NAPLAN NONSENSE

Finally, my colleagues are vindicated in their anti-NAPLAN comments! This morning’s news featuring the report from Dr Ainley showing:

“There has been no improvement in maths and reading among students in a decade and the results of disadvantaged students have declined sharply, a major report obtained by the ABC reveals.” (link at end of this blog)

I train teachers around the country and many outstanding educators have privately shared their NAPLAN concerns with me.

These concerns include:

  • Having to teach to the test- not the curriculum.
  • Reducing child development to grades and benchmarks and not taking learning styles into consideration
  • Children’s fears and anxiety around these tests.
  • Parents making children work on endless worksheets that purport to give better marks- a whole industry has grown up around this reduction of the education process to grades and numbers!
  • Children are pretested,  post – tested- they are tested so often there is little time to teach!

I regularly give workshops to SE Asian teachers as well, and my Singaporean colleagues have asked me why we have so many national exams.

Singapore has very high standards of education and has been very exam oriented in the past but is gradually injecting more creativity into the curriculum.

We NEVER had to go this way.

Sure- literacy and numeracy standards needed to improve and we needed more rigour in our education process.

This could have happened with a tighter curriculum, more effective professional development and extra teachers and assistants to work with children.

NAPLAN was always a broken, inferior tool to mend an education system that needed serious improvement.

Read more about it here-

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-03-07/naplan-call-review-after-report-reveals-no-change-in-decade/9519840

 

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The ABC of Child Whispering: R is for READING

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading is a huge pleasure for many of us and we hope children will also experience this wonderful opening to many worlds, knowledge and ideas.
I notice that most teachers attending my literacy courses tend to read more non-fiction than fiction and report lack of time to be a major reason for this.
Actually I wonder if this is really true. I would bet even money that most of us spend more and more time on Pinterest,  Facebook, Netflix etc and that reading is not always the chosen “go-to” for spare moments. I also wonder if perhaps there is a sense of guilt associated with reading fiction and “escaping”.
In order to be a model for children, parents and teachers need to read and be seen to read for pleasure. They need to see us reading non-fiction AND fiction. They need to know that reading is an enjoyable and popular pastime and to see it is valued by the people they love the most.
Reading, and in particular reading fiction, opens up other rooms in our minds. It gives us opportunities to develop empathy for characters and to explore different settings, plots, ideas and scenarios. Reading fiction helps us to grow and problem solve. It stimulates our brains and helps our EQ to grow.
Reading fiction does the same for children. There are so many wonderful picture books and novels written for children of all ages.
It is worth spending time to find out about great authors and to help children discover books they can really engage with. Our libraries are a fantastic source of FREE books- both

paper and digital, and there are endless lists of children’s literature to explore.
I have a Pinterest Site to help parents and teachers find great books: https://au.pinterest.com/victoriacarlton/books/
This colder weather is perfect for snuggling up with a book, reading to your children and also establishing a family reading time each evening.
Simple switch off the TV and enjoy 20-30 mins where EVERYONE reads. Play quiet music in the background and at the end encourage  some discussion but DON’T make your children talk about their books if they prefer not to. Don’t turn a pleasurable exercise into a chore!
Happy WINTER reading. I’m off to curl up with a blanket, book and hot chocolate!
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The ABC of Child Whispering P is for PLAY

Cute little girl is blowing a soap bubbles

We all know that children need to play but do we really understand why? Actually it is VITAL that children play and that we don’t over-schedule them so their play times are eroded.

Play

  • develops creativity and imagination
  • improves fine and gross motor skills
  • builds emotional intelligence – especially empathy and resilience skills
  • is important to healthy brain development
  •  helps children to learn about their world and appropriate ways to interact

Play can take many forms and does not always need to be structured.

It is often during solitary play times that children think deeply and examine feelings and solve problems.

Intra-Personal intelligence is strengthened when children have plenty of time to play.

The following link will give you many ideas for ensuring your children are not PLAY DEFICIENT and grow into healthy and well-adjusted young people.

http://raisingchildren.net.au/articles/why_play_is_important.html

 

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They look but never see!

I have just returned from a trip to the UK for a conference and holiday and have been reflecting on all the wonderful sights, places and people I encountered.

I have plenty of time to think (as severely jet-lagged) so have twice the time for reflection!

I love the National Gallery in London as it houses so many of my favourite paintings and each year I notice how few people really look at paintings.

While in the room with many of Van Gogh’s paintings I just sat and watched people. There was a huge crowd jostling for the best space to click, click, click with their mobile phones and NOBODY looked. NOBODY gazed and tried to take in the incredible beauty, challenging messages, colours, juxtapositions of objects and sky and strange unsettling images.

Sadly they just wanted to have these little rectangular pictures on their phones to show and prove they had been there.

Why?

Don’t people want to SEE anymore?

Is it really too hard to interact and to have to think and reflect?

I was with my cousin, his partner and young daughters (4 and 5 years) and witnessed completely different reactions from the kids.

