A few years ago I pretty much ignored Halloween as I considered it to be too negative and frightening for children. Wrong!
Children LOVE scary things and celebrations like Halloween help them to get their fears into the open! I am amazed by the shared conversations I have had with children about death and fears. Children making skeleton drawings with cotton buds have opened up with so many, ‘I remember when…….” conversations and I realise it is the seasonal focus that is allowing this to happen!
Today, in the middle of a re-assessment, one of my students told me all about the death of her beloved cat and how she held it all night although she realised it had passed. She remembers it in detail although it was 4 years ago. (She is 10)
She still talks to it and has the most amazing, balanced and beautiful way of looking at life and death. I was humbled that she chose to tell me all about this and for once I was completely quiet!
Tonight I walked into a learning session where most of the children were reading a book called BLOOD by the Literacy Tower- they were SO into the book! Absolute, total concentration! They are fascinated by the human body- especially the interesting bits we don’t mention so much!
This is why horror tales such as Goosebumps have remained so popular. Children can play with these ideas from the relative safety of a cosy classroom setting!
The season also has Celtic origins and honours those who have left this world, something that children are greatly interested in. Death, fear, spooky things cannot be avoided. Halloween is a fun and safe way to explore some of these darker, troubling thoughts.
I have written a learning package about HALLOWEEN for teachers and parents- you can see it here: 50 pages of learning ideas and activities!
Due to the nature of the particular winter we’ve just had- the long cold nights, storms and cold, cold mornings, sharp frosts and huge amounts of rain, we indulged in more winter crafts than usual.
Our Perth based kids dream of snow. They long for snow and talk about it regularly! We have used so many recipes for snow dough and snow, snow slime, snow everything and we have enjoyed a feast of winter books!
We have finally mastered the art of snowflake making. The children rejoiced in my mistakes and watched me get up again and again, trying to model persistence while trying not to swear as yet another misshapen snowflake emerged from my scissors.
And then- what a wonderful moment- after endless winter days I got it and could pass it on. Just a sharp acute angled cut at the end and perfect snowflakes emerged!
The amount of mathematical language that emerged was amazing. Terms such as acute, equilateral, triangular, thirds, halves, symmetrical were used with meaning and the results carefully placed on our winter tree and display boards. The kids were so proud of what they had made during our maths lesson,
When I told them our craft work was all about maths they were amazed! And yet- they retain the concepts learned in this hands-on way.
This is maths by subterfuge and it works! Why not get some scrap paper, scissors, glitter and teach a fun maths lesson today to celebrate the seasons. I have many of these “maths by subterfuge” lessons planned for SPRING and SUMMER and piles chosen for HALLOWEEN and CHRISTMAS.
Check out this Pinterest page:
MAKING MATHS MEANINGFUL
https://www.pinterest.com.au/victoriacarlton/making-maths-meaningful/ for lots of ideas for linking maths and art and craft!
Last night I had the strangest dream
I’d ever had before
I dreamed the schools were killing kids
And had declared a war! (Apologies to Joan Baez!)
I was in a Principals office. This man is known to me and is one of the wisest and most compassionate ever.
In this dream he had a huge chart with all the NAPLAN scores for his school and he was very worried. He was in trouble with the education authorities because around 10% had performed below the national average.
I looked at the scores and suggested 15 minutes a day with a strong synthetic phonics program would have a very fast effect on the literacy scores.
He excused himself and left the room and I awaited his return.
Minutes later he re-entered with all the low score kids and pointed a pistol and shot them all and then aimed at me. I somehow managed to escape with some of the kids and we ran and ran and found ourselves in a deep and dangerous jungle.
The meaning of this horrific dream is pretty obvious and was fuelled by a staff meeting we held recently about our methods and beliefs about education. We turned the whole meeting over to the deep stuff- what works best with kids, gentle, respectful ways to help children and motivate kids who have been casualties of the system.
To compound all this, I have had many recent interviews with very concerned parents of kids with learning problems. They feel their children have just become a test score and are no longer allowed to be a real child with strengths, weaknesses and a personality.
These kids are hurting right in front of us and dread school every day. They are treated as test scores while their home life is now reduced to endless hours of boring worksheets instead of fun filled play with neighbourhood kids. Then more of the same every day. And for what?
This approach does not work. It is ridiculous and built on the shakiest of pedagogical foundations. Research shows us the value of rest and play. Our kids need to be refreshed and learn through play. They need a different approach- one that takes into account the way they learn and one that seeks to make learning intrinsically interesting.
We could stop this damaging and dangerous practices immediately- no money involved- just a little thought, empathy and understanding and skill that teachers already have in spades- they need to be able to use it!
Give them the freedom to truly help kids!
Knowing the times-tables is non-negotiable in my classes. You simply cannot enjoy maths and do well until you can automatically recall them.
