Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Archive for the ‘Drawing’ Category

Second semester starts: What’s in store?

The morning sun struggles through grey clouds and a gentle breeze greets me as I walk to the beach. The sand is cold beneath my feet. Small waves tumble forth leaving frothy white lace at the water’s edge. A dozen thoughts race through my head. It’s back to school tomorrow for the start of second semester. What’s in store for the first week?

Monday – Early Years’ professional development
The first day of a new term is traditionally pupil free with professional development (PD) for teachers. Today I present a session, in keeping with the brief, ‘focus on literacy in the early years’, with practical ideas for the classroom and links to the curriculum’. More on my session later…

Tuesday – children return
Talking, talking, talking. That’s Tuesday. The children always have so much to say after two weeks away from school, classmates and friends. Everyone gets to share – and to draw and write. Journal writing is especially exciting because as always, the children are free to write on topics of interest – no need for the restrictive request:  What did you do in the holidays?

Read more in my related article, Children write about items of interest – holidays or not’,  published in Practically Primary in February 2010.

Wednesday – new ‘old’ books to share
I can’t wait to share some new books with the children on Wednesday. I am not a shopper but sometimes I browse – books stores and second hand stores are my favourites. On the holidays I found several ‘old’ books and snapped them up:
The cat on the mat and friends, by Brian Wildsmith

Cat on the Mat and Friends

Arthur and Always Arthur, by Amanda Graham

Arthur and Always Arthur

A Sausage Went for a Walk, by Ellisha Majid & Peter Kendall
I remembered this one because one year a boy came to school already reading and he read this book to the class on the second day of school – interestingly, I hadn’t seen it since.

A Sausage Went for a Walk

Say ‘Hello’ Wombat by Steve Parrish
This one is new. It has superb Parrish pictures of Australian animals with a repetitive and rhythmical storyline – so it will be interesting to see if the children take to it or not. Will it be taken as a ‘story’ book or as an appealing book to read? Stay tuned.

Say "Hello" Wombat

Friday – 100 day party
We have been counting and recording the number of days at school all year and it’s time to celebrate 100 days in Year One. Well, actually it will be day 99 for us – but we could not have a ‘party’ on a Monday!

Last year's 100 day count

P.S. Twitter
Over the past few days I had a taste of the Australian Literacy Educators’ Association (ALEA) conference in Melbourne via Twitter at @ALEA. Participants tweeted during sessions with notable comments from presenters, including Debbie Miller, Gay Su Pinnell, Susan Hill and Trevor Cairney. Yesterday I received Trevor Carney’s plenary address on his blog at and I was excited to read his statement ‘the words of literature are economical and powerful’ – with clear examples from books to demonstrate his point.

For people still on holidays, enjoy!
For children and teachers returning to school this week, enjoy!

Are you trying something new with your class this term?

Sharing Breakfast – and celebrating children’s work

A yellow cloth covers the collage table and tea, coffee and juice await parents and children. A blue cloth covered table awaits fruit platters, small pancakes and banana bread that will arrive with parents and children. Mozart wafts from the CD player in our mat area.

It’s 8am on the morning of our Sharing Breakfast – a regular event in the last week of term. Children share their work with parents and parents celebrate children’s accomplishments. Piles of books grace the hexagonal tables – children’s books they work in like journals, alphabet, maths, activity and news books.  Children choose three books to read to parents – and two books for parents to read to them. 

On the previous day, the morning message is displayed at the classroom entrance as a reminder to parents. Children’s colourful drawings add a personal touch.

The morning message is a reminder to all
Evidence of each child’s work and books to read with a parent are displayed on the hexagonal tables.
Henry reads ‘Zac Power’ to his mum
Jake looks at ‘Tigress’ (Dowson) whilst nearby, his big brother reads to their mum
After all that sharing and eating, Ned chooses a Ravensburger puzzle

Parents stay for as long as it suits them. After sharing their child’s drawings, writing, reading books, numbers, science journals, etc., some parents head off to work – and they won’t even be late! Other parents stay and enjoy food, books, games and more time with the children.

How do you share children’s work with parents?

Great Day for ‘ch’: Child brings baby chicks

With thanks to Dr Suess for Great Day for Up, ours is a Great Day for ‘ch’.  
A child brings in four little chicks. They go cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep, cheep.
Children chatter about the chicks and cheer when the chicks run, jump and fly.

The children observe the chicks.  We take photos and make notes.
Children exclaim…
“Look at him jump.”
“Look out! She’s trying to fly.”
“They’re scratching and pecking the floor.”
“Now they’re cleaning their feathers.

