Sunday, 9 February 2014

Jazz it up! Ideas for Black History Month and Jazz Appreciation Month, plus more!

Hi everyone

I stumbled across the most amazing series of picture books which I just love, that may be useful for Black History Month (or African-American History Month which is celebrated in February) or for Jazz Appreciation Month (which is celebrated in April).  Free lesson plans for Jazz Appreciation Month are available here and  ideas for celebrating Black History Month can be found here.

I am joining up with Paula again for her Storybook Sunday.  Please click on the image below to check out the other picture books shared this week.
The picture books below have great rhythm and "scat" language, which I am sure students would love.  These titles come with a backing CD for reading along with the rhythm of jazz.  This sent me on a mission to find other companion texts with a jazz theme and that is my focus of today's post.  The first two titles are the ones from the series I have already mentioned:
I only have two titles in this series and I love them both equally.  The jazz phrasing in each text is based on scatting which was first applied by the early African-American musicians to jazz music.  These titles would be great for integrating children's literature, music and history.

When I was reading, "The Jazz Fly", by Matthew Gollub,  I made a connection to "The Wonky Donkey" by Craig Smith; "Tough Cookie" by David Wisniewski  and "Private I. Guana" by Nina Laden.  Clicking on the links above will take you to YouTube clips of these other titles.  Sometimes my connections are pretty eclectic, so perhaps you may have different ones.  You can check out resources based on "Tough Cookie" or "Private I. Guana" in my TPT store here. The "Private I. Guana" resource is part of my Detectives resource with the 4H reading strategy.
When reading, "Freddie Frog and The Flying Jazz Kitten" by Sharon Burch, I made connections to "The Three Billy Goats Gruff" when the elephant was crossing the bridge and thought this text would also be great for studying rhyming words, directional language and onomatopoeia.  I was thinking that students could improvise on this text using environmental sounds from the school grounds.  These are terrific texts for choral reading or readers' theatre in the middle years to support fluency.  The rhythm is infectious!

A sample video of "Freddie Frog and the Flying Jazz Kitten" can be viewed here - or scat singing of the story here.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I did :) You can view a student performance of "The Jazz Fly" by students in Queens, New York, here or you can view a information about the genre of jazz here.

So then I started to investigate other picture story books that could be used as companion texts around the theme of jazz.  The titles reviewed in this post will enable you to integrate children's literature, music and history in a highly engaging and creative way!

1.  "Herman and Rosie" (2013) by Gus Gordon.  This is the story of two lonely characters in a large city.  Herman liked playing the oboe and Rosie loved listening to her old jazz records and singing in a jazz band.  They both liked watching films about the ocean.  This is a lovely tale about loneliness and friendship and how music can bring people together.

You can view a book trailer here.  The  background music is great!  Free teaching notes are available here and for all different year levels as part of Read for Australia here.

2.  "Cats' Night Out" (2010) by Caroline Stutson.  Set in the city, the cats start to groove to the beat on Easy Street.  This is a foot-tapping, finger-snapping counting book, where readers can count by twos and find the total number hidden somewhere on the page.  This text features cool cats, in pale pink tuxedos and poodle skirts who love to dance.  This is a terrific text for studying rhyming words and field-specific vocabulary, such as "samba", "boogie", "blues", "tango", "tabbies", "fox-trot", "rumba", "polka", "conga", "waltz" and "riff".  I had to really look closely to find some of the hidden numerals on each page!  A terrific text for counting by twos.

3.  "Hip Cat" (1993) by Jonathan London.  I just love the illustrations by Woodleigh Hubbard.  This text is about cool cats digging hot jazz - a story full of dreams.  The story has a really cool message which encourages children to do what they love and to work at it to the best of their abilities.  It is the story of a hip, saxophone-playing cat who heads to the big city to seek fame and fortune.  It also includes the language of scat.

4.  "Jazz Age Josephine" (2012) by Jonah Winter.  Based on the life of Josephine Baker (see YouTube clip here). Information about Josephine Baker, including project ideas, history and additional links can be found here.  From a literacy point of view, this text would be great for teaching adjectives, repetition and slang.  A story tinged with the sadness of racial discrimination, but also one of hope and overcoming the odds and overcoming poverty and racism.  A brief biography is included at the back of the book.

