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Magic Counting

Magic Counting

Magic Counting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Magic Counting

Nabeel Khan

Tete Garcia

Scribble Books, 2024

22pp., board book, RRP $A24.99

9781922585400

For generations of kids, maths has been taught as discrete strands of number, space, and measurement with little or no connection between the strands, and more often than not it is taught at a certain time each day making it appear to be a standalone subject with little or no connection to the real world, and generations of kids, particularly girls, have grown up believing that apart from being able to count and perform basic operations, it is a subject that bears little relation to their everyday lives and that it lives in the “too-hard basket”. Whether these attitudes are because of the heavy reliance on textbooks to teach it, or the ease of writing curriculum documents based on those apparently separate areas (although the Australia Curriculum now has algebra, statistics and probability included) , or teachers having the same perceptions as their students, is debatable but the outcome seems to be the same – it is a subject set apart from all others even though it has been called “the queen of sciences”. 

Forty years ago when given a class who, at the age of just 8, perceived themselves as already failing at maths because they had been streamed into the bottom group, it was clear to me that there had to be a different approach than the typical traditional textbook they had been following, and so, having had so much success teaching littlies to read with a ‘whole language classroom’ I decided to try a whole-maths classroom, with the outcome being a complete turnaround in attitude and achievement, as well as the publication of many articles in the then-authoritative Classroom magazine, as well as Maths About Me, Maths About My Year and the Eureka Maths program (all for Longman Cheshire.) My basic premise was that maths was everywhere and if we could show students how it connected to and actually drove their lives so they could see its purpose and relevance, they would be more willing to embrace it and invest their time and energy in learning how to understand and use the concepts and processes.

Which is all a long-winded way of explaining why I was so excited to have this new book arrive for review.  In it, visual artist Nabeel Khan explores the connections between shapes and numbers and the world in a way that reaches out to both the beginner and the experienced learners. Beginning with the number one – One earth turning, where countless creatures live – the reader then opens the flap=page to discover the circle, its properties and its place in nature and  its connections the spiritual beliefs of the world’s peoples, continuing the exploration for each number to ten, Khan builds on his belief that children learn more effectively if we begin from “a place of playfulness, curiosity, and tangible connection to their environment” so that maths is seen as a connected whole from the get-go. “We can find numbers and shapes everywhere: in the natural world, in art and architecture, in symbolism, and in the sky above us.”

Back in those delightful days when we were allowed to use our imaginations to teach, one of the favourite activities was to explore a maths trail where students would investigate the shapes, numbers, measurements and all the other things in the environment, whether that was around the school, around the shopping centre or even a national institution like the Australian War Memorial. Sometimes they followed trails that others had set, but often they made up their own; sometimes that had to find the correct term for a pattern of bricks and sometimes they just had to add the numbers on their letterbox but either way it provided authentic fun learning across all aspects of the discipline and all ages of the student body. Maybe this book will inspire a similar way to discover the magic as they look more closely at the maths in the world around them.

Needless to say, this is a book that has captured my interest and one that I believe, should not only be in the library’s collection but in each teacher’s toolbox because it has the potential to have a profound impact on the way we teach and understand this vital topic.  

 

  

 

Test Trouble

Test Trouble

Test Trouble

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Test Trouble

Serena Patel

Louise Forshaw

Barrington Stoke, 2024

88pp., pbk., RRP $A17.99

9781800902756

When his teacher announces that there will be a timed maths test the following Monday, Arun goes into meltdown.  Even though he is bright and attentive, tests, especially timed ones, make him feel extremely anxious as he feels the pressure to perform.  And so he is determined to get out of it by any means possible staging a protest about tests altogether (which only gets him into more trouble) and even pretending to be sick.  But then a conversation with his neighbour helps him see things in a different light….

This is a story that nearly every reader will relate to. The anxiety that comes with the expectation of being tested, and being expected to do well, no matter how often teachers and other adults try to reassure you that it is “just a test” to let them know how you’re coping and that they can know where you need support.  The fact is that the fear of not living up to expectations, particularly your own, can become bigger than the test itself and that is what distorts the results, not your lack of knowledge and understanding.  

