Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Tips for Parents in Week 1 of School (& Some for Teachers Too!)

In Australia children are returning to school and some are turning up for the first time. There are many tears, and that's not just the parents and teachers! Yes, there are many anxious children as well. As always, it's a challenging time for children, parents & teachers. Having received many children on their first day at school as a teacher, having sent my own children to school in Kindergarten, and having worried over grandchildren heading off on day one, I have some experience as a worrier! So I thought I'd offer some quick Do's and Don'ts for parents and teachers.

PARENTS

DOs

#1 Assume the best of your child's teachers, not the worst. Give them a chance to get to know your child and encourage your child to show them respect.

#2 Try to help teachers understand your child by telling them things that will help (when you have a chance). This might include health issues, fears about school, special interests (help them with points of connection).

#3 Try to get to know some other parents from day one. This will help to give you a small support group, maybe someone to call to see if their child has the school note your child has lost, or to discuss the project work that is due, how the swimming carnival works etc.

#4 When they get home (especially in the early weeks) let them rest, feed them, & allow them some down time before asking the 20 questions you'd stored up.

#5 Pace yourself, there will be MANY years of school. Let your child grow into school and try to learn afresh as a parent what school is like now compared with when you were at school. 

DON'Ts

#1 Don't assume that your child is the only bright kid at school and tell the teacher as much on day 1. EVERY parent thinks their child is gifted. Let your child show their teacher some of the great things they can do.

#2 Don't criticize your child's teacher in front of your child. This will make it harder for your child to respect their teacher.

#3 Don't make comparisons between your child and other children, especially to your child.

#4 Don't hassle teachers from day 1 about homework, allow the year to get rolling before firing such questions at them.

#5 Don't expect the teacher to know your child as well as you do from day 1

TEACHERS

DOs

My eldest daughter on her first day of school
#1 Be patient with parents, especially those sending their first children off in the early weeks, this is a tough time for many.

#2 Inform them as soon as you can about your expectations on things like homework, special activities, and your approach to discipline.

#3 Let them know how they can contact you if they have questions. An email address will reduce many fears and DO try to answer them as quickly as possible.

#4 Look for good things in each child. While not all will be brilliant (even though their parents might think they are), there will be things that are worthy of praise and encouragement.

#5 Make yourself available at pick-up time to chat, answer the odd question and simply show that you're interested in connecting children with their parents.

DON'Ts

#1 Don't overwhelm parents with information early, keep guidelines to a minimum at first.

#2 Don't assume that parents have little to offer, while some may have unrealistic expectations, they will know their children well. Tap into their insights when possible.

#3 Don't ever talk about a child to the parents of a classmate.

#4 Don't expect too much of parents too early in relation to homework. Like you, they will be busy at the start of the year. A few might pester you for it but try to maintain a balanced approach.

Other Related Posts

1. 'Starting School: Is there a best perfect age?'

2. 'Making Homework More Relevant and Useful for Learning'



Friday, January 22, 2016

Ten Things Drawing Can Teach Us About Giftedness

I've written previously about the need to see giftedness as much more than simply intellectual skills and knowledge that can be established with a narrow range of intelligence tests. One person who has stretched our understanding in the area of giftedness is Howard Gardner in his work on Multiple Intelligences. While some gifted children demonstrate exceptional abilities across a wide range of capabilities (e.g. memory, language, mathematics, problem solving etc), others are gifted in narrower and more specific ways (e.g. visual arts, music, leadership, sport etc). In this post I want to focus on what drawing can show us about giftedness. If you are interested in more information on supporting gifted children you can read a previous post HERE which covers some common territory but has additional ideas for older children.
  
How Drawing Can Demonstrate Giftedness?

Evelyne's 'Horse in a T-Shirt'
I observed some children recently using scribbles as part of a drawing game. One made a squiggle and the others were asked to turn it into an animal based on it. The first child turned the first scribble into a monster. The squiggler responded, "you can't do a monster, the idea of the game is to draw a real animal, anyone can draw a monster". He then drew another squiggle. The next child turned it into a horse which in her words was "a horse with a T-Shirt on" (see below). He replied, "but you can't have a horse with a T-shirt on, because they don't wear T-shirts". She replied "well this one does and that's the type of horse I drew with your squiggle". Let me stress that all three children mentioned in the above example, are gifted in different ways, but two were demonstrating their giftedness in this activity. I should stress that while drawing can be a window on giftedness, it isn't the only way that different children, or even the same child on different occasions, can show their giftedness. But we can learn much from children's drawings that can be a pointer to giftedness?

Ten Things Drawing Can Teach us About Giftedness

Evelyne's drawing and some of the other drawings shared in this post can help us to identify giftedness. What might drawings help us to see?

1. They can show the ability to take a simple  task and use it in a novel way, or for different purposes. Evie's drawing shows a preparedness to think outside the box.

2. They also help us to see if a child is able to see the unusual, think in novel ways, and observe possibilities that others don't. The camel drawing below shows this (note its shadow on the ground).

Sketch of 'A Camel & Its Reflection' (Lydia aged 3yrs)

3. It can also demonstrate the willingness of the child to experiment and take risks. These characteristics are evident in many gifted people, e.g. entrepreneurs need these qualities.

4. At the most fundamental level, they can demonstrate the ability to create something original. Not simply a drawing like all other drawings by children of the same age, but something different. For example, ask 6 years-olds to draw a house and you will usually see a hipped roof with chimney, two windows and a central single door.


