Posts Tagged ‘Literacy’

The Science of Choosing the Right Classroom Novel

November 18, 2019


Is there any challenge greater for a classroom literacy teacher than choosing a classroom novel?

Especially in today’s times when kids are turning off reading in preference for everything but.

Some of your students need a book that will stimulate them and others need a book that will not go over their head. Some require a page-turning thriller, others need a toilet humour laden comedy.

If you go straight to the bestsellers or award winners you are confronted with another issue. Those books have all been made into big studio Hollywood movies. This doesn’t faze some teachers. They like the fact they can use up a few lessons up watching the film after completing the book. I hate it. There is nothing worse than introducing a book that some kids have read and an overwhelming majority know it based on the movie’s inferior depiction of the story and central themes.

When I sat down to write my forthcoming debut novel, My Favourite Comedian, I was very mindful about the need to provide something for all types of readers.

I will be making the ebook version of the book free for teachers for a period after I launch it. Hopefully, it makes the overwhelming task of choosing a class novel a little bit easier.


3 Reasons Why Writing Standards are Falling in the Classroom

August 2, 2017


The standardised Naplan tests are back and surprise, surprise, it shows a decline in writing standards.

Many will be scratching their heads and asking why?

Below are 3 theories I have to explain the decline.


  1. Kids hate writing – It’s a struggle to get kids to write. They detest it. And don’t even bring up a second and third draft. No way are kids amenable to fixing up their already “perfect” first attempt. Teachers, in their bid to engage the class often keep writing lessons to a bare minimum. This of course has a major impact on the quality of their writing.
  2. Technology – There is a technology race among schools. Schools are constantly trying to outdo each other by embracing cutting edge technology. Technology does next to nothing to improve “bricks and mortar” skills like writing.
  3. Teachers Choose What Writing Genre to Focus on – Teachers are often given the choice as to what writing genre to focus on. They often choose the easy ones and the ones they are most comfortable with. Recounts and procedural writing are popular mainstays in classrooms. Instead of finding out the genres the students have already covered in previous years, teachers are only to happy to revise the same old tired genres for no other reason that they are easy to teach, write and mark. In the meantime, more difficult genres are hardly ever looked at.



Click on the link to read You Can Blame Me for My Students’ Standardized Test Scores

Click on the link to read Teacher Writes Truly Inspirational Letter to Her Students

Click on the link to read Redirect Your Frustrations About Common Core

Click on the link to read Perhaps There Should be a Standardized Test for Teachers

Click on the link to read Reasons Why I am Forced to Teach to the Test

Things Your Teachers Taught You That Are Wrong

January 4, 2017


A great list compiled and written by Misty Adoniou:


1. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction

Let’s start with the grammatical sin I have already committed in this article. You can’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

Obviously you can, because I did. And I expect I will do it again before the end of this article. There, I knew I would!

Those who say it is always incorrect to start a sentence with a conjunction, like “and” or “but”, sit in the prescriptivist camp.

However, according to the descriptivists, at this point in our linguistic history, it is fine to start a sentence with a conjunction in an op-ed article like this, or in a novel or a poem.

It is less acceptable to start a sentence with a conjunction in an academic journal article, or in an essay for my son’s high school economics teacher, as it turns out.

But times are changing.

2. You can’t end a sentence with a preposition

Well, in Latin you can’t. In English you can, and we do all the time.

Admittedly a lot of the younger generation don’t even know what a preposition is, so this rule is already obsolete. But let’s have a look at it anyway, for old time’s sake.

According to this rule, it is wrong to say “Who did you go to the movies with?”

Instead, the prescriptivists would have me say “With whom did you go to the movies?”

I’m saving that structure for when I’m making polite chat with the Queen on my next visit to the palace.

That’s not a sarcastic comment, just a fanciful one. I’m glad I know how to structure my sentences for different audiences. It is a powerful tool. It means I usually feel comfortable in whatever social circumstances I find myself in, and I can change my writing style according to purpose and audience.

That is why we should teach grammar in schools. We need to give our children a full repertoire of language so that they can make grammatical choices that will allow them to speak and write for a wide range of audiences.


