The man, the boy and the donkey

Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 are studying fables this term. We found this great short video, with accompanying song, on Youtube:

Song: “A Man, a Boy and a Donkey” – Children’s Music Video

And here’s an award-winning music video version, by Derek Sonic Thunders, of Craig Smith’s “Wonky donkey” picture book and song:

Wonkey donkey song unofficial music video

Last term’s Stage 1 book rappers are doing an extension activity with me during our Literacy time: investigating claymation (stop motion) video presentations using a kit from the local post office, “Make your own haunted house movie” by Nancy Hall (Hinkler Books, 2010). We have already storyboarded our Halloween story, but have now checked out a few claymation fable videos on Youtube:

The story of the boy who cried wolf – claymation

Bugs and books 2008

More about frogs

After experiencing many versions of the fable, “The exploding frog“, our Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students are studying factual information about frogs. These Youtube video clips (below) will support their learning:

Inside Taronga’s Corroboree frog conservation container
(with Michael McFadden, Mrs Brisco’s son-in-law)

Corroboree frog update from Mt Kosciuszko

Tree frog jumping

Frog swimming

Green treefrog calling

Frog song

Frogs, frogs, frogs: life cycles, fables

Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students are studying the season of spring – and life cycles. These Youtube video clips (below) will help with the trickier concepts (frog attributes, such as their sticky tongue, etc) not conveyed visually in the big book, “Tadpole diary” by David Drew.

Time-lapse: frog spawn

Tadpoles eating bread

Frog fail! (Dragonfly escapes frog attack)

And, for a bit of fun:

Super Fly carries frog (haha)

We are moving onto Fables this term, and the first fable ties in quite nicely with the work on frogs in Life Cycles:

The frog and the ox

La grenouille et le boeuf – The frog and the ox

The frog and the ox fable

Digital fables

Taking a break from stocktaking for a moment, I wanted to share some digital stories my Early Stage 1 bloggers made over the last few days. These Kinder students, plus a K-2 Language Support class, have continued coming to the library for their regular PSP literacy sessions – what to do now the book rap is over?! – and we’ve been able to extend their Term 4 class learning about fables. They have enjoyed incorporating ideas from Stage 2’s digital stories, which were support material during the recent Bear and Chook books rap.

As you will see from the two Powerpoints, first we read many versions of each Aesop’s fable, then spent time in the playground with mud-map storyboards, the library toy collection, some hastily-made props, and my trusty iPhone. After I uploaded the photos into Keynote (Mac) templates at home, I converted them to Powerpoint format and brought them back to school on a memory stick. The students then viewed their photos again on the IWB, and then we jointly constructed new text during Circle Time (talking & listening). Then some editing after feedback from other audiences – and uploaded to our school blog site.

The ant & the grasshopper

The hare & the tortoise.

If time allows, we may try to do The lion & the mouse next week. (Update! We did it – click on the title!)

This is my third consecutive year working with Early Stage 1 students on fables. The students who created our first batch on a wiki in 2007 (at still talk about them!

Aesop: biography of a great thinker

The grasshopper, the ant and the IWB

I’m really loving the power of Interactive Whiteboard technology to bring the resources of Internet to my fingertips and making said resources big enough for everyone to see!

Stage 1 and Early Stage 1 students are studying fables this term, and this week is Aesop’s “The grasshopper and the ant”.

An obviously useful website has been DLTK’s Crafts for kids , and I’ve supplemented the text of the fable from the site with Google Images searches for some amazing graphics of grasshoppers, ants and corn kernels.

A word of warning about the following short Youtube version of “The ant and the grasshopper”, as told by Jack Spirko on “The Survival Podcast”. It’s fascinating for its political stance, and as an example of how stories have been told, retold and evolved with the retelling. After previewing it on my own, I elected to use it in lessons only up to the image of the dead grasshopper being overwhelmed by ants. (The sequence after that is very confronting, and perhaps useful for higher stage levels discussing the persuasiveness of media products. But not essential or relevent for my purposes.)

Have yourself a bizarre little Christmas

The giraffe's own room

And now, it’s time to share the three wiki fables my group of gifted and talented Early Stage 1 (Kindergarten) students came up with this last term.

Inspired by last year’s four Core Values Fables (written by the previous Kindergarten cohort), we decided, as a group, to write some new jointly-constructed fables to focus upon our school motto: “Forward With Pride”. This became the moral for each fable. If you thought last year’s fables were a little out of left field, then this year‘s three (there were going to be four, but one was cannibalised and abandoned) are truly in “The Twilight Zone”.

ENTER, if you dare!

If you’d like to know how these stories evolved, there are annotations and scribed brainstorming sessions recorded on the wiki, too. For example:

Why did we use a wiki to write and publish our school fables?
* “We can show all people in the world and they’ll know how clever Penrith kids are.”
* “To tell children something, not just use books.”
* “Our families can look for the wiki on the Internet.”
* “We can be famous. And then more famous than Aesop.”
* “You can type quicker on a computer, and send it further, like even to another country or out into space.”
* “People we don’t know can see our work.”
* “So we can read the fables on the computer, even if we had no money to buy a book.”
* “You could use a wiki to keep a diary and write in it every day, and everyone could read it.”
* “We can write our fables using the computer and the Internet.”