But even though we, as teachers, know this and that there are better ways of assessing a student’s progress and program, boffins wanting to protect their positions insist on imposing tests to measure achievement as though a score on a paper on a particular day indicates anything other than that, and using the results to make all sorts of high-stakes claims and decisions.  So until there is enlightened leadership, such as the implementation of the ACT Senior Secondary Certificate, which does not require a final exam,  our students are going to find themselves in Arun’s position, sadly from their Kindergarten year. And so this is a worthwhile addition to every teacher’s toolkit, especially those who teach that middle primary area where the fear and anxiety really start to take hold, so it can be shared over and over, especially the conversation that Arun has with Mr Patel on pp48-49. Sometimes just turning up for something that we are afraid to do is the biggest achievement, and, having done that, the rest is not so hard.  

This is a little book that has the potential to have the most enormous impact.

This book is from a new imprint, Barrington Stoke, that HarperCollins UK has acquired. Many will know that Barrington Stoke print all of their titles using dyslexic-friendly paper stock, formatting and fonts. Many of their books, including this one, are hi-lo texts written by popular authors but which have been edited to have a lower reading age than interest age so it’s great that they are now going to be readily available in Australia.

Say My Name

Say My Name

Say My Name

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Say My Name

Joanna Ho

Khoa Le

HarperCollins, 2023

40pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9780063205338

There is an old riddle that goes, “What is yours alone but used by everyone else? Your name”. 

There is so much embodied in a person’s name that it can be (and was) one of the most popular units of work that I did with my students at the beginning of each year.  They loved to discover why they had the name they did, its history and significance within their family, its meaning, its cultural connections  and how it shaped their own identity. They enjoyed having conversations with family members about why it was chosen, seeing their birth announcements and sharing their stories.  But most importantly, they wanted to teach us how to say it properly because that demonstrated that we respected them, cared enough about them,  to make the effort to learn it and use it and acknowledge that they were not invisible.  Even though some chose to use a more common “European” name, there was always a spark in their eyes if their birth name was used and pronounced correctly.

In this new book by Joanna Ho, whose stories  Eyes the Kiss in the Corners and Eyes that Speak to the Stars embody and celebrate diversity in a perception-changing way, six children of Chinese, Tongan, Persian, Diné, Nahuatl, or Akan descent share the meaning and history of their names. Names that are “full of tones and rhythms, melodies and harmonies, chords and cadences, Each syllable, each sound, is a building block in an architecture constructed over oceans and across generations.” (And there is a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to help you out.)

Accompanied by stunning illustrations that are rich in the symbolism of the culture of the child, the lyrical text shows us how important it is to each child, indeed each person on the planet, to say their name correctly because “My name is a window to my world, a door to my destiny, a key to unlock the dreams of my ancestors, the hopes of my family and the divine that lives within. Anything less is not me.”

Sadly for some children having someone say their name and smile is the only positive acknowledgement that they will get in a day and it is that affirmation that they exist that is enough to bring them back to school for one more day.  If ever there was a book that demonstrates just how important your name is and how we each cling to its uniqueness, this is it.  With a pronunciation guide and other material included in the final pages to serve as a model for each child’s story, here, embedded in this literary treasure,  is your program for the first few weeks of Term 1 2024 sorted…

Just Because

Just Because

Just Because

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just Because

Matthew McConaughey

Renée Kurilla

Puffin, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781761343582

Just because I’m in the race,
doesn’t mean I’m fully ready.
Just because I’m shaking,
doesn’t mean that I’m not steady.

Using a series of rhyming couplets accompanying compelling vignettes, this new book could be your mindfulness program for the term as it explores “the contradictions and complexities that exist in each of us” as we try to navigate what we believe and  what we confront, what we expect and what we experience. By focusing on each situation and unpacking it, young readers begin to understand that their world is not black and white, that there are those fifty shades of grey and there are layers to both their feelings and their relationships as they learn about finding common ground and compromise without betraying their own beliefs and needs. 

