3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove is a book packed with great language and enticing pictures - making it perfect to read to an audience. It’s no surprise that it was chosen as the 2019 National Simultaneous Storytime book, and it’s sure to be a classroom read aloud staple for years to come.

But what else can you do with this great book? And what can you do if you’ve only got limited time and resources to explore it? Here’s three easy ways to explore Alpacas with Maracas when it’s your classroom read aloud book.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. Make Dance Patterns with Maracas

The whole book Alpacas with Maracas is an invitation to get up and dance. While maracas are perfect for this, any shaking percussion tool - from bells to shakers to dried beans in containers - will also allow students to explore the patterns in movement and rhythm.

Students can start with a good old fashioned dance party. Once you’ve read the book, you can invite the students to move like Macca and Al, shaking their musical instruments and getting their groove and move on. You can follow this up with talking about how dancing makes you feel and why people might dance.

Students can also explore shaking to a beat. You can clap out a rhythm for students to follow, explore 4/4 time, explore what happens if you skip a beat or play with different groups of students playing at different times in different parts of the room. Your school music teacher may be able to help you come up with some interesting patterns to explore as well!

Finally students can explore making dance patterns by moving their maracas in different ways. Students can move their maracas (or shakers or bells) up and down, diagonally, to the left and right and in front of them. How can they use these directions to make up a dance routine? And how could they write it down or draw it for other students to follow?

2. Explore the Vivid Verbs of Alpacas with Maracas

Alpacas with Maracas is FILLED with wonderful words including some lovely verbs. Students can find the verbs throughout the text, using them to create a poster of great words. They can also act out the verbs that they find, working in small groups to share them.

Another way to explore verbs is to look for synonyms for some of the verbs in the book. Students might like to start with an easy verb like dance and see if they can brainstorm as many synonyms as possible. You can display these brainstorms in the classroom for students to refer back to in the future.

Students can also use the lovely language of Alpacas with Maracas to create their own stories. It might be a continuation of the story of Al and Macca or their own creation.

 
3 Easy Ways to Explore Alpacas with Maracas. Easy Ways for teachers to take a closer look at Alpacas with Maracas by Matt Cosgrove. Perfect for school story telling, this blog post includes a free resource as it looks at story telling, vocabulary, movement and character lessons. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

3. Reflect on the Character Lessons

There’s some lovely character lessons in Alpacas with Maracas, perfect little ideas for students to reflect and build on.

Al and Macca are great friends - they work together, they complement each other and they look for ways to find happiness together. This is a wonderful lesson for students to reflect on, thinking about what makes a good friend and what good friendships look like.

Macca and Al are also persistent They try so many different talents when they’re looking for the right talent for the show. Even when they fail - and they fail quite spectacularly - they get back up to try again. This can lead to a wonderful discussion about persistence and what it can look like when we’re persistent at something which is difficult. We can also talk about trying different approaches to reach a goal - Macca and Al have a goal of being in a talent show, but they need to try different approaches to make it in there.

Macca and Al are also great losers in Alpacas with Maracas. They are the perfect representatives of ‘it doesn’t matter if you lose as long as you give it a try’. Students can discuss what it feels like to lose at something and what a good loser looks like. They might even like to role play some ways to be a good loser.

Are you looking to explore character lessons with your students? This free download includes three character ideas your students can write or draw about.

 
 

Alpacas with Maracas is a wonderful celebration of movement, music and having fun. It’s a great book to bring into your classroom and well and truly worth exploring a little more.

 
 

5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca)

Have you met Macca?

He’s an alpaca! And the star of the great Macca the Alpaca picture book series by Matt Cosgrove. These books - four at the moment, including a Christmas book - have jumped into popularity (and many homes and classrooms) since the first was released in 2017.

We love Macca - and we think he’s great for the classroom. And here’s a few reasons why . . .

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

1. There is so much to learn from the illustrations

While picture book illustrations are often important to get the most out of a story, in the Macca books they’re super important. Often the word we need to finish the excellent rhyming structure is there, in the illustrations, not to mention the important image clues which help readers decode and comprehend what is happening on the page.

You can use this while exploring why illustrations are so important to tell the full story in a picture book. Students can explore matching text and illustrations to make sure they have the best combination or explore how the story might change if an illustration was changed.

Students can also explore the style of illustration, looking at how lines are used to show movement and how different fonts are used in the text. Again, they can question what would happen if it was different - without the lines and the different fonts, would the story feel the same to the reader?

2. The books are funny

There’s this lovely slightly frantic and slightly absurd humour in the Macca books, whether it comes through the joy of how Macca will outsmart the bully llama or the inevitability of the Christmas crackers creating chaos and creative present gifting.

In the classroom, it would be interesting to look at why the books are funny - is it seeing alpacas doing things that alpacas don’t usually do (or do they?) or does the humour come as the author builds anticipation for what is going to come next.

Students can also explore writing their own Macca stories. What would happen if Macca went travelling? What would happen if Macca opened a store? What would happen if he had to take those nephews and niece to school . . . .?

3. Macca is Nice

We have our fair share of selfish (but lovable) characters in picture books (looking at you Pig the Pug and Mothball the Wombat!), but Macca is just nice. He wants to defeat the bully, but does it with brains and kindness. He wants to win the competition, but is happy just to dance with the winners. He really, really wants to give his friends the best Christmas ever.

