5 Topics to Explore with Rowan of Rin

When you explore a book like Rowan of Rin in the classroom, it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start. It’s an entirely new world - similar, but different to our own. There’s adventure and fantasy and relationships. And how can we make connections between all of that and the world that our students live in?

Finding real world connections and real world topics to explore can help our students gain a deeper understanding of both Rowan of Rin and how we can use books as a launching pad to gain a deeper understanding of the world around us. Here’s 5 topics you can explore with your class to get you started!

5 Topics to Explore when you read Rowan of Rin by EMily Rodda as a class. A look at a range of topics in Rowan of Rin and how these topics can be covered in teaching activities. A Galarious Goods blog post

1. Mapping

In Rowan of Rin, a map is the central tool to help Rowan and his fellow villagers in their quest to get to the top of the mountain. But while we don’t usually have magic maps in our world, mapping is a great topic to explore with students.

Students can look at a range of maps, from maps made by early explorers, maps created to help students understand historical events or places, maps used to show weather or maps available on our phones and computers. They can identify similarities and differences between those maps and begin to create a list of features which maps have.

Students can look at maps of their local area and beyond, examining what features they know and how they connect with roads and paths. They can also create their own maps of familiar places - like school, bedrooms, streets, places in their community - or unfamiliar places - like places in books they have read or places which come from their own imagination.

Students can also examine the role of maps in fantasy books like Rowan of Rin. What do these maps tell the reader? Why are they included? How do they help the reader when you are in the middle of the book? How do you create a map of your own fantasy world? (The blog post Cartography Makes Me Cry by the author Tansy Rayner Roberts gives a great insight into the mind of an author creating a map for a fantasy world!)


2. Caring for Animals

Rowan is the bukshah keeper in Rowan of Rin, a role he was supposed to have grown out of, but a role which made him invaluable throughout the journey to the top of the mountain.

Students can look at what qualities are required to be good at caring for animals, whether the animals in question are their own pets, animals in a farm or large animals in different situations. They may like to research people who are famous for working with animals like Steve Irwin or Jane Goodall and explore what qualities made them suited for working with animals.

Students can also explore the different jobs which exist for people who want to work with animals. They can sort and organise the jobs and match them with the qualities required to be good at them.

3. Quests

Rowan is one of a group of people who set off on a quest up the mountain to solve the mystery of the stream drying up in Rowan of Rin. Quests are a common part of fantasy books, including well known books like The Hobbit. But what quests can students explore in real life?

Across history, explorers have set out to find new places - often for reasons to do with money or power. Sometimes the explorers have been solving problems, looking for new trade routes or easier ways to get from one place to another. Sometimes they’ve been searching for something big - a southern land or an inland river. And sometimes they want to be the first to go somewhere - like the quest to be the first people to stand on the moon.

Students can choose an exploration to look at, discovering who was involved in the exploration, what they did to prepare for that exploration and what happened during it. They can look at difficulties faced during the explorations and how they dealt with them. They can also look at the impact of the exploration on people and environments which were already there.

5 Topics to Explore when reading Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda in your classroom. Covering mapping, caring for animals, questions, caves and dragons, this blog post covers teaching ideas for Rowan of Rin. A Galarious Goods blog post

4. Caves

At one point during their quest up the mountain, Rowan finds himself in a cave. Caves are fascinating places to learn about, and students can gain a better understanding of Rowan of Rin by exploring real life caves.

Students can look at what defines a cave, what features they have and how people have found them over the years. They can create representations of cave features, including stalagmites and stalactites and how they are created. If you have space in your classroom, they can even turn a section into a cave!

Students can explore some of the famous and spectacular caves around the world - from ice caves, to caves filled with crystals to caves filled with glow worms. They can create posters or displays of these caves (matching them to world maps to bring two topics together!) write about the features or create material encouraging tourists to come and visit the caves.

Students can also explore how people have used caves over history, including using caves as shelter, as a source of minerals, as burial sites or as religious places.

5. Dragons

Many of the people of Rin are convinced that there is a dragon at the top of the mountain. While dragons are (probably!) fictional, representations of dragons have been common around the world throughout history.

