5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom

ANZAC Day is an important date in the Australian calendar, but it can be a complex occasion to discuss with students. Much of ANZAC Day and its place in the Australian story is based in the actions of countries and individuals more than 100 years ago. How can we explain that to students in the often short time we have? How can we show them what it was like and how that echoes into our world today.

One way to bring ANZAC Day to our students is through some of the fabulous picture books which have been written and released to bring stories and reflections to young people. Here I look at five of them and suggest some ways they can be used in the classroom.

 
5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom from Galarious Goods
 

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

This book, which is probably best suited to upper primary and beyond, is more of an overview of the Gallipoli campaign than a narrative. Like French and Whatley's natural disaster books, it takes us through a timeline, using highly descriptive phrases and effective images to give us a glimpse into what it would have been like. We start before the landing, seeing calmness, work through the Gallipoli campaign with short pieces of text and photos, drawings and primary source ephemera giving us more information, then see how people came to remember the campaign 100 years later.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can discuss the use of real images in the book. What do they tell the reader? How do we react to real images rather than drawings or paintings? How are they manipulated and what effect does that have?
  • -Students can examine the descriptive words and phrases used and what feeling they add to the book. 

ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It tells two parallel stories - the story of a young girl and her mother making ANZAC biscuits for her father, and the story of the father - away from home at the war front. It's a story of love and family, but also a story of the fear and harsh conditions at war. Keen readers will want to flip back and forward between pages, looking for the similarities and connections the author and illustrator have included and some of the differences between now and the world of the story (I love the wood stove which reminds me of the one my great-grandmother had). 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can research ANZAC biscuits and how they came to be called that. If you have access to a kitchen, this could be a good time to bake ANZAC biscuits and look at procedure writing and reading
  • Students can create a chart of the connections, similarities and differences shown in the book

The Little Stowaway by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

This book is suitable for younger and older students. It is a relatively simple tale of a French orphan adopted by an Australian airman who has to take significant measures to bring him home after World War One. In some ways, though, it is the details which aren't provided which allow for greater exploration. What happened to other French orphans? What were the Australian air men doing? What was it like being an air man in World War One? 

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can use this book as inspiration to brainstorm questions about World War One and what it was like for soldiers
  • Was it right to smuggle Honoré home? Students can discuss whether he should have been left in France or whether bringing him back to Australia was the right thing to do
 
 

Lone Pine by Susie Brown and Margaret Warner (Illustrated by Sebastian Ciaffaglione)

Suited to middle primary and older, this book tells the story of the Lone Pine and how trees were grown in Australia from a pine cone sent home. As these trees - and later trees - grew, they have been planted around Australia as memorials to World War One. As well as telling the story of trees, this tells the story of a family looking for and coming to terms with losing a brother and son. A particularly strong symbolic moment comes when only two of the three saplings survive to grow into strong trees.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Lone Pine uses very strong, bold lines in the illustration. Students can experiment with their own bold line artwork using paint or oil pastels
  • Students can research more about the battle of Lone Pine and why it is still remembered today

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan

Suited to middle primary and older, this book is the story of a family who have experienced war across three generations, a World War One memorial and the tree which was planted at the first memorial service. It deals with memories and how we make sure things are remembered after we are gone and what happens when part of a memorial is removed. This is a particularly good book to read alongside Lone Pine, since both books deal with some similar themes and ideas.

Exploring this book in the classroom:

  • Students can visit a local memorial or even one of the bigger memorials in their state. They may draw it, discuss its features and talk about how we preserve those memorials and why its important to preserve them. 
  • Students can discuss the rituals and symbols used at their school or local community ANZAC Day services. They might like to discuss the words which are used and the different elements which are included and how they are memorials as well.
 
 
 
 

5 Ways to Find Joy in Your Classroom and Teaching

 

Teaching can be really hard. So much is expected of teachers in so little time and with so few resources. Sometimes we find ourselves facing problems which we just can’t unravel, no matter how hard we try. And there are days when we ask ourselves why we persist.

Each year I choose a word to aim to - I think about what the word means and how I can bring more of those concepts into my life. In 2018, that word is JOY. I realised that joy is one of those things which can make the classroom an easier place to be, something which can bring light, even on the dim, dark days. But how can we find joy in the classroom and in our teaching?

 
5 Ways to Find Joy in Your Classroom and Teaching from Galarious Goods
 

1. Bring things of beauty and joy with you

There are some objects which just bring a sense of joy with them. It might be their colour or their shape or the reminder of a happy moment. We can bring these things - or things inspired by them -  into the classroom with us.I have a collection of bells which bring me happiness - one was bought on a holiday with friends, another has a unique sound, the third was given to me by a student. They were perfect for my desk in the classroom and brought joy whenever I saw them or rang them. You might have a framed photo of family or friends, an image of an amazing place you’ve been or would like to go or special pens, pencils or highlighters which make you happy.