Looking at Macca’s qualities is a great classroom activities - and a great way to compare the different Macca books. You can create a comparison table for the class to fill in as they read the different books, or different groups could read each book and describe all of Macca’s great qualities to share with the rest of the class.

Students can also explore what lessons we can learn from Macca. What does he do that makes him a good role model? And how can we apply those lessons in our own life. This is a great way to explore qualities like giving to others, being creative and being persistent.

 
5 Reasons We Love Macca (the Alpaca) - a little look at the Macca the Alpaca series of picture books by Matt Cosgrove and a range of ways they can be used to supplement teaching in the classroom. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

4. The Macca books encourage our students to move

Encourage them to move? But they’re books! Students sit down to read and listen to books!

But the Macca books are full of movement - and you can use this in your classroom. Macca uses all kinds of movement to defeat Harmer. He and Al try so many different ways to share a talent before dancing with their maracas. And those naughty little Alpacas move in all the wrong ways.

This is perfect if you would like to integrate dance into your literacy lessons. Students can explore different kinds of movements and what they might look like as dance steps. And then they can put those movements together to create their own dance sequences.

Students can also integrate this with physical education, designing an obstacle course which Macca and Harmer might compete over - and then setting it up and trying it out themselves!

5. Who doesn’t love alpacas?! (and the other creatures)

Alpacas are all the rage at the moment - and it’s not hard to see why. The Macca version has lovely big eyes and eyelashes, those great ears, and - thanks to the magic of books - he’s not going to spit at us! We also meet a number of other creatures in the Macca books - either directly (a llama and yaks) or indirectly (Al’s pirhanas or the cuddly sloth).

Students can research these animals and compare the real life versions with their book counterparts. They can explore why we really love some animals while other animals remain unloved. And they can use Macca and his friends as characters in other work - what happens when you have an alpaca as part of a maths problem or a sloth as part of a music lesson?

 
 

5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers: Part Two

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

Note: While this blog post is aimed at teachers in Kindy/Prep/Reception, Grade 1 and Grade 2, many of the ideas are adaptable or applicable to older grades as well.

3. Expand Their Vocabulary

Like background knowledge, vocabulary is something you develop with more time, more reading, more conversation, more exposure to different experiences and . . . well, more time. Asking 5, 6 or 7 year olds to automatically have the same vocabulary as older students is a tall ask.

While many of these young gifted readers have wide and varied vocabularies, it’s very possible that they have gaps in their vocabulary knowledge or that they are missing vocabulary understanding when it comes to particular subjects. While they can continue to grow their vocabulary through reading, it’s important to provide opportunities for students to see vocabulary as something you can work on, something to strive to improve at.

Parents of gifted readers will tell you that it’s incredibly frustrating to see sight words or high frequency words come home which are well below the level of their children. These are often accompanied with instructions to ‘learn them’ to ‘laminate the cards’ or to ‘check Pinterest for fun activities’. While these are excellent ideas for students who are learning these words, they leave parents of gifted readers wondering whether their child is being catered for at all, and what possible alternatives there are to sight word activities.

Offering a vocabulary list instead of sight word list is an easy way to differentiate this kind of homework (or school work) for gifted students. Like sight words, you can offer a few easy activities - look up the word, write a sentence with the word, see if you can spot the word in a book, draw the word - for students to complete in the classroom or at home. You can find or suggest additional ideas through Pinterest or extend students with ideas like using folding resources.

You can also help young gifted readers to extend their reading by teaching them how to look up word definitions in a dictionary. Students can develop the skills of finding words, looking at multiple definitions and (at times) looking up more words so they really understand the definition. This is a skill they’ll be able to use for years to come!

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

You can create or find vocabulary templates (or teach students to draw up their own) so students can engage in vocabulary work at a range of times.

To find vocabulary lists, search online for a few years above the grade level of your students (this is where testing will assist you in knowing what level your gifted readers require) - there’s a lot available! A number of subject lists are also available.

To teach dictionary skills, see if you can work with a range of teachers across different grades to put together a small group of students who would benefit from learning these skills. If you have a teacher-librarian, they might be able to put on a little workshop for the students or you may be able to work with your Principal or Curriculum Leader to release a teacher to teach dictionary skills.

4. Support their Reading Choices

This one is especially important when it comes to school libraries. Many, many young gifted readers have experienced the deflating experience of visiting the school library only to be told, ‘No, you can’t borrow that’.

When questioned, various reasons are given for this refusal: the book is too hard (even if the student has borrowed harder books previously); they can’t comprehend it (even if they have other books in the series at home); the subject matter is too old for them (even if parents have given permission); it’s just school policy.

If it’s school policy, then it’s bad policy - designed to dull a love of books and libraries (which should be enjoyed as the magical places they are). As a teacher, I recommend finding out whether your school has a policy like this and whether it should be updated to allow for the fact that some younger children read harder books - or that their parents are happy to read harder books to them.

As for the other reasons, they usually stem from a lack of knowledge of the student (that’s where you - as the teacher who knows the student - can step in) or concern about parent reaction. One teacher librarian told me that her school solves that issue by asking parents for blanket permission, then recording that permission so students don’t have to ‘re-ask’ every year.