Children talk, draw, write, read and share their work.

A lone brown chick on our mat area.

All 4 chicks on the mat area. They didn't want to go on the white paper in the foreground!

Before writing, children brain-stormed words about the chicks

Trevor's drawing of the brown chick to accompany his writing.

Carl's drawing and dictated sentence about the happy chick.

Mariah’s colourful drawing of 4 yellow chicks.
What pets have come into your classroom?
Tell us about an experience with a pet in your classroom.


Celebrating children: Under 8s day

Under 8s week was May 20-27. Our school celebrated our young children on Friday. The canopy and nearby grassy, treed area were dotted with ‘stations’ where children, younger siblings and parents participated in activities including:

  • playdough
  • blowing bubbles
  • making kites, crowns and masks
  • finger, face and easel painting
  • coloured chalk on blackboards and black paper
  • magnetic fishing
  • a giant parachute and
  • dancing


Through the eyes of a child: a playdough person.

I can write my name!

A child had his face painted as Hulk, then drew about it.

Face painting was popular.

The giant parachute was popular too!

 Looking for ideas to celebrate early years children in your school or your classroom? Click here.

What sorts of days for celebrating your children do you have in your state, province or territory?
In your school?
In your classroom?

Lively learning on Japan Day

Japanese is the Language Other Than English (LOTE) taught in our school. To raise money for the Japan earthquake and tsunami victims, our LOTE teachers and Japanese parents organised ‘Japan Day’. The student body then participated in various cultural activities on offer. The activities included:

      • Mizu yoyo (water balloon yoyo with an elastic ‘string’)
      • Origami (paper folding)
      • Kimono dress up time
      • Jan Ken Pon (paper, scissors, rock)
      • Kendama (wooden toys)
      • Hachimaki (headbands)
      • Zumba

        Mizu yoyos waiting to be chosen by excited children

        Dressing up in kimonos was a favourite activity
Headbands were a favourite too. This one says ‘Pokemon’

Jan Ken Pon (paper, scissors, rock) was also a favourite – partly because if a child beat the mum opponent, the prize was a lolly!

Sushi and rice balls
 Sushi and rice balls are already on the Tuck Shop lunch menu – but LOTS were eaten on Japan Day.
A class book
Next day, we brainstormed words about the experience and listed them on the whiteboard. Then, the children wrote about their day. In conversations about the writing, we talked of adding information, details and feelings.  The children drew colourful pictures on their printed pages of writing and added the pages to an A4 display book. Voila!  A class book for shared, independent and home reading.

Class book of children's writing and pictures about Japan Day

Class charts
Digital photos were used for class charts and displays with pictures, captions, labels and ‘stories’.

A visual PowerPoint
Photos and captions of the activities are on a lively and colourful Powerpoint presentation for classroom use.

Classic Language Experience
Japan Day was a classic Language Experience activity where we:

  • shared a hands-on class experience
  • shared spoken, written and visual language about the experience
  • brainstormed, wrote and used words about the experience
  • constructed class sentences about the experience
  • wrote and drew about the experience
  • made a class book from the children’s writing – for shared, individual and home reading
  • used photos, captions and sentences for reading charts and displays of the experience
  • used the children’s writing as high interest reading materials
  • re-lived the experience by interacting and re-reading the children’s work/products 

Sayounara…and please leave a comment

What did you like about Japan Day?

What new Japanese words did you learn?

Toys that move: push or pull?

It’s toy day and the children bring toys that move. They explore push and pull forces to move their toys in different ways like rolling, spinning, bouncing and jumping. They investigate how things roll – and what makes their toys roll.

The children play with their toys to explore what the toys can do.
In a circle, the children look at and talk about the toys.

We put hula hoops on the floor with labels inside: push and pull.
Each child decides whether s/he has to push or pull to make the toy move. 

Then, a suggestion: “We need another hoop for spin because E spins her hand top.”   And a question, “Will E’s hand top spin longer than F’s beyblade?”
What do you think?

Which will spin longer – a small hand top or a Beyblade? 

Spinning top


Other questions come thick and fast:
Do you push and/or pull the levers to make a remote-control truck go? 

A child pushes and pulls the levers for the remote control truck to go

Do toy cars and trucks go better on carpet, vinyl or cement? Why?

What happens to a toy car on a steep ramp? What happens if you change the slope of the ramp?

Why does a tennis ball bounce higher on vinyl rather than carpet or grass?

For most of these toys to go, do you push or pull?

Most of the toys here today move with a 'push'


 Please leave a comment.

