,  we want our child to learn new ways of thinking, new facts and new skills but we also want to develop their social skills and emotional skills. By playing a positive role in your child’s education that is not smothering is key. We want our children to be resilient and self confident so that they can make decisions themselves without us always having to be nearby. By showing that you are involved in the school, are positive towards to school and have belief in your child is the first step.

Resilience is something that parents can develop at home. There is a great model called the Resilience Doughnut and is definitely worth checking out as it is such a useful tool for parents.

Basically the doughnut’s centre represents the intrinsic beliefs and motivations of a person. It looks at how the person views themselves, how confident they are and who they feel they can go to for support.

The outside of the doughnut has seven factors which are all related to external influences on the person’s life. They are:

  • The Parent Factor: characteristics of strong and effective parenting .
  • The Skill Factor: evidence of self-competence. How does the person view their abilities?
  • The Family and Identity Factor: What is your family identity?  How do we connect to our family? Do we feel respected? Accepted? Siblings? Trusting adult?
  • The Education Factor: experience of connections and relationships during the learning process. How do we feel towards teachers? Strong relationships with teachers? High expectations? Optimistic? Positive world view? Enjoyment of learning?
  • The Peer Factor: where social and moral development is enhanced through interactions with peers. Development and maintenance of friendship? Belonging, acceptance, peer support, loyalty, self regulation.
  • The Community Factor: where the morals and values of the local community are transferred and the young person is supported. Sporting clubs, religious groups, activity groups…Having links to the local community and supportive social services has been shown to have a major impact on contributing to building resilience Shared values.
  • The Money Factor: where the young person develops the ability to give as well as take from society through employment and purposeful spending. Learn about spending, consuming, material possesions, self regulation. Budgeting, gratefulness.

So that’s just a snapshot of the resilience donut, I recommend you sit down and take a look at it so you can ensure you are playing the best role in your child’s education – remembering not just school facts and skills but skills for life.

The importance of nature play. 

There is a lot of new research coming out on the importance of play and the importance of play outside.

As a teacher I have always observed children learning best when they are in a relaxed and informal environment. In saying this, there is always a place for teaching and mentoring but there is also a place for exploration, making mistakes and collaboration.


I love being outside – it just makes me happier. I love being in natural areas where there is less human activity and more time to sit back and admire what is around us. So when I became a librarian I couldn’t think of a better way to get children outside than through books!

Research shows that playing outside increases happiness, problem solving and motivation. When children play outside they use more imagination as there are less boundaries, they can problem solve and they can learn about the world they live in through their 5 senses.


Now, you often think of books as an inside activity – which they can be (and often are) and this is fine BUT what if we can take ideas from these books and use them to inspire some outdoor play?

Here are some books which might inspire you to take a trip outside!

 

Go on an adventure

We are going on a bear hunt

This is a classic book that we all know and love. It is so much fun to read and sing to and is a favourite of ours.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Go on your own bear hunt! Find some swishy grass, splashy water and sloshy mud – lots of fun!
  • Can you go on a native Australian animal hunt? Which animals live in your area?
  • Pack a bag and go on a short hike. Think of the different things you need to cope with storms, rain, wind and sunshine!

Worm explorers

The worm who knew karate by Terry Denton and Jill Lever

The worm who knew karate By Jill Lever and Terry Denton is a hilarious book about a worm who decides to become a braver and stronger worm through the art of karate! Which made me think….how can we help our children to build their confidence? And what do those worms in my worm farm really get up to? Maybe it’s a secret dojo I have never been aware of….

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • go and dig up some dirt – find some earth worms!
  • Go and buy a worm farm or explore your local community garden worm farm.
  • Feed the worms – what do they like best?

Create a garden

The curious Garden by Peter Brown

One boy’s quest for a greener world, one garden at a time.

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown is a book based on fact. The Highline is an abandoned railway line that people began to take back over and return it back to nature and open spaces for people to enjoy.

It is a poignant book as many cities, suburbs and towns are starting to explore how they can become greener, literally.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Keep a seed diary – plant a seed and watch it grow! (use quick growing seeds like herbs, beans or sunflowers)
  • Look at a local park or your own backyard and redesign it so there is more growing and more green.
  • Make an inventory of the nature in your area. Discuss biodiversity of plants and animals.