Above: Child drawing of house (courtesy of 'Childhood Architecture')

5. Drawings can also demonstrate the ability to think abstractly, metaphorically and insightfully, as the child uses drawing to explore thoughts and ideas. Evie's drawing of the T-Shirt wearing horse shows this.

6. As well, drawings can show that a child can generate many solutions and possibilities for the simplest and banal tasks.

7. They can also demonstrate a preparedness to question assumed knowledge or ways of doing things.

Here a 6 yr old positions the pterodactyl above its prey

8. Drawings also offer a window into a more mature (and unusual sense of humour), and a different perspective and view of the world. Their orientation will be unlike that of the average person. The drawing above illustrates just such a different perspective.

9. Drawing can also show a depth of knowledge about a topic that is often required to create a special image. For example, awareness of the anatomical make-up of an animal, or the details of mechanical device can be seen in images that the child generates. AS well use of shading to show multiple dimensions, clever use of light and shade and so on, show knowledge of image and design.

10. Finally, drawing can also show how the child's mind leads them to see different things and pay attention to the novel and unusual that is reflected in their drawings. The drawing below by a four year-old shows an image he drew after an outing to an aquarium viewed from the perspective of the fish. How did it see his granddad looking through the glass?

Jacob (4 years) draws Grandad from the unusual vantage point of the fish inside the aquarium looking out

Summing Up

Imagination & creativity starts early
All children are capable of demonstrating rich imagination and creativity, but some children demonstrate levels of creativity, insight, imagination and knowledge in drawing that suggests giftedness that is beyond the typical and normal. Drawing can help us to look for this and encourage it. I have many other posts that will help you to see some of the ways that you can encourage bright and gifted children. You can read another one of them HERE.



Thursday, January 7, 2016

230 Great Books for Children in 2016

Coming up with a list of books for children is always risky.  How do you judge each book? Do we use our personal preference as adult readers? The popularity of the books with children? The book's longevity? I could list other criteria.

It is also difficult with a list like this to allocate an age level. Some of the books in one age category can be read by children of different ages depending on their ability and maturity. For example, a book like ‘Charlotte’s Web’ can be read to and enjoyed by children of any age. As well, many picture books can be enjoyed from 1 to 99 years!

The list that follows is not meant to be comprehensive.  Rather, I’ve tried to give a flavour of the varied authors, styles and topics.  You should use the list to find other books by the same authors.  For example, I could have listed all of Bill Peet’s books. The same could be said for many other authors on this list. The books chosen for the list all:

a) have been loved by children and adults;
b) have quality language, story and illustrations (in the case of picture books); and,
c) make you want to turn the page

I've offered links to these books most of which are still in print and pretty much all that can still be found, borrowed or bought. Happy reading!

Books for Preschoolers (to be read to and with children aged 0-4 years) 

All the World illustrated by Marla Frazee, written by Liz Garton
Battles in the Bath  by Peter Pavey
Bears in the Night  by Stan and Jan Berenstein
Belinda by Pamela Allen
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? by Bill Martin, Jr.
Corduroy by Don Freeman
Do You Know What Grandad Did? By Brian Smith
Dog In, Cat Out by Gillian Rubenstein
Don’t Forget the Bacon by Pat Hutchins
Duckat by Gaelyn Gordon
Each Peach Pear Plum by Janet and Allen Ahlberg
Edward the Emu by Sheena Knowles
Edwina the Emu by Sheena Knowles
Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
Grandpa and Thomas by Pamela Allen
Grandpa and Thomas and the Green Umbrella by Pamella Allen
Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney
Hattie and the Fox by Mem Fox
Looking for Crabs by Bruce Whately
Mister Magnolia by Quentin Blake 
Mother, Mother, I Want Another by Maria Polushkin Robbins
My Dad by Anthony Browne
One Hungry Spider by Jeannie Baker
One Dragon’s Dream by Peter Pavey
Peepo by Janet and Allen Ahlberg 
The Day the Crayons Quit' by Drew Daywalt
The Lion & Mouse by Jerry Pinkey
The Mitten by Alvin Tresselt
The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister 
The Runaway Bunny by Margaret Wise
The Singing Hat by Tohby Riddle
The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats
The Story of Chicken Licken by Jan Ormerod
The Trouble with Dad by Babette Cole
The Trouble with Mum by Babette Cole
The Waterhole by Graeme Base
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle 
Time for Bed by Mem Fox
When I’m Feeling range of books by Trace Moroney

Books for Children Ages 4-7 (the following titles are suitable to be read to younger readers or can be read by beginning readers)