Feminist Icons in Children’s and Teen Books

March 8, 2015

Film Review The Hunger Games Mockingjay Part 1


A list compiled by Sarah Alderson courtesy of


  1. Pirate Girl (Pirate Girl by Cornelia Funke)

Our eponymous Pirate Girl, Molly, sets off alone in her boat to visit her grandmother and is set upon by a fierce pirate captain who takes her prisoner and makes her slave away for him, cooking and cleaning. But Molly refuses to be cowed and instead uses her wits to summon her mother – the fiercest pirate of the lot – to rescue her. Together with her mum, Molly turns the tables on her captors and heads off alone once more to visit grandma. Female characters for the under-fives don’t come more brave or bold than this.

2. Matilda (Matilda by Roald Dahl)

My daughter Alula says about Matilda: “She’s really powerful. She refuses to be bullied or watch others being bullied. She shows that being intelligent and reading books, and being kind, is more important than being pretty.” And that says it all really.


3. Luna Lovegood (Harry Potter series by JK Rowling)

Oft overlooked, Luna Lovegood stands out among the pantheon of great female characters Rowling offers us in the Potter series. Yes, Hermione is the classic choice but Luna too is smart, brave and loyal, and more than that, she refuses to bow to bullying or pressure to change. She is who she is – quirky and strange – and is unapologetic about it. She embraces her weirdness, remains compassionate to those who bully her and is unfazed by critics. We love Luna!

4. Malala (I am Malala and the young readers’ edition Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up For Education and changed the World by Malala Yousafzai and Patricia McCormick)

At just 17 years old, human rights activist Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2014 for her work in advocating for girls’ education. Shot by the Taliban for speaking up on the right of girls to attend school, she has since started a fund to empower girls to reach their full potential. Her story is incredibly inspiring.

5. Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins)

Yes, Katniss is strong, brave and can wield a bow and arrow like nobody else. She also becomes the poster child for equality for all, but it isn’t this alone that makes her a feminist, I would argue that the way she forges relationships with others, particularly women and girls, in defiance of a patriarchal society, is why she ultimately triumphs in the arena and what makes her such a special character in the YA world.

6. Celie (The Color Purple by Alice Walker)

Alice Walker’s famous novel tells the story of Celie, a poor black woman in 1900s America. Starting off as a victim of abuse Celie finally learns, through the support, example and sisterhood of other black women, to speak up for herself, and ultimately finds the courage to make her own choices.

7. Tavi Gevinson (Rookie Yearbook edited by Tavi Gevinson)

At just 18 years old, Tavi Gevinson is hailed as one of her generation’s leading voices. The website she founded and edits, Rookie, tackles subjects from break-ups to politics, with all the content (art and writing) contributed by teenagers as well as influential thinkers, musicians and creatives. The yearbooks (there are three) contain curated highlights from the website.

8. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (We Should All Be Feminists by Chimanada Ngozi Adichie)

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, the author of the award winning novel Half a Yellow Sun (another recommended teen reading), writes a funny and accessible book (based on her TEDx talk) about what it means to be a feminist today, and entreats everyone to consider the profound ways that inequality affects us all.

9. Melinda Sordino (Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson)

Teenage Melinda is finally set free from her traumatic burden of silence by choosing to speak up against her rapist and by fighting back against the cultural and societal pressure imposed on her to keep quiet about the attack. In doing so she becomes a symbol of courage and power to all victims of abuse.

10. Lena Dunham (Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham)

This is the book I wish I had read as a teenager. Musing on issues including body image, sex, mental health, friendship, career and sexuality with her trademark honesty and wit, Lena Dunham admits she’s a ‘girl who is keen on having it all’ and then humbly offers her own nuggets of wisdom and experience to help others do the same.



Strategies for Improving Reading Comprehension.

December 28, 2014


Via Mark Barnes



Click on the link to read List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

Click on the link to read Helping Children Become Successful Readers

Click on the link to read Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

Click on the link to read How Spelling Mistakes can Turn a Compliment into Something Quite Different.

Click on the link to read Why Spelling is Important at Starbucks

List of Kids Books that Would Make Great Christmas Gifts

December 20, 2014


List courtesy of The Huffington Post:



  • Up & Down by Britta Teckentrup
    Sometimes the simplest books are the best, and this story about two penguins trying to reach each other across a great divide is lovely. The youngest readers will love learning about directions as they lift flaps that take the penguins inside and outside of dark tunnels, in front of dolphins and behind sharks, and up and down icebergs until they’re together at last.


