Sunday, 11 June 2017

Mentor texts for letter writing

Letter writing is a terrific way to encourage children to write, particularly if they are writing for a real purpose and a real audience.

As part of modelled or collaborative writing, teachers could work with the students to compose letters to the Administration Team about issues of concern in the school grounds. 

I remember a few years ago, Prep students engaged in an enquiry into the dripping tap outside their classroom, including measuring how much water was lost over an hour and throughout a whole school day.  They used the data gathered to collaboratively write a persuasive letter to the Principal about the problem, the seriousness of it in relation to the data they had gathered and what they thought should be done to fix the problem (with the Prep teacher scribing their draft ideas and final copy).  It was a wonderful real-life, purposeful learning activity.  Students are often more highly motivated and engaged in writing activities if they have a real purpose and audience for their writing tasks.
The picture books above all involve letter writing in different contexts for different purposes across the curriculum.  Students may be motivated to write personal letters using the picture books above as a stimulus and as mentor texts for writing. 
Other resources for letter writing in the early years, include:

Australia Post - free letter writing resources including online interactive games and a template to make a replica Australia Post letter box.
Post Office Dramatic Play Ideas from Teaching Mama - with free printables, links to games, making a cardboard postbox, pretend play and more!

Post Office Theme for Preschool - includes picture book links, games, letter writing, construction, finger plays and more!

Pinterest ideas for Post Office play, crafts, other dramatic play ideas and more!

Free printable Post Office play set - free templates to download

Over 15 Post Office Play ideas - includes links to picture books (not in my list above), art and craft activities, kindness postcards and links to plenty of other ideas!

There are plenty of games and educational activities from the Educatall Team about Postal Services, including Science, Social Studies, gross motor activities, games, writing tasks and many more, with free downloads!

Other activities include ideas for a Preschool Post Office theme, Pinterest Letter Writing pins and more!

How to write a friendly letter by Brianne Cronk on YouTube.

STOP THE PRESS!!!  NEW RELEASE (July 2017) AVAILABLE NOW!!!   Eric, the echnidna, has big dreams to be the best postman ever!  This tale of following your ambitions/dreams, being persistent, overcoming obstacles and developing creative solutions, is written and illustrated by Matt Shanks.  The illustrations are adorable and focus on the strengths Eric brings to the position of 'postie' with regard to his individual traits as an echidna.  This is a 'must-have' addition to any study around mail delivery, persistence, resilience, Australian animals, postal services, community and following your dreams.
I just found this terrific post from This Picture Book Life about picture books about mail:  
I also found another recently published Australian title, "Tom the Outback Mailman", so this is a very popular topic (the mail) that is so useful as a stimulus for teaching letter writing. 

You can view a YouTube  introduction to the picture book here

The song, The Mailman of the Outback might be useful for contextualising the picture book. 

A Book Trailer  can be found here.

Free teacher notes for "Tom the Outback Mailman" are available from Scholastic.  Read more about the title here and here.  "Tom the Outback Mailman" was Winner of the CBCA 2013 Eve Pownall Award for Information Books, so it is a terrific title to add to your collection.

This title is also useful for integrating Australian History and Geography (HASS) outcomes in the curriculum.  

YouTube clips to assist with contextualising include our very own Aussie legend, Tom Kruse:

Back of Beyond - Tom Kruse - Excerpt (1954) 2:19
Birdsville Mailman dead at 96 (2:01)  This is more a celebration of Tom Kruse's achievements than a sad story.  The description of the clip states that he died at 96, but the clip states he was 93.  This is a wonderful clip about Aussie identity and survival in the outback.
Tom Kruse Tribute (12:25)  This is awesome :)
Birdsville Track - Outback - Australia (4:55) 2012 images

Please let me know in the comments below if you have a favourite picture book for letter writing or know of any other great ideas...

Have a terrific week everyone :)

Sunday, 21 May 2017

How about you? "I'm Australian Too" by Mem Fox giveaway

What journeys we have travelled, from countries near and far! Together now, we live in peace, beneath the Southern Star.
Mem Fox's latest picture book, "I'm Australian Too" is a celebration of Australia's cultural diversity.   Touching on themes around Australia's multiculturalism, immigration and refugees, the book captures many of the reasons why and how people came to live in Australia and that regardless of our differences, we are all Australians.    

View a YouTube clip of a read aloud of the story, "I'm Australian Too"  here.