Explore insects

Mechanics by Lance Baldachin

Mechanica: A beginner’s field guide by Lance Baldachin is a picture book for those who love the earth but wonder what is to become of it if we keep treating it the way we do.

It is circa 2250 and the earth is devoid of any natural life due to human destruction and consumption. However, mechanical creatures have been made to replace what was lost – though these are not always as kind as they look!

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Find some insects and sketch them. Look at how they move their arms and legs. Try to recreate an insect out of natural material.
  • Create an insect house for your local insects. Many insects are lacking in city gardens as there are not enough small holes for them to live in.
  • Look for signs of life cycles of insects  – these can be hard to find but it will make your child look in the small places that we often overlook.

Explore new places

Bogtrotter by Margaret Wild

The Bogtrotter is a delightful creature that lives in the bog – a gloomy, marshy, mushy bog! Bogtotter, written by Margaret Wild is a book that focuses on belonging, trying new things, playing outdoors, loneliness and discovery.

The illustrations by Judith Rossell are marvellous, really bringing to life the Bogtrotter and his feelings.

The reader steps through into the life of the Bogtrotter, watching him start off doing the same thing every day, not knowing how to make a change. It is through talking to other animals around him and picking a flower that he sees that there is more to his bog.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Go to a new park, a new national park or any outdoor space.
  • Walk a path you walk everyday but do it slowly and try to notice the small things as you go along. Talk to people, say hello and notice what is happening.
  • Take something outside that you normally do inside – does it make a difference?

 

Imagination

Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn

I loved reading Incredibilia by Libby Hathorn and illustrated by Gaye Chapman to my children, the pictures really transport you to an imaginative world full of crazy creatures, whispy clouds and natural beauty. We loved looking at each page and imagining what Georgie was thinking about, what she was playing and how the others could play to.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Take some ribbons, balls, string and scraps and see what you can do with them outside rather than a specific toy.
  • Create new names for the local insects, trees and flowers in your garden or local park – imagination!
  • Go somewhere or find something that you think is incredibilia!

Being Green

Leaf by Stephen Michael King

Leaf shows the love of nature that children can have when given the chance. It also shows the adult world and how everything needs to be neat, tidy and regimented. A sad story on adults behalf!

In this magical story a little boy  grows his own seedling in his hair and loves it, cares for it and shares many adventures with it. He spends every waking minute finding the best way to care for his seedling.

Unfortunately it’s time for a haircut and the adult world tries to take his small tree away from him. However, his determination and resilience shines through and he continues to care for the tree as he grows older.

This is a beautifully drawn book which not only intrigues the reader but really hits the spot on how we need to take a step back and let the natural world become a part of our daily lives.

After you read this book, with your child you can…..

  • Perform a puppet show outside with leaves as the characters – draw on them and create a story!
  • What can you grow out of different substances? Explore how seeds grow and what they need to grow.
  • How heavy are different trees. Use problem solving to try and work this out.

 

I hope this has inspired you to read some books and play outside! I have many more ideas each week on my blog so please sign up to flickingonthebook.wordpress.com

 

 

When should we send children to school?

This is a question that I am asked very often!

child-and-school

The main people who ask this are parents of children who are born between Jan – June – they are either going to be the youngest in their grade: Still four when they begin the school year or will be the eldest, possibly turning six before they begin school.

So, as  a parent, what do you need to consider for your child?

  • If your child goes to preschool or daycare ask what they think. They see your child in a different way to a parent so trust their opinion.

 

  • Consider if your child is ready emotionally. Do they cry easily? Do they anger easily? How do they solve problems? Although your child will learn these skills as they grow up, in order for them to be happy socially, they need to be able to get along with other children as much as possible. They need to be able to talk to other adults and deal with small problems without breaking down. Keep in mind that some children will always be sensitive – have a look at this article about overexcitabilities to see if your child fits into this category: http://sengifted.org/archives/articles/overexcitability-and-the-gifted

 

  • There is some new research that is shows there can be harm in sending your child to school early rather than sending them late. BUT in saying that some children will be ready early as perhaps they have an older sibling or perhaps they are socially ready, eager and ready to learn. Check your child is ready – don’t send them because you want them to go or their friends are going. Send them because they are ready. 

