TeachersPayTeachers Resources Which Have Caught My Eye

Do you ever find yourself browsing TeachersPayTeachers and coming across all sorts of amazing resources you can’t help but explore . . . even if you don’t really need them! I’m completely guilty of this - so I just had to put some of these products together in one place to share with you!

 
6 fabulous resources from Teachers Pay Teachers creators. With everything from geography to dramatic play to certificates, this is a must read list of great teaching and learning resources available through TeachersPayTeachers. Perfect for your classroom! A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Ok, so this isn’t one resource, but a whole lot of them - and they are utterly amazing. Top Teaching Tasks puts together reading comprehension skills and puzzles to create these engaging, motivating resources which are perfect for a whole range of holidays or learning topics. I would imagine that this range will continue to grow, so make sure you follow the shop for more.

One particular puzzle I wanted to highlight is a puzzle and so much more. The New Zealand Geography and Kiwiana Culture Unit would be a must have for New Zealand teachers, but could also be bought by teachers around the world for independent extension work - taking a little look into a country which many love but may not know much about. It would also be a brilliant purchase for families who are travelling around New Zealand - I know we would have had so much fun exploring the country through this unit before we travelled there in 2018!

2. Australian Prime Ministers Poster Set from Aussie Star Resources

I adore these beautiful posters. I think they would work well as a year long display in Australian upper-primary or social studies classrooms - a reminder that government (and Prime Ministers) are an important part of our life in Australia.

As well as being lovely to look at - you know these will be updated if (when) we get a new Prime Minister. I believe the turn around to get Scott Morrison included was about a week - an amazing turn around on a event no one really saw coming!

3. Word Building and Phonics Activity Cards from Aussie Waves

A hands on, engaging word building resource which can be used in a variety of ways with readers at a wide range of levels? Count me in!

This is such a lovely resource for lower primary students and can be combined with reading, writing and hands on fine motor resources. Imagine combining it with writing in sand or to make nonsense words which build on current word knowledge! I can see it being a really valuable addition to Prep, 1 and 2 classrooms and being used to build phonics, reading and spelling knowledge.

 
6 fabulous resources from Teachers Pay Teachers creators. With everything from geography to dramatic play to certificates, this is a must read list of great teaching and learning resources available through TeachersPayTeachers. Perfect for your classroom! A Galarious Goods blog post
 

My kids have recently been engaging in a lot of dramatic play (my poor sister was their hospital patient yesterday. She says she’s now vaccinated for everything!) so I’ve been watching Little Lifelong Learners intently for inspiration. There’s a wide range of dramatic play resources available, but I especially love this Post Office set which I think would be brilliant to use in lower primary (and some parts might stretch into older grades as well).

5. Student Awards and Certificates from A Plus Learning

Another range of resources rather than individual product, these certificates are a must have for the classroom. With students of the month and end of the year options, these would be wonderful to have available to recognise the amazing work done by your students in your classroom.

6. Clip Art from Green Grubs

Just look how beautiful this all is! I adore this beautiful work and it looks stunning on the screen and printed out.

While clip art is usually bought by resource creators, it can be a handy thing to have in the classroom. Most clip art creators have no limitations on personal, classroom use - so these images can be used in posters, classwork, art lessons, to make your slides and presentations fancy and more. I used the Australian symbols art work on menus for our school carnival (to go with a Possum Magic theme!) and they looked so professional and really drew customers into our stall!

Are you a TpT browser? What have you found lately? Leave a comment below to share your finds!

 
 

8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard

Providing students with high quality background information for Boy Overboard can be a little bit of a challenge. Many resources are older and out of date and many links are sadly broken. Here, I’ve collected a range of free resources to assist you in providing background information for Boy Overboard and teaching the novel more effectively to your students.

 
8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard - a collection of links and ideas for the Morris Gleitzman novel and some ways to use them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post.

8 Free Resources for Classrooms Reading Boy Overboard - a collection of links and ideas for the Morris Gleitzman novel and some ways to use them in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post.