"I'm Australian Too" is steeped in themes of inclusivity which would make it a wonderful partner text with, "Whoever You Are", another story of inclusivity and acceptance by Mem Fox.  The blurb of "Whoever You Are" reinforces the importance of the acceptance of individual differences: 

"Every day all over the world, children are laughing and crying, playing and learning, eating and sleeping. They may not look the same. They may not speak the same language. Their lives may be quite different. But inside, they are all alike."

Access free lesson plan ideas for other Mem Fox titles here.

Click on the red hyperlinks to find more resources and ideas about Australian Multiculturalism and Refugees in Australia.

Teaching ideas for "I'm Australian Too" can be found on the Educate. Empower. website.

A lesson plan for "Whoever You Are" is provided by Community Services, ACT.

I have accumulated WAY TOO MANY picture books and I have often ordered a second copy before the first copy arrives so I will be doing regular giveaways on my blog over the next few weeks to give away the additional new copies I have ordered!!!  

In the giveaway this week, you can score yourself a brand new hardback copy of "I'm Australian Too" by Mem Fox.   Unfortunately, due to postage costs, this giveaway is open to Australian residents only, unless followers overseas would like to enter and cover the costs of the overseas postage themselves.

Please share this post with your networks :)  If the Rafflecopter rectangle does not show up, please just click on the link below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a terrific week everyone :)

Friday, 12 May 2017

We go together - "The Cow Tripped Over the Moon" and "Eddie Frogbert"

"The Cow Tripped Over the Moon" by Tony Wilson and illustrated by Laura Wood, is a hilarious innovation on the original nursery rhyme.  

This version is a terrific tale of courage, persistence and resilience, which integrates maths (through the sequencing of events over time).  It has such potential for STEM, with the opportunity for students to design other ways for the cow to jump over the moon. View a short book trailer by Ms Todd here.

The illustrations by Laura Wood are hilarious and totally engaging as she captures the cow's persistence and resilience.

I just love this picture book.  It is the focus text for National Simultaneous Storytime (NSS) on 24 May 2017.  The idea is that all teachers and students across Australia share this picture story book at 11 am on 24 May.  More information about NSS can be found here and ideas for activities to use with the picture book can be found here.

I also found some other links to art and craft activities for "Hey Diddle Diddle" that might be useful during NSS 2017.  

Please share any other ideas you find in the comments section below this post.

A terrific companion text or partner text is the newly published picture book, "A Big Leap for  Little Frog: Eddie Frogbert" by Sue deGennaro.  The whimsical illustrations use gouache, paper and pencil, juxtaposing the lime green and blue palette against a contrasting grey background.  They are simply extraordinary, capturing the tentative journey of Eddie Frogbert as develops the courage to overcome his fear, by taking a very big leap for a little frog.  

To help you and your class celebrate NSS 2017, I am giving away a copy of each of the two resources I created to support "The Cow Tripped Over the Moon".  Please enter the Rafflecopter for your chance to win a copy of one of these resources, and let your friends know about it too :)  

You can preview the two resources on TPT - Comprehension Activities and Retelling Puppets.  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Have a terrific week everyone :)  

Sunday, 2 April 2017

What do you do when you have students who do not celebrate Easter?

It's happened to most of plan wonderful Easter Art and Craft and picture book activities and then you find out that one or more students in your class does not celebrate Easter. What do you do?

There are four books featured in this post that have similar themes and include a hen, a chicken and a rabbit as main characters, and one of the picture books having a possum as the main character.  

Finally, there are two wonderful rhyming texts by Julia Donaldson that could be introduced into the curriculum whilst other students are engaged in Easter activities, and these two books include rabbits as main characters but they do not relate to Easter.

There are many different versions of "Henny Penny" and "Chicken Little".  


In both "Henny Penny", and "Chicken Little", the main characters believe the sky is falling and they set off on a journey to tell the King.  Both characters gather followers along the way and both characters escape the sly plans of a fox.  Both texts are terrific for rhyming words based on animals' names and both main characters realise that the sky wasn't really falling by the end of the book.

These two picture books feature a hen or a chicken as the main characters, but they have nothing to do with Easter. Therefore, to support inclusion, students could still be engaged in any hen/chicken art and craft activities that don't involve Easter eggs or Easter chickens.

I love the concluding statement in "Chicken Little" ~
"They no longer believe everything they are told without thinking for themselves."