Dragons appear in stories from as early as the Ancient Sumerians and Egyptians. Early on, they were seen as sometimes protective and sometimes dangerous creatures, but later on European tradition turned dragons into the fire breathing monsters to be slayed which we see so commonly in western myths and modern stories.

Students can explore the different dragons who appear in modern stories, from the treasure hoarding Smaug to the cute, but potentially dangerous Norbert the Norwegian Ridgeback. They can then compare these dragons back to the stories which surround the village of Rin.

They can also look at the role of dragons in Chinese stories and beliefs, where dragons are the top of the animal hierarchy. They can explore some of the stories about dragons and how people include dragons in their celebrations today.

More Back to School Blog Posts to Enjoy

The beginning of the school year is creeping closer, new school shoes are being purchased and people are looking for the best school snacks!

As a teacher, you’re getting yourself ready for school and that includes looking for some great posts and back to school inspiration. If you were looking for more links after finishing these fabulous posts, then check out the following!

More Back to School Blog Posts to Enjoy - a collection of links to excellent back to school blog posts filled with teacher tips, teacher strategies and teacher advice. A Galarious Goods blog post

Getting Your Classroom Set Up

One year, early in my teaching career, I walked into my new classroom only to be confronted by three very large bulletin boards. I had no idea what to do with them!

Wow Factor Back to School Bulletin Board Ideas for Teachers from A+ Teaching Resources is a great blog post looking at thoughtful ideas for bulletin boards in the classroom. I love the reminders about learning strategies and how they can be displayed for constant reinforcement.

Foundation Into First discusses another problem teachers might face when they set up for school in What’s the Best Seating Arrangement for Your Class?

“You get your new classroom key. You walk excitedly to your new room and unlock the door. Inside you see a stack of chairs and tables in the corner. So where to begin?”

This extensive and thoughtful blog post walks the reader through a range of different seating options, looking at the positives and negatives of each.

Getting to Know You

Do you start off the school year with getting to know you activities? Are you looking for some new activities to revitalise the beginning of the school year?

Top Teaching Tasks offers a range of activities in Using Getting to Know You Activities. As well as introducing these activities, the post looks at how they can be used to build classroom expectations and to allow time for individual meetings (or testing!) early in the school year.

“I didn’t know these students, and they didn’t know me, but I knew then that I needed to build a positive community – a sense of team – with these children, and quickly!”

TeachEzy also offers a range of getting to know you activities with 6 Classroom Icebreakers to Start the Year. These ice breakers are immediately usable, but I particularly like the one which stresses all the positive things which will happen throughout the school year.

Building a Classroom Community

Think Grow Giggle encourages the building of a strong classroom atmosphere in 8 Strategies to Build a Strong Classroom Community. This post explores the long term strategy of building a classroom community, filled with ideas from encouraging active listening to engaging in monthly activities.

Do you use getting to know you activities on the first day of school? What tips and advice do you have for teachers heading back to school? What is your favourite part of back to school? Don’t forget to leave a comment!


Celebrating Valentines Day in the Reading Classroom

While we can’t give our favourite characters a large bunch of long stemmed roses and it’s a little hard to bombard our favourite authors with chocolates and declarations of love, we can bring the spirit of Valentine’s Day into our reading classrooms and celebrate all we love about reading and books.

Celebrate Valentine's Day in the Reading Classroom with these Valentine's Day teaching ideas. With a free character valentine resource and more. A Galarious Goods blog post

Celebrating the Books and Characters We Love

Valentine’s Day is a great time to celebrate everything we love about our favourite books and characters. Whether it’s the small celebration of a classroom activity or a complete Valentine’s Book Love Party, sharing affection for favourite books and characters consolidates the classroom as a place where reading is valued.

How can your students show this love? They can write letters to their favourite characters or their favourite authors, telling them how much they mean to their lives. You can schedule a lesson full of book talks, where students share what they love about their favourite books and why their classmates should also read them. They can create images of their favourite characters and write about their lovable qualities or create Valentine’s Day cards for their favourite characters or books.

Taking it a little further, students can examine the qualities of a popular book or series and discuss why it is so loved. They can analyse why ‘bad guys’ are often loved by readers, or how to make an unlikeable character more likeable.