 

(While all efforts are made to make sure these links are accurate - the nature of the web means they may be ‘broken’. Sometimes searching will help you access the material, but - sadly - some information may be taken from the web permanently)

On Refugees

National Geographic: Refugee Week

To access this resource, you need a login (which is quick and easy to get). This one page primary resource introduces students to a range of concepts, vocabulary terms and ideas around refugees. The page also includes teaching ideas.

This would be good to use before students read Boy Overboard or right after. It would also be a useful resource if students were researching refugees.

BTN: Refugee Day

This BTN video provides background information on refugees in a range of situations and provides images for students to put with the story. BTN has broadcast a wide range of stories on refugees over the years and many are available. This story, like many of the others, also includes teacher notes and further links for students to explore.

UNHCR Teaching Materials for 9-12 Year Olds

This teaching resource from the UNHCR (The UN Refugee Agency) offers a range of teaching ideas and lesson ideas about refugees. One of the most useful resources is the teacher’s guide to integrating teaching about refugees and asylum into a range of classroom subjects.

On Afghanistan

The Pulitzer Centre: Lesson Plan on Afghanistan

This is a complete lesson plan on Afghanistan and its history, based around resources from news organisations. The lesson plan may be a little complex for your students, but there are a range of teacher questions and activities and some good news links (though some links are no longer available)

Royal Geographical Society

The Royal Geographical Society page is good for some background information on Afghanistan. Some of the links are broken, but the documents at the bottom provide a timeline and a number of fact sheets with extra information about Afghanistan.

On the Pacific Solution

Australian Catholic Social Justice Council - Discussion Paper - The Pacific Solution
Australian Parliament House - Parliamentary Library - Pacific Solution

These two pages are aimed at an older audience, but provide background information to The Pacific Solution and arguments around it. These would be good for teachers to use when preparing discussions or further reading information for students.

On Boy Overboard

Morris Gleitzman’s Author Notes

This is a thoughtful reflection on why Morris Gleitzman wrote Boy Overboard and would be especially good to read while considering author intention. Students should wait until they have finished reading the book to read this.

Boy Overboard Novel Study - Sample Pack

This Galarious Goods free resource allows teachers and students to take a closer look at several aspects of Boy Overboard. This is a great resource if you have limited time to explore the novel or you are just looking for a few supplementary resources

 
 

5 Ways Teaching is Like the Beach

Every year my family spends some time at one of the best beaches in Australia. As I sat there last holiday, I couldn’t help but think - teaching really is like the beach!

 
5 Ways Teaching is Like the Beach. A look at how you can thrive and enjoy teaching - like the beach - and take care of yourself at the same time. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

1. Unpredictable

You can plan as much as you like at the beach, but you never quite know what that wave might do or whether those stingers will drift towards you. Often you’ve got to stop, look around, assess the conditions again and then decide what to do next.

Teaching is very much like that. All the carefully written plans can easily be derailed - by an incident in the playground or an unexpected admin visit; by a happy side discovery or by the understanding that the perfect lesson on paper just isn’t translating into the real classroom.

That’s when we need to stop and assess - do we push on or do we take a new path? Do we accept the new lessons we learn and return to the other lessons at another time? Or regroup and look for a new path to where we want to go.

2. Non-Stop

I’m not a big ocean swimmer, but I love sitting near the water just watching the waves roll in and in and in again. It’s never ending, which is great on the sand - but not so much fun if you’re caught in a rough patch of surf.

Teaching is non-stop as well. Even before students come into our classrooms, we’re on the go - preparing for the day to come. When they’re there, we’re constantly ‘on’ - teaching and assisting and learning more about our students and assessing. Wave after wave of something else to do.

Sometimes we need to see if we can step out of it and take a break, especially if the sea is a bit rough. See if you can combine your class with another and take a moment to share the load with a colleague. Ask if you can observe another teacher while they teach, take the moment to learn from someone else. Or take a few moments at the end of the day to reflect on where you’ve done really well. Let the ocean of teaching go on away from you for a moment before you splash back in.