 

  • Don’t think that sending them early is going to mean they will be able to read within a month. Kindergarten is now a time and a space for children to learn through play. Lessons are not as formal as they used to be and children are encouraged to move, talk and touch things in order to learn. Children need time to learn and by pushing them to know their alphabet or sight words will just turn them away from their ingrained passion to learn.

 

  • In saying that – read to your child. Encourage them to sound out words but do it in a fun way. No threats! Yes, reading is a very important skill and once we learn to read we can do so many things BUT pushing your child can teach them the incorrect skills which can do a lot more harm than good.

I once taught a kindergarten girl who was an excellent reader but had no comprehension skills. This was causing a very big issue as she was slowly dropping in her self esteem – she thought she could read and had been praised but now there was something related to reading that she couldn’t do. She had to go back to basics which was very difficult for her. 

 

  • Talk to the school. Ask what they think and allow them to meet your child. They may have open sessions where they can watch your child interact with other children around them and also how they approach different activities.

 

  • Trust yourself. You know your child better than anyone else. Trust that you know what is best for your child. You have raised them to be the best person they can be so far and I am sure you can continue to. Trust that you know what your child can do.

 

  • Keep reading those picture books! Enlighten your child to the world around them. Let them see words, play with vocabulary and have fun looking at pictures.

Crusts by Danny Parker

Wow! This book is so much fun and so creative.

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Who would have thought a great story of loss, adventure, creativity and hope would all stem from some crusts of bread!

Crusts by Danny Parker and Matt Ottley is an adventure story which will inspire those of any age to think about how something small and simple can make a big difference if we put our minds to it!

What would you do if you had kept all your crusts from your childhood? Our main character, Jacob comes up with a brilliant idea and saves a neighboring planet from doom.

So how can we link this to sustainability? 

  • Think about what you do at home or at school with your food scraps? Food waste that is placed in a regular bin can take up to three times longer (or more) than scraps placed in a compost bin or worm farm. Compost bins and worm farms are very easy to come by and require minimal maintenance. Perhaps considering buying one or making your own!
  • Conduct a food experiment at home. Test how long food takes to decompose. Place some in the compost bin, some in the worm farm, some in a plastic bag in the outside bin. Although it is a stinky experiment try to do it for about three weeks. See what happens! You will be surprised!!
  •  Perhaps adults don’t waste their crusts but I am sure many of them waste those disposable coffee cups. What can you do with those waxy lined coffee cups? Or better still – could you buy yourself a reusable cup?

Coffee cup ideas:

  • Plant some seeds in them for the garden
  • Cut them down to make mini bird feeders.
  • Turn them upside down to make some mini scare crows (or chicken scarers)

Left overs

  • What can you make with your dinner left overs (before they go into the compost bin) a fun, yet messy activity! Allows for creativity and imagination.

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We made a little hanger for birds and possums. This was the tops of some burnt cupcakes. (Whoops, we were playing outside and forgot the timer)

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  • Visit places in your local area who collect excess objects that can be put to use in other ways. Reverse garbage is great and you can come away with lots of goodies for craft.

Social Justice

Learn about companies that put left over food to good use. 

Think about how you can create less food waste by being creative with leftovers.

Creating

Create your own spaceship out of food scraps – real or imaginary. Draw up the plan to scale and work out how you would stick it all together. Lots of fun!

 

I loved this book and I hope you have fun with it too!

 

Mechanica: A beginner’s field Guide by Lance Baldachin.

How would our planet look if insects did not exist?

Can butterflies be beautiful and brutal?  

Are drones a necessary evil? 

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Mechanica: A beginner’s field guide by Lance Baldachin is a picture book for those who love the earth but wonder what is to become of it if we keep treating it the way we do.

It is circa 2250 and the earth is devoid of any natural life due to human destruction and consumption. However, mechanical creatures have been made to replace what was lost – though these are not always as kind as they look!

This very impressive picture book with detailed diagrams of futuristic insects, small animals and birds captured my attention immediately.

Children will love reading the details about each creature and looking at the intricate designs Lance has included.

There is a glimmer of hope in the Addendum – perhaps nature will always fight us and our consuming ways.

How can you use this book at home or in the classroom?