By acknowledging that emotion - falling in love with books and characters - is an important part of a reading life, we allow students to see reading as a lifelong pursuit - something they can have as part of their world long after school has finished.

Encourage students to share their love of books and reading on Valentine's Day and throughout the rest of the school year to create a reading friendly environment. A Galarious Goods blog post

Celebrating Friendship in Books

Friendship is a central theme in many books for children and a great comparison topic for Valentine’s Day. Whether it’s the imaginative friendship of Jess and Leslie in Bridge to Terabithia, the frenemy friendship of Erica and Alison in Hating Alison Ashley or the often life-saving friendship of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Harry Potter series, there’s so much to explore and discuss.

Some of the things students can question and discuss:

  • What does a good friendship look like in books?

  • Which books show us examples of good friendships?

  • How is the friendship in one book similar to a friendship in another book?

  • What picture books show us friendships?

  • What is our favourite friendship in books?

  • What do books teach us about friendship?

How Would Characters Celebrate Valentine’s Day?

What kind of Valentine’s Day celebrations would Pig the Pug plan? Does the Green Sheep stop resting to write Valentine’s Day cards? And would Gandalf send Bilbo a Valentine’s Day card?

Imagining Valentine’s Day celebrations for book characters allows students to step into the shoes of those characters for a little while. Students can discuss the features of those characters, what they would be likely to say or do, or how they might interact with other characters in an unfamiliar situation.

One activity students could engage in is writing Valentine’s Day Cards from one character to another character. This could be from a book you are studying as a class, books your students love or a brand new picture book you introduce to your students on the day.

Whether you just engage in a small book based activity or you plan a whole lesson of Valentine’s themed book celebrations, there’s so many ways to celebrate a class love of books on Valentine’s Day!


Back to School Blog Posts to Enjoy

The anticipation is rising, back to school sales are in all the stores - it’s definitely time to get ready to head back to the classroom.

But between laminating and planning, don’t forget to catch up with some reading! The following blog posts are filled with great back to school tips and ideas for teachers - well worth the reading time!

Back to School Blog Posts to Enjoy - a collection of links to excellent back to school blog posts filled with teacher tips, teacher strategies and teacher advice. A Galarious Goods blog post

Before School Starts

Poet Prints Teaching writes about preparing for back to school in 5 Things to Do Before School Starts, covering everything from school supplies to the first day. I think the really important tip here is deciding what to do with student work - getting that under control from the beginning can make a huge difference in your organisation throughout the year!

Rainbow Sky Creations also has a list of things: 8 Things I Do to Get Ready for Back to School. There’s so many great tips to follow here, but I particularly like the advice about organising class lists, setting personal goals (so important!) and timetabling in self care.

Getting Organised

Tech Teacher P-3 tackles getting organised in the post How Organising Your Teacher Desk Can Increase Your Productivity. This is definitely the post I needed back when I started teaching - the mess on my desk was legendary!

I really love the idea for storing small bits - it’s always those small things we need the most and find the hardest to find!

Building a Classroom Library

We all know that reading is important and that having books available for reading helps to promote a reading classroom, but stocking a classroom library can seem absolutely daunting. How to Build Up Your Classroom Library in No Time from Always a Lesson is a fabulous overview at some of the different ways you can find affordable books.

Expectations and Rules

There’s a lot of really good ideas to consider when you read Teaching Expectations Vs Rules from Mrs Richardson’s Class. This is a really positive look at developing a strong classroom culture and behaviour management in the beginning of the school year.

I really like how this post points out some things to reflect on before school starts as well as the focus on building positive behaviour together.

STEM Activities

Looking for some great back to school activities for your students to engage with? You can’t go past 7 Brilliant Back to School Stem Activities for Kids from Jewel’s School Gems. These activities integrate goal setting, team building and all about me activities, making them perfect for the start of the school year.

What activities do you explore during the first week of school? What tips and advice do you have for teachers heading back to school? What is your favourite part of back to school? Don’t forget to leave a comment!