 5.  "This Jazzman" (2006) by Karen Ehrhardt. This is a terrific innovation on the traditional "This Old Man" with a jazz twist. You can view a YouTube clip of the song "This Jazzman" here. It would be a terrific mentor text for innovations and also for choral reading to develop fluency.  The music in the YouTube clip is fantastic, featuring many instruments used in Jazz.  A free curriculum guide and other links and information about the book is available here.  Readers are introduced to characters such as Stachmo, Bojangles and Charles Mingus, which provides a wonderful introduction and opportunity for further research.

6.  "The Bebop Express" (2005) by Steve Johnson.  In this picture book, a train makes its way from New York to New Orleans, celebrating jazz music along the way.   These notes include other possible companion texts not mentioned in this blog post.  Again, this text would be great for choral reading and also for studying rhyming words, verbs and topic-specific vocabulary, with wonderful illustrations featuring instruments used by jazz musicians.  You can view a YouTube reading of the text here.  It's super to demonstrate the rhythm of the text.  Free ideas for this book and others are included here as part of the Chickadee Awards

7.  "The Sound that Jazz Makes" (2000) by Carole Boston Weatherford.  The lyrics have a wonderful rhythm.  The story moves from the origins of jazz, through slavery to freedom and the emergence of jazz.   Carole Boston Weatherford's poetic text is perfectly matched with Eric Velasquez's powerful oil paintings to celebrate the history and legacy of jazz.  A YouTube reading of the text is available here.  This text again lends itself to studying rhyming words and topic-specific vocabulary.  The YouTube reading has wonderful background music relevant to different times in American African history.  The picture mentions some of the greats from the origin of jazz - another invitation to do further research, perhaps.  I just love this final quote, "Jazz is a downbeat born in our nation, chords of struggle and jubilation., bursting forth from hearts set free in notes that echo history."

8. "Jazz Playground"  is a musical compilation that introduces children to examples of the musical genre of jazz which began in the United States and has since spread around the world. Students visit nine countries on six different continents and hear some of the most common jazz instrument combinations (saxophone, piano, bass, drums, guitar) in addition to some more unique instruments including violin, flute and the West African balaf√≥n. There are many kinds of jazz including swing, ragtime, Latin, bebop and boogie woogie, but whatever style and whatever country or continent jazz comes from.  A free teaching guide for "Jazz Playground" is available here.

9. "Before John Was a Jazz Giant: A Song of John Coltrane" (2008) by Carole Boston Weatherford is a picture book which explores how the sounds John Coltrane heard as a child influenced his musical compositions, playing, and style. You can listen to the first part of a documentary about John Coltrane's life here and the second part of the documentary here
Free lesson ideas are available here.

10. & 11. There are two different picture books with the same title "Jazz Baby" by Carole Boston Weatherford and "Jazz Baby" by Lisa Wheeler. A YouTube read aloud of the first text can be found here.  Free teaching notes for "Jazz Baby" and other titles including "Pete the Cat" are available here.  A song version of the second title can be found here, to the tune of "Rock Around the Clock".
 An annotated bibliography which includes some of these titles and many more is available here.

Even if you don't celebrate Black History Month or Jazz Appreciation Month, I hope you have found some ideas to integrate music, history and children's literature into your program.

I would love to hear from anyone who has used these picture books in their classroom, or any other ideas others have for inspiring children through music and children's literature. 

All the best

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

The gift of writing and creativity

I am absolutely delighted to introduce my colleague, Dr. Janice Jones.  

I have invited Janice, whom I admire very much, to share with us about one of her original works - "Into the Forest".  You can view a YouTube of this creative work here.  Not only is Janice the most beautiful person, she is also incredibly creative and today she is sharing her story about the creation of "Into the Forest", as a writer and artist. 
(I am pinching myself - this is such an honour! Thanks so much Janice!!!)