 
5 Ways Teaching is Like the Beach. A look at how you can thrive and enjoy teaching - like the beach - and take care of yourself at the same time. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

3. It’s Occasionally Downright Scary

Although I’ve been knocked down pretty bad by waves, I’ve never found myself in true danger. But I’m well aware that the danger is there in the ocean. Rips, rocks and sharks are just a few of the dangers when you visit the beach - things to be aware of and prepared to deal with if they turn up.

There are times when teaching can also be scary. Our students may be carrying sad and disturbing histories. We may be dealing with violent situations. Our students may get hurt or try to hurt us. Or a stressful teaching situation might get too much for us.

Know where to turn for help, whether it’s for you or for your students. Know the procedures you need to follow when a student needs your help - needs you as the stable adult in their life. Know where you can go to find help for yourself and accept help when it is offered if you need it. Find your trusted people in the school - the teachers and other staff who’ll let you cry, pick you up, offer the good advice or keep the good candy jar for when you need it.

4. It’s a Great Place to Spend the Day (When You’re Prepared)

Whenever my family wants to go for a swim at the beach it takes us FOREVER to get ready. There’s sunscreen to apply on everyone, hats and sunglasses to find, shoes for the walk back on the path, swim nappies for the little one, a bag for collected treasures, water bottles to fill . . .

But once we’re at the swimming spot, we tend to forget all that planning and just enjoy the sand and the water. The planning makes the experience enjoyable.

While you can’t plan for everything (see the first heading here!), the same does apply to teaching. When we don’t plan at all, there’s a chance we’ll have a great lesson, but there’s also a pretty big chance that it will all fall apart. Planning lets us consider all the things we need to have better lessons.

Planning doesn’t have to be 10 pages of perfectly written work, though. It just requires thinking - reflecting on what works best with our students or what has worked in the past - and then working out which path to take. Those teachers (often more experienced) who don’t seem to plan? They’ve often got years of planning and teaching and reflecting under their belt and years of planning right there in their brains.

5. Beautiful

A few years ago, we took our holiday while I was heavily pregnant with my second child. I spent a LOT of time sitting on the sand, listening to the birds and the wind and the waves and admiring the beauty of the beach and the ocean. It brought such a sense of happiness to me.

Teaching can bring the same beauty and happiness as well. That moment when a child gets it. The lesson where everything goes just right. The drawing and letter written just for you because you’ve created a place where your students are happy. The beautiful moment when a former student - now an adult - thanks you for what you did.

Prepare for the ‘dangers’ of teaching - the unpredictability and the scary moments - take care of yourself. But don’t forget the beauty - it’s what makes it all worthwhile.

 
 

The What Would You Take? Project - A Hands On Classroom Activity

What would you take with you if you had to leave your house immediately?

The ‘what would you take’ project is a fairly common one in schools, allowing students to develop empathy for book characters and real life situations and to create connections. But where can you use it effectively? And how can you extend this project?

 
What Would You Take With You? Project. A great classroom project for teachers to use in reading or social studies classrooms. Perfect to go with books like Boy Overboard or when covering natural disasters and their impacts on the population. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

At the end of Year 8, my local area was impacted by a range of bushfires. Thick smoke filled the air and buses came to take students home so parents could make evacuation decisions.

My best friend at the time lived away from our rural area. My parents and her parents made the decision that I would go home with her. I would be safe and one less person for my parents to worry about if they needed to evacuate. But I’ll never forget the phone call I had with my mother: “what do you want me to take if we have to leave?”

I was surprised by how quick my answer was. “My pointe shoes.” I’d only been dancing on pointe for a year, but we’d bought the shoes during a once in a lifetime trip to the USA and they were dancing and that trip all in one. I didn’t want to lose them.

Thankfully, my parents weren’t required to evacuate and the fire was stopped before it hit the town. But it’s a moment I’ve often come back to when reading books where characters have to leave suddenly.

**

In Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman, Jamal and his family have an incredibly short time to pack their lives up. They know they need clothes, they know they need things of value to trade, and they need things of value to them like Jamal’s soccer ball.