5 First Day of School Blog Posts to Inspire You

First day of school. That fabulous rush of parents, books, reminders from the office . . . and of course students. Trying to remember names. Organising seating. Going through expectations. Organising piles and piles of notebooks!

As you get ready for that first day, here’s five great blog posts from a range of teachers to inspire you to start off the year on the very best foot.

5 First Day of School Blog Posts to Inspire You - a collection of blog posts to start you off on the right foot from the first day of school. A Galarious Goods blog post

1. 5 Things to Remember

Overwhelmed by the thought of that first day? Five Things to Keep in Mind on the First Day of School from What I Have Learned is a great reminder of what is most important. There’s some great ideas here for learning and consolidating the names of you students and for team building as you create a positive classroom environment.

I really love the importance on learning names - and this reasoning behind it:

“As I mentioned earlier, every opportunity you have to say and interact with students names will help you learn them that much better. Once you learn their names, your brain can move onto other things, like figuring out their learning styles and personalities.”

2. Some More Ideas

Looking for some more first day of school ideas? Mrs Beattie’s Classroom offers What to Do on the First Day of School - filled with thoughtful ideas you can use from the moment students walk in the door.

I love the range of activities which are included here - but I especially love the early focus on entry routines. This is something which can get missed on that first day when everything is a little bit different, but getting it right early can set the tone for a great school year.

3. First Day of School in Other Countries

This one is a little bit different, but a great read - and great information to share with your students on the first day of school. Kid World Citizen has a great post What Does the First Day of School Look Like Around the World. I really, really enjoyed reading about the traditions of other countries and it made me reflect a little on first day traditions here in Australia.

I particularly enjoyed reading about the different celebrations of education around the world. The idea of celebrating learning from the first day of school is a great idea - and it’s a concept we could probably build effectively in our own schools and classrooms.

4. Content and Procedures

I loved You CAN Teach Content and Procedure from Day One! From Growing Grade by Grade. This blog post explores different ways to combine content and procedure so students are learning how to do things while they’re doing it.

There’s two things I particularly enjoyed about this post. The first was the tip about planning the procedures which were being taught with the content which was being taught. The second thing I enjoyed was the recommendation to role play procedures - such an easy idea, but such a valuable one!

5. One Thing for the First Day

What is one MUST DO for the first day of school? The Sassy Apple has shared one at The One Activity I Am Adding to My First Day Plans this Year.

This blog post explores the idea of bringing independent reading to students from the first day, not waiting to get them settled into routines and procedures, but showing students that reading is important and valued from the very first day. I can’t think of a better way to create a reading environment in the classroom.

What do you include on your first day of school? Have you got any ideas to add to these? Don’t forget to comment to share yours.


6 Fabulous Blog Posts for New Teachers

Being a new teacher is daunting, terrifying, overwhelming - or for some calm souls, just another step into a career they’ve been preparing for.

Whether you’re a little anxious about what is about to come or very confident about the adventure ahead of you, the following blog post are filled with all the tips, advice and strategies you could possibly need.

6 Fabulous Blog Posts for New Teachers - a blog post filled with links to thoughtful and useful posts for new teachers from experienced teachers. A blog post from Galarious Goods

1. Get prepared mentally

Before you start planning for your fabulous first year, you must read How to Mentally Prepare for your First Year Teaching from Adventures of a Schoolmarm. This lengthy and thoughtful post look like it only has a few tips for new teachers, but as you read it you realise that it’s absolutely packed full of wonderful advice.

Two things really stood out for me from this post. I love the idea of defining your vision before you start teaching, especially making a vision board which you can return to during the year. I also found myself nodding along with this advice about reading standards:

“Look for how the standards below and above your grade level connect back to what you are teaching. This will make lesson planning so much easier once the school year begins!”

(Honestly, read this post even if you aren’t a new teacher. There’s a lot of lovely refreshing advice that more experienced teachers could also learn from.)

2. Take in the practical advice

A Letter to a New Grad Teacher from Rainbow Sky Creations is a wonderfully sweet piece of practical advice and reassurance. With ten tips to read through, you’re sure to find something you didn’t know (or something which you’ve already been told, but you’ve totally forgotten).