Into the Forest is a collage of visual images from my original – and unfinished - artwork.
I began to draw that visual story of love and danger many years ago. It became a kind of meditation on the past, and a way for me to reconcile feelings of love and guilt. At nights I spent quiet hours creating a visual representation of my life and the story of our early years together while my little girl Emily slept. It comforted me to tell that story through images, and to hide in tiny lettering ‘secret narratives’ in parts of the artwork. I loved the mystery of that – glimpses of stories that cannot be shared. Over the years, I would take the drawing out, and add a little more. Eventually, my daughter had become an adult – with her own stories and secrets. She is an inspiration to me – her courage and resilience leave me in awe so that my hand froze above the paper. I realized that I could not finish the art work for two reasons. Although it had started as my story, Emily was also central to the narrative. As she grew up I realized that it was not my place to tell her story. Also – age changes our body and our mind – my hand now has some of the tremor of age. I can no longer craft those steady fine lines.

The blank page – pregnant silence.
A quarter of the page is empty. I will never finish it. There is something primitive in my reluctance to finish the story of a life – and particularly my daughter’s life. Ideas and images have such power. We are beings of spirit – and we recognize deeper meanings without being able to speak them: the page will always remain unfinished. Space allows the future to happen.I wanted to share the work and the telling of my story. So –I photographed sections of the artwork and created a film, with music and words. It is slower than I would wish – and not as smooth, but I hope that it speaks to those who watch it. In many ways, it is the story of so many women who love dangerously.
In the company of wolves.
At the base of the picture is my first husband. I fell in love with his beautiful blue eyes and raven-black hair, but his mind was broken. Naively I thought I could heal him: he had so much promise and talent. Instead I began a descent into his world. As so often happens in life, I had decided to give up and move on when I discovered that I was pregnant. Now I could not go to university. I was scared, but full of wonder that a new life was growing inside me. With him, I moved to a city far away from my family. He was unfit to work. The area was poor and violence was common. Like Persephone I travelled a long way into his underworld so that I hardly remembered who I was. But, when Emily was born I found a purpose beyond myself.

However, his illness became extreme, and we were in grave danger. I fled, returning home to my family.
I dressed and acted as if I were well, but inside I carried much fear and guilt – as if I had brought the darkness back with me. It took a long time for the night-terrors to stop, for the hairs on the back of my neck to stop rising, for my heart to stop crashing when darkness fell, the phone rang, or I saw a man with dark hair.  He never became well, and it grieved me always that he had little happiness in his life, for I still loved the person within the illness. Some healing came when our adult daughter re-connected with her birth father.
Through her kindness to him I have found a degree of self-forgiveness and acceptance that I did what had to be done.

Looking back – dancing across time. At the end of the film, I dream of reconciliation – of a return to love, freedom from guilt, and a rebirthing of youth and strength. As if we were young again, we dance through the stars and under the immense map of the universe. Those stars map our histories – they are our life force and genetic fire - transmitted through our daughter and her baby sons. We live again, renewed, beautiful, tender and in love. We forgive and are forgiven.

Images and metaphors in my poetry and films
As an artist and writer I am sometimes surprised and a little shocked by how dark my symbolic language is. Nobody would imagine that this cheery middle aged woman is inhabited by a fertile and complex layering of myths, fairy-tales and dreams and gives life to that vocabulary through storytelling. In this story, the wolf does not devour – but is absorbed into the spirit of the girl. He is as vulnerable, as full of hope, and as lost as she is. She carries his shadow with her always, becoming part wolf. In my mythic world, the female is powerful – a shape-shifter. I am greatly influenced by the myth of Persephone and her transition into the underworld – by love and sacrifice and redemption.

At a superficial reading, Persephone’s tale is one of a girl who is savagely taken by Dis – God of the underworld and death. She is made Queen of the underworld. Her mother Demeter (the corn goddess) challenges the gods by making the earth freeze so that all fruit and grain dies. Eventually her daughter is allowed to return. But – Persephone eats 6 pomegranate seeds – the only food she consumes in the underworld over 6 months. This means she must return to the underworld and to her husband every six months. In the film you will see images of fertility linked to the pomegranate. Persephone/Demeter is a unity that represents the turning of the seasons.
In my writing and artwork women are creatures of the spirit, connected to the earth and the stars. Their spiritual abode is the forest and the ocean – their rhythms are those of the moon and the waters. A shape-shifter, woman is both nurturer and destroyer.