You might take it further and decorate your whole classroom to make it a happy place. You might fill it with rainbows or images of plants, you might include happy quotes or use your favourite colour  as a background on a notice board.

What if you don’t have a dedicated classroom space? Bring some joy with you! It might be a beautiful lanyard or a lovely pencil case. You might like to buy a special planner (like this one from Mrs Strawberry, these planning sheets from Green Grubs, this library planner from Little Library Learners, or this planner from Oceanview Resources); a planner cover or decor like these beautiful options for New Zealand teachers from Green Grubs or binder covers like these from Jewel's School Gems. Use beautiful pictures as your computer background or screen saver. Buy some nice folders to hold your items or add lovely labels to your cart.

2. Reframe the mundane

A lot of teaching is repetitive . . . and a little bit boring. And while we can make some of it fun, some of it has to just be what it is.

But we can make it a little more joyful by reframing what’s happening in our heads. We can look for the little pieces of joy and remind ourselves that they’re there.

Staff meetings are a perfect example of this. The workplace health and safety officer might be going through the fire drill process for the 10th time in the year - but that means all teachers will be better prepared if there is a fire. And isn’t it great that they take their job seriously - it might really save a life or prevent and injury one day.

Marking can also seem endless, but look for those moments where students have shown improvement or really taken on something you’ve taught in class. Find those little pieces of joy in their work and celebrate them.

3. Work in the Affirmative

I love using affirmations - they’ve been part of my life since I was young and my mother used them with us. I use them quite a lot, these days - as motivation, for calming, for reflecting on what I’m doing and what I’d like to be doing.

Affirmations can definitely be used to bring joy into the classroom. It might be in the form of a lovely quote or poster which you hang in your classroom, or you might like to take a few moments to write your own at the beginning of the day or week. You can keep them in your teacher diary or on your desk or use them as part of a display at home or school. 

Looking for some teaching affirmations? Download my free set of teacher affirmations here.

 
 

4. Get Dancing

Well, you don’t have to dance. You could sing. Or run. Or make yourself the nicest coffee . . . 

The idea is to treat yourself - find activities or rituals which make you really happy and make sure to build them into your weekly schedule. It might be something you can do at school - one year a group of teachers at my school organised an exercise boot camp on the school oval after school, or you could always begin your school day with a song which makes you happy. Or it might be something which you participate in outside of school - a few years ago, I participated in adult ballet classes on Wednesday nights. It made me happy and gave me exercise!

If you have something you do every day, think about how you can make it happier. Always start the day with a cup of tea? What about having a pretty tea cup or tea thermos to drink it from? Like to eat a nice salad for your lunch at school? Could you add a nice relish or dressing or some lovely herbs to make it happier? Buy a nice hat for playground duty, treat yourself to joyful sticky notes, theme your daily whiteboard reminders to your favourite children’s books - treat yourself in ways which bring joy!


5. Bring joy and passion to your subject matter

Do you enjoy what you teach? Really enjoy it?When you enjoy what you’re teaching, your students feel it. If you share that joy, the excitement level in the room often rises and you’ve got a greater chance of having one of ‘those’ lessons which you want to repeat over and over. 

But what if you’re not teaching something you love? Is it possible to get really excited about mixed fractions? (Well, I enjoy them, but I’m occasionally strange!).Can you connect them to something you enjoy? Maybe you can combine mixed fractions and a chemistry or baking exploration? Or use them in a graphing or mapping exercise? Or use them to talk about how many books your class has read?

Or, you could connect them to something your class really enjoys. Challenge them to connect mixed fractions to unboxing videos or superheroes or making slime. Feed off their excitement and see how far it will take you. 

Don’t forget to keep a record of those really great lessons. It might be a photo or a short description. You might collect some feedback from your students or make a video about it. Use photos and descriptions to make a special noticeboard of happy lessons you’ve had with your class. These records can be great for your teaching portfolio, but they can also serve as a reminder of all the happy teaching moments you’ve enjoyed.


How do you bring joy to your classroom? Let me know in the comments!

 
 
 
 

5 Great First Day of School Reads

Recently, I was fortunate to be part of the free Back to School eBook - an Australian and New Zealand Teacher Authors Collaboration. One of the things the participating teacher-authors included was a back to school tip. Mine, of course, was related to reading, so I couldn’t help but dig a little deeper and think about what books I’d love to read aloud on the first day of school. I’m thrilled to present this short list:

 
First Day of School Reads - a Back to School Blog Post from Galarious Goods
 

1. Thelma the Unicorn by Aaron Blabey

Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to try new things out, but it’s also ok to just do you.