When we read novels and picture books where this occurs, we often ask students to reflect on what they would take if they were starting a new life somewhere else. We might extend that and ask them to fill a shoebox or a backpack with their chosen items, or items which represent what they would take. We ask students to reflect on what is important to them and what that says about our priorities - and what is important to the characters and what that tells us about them.

This project can be used when reading books about refugees, but can also be used when we talk about natural disasters or historical events where people have left their home with minimal time or space to take everything they want.

(It is important, though, to approach this with sensitivity, as there is a likelihood that some of your students may have been through this. Check in with your students and their feelings around it and be prepared to change the project if you need to. Students may also be unable to bring in some valuable items, so should be allowed to bring in photographs, drawings or a written piece to represent items if they would like to.)

 
What Would You Take With You? Project. A great classroom project for teachers to use in reading or social studies classrooms. Perfect to go with books like Boy Overboard or when covering natural disasters and their impacts on the population. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

How to Extend the What Would You Take Project

Write About It

The easiest way to extend this project is simply to write about it. Students can write about what they have chosen, and practice description skills by describing them. They can draw the items they have chosen and highlight why they have chosen those items. They can also write a longer piece when they reflect on what they would or wouldn’t bring, why they make those choices and what it says about them and what they are interested in.

A Museum

Students can use their items to create a museum display of what they have chosen. They can combine their items with written labels and information cards to create a display which they can then share with other classes and parents.

Students can also take photographs of their chosen items and create a ‘virtual’ display using a slide show program. Students can explore using hyperlinks or in-page links to connect one page to another or create a slideshow which viewers look through. These can also be turned into a printed book which can be added to student portfolios or sent home with the student.

Apply to Characters

As well as creating their own ‘what would I take’ project, students can think about what characters might take with them if they had to leave suddenly. This can easily be applied to novels or picture books with strong characters and students can write, draw or create their own ‘what would you take’ boxes for these characters. By doing this, students think deeper about what characters want and what defines them.

The What Would You Take project is a great way for students to consider items which are important to us and others and to reflect on what it would be like to have to choose these quickly and to consider limited space. If undertaken thoughtfully, it’s the perfect accompaniment to many book studies and history topics in the classroom.

 
 
 
 

10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman is a great book to explore in your classroom. But what other books are connected to this important story? What books can you make available for your students to read? What books can you explore together?

Today I’m proud to present 10 books related to Boy Overboard, perfect for the classroom. From picture book memoirs, to wordless books to well known novels, this is the list every teacher needs when they’re teaching Boy Overboard!

 
10 Books for Classrooms Exploring Boy Overboard. A curated list of books related to Boy Overboard and how teachers can use them in the classroom as teaching resources. Perfect for classes learning Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Girl Underground (and other Morris Gleitzman novels)

Girl Underground is a must have for students who are reading Boy Overboard. The companion to Boy Overboard it follows the story of Bridget and Menzies who team up to help Jamal and Bibi who are now living in a refugee camp in the Australian desert.

In the author notes for this book, Morris Gleitzman says he was struck by the range of responses from the public to those in need of help - like refugees. He sought to explore that in Girl Underground and it makes for a great discussion which you can explore with your class.

It’s well worth making other Morris Gleitzman novels available for your students to read as well. He’s got a huge collection of novels covering a wide range of topics - there’s something for everyone!

Mahtab’s Story and Parvana

Mahtab’s Story by Libby Gleeson and Parvana by Deborah Ellis (published as The Breadwinner outside Australia) both look at the harsh life under the Taliban in Afghanistan - the same regime that Jamal and Bibi were living under at the beginning of Boy Overboard.

Mahtab’s Story is also similar to Boy Overboard because it traces the difficult journey out of Afghanistan to Australia. We’re taken through the long - and sometimes tedious - journey Mahtab and her family take as they move from one place to another - sometimes in danger, sometimes just waiting for something to happen. The writing is beautiful and this would make for a great text if you are looking at description.