“Just because I forgive you, doesn’t mean that I still trust.

There’s what you do, there’s what I do, and yours is not my must.”

As our little ones mature, they are able to move beyond their hands-on, here-and-now view of the world and begin to think on a more abstract level where they can see things from the perspective or others, understand cause and effect, consider what-ifs and maybes, be more flexible and able to delve into underlying meanings. This book offers a wide range of readily recognisable situations that offer lots of opportunities to discuss what the words mean and what the child might do in a similar situation as well as beginning to understand metaphorical language. For example, Just because they threw the dart doesn’t mean it stuck not only lends itself to considering when we should take notice of criticism but also whether a dart was physically thrown.  

There are many books that are released with a celebrity’s name on the front cover automatically giving them publicity but then the hype doesn’t live up to the reality, but this one deserves all it gets.  Whether it’s in a family library or the teacher’s toolkit to pull out at opportune moments, it provides possibilities for all sorts of learning as we guide our little ones to be the sorts of adults we want them to be. 

Two Sides to Every Story

Two Sides to Every Story

Two Sides to Every Story

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Two Sides to Every Story

Beck & Robin Feiner

ABC Books, 2023

32pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

 9780733341618

Oscar has a special way of looking at things.  He takes his subject, twists it this way and that, tumbles it all around, upside down and inside out, exploring it every which way until he came to a decision. Whether it was a big issue like preferring to live in the city or the country or a simple one like a fried or boiled egg for breakfast, he had to weigh up all the angles. And while this might be a little annoying to those around him as they waited for his choice, it is a different matter when it comes to the finals of the Aussie Schools Public Speaking competition…

This quirky storybook could be described as the teacher librarian’s dream… 

The Critical and Creative Thinking strand of the Australian Curriculum requires students to ” generate and evaluate knowledge, clarify concepts and ideas, seek possibilities, consider alternatives and solve problems” and that is exactly what Oscar does so here is the perfect introduction to getting students to understand not only why they need to interpret and evaluate information and situations but also how.  They can be given all sorts of simple, familiar situations to twist and turn as they look for the arguments for and against, determine fact from opinion, identify authority and purpose, objectivity and bias, relevance and currency, gather evidence and build justifications  and all the other aspects that can lead them to making an informed decision. And , at the same time, they are learning empathy and compassion, perspective and perception as they are required to put themselves in the shoes of another person and view the issue through that lens.

Nearly 30 years ago, in the early days of the internet being available and accessible to students in schools, Tom March and Bernie Dodge developed webquests, a teaching strategy initially designed to embed the use of the World Wide Web into teaching and learning, but which, had at their heart, a problem that could have several solutions based on the perspective of those involved in solving it.  Despite having faded in popularity as a teaching tool, they are still one of the most successful strategies I have used for encouraging students to develop critical thinking skills and this book is the perfect precursor to that.

A must-have in your TL toolkit.

What Do Scientists Do?

What Do Scientists Do?

What Do Scientists Do?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Do Scientists Do?

Tom Mumbray

Can Tugrul & Geraldine Sky

Usborne, 2023

80pp., hbk., RRP $A19.99

9781474969024

As they begin to learn more about the world around them and how it works, lots of our students say they want to be scientists when they grow up. But what do scientists do? In a nutshell…

“Scientists investigate how our world works. It’s their job to ask questions and find answers – by observing how things work, gathering evidence and doing experiments.”

And while they have already made so many discoveries already, there is so much more to explore and explain as new answers lead to new questions.  One scientist can’t do everything and so by posing some of the big questions such as how can we fight the climate crisis, what does the bottom of the ocean really look like and what are the safest ways to test new medicines, this book explores bot only what scientists are currently doing but which specialists are doing it.  Thus, the reader learns about the diversity of both science and being a scientist so that there is something that will fit their particular interests.

