Sharing Early Literacy Learning Journeys

Archive for the ‘Photo story’ Category

Weekly Photo Challenge: Threes

Two ‘threes’ photo-stories emerge
from my walk on the beach this morning…

Three terns on the beach
and one is pecking for pipis.

Two terns together on the beach
and one is pecking for pipis.

One tern is on the beach
and he stops pecking for pipis…
when he hears the click of the camera.

PicMonkey Collage

Further down the beach
I venture up the lookout.
Flip-flops wait on the deck
as the tide tumbles in…

Read and see more ‘threes’ stories here.

Kookaburra comes a-calling

It’s a bright and sunny morning


when ‘kookie’ comes a-calling.


He ad-mires the view…


and looks for a bug or two…

PicMonkey Collage - Copy
He spreads his left wing out,
spreads his right wing out,
he ruffles
 back feathers out
and he shakes them all about,
He does the Hokey Pokey,

then kookaburra flies off again…

Starting School Series, Part 1: Organising the physical environment

Excited and a wee bit apprehensive. A new school year. A new bunch of kids.  An adventure. Take the short-cut between the demountables.  What state will my room be in? Things are always moved for holiday cleaning! I’ve set aside four days to organise my room and prepare materials for the arrival of the children. Time to think, plan, experiment and create.

Four days to go: physical environment

The physical environment of a classroom reveals what a teacher believes about how children learn.

Walk up two flights of stairs to my room.

Put down my bag, insert the key and open the door. What will I see?

It’s quiet and dark.

Turn on the lights. Look around the room. Can’t miss the big pile of furniture – small tables, chairs, shelves – off to one side. Folding doors that separate the two classrooms are open. The fishnet ‘word wall’ that stretches across the doors is intact. Wonderful!
Most of the room is clear – a clean slate on which to design our learning environment. Perfect! Can’t wait to start moving things.
But first…

Where to start?

1. List the class ‘areas’ we need: 

mat area for the whole class
reading, library, bookshelves
calendar wall
word wall(s)
computers and printer
art /wet area

wooden blocks
construction materials
home corner/drama
morning message board
display areas
children’s storage (backpack/hats/lunches)

2. List the stationary items – things that can’t be moved:

whiteboard (a major part of class mat area)
IWB /data projector and screen
shelves/hooks (for children’s backpacks/hats)
refrigerator (for children’s lunches)

electrical outlets
computer connectors (computer area)
sink/counter/wet area (art area)
display boards on walls
built in cupboards
folding doors (word wall)

When I start the year in a new classroom I make a rough sketch and label possible class areas. But it’s my third year in this room and the sketch is in my head! One year I did a ‘proper’ plan of the classroom for my Doctoral Thesis in 2004 – not to scale!

Doctoral Thesis Classroom Plan

Plan of a classroom physical environment.
Different room. Different stationary items. Different layout.

Stationary items determine some class areas

1. Mat area and whiteboard
The mat area is what makes my classroom ‘tick’. The placement of the mat area is determined by the whiteboard (for shared writing, explicit teaching and teachable moments), the screen (for a ceiling-mounted data projector) and a large display board that becomes the calendar wall. Presto! Class mat area.

The mat area is essential for whole class sessions – BIG enough for children to gather together comfortably. BIG enough for children to sit, stand and stretch. BIG enough for class story time, small group ‘co-operative show and tell’ and class circle for reporting/sharing times. For ease of class sharing, the following items will be adjacent to the mat area:

  • calendar wall (for morning maths sessions)
  • big book stand (for shared reading)
  • pocket chart (for interactive reading)
  • audio and CD player (for music and interactive story books)
  • laptop (to use through the data projector onto the screen)

The mat area is the ‘hub’ of class gatherings
for shared literacy and learning practices.

2. Children’s backpacks/hats/lunches
That’s easy. Two long shelves for backpacks and hats are near the classroom entrance. The refrigerator stands against a nearby, out-of-the-way wall.

3. Computers
That’s easy. One printer and a bank of four computers are near electrical outlets and internet connectors – although wireless technology makes a difference now! Some older classrooms don’t have enough power outlets – for a laptop, data projector, fish tank, CD player, electric pencil sharpener, battery rechargers…  power boards may solve outlet problems but be aware of safety issues: no loose cords across the floor for children to trip over.

4. Art
Another easy one. My art area is a wet area with vinyl floor, sink and counter. I add a collage trolley, a painting easel and tables for playdough/clay and collage.

5. Display areas
Two wires are strung across the room about a metre below the ceiling. Wonderful! Peg up and display children’s work – paintings, drawings and writing. Display boards are on several walls for longer term displays.

6. Word wall
The fishnet word wall stretches in front of the folding doors – these will be closed before the classes arrive.

Things are going well. Six ‘areas’ are placed around the stationary items – things that cannot be changed. Now for the other class areas on my list…


Once again, dig into the pile of furniture to construct the remaining class areas. Be creative!

Lifting, dragging, pushingbit by bit the pile shrinks.
One at a time, pull out:
metal, triangular bookshelf  (library/reading area)
*large floor cushions (library/reading area)

*pink, plastic, play stove (home/drama area)
*big book stand/small white board (shared reading, near mat area)
*pocket chart (whiteboard ledge, near mat area)

*morning message board (reading, door entrance)
*block shelves (block area)
*maths materials and shelf
*construction materials: buckets and boxes of mobilo, lego, duplo, etc.