Parvana is a little different because it focuses more on the life under the Taliban. Parvana is a young girl who is forced to pretend she is a girl when her father is taken away. Girls and women in Afghanistan aren’t allowed to be in public without a male family member, so Parvana’s disguise is an essential part of their survival as she starts working to support the family.

Refugee

Refugee by Alan Gratz reminds us that stories of refugees aren’t new and that they will probably continue into the future. By presenting three different stories from different time periods, students are invited to look at the similar and different aspects of people fleeing from dangerous situations and to look at where else in the world this might apply.

 
 

The Arrival

The Arrival by Shaun Tan is a large, wordless book which follows the journey of a man fleeing danger and hoping to be reunited with his family and the kindness of the people he meets in the strange land. It connects with the journey made by Jamal and their family and the strange things Jamal comes across from one place to another.

This is a stunning book, well worth taking an in-depth look at if you have the time. It can be accompanied with a wide range of texts and can definitely become the focus of an extended book study. Students can explore how illustrations can tell such vivid stories and where else they can find powerful illustrations, or they can explore other wordless books or graphic novels.

I’m Australian Too

Much of I’m Australian Too by Mem Fox focuses on different groups of people who live in Australia and how their families came here. However, at the end of the book we are introduced to a refugee in a camp, still waiting to come to Australia.

This powerful end to the book, contrasted with all the other children leading fulfilling lives within Australia can raise a number of discussion points with students. They can compare this story with Jamal and Bibi’s story, reflect on why people leave one country for another and whether it reflects Australian history.

My Name is Not Refugee

My Name is Not Refugee by Kate Milner is aimed at younger children, but is a beautifully written way to explain life as a refugee to people of all ages. Throughout the book, a range of questions are asked which put the reader into the shoes of refugees.

This would be a great book to share before starting Boy Overboard, as it introduces students to the idea of refugees. Students could also read it to compare the story of the child depicted with Jamal and Bibi and their journey

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Wisp

Wisp by Zana Fraillon is more abstract than some of the other books, asking students to draw connections between the text, the illustrations and things which are happening around the world. This beautiful book draws the reader in as they go on journeys of memory and imagination with the characters.

Students can use this book to explore the notion of hope and to compare it with the hopes Jamal and his family carried with them as they journeyed away from the danger in their homeland. They can explore different ways hopes can be written about and drawn and how we may hope for a better future for everyone.

Room on Our Rock

Room on Our Rock by Kate and Jol Temple is an incredibly clever picture book which shares two messages depending on whether you read it from back to front or front to back. This reflects Morris Gleitzman’s statement about the range of opinions which exist when it comes to refugees and other people who need help.

This would be a great book to look at in terms of structure. Students can attempt to write their own forwards or backwards stories with different messages and examine how the authors have successfully managed it.

The Little Refugee

The Little Refugee by Ahn Do and Suzanne Do shares another story of a boat trip to Australia, but this time as a result of a different conflict - the Vietnam War. Students may be surprised to see that this is the picture book memoir of a popular children’s author, well known for the Weir Do and Hot Dog books, allowing them to see what life may look like for refugees as they grow from children to adults.

There are many parallels with Boy Overboard in Ahn Do’s story, which students can explore and list. They might also explore what Jamal and Bibi’s story might look like if it was turned into a picture book and how it might be illustrated.

 
Books for classrooms exploring Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman. A collection of books which are perfect for the classroom for teachers to explore as they teach Boy Overboard. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

Whether you are able to add one or all of these books into your classroom, you will find that there are plenty of strong, thoughtful books to supplement the stories and messages of Boy Overboard in your classroom.

 
 

5 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin Out of the Classroom

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 Ways to Take Rowan of Rin out of the Classroom. A thoughtful and extensive blog post exploring Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda and how teachers can extend learning outside the four classroom walls. A Galarious Goods blog post.
 

1. Plan a Treasure Hunt (or go searching with a map)

Rowan of Rin is a quest story which sees Rowan and several other villagers following a map to the top of the mountain to uncover a secret.

Working with maps of different kinds is a great way to get students learning outside. Students can create playground maps or use maps of their school to ‘explore’, or you may extend your learning to an excursion to a local park or forest area where you can continue to expand map using and map making skills.