  • Before After by Anne-Margot Ramstein & Matthias Arégui
    An enormous book of paired illustrations each showing a different before and after will keep your children entertained for hours. The absence of text allows them to tell their own stories, and you may be surprised with what they come up with.


  • Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall
    Poor Red. It says red on his label, so he must be red. Except Red isn’t. He’s blue. Everyone tries to help him be a better red, until one day he makes a new friend who likes him just the way he is. Funny and clever, with a wonderful message about embracing who we are, Red is a great addition to anyone’s holiday list.


  • Kid Sheriff And The Terrible Toads by Bob Shea, Illustrated by Lane Smith
    There is only one thing that can save Drywater Gulch from the outlaws: 7-year old Sheriff Ryan, paleontologist and lawman extraordinaire. He may ride a tortoise, but he’s quick on the draw when it comes to capturing criminals.


  • Shh! We Have a Plan by Chris Haughton
    In another boldly illustrated book, Chris Haughton introduces us to four bumbling friends with a plan to capture a beautiful bird. After a night of disasters, you’d think they’d learn their lesson, and they do. Until they see a squirrel.


  • I Wanna Go Home by Karen Kaufman Orloff, Illustrated by David Catrow
    Not everyone likes to go stay with their grandparents when their parents fly off to Bora Bora. I’ve never been to Bora Bora, but I hear it’s lovely and definitely better than playing bridge for a week at Happy Hills Retirement Community. That’s what young Alex thinks, until he discovers that grandparents can be surprisingly cool, like when they let you use their bingo winnings to buy ice cream — or fingerpaint the kitchen. Sometimes, the best trips are those you dread most.




  • Animalium, Curated by Katie Scott and Jenny Broom
    This book is an extraordinary collection of information about the vast variety of Earth’s animals, from the smallest insect to the largest whale. It’s a portable museum, open anytime you want to visit. The book is glorious — full of oversized drawings reminiscent of old-fashioned botany or Audubon prints you can only find in rare book shops. The pages are luxurious — weighty in your hands and demanding long hours of uninterrupted attention. You’ll be enchanted, and so will your kids. (Originally featured in “26 Entertaining And Educational Books For Back-To-School Season”)


  • With the rate of deforestation and habitat destruction, it probably isn’t long before many of the gorgeous birds we know and love go the way of the Dodo or the Roc. But never fear, Aviary Wonders Inc.’s Spring Catalog and Instruction Manual is here to help! Design your own birds (mix ‘n’ match wings, bodies, beaks and tails), and Aviary Wonders will provide you with parts, assembly instructions and troubleshooting should your new bird fail to perform as expected. Pointed, wry, and completely original, Kate Samworth’s debut picture book is as disturbing as it is memorable. (Originally featured in “20 Terrific Books To Read With Your Kids This Spring”)


Helping Children Become Successful Readers

November 6, 2014


A good clip by Phyllis C. Hunter.


Click on the link to read Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

Click on the link to read How Spelling Mistakes can Turn a Compliment into Something Quite Different.

Click on the link to read Why Spelling is Important at Starbucks

Click on the link to read The Ability to Spell is a Prerequisite for Getting a Tattoo (Photos)

Click on the link to read This is What Happens When You Rely on Spell Check

The Outrageous Pro-Gun Picture Book for Kids

August 6, 2014

my parents open carry

I’ve seen it all! A picture book aimed at children with the intention of making kids aware of their constitutional right to bear arms.

Can we stop using picture books as a means to pedal propaganda? Can we instead use literature to foster kids’ imagination and understanding of people and their place in society. Keep the propaganda for spam and leaflet drops:


A new “wholesome” picture book by two Michigan-based authors aims to show children the benefits of having parents who openly carry handguns.

The authors of My Parents Open Carry say their goal is to provide “a wholesome children’s book that reflects the views of the majority of the American people, ie that self-defence is a basic natural right and that firearms provide the most efficient means for that defence”.

The book depicts a day in the life of the not-so-subtly named Strong family – Dick, Bea and daughter Brenna.

