Too many elephants in this school!


Coinciding with today’s National Simultaneous Storytime 2014, here’s a box of elephants from the picture book, “Too many elephants in this house” by Ursula Dubosarsky and Andrew Joyner. It was created with masking tape, red acrylic paint with sponged shading, blue corrugated cardboard, black ink permanent marker and pink and silver waterbomb balloons. Trunks were cut from matching pink and silver plastic partyware bowls.

Week 21 Boxes

Week 21 Boxes Back of Elephant house

This back panel was left unpainted deliberately. Note the yellow plastic ladder emerging from the chimney hole.

Week 21 Boxes last one in
One more elephant squeezes in!

Here’s a great book trailer for the picture book:

Too many elephants in this house by Ursula Dubosarsky
& Andrew Joyner

And an elephant story we once retold as a digital slideshow on PhotoPeach:

The elephant’s child

Just before 11.00 this morning, the school library at Penrith Public School was invaded by a herd of tiny elephants, to help celebrate National Simultaneous Storytime 2014:


Elephants 2

Elephants 3

Hicketty Picketty: preparing for Chicks R Us

This week, students in Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 will be learning the nursery rhyme Hicketty Picketty. We will also be reading Out of the egg, by Tina Matthews, which is a variation of The little red hen fairy tale.

The inclement weather last Friday gave Class 1HB another chance to brainstorm a digital story. This time they ended up with an Easter theme, which will prove useful with other classes as the term progresses:

An Easter tale

The subsequent week consolidates the learning with this digital quiz on PhotoPeach, which draws upon images and information gathered in 2011 after a unit of work based upon the annual Chicks R Us experience:

What’s in the egg?

Another picture book favourite is Clifford’s happy Easter by Norman Bridwell, which features a North American (spring season!) Easter egg hunt and the dyeing of boiled eggs.

And our PhotoPeach digital story about Clifford the Big Red Dog’s last visit to our school library:

Clifford & Phoebe at Penrith PS

Susanne Gervay and Jack’s Ponto!

Susanne Gervay at Penrith PS

Today, our school was graced by the presence of author Susanne Gervay, of “I am Jack” fame. All the attendees (Years 3-6) had been well prepped via serialised readings from “I am Jack” all this term, so it was great to see the book come to life with Susanne’s witty and frenetic presentation.

Susanne, the Ponto and Mrs Mead

Mrs Mead tried to keep up with all of Susanne’s jokes, anecdotes and anti-bullying strategies, signing for the hearing support students. Can you see Mr McLean’s growing prop of “Jack’s Ponto” in the above pic?

Ian McLean and Jack's Ponto
Mr McLean and Jack’s Ponto, photographed by Susanne Gervay

Susanne Gervay at Penrith PSwhiteSusanne Gervay at Penrith PS

Thanks Susanne for a wonderful author visit. Susanne has blogged about the day as well.

Susanne loved the story of our historic library mural!

The hobyahs!

Our Early Stage 1 and Stage 1 students revisit the old German-origin folktale, “The hobyahs”, every three years in our cyclic literacy program. We use both the Cornish turnip house and little dog Turpie version, which has quite dark overtones (with the kidnapping of a little girl) and an Australian version with a bark hut and little yellow dog, Dingo, who temporarily loses his tail, legs and head.

Here’s a Youtube production of the version by Simon Stern, set in the house made of turnips:

“The hobyahs”, narrated by garagarahebe

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!”

“Arthur” online

Era Publications have set up “Arthur online”.

You need to register at by filling in the form at the bottom of the web page. You will be able to login and preview the book from 14th May in preparation for the ALIA National Simultaneous Storytime event on 21st May. Great for large groups.

“Who’s that crossing over MY bridge?”

Impromptu roleplays can be so much fun. This week, I have read/performed the big book version of The three billy goats gruff to nine Stage 1 and Early Stage 1 classes, as part of their term’s work on fairy and folk tales.

The last class, a Kindergarten, have just left. Towards the end of our collaboratively planned lesson, the class teacher had to run an errand and, having already looked at the CBCA shortlisted books display, I decided to return to our fairy tale roleplay ideas – and suddenly we had twenty-two “trolls” hiding under tables/bridges, awaiting the arrival of some “troll food”.

While waiting to chant the now-familiar phrase, “Who’s that crossing over my bridge?”, the trolls chattered amongst themselves…

“Gee, trolls must get tired of waiting.”

“That’s why they’re so mean.”

“Hey, someone drew under this table!”

“Trolls are very naughty, you know.”

“Where is she? I’m worried.”

“Maybe a troll ate her while she was outside?”

About this time, two “trolls” elected to come out from under their bridge and be contented grass-eating goats. Scapegoats, perhaps?

And then: “Who’s that crossing over MY bridge?”

The look on the trolls’ teacher’s face was precious! Too bad she’d actually missed all the hilarious commentary that her absence had instigated.

School libraries leading learning: Day 2

The alarm clock was again set to go off at 6:00 am and, of course, I was awake – wide awake – at 4:20 am. Nothing to do except turn on my computer, dig through all my hand-scrawled notes from Circle Time evaluations of last year’s Kindergarten wiki fables project, and add them to the new wiki page I intended to use in my presentation today.

Yesterday, Dr Ross J Todd had challenged the conference presenters – and all the teacher-librarian attendees – to embrace evidence-based practice when presenting educational research results. Although I had the students’ opening comments (scribed quotes from oral statements) on a page of my school library wiki site – ready for my tutorial session today – I had not yet planned to divulge all of the the evaluation comments (scroll down the page of the same URL) from the culmination of the unit (lest I decided to use the information elsewhere).

Oh well. I’m glad I decided to appease Ross, and fill in my time until breakfast, compiling the students’ final responses onto the wiki page, and uploading it ready for today’s talk. I’d quite forgotten how informative the students’ final comments were. (“Why did we use a wiki to write and publish our core value fables?” One answer: “Pencils run out of lead”.) Comparing these closing comments against the syllabus outcomes, over the next few months, is going to be very interesting.

By 11:00 am, my session was over for the conference – I was a free man! – and had a great and more relaxed time – especially by attending: author Paul Stafford‘s fascinating talk about his Dead Bones Society (targeting reluctant young male readers) and how he has taught creative writing to hardened criminals; and an equally stimulating session, chaired by Kathy Rushton, on the Indij series of books, written by groups of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

A highlight of Day 2 was the closing panel, hosted by bookseller/teacher Paul MacDonald, and featuring several popular Australian children’s authors, including Libby Gleeson, James Roy, Kate Forsythe and Deb Abela. They were all contributing to a discussion on “Multiliteracies in a digital world”, including postulating whether “the book” was as dead as the dead trees of which books are made. (While text books and hardcopy encyclopedias may well be on their way out, none of the guests seemed to feel that children’s picture books or other fiction in book form were in too much danger – yet. Well, except for the rising cost of paper.)

Interestingly, the Kindergarten students’ work I was showcasing today backed up the professional authors’ feelings about books. One student’s response to my question of “What should we do next (ie. now that our wiki project is over)?” was:

“More drawings! Make lots more fables. Make a book with page numbers.”