You could really read just about any Aaron Blabey book - they’re so funny and surprisingly detailed and really engaging. I love Thelma the Unicorn because she wants something, makes it happen (with glitter), experiences and enjoys it, then goes back to her old world. It also touches on bullying - particularly senseless bullying we often see, which allows for some good cyber safely messages.


2. The Very Cranky Bear by Nick Bland

Theme I’d touch on: We can help find solutions when we listen to the problem

There’s been a number of ‘bear’ books, but the original is still my favourite. Its rollicking, rhyming style is so easy to read and there’s several messages you can look at closer with your students. I love that Lion, Moose and Zebra think that being more like them is the solution, because they’re happy aren’t they? It takes sheep’s empathy to really hear Bear and realise that he’s severely sleep deprived! We can all be better listeners, and this is a message which can carry on from the beginning of the school year

 

 
5 Great Back to School Reads from Galarious Goods
 

3. Malala’s Magic Pencil by Malala Yousafzai

Theme I’d touch on: It’s ok to be proud of school and it’s ok to work hard at school

This is a book I’d probably read in upper primary grades where we can look at the background around it. That can also be an age where it’s seen as ‘cool’ to disengage from school or school work, and those who are enthusiastic about their school lessons can be seen as ‘different’ or ‘geeky’. This book points out why education is important and how lucky many students are and opens the school year with permission to take education seriously.

4. The beginning of Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman

Theme I’d touch on: Children around the world are living lives both different and the same as us

I adore this book and I know it’s often taught in the upper years. Even if you’re not taking an in-depth look at it until later in the year, you can read a ‘teaser’ of the book and open up a discussion about the differences and similarities in the world. It can be a good challenge for students to consider the world beyond their own experiences and open the class up to a year of discovery and reflection.

 
Five Great Back to School Reads from Galarious Goods
 

 

5. The Tomorrow Book by Jackie French

Theme I’d touch on: Where are we going and how can we solve the obstacles in our way

If you’ve got a future or a STEM focus in your classroom, this gentle picture book can be a great first day of school opening. It invites questions, thoughts, brainstorms, new vocabulary and investigation - just what your need for an exciting, investigative year to come.

What books do you enjoy reading at the beginning of the school year? Which books have been most successful?

 
 
 
 

5 Things School Parents Might Worry About (And how teachers can help those worries)

I’ve checked the new school bag, bought the new water bottle, browsed Pinterest for lunch box treats. Excitement is at an all time high here because my eldest is about to start school.

Despite all my own school experience, I - inevitably - have some worries. And I’m not the only one. Parenting groups I’m part of are filling up with questions and concerns and parenting blogs are publishing posts to help parents with their concerns.

So, what are these concerns? And how can teachers address them - and alleviate them?

 
5 Things School Parents Might Worry About (And how teachers can help those worries) A Back to School blog post from Galarious Goods
 

1. Have I Got Everything Right?

Is the uniform right? Have I bought the right shoes? What books do I cover and name and which ones do I leave? When do I send the library bag to school? What time should I arrive for the school assembly? 

Schools have their own rhythms, routines and systems. So do different teachers and classrooms. Every time a new school year starts, parents and students need to get used to these rhythms and systems and work out how they fit into the rest of life.

While teachers often take the time to go through the little details with students, parents are often left asking questions of more experienced parents or making worried posts in Facebook groups. Lots of parents don’t want to add to the stress of teachers and students in the first days of school by getting it wrong.

You can help these worries by making your school and your own expectations as clear as possible. If you want all books covered and named, let parents know through a note or an email. Ask your administration team to provide examples of the ‘right’ shoes at orientation sessions or meetings with new parents. Use a calendar to help parents know what’s coming up. These little details can help parents be more prepared, which means students are more likely to arrive on the first day ready to learn.

2. What Should I Talk to the Teacher About and How Should I Do That?

Do I let them know we’ve had a bad night’s sleep? Do I let them know that they’re finding the reader way too easy or way too hard? Do I ask them how my child is settling in? Can I get clarification on this homework?

Teacher time is valuable time, and it can be hard for parents to know how to navigate that, while sharing information and not being ‘that’ parent. 

What you want to know or how you’d like to communicate with parents will differ depending on your school, the age of the students and your own preferences. But let the parents know what you’d prefer, whether it’s a short note at the beginning of the day if something at home is likely to impact on the student’s learning, an email to clarify an assignment or a formal meeting set through the school office to discuss greater concerns. You may have a ‘no question is too small’ policy or you might like to produce a ‘frequently asked questions’ handout for parents to address those questions you get year after year. 