Their parents encouraged them to stand and stare at a couple of the pictures and then to try to draw them. The kids were SO engrossed and spent around 45 minutes at their drawings. They SAW far more than these people who were “doing the National Gallery.”

I want the kids I IMG_3250teach to SEE and to BE and to not fall into the trap of interacting with their environments in such  shallow ways. To do that I have to plan learning activities where they can really THINK, REFLECT and INTERACT with learning materials.

When children are rushed they are troubled and the world is already so full of troubled people living lives at headlong speeds. Taking time, reflecting and really SEEING can be healing opportunities where we grow, find out who we are and dwell in the deep end for a while!

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Switching off to switch on with more power!

“Please Sir, Can I have some more?” (Oliver Twist)more

I am in a thinking space. A place to reflect.

I’ve only been here 3 days and the magic is already working!

Bali weaves a spell around us all and like Oliver Twist I want more!

I am working over the next 2 days giving JOLLY TRAINING in a school in Sanur and really enjoying the change of pace, beautiful environment, smiles everywhere and warmth.

I’ve had time to think hard about our educational programs and future directions.

Time to just be!

I’m always talking about Gardner’s 8 intelligences and the need to develop the Intra-personal intelligence for children.

But adults need it too. This is the one we so often ignore as we plod on and on and on without ever stopping and asking ourselves important questions such as:

Is there a better way?

Are we missing something important here?

Are we fulfilling our visions? If not- how can we adjust?

Times like this are like flight-plan adjustments!

If I can think, reflect and feel this good within 3 days – then I need it more often!

To really put 100% of our passion and energy into our lives we need this time-out to switch off, and then switch on again but with a brighter light!

The thinking and reflection I have done here will last a year- and then I’ll be back for MORE!

Thanks Bali- 3 weeks next time!

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THE SYSTEM IS BROKEN – HARD TIMES ARE BACK!

Our education system is broken.
We have lost the plot – seriously!
We treat children like vessels to be filled with knowledge- like Mr Thomas Gradgrind, the school board superintendent, in Charles Dicken’s “Hard Times.”
“Now, what I want is Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts; nothing else will ever be of any service to them.”

There are more and more schools that rip kindergarten children from the sandpits and plop them in front of boring workbooks, taking them away from play-based learning and thrusting them into formal school learning – all in the name of acceleration. Acceleration for what? Acceleration towards boredom and disengagment!

Some schools have the stated aim of getting all the children to be 1 year ahead before they get into year one! Why? What will this tension lead to?

Broken children will be the end results and already our level of anxiety amongst children has grown to worrying levels.
https://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/lifestyle/a/25294925/anxiety-rising-among-children/
We are enrolling more and more children who are very anxious about NAPLAN, reports, academic performance and not managing to get all their homework done!
Schools are discussing children in terms of marks, stanines and percentages – not needs, personalities and learning styles.
The humanity, fun and excitement has gone from education and will continue to go.
Just over the last 7 days I have met broken children who believe they are failures at 8 years of age! I have met broken teachers who love children but have been instructed that children are no longer at the centre of the educational stage – it is all about exams results and, marks.
Even children are now describing themselves using the marks they get. I have children who have told me they desperately want to achieve a pass or get better than a C but believe this is no longer possible.

I have seen many reports that tell the exact position children come in their class. That is unbelievable and unacceptable in this day and age. It has to be stopped.
We are dishonouring our children and robbing them of motivation, hope and love of education. We CAN improve standards and reform our education system without taking away all the hope, enthusiasm, fun and creativity and breaking the hearts of the next generation!

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PAY IT FORWARD for kids

 

The phrase Pay It Forward in red text on a yellow sticky note posted on a green notice board

Last night I watched the classic 2000 PAY IT FORWARD movie: https://youtu.be/TlZDDACt8Nw

If like me- you missed it- watch it today! Martin and I ended up blubbering on the couch but at the end decided that really PAY IT FORWARD is an amazing concept. I know there are various organisations, websites etc out there who organise this and we have used the concept in our EQ4KIDZ programs – especially with older children….. but somehow last night’s viewing has changed me. I want to consciously PAY IT FORWARD each day and help children to do the same.

I notice how excited our kids at ICE get when we talk about BIG IDEAS. They are fascinated and want to become involved. I am going to let this PAY IT FORWARD concept sit with me throughout Lent. (Always a good time for me to reflect!)

Then at Easter I hope to birth the idea to our kids in a really practical format.

What a simple concept. Strip away all the hype, publicity etc and just look at the idea. Imagine-  if we all gave 1 act of generosity a day- even a week or a month- and asked the recipient to simply pay it forward.

Seriously, the world COULD change. we could DO that! Before you call me a dewey eyed idealist- watch the movie and if you’ve seen it- watch it AGAIN.