"Blossom Possum: The Sky is Falling Down-Under"  by Gina Newton, is set in Australia, and features Australian animals.  It has a similar structure to "Henny Penny" and "Chicken Little". However, this time, we infer that a gum nut must have fallen on Blossom Possum's head and she starts her trek to inform the Prime Minister.  Blossom Possum is terrific for introducing Australian animals, and in this case, it is By-Jingo Dingo who tries to trick the animals into his lair.
All four of these texts lend themselves strongly towards sequencing activities and story maps and when I was re-reading "Blossom Possum", it reminded me of "We're Going on a Bear Hunt", by Michael Rosen, due to its circular structure and repetition. 
Blossom Possum also ended up where she began, with the repetition of the route during the trek:

"She trotted off down the track, round the back of beyond, up the hill and past the black stump, until she bumped into..." and on the way home, the reverse:

This was reversed on the way home.  If children had drawn story maps, they could follow them on the journey back home and rich discussions could occur over some of the Aussie terminology in the picture book e.g. Where is the 'back of beyond'?  Where is 'the black stump'?

"They ran back through the bush, along the creek, over the hill, past the black stump, down another hill, round the back of beyond and up the track until...they were safely home."

"The Terrible Plop", created by Australian author Ursula Dubosarsky and  Australian illustrator, Andrew Joyner also fits into the text set above, with "the sky is falling" theme. This time, however, the imaginary fiend is an apple falling off a tree into the lake, making a terrible "Plop!" This terrifies and sends the other animals into hysteria, except a little rabbit. I'm not going to spoil the ending for you, but it makes another terrific addition to "the sky is falling" text set.
Finally, Julia Donaldson has written some wonderful picture books that are highly engaging and popular with children.  The two picture books pictured below both feature rabbits as main characters, but they are not Easter-related. 

 "The Rhyming Rabbit"   is about a rabbit who is a poet and feels lonely because the other rabbits do not appreciate his poetical talent.  However, one night he meets a fellow poetry enthusiast...  
In "Rabbit's Nap" poor rabbit is trying to have a sleep, but everyone else is too noisy.  Told through rhyme, the story lends itself so well to prediction, as children lift the flaps to find out who is being noisy and keeping rabbit awake.  

Again, both of these stories feature rabbits as the main characters, however, they are not related to Easter.  Therefore, children who do not celebrate or study Easter, are able to participate in any rabbit Art and Craft activities, as long as they do not have modern Easter-related additions (e.g. eggs, baskets of eggs etc.).

I created a resource linking "Blossom Possum - The Sky is Falling Down-Under" by Gina Newton, to the Four Resources Model (Freebody & Luke, 1990) and strategies for close reading.  Click on the red link above or the image below to find out more.

I would love to hear about any other strategies, ideas or resources you use to support those students you have when it is around Easter time and their family has requested that their child does not participate in Easter activities, for any number of reasons.  

Please share your ideas for resources and alternative activities for students who do not participate in Easter in the comments section below.  

I am happy to share a copy of my Blossom Possum resource with those of you who are following my blog and who take the time to do so :)  

Many thanks 

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Australian Dinosaurs - with freebies and three giveaways

Hi everyone

When my son was little he just dug dinosaurs in a major way.  Today I am going to review a new picture book published by Magabala Books titled, "Return of the Dinosaurs" by Bronwyn Houston.  

I am also going to link to dinosaur freebies from some of my generous and talented friends in Australia and New Zealand and run a giveaway for a couple of my own dinosaur picture book rhyming game resources and a free copy of the featured picture book for Australian readers.

Quoting from the publisher:
"Return of the Dinosaurs presents an amusing and imaginative look at what life would be like for dinosaurs today if they reappeared at Broome's iconic landmarks."

This newly published picture book will be available in November 2016. It captures images of the many dinosaurs, birds and marine life that roamed the Kimberley coastline (in the far north of Western Australia) more than 130 million years ago.

The author/illustrator of the richly textured layers of artwork is Bronwyn Houston and she is descended from the Nyiyaparli and Yindjibarndi people in the Pilbara region of Western Australia.

The opening lines are:
"A long time ago, dinosaurs lived around the Kimberley coast and their ancient footprints can still be found.  Imagine if dinosaurs came back to visit Broome!  What would they do?"

What a wonderful invitation for imagination and inquiry!  Dinosaurs that appear in this witty and imaginative story include the: Brachiosaurus, Ceratosaurus, Megalosauropus, Broomensis, Parasaurolophus and Stegosaurus.  It's amazing how many early readers can still pronounce some of these complex dinosaur names and recount many detailed facts!  This picture book would be an interesting read aloud for students in the early years (dinosaur fanatics) or a terrific independent read for other students.