Dr Janice K. Jones (

Now the exciting news is that Janice has just published a book which includes the creative writings of many of the pre-service teachers she has worked with.  Janice has a gift for the creative, in both art and writing, so please check it out here 

Thank you so much Janice for sharing the story behind this work and for being the creative treasure that you are :)  Janice can be contacted at the email address above.

You can read more about Janice's published research through her eprints here.

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Lessons from the Heart

I was delighted when Stacy, from Teacher's Take-Out invited me to participate in a February linky - Lessons from the Heart.

My freebie is based on the picture book, "Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink" by Diane de Groat.  You can listen to a review of the book here and free lesson plans are available here

"Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink" is a perfect book for Valentine's Day and for celebrating friendships. Gilbert learns some important lessons about friendship in this delightful story.  He struggles with writing Valentine's notes for two students in his class - one who tweaked his nose and the other who teased him for wearing glasses.  He learns some valuable lessons about the consequences of his actions in this highly engaging story.  

Shawna Devoe has a free resource to support this book here and Stacy from Teacher's Take-Out has shared ideas for using this book in her blog post here.  


The freebie I have prepared for you as part of the Lessons from the Heart linky, is a set of Reading Response Activities to support the use of the picture book.  I would use this picture book in Years 2, 3 or 4.  The resource includes a story map graphic organiser, rhyming words from the text, a cause/effect chain for the story, and my favourite 4H reading strategy - prompts for small group reading sessions and questions to sort according to the 4H reading strategy.

You can read more about the 4H reading comprehension strategy here.

Click on the image above to grab your freebie of reading response activities for "Roses are Pink, Your Feet Really Stink".  Click on the image to the right to download the ebook with links to all of the freebies available through "The Lessons from the Heart" ebook.

I hope you really enjoy this title with your students and find the resources in my pack useful.

Happy Valentine's Day and thank you for your support :)

Itchy Itchy Scratchy Scratchy - Back to school and head lice

Well it's a new school year in Australia and today I will be reviewing picture books and free resources about head lice - stop scratching LOL...why is it that you begin scratching straight away?!!

I am linking up again with Paula's Place to share some of my favourite picture books through Paula's Storybook Sunday.  Click on the image below to visit Paula's blog and check out the other picture books that have been shared this week.

A number of years ago, we designed a unit of work on head lice that our Year 2 students studied as part of their unit of work on Mini-beasts.  They actually had a great time learning about these little pests and how they could be "head lice detectives".  Sometimes, it is good to bring these issues out in the open and study them, to reduce embarrassment, shame and ridicule.  

To begin, there is an hilarious YouTube clip you can view here.  It states in the beginning of this video that head lice prefer "clean hair".  It includes some informative information.  I laughed out loud watching this clip as it reminded me in many ways of how I felt when my child's daycare rang me to tell me I had to pick him up because he!!!  I am sure that is a man dressed as a woman in that clip, but maybe you could give me a second opinion on that:)  Actually, I think he plays all the characters in this clip...what do you think?  

There is another interesting YouTube clip from the National's short, but has some really interesting facts and magnified images.  You can view it here.  This clip states that head lice don't generally have a preference for either clean or dirty hair.

1.  "Bugs in my Hair" David Shannon (2013).  I just love the illustration on the cover - doesn't it say it all?!  I love the blurb: "Warning: This book will make you itchy!" and inside the cover, the author writes, "Nobody talks about them, but they're everywhere.  Oh, the shame and humiliation of having bugs in your hair!"  This is such a humorous picture book that brings an uncomfortable problem out in the open.  I love the "bug" on the title page who clearly has his bags packed and is leaving town (or the "host head" LOL).  "Stop scratching!" (She says as she scratches her head!!!)  Oh, the illustration of mum shouting "Head Lice!" and running big time, is just hilarious - a typical parental reaction :)  In fact the illustrations in this book are awesome!  This picture book is bound to have readers laughing out loud and talking openly about their own experiences.  You can preview the book here.