What had we learned when we were finished?
* “With Google Images we can find lots of exciting pictures of animals.”
* “If something happens in the world, like an earthquake, we can warn people by the Internet to get into a safety zone.”
* “Sometimes people go to different countries and they can use the Internet to stay in touch.”
* “On the Internet we can learn about other countries, which have different people.”

What will we do next?
* “We should do more hot seat [drama activities].”
* “We could read more Aesop’s fables in books.”
* “Draw more pictures for the fables we’ve done.”
* “Show our [class] teachers and the whole class.”
* “Learn about more fables.”
* “Make books out of fables.”
* “Learn about other things to put on the wiki.”
* “Learn more about animals on the Internet [with Google Images], like when we found the pictures of peacocks and an emu and a rhino – and some pictures were of the rhinoceros beetle and the rhinoceros snake!”
* “Do smart things on the wiki so we can get smarter.”
* “Do it again, but this time with dinosaurs!”

Research in print

Announcing a new professional article by Ian McLean:

‘Research columns 1, 2009: Kindergarten weaves a wiki: the learners tell their stories’ in Scan 28(1) February 2009. (Forthcoming)

Early Stage 1 students at Penrith Public School used a wiki to create jointly-constructed fables, and share the final products (and the annotated learning journey) with their extended school community – and beyond. This research paper is introduced, and peer reviewed, by Dr Ross J Todd.

This article is scheduled for publication in the next issue of Scan, the NSW DET professional journal.

Finally more fables

This time last year, I was conducting an exciting online project with a group of Kindergarten (Early Stage One) students during which we constructed a wiki, and used it to jointly-construct four core values fables.

This year, I’m repeating the unit with a new cohort. While last year’s project included an annotation page in which I recorded the progress of our learning, this time I’m also preserving notes from our Circle Time brainstorms and hot seat activities.

For example, in Week 3 – Favourite animals suggested for possible use in fables were: cats (allergic?), giraffe (who has his own special space), fox (sneaky), dolphin (helping people to water ski – going “Forward with Pride” – our school motto), sharks (sharp teeth, show off, brushes her teeth), panda (nice, look like bears, on TV; all black?), poodles (pink! – like to lick people), dog (that lets me go anywhere), kangaroo (with a joey inside her pouch – and a little bed), rhinoceros (go riding on it), dinosaurs (in a police uniform and a ballerina’s tutu), a lion (pride).

Week 4 – Circle time: shark has gills; lions go forward with their pride (of lions) and can run faster than a car; kangaroos and emus can’t walk backwards, always go forward (with pride); giraffe likes eating toast for breakfast; magical fox turned the poodle pink, turns into a dragon, always buys strawberry (pink) ice cream.

Week 5 – Investigate more of Aesop’s fables; Who was Aesop?; discuss morals in fables. Circle time: “Forward with pride” – our school motto. Makes us think of forward, four (number), 4 (numeral), fore (golf – “Look out in front!”), going for wood (forward), we would go for wood. Woodpeckers and beavers like wood. Fences, branches, sticks, treehouses, cubby houses, tables and chairs are made of wood. Fire needs wood. Trees need bark. Pride of lions. Things that make us proud: playing on my bike; Mum buying me stuff; parties; using my own money to buy a Slushy at 7-11; my doctor was proud of me at the hospital when I got stitches and he gave me a toy; winning at my DS game; my teacher is proud when I read well; winning lollies, stickers and Good Ones at school.

Week 6 – “Recent visitors” to the wiki include locales of: Soul-t’ukpyolsi, Hlavni Mesto Praha, and the exotic French location, Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur. Circle time: Bringing the pink poodle and the shark (favourite characters) into the same fable as the giraffe. Note that a giraffe now also appears in the “Kangaroo and Emu” fable, according to artwork. Inspiration from French locale discovered from “Recent visitors”. Perhaps also need to investigate the art of feng shui? The colour red? Eiffel Tower?

See the four drafts of our, as yet, unfinished school motto fables at the new wiki page. If you’re finding this blog entry at some time in the future, the fables may not resemble their early versions by much.

What they’re saying about…

… ummm, me. 😉

This week, I did a quick Google search on what other schools around the world are doing regarding Kindergarten students using wikis. (Answer: still not much?) It’s now been a full twelve months since the unit of work, documented at, was done at this school, and I’ve just launched a similar project for a group of (possibly) gifted and talented Early Stage 1 students, hoping to repeat and improve upon the 2007 successes.

What surprised and delighted me was that numerous sites recently have earmarked/bookmarked our wiki pages, as an exemplar from which others can draw inspiration:

For example, on the University of North Texas School of Library Science wiki pages, Janienne Brown says, about our site, “This example of a Wiki from Australia shows exactly what a Wiki can accomplish and in this case [Stage 3 book review page] one of the students had their review printed in the newspaper and another student won a voucher for their participation, this is above and beyond the immediate benefits of the Wiki. Also shown are the stages the Wiki went through to illustrate that this is a process [Kindergarten fables] and the process is part of the journey. The setup of this Wiki is from their home page and names the book and author of the book and ‘A book review by first name, last initial, and grade’. This Wiki shows beautifully what we hope to accomplish, students reading, writing, getting other students excited about reading and writing too.”