One way to explore maps is to get students involved in orienteering activities. In orienteering activities, students use maps and compasses to reach checkpoints and race towards the end. While you may not have time to complete a full orienteering course, orienteering organisations around the world have put together some great teaching activities like this and this to give your students a taste of orienteering.

Students can also create their own treasure hunt for others to follow. They can begin with an existing map of the school or create their own from scratch. They can use trundle wheels to measure distance and include distances in their maps as well as written clues to guide the seeker to the next position. As students are creating their maps, they can learn more about mapping symbols, features and keys and apply this to their own maps. And - of course - when they are finished creating their maps, they can give them to their classmates to test them out.

 
 

2. Obstacle Course

Throughout Rowan of Rin, the villagers and Rowan run into a number of obstacles on their trip up the mountain. This makes the perfect inspiration for your own obstacle course at school.

Students can look through the novel to find 5-6 inspirations for their obstacle course, then brainstorm different ways they could create the obstacles. You may like to offer them a range of equipment they could use for their obstacle course, or ask them to be creative with sports and playground equipment and things like tape, string or elastic! Students also need to consider things like safety, how long it would take students to complete the course and whether they should offer different difficulty levels.

Once students have planned their course, they can set it up and test it with their classmates. They may like to introduce it to other students in the school as well, combining it with some retelling of Rowan of Rin so students who haven’t read the book can understand the context of the obstacles.

Students can also create maps, diagrams and posters of their obstacle course or take photos or video of students completing the course which they can share or present for others to enjoy.

3. Team Games

Rowan finds that he has to work with the others a number of times to get through the obstacles to the top of the mountain. Learning to work together is a great activity for school students and can allow them to reflect on the difficulties that Rowan and the others may have experienced as they worked together.

There are several team games which you can relate back to events in Rowan of Rin:

Tug of War
Rowan and the others have to work together in the swamp to stop each other from being drawn into the mud. They end up working together to pull each other out.

Students can work together in teams to ‘pull each other from the swamp’ through playing tug of war. To extend the challenge, students can be broken into four teams with 2 ropes intertwined to make a cross.

See What I Mean
Rowan misunderstands Strong Jonn’s feelings about him - a misunderstanding mostly caused by a lack of communication.

Students can explore the importance of good communication through playing See What I Mean. One person draws a picture using simple shapes. Another person describes the picture to the other students in the group or class who try to replicate the picture. The better the description, the better the drawings.

Minefield
Another way to explore communication is through creating a simple obstacle course, and having students assist a blindfolded student through the obstacle course. The course can be slightly changed between students to keep the difficulty up.

As well as exploring communication, this activity also connects to the way Rowan and the others move through the cave and the tunnel on the way up the mountain.

Don’t Wake the Dragon
This is a really easy game with a direct link to the dragon in Rowan of Rin. In the original version, students work to line up from shortest to tallest - without making a sound and ‘waking’ the dragon. When they are all lined up, they simultaneously call out ‘boo!’ to wake the dragon.

To extend this idea, students can line up from oldest to youngest or in alphabetical order by their names.

4. Spiderweb

During Rowan of Rin, the villagers come across a forest filled with spiders and are required to move through spider webs to keep moving forward. Spiderweb is another team building game, but this one relates even closer to the book.

Students can work together to make a spider web by weaving string between two fixed places (the string can be held to the poles or trees or walls with tape). Holes should be made which are big enough to pass students through, and if you are going with the more difficult version of the game - there should be enough holes for every student in the team, plus a few more.

Students then need to work together to get through the ‘web’ without touching the web in any way. For the harder version, each ‘hole’ in the web is closed once a student is through it. Students ‘win’ the challenge when everyone is through the web.

 
Looking to take Rowan of Rin out of the classroom? Try some team building games to reflect on some of the difficulties of working as a team in Emily Rodda's Rowan of Rin. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

5. Book Walk

This is a really easy way to get students and Rowan of Rin outside. Students bring their books with them and take a walk to another place in the school. When they arrive, a student may read a pre-prepared section of their book, or the teacher can read a part of the book, or a few students can act out a part of the book. You may even organise to visit other classrooms to share a little bit of your book.

