Saturday, 31 May 2014

E.B. White unit

I got up to work early today and prepared a maths unit on time. We have been studying measurement in maths during term 2 and this topic will finish it off. I have On Demand testing to do over the next 3 weeks. The Department's report writing program (QuickVic) will be downloaded next week and I'll start writing reports once testing is completed. 
I have digitised some of my EB White unit at school this morning so I can post it on TPT when we have finished The Trumpet of the Swan.
It was probably the first teaching unit I created in the late 80s. A lot of it is handwritten. Some of it is my  work but I have added material over the years from various sources. I put my Stuart Little unit on a floppy disc in the early 90s. When I tried to access it about 10 years ago I couldn't get it to work. Luckily I kept a hard copy.
Next door have put up a small electric fence near the back fence where the cows have been getting in after I put up some yellow and black tape. Hopefully this, and some more feed will keep them out. 

Friday, 30 May 2014

Professional Learning Day

Keeping Books Alive Conference ( Hosted by the Greater City of Dandenong and Ford Street Publishing)
Dandenong Civic Centre
MC Kevin Burgemeister  

'The Author, the Book and the Teacher'
Associate Professor Gary Crew ( Over 70 published works and numerous writing awards. Gary also launched his new book The Cuckoo)

The 2 stable things that exist in the changing literary scene are the creativity of authors and illustrators and the efforts of teachers and librarians. 
The author:
As an author he continues to teach and likes to talk about the undercurrent of methodology for the writer. Authors need inspiration ( the act of breathing into) but there is a false notion that authors are 'adrift of the land'. It is naive to believe that authors have a muse whispering in their ear. Authors are continually reflecting and revisiting. Writers are not inspired by one bolt of inspiration. They are directed by thoughts and experiences.Gary discussed the need for research led practice- authors doing their homework. He also discussed practice led research ( trial and error)
Authors learn about their work as they write it. Children need to learn not to be 'bolters' ( This is difficult when they live in a world of immediacy.)Authors critique their own work all the time. So should children. ( Printing makes their writing look good. they need to step back from 'publishing' and spend more grunt time on their drafts.)
Stories are based on conflict.
Out of the conflict comes the narrative.
 Writing is laborious but beautiful.

The Book
Cuniform 4000 BC is a tablet! 
Scrolls date back to before 100 BC
The Guttenberg Bible was written in 1500. 
Books were chained in libraries in the 1500s
The Horn Book 1600s
The paperback revolution in 1920s-30s
Kindle - another tablet 2000 AD
The beauty of the book as an artefact has to be let go of.

The Teacher ( Education: The act of leading out)
Gary talked about his discussions with James Maloney about writing and teaching.
Lewis Carroll said: 'A book ought to mean more than the writer meant...'
As teachers, what are we leading our student out of or what are we leading them into?
Teachers should ask themselves this.

Gary talked about Marina Warner's writing. Educators need to understand the value of what we take into the classroom.' At least they're reading' isn't good enough.
In a time when we can feel belittled we can feel it is not worth it. If we give up our huge and demanding role as teachers, where will the doctors, architects, lawyers , philosophers, poets come from? 

Finally - if you want to be a writer you have to read a lot and write a lot. 
We learn more often from bad writing than good writing. 
Books enlarge our brain and heart, they enrich us.

During the book launch Gary talked about his early teaching career. He talked about the students he taught who were in his words often 'beyond the pale'. He talked about his pleasure in reading Australian versions of the fairy tale genre. His twist in his latest book 'The Cuckoo' was to empower the male hero rather than the 'princess'. He feels it could be used with boys in high school. it is written as a challenge for those boys.

'Keeping It Real'
Meredith Costain ( Books: My Life in the Wild and Dance Academy )
Narrative Non- Fiction

When children are asked to write non-fiction they often write fact reports but there are other kinds of non-fiction including narrative non fiction.
Meredith demonstrated how she might demonstrate a non- fiction narrative in the classroom by role-playing with children playing characters in the life of a cheetah ( refer photo below with a cheetah stalking gazelle) They can see that there is a story involved in the story of a cheetah.