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ART FROM THE HEART

Processed with VSCOcam with n1 preset
Processed with VSCOcam with n1 preset

I woke this morning with that Christmas morning feeling you get when you are anticipating joy!
All week we have ART FROM THE HEART classes and I know the atmosphere at ICE will be peaceful, excited and yet strangely calm.
We do a little bit of art in every course we run and of course HEAPS of art in ART FROM THE HEART!
ART should always be from the heart. Art engages the left and right sides of the brain as children imagine, plan, organise, “feel” their way in, create and revise. I love to watch their faces as they engage in art- they GLOW and all concentration and tension issues seem to fly out the window.
Interestingly, the learning that takes place after art is ALWAYS deeper.
Sure issues of low self-esteem, lack of confidence and worries about it not being perfect surface but the art time is a great place for these things to come up and be dealt with. Teachers who help kids engage in art are really not just doing art- they are helping to grow more centred, creative and self-aware people!
Should we ALL be drawing/painting/crafting?
Maybe hardened criminals and terrorists should attend daily art classes! It truly seems to make for calmer, happier children so let’s try it on some big people.
I am starting an ART FROM THE HEART pinterest board today and will be sharing lots of techniques and ideas as well as displaying kids’ work. Please follow and share some of your own creative ideas too!
Let’s make this a week where we ALL indulge in some creative practices and share.

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Leaky Elbow Syndrome

STORY STARTERS A-page-0

I often joke about how many of our students seem to have holes in their elbows and their wonderful ideas drop out before they hit the page!
I think we forget how hard it is for children to coordinate ideas, handwriting, concentration, punctuation etc and get ideas down.
My favourite lesson every day is WRITING and I am amazed as I see the creative process begin anew with each lesson.
The blank page is transformed- one minute it is empty- the next there are ideas, “wonderings”, creative “splats” and sadly sometimes one word and a pencil that just won’t move!
When I ask children what they would like to write they describe how they have many ideas and just cannot choose. Sometimes they have a HUGE idea and they are frightened to begin because it will take so long to write or they feel they cannot spell the words.
There are so many variables and teachers need a very full tool-box and a huge dose of understanding to be able to effectively teach written expression.
We sometimes use story starters- especially when children are tired and we are approaching the end of the year.
As children LOVE random choices, we often cut these up and they take one as a lucky dip. They act as “circuit breakers” so their brains can zoom in on just one idea!
If I give them too many topics to choose from they will get into the “kangaroo caught in the spotlight” syndrome and simply stop!
I have given you some of our story starters here and invite you to try them out. We are always devising more and at the moment we are working on a new Christmas set.
We share all our writing strategies in our writing workshop for teachers- ALL KIDS CAN WRITE. Please contact me if you would like to attend the forthcoming ones in Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane or Singapore.

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Your child is only at level 23!

A view of a sad prisoner in jail
A view of a sad prisoner in jail

I have had to sit on this subject for 2 days as as it was connected to an incident that left me white hot with rage! All I could do was rant and rave with my colleagues who all agreed privately but pointed out they are often bound to work within this crazy system!

I worked with a perfectly normal 6 year old this week who is just beginning to sound out and recognise some words. He has a lovely sense of humour and is obviously a very active, creative child who will do well at school.

BUT he comes from a classroom where the levels may as well be inscribed on children’s wrists like those in POW camps! His parents were told the sad news- “Only at level 23!”

Up to level 23 in reading? What does this mean? Of course I know there are various prescribed lists of levels suitable for children with books that fit within these lists. Many of these lists are put together by publishers of particular reading schemes and teachers (searching for a sane, easier way of assessing) are grabbing at these levels and giving out comments such as “Oh dear! Your child is only at level 23- he should be at 30.”
Who said?
What about the fact that he has started his reading journey and now recognises all the single sounds, many digraphs and can sound out simple words?

What about the fact that he loves picture books, comprehends well and has great ideas for writing narratives?

Aren’t they things to celebrate for a 6 year old? But NO!

Because some children can master all their phonics at 5 years we now judge those who take a little longer.

This is utter madness and teachers know this deep down.
Evaluation is a complex process and cannot be pinned down to numbers like this.

You have to get to KNOW a child to evaluate them. Not only do you apply baseline testing, you have to observe, figure out their thinking patterns and watch them in action.

When we make these fast judgements we are lowering our standards as educators and behaving like teaching machines.

The results are sad kids with low self-esteem who already hate school at 6! At 6? Crazy!

I know some teachers are pushed to place kids against very questionable ranking scores but this causes unbelievable harm for children and parents.

We can do much better than this!

Now when I assess children and ask them how they think they are doing at school, they answer me like this,
“Oh Vicky- I am only at level 15.” When I ask them what that means they haven’t a clue and neither have I.

Let’s get back to solid, on the floor observation, talking to children, identifying learning styles, finding what they can do, running records and closely monitoring phonological awareness, word identification and fluency. I tell kids when they have problems and I make up plans to help them rather than giving out some meaningless score! We are teaching children- not machines!
What is happening is stupidity of the first degree and I cannot stand back and watch what is happening with a closed mouth.

Come on educators- speak your minds and parents- DEMAND to know exactly what these levels mean and why your child should have to be a carbon copy of some “idealised” robot child!

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