5 ANZAC Day Picture Books to Use in Your Classroom

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

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

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

The Beach They Called Gallipoli by Jackie French and Bruce Whatley

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

Exploring this book in the classroom:

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

ANZAC Biscuits by Phil Cummings and Owen Swan

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

Exploring this book in the classroom:

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

The Little Stowaway by Vicki Bennett and Tull Suwannakit

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

Exploring this book in the classroom:

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

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

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

Exploring this book in the classroom:

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

Memorial by Gary Crew and Shaun Tan

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

Exploring this book in the classroom:

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

12 Christmas Ideas for Your Classroom

Christmas is coming! Christmas is coming!

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

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

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

 
12 Christmas Ideas for Your Classroom - Great teaching ideas from Australian and NZ teachers designed to make your Christmas better
 

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

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

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

 
  Get this FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Top Teaching Tasks!

Get this FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Top Teaching Tasks!

 

4. Compare Santa and St. Nick. Where do our current beliefs about Santa come from? What are other Santa traditions from around the world? How can students share this information with others? Can they work collaboratively to share this information?

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

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

 
  Get Your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Galarious Goods

Get Your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Galarious Goods

 

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

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

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

 
  Get your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Aussie Waves

Get your FREE Secret Santa Surprise from Aussie Waves

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Wishing all teachers a peaceful and happy holiday season

 

 
 
 
 

5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom

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

 
5 Reasons to Explore Christmas Books in Your Classroom
 

1. Christmas is a Time of Excitement in the Classroom

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

2. Christmas Books are Connected to Shared Experiences

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

 
 

3. There Are Some Really Good Christmas Books

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

4. Christmas Books Often Have Beloved Characters in Them

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

 
 

 

5. Picture Books are Easy to Use

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

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

 

 
 

An Aussie Night Before Christmas in the Classroom - Celebrating an Australian Christmas

Over the last few years there's been a number of Australian-themed holiday (and non-holiday) books published. Often they are influenced by and expand on classic stories, rhymes and songs, including Australian settings, animals and familiar objects to create relatable tales for Australian children.

One of the first of these was An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison and Kilmeny Niland, and there's a reason it's still so popular. It moves the classic poem to an Australian bush setting and includes more than a few Australian in-jokes - including a couple for the parents reading.

So how can a book like this be used in the classroom? 

 
 

New Stories from Old Stories

An Aussie Night Before Christmas retells the old 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, moving it the the summer heat of the Australian bush. It's a very modern feeling story, with Mum and Dad sitting down to watch tv sports and Santa arriving in a rusty old ute.

Retelling old stories is a really interesting concept for students to investigate. They can discuss other stories, rhymes and songs which could be retold in new ways or investigate other stories which have been retold. They can discuss the choices of the story teller - where they choose to stay with the original story and where they move away from it. And they can have a go at retelling the story themselves.

A Very Australian Portrayal

An Aussie Night Before Christmas tells an Australian story - but is it the Australian story? This is a great opportunity for students to engage with the idea of generalisations, stereotypes and ideas of identity. They can identify which things seem familiar to them and which ones are different. They can talk about what 'Australian' mean to them and what it might look like to someone from another country.

An extension on this is to ask students to write their own version which shows a different Australian night before Christmas. They could bring in their own family traditions or ones they discuss with their classmates. This could be a great small group or whole class activity.

Why Are Stories Like This Important?

Why should we have Australian versions of stories? What does it mean to students to see their own country in a book, to see images which make more sense than sleighs and reindeer? This could open some fascinating conversations about representation in stories and carols - it would be especially useful if you want students to create their own Christmas carols or stories.

 

This is a great book for all ages at Christmas time. There's a lot of really interesting discussions and chances for writing and other creative activities. If you don't have a copy to share with your class, I highly recommend it.

 
 Christmas in Australia activities based around An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison. This resource pack includes comprehension and vocabulary, writing activities, discussion topics and creating activities.

Christmas in Australia activities based around An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison. This resource pack includes comprehension and vocabulary, writing activities, discussion topics and creating activities.

 

Wanting to take a more in-depth look at An Aussie Night Before Christmas? Pick up this Book Study resource at the Galarious Goods shop. Or buy the Australian Christmas Writing Bundle and save!

     
     

    Creating Lessons from Holiday Decorations - A Big List of Ideas

    It's time to decorate the classroom! Or to create fabulous decorations for your students to take home with them! But what other learning can you get from holiday decorations?

     
     

    Find the Maths

    • What angles can you find in a 5 point star? A 6 point star? 7 points?
    • What's the circumference of the bauble? The diameter?
    • What shapes can you find in holiday decorations?
    • What nets do you need to create 3D decorations?
    • What's the area of those nets?
    • How many decorations do you need to decorate a classroom? To decorate a tree?

