Amazon Tears from Jay

I have a 7year old in one of my classes who recently cried for the AMAZON region.

We were learning about this magnificent river system and looking at internet information, photos and videos.

As I had visited the area earlier this year, I was able to expand a little on the topic and all the kids had watched the worrying pictures of burning forest recently.

We were able to facetime with my daughter-in-law who works with small mammals in the Amazon region and the kids learned SO much and were able to pose their personal questions to Ana.

They decided to write to President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil to express their opinions and deep feelings about the destruction taking place in the mighty Amazon forest.

They were excited about having a voice and even decided to stop eating hamburgers from a particular company who  have purchased meat from cows raised in illegally deforested areas.

And then Jay cried. Actually he did NOT cry- he sobbed for fifteen minutes and was inconsolable. I just sat and held him while another teacher took over the class.

You may think his response was over the top (Jay is seven years of age,) but actually it isn’t.

This is the future we are leaving for our kids and it’s not pretty.

Witness the impassioned plea of the 15-Year-Old Activist Greta Thunberg who recently addressed the United Nations . Her intense, well -chosen and strong words. “How dare you?” say it all!

Greta is right. How dare we carry on with this planet- destroying way of life.

https://youtu.be/TMrtLsQbaok

All Jay could sob was, “It’s too sad. It’s too sad!,” and he’s right. It is!

Let’s all stop and consider what we can do because we CAN act.

If a bunch of idealistic kids with literacy challenges can decide to write to the President of Brazil, as well as stop eating their beloved hamburgers made from meat farmed in illegally deforested areas in the Amazon, we too CAN act- every one of us!

These kids deserve a better future.

Poetry and Kids

Towards the end of winter we had a “poetry feast” meaning we read lots of poems, wrote many and learned a little about the various types of poetry.

As usual the kids tried to write rhyming verse at first and then i showed them other types of poems and they became more experimental in their approach.

 

 

Each time we focus on poetry reading and writing I am always stunned by the joy and enthusiasm of ALL our students to read and experiment.

This year I added in a grammar component and we analysed the poems we read for use of strong adjectives, interesting proper nouns etc. It proved to be so effective for grammar revision but also showed students how real authors use grammar in effective, unusual ways.

During the lead up to Christmas we will be studying some spring/summer/Christmas themed poems and I look forward to the process.

So much of literacy can be reinforced with poetry including-

  • rhyming
  • phonics
  • grammar
  • literary and poetic devices

And of course- poetry gives my students an opportunity to express deep motions, examine ideas and beliefs and above all- have fun and experiment with words.

Our students love the fact that all the usual rules can be broken when writing poetry and when you are teaching “Da Vinci” type kids who are constantly experimenting and looking for adventures- poetry is a wonderful teaching tool!

 

The Optimistic, Happy Term (for kids AND teachers!)

My students are much happier this term. There are more smiles, renewed enthusiasm, less coughs and sneezes, more energy and a general optimistic air!

As Aus warms seems to me that Aussie Kids warm as well and already I can note jumps of progress and renewed determination. I LOVE teaching this term. It doesn’t feel like work as we seem to pull together with more energy and a  sense of fun and cooperation.

Perhaps it’s due to the celebrations this term- Deepavali, Halloween and then the glitz and wonder of Christmas and then the HOLIDAYS!

Whatever it is- my students- both group and individual, seem to learn more, at a faster rate and really enjoy the process.

This is the term when I can throw in a few challenges and push my students to the max! I am always stunned by the rate of progress- even in the last 3 weeks!
I wish ALL students- mine and others- the happiest of all terms and hope the feeling of optimism and enthusiasm lingers to the very last day!
Enjoy TERM 4 and all the joys and celebrations- and esprcially enjoy this wonderful Spring weather!

The ABC of Child Whispering: W is for WILD and WACKY

 

Children love wild and wacky things!

They love crazy slapstick humour, making silly, scary masks, wearing unicorn hair, shoes that sparkle and skate, toys that say unexpected things and cushions that make rude noises when you sit on them!

They have wild and wacky senses of humour that often disconcert and puzzle us! It’s not easy to re-enter childhood and get in touch with your inner “wild and wacky” when you are trying to e a sensible adult – but try it occasionally!

The kids I teach have insisted I read some of their wild and wacky favourite books and I do it- even though my teacher voice keeps trying to intrude and tell me these books are not appropriate. I call this voice my  “inner snob!”

I’m glad I have read some- they didn’t take long and they helped me understand what works for kids.  I don’t like these books and they don’t resonate with me but that’s not the point – my street cred has risen and I am able to “get” what works for THEM!

I am in the business of getting the most reluctant readers to choose books to engage them so I cannot ignore these incredibly popular books and I am grateful to their authors for helping me re-engage and failing kids and persuade them to read.

We don’t have to always provide literature with wild and wacky themes but DO provide access to these books and don’t stop kids enjoying them.

Think back to your childhood and the books/comics you hugely enjoyed.