A.B. Paterson’s Mulga Bill’s Bicycle by Kilmeny & Deborah Niland
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
Amazing Grace by Mary Hoffman
Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish
Animalia by Graeme Base
Aranea: A Story About a Spider by Jenny Wagner
Are You My Mother? by Philip D. Eastman 
Arthur series by Marc Tolon Brown
Basil of Baker Street by Eve Titus
Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina
Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by John Archambault
Clifford, the Big Red Dog by Norman Bridwell
Complete Adventures of Blinky Bill by Dorothy Wall
Counting on Frank by Rod Clement
Cowardly Clyde by Bill Peet
Curious George by Hans Augusto Rey
Fancy Nancy by Jane O’Conner
Fantastic Mr Fox, by Roald Dahl
Fox in Socks by Dr Seuss
Granpa by John Burningham
Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss
Horton Hatches the Egg by Dr. Seuss
How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr Seuss
Hubert’s Hair-raising Adventure by Bill Peet
I Was Only Nineteen by John Schumann and illustrated by Craig Smith
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff
In My Back Yard by Nette Hilton & Anne Spudvilas
Irving the Magician by Tohby Riddle
John Brown, Rose and the Midnight Cat by Jenny Wagner
Journey written and illustrated by Aaron Becker
Jumanji by Chris Van Allsburg
Lester and Clyde by James Reece
Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes
Locomotive by Brian Floca
Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch
Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
My Hiroshima by Junko Morimoto
My Two Blankets, illustrator Freya Blackwood, text by Irena Kobald
No Kiss for Mother by Tomi Ungerer
Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss
One Minute's Silence, illustrator Michael Camilleri, text David Metzenthen
Petunia by Roger Duvoisin
Red Sings from Treetops: A Year of Colors, by Joyce Sidman
Snugglepot and Cuddlepie by May Gibbs
Stellaluna by Janell Cannon
Strega Nona by Tomie De Paola
Sunshine by Jan Ormerod
Sylvester and the Magic Pebble by William Steig
Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo 
The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi, illustrated by Robert Ingpen
The Art Lesson by Tomie De Paola
The Banana Bird and the Snake Men by Percy Trezise and Dick Roughsey
The Bears’ ABC Book by Robin & Jocelyn Wild 
The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss
The Christmas Eve Ghost, by Shirley Hughes
The Complete Adventures of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter
The Complete Tales of Winnie the Pooh by A. A. Milne
The Digging-est Dog by Al Perkins
The Eleventh Hour by Graeme Base
The Enchanted Wood by Enid Blyton
The Fisherman and the Theefyspray by Jane Tanner
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Jolly Postman or Other People’s Letters by Janet & Allen Ahlberg
The Lighthouse Keeper’s Lunch by Ronda & David Armitage
The Little Engine That Could by Watty Piper
The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton
The Lorax by Dr. Seuss
The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay
The Napping House by Audrey Wood
The Paper Bag Princess by Robert N. Munsch
The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg
The Rainbow Serpent by Dick Roughsey
The Story of Ferdinand by Munro Leaf
The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter 
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka
The Story of Shy the Platypus by Leslie Rees
The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
Tough Boris by Mem Fox
What Made Tiddalik Laugh by Joanna Troughton
Wheel on the Chimney by Margaret Wise Brown
Where’s Julius by John Burningham
Where the Forest Meets the Sea by Jeannie Baker


Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak
Whistle Up the Chimney by Nan Hunt
Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox

Books for Children Ages 8-10 (many of these books can be read to children aged 6-8 or can be read by most children aged 9-10 years)

A Dream of Stars by Brian Caswell
A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein
A Little Fear by Patricia Wrightson 
A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness 
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
Callie’s Castle by Ruth Park
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
Charlotte’s Web by E. B. White
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness by Michelle Paver
Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. America’s First Black Paratroopers by Tanya Lee Stone 
Dirty Beasts by Roald Dahl
Grandma Cadbury’s Trucking Tales by Dianne Bates
Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh
Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling 
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O’Dell
James and the Giant Peach: A Children’s Story by Roald Dahl
Jodie’s Journey by Colin Thiele
Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
Matilda by Roald Dahl
Mike by Brian Caswell
Mr. Popper’s Penguins by Richard Atwater
Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh by Robert C. O’Brien
My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett
Paw Thing by Paul Jennings
Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren
Rabbit Hill by Robert Lawson
Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary
'Requiem for a Beast' by Matt Ottley 
Revolting Rhymes by Roald Dahl
Rowan of Rin series by Emily Rodda
Sarah, Plain and Tall by Patricia MacLachlan
Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
Sideways Stories from Wayside School by Louis Sachar
Stone Fox by John Reynolds Gardiner 
Stuart Little by E. B. White
Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume
The 27th Annual African Hippopotamus Race by Morris Lurie
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson
The BFG by Roald Dahl
The Borrowers by Mary Norton
The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner
The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis
The Eighteenth Emergency by Betsy Byars
The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate by Jacqueline Kelly
The Giver by Lois Lowry
The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
The Great Gilly Hopkins by Katherine Paterson
The Indian in the Cupboard by Lynne Reid Banks
The Iron Man by Ted Hughes
The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis
The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
The Pinballs by Betsy Byars
The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
The Shrinking of Treehorn by Florence Parry Heide
The Super-Roo of Mungalongaloo by Osmar White
The Trumpet of the Swan by E. B. White
The Village Dinosaur by Phyllis Arkle
Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
The Watsons Go to Birmingham-1963 by Christopher Paul Curtis
The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare
Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech
Where the Mountain Meets the Moon written by Grace Lin
Where the Sidewalk Ends: the Poems and Drawing of Shel Silverstein by Shel Silverstein

Books for children aged 10-13+

Boss of the Pool, by Robin Klein

Boy by Roald Dahl
Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, by Mark Haddon
Deltora Quest series by Emily Rodda
Dragonkeeper Trilogy (Carole Wilkinson)
Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures by K.G. Campbell
Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian 
Lord of the Rings, JR Tolkien
Merryl of the Stones by Brian Caswell
Nargun and the Stars by Patricia Wrightson
Number the Stars by Lois Lowry
Old Kingdom series, by Garth Nix
Playing Beattie Bow by Ruth Park
Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor
Slave Girl: The Diary of Clotee, Virginia, USA 1859 by Patricia McKissack
Sounder, by William H. Armstrong
Strange Objects by Gary Crew
Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
The Hobbit by JR Tolkein
The Fire in the Stone by Colin Thiele
The Ice is Coming by Patricia Wrightson
The Graveyard Book (Neil Gaiman)
The Machine Gunners by Robert Westall
The Princess Bride (William Goldman)
The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox
The Stone Quartet by Alan Garner
The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong
Thunderwith by Libby Hathorn 
When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit by Judith Kerr
When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
Wizard of Earthsea trilogy by Ursula Le Guin