2.  "What's Bugging Nurse Penny?"  Catherine Steir (2013).  You can view a review of this new release here and can preview the book here.  This picture book includes a narrative and facts about head lice, which makes it a lovely mix of fiction and non-fiction text features. The great feature of this text is that it debunks many myths about head lice.

3.  "Scritch Scratch We Have Nits" Miriam Moss (2001)
The illustrations in this book, by Delphine Durand are just gorgeous (Note to self: stop scratching!!!)  I love the recommendation on the back by The Bookseller, which says, "This book turns the nitty-gritty into something witty."  This is a terrific text for teaching onomatopoeia, rhyming words and alliteration.  The details in the illustrations are sure to keep the children engaged, although with the rhyming stanzas...and a love story to boot :)

4.  "Bugs in my Hair" Catherine Stier (2008).  The first thing I noticed was that this text has the same title as the first one!    It begins with a note to "Concerned Grown Ups".  What I like in this note is the comment that, "Getting lice does not reflect on the cleanliness of the child or home".  This is an important point to remember, so I am really pleased, as a reader, to see that upfront, before I even read the book.  This is the story of absolutely perfect Ellie LaFleur.  Nothing goes wrong for her.  When her head becomes itchy, she thinks someone at the Princess Luxury Shampoo company must have messed up the formula.  This is a great mentor text for vocabulary, specifically verbs, for example, "sashayed", "quivered" and "shivered".  It  would also be great for examining adjectives. This narrative also embeds facts about head lice.  The other thing I love about this text is Ellie's self-help guide for other students who may get head lice and I love the continual reassurance throughout the story, that, "These things happen!"

5.  "Lawrence has Head Lice" Jenny Leigh (2013).  This is the story of Lawrence the lion and it begins like a detective story with case notes.  Again, this picture story book raises parents' anxiety and embarrassment that their child has head lice.  This picture book touches on the bullying and teasing that can happen when someone is known to have had head lice and debunks it through the inclusion of factual information.  the back of the book includes information for parents about head lice and head lice treatments.
6.  "I've Got Nits" Mike Brownlow (2006).  As soon as I read that the family was called the "Fotheringtons", they had me :)  This is a rhyming text and reminds me of when I had long, straight hair and my mum used to brush my hair 100 times as well!  This is such a funny text, "We can't have them...we're clean and posh!"  I am only halfway through, but I am loving this funny rhyming narrative.  This was a great read and at the end there is a step-by-step guide about head lice and how to treat them.

7.  "Yikes-Lice!" Donna Caffey (1998).  

I love the fact that this picture book starts with "A note to concerned grown ups". Like most mothers, I freaked out when my child was sent home from daycare because of head lice!  I love this introduction, "People sometimes think that head lice are a sign of uncleanliness, but in fact anyone, no matter how clean, can get them."  I think I am going to like this book!  Wow, this is interesting, apparently girls are more affected than boys!  I didn't realise that a head louse could also be called a "cootie".  That's new learning for me!  Factual information is also included in this picture book.  Oh, this text has a narrative on one side of the page and factual information on the accompanying page!  This picture book actually embeds a lot of factual information in it, more than the narrative.  You can check out a preview here.

Many of these texts are just great for intertexuality because they weave narratives with factual information - great as mentor texts in this way!

Now, have you stopped scratching yet?  I have a couple more to share with you for older children.  The first one is a non-fiction text that I am thinking about doing an interactive notebook for, so make sure you are following me on TPT to get notice about that.


Here is  a free resource  for "Horrid Henry's Nits". You can preview the beginning chapter book here.   You can read a review of "Lousy Thinking" here.  I haven't read these ones yet, but I will and I am thinking about developing a head lice maybe interactive notebook pages (Stop scratching!!! I am only saying that because I just scratched again LOL).  I would love to hear from anyone who has used or read these texts.

I do believe if teachers share these stories with children, it will help reduce the stigma around head lice and the embarrassment and shame.

You can find a free PowerPoint that can be used with teaching staff here.  There are some very useful free resources here for both children and adults.  There is information about treatment here.

I hope you didn't scratch too much during this post...are there any other great resources you know about to tackle this irritating subject?