But basically, being a scientist is about being curious, observing the  world around us and asking questions about how and why it works. There are pointers about how to think and act like a scientist,  how to learn more by studying science at school, visiting science museums, watching documentaries and reading relevant books as well as the usual Quicklinks that open up even more opportunities.  It fits perfectly with the Australian Curriculum Science strand, particularly Science as a Human Endeavour and Science Inquiry Skills providing the perfect context for meeting those outcomes, so an essential in any teacher’s toolkit in my opinion.. 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

You Matter: Be Your Own Best Friend

Sue Lawson & Sue Hindle

Prue Pittock

Wild Dog, 2022

64pp., hbk., RRP $A24.99

9781742036144

With pandemic restrictions easing and life returning to a “COVID-19 normal” one of the most concerning things emerging from the lockdowns and limitations is the amount of global research focusing on the impact the time has had on children’s mental health.  And, with RATs and masks in schools bringing the disease to them directly, the anxiety and discomfort is likely to have  even greater consequences.  But while that might be the black cloud of the last two years, the silver lining is the focus that has been placed on the mental and emotional health of our young people – no longer is it just an illness of older people.

According to the experts, one of the greatest tools we can provide youngsters with is resilience -“the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change, and keep going in the face of adversity” – and this book, which talks directly to the reader, offers the tools to build this. Beginning with the affirmation that no one else in the world is like you, if offers practical ways to explore emotions and build a toolkit to help with the days when they “feel worried, worn out or just not quite right.” From learning to breathe deeply, tune into their emotions, and creating a place – physical or mental – that is safe and peaceful, the young person is offered ideas that are simple, doable and achievable.  They’re explicitly stated rather than being embedded in a what-would/could-you-do story that needs to be unpacked and have step-by-step instructions from learning to finger-breathe to writing anxieties , fears and feelings on paper and physically ripping them up. 

Mental health is a curriculum focus, even moreso now, and mindfulness part of everyday activities so as well as helping individuals directly, the suggestions could also be a toolkit for teachers to work through with students whenever there is a moment or a need. Sharing stories such as The World Awaits is an essential part of showing children that their feelings are real, shared and validated and this book is the perfect follow-up, empowering them to not only manage their emotions now but building strategies for the future.  

 

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DK Visual Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

DK, 2019 

128pp., pbk., RRP $A19.99

9780143794998

Being the daughter of journalists who were sticklers for correct grammar, the structure of our language was drummed into me from an early age and I have to say that all these years on, I’m still what is commonly called a “grammar Nazi.” In fact, just this morning I corrected this image on a friend’s Facebook feed stating that it should read, “What would you do if you knew you COULD not fail?”

And with the return of the “back to basics” of the English strand of the Australian curriculum where even our youngest students are expected to know what “rime and onset” are, the syntax of our language can be overwhelming.  Thus, having a ready reference text that helps young children understand the common parts of speech like nouns, verbs and adjectives and supports their growing knowledge of more obscure things like prepositional phrases, fronted adverbials and reported speech will be a welcome addition to any young student’s collection, (and perhaps, even their teacher’s.)  

While text speech and spelling seems to have overtaken much of our everyday writing, being able to put words on paper that carry a message over time still remains part of that which makes us human and so grammar and punctuation both have a vital place in our learning if we want to be understood by others. 

But although the more formal aspects of writing might seem daunting to those moving on from writing random thoughts and having an adult interpret and transcribe them for them, students are reassured that they know much of what they are going to learn already because every time they speak they use grammar – the purpose of this book is just to show them the different kinds of words and how they fit together.  There’s a clear explanation of how to use the three parts of the book – parts of speech, sentences and clauses, and punctuation – as well as a demonstration of what grammar and punctuation are and how they are critical to both speech and writing. 

We are all familiar with memes like this…

so teaching young children from the get-go the difference is essential if they are to realise those big dreams.

This book is one of six in the 2019 DK Australia First Reference series, which also includes First Children’s DictionaryFirst Science EncyclopediaFirst Maths GlossaryFirst Encyclopedia and First How Things Works Encyclopedia, and is going to be a valuable addition to Miss 7’s writing toolkit as she enters the new phase of her formal education.