Getting to know the books in the school library allows students to explore a really wonderful range of books in a place where they are regular visitors. If you don’t have a school librarian, or your school librarian is reluctant to recommend books suitable for your gifted readers, consider finding an older ‘reading buddy’ from a higher grade - someone who loves books and reading and will share some of the delights of the school library with your students.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

Keep an eye out for advanced readers - anyone who might be reading more than picture books - before you start library borrowing. A quick note home to parents can help you get parent permission. You can then note this on a note you attach to the library box or basket or a tag attached to the child’s library bag. This way, you know who has permission at a quick glance.

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part Two. A look at vocabulary, reading choices and differentiating classroom activities for young gifted readers. A Galarious Goods Blog Post
 

5. Differentiating Your Classroom Lessons

A gifted reader with excellent decoding skills will not be served with lessons purely aimed at decoding. And while some phonics lessons are excellent for spelling, constant repetition is also unhelpful if the gifted reader is already understanding and applying those lessons.

However, busy work - asking a gifted reader ‘just to read their book’ or to just do -more- of what other students are doing, isn’t respectful to the student either. They have a right to learn to the best of their potential - just like any other student in the class.

When it comes to differentiating for the gifted reader, it’s important to know where they can continue to learn (it all comes back to the testing!). Do they need to learn comprehension skills which help them with texts on unfamiliar subjects? Do they need to extend vocabulary knowledge? Should they begin to explore responding to texts through reviews or reader reactions? Or could they learn more about sentence structure and grammar so they understand why a sentence works - or doesn’t work?

Vocabulary and comprehension skills are two places where you can differentiate for students. If the class is concentrating on reading a particular book, you could ask gifted students to ‘insert’ or ‘substitute’ a range of provided words into the original text and to work out where they would be effective (a great way for students to apply their vocabulary understanding with words they have previously defined). You can also provide deeper thinking questions for students to reflect on while the class is reading particular books.

Retelling stories in different ways, creating questions for stories or other texts and asking ‘what if . . .?’ questions are all ways that students can extend their thinking about stories. And sometimes differentiation can be as simple as using correct terminology as well as easier wording when talking about sentences - pointing out that descriptive words are also known as adjectives provides a framework for students as they explore sentences in more detail.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

This can be the hardest thing to make work in a busy classroom, but the more you do it, the easier it will become. Remember that differentiation doesn’t always need to be a whole new lesson - it’s ok to repeat activities like writing reviews (even adult book reviewers improve by repeating this!), creating questions, finding effective words in texts or asking ‘what if . . . ‘ questions. And sometimes differentiation can happen just by offering an alternate text.

When you’re planning, ask yourself if there are any skills your gifted readers will need to explicitly learn - whether it’s how to write a review, use a dictionary or what a verb is. You may be able to work with teachers of other gifted readers to make this one group during literacy rotations, or you may be able to work with one or two gifted readers during silent reading time or individual learning time. And remember, even if your gifted readers are working on self-directed work - make time to check on their understanding and to show them that their reading is valued in your classroom.

Have you read Part One of this post? It covers testing and offering a range of texts and is a must read!

 
 

5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers: Part One

You get a list of the reading levels of your incoming class and there it is - a student on Level 26, way above the average level of the rest of the class.

Or, you notice that there’s a student who’s reading all the posters in your classroom - including the evacuation procedures - while the other students are working on their early letters.

Or, you have a student who is asking to borrow novels from the school library - even though students in his grade are only supposed to borrow picture books.

It’s not tremendously unusual to come across students who can read before they start school, or who pick up reading very quickly when they do start. But there isn’t an awful lot of support for those students - or their teachers. How can you plan for those gifted readers and differentiate to meet their needs in your classroom?

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part One. A look at differentiating for gifted readers in Grade 1, Grade 2 and Kindergarten classrooms. Exploring testing of reading and providing a range of texts for gifted readers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Note: While this blog post is aimed at teachers in Kindy/Prep/Reception, Grade 1 and Grade 2, many of the ideas are adaptable or applicable to older grades as well.

1. Test Their Reading - in a Variety of Ways

It can be tempting to leave gifted readers for a while before testing their reading. After all, testing reading takes time - serious time. And you already know that those students can read.

Testing is essential, however. Without it, those students have no benchmark, nowhere to grow from. It makes it harder to plan for those students effectively, and it makes it harder to show parents or admin how you’re differentiating for those students when you have no idea where they really are.

As well as testing them using standard tests, consider offering them a couple of other texts to read - and to answer comprehension questions on. Texts on unfamiliar subjects with lots of context clues (like pictures) can be a great way to see if students are using strategies to make connections. Upper level informational readers are great for this.

Also consider asking your student to read and answer some thoughtful questions on a familiar text like a picture book. The student may be better on comprehension when they have the background knowledge to infer and make connections - and a lot of the harder standard tests are aimed at older students with more knowledge behind them.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

If you’re struggling to find time to test reading, check with support staff to see if there’s anyway someone can give you a hand with your class while you test. See if you can work with another class where one teacher tests while the other undertakes some easy activities with the students. Plan some independent activities which allow you enough time for testing - and talk about how important it is for students to give you the time and space to get good information.

 
5 Ways to Plan and Differentiate for Young Gifted Readers Part One. A look at differentiating for gifted readers in Grade 1, Grade 2 and Kindergarten classrooms. Exploring testing of reading and providing a range of texts for gifted readers. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

2. Provide a Lot of Different Texts - and Different Kinds of Texts

Do you have a reading area in your classroom? Think about what you have in it.