Science

  • With every animal in the story try to compare and contrast it to a real animal in your own country (if possible) (Links in to higher order thinking skills)
  • Choose any insect in our world and explore how that insect helps us to grow food, keep soil healthy or rid waste.
  • Create your own Mechanica creature. Give it a new name. Outline the details similar to Lance Baldachin descriptions.
  • Create the life cycle for these Mechanica. How is their life cycle altered when they turn bad?
  • What are drones? Explore the history of drones and wonder if we really need them….

Geography

  • Using a world map find out where these futuristic creatures live. Ask why they might live in these regions and not others.
  • What sort of Mechanica could live in your home town?

Literacy

  • Write a journal from the perspective of Miss Liberty Crisp. Outline her journey through the Orient, her experiences in Saraswati and her excursion to the National History Museum.
  • Write a persuasive outlining to others the importance of starting to take care of the world we live in. Present this in a TV advert – make it catchy, straight to the point yet entertaining.

Art

  • Create your own mechanics using recycled materials. Find old nails, bolts, cutlery etc. Not only are you creating something from waste but you are also alerting children on how much waste we do create!

 

Welcome to future Earth.
Despite repeated warnings, the environment has become polluted to such an extent that many areas of the globe have become uninhabitable, and wildlife is now extinct.
From the ashes, a new style of ‘wildlife’ is created. Wildlife that will not remain harnessed by humankind.

Welcome to the world of Mechanica.

Back Cover: Mechanica – Lance Balchin

A River by Marc Martin

How is a river like our body’s circulatory system?

How is the river in this story like an idea? 

Rivers have opened up the world and closed them off. Discuss. 

A river by Marc Martin (published by Penguin Books) feels peaceful from the front cover.  It’s dreamlike illustrations and gentle words found peace and quiet in our reading time today.

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From a window and the young girls imagination takes the reader on a journey of the river from the busy, smoggy city to the calm and colourful jungle.

We see cities, farms, green hills, jungles and mangroves.

Animals are hidden within the landscape which give time for wandering eyes to pause on the picture that little bit longer.

Through this story you can learn about the endless cycle of rivers and the water within them.

It is mesmerizing and meditative, inspiring and illuminating.

So what can you do?

Join my Facebook page and group: educateempower11 or closed group for teaching ideas : growing globally and socially conscious children. https://m.facebook.com/groups/362368594250457

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  • Collect some leaves. Categorise the leaves into size, shape, colours, lines and points!
  • Use these leaves to re create a picture from Marc Martin’s book, The River!theriver2
  • Collect some rain – where can you put the rain? How much was collected? You could keep a rain diary over a month or more.

Enjoy – let me know what you think!

Fuzzy Doodle by Melinda Szymanik

Creativity seems to be a recurring theme at the moment – and I love creativity, it links in so many different topics and encourages thinking in so many different ways.

Fuzzy Doodle is a sophisticated picture book that delves into creativity through a small fuzzy doodle that magically comes to life through eating ink and words. Each page brings our imagination to life as we see this small scribble develop, change and grow into a beautiful butterfly. The pictures are eye catching and children love seeing the transformation of the print as Fuzzy grows.

 

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Fuzzy Doodle uses different poetic devices to tell us the story in a sing song fashion and really captures readers of all ages.

The pictures are stunning and the illustrator Donovan Bixley has used an array of painting and drawing techniques to show the little Fuzzy Doodle change and grow.

 

So how can we use this at home or in the classroom?

Science

Literacy

  • Explore the adjectives, adverbs, nouns and verbs used within this story. How does Fuzzy eat the words? Think of as many different words as you can for eating and rank the words from the hungriest type of eating to the least. Rank them from the politest to the rudest types of eating.

Creative thinking

  • Create your own doodle and swap with a partner. Ask them to grow and change the doodle so it grows into something.

Sustainability

  • Explore small insects and how they grow and develop over time. Explore why we need insects to make the world go around.

 

Curriculum Links

Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)

 

Living things, including plants and animals, depend on each other and the environment to survive (ACSSU073)  

Living things grow, change and have offspring similar to themselves (ACSSU030)

Circle by Jeannie Baker

Circle is another visually striking masterpiece created by Jeannie Baker.