3. Will My Child Be Recognised in the Classroom?

Will they remember to speak up? Will the teacher have time to see them with all the other students and forms and reports and outcomes and curriculum they need to get through? Do I need to tell them about what my child can or can’t do, or will the teacher pick that up themselves? Will the teacher be able to work on their weaker areas? Will the teacher see who they are?

Parenting can be worrying, but it can be especially so when we hand our kids over to other people! Parents tend to know so many of their child’s strengths, weaknesses and individual quirks, so it’s easy to worry how a teacher of so many students (with so many other things to do!) will be able to see each student.

One way to address these worries is by making individual contact early in the year. It might be a short note about how the student has gone in the first two weeks or a quick chat at the end of the day. It might be a conversation as part of a back to school or meet the teacher night or a quick phone call to talk about something the student has done well and to address any questions. 

You can also combine these forms of contact with a parent survey - asking parents to talk about their children might help you pick up on things you haven’t picked up on yet. 

If you’re making phone calls home, you might like to use this free Parent/Carer Phone Call Log - it’s an easy way of seeing which parents you’ve contacted and which ones you need to contact, as well as allowing you to record anything you might need to follow up on.

 
 

4. Will My Child Get In Trouble?

Will they listen to the teacher? Will they be nice to other children? Will they talk too much in class? Will they behave themselves at assembly? Will they behave themselves when they’re tired? 

Almost all students are likely to get into trouble at some point. We know that as teachers and parents definitely know that about their own children. So the answer to this one is usually ‘yes, your child will get into trouble at some point.’

Schools often have really detailed behaviour management plans, but these can be a little overwhelming. Plus they don’t always cover the day to day teaching and management of behaviour which happens in the classroom.

Teachers can definitely help break these down and can work with parents as a team on behaviour. If you’re concentrating on a behaviour - raising hand in class or being kind in the playground, for example - you can let parents know. When parents know that’s something to be worked on, they can reinforce the good behaviour at home. 

You can also let parents know that certain behaviours are normal and even expected at different ages.

5. How Can I Help At Home Without Stepping on the Teacher’s Toes?

If I’m reading at home should we talk about the letters and the sounds they make? Should we be doing maths problems or do I leave them for the classroom? I know they’re learning about volcanoes this year, should we do some reading at home first or just wait?

Many parents want to support their children when it comes to learning. But often they’re not sure how to go about it without getting in the way of the teachers and the work they’re doing. 

Teachers can help with this worry by having a list of activities parents and students can do at home together. It might be general like reading books, looking at maps of trips, helping with chores around the house, playing with toys which develop fine motor skills, getting out and exercising together or exploring the interests of the child. Or it might be more focused like looking at sight words, practising time tables or maths facts, looking for interesting words when reading and making a personal dictionary, talking about family history.

If students need more focused help or are showing particular interest in a subject, it’s worth passing on this information to parents as well so they can expand on that at home.

I’ve had several parents ask what tutors (for students at all levels) can do to help. It’s worthwhile to think of the skills which might need reinforcing or extending at different times of the year and to have a list which can be used by the student and the tutor.

You might also like to think of ‘sideways’ activities which the students can engage in. If a student really likes a book you’re reading in class, you might like to suggest that they research what other books are available on a similar topic or by the same author. If you’re learning about Ancient Egypt, they might like to read about other ancient civilisations. A student who is really into mathematics might like to brainstorm places they find or use a maths concept in the ‘real world’. 

There are lots of ways parents can help with learning outside of the classroom and it’s worth the time to offer some suggestions to engage the whole family in the learning of the student.

 

Have you found some effective ways to alleviate the worries of parents at the beginning of the school year? Share them in a comment!

 
 
 
 

12 Christmas Ideas for Your Classroom

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!

The snow is falling, fires are lit, rosy cheeked children are running around in lovely woollens! 

Oops! None of that! It's the Southern Hemisphere here and we're getting ready for a lovely summer holiday. But it's still Christmas time and Santa is ready to take orders as we wind down the school year. 

So I gathered some teachers together to offer some great Christmas ideas for your classroom - and a few Secret Santa freebies for you to download!

 
12 Christmas Ideas for Your Classroom
 

1. Have your students create their own Christmas spelling lists. How many words can they come up with? Which ones do they think are most difficult? Are there any spelling rules they can find or use?

2. Use Christmas words for spelling or vocabulary activities. What do words we hear around Christmas mean? How can we use them? Where do they come from? 

3. Write stories about what Santa does in his free time. He can't work all the time, can he? What does Santa's down time look like? This is a great activity which can be used no matter how old the students are.

 
  Get this FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Top Teaching Tasks!

Get this FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Top Teaching Tasks!