As the blue-eyed trio leave the house for a fun Saturday out, Dick and Bea “retrieve their handguns from the locked gun safe and check them to make sure they are loaded. They place the handguns in their holster … in plain sight on their hips.”

Going about their weekend chores, the pistol-packing pair bump into various townsfolk who admire their decision to “open carry”, including neighbour Mr Wright.

“I see you are both packin’ as usual, good for you,” he says, cheerily. “You just never know when you might need to protect yourself and loved ones … It’s best to be prepared I always say.”

Brian Jeffs, president of a pressure group called Michigan Open Carry, co-authored the book with Nathan Nephew, a founder of MOC.

On the MOC website, Jeffs sets out the benefits of displaying a large-calibre pistol while shopping and socialising.

“It’s true that open carry has many advantages: a faster draw, a larger calibre handgun and greater round capacity; sure it’s been shown to deter crime, and it is immensely more comfortable to carry in warm weather, but it is much more than that,” he writes. “Open carry brings gun ownership out of the closet. It shows your friends and neighbours, your state and your country that you are not afraid of taking on the responsibility of protecting yourself and the ones you love from evil.”

The MOC website also carries a list of positive comments apparently from sources including James Towle, host of American Trigger Sports Network (“Outstanding, outstanding…every person should buy five copies of this book…”) and Alan Korwin of (“I love it…boy does this fill a vacuum!”)




Click on the link to read Sousa’s Techniques to Build Self-Esteem

Click on the link to read Why I Believe Classrooms Should Be Fitted With Video Cameras

Click on the link to read Are We Doing Enough to Make Our Children Happy?

Click on the link to read  Stop Pretending and Start Acting!

Click on the link to read  Some Principals Seem to Be Ignorant About Bullying

Children’s Hilariously Inappropriate Spelling Mistakes

July 2, 2014


Courtesy of via @MrMattHeinrich:


My Whole Family

Image credits:

Best Cook

Image credits: white-orchid


Image credits: odalaigh


Image credits: draftermath


Image credits:


My Goat Is In A Pen

Image credits:


Image credits: rbrown34


Image credits: Amanda Da Bast


Happy Birthday Kurt



Image credits:


Abraham Lincoln

Image credits:



Click on the link to read How Spelling Mistakes can Turn a Compliment into Something Quite Different.

Click on the link to read Why Spelling is Important at Starbucks

Click on the link to read The Ability to Spell is a Prerequisite for Getting a Tattoo (Photos)

Click on the link to read This is What Happens When You Rely on Spell Check

Click on the link to read Hilarious Menu Items Lost in Translation

Click on the link to read The 15 Most Commonly Misspelled Words in the English Language

Click on the link to read Who Said Grammar Isn’t Important?

Click on the link to read Why Spelling is Important


Instructing Teachers to be Frauds

July 1, 2014


A good teacher relies on a relationship with their students built on trust. Our students will only take appropriate risks and be sufficiently motivated if they trust that the teacher is genuine and dependable.

I don’t care how well intentioned the cause may be, I am not about to pretend, cheat or con my students about anything. If a book I am reading makes me emotional, my students will notice. If it doesn’t resonate with me, I will most certainly not pretend it does:


Teachers should let themselves cry in class when reading poignant stories to help teach children that books matter, the author Michael Morpurgo has said.

Morpurgo, the former children’s laureate and writer of War Horse, said showing emotion in schools when reading sad tales should not be avoided, being an essential part of being a “good teacher”.

Speaking at the Chalke Valley History Festival, where he discussed his First World War novels, he added it was important to let children see stories can touch the adults around them, to help them learn the value of literature.

His novels, including War Horse and Private Peaceful, are known for their emotive subject matters and tell the often distressing stories about the First World War.

Speaking in front of an audience of children, Morpurgo argued it was essential to tell them the truth about life, without patronising them by “wrapping everything up in a little pink bow”.



Click on the link to read 10 Questions to Get Kids Thinking Deeper About their Books.

Click on the link to read 24 Books to Get Your Children Reading

Click on the link to read 17 Children’s Books You Still Love as an Adult

Click on the link to read The Telegraph’s Best Children’s Book of All Time

Click on the link to read The New York Public Library’s 100 Most Requested Children’s Books

Click on the link to read Stunning Photographs of the Most Beautiful Libraries in the World

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