If you primarily have fiction picture books, you’re probably not meeting the reading needs of your gifted readers. Sure, they can read them - picture books are wonderful for all sorts of learning - but there’s no challenge to read further, to build more background knowledge - and there’s a subtle message that the reading area may not be for them.

Often young gifted readers are told that they aren’t good with comprehension. However, the problem is often that they’re too young to have built the kind of background knowledge you need for effective comprehension. That comes with age and with exposure to a wide range of books (and other experiences).

It’s unreasonable to expect a full classroom library of novels for one or two students, but there’s no reason you can’t include non-fiction books or poetry books or magazines aimed at younger readers. These texts can all be looked at and enjoyed by all the students in the class, but they give your gifted reader the option of more types of texts and different styles of writing - as well as helping them to build that background knowledge which helps so much in comprehension.

What if you have a student who is capable of reading a range of texts, but will only stick with the familiar? This is where you can think about your different subject areas and what you’re teaching there. If you’re looking at how materials change in science, have some reading texts about materials or change available. You can ask the gifted readers to explore these texts as part of their science lesson and report their findings back to the class, use it as a text during reading time and ask students to find connections or simply have it available for free reading. There’s great books available which cover all kinds of subjects these days - perfect for extending subject areas into text.

How do you make it work in a busy classroom?

Do you book talk the books in your classroom? Talk about them, introduce them, or ‘sell’ them to your students? Try book talking you non-fiction or poetry books as well as picture books. It’s a quick and easy way of making a range of texts appealing to your students - and challenging your gifted readers to try something new.

Don’t miss Part Two of this important topic - covering vocabulary instruction, reading choices and lesson differentiation! Click here to read more

 
 

Explore the Pig the Pug Series with these Writing Tasks

We’ve talked about how we love the Pig the Pug series by Aaron Blabey before - and how it can be used in the classroom. But how can we use it to teach writing? These five writing tasks allow you and your students to take a closer look at the books, and a range of writing formats

 
Explore the Pig the Pug Series with These Writing Tasks - 5 Writing Task Ideas for classrooms and students exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and how teachers can teach them. A Galarious Goods post
 

1. Write a News Article About Pig’s ‘Adventures’

When Pig the Pug goes big, it’s usually followed by some sort of disaster. This is bad for Pig, but great for budding news article writers.

Writing a news article is a great task for a range of grades. For younger students who may be just learning about the format, it’s a great way to identify the ‘who, what, where, when and why’ - good reading questions - before participating in a shared writing of an article as a small group or a whole class. Students can follow this shared writing about one of the Pig stories with individual or paired writing about one of the other Pig stories.

For older students, the Pig books offer a great story to write their article about. They can report on the time that Pig ‘flew’ out the window (plenty of headline opportunities there - another aspect you can explore with the class) or the time he exploded a bathroom just because he preferred to be dirty.

2. Write a Diary Entry - or a Series of Diary Entries

What is Pig thinking? While that’s a slightly scary thought, it’s also a great way to explore the Pig the Pug books through writing.

You could ask your students to write one diary entry - focusing on the aftermath of an event perhaps, or what Pig is thinking before disaster strikes. Or you could ask your students to write a series of diary entries which explore the entire events of the week. What is Pig thinking about as he participates in the photo shoot and thinks of himself as a star?

Or - to change it up a little - what exactly is Trevor thinking? What would his diary entries look like after a big Pig Event or in the lead up to one.

This is a great activity to pair with diary led books like the Diary of a Wombat series by Jackie French or the My Australian Story books for older students. Students can look at the examples of diary entries and identify the elements of them before applying these ideas to their own writing.

3. Write a Comic Strip

How can you condense all - or a good part of - a story into just a few small boxes? This is the question which faces students when you ask them to create a comic strip of on of the Pig the Pug books.

Students can talk about which are the most important parts of the story, creating a list which allows them to create 4 or 5 panels of a comic. They can then explore what images or words they could fit into that comic strip.

Students can also explore whether they should keep Pig looking like the Pig of the books, or whether they should explore their own style of drawing in their comic strip - and why they might make some changes.

This is a great way to explore retell and main idea with your students - particularly those in middle to upper primary classes.

 
Explore the Pig the Pug Series with These Writing Tasks - 5 Writing Task Ideas for classrooms and students exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and how teachers can teach them. A Galarious Goods post
 

4. Review of the Book

Writing a good book review can be a great way to get other people to enjoy the books you enjoy. The Pig the Pug books are great for reviews because there’s usually a range of reasons why readers love them.

Students can explore a range of book reviews from different places before they write their own. You can also share write a review with the whole class before students head off to write their own reviews.

Some things students can concentrate on in reviews is comparing them with other books (maybe other books about dogs, other books which feature animals or other funny books) or focusing on why they are so enjoyable to read.

If your students didn’t enjoy the book, they can also write a review highlighting why. (This can be a great activity even if your students did enjoy it - what kind of review would you write if you didn’t?)

5. Podcast Episode

Podcasts are really popular, with a number of podcasts created just for children. You and your students could listen to some of them before getting into creating your own.

Successful podcasts have a question or a theme to work through. When it comes to Pig the Pug they might like to discuss why they enjoy a particular book, which Pig the Pug book is the best, what it would be like to own a dog like Pig or what to read after you’ve finished all the Pig books.