I can still remember Wednesday mornings were special because my SCHOOL FRIEND comic would be pushed though the letter box early in the morning and I would pad quietly down the hall to pick it up, dive back into bed, sniff the pages (a pleasure that has stayed with me all my life) and devour the whole publication before breakfast! I would then re-read excerpts all week until the next exciting Wednesday morning……..

A great example of a wild and wacky book is the hugely successful WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE by Maurice Sendak.

All kids have been a wild there- they are all in touch with their inner Max! Parents and teachers need to find their inner wild thing again to understand what is happening here!

The recent Treehouse series by Andy Griffiths and Terry Denton is another example. Children greet each new added book with HUGE delight, giggles and pleasure and love to read them.

The American cartoonist Dav Pilkey has invented the absolutely mind-boggling (at least for adults) DOG MAN series.

These books are devoured by children. They are considered“cool” and all kids want to be seen with these books in their hands!

I loan books to children who attend classes tuition and these are among the most popular. They literally walk off my bookshelves so fast and I know they will be enjoyed.

Sure- we want them to read other “approved” and classic books but let them have some of their choices too!

 

 

Concentration issues or creativity plus?

Lately I have noticed that many of my very creative children might look as if they have concentration issues.

They don’t.

But I have had to explore strategies to get them to focus and yet not flatten their creativity.

We have developed a FOCUS formula for our students:

Creative kids often look at a set task and then start brainstorming different ways to approach this. They start to innovate and consider possibilities before even starting the task.

I am like an unbroken record – focus-focus-focus.

Focus first- get it done-then we all will have some fun!

It is almost as if they need blinkers for some tasks that may well be slightly boring but MUST be mastered.

Most kids can be taught to focus and finish and are delighted to get results.

However, once done- make sure they get their fun!

These kids have entrepreneural minds and are always looking for challenges, options, adventures – they must be allowed to grow their creativity! I try to have some apps, art, movement activities and games to reward children and often to reinforce what they have just learned.

 

 

The ABC of CHILD WHISPERING V is for Virtues Project

The Virtues Project was founded in 1991 by 3 Canadians, Linda Kavelin-Popov, Dr. Dan Popovand John Kavelin and many organisations and schools are now following this project.

This is a global initiative to increase our practice of virtue in daily life and hopefully will help all of us to develop value systems that reflect these virtues.

It has now become a world-wide movement.

Here is a link and explanation of list of the 52 virtues that make up this program.

http://www.52virtues.com/virtues/the-52-virtues.php

There are so many ways that schools and families can utilise these virtues –

  • Choose stories to read that reflect these virtues. There are many!  Fairy tales and folktales very often demonstrate these virtues. (or lack of them) Modern day fairy tales such as “Frozen” often do the same and parents can take opportunities as they occur to point these out.
  • Choose a target virtue per week or month and brainstorm ways a class or family can develop this.
  • When studying famous people in history lessons, point out the virtues many of these people exemplified.
  • Each time a child acts in a way that reflects a virtue, point this out to encourage them to repeat the behaviour.
  • Consider starting a VIRTUES JAR and placing a token inside whenever any member of the family or class displays a particular virtue. When the jar is full the whole class or family have a treat such as an excursion, free-time and so on.
  • Keep a prominent list of your target VIRTUES in a central place for everyone to see. Children can be asked to illustrate these virtues in art time and this helps them translate them into practical actions.

The important thing is not to become too “preachy” with all this. These virtues are REAL! They improve our lives and reflect our human yearning to do good, reach for ideals and achieve them. No matter what religion you practice (or don’t) a study of the virtues will add a positive moral dimension to children’s learning and help to develop their characters.

 

 

The ABC of Child Whispering: V is for victory

We cannot all be victors and children need to understand this.

Children have to learn about losing as well as winning. Losing feels bad but failure is part of life and all kids need to get up, dust off and try again.

This applies to most things that kids do BUT when it comes to learning and continuous failure this does not stand up so well.

The sweet smell of success is important- especially to children who struggle so as parents, carers and teachers we need to be wise and help children to achieve this.

Success and victory over problems is a huge motivator to carry on and develop persistence and resilience.

We talk a great deal about resilience at the moment but we must remember that it does run out. Without any encouragement and ability to perceive progress- signs of victory- we do eventually crumble and lose the will to fight and to persist. Children reach that point quite quickly if they are not helped to perceive how far they have come.

In my work with children I have learned to document the steps of progress so children can see them. This might be as simple as graphing their levels of reading progress, showing them writing samples over 6 months etc. Children NEED to know they are improving and that albeit in small ways, are victors over what often seem to be insurmountable problems.

We know so much about Howard Gardner’s 8 intelligences now and by helping children chart these in their own lives, we show how much each intelligence is important. See this article for a clear description of each intelligence.

https://www.toolshero.com/effectiveness/gardners-multiple-intelligences/

Kids with high visual-spatial intelligence need to know it IS an intelligence and ways they can develop this to enhance their life and possibly build other intelligences. Similarly, kids with high physical, naturalist or music intelligences need to feel their particular cocktail of intelligences is honoured!

We so often in schools show how much we value the linguistic and maths-logic intelligence and yet fail to help kids see the value of the other 6- creating a very lopsided approach to teaching and learning.