By taking students on a book walk, you can show them that reading is a wonderfully portable activity, and source a few new places in the school for reading to happen. And students can see that learning is never restricted to the classroom.

Have you participated in a Rowan of Rin activity outside the classroom? Share your experiences in the comments.

 
 

Writing Skills and Expectations Before Goal Setting

Making writing goals is a common activity at the beginning of the school year. But it is essential that students understand the range of skills they could be working on if they are going to make skills which are both effective and achievable.

Before students can make thoughtful and useful writing goals, they need to know what is expected of them, what good writing looks like, and what skills they need to master to create their own good writing.

 
Writing skills and expectations before goal setting. Don't jump straight into making writing goals with your students. Take a moment to make sure they understand what is expected of them and how they can achieve that. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

When we ask students to make goals at the beginning of the year, we often ask them to be clear in what they would like to achieve. But are we making sure they have a clear understanding of what they should be aiming for?

When adults make goals, we usually have an idea of what we are specifically aiming for. If we want to become a better runner, we may do some research on what a good (and achievable) time looks like for different distances. If we’re striving to have a cleaner house, we may read articles on what household jobs need to be done or watch documentaries on decluttering our houses.

Having an understanding of what a successful outcome looks like, helps us make more informed goals - goals we’re more likely to meet. The same goes for our students - when they know what they should be aiming for, they’re more likely to create goals which are effective and achievable.

In the classroom, students have writing outcomes which come from the curriculum. But curriculums tend to be written for teachers - education professionals who understand specific terms. They are often hard to read without background knowledge so we rarely put them in front of our students.

One way we can overcome this is by pulling out the most important elements to present to our students or by rewriting them for our students to understand them. Students can explore these easier-to-read versions of the outcomes before they start making writing goals - they can make them a subject of discussion; look at how they might work to achieve these outcomes, what skills are involved to achieve them or how they can become specific achievable goals.

 
 

Before we ask students to set writing goals, they should first reflect on where they’re working from. But it is also essential for students to have an idea of what they’re aiming for in their writing - both generally and broken down into specific skills to master.

By exploring the writing of others, students can identify what writing skills they want to work on during the school year to make their own writing better.

1. Explore published writing

You can share a range of good writing - from picture books to articles to poetry - from the first day of school. This can be done by reading aloud, but you should also make a wide range of good writing accessible for students to read on their own every day.

Before writing goals are set, you can share pieces of writing which support different outcomes. As you read these with the students, you can identify the skills the writers have used to create effective writing, creating a list of skills which students may wish to work on during the year.

2. Model writing yourself

Writing in front of your students can be daunting, but it can also be incredibly valuable for you and them. Students can see how more experienced writers work to think about their writing, how they work to improve their writing while they write and how they apply skills they have been working on.

Demonstrating writing in the first weeks of school, before setting writing goals, allows you to highlight certain skills which you might like students to master. Students are able to watch how you work on those skills and what working on those skills actually looks like and can add those to a list of things they may wish to focus on.

3. Assess writing together

Use a piece of your own writing or a professional piece of writing to examine in-depth. You may wish to use your list of skills which you’ve put together from the outcomes or from other pieces of writing and assess whether the author has shown these skills well - and how they have done that.

Students can then use this assessment to determine how they might work on improving those skills.

For example, students may be focusing on how to use sentences of different lengths to create effective narratives. By examining the sentences in Shaun Tan’s The Lost Thing, students can see how the author puts together sentences to draw the attention of the reader. Students can then make a goal to vary their sentences when they are writing and to revisit those sentences when they are editing to see if they make the writing more effective.

By taking a closer look at what good writing can look like, what skills they need to master and what outcomes they are trying to achieve, students can be better informed when they make their writing goals - ensuring that the goals are more thoughtful, more achievable and more relevant to them as writers.

 
 

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!