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Simple word, memory & observation games that will shorten any holiday trip with kids

In Australia it's summer and school will be out for 6 weeks across the nation very soon. Many families will be heading for the beaches and waterways to enjoy Christmas in a particularly Aussie way. For some this will involve hours of travel as relatives are visited and exquisite coastal locations sought out. This is always a recipe for children getting bored and frustrated with one another - "...are we there yet!". 

This post is a repeat of some earlier posts, but I hope that it will be useful reminder of some great games that will keep children happily content for hours. I've done posts on travel games for children before and now seems a good time for another. So whether you will be in a car, bus or plane, or just stuck inside on a wet day, these games might just help.

Above: Photo courtesy of the Australian Newspaper

I've included a number of games that we played with our children in the car when they were young, some I used when teaching and a few new ones that I'd love to play with my grandchildren. Some of the newer games are adaptations of some activities from a great resource published by Usborne Children's books, '50 things to do on a journey' (here). This resource has a range of written and verbal activities that cover literacy, mathematics and general knowledge. One thing to note about these games is that you don't have to play every one of them competitively. If you do, you might need to handicap older children.


1. Sound word categories

You start this game by agreeing on 3-5 categories (depending on the age of the children and their vocabularies) for which people will have to be able to think of words that belong to them; for example, an insect, flower, person, country, girl's name, action word. Someone chooses a letter (maybe Mum or Dad to make sure that it isn't too hard) that has to be used by everyone and is applied to each category. The fastest person to quickly name their words earns 3 points, the second gets 2 and the third 1. So for the letter 'f' and the three categories insect, country and girl's name you could say fly, France and Fiona. A parent usually acts as the timer.

2. Top 6 (or 10 if your children get to be good at it)

This activity is a variation on the previous 'Sound Word Categories'. You vary it by choosing a category and then seeing if someone can list 6-10 words that fit the category. For example, think of 10 car names, dogs, books, insects, snakes, footballers etc. The person who thinks of the most words in a category wins.


3. Rhyming words

Pick a word that is easy to rhyme with other real words. Each person takes a turn. The winner is the person who is the last one to think of a rhyming word. For example, heat, seat, meat, bleat, sleet, neat, pleat..... If the children are older they can write the words down simultaneously.

4. Don't say yes

This is a slightly harder game but lots of fun. One person has to answer questions and the others get to ask them questions to which the answer is obviously 'yes', but they must answer every question truthfully without saying 'yes'. If they do say 'yes', or can't answer, the turn ends and the person asking the question earns a point. For example, Karen is asked, "Do you like ice-cream"? To which she might answer, "Most people like milk-based products that are cold." The next person in the car asks a question, but it mustn't be simply the same question. For example, they could ask, "Do you like milk-based products in cones?" To which the reply might be, "Some I like to eat in a wafer case."

5. Spotto......

One of our family's favourite games in the car was 'Spotto windmill'. We lived in the country and often drove for 5-6 hours towards the coast. In key areas there were lots of windmills pumping water for stock. But you don't have to use windmills; you can spot billboards, bridges, trees, birds, and animals, almost anything that is common. The game can be concluded in various ways, such as the first to 30, ending it at a specific landmark or just stopping when you're tired of it or you run out of windmills (or whatever).

6. What's your job

This game starts with someone thinking of a job. Others then guess by trying to find out details about what the person does, where they work, they use tools, what skills you need etc. The skill is in asking just the right questions. Does this person work outdoors? Do they drive something? Do they use special tools? Can they work alone? etc. The aim is to see who can get it right. Every person in the car takes it in turns to ask a question and you keep rotating until someone gets it right. That person gets to pick the next job and it all starts over again.

7. Guess my song

Someone picks a song and they have to hum the first line. Everyone in the car has one guess then the person hums an extra line if no-one gets it after the first round. This continues until someone gets the song.

8. Guess the person

One person in the car thinks of a person everyone knows (e.g. a family member, TV star, book character, teacher, cartoon character, famous person), and then everyone takes turns to ask a question about them. Is it a man or a woman? Are they young or old? Does she have black hair? Does he wear glasses? Is she famous?

9. I Spy..

This is a well-known game. It can be varied for young children by simply asking for categories rather than insisting on letter names or sounds. So the variations can include: "I spy with my little eye, something beginning with" 'p' (letter name) or 'p' (sound name) or even, "that is green". The last variation is a good way to involve very young children and the categories can be very varied. "I spy with my little eye a thing that ...." is black...or, a little thing that bites... or, a person who likes coffee... or, a thing the car has to stop at etc.

10. Back to back words

People think of words that begin the way the last word ends. You will need to demonstrate this a few times and it isn't that suitable for children under 6 years. It might go like this: pot, tree, egg, goat, top, pot, turtle, elf, fog, goldfish. You can make the game harder for older children if you like by asking for the words to fit specific single categories like animals, names, places.