Narratives need setting, characters, beginning/middle and end and plot ( They need a problem and resolution and not just events) like In her Animal Planet books 
Meredith suggests that:
The kids need a dramatic entry to their story - Read to them some non-fiction text and list vocabulary words and verbs that they can use.( such as reading one of her Animal Planet books)
They also need a problem in their book to resolve.( drought, being separated from a herd,fighting a predator, encountering a hunter etc)
Consider writing in the first person.
She often uses a cloze activity format when working in schools with children to get them  started.( refer photo below. Note the use of a simile.)
Meredith says children know a lot about animals already and it is remarkable what they can tell you.
Once they have finished the cloze activity the children can share their story. (refer photo)
In these narratives they still need to do the research. 
They could also turn it into a diary using digital photos
They can also do an 'interview' or between the subject and an interviewer 
or a newspaper story 
Survival guide
or wanted poster

'eBooks for Children' 
Tom Darby ( Book distributor for INT Books)
Tom helps to bring eBooks especially non-fiction eBooks into schools
Tom believes that children have trouble understanding that books can be a tool for the rest of their lives. We respond to the voice of the author. Non fiction writers write with a neutral voice which resonates better with boys in particular.
Non fiction in the first person hooks in young children from an early age.
Children's picture books in ePublishing don't work because of illustrations and font size. HTML5 introduces new agreed tags for interactivity which allows books to become apps and makes cloud systems available.This has revolutionised eBook accessibility over the last few years.
iPad technology enables us to download and use eBooks as required.Some FLASH animation in 'picture books'  (which does not work in iPads) can be accessed on PCs and is used in eTextbooks like Targeting Maths. Australian print text books publishers have merged into Learning Field. Tom also recommended to me  '' which is currently working on abridged versions of Australian classics.)
Tom discussed the many frustrating issues effecting school libraries when purchasing and loaning out eBooks. He showed us the Big Universe program.

'Creating Characters' 
Leigh Hobbs ( author of Old Tom)

Leigh Hobbs was a bit manic but very enjoyable. he talked about how he came up with his characters. ( Old Tom, Horrible Harriet and Mr Chicken)
Leigh always wanted to be an artist and just wanted to go to England! His new book is called Mr Chicken Goes to London.He started as an illustrator but stopped just illustrating because he wanted to create his own characters. Old Tom was his first character.His books are character studies which usually have an issue somewhere.
Most of his characters are based on past students he taught.He wants to challenge the narrowness of ideas.He had a very suburban upbringing and inserts that background into his work and loves architecture. ( He was an art teacher for 20 years) He likes the idea of a picture saying one thing and the text saying something else.Leigh showed us a lot of his art work and the inspiration for it and evolution of it.He talked about his school visits and how he shows kids how to draw Old Tom.
He showed us how he encourages children to create their cartoon character and to be the 'boss' of their own character.

'iCreate digital tools'
Tristan Bancks (Two Wolves, My Life and Other Stuff That Went Wrong)
Tristan discussed his Story Scrapbook app ( which looks good)and about the crossover between author and reader.
He read some of his recent book and showed how he reads to students and encourages them to respond to his work digitally.He talked about the freedom of writing outside and taking photos and using them for inspiration.He also used Voice Memo to 'write' stories (often coming up with a good line or 2)He uses the app Scriviner to write his books.

'Writing Activities your children will love'
Deborah Abela previously a TV producer and teacher(Max Remy, Ghost Club and an educator)
Deborah encourages children to think:
I wonder what would happen if....
Deborah talked about her books and her upcoming books.
Deborah reiterated that there are always 3 parts to a narrative
Characters that a re put somewhere interesting and then make things go wrong. ( How can you make trouble for your characters.)
Deborah starts with speed writing activities ' What will happen next....'
She tells them a story based on one of her book characters and stops at various dramatic points and asks them what they'd do next...stuff has to go wrong! Trouble has to occur and solutions are required.
She introduced Narrative Bags: who what where? She leaves bags with cards in them around the room  - characters, objects and locations. student choose a card. From each bag and explain what story can spring from the combination.
Story skeletons are lists of characters, settings and situation/ problem and they have to choose one of each to write a story. Deborah says that stories often move from the known to the unknown. 
Deborah also provides story starters,some good and bad and asks the children to come up with ideas to make the bad ones better.
Story's are about creating pictures with all of their senses. ( see,hear,feel and smell) She encourages character profiles. She reads out an exchange between 2 characters and asks them to  come to conclusions about the characters from what they've heard. What do you know about the characters?
One approach could be to 'interview' the characters. ( I will access her notes from her website)She showed her 3 act story structure plan which looks user friendly.