Students should write at least an outline before they start recording their podcast. If they’re working in a pair or small group, they might identify different parts to talk about or create a list of ‘talking points’ to tackle together. If they’re working on their own they might like to create a whole speech to write about.

 
 
 
 

7 Reasons We Love the Pig the Pug Books

My family loves the Pig the Pug books by Aaron Blabey. We love them so much that both my children have dressed as the not-so-well-behaved but lovable dog for Book Week. But what is it we love so much about Pig? My son sat down with me to put together some reasons we love Pig - and some ways you can explore that love in the classroom.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

1. We Love the Lessons . . .

Every Pig book comes with a little lesson (or two) to learn - whether it’s sharing our toys with others, telling the truth about our misdeeds or sharing the spotlight.

While the lessons are pretty broad - and sometimes pretty specific to Pig (it’s unlikely our children will be eating their food bowls any time soon!), they’re a great starting place for further conversation about what good and considerate behaviour looks like. We can pose questions like what does a winner look like? Is it necessary to share everything? Is it better to get difficult things over and done with - or just try to avoid them.

2. . . . and How Pig Always ‘Learns His Lesson’

Pig always ‘learns his lesson’ by the end of the book - which is another aspect students can discuss. Does he really learn his lesson. Do students honestly think he won’t repeat his mistakes. And since he usually behaves well when he’s injured and physically unable to misbehave - what might happen when the bandages come off and he is well again. Students can follow this train of thought and develop their prediction skills!

3. We Love the Humour

These are really funny books! They’re a dream for teachers and parents who are reading them out loud, as you can explore with voices (take care with Pig - the shouting can be a problem!) and the funny pauses as you turn pages. But even when you are reading them to yourself, you can’t help but wonder what hilarious hijinks that pug will get up to next . . . and what hilarious trouble he will find himself in.

A lot of the humour comes from the ridiculous nature of the trouble - we know it’s unlikely that these things would really happen to a dog - but it’s funny to imagine that they might. Students can explore writing their own ridiculous paragraphs or stories, seeing how far they can stretch their story before they lose their reader. They can also look for other examples of ridiculous humour in books - the books where the author just has fun with the reader!

4. We Love the Repetition

There’s something terribly comforting about opening a brand new Pig the Pug book and seeing those familiar words . . . ‘Pig was a Pug . . . “

The Pig books follow a comfortable formula which makes them perfect for students developing an understanding of how stories can be structured and for students who like to look for connections between different texts. The familiarity of the stories can also help students concentrate on the details of the book - like the language or the specifics of this particular story - giving students a framework to work within.

It also gives new and pre readers the opportunity to join in and read with the story - they know this bit! They’ve read it before. It can be a wonderful confidence boost or a way to engage with a text because you’re really reading it.

This repetition can be used in writing lessons as well. Students can brainstorm ways for Pig to get himself into trouble and then use the framework to create their own Pig stories. Or they can create their own framework as a class or group and then write a class series of stories which work into that framework.

 
7 Reasons We Love Pig the Pug. A blog post exploring Pig the Pug by Aaron Blabey and the ways these wonderful books can be used by teachers in the classroom. Perfect for teachers looking for reading resources. A Galarious Goods post
 

5. We Love Trevor

Poor Trevor. While Pig is rampaging his way through the books, Trevor is the ultimate straight man. He’s kind, thoughtful, honestly cares about Pig . . . he just wants things to go right for him occasionally. Who didn’t cheer when Trevor was selected to be a star?

Trevor shows us what Pig could be like if he would just learn how to behave. He also shows us how a character can react to Pig’s antics. This is a great way for students to explore side characters - the characters who observe many of the actions rather than getting directly involved in them (unless they can’t help it!)

Students can also imagine what Pig’s world might be like if Trevor wasn’t around. How would that make things easier for Pig? How would it make things harder?

6. We Love the Language

I LOVE the way vocabulary is used in the Pig the Pug books. Aaron Blabey refuses to talk down to his young audience, using a wide range of words and terms from ‘quivering’ to ‘sook’. It’s not all big words - there are plenty of smaller, easier to digest words - but this is a great way to explore great words and the way they can be arranged and manipulated to create rhythm, rhyme - and a really funny story.

There are so many vocabulary activities you can do with this book - whether it’s exploring the different words or phrases around the word ‘pig’ or using vocabulary folding activities to record some of the great words you can find in the books. Students can create their own word walls of ‘Pig the Pug’ words and try to incorporate them in their own writing.

7. And We Love the Illustrations

When I had to come up with a Book Week costume on fairly short notice, we decided on Pig the Pug - with a crocheted hat doing the majority of the work. As my son walked out to the car to head to kindy, his friend from across the road yelled out ‘It’s Pig the Pug!’ - those eyes and ears immediately tell you who you’re dealing with!

As well as Aaron Blabey’s iconic Pig and Trevor illustrations, the books are filled with little drawings which expand the story - and sometimes fill in the spaces between the words. My particular favourite is Pig the Star, where we see Pig and Trevor dressing up as a wide range of famous people.

Students can explore how Aaron Blabey uses illustrations to tell the story - and how the story might change if there were no illustrations at all. They can also look at how they can tell their own stories - using just illustrations, or by combining illustration and words to create a complete tale.

Aaron Blabey has so many wonderful books, and I have a hard time deciding on a favourite. But there is definitely a place for the naughty Pig the Pug in your classroom - and many different ways you can explore these stories with your students.