While the laminating, dealing with parents and office ladies advice are all spot on, I really loved the reminder to take time for yourself as a new teacher. Self care is so important for teachers and getting into a good routine with it will definitely help you in the long run.

3. What personal items will you need?

What Teachers Need in their Desks from Language Arts Classroom is such a thoughtful practical post. It looks at some of the items which make teaching a little easier, from food to personal items. I also really like the way that the post considers students and their needs.

4. What do I do on the first day?

Sarah from More Than a Worksheet has put together a BRILLIANT post - 14 First Day of School Tips for New Teachers. This is a MUST READ for new teachers who want to be fully prepared for what they’re going to do on that first day when students walk in the door.

While this is a post for new teachers, again I think more experienced teachers can get a lot out of it, with lots of ideas on dealing with the chaos of the first day. My favourite tips are the reading aloud and the collecting supplies tips (oh, so many piles of notebooks to sort through!) but there’s definitely much more than that to absorb!

5. Tips from other teachers

Want a bunch of new teacher tips which you can come back to over and over? You can’t miss First Year Teacher Tips from Primary Flourish. The star here is a lovely image filled with tips from a wide range of teachers. Stand out tips for me? Using a song to get the attention of the students and not rushing in the first 6 to 8 weeks.

6. Learning from the experience

It’s always great to read personal reflections from teachers. 5 Lessons Learned: My First Year of Teaching from Upper Elementary Snapshots is a wonderful reflection on the lessons learned during the first year of teaching.

My favourite lesson was the ‘just say no!’ lesson! I wish I’d had someone to say that to me when I started teaching and found myself involved in more than I had time or energy for.

These six blog posts are a wonderful place to start for new teachers. Whether you’re confident or nervous, may your first year as a teacher be filled with learning, laughter and growth.


Allowing Students to Fail in the Classroom

How can we create classrooms which support risk taking? How can we allow our students to fail? How can we lift them up so we can try again?

Allowing Students to Fail - How we can encourage students to take risks in the classroom and create an environment where failure is met with growth. A Galarious Goods blog post

We’re sitting on the beach watching our six year old trying to make sandcastles. His first attempts are utter failures - they’re half formed, crumbling at the edges.

But he’s comfortable with sand these days. He knows that he can flatten the failed sandcastles out and try again. He knows that a different method might work better and that he can always add on to his attempts. He know that sand is a good medium to explore in.

Have a look around your classroom. What mediums have you provided which allow for students to fail and try again? Do you have concrete materials which can be manipulated again and again until students achieve? Do you have whiteboards or chalk boards which allow students to wipe away their work and try again? Do your students know that they can cross their work out and try again, that they can add in new words, experiment with different spellings.

Creating a classroom of joyful experimentation allows students to know they can fail and fail and still try again. It allows them to reach higher heights, to strive for their best work rather than the work which just meets the requirements. By placing materials which allow for trying again in our classrooms, we facilitate this experimentation.

Is your classroom mistake friendly? What can you do to help students know that they are in a place where it is safe to make mistakes? A Galarious Goods blog post

At the local play centre three 2 year olds take on the massive inflatable slide. It’s way too tall for them, way above their skill level, sure to scare them before they get to the top. But each of the tiny children make it to the top, each joyfully launching themselves down the steep slide. They know even if they fall, the inflatable puffiness of the slide will catch them.

What are the consequences of failing in your classroom? As a child, I remember a sense of deep shame associated with missing a word in a spelling test. I remember teachers who were quick to tell me where I was wrong, but not how I could use that to improve.

And I remember my Year 12 English teacher who absolutely covered a writing draft in red pen . . . filled with corrections, but also suggestions - suggestions which made my writing so much better, which nudged me towards growth in my writing. She helped me to develop the tools I needed to become a better writer.

As teachers, we can control many of the consequences inside our classroom - including the consequences for failing. Through promoting a growth mindset, we can encourage our students to look at failures as opportunities for growth, help them to see how they are building new knowledge and creating new understanding. We can acknowledge their failure quietly and help them see that they are building towards eventual success.

Ignoring failure - or work which needs improving - in our classroom isn’t the best path for our students. It’s how I made it through 12 years of schooling before someone really helped me fix my writing. But cultivating an atmosphere where failure is greeted with shame isn’t helpful either - it makes our students fearful of trying.