11. Who lives there?

This is a great game. Wait till you stop at traffic lights or you are travelling slowly enough to see a house long enough to remember some details. People take turns adding details to describe who might live there. This can be very creative or an accurate set of predictions. Each player builds (plausibly) on the previous person's clues. For example, first person says, "a mother lives there with her three children". The next person says, "the children are aged 3, 7 and 16". The next person says, "their names are, Sue, Pickle and Wobble.". The next says, "Wobble is named after his Dad (Bobble) who is on a round the world yacht trip" etc. When people run out of ideas you start again. You could vary this by choosing a car. The first person might say, "That car has a family of three children and their parents heading for the seaside".

12. Twenty questions

This starts with someone choosing an object, person, place, country etc that others have to identify. The others in the car have a chance to ask questions (maximum of 20 for each thing chosen). The questions are answered with a 'yes' or a 'no'. When someone thinks they know it they can guess. You can score this different ways (or not all). The person whose word is not guessed can score points as can the person who guesses correctly.

13. Memory game

There are many memory games, but a common one involves thinking of things that are in the car (or the boot/trunk), an imaginary backpack, suitcase, the kitchen at home, the beach where you'll visit. The people in the car add an item to a list and the next person must repeat previous details and add their own. People are eliminated when they forget an item. So it could start like this: "In the car we have a radio", to which someone says, "in the car we have a radio and a steering wheel", which could become "in the car we have a radio and a steering wheel, plus a pesky sister.....". A parent might write them down as you progress to avoid disputes.

14. Never-ending story

This game has two main forms, a single word version and a sentence version. In the word version people in the car take turns adding to a story one word at a time. It might go like this: "It", "was", "the", "first", "day", "of", "the", "monster's", "summer", "camp"....and so on. The members of the game try to make it impossible to add to the story because the last word is pretty much the last word.

The sentence version is slightly more complex but just as much fun.

15. Word association

This game is a bit trickier but can be handled by children 6+. Someone starts with a word and the next person has to add a word that has an association. Using just nouns and verbs is easiest. The game ends when a word is repeated or someone is stuck. You can have winners and losers if you want but it isn't necessary. Here's how it might go. "Dogs", "bark", "bones", "kennel", "growl", "fleas", "wag", "tail", "scratch" etc.

16. Who am I?

The first player thinks of the name of someone who everyone will know then gives a clue about their identity, for example, Big Bird, a relative, a cartoon character etc. The people in the car then take turns trying to guess who it is. If they get it then they have a turn at choosing the identity. For example, if the player chose 'Bob the Builder' they might start like this: "I fix things".

17. Oh no!

This is a great idea for 3-4 people in a car. Someone starts a story with the words "Oh no!" followed by a simple statement. They might say, "Oh no! There's a spider in my pocket." People then take it in turns to add to the story using "but" as their first word to turn a serious circumstance into a not so serious one, and vice versa. They might add, "But it is only plastic". To which someone might say, "but it has dynamite in it". This continues until the players get sick of it or until everyone agrees that an appropriate ending has been found.

18. Special choices
 

This game requires people to choose between two options and give their reasons. Someone has to come up with the choice. For example, "If I had to choose between snakes or caterpillars" might receive the responses" "I'd choose caterpillars because I'm a robin", or "I'd choose a snake to surprise my teacher" and so on.


Above: Photo courtesy of Wiki Commons

19. Twenty-Five
 
The first person chooses a letter or sound at random. Each person then needs to write down (or say) 25 things inside or outside the car that begin with the letter. The game ends either by at the end of set time (say 3 minutes) and the points are tallied. You can score many ways, such as 1 point for every correct word or 1 for each word and 3-5 for each unique word.


20. Teapot 

This game starts with one player picking a verb (action/doing word). The other players in the car then have to ask questions about the verb, but they replace it with the word "teapot." For example, if the word is "swim", the first question asked might be, "Do cars teapot?" Of the course the answer is "No." Players keep asking questions until someone guesses the verb.
'50 Things to do on a journey', Usborne Activity Cards.

'Children's Holiday Activities: 30 simple ways to stimulate learning'.

'Holiday activities: 30 simple ways to stimulate learning'

'Stimulating language, literature & learning in holidays' - Part 1

'Stimulating language, literature & learning in holidays' - Part 2

Thursday, November 26, 2015

20 Great Non-Fiction Books for Reluctant 6-12 Year Olds

This is a repeat post as I haven't posted on non-fiction for a while. Some of these are ideal books for boys who are reluctant. Some young readers find non-fiction more engaging than fiction, so finding good non-fiction is worth the effort. In an earlier post I talk about this at length (HERE). This post is simply a quick review of some good books published in the last few years, it isn't meant to be comprehensive. I have arranged the examples I offer roughly in order of difficulty and age interest. It goes without saying that there are girls too for whom non-fiction is also more engaging.

'Bilby Secrets' Edel Wignel, illustrated by Mark Jackson

This is a delightful non-fiction picture book that teaches us in narrative form about the life of the wonderful bilby, an Australian marsupial. It traces the events of a typical day for mother and baby, and the perils of native and feral animals as the baby Bilby tries to survive life in the Australian landscape. Edel Wignel's story keeps the reader interested, while Mark Jackson's brightly coloured illustrations add drama and detail to this piece of discovery learning in narrative form. Children aged 2-6 will love this book. It is also a great book for classroom-based units and learning. 