 
 

6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan

The Ruins of Gorlan by John Flanagan is a great book and I thoroughly enjoyed using it to create a comprehensive book study. Recently I updated the Ruins of Gorlan resources, adding additional material and activities and offering more options for teachers using the book study in the their classrooms. To celebrate the update, I'm pleased to present a new Ruins of Gorlan blog post offering 6 additional books (with a few sneaky extras) for students who loved the Ruins of Gorlan.
 

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Mapmaker Chronicles by A.L. Tait

I've only read the first in this series (the second is in my to-read pile!) but I loved it as much as I love the Ranger's Apprentice books. It's similar in 'style' to The Ranger's Apprentice - a fictional setting similar to a real-life historical period - and there's some other similarities, but it's also very much its own book, with unique characters and antagonists and completely different adventures.

The king wants to know what lies in the world and he's looking for captains and map makers who can make it happen. Quinn, a 14 year old boy who would prefer a quiet farm life, is chosen as one of the map makers.

This would be a great read aloud book, as well as working as a whole class or small group novel study. It could be easily connected to the ideas of map making and explorers around the world and could definitely lead to some interesting discussions amongst students.

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien

If you're looking for a book which combines fantasy and adventure, it's hard to go past The Hobbit. The tale of Bilbo Baggins who sets off on an unexpected adventure with a group of dwarves is a classic for a reason. Although it goes more into the fantasy side of things than The Ruins of Gorlan, it balances it nicely with adventure - making it a easier read for those students who make not have a lot of experience with the fantasy genre. 

The Hobbit is a great book as a read aloud (prepare your voice for the Gollum chapter), a small group or recommended as a reader's workshop novel. Students who finish with The Hobbit may like to go on and explore The Lord of the Rings.

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

Catherine, Called Birdy by Karen Cushman

The Ruins of Gorlan is set in a time period and place which which obviously meant to reflect medieval England. For a different look at the medieval world, students may like to explore Catherine, Called Birdy, a diary style book which examines the life of the daughter of a knight. It explores the social history of medieval life and the pressures on young girls to be married.

This would make a fascinating comparison piece with The Ruins of Gorlan. Students could discuss why John Flanagan chose to be inspired by the medieval time period while making changes, especially in the way women are treated. I think this book would be especially effective in small group discussions.


Castle by David Macaulay

For a different way of looking at the medieval world, students may like to examine Castle, a picture book which combines drawings of a fictional castle (based on detailed research) with descriptions of the construction process. This would be a brilliant book to combine with STEM activities, as students explore the different elements which go into making up a castle. This additional knowledge may also provide more context for some parts of The Ruins of Gorlan or assist students in picturing events in The Ruins of Gorlan more clearly.

 
6 Exciting Books for Students Who Love The Ruins of Gorlan. A list of great books for fans of the Ranger's Apprentice series by John Flanagan. A Galarious Goods blog post
 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

The Thief tells the story of Gen, a thief who is released from prison to assist the magus - the King's scholar. It's an excellent adventure book, with a main character who demonstrates intelligence, skill and bravery, when required - much like Will in The Ruins of Gorlan. It also demonstrates influences from historical cultures - something which would be fascinating for students to explore. This would work particularly well as an option in Reader's Workshop (especially with a good book talk) or as a read aloud book for the whole class or a small group.


Other Ranger's Apprentice books and The Brotherband Series by John Flanagan

It feels a little like cheating to include these, but they are a must read for any fans of The Ruins of Gorlan. The Ranger's Apprentice is not a strictly chronological series - the books are often gathered together in twos or threes (though there are some stand alones and a collection of short stories) and they jump forward and backward around Will's life. There's a lot in them to explore and lots of students will be caught up in the adventures of Will, Halt and their friends.

Brotherband goes off to the land of Skandia - a land we meet in the second, third and fourth Ranger's Apprentice books - and continues the adventures in a slightly different way.

Both series are great to have available - either in the classroom library or the school library - for when students have finished reading The Ruins of Gorlan. Alternatively, you may like to help a small group of Ruins of Gorlan fans conduct their own book study on one or more of the Ranger's Apprentice series when they're finished with the first book.

Related posts to read:

 
 

6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies


There are so many different ways to explore Australian social studies (or Humanities and Social Sciences as it is described in the Australian curriculum) in the classroom. One of the best ways is to use books - fiction and non fiction - which relate to the themes, ideas and events our students are exploring. I'm pleased to present six books covering Australian social studies which are perfect for middle grades classrooms.

 
6 Great Books to Integrate With Australian Social Studies - Galarious Goods
 

I'm Australian Too by Mem Fox and Ronojoy Ghosh

While the text seems simple at first, there's a lot in this picture book to explore and discuss when it comes to Australian identity, those who come to Australia and things which represent Australia. Students can look at and research some of the different reasons people come to Australia, comparing and contrasting different stories. They may also like to contribute their own stories or interview someone who has travelled to Australia and become an Australian citizen. It would definitely be a great book to extend ideas when looking at citizenship and modern Australian history. You can also use the book to discuss global citizenship and the responsibilities different countries and individuals have - or should have - to people in other parts of the world.