 

4. Compare Santa and St. Nick. Where do our current beliefs about Santa come from? What are other Santa traditions from around the world?

5. Write a present guide for fairy tale characters. What do you buy for the owner of glass slippers? Should Red Riding Hood look for a different colour hood or should she get some different transportation to visit her grandmother. Students can explore texts, write their own present descriptions and think about how images and text go together in advertising

6. Create a Christmas themed obstacle course. This can be a map of an obstacle course or a real life obstacle course outside or in a gym or hall. Students can think about different types of movement and how to put them together with different types of equipment

 
  Get Your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Galarious Goods

Get Your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Galarious Goods

 

7. Write a new Christmas recipe. What food do we eat at Christmas time? How do we prepare it? Students can invent a new meal or dish to go with Christmas lunch or dinner, explore what recipes look like and write their own. Brave teachers might even let them prepare it!

8. Use Christmas supermarket catalogues to plan a Christmas meal to a budget. This could also be used with online price lists and is a great way to explore what Christmas food is and why people eat certain food at Christmas time

9. Explore Christmas food around the world. What do people eat for Christmas where it's hot? Where it's cold? What traditional Christmas cakes and biscuits can you learn about? Why are certain foods associated with Christmas?

 
  Get your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Aussie Waves

Get your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Aussie Waves

 

 

10.  Create a map of Santa's home at the North Pole. What would it look like? What rooms would Santa definitely need? This is a great way to revisit mapping skills and birds eye perspective. Students can extend this by writing a 'tour' of Santa's home.

11. Research the Arctic. We know Santa lives at the North Pole, but what else do we know about the northern part of the world? This is a great research activity which all students can get involved in.

12. Create a Christmas board game or card game. This is a great way for students to think through procedures, instruction writing, and what makes an effective game.They also have to think about how to connect Christmas with games. 

 

You can get more great Christmas teaching resources at Teachers Pay Teachers. 

Find Christmas Resources from Aussie Waves here
Find Christmas Student Awards from A Plus Learning Here
Find Christmas Resources from Galarious Goods here
Find Christmas Resources from Top Teaching Tasks here

Wishing all teachers a peaceful and happy holiday season

 

 
 
 

5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom

As December looms nearer, Christmas is all around us. Decorations are being hung in public spaces, Christmas music is beginning to be heard, and the Christmas aisle suddenly appears in the shops. You also find Christmas picture books, especially written to bring Christmas into the literary word. These books are perfect to explore in your classroom at Christmas - bringing together the excitement of the holiday season and the real learning which comes with exploring picture books. Here's a few reasons why you should explore them in your classroom.

 
5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom
 

1. Christmas is a Time of Excitement in the Classroom

Christmas is a time of great excitement for many children and adults alike. In the classroom, it's often the lead up to holidays, either the long summer holidays in the Southern Hemisphere or shorter winter holidays in the Northern Hemisphere. This excitement around Christmas and holidays can make it difficult for students to focus on more traditional learning. Christmas books are a great way of harnessing that excitement and turning it into real authentic learning. While students are enjoying the stories of Christmas, they can also be looking at the choices the author and illustrator make, the meanings that come from the Christmas books and the text features they use in their work.

2. Christmas Books are Connected to Shared Experiences

Almost everyone has some experience of Christmas - whether it's their own family celebrations, the activities they participate in at school or the Christmas they see in media. This shared experience means that students are coming to Christmas books with a significant amount of background knowledge and understanding. This makes it possible to explore the books a little deeper, to compare and contrast them with the Christmas experiences we have, to create work inspired by the books with a greater knowledge. These books then become another shared experience for students - another part of their Christmas knowledge.

 
 

3. There Are Some Really Good Christmas Books

The idea of Christmas books doesn't always make you think of interesting story lines. But there's been some really interesting and fun concepts developing over the past few years. From exploring how Queen Victoria celebrated Christmas (in Queen Victoria's Christmas) to looking at drought at Christmas time (in the CBCA recognised All I Want for Christmas is Rain), authors and illustrators have been taking a whole range of approaches to Christmas stories and it's fascinating to compare and discuss these.

4. Christmas Books Often Have Beloved Characters in Them

Young readers can easily fall in love with characters who appear in more than one picture book. And when those characters appear in a Christmas book, there's an immediate anticipation of what that book might contain. When students see Pig the Elf by Aaron Blabey, they know they're probably going to read about some of the horrible behaviour of the selfish Pig. Or, if they look at Jackie French's Christmas Wombat, they know there's a pretty good chance that it will be written in diary format and may include carrots. This anticipation builds excitement into lessons using these books as well as offering opportunities to explore how well known characters react to the events of the Christmas season.