    Find the Writing

    • Write about why we need holiday decorations
    • Write about the history of holiday decorations
    • Write a procedure for making holiday decorations
    • Write a short story about holiday decorations
    • Write a newspaper article about how your class is decorated

    Find the Engineering

    • Which decorations are the strongest?
    • How can you made decorations stronger?
    • How do you test the strength of a decoration?
    • Can you use decorations to make a machine?
    • Can you make decorations move on their own?
    • Can you create structures out of decorations?

    Find the Creativity

    • How can you portray decorations using paint? Pencils? Clay?
    • What recycled materials can you use to create decorations?
    • Can you create a dance about decorations?
    • Can you create a play or a song about decorations?
    • How can you use colour in your decorations?
    • How can you use shapes in decorations?

    Don't forget to leave your holiday ideas in the comments!

     
     Christmas math and engineering resource using paper chains. Students explore the mathematical topics of measurement, length, perimeter and patterns and engineering principles of creating tests, assessing suitability, exploring materials and drawing conclusions. 

    Christmas math and engineering resource using paper chains. Students explore the mathematical topics of measurement, length, perimeter and patterns and engineering principles of creating tests, assessing suitability, exploring materials and drawing conclusions. 

     
     
     

    Surviving Christmas in an Australian Classroom

    Ah, Christmas. The students are tired. Admin are insisting that it's business as usual until 3pm on the last day. There's activities and performances and assemblies and you never get a full class for more than half an hour at a time. You've just found out you need to move your whole classroom across the school. Oh, and it's swelteringly hot!

    Of course, what you need are Christmas or holiday themed activities which promote real learning - while fitting into the spaces of time you get in the classroom!

     
     

    Bring on the Games

    This is a great time for reinforcing everything you've taught during the year with a series of games. Your students will love you, they'll have a better chance of remembering things into the new year and then their next teacher will also love you! 

    Short multiplication games, grammar games and spelling games are great for filling in the 5 or 10 minute gaps before you have to be somewhere. You could also hold a trivia quiz over the last few weeks, breaking the class into teams and covering all sorts of information from the year (things you've covered, books you've read, events you've attended plus general trivia).

    Board games and adapted board games can work really well for those times when you're missing some of the students. You can also take the games outside to rejuvenate students. Use the first hour of the day when it's a little cooler, or find a covered or shaded place to play. 

    Writing Tasks

    Writing is one of those tasks which is wonderfully adaptable to any event or time of the year. Students can create their own creative writing prompts, create stories, poems, songs or plays about Christmas or the holidays. They can respond to articles in newspapers or online. They can write letters to family and friends or write reflections about the year they've had. 

    Persuasive writing is now a big feature of Australian classrooms and an excellent technique to work on at Christmas time. Students can write advertisements or letters to the editor or they can respond to a persuasive text prompt.

     
     A collection of five Christmas in Australia - themed persuasive writing prompts, this resource can be used for test preparations, homework assignments or as part of whole class teaching or writer’s workshop.

    A collection of five Christmas in Australia - themed persuasive writing prompts, this resource can be used for test preparations, homework assignments or as part of whole class teaching or writer’s workshop.

     

    Reading

    Although the Christmas season might not allow enough time for a Christmas novel, there is enough time to examine Christmas picture books. Students can examine picture books based on old carols and stories or picture books which tell new stories. They can talk about the way Christmas is portrayed, the emphasis which is put on Christmas in the books (is it about Santa? Giving? Where Christmas is held? The food?) or how different Christmas books compare with each other. Alongside the reading discussion, there's plenty of room for accompanying writing and craft activities.

     
     Christmas in Australia activities based around An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison. This resource pack includes comprehension and vocabulary, writing activities, discussion topics and creating activities. A perfect resource to continue and extend learning in the final weeks of school in Australia.

    Christmas in Australia activities based around An Aussie Night Before Christmas by Yvonne Morrison. This resource pack includes comprehension and vocabulary, writing activities, discussion topics and creating activities. A perfect resource to continue and extend learning in the final weeks of school in Australia.

     

    Maths Investigations

    Christmas and holidays are great for maths investigations. You can plan for Christmas lunch (time table for cooking, menu planning for 4 people or 6 people or 8 people, working out the cost of ingredients and creating a budget.

    Or you could create an investigation around wrapping presents - how can you wrap different sized boxes? How much paper will you need? 

    Or look at patterns of Christmas lights. What patterns can you create? How does it change when you use different numbers of lights or colours?

    There are so many easy to set up and easy to implement ideas to create real learning at Christmas time - even with the heat. And don't forget my Christmas freebie - available here!

       
       

      Five Quick Alternatives to Holiday Busywork

      With lots of holidays approaching, you might have made the decision to step away from holiday busywork. But planning integrated learning activities can take time - especially when they begin to grow and get overwhelmingly complex. And time for teachers is always a precious thing!