By helping children to perceive their “smarts,” and by providing rich learning environments that cater well for all learning preferences, we can turn this around and help them realise we can ALL be successful learners.

 

 

Are Year 7s really ready for High School?

I am not sure they are.

I often work with year 6 students who h

ave learning difficulties, but they are ALL excited about the move to high school. They feel it will be a fresh start with new possibilities. Some do really well with the change in environment, but many don’t.

Common problems include  –

  • Timetabling issues, being late, missing lessons and sports practice sessions.
  • Difficulty finding correct rooms for lessons and getting lost on campus.
  • Balancing homework tasks- many now have 3 – 4 hours of homework each evening! This is not because they have been given that much. It is because they cannot pace themselves and time manage.

Year 7s in High Schools is now a fact in all states except SA and that will change in 2021.

I am aware of the wonderful transition programs most schools run but the kids I see often so desperately want to show they can achieve in their new school and won’t ask questions.

One of my students has been so stressed this year that we have had to spend a huge amount of time on mindfulness and stress management strategies. He is  not sleeping well as he is so worried.

Another one of my students is falling apart this week with homework tasks and myriad tests. I just read his writing and he is not coping and sent out an SOS to us in his writing.

Why on earth should a child of this age be subject to that stress level? What sort of long-term effect might this have?

Teachers and parents can help their children hugely by sticking to a few sensible guidelines:

Don’t threaten children with, “You’ll be at high school next year and they won’t stand for this work” just does not work on a stressed – out Year 6.

They already know they are failing! They are hoping high school will give them a new start. We need to stop blaming children for having difficulties.

Observe Year 7 students closely:

  • Do they need extra help?
  • Are they stressed?
  • Are there ways you can quietly help?
  • Check students know exactly how much homework they are really meant to do.
  • If necessary, enrol students in tuition or a study skills course.
  • Do students understand how to use lockers? Many of my students carry ALL their books with them “just in case!” I cannot even lift their backpacks!

I have no doubt Year 7s will continue to be classed as High School students, BUT can we try to get into their shoes, imagine their stress load and consider how we can give them practical help?

What’s the Time Mr Wolf?

I am in Singapore to conduct some workshops. On Sunday I took the chance to relax by the pool and prepare my mind for the busy week.

As I lazily let my mind slip into the relaxed surroundings and half-heartedly tried to read, I heard such a familiar chant. I was immediately transported backwards over decades to when I was a little girl.

“What’s the time Mr. Wolf?”

I am imagining the mounting excitement until it is time to be eaten! I listened to the squeals of terror and nervous giggles and so the old game is played out- this time with local kids from Singapore. This game has jumped geographical, historical and cultural boundaries and not even SLIGHTLY changed!

Kids love repetitive games like this- they have common elements-

  • Can be repeated easily- often for hours and hours.

  • Need no props and can be played ANYWHERE.

  • Kids of any age can join in

  • Have an element of chance and a good healthy dose of fear!

These games teach children to collaborate, cooperate, stick to rules and much, much more. Games prepare children for life!

They need plenty of time to play these games. PLAY is not an optional element in childhood- it is ESSENTIAL!

Without play, children’s social intelligence would be stunted and this can affect their whole future. Already, we require children to spend large amounts of time on homework and often “play” is confined to I-pad and You-Tube time.

If we are serious about nurturing children and providing optimal learning environments we MUST allow adequate time for play.

Read some more about this important topic here:

https://pathways.org/blog/why-is-play-important/

 

 

We all learn differently- guest blogger perspective: Andrew Herrmann

Background:

I love to talk to parents about their own personal learning experiences with “THE SYSTEM.”

Andrew Herrmann Managing Director – Access 1 Security Systems, father of four talented and creative children had this to comment:

Dear Victoria ,

Thanks for the quick chat reminiscing through my early childhood studies.

It was amazing to realise how the general government school system misses opportunities for talented students and fails to recognise the potential in some children.

After describing my childhood schooling, we soon realised that  I excelled in the more advanced classes but produced less than average grades in the general classes.

Victoria, you immediately identified after asking me a series of questions what my schooling environment was like?

Was I challenged in the normal classes?

Did the teacher provide direct input with me or was I even pushed?

I soon realised that in the general classes I was treated like any other child left to my own measures to complete whatever I was asked, but in the advanced classes the teachers took a more focused view point and pushed the students to complete their tasks.

Being a creative type I needed the additional push to excel in what I was doing be it maths or science. The difference is obvious:

Achieving A averages in the advanced classes but in the general classes only achieved D averages. I am glad all my children have been and are still doing your courses, I can see the results in their grades at school.

Thank you, Victoria for your educational input please keep it up. Warmest regards

THANK YOU, ANDREW FOR REMINDING US THAT WE ALL LEARN DIFFERENTLY!

Sometimes we have to throw away our “maps” and become enlightened scientists digging and delving till we find WHAT WORKS!

Any other parents who would like to share their experiences of “the system”- please contact me- victoriacarlton@iinet.net.au