 
 

 

5. Picture Books are Easy to Use

Christmas time and the lead up to holidays are usually some of the busiest times in the school year. There isn't always a lot of time for sustained learning. This is where the Christmas picture books can be a huge assistance - they're quick and easy to read, but there's a lot of smaller activities you can do with them. They're portable, so you can take them with you if you're moving from one activity to another and need to fill in waiting time. You can get a complete text experience, without worrying that you're going to run out of time to read a novel. 

Are you exploring Christmas books in your classroom this year? You can find a whole range of Christmas picture book studies at the Galarious Goods shop, including our money saving bundles - for Year 3, 4 and 5 and for Year 4, 5 and 6.

 

 
 

Five Ways to Explore Picture Books in the Classroom

Last week I looked at why we should use picture books in middle grades classrooms, but it's also important to look at some of the different ways we can use them. Picture books are great for flexibility - their length and size allow them to fit into smaller blocks of time and to be shared more easily. So what are some of the different ways you can utilise this flexibility?

 
Five Ways to Explore Picture Books in the Classroom
 

1. Make Pictures A Daily Read

Picture books can be a great way to start a day, lesson or language block. It can serve as a transition for students, giving them time to be prepared to learn. Daily picture books allow your students to be exposed to a large range of books, allowing you to bring a wide range of diverse authors, illustrators and stories to your students. It creates a large shared vocabulary with stories that students can refer back to and talk about. Many picture books also contain themes, questions and social situations which are important to discuss with students.

Students can interact with the books through quick discussion questions, paired or small group discussion or through exit slips (you can download free exit slips here). Students may also like to keep journals exploring some of the books which are read in the classroom.

Although it's great to have students respond to the texts, they don't need to respond formally every day. Sometimes it's best to just let students sit with the text and insisting on a written response every day can reduce enthusiasm for the daily reading time. Mixing up the ways students respond (or don't respond) can help to keep the daily read fresh.

 
 

 

2. Connecting a Text to a Specific Lesson

Picture books are great to use as mentor texts - whether it's exploring a type of story or looking at a particular text element. Picture books can also be used as introductions to other subjects - as a way to look at a historical period or a scientific principal, or they can be used to expand ideas or raise questions about those subjects. 

In this way, picture books may be simply used as a prompt to get students thinking about a subject. They might follow it up with a brainstorm or ask questions to explore further. Students may refer back to the book later on when they have more understanding of the topic and may engage in a critique of how the picture book handles the subject.

Alternately, the picture book can become the basis of an entire unit of work. A book like I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox can become the centre of a unit on what it means to be Australian and how people travel to Australia. Students can refer back to the book at different times, connect the book to other texts or media and create pieces of work inspired by the book and other information they have learned.

3. Teacher Led Small Group Work

If you use literacy rotations or use a reader's workshop in your classroom, picture books are great for teacher-led small group work. Students can meet once or more a week with their teacher to explore a book, looking at themes, literary techniques, making comparisons or completing activities. The size of picture books make them perfect for a small group work - they're easy to pass around to examine pictures, and the smaller amounts of text on each page make it easier for students to find examples or read out quotes from the page.

These small group explorations can be a great way to support your curriculum goals and assist you in collecting evidence for assessment. With guidance, you can allow students to take on discussions themselves, allowing you to take notes on their understanding of the book and the elements you wish to explore.

4. Student Led Exploration

Also great for literacy rotations or in a reader's workshop, students can work independently on their own, in pairs or in small groups to explore the book. You may create a generic set of discussion questions or activities for students to work through with any book they choose, or you may have 'packs' of books, questions and activities for students to work through. You can also select themes or ideas for students to explore, choose picture books which will work with those themes or ideas and have questions or activities specifically created to link to those themes or ideas.

When students are being asked to work independently with picture books, it can be useful to model how they do this. When students are being asked to work in small groups, you may walk them through the process during the first few weeks and then offer a reminder card of the process for following sessions. If students are working on their own as part of a literacy rotation, you may like to outline the routine and expectations, then use a reminder card to help students keep on track.

5. Whole class close reading

Sometimes it can be useful for all the students in the class to take a deep look at one text at the same time. Students may follow with a large classroom copy of the book or work in smaller groups examining multiple copies of the text. It can be helpful to provide a range of activities when all the students are engaging with the same text - you may start by reading it aloud to the class, give them individual time to record their ideas and reflections (possibly with question prompts), bring them into small groups to discuss and look closer at the text and then ask them to work individually or in pairs to create their own work. There are many other options to use here including whole class discussion, students using sticky notes or exit slips to share their ideas with others or even a whole class response to the text.