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As a young boy watches from the confines of his wheelchair, we learn about the annual migratory path of the Bar Tailed Godwit.

The Godwit takes part in a truly amazing journey, covering around 11,000 km in order to breed and feed.

Jeannie Baker’s images capture the landscape that the Godwit has to come across, highlighting the damage the humans are doing to not only the land by over developing but also to the many migratory animals who rely on different areas of the world to take part in their life cycle.

Circle teaches us about the Godwit’s journey through imaginative language and beautiful scenery. It allows the reader to take into account the difficult journey that these birds need to take every year in order to survive.

We also see the length of time through the eyes of the young boy as by the end he is out of his wheel chair – yet still dreaming of flying.

This is a beautiful book which can be read by all ages and understood in many different ways.

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SO how can we use this book in the classroom?

Before you read

  •   What is a God wit?
  • Where do they travel throughout the year?

As you read

  • pinpoint the countries on an adjoining map that the Godwit visits so children have an idea of the distances between countries
  • Look for other animals that can be seen, note them so you can find out more about their migratory paths.

After you read

SCIENCE

  • Research a migratory animal which has been effected by human development. Find out how it has been effected and if the animal has made it’s own changes to the path or if it’s numbers have gone into decline. Compare and contrast the different animals.
  • Life cycles: Map out the life cycle of the Godwit. Examine the different parts of their life cycle and predict what might happen if the wetlands disappear.
  • How do scientists know where these birds migrate to?
  • Can you create a better way to monitor the birds migration patterns?
  • If the Godwit’s cannot land in China, what are the roll on effects for not only the Godwit but other animals or plants? Could it land elsewhere? Investigate the terrain and habitats needed by the Godwit. 
  • Would humans have a better understanding of the world if they still had a path of migration?

GEOGRAPHY

  • Human over development: Where in your own community has over development taken place – ask this question before you provide any materials.
  • Look at different case studies of over development and if any action is being taken place to rectify the issues.
  • Look into why we have National Parks and world Heritage areas and how they have protected areas. Places to look at include: The Great Barrier Reef, Tasmanian forests, Galilee Basin, Murray-Darling River, Clarence FloodPlain, Collaroy Beach (storm of June 2016).
  • Learn more about some great places to visit around Australia. Man made structures are abundant but so are the natural ones. How can we ensure that visitors to Australia visit both and why do we want to encourage the visiting of both man-made and natural?  Check out these top 100 places!
  • Do we need National Parks and World Heritage areas?

HISTORY

  • Research great migrations of the past they may not happen any more.
  • Do animals really need to follow the same path of migration?
  • Do humans follow paths of migration?

MATHEMATICS

  • Collect Data on the numbers of decline in chosen endangered animals.
  • Collect data on the numbers of animals that are no longer endangered and compare to the endangered animals. How have different animals risen in numbers?
  • Why are numbers, tables and data collection important to the survival of animals? 

LITERACY

  • How do images engage us? Use the images from Circle and from other Jeannie Baker books to look at how her artworks engages you in the story as compared to drawn images.
  • Circular stories – This book follows a path, a journey. Can you find other stories which follow a circular pattern?

AT HOME

  • Are there any animals that visit your house on a seasonal basis? Try to find out more about them. Keep a bird, animal or insect diary.
  • Create your own collage like Jeannie Baker does. Collect local bits of nature to create a scene which represents being outside to your child.

 

Jeannie Baker’s books are always wonderful and this one tops that!

 

 

Bogtrotter by Margaret Wild

What is a Bogtrotter you might ask?

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He is a delightful creature that lives in the bog – a gloomy, marshy, mushy bog! Bogtotter, written by Margaret Wild is a book that focuses on belonging, trying new things, playing outdoors, loneliness and discovery.

The illustrations by Judith Rossell are marvellous, really bringing to life the Bogtrotter and his feelings.

The reader steps through into the life of the Bogtrotter, watching him start off doing the same thing every day, not knowing how to make a change. It is through talking to other animals around him and picking a flower that he sees that there is more to his bog.

So how can we use this book?