And, in an excellent and enthusiastic PowerPoint presentation (“Web 2.0 – Join the journey”) , for a Summer Institute for School Librarians by Lori Franklin, our Core Values Fables pages were recommended in her section called “Why in the world wiki?”

Even cooler!

I’m making sure I take lots of notes (ie. “evidence-based practice”) again as I run the program this term. I’m already realising that some things I did last year, as a bit of a fluke, were very effective. We still don’t have an interactive whiteboard in the school, so last year, when I had the wiki page set up on a bank of three computers, the students were able to see, quite dramatically, that changes to one wiki page on one computer, were instantaneously altered on the other two computer screens, after a simple page refresh. I only had one screen on for the first lesson this year and I suddenly realised a missed opportunity.

The twelve students, from three different classes, are highly motivated and are excited about working together on some “special”. I was impressed that they seem to be more Internet savvy than the 2007 group. It will be an interesting term!

More learning, growing and achieving

Unlike the last conference I was asked to speak at, I went into today’s events without that heavy weight of responsibility and impending disaster. I mean, if I could fill an hour on my own last time, how much easier would it be this time? We knew our material back-to-front, if necessary. The most difficult aspect would surely be, what bits do I leave out?

My co-presenter, Cath Keane, had prepared eleven of our PowerPoint pages, I’d added my own hyperlinks to the twelfth and last slide, and we only had 50 minutes or so to fill anyway. We also had plenty of time before our session, “Young rappers”, to play on the interactive whiteboard (IWB), test our hyperlinks and cache all our web pages that we were planning to visit. We also knew in advance that we had about twenty people signed up to hear our talk. Everything worked in the rehearsal and off we went to the first keynote event of Day 2 of this Early Years Conference.

Clinical psychologist, Lyn Worsley, presented her fascinating session on “The resilience doughnut: the secret of strong kids” and, while she probably didn’t say anything terribly new, especially to a ballroom filled with teachers who already had solid backgrounds in early childhood education, the strength of her approach was the clear answer of “where to know?” that one could glean after having used her clever, simple analytical tool for gauging the resilience of a particular student. Wonderful!

Before we knew it, Cath and I were deep into our presentation on book raps, blogs, wikis and Circle Time. Our only hitch was that our computer connection, which had worked so perfectly in rehearsal, had been lost for the presentation. A tech person came in and got us back online most efficiently, but our live connection to the Wilfrid rap blog (on Edublogs) was no longer working. Luckily, our PowerPoint had lots of frame grabs from the site, and the links to the Departmental website and my school’s wiki pages were still viable, so we carried on regardless. We finished off with a reading of my Kinder students’ “Zebra with spots” fable of 2007, and a walk-through of selected pages from my school’s wiki pages. I hope our presentation has encouraged more schools to start dabbling in wikis and blogs.

It all seemed to go very well, but a highlight for me was that two attendees hung back at the end to (re)introduce themselves. It was none other than Warren and Kathy, two of my colleagues from my teachers college days! They’d noticed each other in the audience of my workshop session – I’m not sure at what point they realised that I was also from the same year – but morning tea turned out to be a mini-reunion of the Class of ’79 of the Guild Teachers College. We swapped anecdotes about the good ol’ days and pocket histories of our lives. It was the first time we’d seen each other since Graduation Day in 1980 – very exciting, and great to know that they are doing so well in their own teaching careers. (I can see a bigger reunion coming up in the next few months! I hope.)

Next up was Peter Gould, Manager, Mathematics at NSW DET – and one of the people I worked with on numerous occasions back in my Scan editor days. Peter’s keynote was “From ABC to 123: what counts in early numeracy” and – despite some frustrating glitches with the movie clip elements of his presentation – it was an invaluable reminder of the essential differences in the ways young children learn to be numerate as opposed to literate.

After lunch, I attended two more workshops, both of which (again) ably demonstrated the amazing array of teaching and learning strategies that interactive whiteboards are bringing to classrooms in the 21st century. I guess that’s the main thing I’m taking from this conference: that most of today’s students are already citizens of the digital world of Web 2.0. The sooner their teachers and parents play catch-up the better. Every presentation I went to was using IWBs as part of their presentation – even my presentation, and today was the first time I’d actually been able to use one! Knowing that a little knowledge is dangerous, I can’t wait to get my hands on an IWB as part of my school library’s facilities and let my imagination run wild. Or wilder.

This conference left its delegates with so much food for thought (and delicious food for the body – the Novotel, Brighton-le-Lands always does well in that regard), great ideas we can start using on Monday (first day back of Term Three), and some wonderful memories of networking with colleagues, old and new. Synthesising all the learning into our daily lives will take time, but I’m glad I gave up two days of my vacation to absorb it all. I’m also grateful for the very handsome, gold-embossed “Presenter” pens, which Cath and I received for doing our workshop.

Roll on Term Three…