You Can Find a range of picture book studies for middle grade students at Galarious Goods including Flood by Jackie French, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin and I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox

 
 
 
 

Five Reasons to Use Picture Books in Middle Grades Classrooms

Books with pictures can sometimes get a bad reputation as 'lesser books'. Once we're able to read novels - the 'important' books, we're supposed to put away our books with pictures - relics of our younger childhoods. However, there is so much we and our students can learn from picture books and plenty of reasons to make sure they find a home in middle grades classrooms. 

 
5 Reasons to Use Picture Books in Middle Grades Classrooms
 

1. Picture Books Are More Complex Than You Might Think

There can be a stereotype of picture books as early readers. While it's definitely true that a number of picture books are written for young children, there's an increasing number of complex picture books written and illustrated for older readers. The books of Shaun Tan, for example, contain intricate and complex illustrations and themes and ideas which can take multiple rereadings to untangle. Many picture books contain unnamed themes which allow students to flex their inferencing muscles. Illustrations can also allow students to examine prediction or question the choices of the illustrator in matching the words of the writers. It's well worth taking time to look through picture books to find those more complex books.

2. Picture Books Cover A Wide Range of Topics

As well as fictional stories, you can find plenty of biographies, history and science picture books. Many of these books present information on complex topics in a clear and simple fashion and they're great as an introduction to a discussion or a topic of study. Even books aimed at the youngest children could be used like this in the classroom - I recently bought a board book called Rocket Science for Babies which would be a great introduction to a science class or a great way for students to explore how scientific topics can be explained for a wider audience.

3. Picture Books Can Be Easier to Manage in the Classroom Than Novels

When students read novels as part of a small group or class, it really is important that all the students have their own books. Sharing novels can be frustrating for slower or faster readers and make it harder for students to follow the narratives. Picture books can be more easily shared between pairs or groups because each page is meant to be taken in as it is. Teachers can also use picture books to lead small group or class discussions - their larger size can make it easier for all the children to see and discuss illustrations. 

Picture books can also be easier to fit into crowded classroom timetables. Students can easily finish, discuss and analyse a picture book in one or two lessons, where a novel requires a much bigger block of time to complete and discuss. This is particularly useful when looking for texts which share certain literary techniques like personification, rhyme schemes or allegories.

4. Picture Books Improve Visual Literacy

More and more information is shared through graphics and images these days and it's important that students learn to 'read' these as well as text. Picture books can be used as one way of improving visual literacy. Students can examine what aspects of the text the illustrator chose to depict and how they chose to depict it. They can look at the style the illustrator used to tell a story and how it might be different if a different illustrator had been used. They can question the choices the illustrator made and how they make an impact on the story as a whole. This can also be connected with art classes as students explore different artistic techniques used in picture books (the works of Jeannie Baker, Shaun Tan, Bruce Whatley or Freya Blackwood would be fascinating to explore here!)

5. Picture Book Allow For Effective Differentiation

The shorter length and shorter text of picture books can make them excellent tools for students who have difficulties with reading or need assistance to focus for longer periods of time. Students are more likely to finish picture books in a short amount of time, allowing for feelings of mastery and growth and building self-efficacy for future challenges. The wide range of picture books available means that it is possible to find ones which suit particular interests and wordless picture books can also assist students to find themes, ideas and literary techniques without needing to decode words. Picture books can also allow for in-depth and extensive examinations of theme and exploration of the choices of the authors and illustrators, allowing advanced or gifted students to reflect on how they might apply what they have learned to their own writing. 

You Can Find a range of picture book studies for middle grade students at Galarious Goods including Flood by Jackie French, The Peasant Prince by Li Cunxin and I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox

 
 
 
 

Three Different Ways to Explore Poetry in your Classroom

I adore poetry - I still remember early lessons on haikus back in my Grade Three classroom. I love reading it and finding little gems of words. And I love writing it and manipulating language and rhythms until the paint little pictures in words.

Poetry can be amazing in the classroom. It's relatively easy to fit into smaller segments of language. It's perfect for exploring literary and language skills like figurative language. And there's poems for all situations - funny poems, sad poems, serious poems. You can even explore verse novels and how an author can put together a series of poems to tell a story.

Here's three ways to bring poetry into your classroom.

 
Three Different Ways to Explore Poetry in your Classroom - Blog Post by Galarious Goods
 

1. Combine Poetry and Art

Poems often use a few words to create pictures, so they're perfect to combine with art. You can start with using one to inspire another - students can write a poem inspired by a piece of art or create a piece of art inspired by a poem. This can be especially effective when you're looking at particular styles of art - abstract art or sculpture - or if you try to create art work which reflects particular patterns in a poem - what might a limerick piece of art look like?