Sorting socks or shoes into pairs, popsticks into groups of 3, playing with dice etc helps children to make a clear visual pattern and develop understanding. The general concept of “groups” “lots of” “multiply” “times” must be established first.
hey have to be learned over and over to become automatic. We have to “over-learn” them so even when we know them, we keep going so we NEVER have to think of them again!
There are many ways to learn them but by far the best is to simply write them out over and over again- just 10 miutes a day will suffice. Writing them with bright markers will help their brains to really notice the patterns.
So- if a child needs to learn their 4x table they can see how many times they can write it out in 10 minutes and do that 5x in a week.
Don’t let them do this:
3x etc etc etc!
By writing it a little at a time they will only remember it a little at a time.
The table needs to be written in its entirety.
e.g. 1×4=4 2×4=8
They need to learn all these tables- right up till 12, before year 5 and DEFINITELY before year 7.
There are helpful videos and apps and I have listed some below but the BEST WAY and MOST EFFECTIVE is to simply have the child write them out on scrap paper for 10 minutes and also say them in order- aloud!
Then you can quiz them. e.g. what is 4×6 etc
Maths Rockx app – we use this often!
A VERY helpful site with lots of hints and printables-
This is excellent!
Don’t let your children give up. They NEED these tables in order to be successful with maths. Ten minutres a day will nail it!
“To achieve critical hope educators have to combine material resources, like great teaching, with fierce love for students demonstrated with actions, not words. This is incredibly hard work, but through all its ups and downs critical hope requires educators to continue believing they can do what they’ve never done before.”
I love the words “fierce love” and I love the gritty optimistic tone of this article. We CAN make a difference and we need to keep fighting! This article is worth a read- you will be inspired!
Most kids hate tests and with good reason.
They hate the tension and judgements that accompant them. They hate the fact that teachers use tests to manipulate and bribe them to study.
I teach children from around 40 schools. The one common thread is the number of tests children do.
We are doing more and more of them.
Scores are regularly given to parents who often have no idea what they mean. “Michael is only reading at level 3!”
Parents need to know:
- What do these levels mean?
- How many levels are there?
- What level should Michael be reading at?
- How can he be helped?
It is not fair to just give out arbitrary data and use it to worry parents and make them feel uneducated and ignorant.
Many schools test weekly and this of course reduces the hours available for teaching.
Whatever happened to observations, samples of work, video obs and so on?
What does a test really measure?
What do we REALLY learn?
Quite often tests mainly measure ability to read instructions – not necessarily a deep understanding of the test subject area.
To get that level of understanding we need to TALK to children.
This morning I assessed a child and I received FAR more information from my casual conversations with him rather than my battery of formal tests.
Even the subtexts- the body language, the yawns, the animation that occurred when we discussed his interests- all these gave me SO much more information than my formal testing packages.
Let’s get back to REAL assessments where we take the time to get to know children, determine their specific needs, learning styles and therefore make education plans that really work!
Over-testing does nothing except waste valuable teaching and learning time!
Children are no strangers to stress and tension. Because they are ‘time-poor’ they have very little down time to process their feelings and concerns. The tension we feel as parents and teachers is unfortunately shared with children.
Our obsessions with their academic results and exams have caused children to question their self-worth, their intellectual ability and to doubt their ability to cope with school.
Stessed children learn less so everyone loses!
I have assessed many new children over the last 3 months and a common thread runs through most of these sessions – tension.
So many kids are tense, worried, tell me they are failing and CAN’T DO their work. They describe themselves as “dumb” and “stupid” and really cannot perceive they could possibly be smart, successful or able to overcome their difficulties.
Sadly – something all these children share is average to high intelligence and incredible gifts in:
- gymnastics/dance/sporting ability
- the ability to generate amazing ideas for writing
- really high artistic ability
- high problem solving skills
Their creative thinking skills are off the scale and yet they know we don’t value these gifts!
Why don’t we?
The world needs these creative gifts like never before!
Why do we consign these brilliant kids to the educational trash heap?
Sure – they often DO learn differently.
This means I have to think differently when I plan their lessons and I have to teach differently. I get kids writing and spelling words in bright colours, tracing them in sand-pits, on a giant white board etc and I’m happy to provide all these learning tools because this is HOW they learn. So, if children learn differently we all need to teach differently. We can’t keep consigning these kids to the educational rubbish bin.
I LOVE working with these super-smart kids. and I have to help them let go of the tension and negative thoughts they have built up around their academic achievement. It is a privilege to work with them.
I teach them to physically relax using kinesiology exercises, learn to adopt a positive mind set and I utilise art and journalling therapies to help with self-expression .
Its only after they can relax and drop the tension around academic matters that our children can truly start the remediation process. These kids need to be healed from the very education system that was supposed to help them!
We owe it to the future to roll back the tension levels kids feel. it just makes the learning process so much slower. ALL kids can be helped to see their own skills and to realise they ARE smart they DO matter and they CAN succeed.