You can get an I'm Australian Too Book Study resource at the Galarious Goods Shop

 
 

How to Build Your Own Country by Valerie Wyatt and Fred Rix

This is a brilliant non-fiction book for any classroom covering government or economics! What would you do if you had your own country? What would you need to know? How do you stop your country from falling apart? While this book walks you through the process of setting up your own country, it also looks at the knowledge which will help any young country builder make their country an excellent one. You can use it as the foundation of a teaching unit, dig into bits of it for different activities or make it available for those students who want to explore further. It's not an Australian-centric book, but it's a great general look at some really important topics.

 

Book Trailer for How to Build Your Own Country

 

The Mostly True Story of Matthew and Trim by Cassandra Golds and Stephen Axelsen

Australian history told through a graphic novel? Yes please! This graphic novel tells the story of Matthew Flinders who circumnavigated and mapped Australia. You can use this in small groups in the classroom, with students comparing the graphic novel retelling with other histories of Matthew Flinders. Students can discuss why Flinder's story is important and what his achievements meant to Australia and compare him to other explorers and map makers. Students can also look at the geographical challenges of map making and make their own maps - an activity which can also integrate reading and social studies with mathematics!

 

Say Yes: A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope by Jennifer Castles and Paul Seden

This beautiful book is centred around the friendship between an Aboriginal girl and a non-Aboriginal girl and the 1967 Referendum in Australia. Including images, paper ephemera and newspaper clippings from the time, it explores how many laws at the time were unfair to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in Australia and invites readers to think about how things could be better going forward into the future. It's a perfect social studies book, which can be related to law making and the rule of law, to referendums, to what a census is and how it impacts decision making as well as modern Australian history. Examining the images in the book could also give students inspiration when they're sharing their own history research.

 

News story about the friendship behind Say Yes - A Story of Friendship, Fairness and a Vote for Hope

 

Boy Overboard by Morris Gleitzman

It can be really meaningful to students to link a class novel study with a social studies unit. Morris Gleitzman's Boy Overboard is an excellent book for any class examining why people come to Australia and what it means to be Australian. The story of Jamal and his family who flee the Taliban in Afghanistan for the safety of Australia, readers get to see the difficulties refugees can face and the motivations which can turn people into refugees in the first place. It's a great book to read while looking at modern history, those who have come to Australia over history or global citizenship and one which students can study and read as a class novel or investigate as a teacher read-aloud.

You can get the Boy Overboard Complete Novel Study Bundle at Galarious Goods

 
 

Refuge by Jackie French

Jackie French has so many books which are excellent to tie in with Australian social studies - I could make an entire post containing only her books! Refuge is a really interesting book to read - it went in a totally different direction from what I expected. I think this one would make a particularly good read aloud - particularly if students make predictions about the story before it began. Refuge looks at different people from different time periods who have come to one land as refugees and find themselves in a rather odd place. It is very good to connect to Australian history and I highly recommend it.

You can read more about Refuge at Jackie French's website

Find a wide range of teaching resources at Galarious Goods

 
 

Adventure Girl and Reclusive Author

Three Ways to Investigate Stereotypes Using the Nim's Island Movie

I've previously introduced Nim's Island, the adventure book by Wendy Orr. But you can also enjoy the story as an adventure movie, released in 2008. The movie and the book are fantastic to explore together in the classroom, especially when we are teaching characters. The notion of character stereotyping, whether stereotypes are good or bad and how they apply to Nim's Island makes for a wonderful classroom investigation - giving students questioning tools they can also transfer to a range of other texts.
 

 
Adventure Girl and Reclusive Author - Three Ways to Investigate Stereotypes Using the Nim's Island Movie by Galarious Goods
 

A stereotype is an oversimplified view at a character or person, usually demonstrated through a collection of behaviours or traits. First glances at the Nim's Island movie tell us that we can see Nim as an adventure girl. She flies through the trees, uses different adventuring tools and tackles big challenges. Meanwhile, Alex Rover can be seen as a the stereotype of an author. She is reclusive, a little scattered and her whole life revolves around her books and her writing. As students are watching the movie, they can find other examples of these stereotypes and others. But once they've found the examples, what can they do with them?

Are the Stereotypes Realistic?

This is a great question to add to a comparison between the book and the movie. Students can have a look at character traits in the movie and note where they were similar or different to the book. Which ones were more realistic? Which ones were less realistic.

Students can also discuss whether authors would really be able to be mostly anonymous the way Alex Rover is or if they'd be required to attend events to promote their books. They can research authors who have been anonymous (or have tried to remain anonymous) and authors who use a pen name and why they do that. (J.K. Rowling is one example, as her adult crime novels are written under the pen name of Robert Galbraith).

Another classroom activity to look at whether stereotypes are realistic can involve acting it out. Students can identify a section of the movie which they feel show a particularly stereotyped version of the character. They can reenact that scene themselves, then look at ways they could change the character's words or actions to make them feel more realistic.


What Part Do Stereotypes Play in Books and Movies?

Although stereotypes often have negative connotations, they can be very useful when telling stories. They provide a shortcut to the reader or the viewer, helping them picture or understand the character and the behaviours of the character without needing extra descriptions. 

Students can explore this by thinking about how they picture certain characters. You can brainstorm a collection of 'character types' like princess, wicked witch or famous sports person and ask your students to draw what they think they would look like or write a description of them. Students can compare their drawings or descriptions and look at which elements or traits they share. 