Students can also combine poetry and art in one piece. Found poetry and black out poetry are fascinating ways to combine both, as is exploring calligraphy or typography. Students can look at how poetry can be a part of public art or how words, colour and shapes can be combined to create something beautiful.

2. Create Poetry Displays

Due to their shorter size, poems make wonderful subject for displays. And seeing poetry all around us is a great way to inspire thinking about poetry and more poetry. 

There are a few ways you can display poetry in the classroom. If you write or explore poems on a particular theme, you can use that to create a display - autumn poetry can be displayed on colourful trees made out of paper, beach poems can be written into a beach scene. Teachers can also incorporate poetry into the classroom - even displaying them where you wouldn't expect them - a poem about numbers near the maths equipment, a poem about nature tucked near a window. These could even form the basis of a poetry treasure hunt, with students searching to find all the poems.

Students can also use a display board to create their own poetry. They can use pieces of paper or magnets with words on them and arrange them to create poetry. They can also write lines of poetry to pin up on a board to continue a poem which is being written. 

Beyond the classroom, students may like to look for other places they can display their writing. You may be able to display poems in the school library, the office or the hallways. If you have classroom windows which can be seen outside, you may like to display poems there where other students, teachers and parents can see them. Or a local shop may be able to offer space or a notice board for students to display their poetry to a wider audience. 

3. Explore Poetry in Song

While poetry and songs are two different forms of writing, it's not hard to see the similarities between them. They both use rhyme, rhythm and highly effective word choice to make you feel something. So how can we use them together?

Students can use lines of a song to inspire their own poems. Starting with one or two lines and then continuing in their own poem allows them to think about what those lines might be saying and how they can continue that in their own words with their own experiences. Examining the structure of songs also allows students to play with structure in poetry. This can be especially effective with songs which change structure between different parts or between chorus and verses - how do they change their writing style? How can students experiment with that.

Students can also think about how already written songs could be set to music. What kind of music could they set the poems to? How would it change if you used a different style of music? 


Take a moment to share some poetry with your students and open up a whole world of different rhythms, rhymes and pictures made out of words.

Look at poetry through a verse novel with the Pearl Verses the World Complete Novel Study Bundle

 

 
 

Integrating Civics and Citizenship with Other Subjects

Civics and government are essential subjects to teach, but it can be difficult to fit them into already busy teaching schedules. One way to cover what students need to know is to integrate them with other subjects. Here's a few ways you can do that.

 
Integrating Civics and Citizenship with Other Subjects - blog post by Galarious Goods
 

Mathematics

Maths and civics don't seem like a natural fit, but they can work surprisingly well together. Students can easily look at elections, electorates or voting as well as data and statistics. Students can collect data from websites like the Australian Electoral Commission or from polls published in newspapers. They can use these to create graphs or diagrams showing how numbers are used in politics.

Australia's preferential voting system could be part of a maths investigation. Students can investigate how it works (and how to explain that to voters!) and decide whether there's a fairer or better system.

Students could also use data to look at global issues and how you can represent those issues through numbers.


English

There's some great books which cover issues related to civics and citizenship. These can be read at the beginning of a unit of study as an introduction or used as part of the unit.  Students can compare events in the book with real events and decide whether the book is realistic or not. Books are also a great way for students to gain some understanding of political systems from other parts of the world.

Students can also engage with non-fiction texts related to civics and citizenship - including websites, fact sheets, newspaper and magazine articles and opinion pieces. As well as reading them, students can create their own. One investigation may involve students examining election material from a range of elections and look at what makes them persuasive to audiences. Or they could compare election campaign material from an earlier time with more recent election campaign material.

Art

Students can also use campaign material for art lessons. They can examine how different political parties use colour and shape, then use the information they gain to create their own campaign material.

You can also get creative with art and look at how students could represent something like law making or different types of laws through 2D or 3D arts.

Music

I've talked about using educational songs in the classroom before, and this is a great place to combine music and civics. Students can explain complex issues through their own songs and share them with their classmates.

Students can also look at songs which have political messages. Protest songs and fundraising songs have a fascinating musical and civics history and can be interesting to listen to and analyse.

History and Geography

These are obvious places to learn more about government and civics. Whether it's how the constitution of a country was formed or what political decisions have had big impacts on the history of a country, or how different geography can explain voting decisions. It can take a little work to match together different curriculum needs, but it can be incredibly satisfying when you get it.

Drama

Role play, role play, role play! Students can get so much out of role playing in the classroom and exploring different topics. It's great to focus on smaller parts of a complex topic when you're role playing. Alternately, students can create their own small plays or videos to share what they know about different topics.

Have you got any other ways to integrate civics and other subjects? Leave a comment below.

Find a large range of civics and citizenship resources at Galarious Goods.