'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide (Lothian)

'Tom the Outback Mailman' by Kristin Weidenbach and illustrated by Timothy Ide won the Eve Pownall prize for information books. This delightful true story of a great Australian character is based on Weidenbach's story of Tom Kruse who was the driver of the Marree-to-Birdsville mail. Once a fortnight for twenty years Tom loaded his Leyland Badger truck and drove 1,000 km across perilous territory on little more than a dusty dangerous rutted track. His job was to deliver mail and provisions to arguably the most isolated residents in the world. Tom was a great Australian character who lived in the middle decades of last century

The book is a version for younger children (aged 5-8 years) that Weidenbach has adapted into a delightful picture book for young readers. It offers just a small slice of the events of Tom's life. When floods cut the Birdsville Track, the station residents run out of supplies and worse still, the Birdsville Hotel runs out of beer! It takes Tom’s ingenuity to beat the floodwaters and get the mail and the beer through. Timothy Ide provides wonderfully detailed watercolour illustrations that add to what is already a compelling narrative account.

'Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook' by Angela Wilkes and published by DK Publishing.  

The Children's Quick and Easy Cookbook has 60 simple recipes that children will enjoy. The recipes are easy enough for most children to use, and are mostly suitable for the whole family. It contains a mix of healthy snacks, full meals, and delicious treats and sweets. The meal recipes include pita pockets, falafel, pizzas, Turkish meatballs, tacos, Thai satay kebabs, lemon fish sticks, filled crepes, chicken curry and rice. There are also many wonderful sweets including simple baked bomb Alaska, Tiramisu, parfaits, carrot cake, cookies and many more.  

The book also outlines cooking techniques, good food hygiene, kitchen safety, and step-by-step instructions. Full colour photographs are used throughout the book.

'The Lego Ideas Book' by Daniel Lipkowitz and published by DK Publishing 

If you have a box of Lego pieces resulting from your purchase of dozens of Lego sets, then you need this book. The book has 500 ideas for how you can make new things out of your box of Lego pieces. The book has six themed chapters—transportation, buildings, space, medieval history, adventure, and useful things to make. Each section has templates for models and ideas for how you might create your own. The book has 200 pages of tips and advice, illustrations and ideas.  It is well illustrated and beautifully designed. This book will keep children aged 7 to 70 years busy for hours.

'How Machines Work: The Interactive Guide to Simple Machines and Mechanisms' by Nick Arnold & Allan Sanders, published by Quarto Children's Books and distributed in Australia by Walker Books.

This book is a unique interactive guide to understanding simple machines and mechanisms. It introduces basic physics both in words and through models that the reader manipulates. It has 9 double-page spreads that introduce the reader to a key mechanical principle that you then put into practice by building one or more working models. The text and illustrations offer an easy to understand description of the mechanical principle and how to make a model that demonstrates it. This hands-on approach makes it easy to understand how these principles work and how they can be applied to everyday objects, such as cars, bicycles cranes and seesaws. Everything that you need is within, or attached to the book. The concept is brilliant

'Locomotive', written and illustrated by Brian Floca (Atheneum Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, 2013).

Floca is the author and illustrator of many books for children, including three Robert F. Sibert Honour Books: 'Moonshot: The Flight of Apollo 11', 'Lightship', and 'Ballet for Martha: Making Appalachian Spring', written by Jan Greenberg and Sandra Jordan.

'Locomotive' is the story a family’s journey across America in 1869 on the newly completed transcontinental railroad. The star of the story is the steam engine, but a mother and her two children and all those who keep the train moving are essential extras as it races down the Californian coast.

For the true enthusiast of trains the author gives us plenty of technical information about 19th-century railroading. This is not surprising, as Floca seems to have aimed at a very broad audience. Some will be pulled along by rhythm of the story, others will love the train details, and some will revel in the sense of history (even in the very typefaces used). Floca uses free verse and as you'd expect plays with words and sound to great effect. 

The technical craft and book design are both brilliant, as Floca uses every device to good effect to engage readers in this exciting journey by an incredible piece of 19th century technology.

Even the way he uses his pictures provides a cinematic style that is hard to create, but which adds to the richness of the text. The detail in the illustrations is superb; it is as much draftsmanship as it is fine illustration.

'Locomotive' won the 2014 Caldecott Medal.

'Kubla Khan: Emperor of Everything' by Kathleen Krull and illustrated by Robert Byrd

Kubla Khan is not well known and has often been mentioned historically only indirectly or in passing. Who was the man who Coleridge described in his famous poem 'Kubla Kahn'? This is the presumed grandson of Genghis Khan who reputedly built the imperial city of Beijing, and fathered a hundred or more children. History and legend suggest that he ruled over the greatest empire of the time, and that it was more advanced than previous civilisations in science, art and technology. The narrative text is engaging and should hold the interest of young readers, and Robert Byrd beautifully illustrates the book. Readers aged 7-9 years will enjoy this 42 page illustrated book.

'Simpson and his Donkey' by Mark Greenwood & illustrated by Frané Lessac

Every Australian and English child who grew up in the 1950s to 70s in Australia would know of the story of Simpson and the donkey he used to retrieve wounded men on the WWI battlefields of the Gallipoli Peninsula in Turkey. This was one of the greatest of all defeats for the forces of Britain, France and of course the Australian and New Zealand armed forces (the ANZACs). In the midst of the massacre of thousands of allied troops and the eight-month siege of this isolated beachhead, a man and his donkey were responsible for saving many lives, before Simpson was eventually killed on yet another mission.