Stereotypes can also help to surprise us when they are changed. When Alex Rover steps out into the world to help Nim, we know that it is a big thing - something her character would never do normally because it doesn't fit her stereotype. It lets us know that things are changing in the story and that we should be paying attention. Students can identify other times that characters break their stereotypes in movies or books and how that changes the way the story goes. You can set up a large piece of paper or display board for this and students can add their examples on pieces of paper or sticky notes as they find them.

 
Use a large piece of paper or a section of a display board for students to add stereotypes to as they find them
 

Can Stereotypes Be Harmful?

There's no doubt that stereotypes can be harmful in real life situations. They can act to give us incorrect impressions of people and box people into categories or situations where they're uncomfortable or restricted from doing what they'd like to do. But what about stereotypes in stories? Can they be harmful too?

Students can look at the way stereotypes are used in fairy-tales - especially the versions of fairy-tales which have come to us through popular movies. How is the princess portrayed? The prince? The step-mother? The dragon? How do we see those stereotypes and the language around them used in the real world? How many times do we see the word 'princess' on girl's clothing or toys? How does that have real world impacts?

We can also ask if all stereotypes are harmful? Nim is portrayed as an adventure girl - students can discuss whether that's a good or a bad portrayal and whether we should need more or less characters like her. They can also have a go at writing their own stories with characters like Nim or her father or Alex Rover. 

 
 
 
 

9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island

Nim's Island by Wendy Orr makes a wonderful classroom read and is great to inspire classroom activities. But what do you read next? What books should teachers have on hand for those students who absolutely adore Nim's Island? From adventure to animals, survival to communication with authors - here's nine more books to read when you've finished with Nim's Island.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods. Nine book recommendations and some ways to use them in the classroom
 

The Nim Sequels

This is, of course, the best place to start. Wendy Orr has authored two more books about Nim and her adventures - Nim at Sea and Rescue on Nim's Island. In the first, Nim finds herself out of her island comfort zone, heading out on a rescue mission. In Rescue on Nim's Island, she's back on the island, but this time she has to share the space with others. 

Sequels are a great way to explore characters and settings which we're already familiar with. Students can easily compare and contrast the different books, look at the ways the characters are developed and talk about which kinds of stories are suitable for sequels. The familiarity of the characters can also make it easier to look for underlying themes and how the story  conveys them.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Islands and Survival

In Nim's Island, Nim is required to survive by herself after her father finds himself stranded out at sea - a task which becomes more difficult after she injures herself. Two other books which deal with survival are Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell and Hatchet by Gary Paulsen. 

In Island of the Blue Dolphins, Karana has to survive alone on an island after a series of events leaves her stranded. She needs to use innovation and apply new skills in order to survive for years. In Hatchet, Brian is a passenger in a small plane which crashes in a remote part of Canada. Like Nim, he finds himself all alone, but he doesn't have Nim's knowledge of his surroundings. With time, he discovers the skills he needs to survive and reach civilisation once more.

As well as comparing them to Nim's Island, these books open the way for an interesting classroom conversation about what is required to survive on your own. What knowledge do you need? What kind of personality do you need? Can anyone survive in extreme situations?

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Saving the Day

Nim is required to fight for her island when she spots a tourist boat heading for her secluded home. Students who enjoy this part of the plot may also enjoy The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex and Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins. Just as Nim employs her animal friends to help her fight for the island, the main characters of these two book work with unusual companions to save the day. In The True Meaning of Smekday, Tip sets out on a journey with the alien J. Lo to find her mother. Meanwhile in Gregor the Overlander, Gregor finds himself in a completely unfamiliar underground world where all kinds of giant creatures work together and against each other. Gregor finds himself caught up in a battle between two groups and, with the help of some of the creatures, strives to save the day.

Students can engage with these books by looking at what is required to save the day - what kind of personality does a hero have? This could also lead to classroom discussions of the word 'hero' in real life and what makes someone a 'hero'. Students can examine media reports which use the term, sort them into different groups and use them to write their own definitions.

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

Animal Friendships

From the beginning of Nim's Island, we know about Nim's animal friends. She has a unique relationship with them and they often step up to help her throughout the book - just as she helps them. There are lots of books for the animal fans in your class including Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo and Charlotte's Web by E.B White. In Because of Winn-Dixie, Opal befriends a dog. The dog - Winn-Dixie - helps her make new connections with the humans around her as well as being a faithful friend. Charlotte's Web is often best remembered for the relationship between animals - particularly Wilbur the pig and Charlotte the spider - but it's the caring actions of Fern the little girl which first saves Wilbur, and the early chapters of the book look at how Fern nurtured and befriended the little pig.

Fiction books featuring animals are a great match with non-fiction books about animals. Students can question whether the animals would really demonstrate that kind of personality, research the features of those animals or explore stories about exceptional animals. 

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods
 

 

Author Relationships

Throughout Nim's Island, Nim communicates with the author Alex Rover through email. In Dear Mr Henshaw by Beverly Cleary, Leigh writes letters to his favourite author Boyd Henshaw. Both Nim and Leigh develop their relationships with the authors through their writing and find themselves having to build separations between the books they love and the authors as people.

These two books are a wonderful introduction into looking at the lives of authors and how they create their books. Many authors have biographies (or even autobiographies) to explore or have given interviews which are easy to find on the internet. Students can look at how authors are influenced by the world around them or things they see or hear or even write a thank you email to their favourite author (But don't ask authors to do your author assignment for you! They need that time for writing!)

 
9 Brilliant Books to Read if You Love Nim's Island by Galarious Goods