*children’s tables and chairs

The pink, plastic, play stove goes in the home/drama area

Reflection: bigger area or smaller area?
‘Can the block area be improved?’
Last year it never seemed big enough. Can’t find anywhere else to put the out-of-the-way defined space (roads and buildings are often left up over days and nights so the area cannot be in a class walkway). Make the block area bigger?
Make the maths-shelves area smaller?
Yes. That’s OK. Children don’t ‘work’ in the maths area – they take materials from the shelves and work at tables or on the floor.

Decide on the block area.
Do not want to move the ‘blocks’ shelf too many times!

Establishing remaining class areas
Block area done. Maths shelves done. Home corner done. Bookshelves and reading area done.
Mobilo, lego, constructions and puzzles – not yet done.

Brightly coloured covers on big cushions brighten the reading areas –
where children sit, read, rest and talk.

Place tables and chairs where children will ‘work’, putting tables together to make hexagonal tables or clusters of rectangular tables.

Children face each other to interact, discuss, co-operate  and
share – essentials in my beliefs about how children learn!

Finding a home for the last table
Finally… the pile of furniture has vanished! The last table finds a home in the science /discovery area. Improve the tatty table with a cream, cotton cloth. That’s better!

Stand back and survey
I’m happy. Six areas are established around stationary items. Five other areas fall into place:
bookshelves/cushions/reading area
hands on materials/maths area
science/discovery area
blocks area
home corner/drama area.
Construction materials, like lego, duplo and mobilo are still without a home. Maybe tomorrow?

Survey the scene.

The physical environment of the classroom is taking shape. Tomorrow, sort materials, put in their places and create the calendar wall for ‘real world’ maths.


Stop by the office. Pick up my class list. Check for familiar names – wonder if there are younger brothers or sisters of children in previous classes? Tomorrow, use the class list to make name charts, name cards and class book pages for the children’s first day. But now, put the list away. It’s time to go home.

Coming Next:
Starting School Series, Part 2: 
Sorting materials and making a calendar wall.


Stranded Stars

Alone on a sandy beach. A leisurely walk on a sunny afternoon.
Suddenly, spot a stranded starfish.

Two weeks later. Another beach.
Another leisurely walk on a sunny afternoon.
This time, with our son (Let’s call him Fred).

It’s hot. 34C. Wear flip-flops. Burning sand, too hot for bare feet.
See washed up coconuts, dried seaweed, assorted shells and sticks and twigs.

A fallen tree trunk, now a giant, sun-bleached log, rests on the sand.
I rest on the log. Fred walks over and rests beside me.
We watch a man on a paddle board glide into shore. Three small children run to meet him whilst their mother waits in the shade of the trees.

Suddenly, Fred gets up from the log and takes several steps. He stares at something on the sand. I get up and look too.
A blue-ringed octopus?
Fred pauses.
No. Only five legs. I thought it was a snake at first.

The stranded creature looks hard and dry. Using a long, thin rock and a flat rock,  Fred carries it to a shady part of the beach. It looks brittle and we don’t want to break it. Fred places it gently on a brown leaf. The mystery creature is beautifully preserved, I assume by the sea salt and the sun, flat and hard like a pressed flower.

Britttle Star

We find out later, it’s a Brittle Star  – in the Starfish family.

We also find out that marine scientists are trying to rename ‘starfish‘ as Sea Stars – because they are not ‘fish’.

Weekly Photo Challenge: One

‘One travels more usefully when alone because he reflects more,’
said Thomas Jefferson.


What is this hitch-hiker thinking
as he heads towards Missoula, Montana?

Is he feeling loneliness or solitude in light of Paul Tillich’s words:
Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone
and solitude expresses the glory of being alone.’

And, is he a solitary person as in Paul Theroux’s statement:
‘Solitary people make the best travellers’


And, as we all know…
‘The one thing that matters is the effort,’

(Antoine de Saint-Exupery)
as we ‘…climb every mountain!’

For more interpretations of ‘One’ see here.

A Free Lunch at the Beach…

Leisurely Saturday. Revisit  Palm Cove.


Walk along the jetty. Look over the sea to Double Island. Look back at the shoreline at the sand, sea and rocks.


What’s that? A white bird stands out against the dark rocks. Zoom in with my camera lens. See the white bird more clearly. A white heron?


A white bird with a fish in its beak. A largish fish but a long, thin beak on the bird. How did these two come together? Was the fish in the water? Did the white bird pierce the fish with its long sharp beak?

Was the fish dead in the water or on the sand and the white bird found it?

Did the fish drop from an osprey or hawk flying overhead?


Take more photos and watch … it looks like a big fish. Sometimes the bird has the fish in its beak. A free lunch. And a solitary lunch, except for us watching from the jetty…


Sometimes the bird stabs at the fish and tries to pick it up again.

I haven’t seen this bird before. Exciting…  New… Interesting… What is happening now?

What bird is it? Not an ibis – they have black on them and a different shaped beak. A white heron? An egret?


Later. Look up online and find out the bird is an Eastern Reef Egret (Egretta Sacre)  Also called a Pacific Reef-Heron.

Wonder how much fish the Egret ate…

Was it enough for lunch?

And…  how did the Egret get the fish?

Comments welcome…

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