      With that in mind, here's five easier ways to bring great holiday learning into the classroom.

       
      5 Alternatives to Holiday Busywork
       
       

      1. Creative Writing Prompts

      If you've been covering creative writing in your English classes, this is a perfect way to combine holidays and lessons. You can share one prompt for the whole class to respond to, give students a choice of four or five prompts or allocate a different prompt for each student.

      Take it Further

      • Challenge students to try a different creative format like poetry or a fictional memoir
      • Ask students to work in groups or pairs - collaborative writing can create some interesting results
      • Students can publish their work to create a class book or website

      2. Persuasive Arguments

      While persuasive arguments are often about big important subjects, students can also develop persuasive writing skills with smaller holiday related topics. 

      Think about elements of the holidays which could be (or have been) changed. For example, students could write a persuasive essay arguing that trick-or-treating should involve non-food items only.

      Take it Further

      • Persuasive arguments can be essays, letters to the editor, advertisements or debates. Students can engage with them as part of a wider project - like creating a holiday podcast or a holiday newsletter or news website
      • You can mix up presentation - students can turn their arguments into posters, blog posts, displays, newspaper articles or podcasts

      3. Read About It

      Picture books, short stories or text excerpts can be a great way of exploring a holiday through literature. As well as reading the story, students can discuss how the holiday is portrayed, if it feels realistic or connected to their own experiences and if the author has done a good job of portraying the holiday. They can also explore holidays in different parts of the world.

      Take it Further

      • Reading holidays texts can be done as a whole class or different groups can discuss different texts. Students can come together to compare different texts, creating images to show how they're different and alike.
      • Students can create reviews or advertisements of the texts - turning them into images, videos, short articles or audio files.

      4. Maths Investigations

      Maths (or math) Investigations can easily be condensed or simplified if you're short on time. To do this, pick an element of your holiday - eg. valentines for Valentines Day. Then brainstorm some mathematical questions:

       
       

      Any one of these investigations can be presented over one or two lessons. Or, if you have more time you can combine and expand them!

      Take it Further

      • Ask students to create their own mathematical investigations
      • Brainstorm several investigations and set up maths centres. Or create a choice board allowing students to explore the maths investigations in their own time.

      5.  Create a Maths Question

      A lot of the time we give students maths problems and ask them to find the answers. But what if we turned that upside down and gave them the answer - then asked the students to develop a range of problems to match it?

      This gives students an alternative way to look at mathematical processes and can help them understand how word problems or multi-step problems work.

      It's easy to give answers a holiday feel. For example - the answer could be 720 Christmas Lights. Students can then create simple and complex word problems which match the answer.

      Take it Further

      • Students can share their questions with classmates, other classes or the wider community
      • Challenge students to match their questions with what they're learning in class. Can they make an area problem? A chance and data problem? A problem involving fractions?

      Although combining learning with the holidays can seem daunting - especially when you need to fit it around parties, parades, events and the excitement of a class of students - these quick alternatives can give you a great way to celebrate and learn.

       
       

      No More Holiday Busywork - Creating Thoughtful Holiday Lessons

      There are pumpkins everywhere you look, costume plans are being discussed on social media, and the shops are filled with holiday goodies. In the classroom, students are ready - more than ready - for Halloween. They are certain to be engaged in anything to do with ghosts, horror houses, black cats or chocolate!

      Do you bring Halloween - or other holidays and celebrations - into your classroom or not? You could say no, stick with regular lessons, insist that holidays are an 'out of classroom' thing. Or you could fall into a Pinterest spiral and plan All The Activities.

      However, when it comes to holidays and celebrations, it can be really easy to fall into 'busywork' - worksheets with vague connections to the holiday or the work being covered in the classroom or craft activities which look fabulous, but don't really offer a lot of learning for middle grade students.

       
      No More Holiday Busywork
       

      Busywork can provide links between holidays and the classroom, and they can keep students engaged and . . . well, busy. But are they the best way to mix celebrations and learning? Can teachers find better ways to mix holidays and curriculum?

      One alternative option is Integrated Learning - searching for the deeper learning possibilities when connecting holidays with different learning areas. Sitting down with a pen and paper (or laptop or tablet!) to brainstorm connections, can leave you with some surprising - and fantastic - learning opportunities.

      For example - here's a Halloween brainstorm:

       
      No more holiday busywork
       

      These activities all offer opportunities for engaging, thoughtful learning - perfect for making any celebration memorable in your classroom.

      Tips for Integrated Learning Planning

      • You don't need to use all your ideas at the same time. Store some for later, share them with colleagues. Too much can be overwhelming for both you and your students.
      • Try brainstorming in a team - bouncing ideas off each other can lead you in all sorts of interesting directions.
      • Keep any required standards on hand.  These can feel limiting, but the challenge of working with them can also be motivating - who doesn't like a challenge.
      • Enjoy the celebrations!