Mark Greenwood offers a moving story of John Simpson Kirkpatrick and how he and his donkey, Duffy, rescued over 300 men during the campaign at Gallipoli. It traces his life from his home in South Shields in Newcastle (England) and his journey from the Tyne Dock to Turkey. Informed by detailed research, the text includes a brief biography of the man, details of his work at Gallipoli and also the little known story of how one of the many he rescued was actually a childhood friend.

Frané Lessac's illustrations are a wonderful complement to the story and have strength of colour that is not controlled by conventions. There are skies of yellow, orange, aqua, purple and all shades of blue. Her unique style draws your eye deep into each plate; no details can easily be missed.
 
'Usborne Complete Book of Art Ideas' by Fiona Watt and published by Usborne

The Usborne Art book has almost 300 pages of original ideas for painting, drawing and making collage. This fantastic book is ideal for children of varied (and minimal) artistic ability. It is also suitable for just about any age (but it's ideal for 7-12 year olds). The book will help children to explore varied artistic forms and materials, including chalk, pencil, paint and watercolour. It offers ideas that require the use of a wide variety of artistic techniques, including painting, drawing, sticking, ink, ripping, rubbing, smudging and colouring. Each of the many ideas is illustrated with very easy to follow step-by-step instructions. The book also offers tips on brushwork, mixing colours, thinning and thickening paint, how to shade and add patterns, using oil pastels, acrylics and more. 

'I Was Only Nineteen' by John Schumann and illustrated by Craig Smith (Allen & Unwin)

John Schumann wrote an unforgettable song 'I Was Only 19' in 1983 with the band Redgum. It had the memorable refrain 'God help me, I was only 19'. The lyrics of this well-known Australian song have been brought to life in a children's picture book illustrated by the widely acclaimed Australian illustrator Craig Smith. The words are used exactly as in the song. With Craig Smith's wonderful watercolour and line drawings they are a moving reminder of the Vietnam War. This was a war that was fought in different ways to the previous great wars and had less universal support than previous conflicts in which Australia and other nations had fought. This was a war that for many didn't seem 'quite real', and our servicemen still carry the physical and mental scars. The book is a moving insight into a war fought by young men who knew little about the country in which they fought and why they were there. It would be an ideal book to share with children aged 6-12 years as we approach ANZAC Day in Australia on April 25th.

'Tales of the Greek Heroes' by Green Roger Lancelyn (Penguin, 2009)

The beautiful land of Greece is haunted by more than three thousand years of legend and history. In this gripping retelling of the Heroic Age, you'll meet the mighty Poseiden, God of the Sea; Zeus, the King of Heaven and Earth; Hades, Lord of the Dead; Artemis the Huntress; Aphrodite, Immortal Lady of Beauty and Love; and many more mortals and gods. Their adventures are some of the oldest and most famous stories in the world.

This collection of well-known Greek myths will be enjoyed by readers aged 11+

'A Tale of Troy' by Lancelyn Roger Green (Penguin, 2012)

This book is a companion to 'Tales of the Greek Heroes'.

Step back into the Heroic Age with the story of Helen and the judgement of Paris; of the gathering of the heroes and the siege of Troy; of Achilles and his vulnerable heel. And join Odysseus, the last of the heroes – famous for his wisdom and cunning – on his thrilling adventures as he makes the long journey home to Greece.

Once again, perfect reading for children aged 11+

'Tales of Ancient Egypt' by Lancelyn Green Roger (Penguin, 2011)

In this thrilling collection of the great myths, you'll encounter Amen-Ra, who created all the creatures in the world; Iris, searching the waters for her dead husband, Osiris; the Bennu bird and the Book of Thoth. But there are also tales told purely for pleasure, about treasure and adventure – and even the first ever story of Cinderella.

Ages 10+ will love this collection





'Courage Has No Color: The True Story of the Triple Nickles. America’s First Black Paratroopers' (Candlewick Press, 2013)


This is a true story that has been a long time coming. It tells in a fair but powerful way of the racism that has often existed in armed forces around the world. Americans may well have heard of the Tuskegee Airmen, but few would know of the 555th Parachute Infantry Battalion - the Triple Nickle. These were the first US black paratroopers. They showed that black soldiers could do anything their white counterparts could do. The text and over 100 carefully labelled photographs in this 150 page book offer us an insight into how some brave and persistent African American men paved the way for others to be a full part of the US armed forces.

Tanya Lee Stone (author of 'Almost Astronauts') has done extensive research to tell her true story for readers of all ages. Boys in particular will love reading and looking at the historic photos. The work took Stone almost 10 years and the meticulous care and passion shows in this wonderful book. This amazing story will challenge all readers irrespective of age, race or ethnicity. The book recently won the YALSA Award for Excellence in Nonfiction. It is a very worthy winner.

'The Dangerous Book for Boys' by Conn Iggulden & Hal Iggulden (Harper Collins)

As they say, this book is an 'oldie' but a 'goodie'. It offers a range of ideas for making and doing things. For example, how to make the greatest paper plane in the world, building a tree house, all about dinosaurs, making a G0-cart, how to go fishing, juggling, all about Australian snakes, skimming stones and so on. This isn't a simple book (about grade 4-5 standard) but the content will help boys to 'stretch' themselves. It is also a great book for boys to read and 'do' with an adult. I've reviewed it in more detail here.