We have almost done it. We have almost managed to test kids to death and construct a new model for the ideal designer child that fits our “factory” paradigm of education.
I teach many kids who now spend more time preparing for tests, getting tested, worrying about marks they received, studying for the next test and so on without any breaks to ENJOY learning and explore their interests.
Kids as young as 3 are routinely tested, labelled, drugged and made into education robots.
Parents obsess over terms such as ODD. ADHD, “the spectrum” and nobody seems to realise kids come in a myriad of varieties- just like adults.
Yes- surprising news- kids ARE humans and have rights.
They deserve to be allowed to be who they are- not who we want them to become!
They deserve to have their gifts and difficulties accepted- we are not perfect either.
It’s OK. It was meant to be like that!
Rejoice in their differences and explore these kids. Very likely they will teach us things we have forgotten like-
- the value of play in learning
- how to think creatively
- the fact that we have a cocktail of multiple intelligences and that is OK
- why it’s important to have some spare time for dreaming, doing nothing or whatever? time. We all need a slice of WHATEVER? time in our planners!
Do we truly want the world to be dull, boring and colourless with cloned child – human lemmings walking straight over the cliff edge into a world without creativity, dreaming, ideas or simply the space to think?
We ALL need to wake up and treat every child as a gift to the world.
Over the past week I have had so many creative, brilliant children do amazing things! Keep in mind that most of these students have had at least one if not 4 negative labels slapped on them. The label they really need is BRILLIANT!
In 7 days I have witnessed kids:
Make up a fantasy narrative stories in 5 ninutes based on a tower of glue sticks, they made while I spoke to his parents
Take some packets of stickers and use them to write a really interesting book.
Talk to me entirely in antonyms for a whole hour just for fun.
Notice mathematical patterns way beyond their years.
Beg for more time to write and write pages and pages of coherent text. I have a few kids like this – their creative writing is amazing and they fall deeply into their narratives and accept criticism and craft their writing. Sadly we have almost killed the love for writing with our genre driven madness!
Generate innovative ways to save bees, recycle, save endangered species, care for trees and avoid interfering with the echolocation process many animals depend on.
Write the sort of poetry you would be unlikely to even see from a third year English honours student- the sort that takes you from joy to tears in a flash!
Sketch a building accurately on a tissue in 5 mins flat! (From a Grade 2)
Take popular learning games, change the rules and make entirely new games better than the original!
Make huge leaps in thinking about maths and show the levels of maths understanding you would not expect in a graduating high-school kid.
I have students who question EVERYTHING, kids who beg for spare time, kids who (dare I say this out loud?) want to be kids!
The number of labels we can now apply is endless – in fact they read like a recipe book! Take a pinch of ADHD, add in two teaspoons of Oppositional Defiance Disorder and shake them well and place them in a giant “spectrum” cake tin. Cook the mixture in a special oven called “school” for at least 10 years or at least until all the lumps, bumps of individual differences have vanished.
The innovative Sir Ken Robinson has been proposing radical changes for many years. Education is the only thing in this world that doesn’t really change much. If you could bring back your great, great, great granny she would walk around in a daze looking at planes in the sky, computers, Ipads and so on but if you took her to the local school she would relax and feel at home.
We are trying to control kids rather than feed their curiosity, fuel their enthusiasm and nurture their skills and creativity. What are we scared of? Most likely we are scared of the kids themselves. But why?
Sort it out before our kids all grow up with the mindset I see so often- hating school, feeling like an abject failure before 8 years and with an understanding that they will never ever have any spare time to just be, dream, think and wonder.
It never had to be like this and it is truly time for a new paradigm.
Sir Ken is right- watch this along with 1,952,822 others and let’s start a learning revolution today!
“every student deserves to be treated like the miracle that they are—with personalized, individualized education that addresses that “world within.” Sir Ken Robinson
Telling tales is considered to be a very “un-Australian” behaviour but let’s face it- as adults we often call it “whistle blowing” and often admire the truth tellers!
Children tell us “tales” for many reasons.
For sure they might be seeking to get their siblings or classmates into trouble. They also might be trying to become more popular with a teacher or to in some way weild personal power.
However- over my career I have often found these 2 reasons to be more evident-
- Risky behaviour has been witnessed – behaviours we would DEFINITELY want to be told about.
- A child has been bullied and is frightened and definitely want the behaviour to stop.
So- the message is- listen carefully and don’t just send children away before listening to them. At least listen and if their tale telling is inappropriate tell them why BUT do not tell them they cannot come back if something is important and needs to be communicated.
Children must ALWAYS know they can depend on parents and teachers to be there and to listen in troubling and problematic situations.
The following link raises some important points. Sure- especially as teachers, we get sick and tired of tales but we need to look closely at the reasons for the tales and consider if some action needs to be taken- even if it is just to be a receptive listener or to encourage a child in a situation that is bothering them.