Instead we need to find a sense of ‘puffiness’ like the inflatable slide. The ‘puffiness’ is giving our students the confidence to try new or difficult things, knowing that if they fall short, we’ll help them to find what they need to succeed in the future. Knowing that failing is a learning experience, not an end point.

How do we let our students know that the ‘puffiness’ is there? Like 2 year old bounce and fall on the inflatable surface before they climb, we can give them opportunities for experimenting with it from the first day of school. We can use an art activity or a STEM activity to show them that trying and falling short is no big deal - especially when we emphasise the ‘what have we learned from this’ and ‘what can we change next time’ parts of the lesson. We can use books which show failure and growth to show students that this is what we believe. We can model writing and correcting ourselves or we can act out situations where we fail and grow.

It was her first day on the balance bike. She insisted that we stand either side of her, back ups in case she falls. As she got more confident, she allows us to move further away, but when she does fall, she knows that we are there to help her get back up again.

We can create classrooms of support, where everyone knows that mistakes and growth are valued from the moment they walk through the door. We can use our decor, our routines, the way we teach behaviour and expectations to let our students (and other people who step inside) know that we value learning and growth over perfection - the we know that learning from our mistakes helps us to create better thing.

Early on we may need to be more present supports for some students. We may need to ensure that we check in with them daily, that we let them know that we are there. We may need to reassure them that trying and getting it wrong is ok. We may need to model supportive language - and how to be a supportive peer - over and over again.

But as the school year progresses, we’ll be able to move further away. Our students will know that we’re there to offer that support if they need it, but they will also be able to spot their own growth, will be able to offer themselves (and others) the words needed to try and fail and try again. We’ll have created classrooms which allow students to fail and we’ll let them know that they have the tools to try again.


What Does it Mean to Be Australian?: Using Picture Books in the Classroom to Explore Australian Identity

As you read through I’m Australian Too, written by Mem Fox, it is easy to see how this book can be used to explore Australian identity in the classroom. By adding a wide range of other Australian picture books, we can further facilitate these discussions and create a better understanding of what it means to be Australian for our students.

Introduction to Rowan of Rin - a look at Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and teaching activities and discussion questions to go with the novel. Includes a look at novel study teaching resources

What it means to be Australian and how we define the ‘Australian way of life’ have been topics of discussion for a very long time. Many people, from politicians to journalists to public figures have weighed in on these questions and many different answers have been offered. It is a topic which features prominently in Australian discourse, especially from politicians - and a topic which can easily spill into our classrooms as politicians insist that ‘Australian values’ be taught to our students.

Getting adult Australians to agree on what it means to be Australian is a difficult task, but it’s important that we engage our students in what it means to them. By having these discussions in the classroom, we allow them to look at their own identity as Australians, the identity of the people around them and how Australia may be viewed by the world. We give them ideas and words which allow them to take part in a larger conversation.

There are a wide range of Australian picture books which can prompt questions and discussions of Australian identity. From books which focus on a range of different characters from different backgrounds (like I’m Australian Too or My Place) to books which explore moments of history (like Sorry Day and the many ANZAC Day related books) to books which give us a sense of place (like Mrs White and the Red Desert) to books which explore big and devastating events which tend to shape up (like Jackie French’s natural disaster books). There are books which help out students understand who we are, how we got here and where we might go next.

A few Australian picture books which can be used in the classroom to explore Australian Identity with your students. These picture books can help students examine how they see themselves, how they see others and what stereotypes of Australians are. Perfect for the classroom

But how can we use these books effectively in the classroom when we talk about Australian identity? In a 2012 Australia Day speech on Australian Identity, the Race Discrimination Commissioner Dr Helen Szoke points out that identity is a tricky concept - that it is linked to our perceptions of ourselves, the way we view others and stereotypes which may or may not be accurate. These three links to identity allow us to form a great framework to explore Australian picture books which deal with Australian Identity.