It was a long day ( 8:00- 4:30) and a long drive from Ballarat to Dandenong and back again in one day but I left with lots of great ideas that I will incorporate into our approach to writing this year.

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Shovelling you know what!

Two of my parents came up today and spent the morning with small groups of kids planting bulbs and vegetables in our garden ( after removing the weeds) The kids had a great time. We'll make some weather and snail proof markers so we know what we've planted next week.

Grade 4 kids have started making their Charlottes Web dioramas today. 

I ended up shovelling you know what today! There are so many jokes I could make up about doing this but I think I'll just leave it alone.
 Hopefully there won't be too many more visits to our playground by our 4 legged neighbours. 

I had a visit from acting RNL, Linda Flynn who came to check out my draft performance plan. back to the drawing board!

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Trumpet of the Swan

The display board for some of our Captains Courageous work is below. We have started learning tasks for Danny Dunn. I finished reading Charlottes Web this morning and I've started reading Trumpet of the Swans ( EB White's third children's book) I've never read it before but I've enjoyed the first 2 chapters I read today.
 I've been asked about my Charlotte's Web/ Stuart Little learning tasks but I won't post them because they are quite old (some of if is handwritten!) and a mixture of my ideas and ideas from other people. I might put a few ideas together for The Trumpet of the Swan, I'll see how I go with a student teacher starting next week and reports to write. it might be a holidays task to do.

It was a wet day today and my student teachers worked inside with the kids. They did some fun co-operative games.

I try to involve the students with peer tutoring ( it is one of the bonuses of teaching in a one teacher rural school ) but usually it is just the senior kids involved with the little kids. Today I asked my grade one girl to do some group making work with farm animal counters. The preps loved it and I think she did too.

This prep student prefers to use rubber worms in farm paddocks ( that my grade 1 girl drew) rather than farm animals ! She should have used cows. We had another in today. The kids literally watched it jump over a one metre tall fence into our grounds and then jump out again! I'll see if one of the kids will take a photo of me shovelling cow manure over the fence again tomorrow!

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

New unit available

We had another unwelcome visitor during the night( I know because the fence is broken again and the cows left some huge cow pats behind.) Looks like its a case of 'if you want something done properly, do it yourself' 

We finished my unit on Captains Courageous today so find a link HERE to my unit plan on TPT.

Interesting article and interesting website: 

Monday, 26 May 2014

Unwanted Visitor

I had a surprise visitor this morning. We had a cow on the oval. Apparently it burst through the fence at the back of the school during the weekend. Those cows really need more feed.( below) She was herded out and the fence repaired before the kids arrived.
We have been completing Captains Courageous art responses today. ( photos tomorrow)
One of my grade 4 students is reading the Blake Treasure Trackers books and she just finished reading a book about Easter Island. She completed making her Moai statue and did an excellent job.    ( not sure about painting it silver? )

Leanne, one of our visiting teachers for the deaf popped in today to work with one of my students. It is great to have the support of Leanne and Jo ( visiting teacher for the blind) at Glen Park although funding is tight and regional office is a shadow of its former self.

My daughter got her ' My Little Tony' hoodie that she ordered online. It is funny and weird and self- explanatory.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

Daylesford Visit #1

We drove over to Daylesford today, I wanted to visit some book shops they have over there. The Book Barn was there when I lived in Daylesford 20 years ago. It changed hands a few years back and sadly it is not the place I used to visit practically every weekend.It is still picturesque there around the lake but there are only half the books, jammed into the shelves with poor labelling and the obligatory Daylesford style cafe plonked in where books used to be.
below are some photos I took there and around Wombat Hill

Daylesford visit #2

I went to the old Avent Garden book shop in downtown Daylesford and bought a couple of books ( a Robin Hood and a comic version of 'The Rescuers' which I read as a serial last year.) It is now called the Paradise Bookshop and isn't as good as the old Avent Garden especially upstairs which is a bit neglected. 