  • Get outside more often. It is easy to be inside with all of the gadgets, toys and applicances but some of these can be used outside too! Grab a pile of books and read them outside, take a picnic blanket onto a small patch of grass and set up some games, eat lunch outside, take photos, pick flowers/grass/leaves! there are so many things we can do outside.
  • Learn outside – many teachers spend all the teaching time in the classroom. Is it possible to have at least one lesson outside? Start with one a week then build it up.
  • Try something new – even if it is something small, once a week. You are opening yourself up to new experiences which in turn helps your thinking and view of the world.

 

SUSTAINABILITY

  • In order to understand the world and the issues within we need to get out. We need to try new things, read new things and listen to others ideas. Ignorance really is bliss but there is so much out there in the world that by trying something new or listening to someone else’s thoughts actively, we can really make a difference!

LITERACY

Before you read:

What is a Bogtrotter? What is a bog? How will picking a flower change his life?

As you read

Have a set of word cards (see my store) out that can be found during the reading (you may like to read once without the words so children can enjoy the story). As the words are found, discuss the meaning using skills of inferring. Group these words into groups of your choice (verbs, adjectives, feelings etc)

After you read

  • Retell the story in your own words using the pictures to help. Which words from the book will help you to tell the story in the most interesting way?
  • Why does Bogtrotter only say ‘Ah’ (this allows us to think more, perhaps he only needs to say ah) If you were to re tell this story – would you change this?
  • Cycles: Draw up the daily cycle of the Bogtrotter at the beginning of the book. Add to this or draw another to show how his cycle evolved over time. Link this to how we can make small changes in our life to make a difference in how we feel.
  • What are the main themes here? See what the children can come up with. Ask them to give examples through words used in the story and images drawn.
  • Persuasive text: Why should we make changes? Why should we play and learn outside?
  • Link to Choose your own Adventure stories  – How can we choose our own adventures? Look at these great planning ideas.
  • Thought bubbles: How would we write this as a comic strip or a story which uses thought bubbles? Discuss how thought bubbles can tell a story and create one!

 

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

  •  Bogtrotter feels lonely but through meeting a frog, he is inspired to make a change. Discuss how children can make changes to their life to improve it. Write down a list of things they would like to change and a plan on how they can change it by themselves or through the help of others. Draw on the importance of community and that loneliness is one of the biggest causes of depression.

 

 

 

 

 

 

LINKS TO CURRICULUM

LITERACY

Discuss characters and events in a range of literary texts and share personal responses to these texts, making connections with students’ own experiences (ACELT1582)

Use comprehension strategies to build literal and inferred meaning about key events, ideas and information in texts that they listen to, view and read by drawing on growing knowledge of context, text structures and language features (ACELY1660)

Create short imaginative and informative texts that show emerging use of appropriate text structure, sentence-level grammar, word choice, spelling, punctuation and appropriate multimodal elements, for example illustrations and diagrams (ACELY1661)

PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT

Describe how respect, empathy and valuing diversity can positively influence relationships (ACPPS037)

Participate in outdoor games and activities to examine how participation promotes a connection between the community, natural and built environments, and health and wellbeing (ACPPS041)

Examine the influence of emotional responses on behaviour and relationships (ACPPS056

Recognise how media and important people in the community influence personal attitudes, beliefs, decisions and behaviours (ACPPS057)

 

SUSTAINABILITY

OI.5 World views are formed by experiences at personal, local, national and global levels, and are linked to individual and community actions for sustainability.

OI.7 Actions for a more sustainable future reflect values of care, respect and responsibility, and require us to explore and understand environments.

Quoll by Sandra Kendell

Quoll by Sandra Kendell was published in 2008 but is still a poignant book that addresses the issue of feral and introduced animals in Australia.

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This book is full of sadness in that the poor Quoll needs to leave her home because the Cane Toad has invaded her habitat.

However, the author Sandra Kendell makes us think during the book. When the Quoll meets the cane toad the cane toad is portrayed as a thoughtful creature who just wants somewhere else to live! It made me think – are cane toads really that bad? Do they just want somewhere to live? But then common sense prevailed and I knew that although they are animals and have a right to live the fact is they are taking over habitats of the native wildlife. They do need to be stopped.

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There are great organisations out there in Australia working hard to help these amazing Australian animals. Australian Quoll conservancy is one of them.

So how can we use this book with our young readers?