How we view ourselves

If we offer a wide range of Australian picture books in our classroom, students should be able to find moments which offer a connection to their own experiences. They may talk about their local war memorial like the one in Gary Crew’s Memorial, or hearing about drought like the one in Jackie French’s book. They might recognise the tall buildings in Narelle Oliver’s Home or the tram in I’m Australian Too.

Students can keep a list of these connections or note them on sticky notes as they read through the books. They can examine these lists or collections of notes and reflect on how their experiences connect them to the ideas of Australian identity.

Using compare and contrast graphic organisers, students can explore how they ‘fit’ within the Australian identity shown in these picture books and how they are different.

Students can also dig deeper to see what ‘hidden’ messages the authors and illustrators have included about Australian identity and what that means to them. What is the author saying when talking about helpers cleaning up in Flood (by Jackie French)? What qualities are those people showing? Are they Australian qualities? How do I reflect those qualities in my own life?

How we see others (and the world around us)

As well as showing us connections to our own experiences, Australian picture books allow us an insight to other Australians, Australian places, Australian history and Australian experiences.

As students read these books they can take notes of questions they might have:

  • Why do farmers have to feed animals in drought?

  • Why were some children not allowed to swim in the pool?

  • Why did they take horses on the boats to war?

  • What would it be like to escape your country on a tiny boat?

Students can work in pairs or small groups to sort their questions, finding questions which are similar. They can discuss which value might go with those questions.

Students can also look at which books are connected to other books. They may put books about the Australian environment together and books about our history in another group. They might talk about how different books show different aspects of drought and how it impacts Australian identity. They can discuss how the authors might define Australian identity.

Three questions we can bring to the classroom when we explore Australian identity with our students. These questions can help teachers frame a bigger conversation about what it means to be Australian through the lens of Australian picture books

Exploring Stereotypes

As I write this post, I have just retrieved our family’s Christmas books from the cupboard. One of the books is an old Australian version of the 12 Days of Christmas, complete with a swagman in his singlet, boots and cork hat. What does that tell us about Australian identity?

As our students explore these picture books, it’s important to discuss the stereotypes of a ‘typical’ Australian. Students may like to draw a picture or write a description of a ‘typical’ Australian before they start reading any of the books.

Students can see that many Australian picture books offer an image of Australia which is mostly different from the ‘typical’ image. They can discuss why that it, why a stereotype may not be accurate, how we can better illustrate and describe Australian identity in the future. By using an understanding of stereotypes, they can identify the choices authors and illustrators make when they do and don’t follow those stereotypes of ‘typical’ Australians.

Every year we’re seeing more picture books telling us the stories of Australia and Australians. These are useful tools in our classrooms in a number of ways - especially as they guide us to a better understanding of what it means to be Australian.

Introduction to Rowan of Rin: Classroom Discussions and Teaching Resources

Are you looking for a great classroom book, filled with fantasy and adventure *and* classroom discussion potential and opportunities for thoughtful learning activities? Then you can't go past Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda.

Introduction to Rowan of Rin - a look at Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and teaching activities and discussion questions to go with the novel. Includes a look at novel study teaching resources

Rowan of Rin introduces us to Rowan - a shy and relatively timid herder of creatures known as bukshah. When the bukshah's water source dries up suddenly, Rowan - and the other residents of the village of Rin - search for answers. With no other options, they send a band of villagers up the nearby mountain to see what is happening.

Through a strange turn of events, Rowan finds himself on the journey up the mountain, despite the warnings about the perilous journey and his fear of the fabled dragon lurking at the top.

Rowan of Rin is a great book to use from Year 4 and older. Although the language is relatively simple, the concepts can be quite advanced allowing for older students to take an in-depth look at the book.

Classroom Discussions

Rowan of Rin especially deals with what it means to be brave. Rowan does not feel that he is brave, while he feels that those around him demonstrates of all the qualities of valour and bravery. As you progress through the journey up the mountain, Rowan realises that there are different types of bravery and that people who look brave on the outside maybe hiding fears inside.

When students have finished discussing bravery, learning activities might include creating definitions of what it means to be brave, creating lists of people or characters who they believe are brave or researching different types of bravery awards.