I am going to revisit the picture book and share some of my favourite features:
  • The little additional speech captions from the dinosaurs featured in the stories add humour
  • The picture book introduces key landmarks around Broome and the Kimberley region, for example, Cable Beach and natural phenomena such as the Golden Staircase to the moon
  • Text-to-text connections can be made to "Finding Nemo" with the caption, "Friend or Food"?
  • The end of the picture book features information about Broome dinosaurs with text features including maps and labels
Free teaching notes for this newly published picture book are available to download here.

You can read more about the dinosaur footprints in the far north of Western Australia here and view a clip from Catalyst about the Kimberley dinosaurs here.  There are plenty of other clips if you do a YouTube search.  You can read more about Australian dinosaurs here or here.  

You can read my previous blog post about "I'm a Hungry Dinosaur" and download a freebie here or you can preview my rhyming games resources for this title and also "I'm a Dirty Dinosaur" by clicking on the titles with the red hyperlinks or the images of the resources.  

Both titles are by Janeen Brian and these resources are included in my giveaway at the end of this blog post.
Dinosaur freebies from my generous friends (feel free to share your own links in the comments section).  To download the freebies click on either the hyperlink or the image, but please be kind enough to follow their TPT stores and leave ratings/feedback...good karma :) Unfortunately, the hyperlinks are not changing colour to red, so please either click on the titles below or on the images below to download these resources.

Shape Bingo from Teaching Trove

Addition and Subtraction Mats from Jem's Bright Buttons
If you have any other favourite resources about dinosaurs, please post the links in the comments section below.  

Don't forget to enter the giveaways :)  There are three of them, including winning a free copy of the picture book reviewed in this blog post (for Australian readers) and one of my two dinosaur rhyming words games (open to everyone).  Enter as many times as you like and make sure you scroll through to view all three giveaways :)
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Have a great week everyone and to quote Ellen, "Be kind to each other" x

Monday, 10 October 2016

A new resource for "Sugarplum and the Unicorn" by Julia Donaldson

I just love text sets and I just love Julia Donaldson's picture books, so when I came across "Sugarplum and the Unicorn" I just could not wait to make a reading comprehension resource for it.  You can preview that resource by clicking on the red hyperlink under the title, or here.

Below is a set of texts that would work well together as companion texts.  My reading comprehension resource for "Thelma the Unicorn" by Aaron Blabey has been really popular and one of my best sellers.  You can preview it here.  

All three picture books have similar themes of wishing to be something more than you are. 

You can view a book trailer for "Thelma the Unicorn" here.  You can view the author, Aaron Blabey reading the book aloud here.  He is one of my favourite Australian picture book authors :)

This is an overview of my reading comprehension resource for "Thelma the Unicorn".
Other titles that might work well in this text set include:
"Unicorn Thinks He's Pretty Great" by Bob Shea

"Bob is a Unicorn"

"Uni the Unicorn" by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (song based on the book

These picture books are terrific for helping children realise the importance of accepting yourself as you are, which is an important life skill.

Teacher reference:

"I Believe in Unicorns: Classroom Experiences for Activating Creative Thinking" by Bob Stanish.  Has anyone used this book to support creative and critical thinking?

Can you think of any other picture books that would fit into this text set?  If so, please share in the comments.

Have a great week everyone...

Monday, 5 September 2016

"Budburra's Garden", "I'm a Hungry Dinosaur" and a freebie

Recently I blogged about picture books that have been recently published that feature food. You can read that blog post here.  I will post a section of my review of "Budburra's Garden" for those who missed the previous post:

What's terrific about this picture book is that it introduces children to different nutritious foods (fruit and vegetables) according to their colours.  It is also terrific to use as a mentor text to reinforce learning about adjectives.  It introduces students to traditional fruits and vegetables, but also traditional Australian Indigenous foods.  The picture book includes information about the bush tucker found in "Budburra's Garden" at the back of the book and recipes to "Colour Yourself Healthy".  I really think this is a powerful picture book with potential to be used on many levels.

I created a FREE resource to support this picture book.  You can download it by clicking on any of the images about "Budburra's Garden" in this blog post.

Another terrific title that would fit in with this text set is "I'm a Hungry Dinosaur" by Janeen Brian. It was a Notable picture book in the 2016 Children's Book Council  of Australia (CBCA) Children's Book Week Awards.

You can check out my resource to support this picture book by clicking on the image above or here.
Have a terrific week everyone :)