Get outside and see what animals are in your backyard, local park and bushland. Write down and then research which ones are native to Australia and which ones are introduced

SUSTAINABILITY

  • How can we raise more awareness?
  • What are feral animals? When is an animal feral? Explore how some animals which are problematic here are not overseas.
  • Do we need feral animals? Do we need introduced animals? Explore rabbits, cane beetle and cane toad!
  • Is it fair that we allow introduced species into the wild? Are there penalties?
  • If there were no feral animals /introduced species. in Australia would there be other issues?
  • Write a letter to your local council member outlining the problems pets can cause if they are not looked after properly.
  • Present an argument for feral animals/introduced species.

LITERACY

  •  A great way to use this book is to research a feral animal or introduced species. Think of how you can : Raise awareness of the problems this animal causes and/or how we can eradicate or limit the spread of this animal. FAME is a great organisation who aims to bring about awareness of Endangered species: http://fame.org.au/projects/western-quoll
  • Encourage this to be done through an anthology of writing pieces. Children need to know that to spread a message we need to think of our audience. AND our audience members all see, hear and think differently. SO by writing an anthology full of different pieces of writing we will grab everyone’s attention with at least one of those pieces of writing.
  • This could include: Comic strips, arguments, narratives, picture books, documentaries, poems, songs, explanations and descriptions just to name a few.

See my teacherspayteachers store to purchase this great unit of work.

 

NUMERACY

  • Look for statistics on feral animals – look for their numbers over the last 50 years.
  • Look for statistics of local native animals and their rise or decline. Look at maps and the spread of the feral.
  • Explore endangered animals, extinct and endemic!

SCIENCE

  • What is a cane toad? Where did it originate? Why did it come here – create a time line of the cane toad.
  • What is the life cycle of a cane toad? Look at how they reproduce and how many young they can have!
  • What is a Quoll? Where does it live in Australia? Explore the life cycle and habitat of a Quoll.

 

 

 

LINKS

Create literary texts that adapt or combine aspects of texts students have experienced in innovative ways (ACELT1618)

Living things have life cycles (ACSSU072)

Construct displays, including column graphs, dot plots and tables, appropriate for data type, with and without the use of digital technologies (ACMSP119

Describe and interpret different data sets in context (ACMSP120)

The Magnificent Tree by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King

The Magnificent Tree is a beautiful collaboration by Nick Bland and Stephen Michael King. It was published in 2012 by scholastic but is ties in well with National Tree Day this weekend.

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The book’s main characters display a loving and respectful relationship between a granddaughter and her grandfather. The young girl loves doing things simply and the grandfather loves ideas that are ‘big, brave and brilliant’ but together they can work together to come up with wonderful ideas!

One day Bonny and Pop decide they need something so they can see the birds better. Pop thinks BIG and starts to draw his ideas whilst Bonny thinks simply and plants a seed with care.

We can draw many different teaching points from this book whilst enjoying the fun illustrations.

SUSTAINABILITY

  • Trees are magnificent! Are there many trees, shrubs or flowers around you that you think are magnificent? Why are they each magnificent?
  • Can man made objects be part of our landscape? How can we improve our man made landscape to make nature a part of it? Look into new ways cities are becoming greener with rooftop gardens and green spaces!
  • Create a tree diary. How many different tress are in your school? Home area? playground or local bush land?Some great ideas on this blog for looking at the amazing Banksia!
  • What can you grow in your backyard or own your balcony?
  • Can you make a simple toy to play with? Find some bits and pieces around the house that are no longer needed. This is a fantastically fun activity and it allows children to use their imagination and be creative! Create a toy that can be used outside. It will be amazing what it created if not given too many boundaries. You might like to encourage some planning and you may like to challenge them by limiting the amount of objects they can use. Try it!

THINKING – DISCUSSION POINTS

  • What are ideas? How many different ideas did Bonny and Poppy come up with?
  • What is a simple idea? What is a complex idea? Create a list of ideas and place them into categories.
  • Draw up your own inventions – one that is simple and one that is complex. Both need to fulfill a similar purpose.

SCIENCE

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This is a heart warming story which shows a loving and respectful relationship between grandfather and granddaughter. A great one to read on grandparents day!

It also shows that simple ideas can be wonderful so encourage those simple ideas from your children and students as from little things big things grow!!