While there we also visited the old convent in Daylesford. It was once a Catholic boarding school. My wife did some work there when we lived in Daylesford in the 80s but the school re-located and the convent has become an art gallery, shop, cafe and function rooms.( The driveway below)

Friday, 23 May 2014

Autumn in Ballarat #4

Sadly  Autumn is coming to an end for another year. Those vibrant reds and yellows are now dirty brown leaves or no leaves at all. It was a lovely morning this morning, very still and quiet. ( It was lovely around the lake. I took the photos below while on my way up to school.) I finished the Danny Dunn unit and I'll post that and the Captains Courageous unit on TPT when I have finished teaching them.

An excellent story in the Guardian about Gonski and the history of education funding.

Ocean cross-section

One of my grade 6 students made an 'ocean cross-section' picture today for Captains Courageous. She has shown different layers of the ocean using paper and cardboard in various shades of blue ( included a collage effect at the bottom) and different paint applications ( including marbling and painting using a shaving brush) The overall effect is great. A fishing dory is on the surface.
We have some unfinished work to do for Captains Courageous on Monday so I should be able to post that unit on TPT on the weekend? We'll do a short unit on Danny Dunn to finish off the week and start on Robin Hood the week after next.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Danny Dunn

We are currently reading one of the Danny Dunn books as a serial ( Danny Dunn on a Desert Island) Danny who? I hear you say. Danny Dunn was a popular American book character from the 50s- 70s. I remember reading one of the 15 books when I was at school.
 Danny was an adventurous nerd. His friends were 2 professors ( Professor Branestawm springs to mind) and the books always had a maths/ science theme. The author was Jay Williams who collaborated with Raymond Abrashkin before he died in 1960.
The books are quite slim and can be read as a serial over a week or so. They feature a lot of technology which seems quite quaint nowadays. ( The last book in the series was written in 1977) I will put together a few ideas for a small unit to pop up on TPT over the weekend. 
Below is a photo of one of the art ideas that the kids have been doing on Captains Courageous. ( more tomorrow)

We mowed the grounds today and the school looks great. The kids played today in the sandpit and created their own tabloid sports curcuit. 

The AEUs perspective on Abbott and Pyne's $30 billion of education cuts:

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Sports shed clean up

Below are photos of the grade 6 Rudyard Kipling profiles and art work the kids are doing on Captains Courageous.

My student teachers have been putting up with a messy sports shed for weeks now ( they even volunteered to help me clean it on the weekend) well I couldn't have that so I used their time at school and the hour of lunch time to  clean it up. Below is the after photo and I also spent some time putting together a 'state of the art' hoop organiser I bought years ago and forgot to put together.

Yeah- 21 000 views
Below are some links to some interesting reading:

Interesting story from Julia Gillard in the Daily Telegraph in the UK

The truth about Uni fees from an article in the Canberra Times

Gonski slams the government's funding cuts.

And also on the ABC news site:

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Give me Moby Dick or give me death!

Find attached my Moby Dick literature unit.
Click HERE to visit TPT and download.

Robin Hood

Another very mild day. Our kookaburras have been very vocal in the morning. One serenaded me from the roof this morning. ( photo below) but they are a bit timid. ( I think the magpies are harassing them) I set up a table display for Robin Hood which we'll start next week.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Burning Off around the school

My grade 2 boy emailed me a picture of his solar system model that he assembled at home and it looks terrific. ( I think it would make an ideal centre piece for their dining room table?)
I included another picture of the Stuart Little dioramas. ( I was told my other photo was hard to see)

We finished our 'Fir Tree and the Bramble' fable today. They did a great job. They are starting work on folk tales this week.They'll start on The Little Red Hen today.

It was smoky today. They are starting burn offs around the school before it gets too wet. It should be a bit smoky for the rest of the week.

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Sunday in Point Lonsdale

I took my daughter to Point Lonsdale today to take photos for her year 11 Photography class.It was a beautiful sunny Autumn day ( maybe the last one for the year?)
 She used her Pentax and digital camera to take photos of the beach and lighthouse. I took a few photos on my iPad as well- not as good as hers of course.
I'll add a few photos of work samples tomorrow before I post that Moby Dick unit.

Photos include the beach front, a container ship heading out through the Heads, the jetty at Point Londsale, an old World War Two vintage pill box And the light house.