'You Can Draw Anything' by Kim Gamble

Kim Gamble is a well-known illustrator of Australian picture books. In this very accessible book he shows you how to draw just about anything you want to. Most how-to-draw books are either simple and recipe like or far too complex. The book offers principles and guidance for drawing many objects, including varied animals, people (bodies and faces), and landscapes including perspectives. He also offers techniques for shading and colouring. He intersperses the many diagrams and drawings with stories, jokes and examples that make the approach lots of fun, engaging and effective. It is ideal for children aged 7-10 years.

'Amazing Grace: An Adventure at Sea' by Stephanie Owen Reeder
This is a story about the courage of 16-year-old Grace Bussell. The year is 1876, when a steam ship, the 'Georgette', runs aground near Margaret River in Western Australia. On shore an ordinary 16 year-old girl sees the unfolding drama and heads off on horseback with the family servant Sam Isaacs to try to help the stranded passengers. Grace and Sam head into the water with their horses and rescue many people. Using eyewitness accounts and other historical documents as well as some slight embellishment to fill in details to sustain the narrative, Stephanie Reeder brings this true story to life.  This wonderful story is an excellent follow on from Stephanie Reeder's previous book, 'Lost! A True Tale From the Bush'. This previous story was also a true story. It told the story of 3 children who became lost on their way home in 1864 and spent eight days alone. It was shortlisted in the 2010 CBCA children's literature awards.  
'The Boy from Bowral' by Robert Ingpen

Robert Ingpen is known primarily as an illustrator but he is also a fine writer with 13 works of fiction and over 20 non-fiction. His most recent book as writer and illustrator is 'The Boy from Bowral' which tells the biographical story of Australian cricketer Sir Donald Bradman who is the greatest cricketer of all time. Bradman is seen as a legend in any cricket playing nation and Ingpen provides a lucidly written and historically accurate picture of Bradman's early life in Bowral, his rise to prominence as a cricketer, and his sporting career. The images are drawings based primarily on existing photographs, so the keen cricket fan (like me) will feel that they recognise some of them. The cover (which wraps around to the back) is a wonderful sequence of images that appear like a series of video frames that capture the classic Bradman cover drive. I loved this book and any cricket following child or adult will also enjoy it.

'Neurology: The Amazing Central Nervous System' by April Chloe Terrazas (Crazy Brainz, 2013)

Neurology explores the complexities of the Central Nervous System, beginning with the different sections (lobes) of the brain, continuing to the spinal cord and concluding with the structure and function of the neuron. Readers will learn how to pronounce key terms like Cerebellum, Occipital Lobe and Sensorimotor Cortex. They will also discover the functions of the Cerebral Cortex, Basal Ganglia and the Hippocampus! The book will also help them to understand the way the brain is organised - Forebrain, Midbrain, Hindbrain... and much more. 

The book has wonderful images that will engage them and color-coded text will reinforce lots of new learning. A great book for boys who love science and fancy themselves as brain surgeons! This is a book that will appeal to boys (and girls) of all ages.

'Into the Unknown' by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty

This wonderful hard cover book from tells the story of 14 famous journeys throughout history, including 'Pytheas the Greek Sails to the Arctic Circle in 340BC', 'Admiral Zheng He Crosses the Indian Ocean in 1405-07', 'Neil Armstrong & Buzz Aldrin Land on the Moon in 1969', 'Marco Polo Rides the Silk Road to China in 1271-74' and many more.

Each story has multiple drawings, maps and a giant fold out cross-section. Boys will read and look through this book for hours. You will also enjoy reading this exciting book to boys. There are many other 'cross-section' books by Stephen Biesty and others (here), including 'Egypt in Cross Section', 'Castles' and 'Rome'.

'Movie Maker' by Tim Grabham, Suridh Hassan, Dave Reeve and Clare Richards

'Movie Maker' is another wonderful resource from Walker Books designed for primary school aged children (7-12 years). It is a kit that contains ideas for making movies, and a handbook that shows you how armed simply with a video camera, you can make movies. The handbook talks about techniques like storyboarding, production, equipment, sound and lighting, design, special effects, how to vary camera shots and so on. It also includes some very cute aids such as a binocular mask, an adjustable frame, sample story boards, character props (e.g. glasses, moustache) and even authentic theatre tickets. All it doesn't include is the popcorn.


'The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists' by Sean Connolly

I wanted this book as soon as I saw it.  Well, as soon as I saw the title!  The book is all about igniting interest in science. Sean Connolly achieves this with lively, hands-on activities that suggest excitement and "danger". Simple experiments that pop, ooze, surprise and teach will delight boys and girls in upper primary. He also leads the reader through the history of science, and uses simple experiments to demonstrate key scientific principles.

The reader can rediscover the wheel and axle with the ancient Sumerians, or perform an astounding experiment demonstrating the theory of angular momentum. Children can build a simple telescope like Galileo's and find the four moons he discovered orbiting Jupiter.  They can experiment safely with electricity and avoid the more risky approach of Ben Franklin with his Lightning experiment. They will also learn how to re-create the Hadron Collider in a microwave with marshmallows, calculator, and a ruler to demonstrate the speed of light. Or they might simply crush a can using Stephenson's steam can experiment. This is a wonderful book for children aged 9-12 years.

Related Posts

'Meet the Author: Mark Greenwood & Frané Lessac' HERE
'Author & Illustrator Focus: Robert Ingpen HERE
'Getting Boys into Books Through Non-Fiction' HERE
'Making Reading Exciting for Boys' HERE
'New Title for Young Independent & Reluctant Readers Aged 6-12' HERE