What force do most of your children’s toys use?

What toys do your children like to play with?  Why?



Science experiments, action and a touch of magic

Last week the children were enthralled for fifty minutes with science experiments, dramatic action and a touch of magic in an Arts Council event: H2Whoa!   Richard, the scientist, worked with water to:
• make ‘elephant toothpaste’
• fire small ‘rockets’
• display water-logged animals
• create a cyclone in a bottle
• make and throw fake snow and
• blow enormous bubbles 

Guess which ones were the children’s favourites? 

Elephant toothpaste

Water-logged animals


Enormous bubbles

On our return to the classroom, and this time, without discussion or brainstorming, the children chose either A3 or A4 paper to draw and/or write about the show. As always, the variety of responses amazed me because I am never sure what will appeal most.

 We do not know what children like about an experience unless we give them the chance to talk  and freely respond to that experience.

The biggest bubbles in the world!

More bubbles...

… and more bubbles.

It was exciting to share a live performance and the ensuing spoken, written and visual languages were about the activity.  With pictures, sentences, words and a cup of fake snow displayed in our room, the event continues. 

Please leave your comments

Which experiment was your favourite?

What experiments can you do with water?

Who needs units of work?

My exact words on the way home last Monday were ‘Who needs units of work anyway?’ After 30 years of teaching I still get excited when special things happen with my Year Ones! If I were to share one of the most important things I have learned, it would be the value of providing children with as many opportunities as possible to make sense of their worlds.

A frog, a snake and a pink leather bag

Damien arrives at the door Monday morning with a white-lipped green tree frog carefully cupped between his hands. Following behind is his Mum carrying a jar containing a dead black tree snake. Either of these items would have provided more than enough for us to work with today, but the exciting bounty of  items of interest and ‘real life’ experiences continue as others tell us about pierced ears, riding without training wheels and a pink leather bag from Florence. It wasn’t just the quantity of items and experiences that excited me, it was also the variety.

Damien brings in the white-lipped green tree frog on Monday morning.

Talk, write, read

The children clamour to see the white-lipped green tree frog in the large plastic container. Others volunteer to get a lid of water, green, shiny leaves and small branches to provide a more hospitable environment for the frog. It was a good thing they did because there was such interest that we kept him for an extra day, before releasing him happy (we hoped) and well cared for on Tuesday afternoon.

The children make the frog comfortable in his temporary home.

Meanwhile, other children examine the snake in a jar and ask, “Is it dead? Where did you find it?”

The black tree snake, preserved in methylated spirits.

Shared writing…unwrapping the bounty of real-life items and experiences

Children talk again as they compose sentences that I scribe on the whiteboard in front of them:

Damien found a white-lipped green tree frog at school this morning.
Damien also brought a black tree snake that he found on his road.
Ursula got her ears pierced for her birthday.
Margit rode her bike without training wheels.
Misty got a mask and a pink leather bag from Florence in Italy.

This is the power of shared writing. As all the children talk, write and read about the frog, snake, pierced ears, training wheels, mask and pink leather bag, the items and experiences become more ‘real’ for everyone. Writing  is the key. By slowing the talking down, by writing it down and then reading the sentences, the children simultaneously see, say and hear the words. The children have time to connect with their own worlds—they become more interested and their learning experiences intensifiy.

Children take turns at the whiteboard, pointing to each word (sense of touch) as the class reads. The sentences stay on the whiteboard until Wednesday for re-reading (repetition). Several children point out ‘ee’ in green and tree – and our word study for the day, and next day, is launched. Others announce that ‘this morning’ does not make sense on Tuesday, so the words change to ‘yesterday’. Who says children have no sense of time?


I go to the library for information on frogs.

We talk about what the frog needs to live. We read from information books. One book said  frogs don’t drink water – instead, they absorb water through their soft, smooth skin. How did I get through so many years and not have that information tucked away? That’s okay – the children know that I am learning too.

I read two versions of Tiddalik, one of my favourite Australian Aboriginal Dreamtime stories… and the children draw their pictures of the giant frog.

Tiddalik - a child draws the giant frog.


After lunch I ask the children, “What did you learn about the white-lipped green tree frog?” Immediately they come up with four things they learned—and they revise the life cycle of a frog.

Frog facts the children recalled on Friday.

Units of work, or…

There is no question that children learn from planned units of work… but it’s also effective teaching to ‘go with the flow’!

Whatever the method, we owe it to our children, to give them as many opportunities as possible to write about items of interest and ’real-life’ experiences, so they can put their thoughts in order and make sense of their worlds.

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