This book is also a great addition for any class examining fantasy stories. There are many elements of a fantasy story within Rowan of Rin. These include an invented society; the village witch; an invented animal which Rowan looks after; a journey which requires a number of people; riddles to solve; and a mystical beast at the final hurdle.

Students can compare Rowan of Rin to other fantasy stories they have read or seen - including movies, television shows or picture books. They might choose to explore a certain element of fantasy stories and create lists of books or stories which share that element with Rowan of Rin


Teacher Resources

There are three teacher resources for Rowan of Rin as well as a resource bundle available through Galarious Goods.

The Comprehension and Vocabulary teaching resource allows students to take an in-depth, chapter by chapter look at Rowan of Rin. Students can answer a range of comprehension questions, explore vocabulary or engage with deeper questions as they work their way through the book.

The Character and Setting teaching resource takes a look at the characters of Rowan of Rin, their characteristics and how they relate to each other. It also explores some of the settings of the book, including the places significant to the journey up the mountain.

The Whole Novel teaching resource encompasses the entire novel of Rowan of Rin. It includes reader response, retell, themes, discussion questions and creative activities.

Get Rowan of Rin resources here

Don't Make Writing Goals with Blank Pages - Creating Writing to Make Writing Goals

It was hot and stuffy in the classroom, the anticipation of the new school year still hanging thick in the air. Miss West had places a worksheet on everyone’s desk and had returned to the front of the room.

“Today we’ll make our writing goals for the year,” she said, holding up a space sheet. “I need you to think about how you’d like to improve your writing this year.”

Bayley wrinkled his nose. He tried to remember some of the writing he’d done last year. He remembered that some of it was really good, but he couldn’t remember what he was really good at. And what did he need to improve?

Don’t Make Writing Goals with Blank Pages - Creating Writing to Make Writing Goals. A blog post looking at what students need when they are setting goals at the beginning of the school year. Perfect for back to school.

When we ask our students to make writing goals at the beginning of the school year, it can be tempting to jump straight into the goal making process. But many of our students are stepping back into their ‘writing shoes’ for the first time after weeks or months since they last engaged in the writing process.

When the first thing these students are asked to do is ‘make writing goals’, students are working from a blank page. They may end up making writing goals, but it’s highly likely that these goals will just be surface goals which don’t really identify where students can effectively grow and achieve in the year to come.


As the students tumbled into the room on the first day of school Mr Evans asked them to put their piles of new books at the front of the room.

“Just grab a pen and a regular notebook,” he called out, “and find somewhere comfortable to sit.”

As the students settled around the room, Mr Evans found a piece of music. “I want you to listen to this,” he said, “and write me something. It might be about how the music makes you feel. It might be about your holiday. Or you might write me a brand new story. Just blow the cobwebs away and write.”

He gave the students fifteen minutes of writing time, before asking them to stop their work. “I guess we’d better do the organisational stuff then,” he joked.

What would happen if our students started writing from the very beginning of the first day of school? What message would this send to our students? And how can we use that writing.

By using prompts - questions, quotes, pictures or music - we can give our students something to write about in those early days of school. By repeating this daily over the first week or two, we’re showing them that writing is valued in our classrooms, that it’s something we just do.

We’re also able to use the writing they produce. It can be used as formative assessment in writing, spelling, grammar and punctuation. By writing daily, we get to see how students change and improve, how they approach different prompts or styles of writing, and students get a portfolio of writing to use as they set their writing goals.

Are your students looking through their writing? Grab this free reflection resource 


Joey put the three pieces of writing down in front of her and smiled at Ruby. “I’ve read through these now, and I think they’re really funny. I’m using the same words a lot, though.”

“Maybe you can put that on your list,” Ruby suggested, “You could try to use a better range of words?”

“I like that,” Joey wrote it down. “I think I’ll do that and work on stronger sentences. Let’s look at your writing now.”

Once students have three or four pieces of writing, even short pieces of writing, they’ll have a starting place for goal setting. Students can sit down and read through their work - whether it’s on their own, with a partner or with the teacher - to determine what they’re doing well and where they’d like to improve. Having the writing there in front of them gives them a solid starting place - a concrete example of what kind of writers they are so they can create goals to become the writers they want to be.

Get Back to School and Writing resources here