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Posted by Lisa Hill on December 29, 2009
Students, click this link to go to the LisaHillSchoolStuff Wiki.
Posted by Lisa Hill on March 8, 2014
I read very little YA fiction but every now and again a book comes my way that takes my interest. The reissue of award-winning The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick interested me because I’d read Do-Wrong Ron by the same author to my Year 5 & 6 students. They loved it, and I admired the free verse form, perfect for reading aloud.
Well, The Simple Gift isn’t going to be okay for primary school students because it’s the coming-of-age story of homeless 16-year-old Billy who runs away to avoid an abusive father, and it’s got some language that we don’t use at school, not to mention some … um … adolescent activity that we prefer to keep …um … theoretical for primary aged students – but I thought I’d share here an example of the power of Herrick’s style:
I was ten years old
in the backyard
kicking a soccer ball
against the bedroom wall,
practising for the weekend.
My first season of sport
and I’d already scored a goal
so I kept practising, alone.
And I guess I tried too hard,
I kicked it too high,
stupid of me I know,
and I broke the bedroom window.
I stood in the yard
holding the ball
looking at the crack in the pane.
Dad came thundering out.
He didn’t look at the damage.
He’d heard it. He came over, grabbed the ball,
kicked it over the back fence
into the bushes,
gave me one hard backhander
across the face,
so hard I fell down
as much in shock as anything,
and I felt the blood
from my nose,
I could taste it dribbling it out
as Dad stood over me
no more sport
no more forever.
He walked back inside
and slammed the door
on my sporting childhood
that disappeared into the bushes
with my soccer ball.
I was ten years old.
I didn’t go inside for hours.
I looked through the back window
reading the paper
in front of the television
as if nothing
Billy takes refuge in a library, and picks up Lord of the Flies:
Lord of the lounge
It’s a good library.
Lots of books, sure,
and lounges soft and comfortable
for real reading,
and I choose one
in the corner
and I settle down
with a book about these kids
stranded on a desert island
and some try to live right
but the others go feral
and it’s s good book
and I’m there, on the island,
gorging on tropical fruit,
trying to decide
whose side I’m on.
And then it hits me.
I’m on neither.
I’d go off alone,
because you can’t trust
those who want to break the rules
and you certainly can’t trust
those who make the rules,
so you do the only thing possible,
you avoid the rules.
on the deserted island
of a soft lounge
in Bendarat Library.
from The Simple Gift by Steven Herrick, UQP (University of Queensland Press), 2000, reissued 2014, ISBN 9780702231339, p. 15-16, and p23-24.
Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers
Posted by Lisa Hill on March 4, 2014
This year, as everyone knows, is the centenary of the beginning of the Great War, and next year is the centenary of the Gallipoli landing – and it is obvious already that there is a flood of new books about the Anzacs. Teachers are going to have to be discerning about what they use and how they use these new books, because if there’s one bit of research that every teacher of history should know, it’s that students get very tired of covering the same topic again and again.
At my school, we already have a good collection of picture books from commercial publishers and numerous kits from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Shrine of Remembrance and the Australian War Memorial. Some of them are better than others, because it takes writerly skill to treat this topic in a way that’s suitable for primary school children yet isn’t too sentimental, mawkish or jingoistic. We want children to know their history, but we also want them to learn the processes of history: investigating evidence, exploring different points of view, and recognising that there’s more than one way of telling the story of Australia’s participation in this war. At my school, we also need to tread warily: some of our refugee students know about war at first hand. And I needn’t remind readers of this blog that we now have politicians revisiting interference in the history curriculum with nationalistic demands that sit uneasily with the spirit of teaching the history of this or any other topic.
Meet the Anzacs is the fifth in the the Random House Meet … series of picture books focussing on men and women of Australia’s history, but it’s the first that’s not about a particular person. (The other one in this series that I’ve reviewed was Meet Mary McKillop) but we’ve also got Meet Ned Kelly and due for release soon is my own personal hero, Meet Douglas Mawson. Meet the Anzacs is pretty much what you’d expect it to be: it’s suitable for primary aged children in content and style, explaining the assorted reasons men had for enlistment and the amateurish training they had, but tactfully omitting the hooliganism and worse in of the Anzacs in Egypt, and leaving the carnage on the beach to the imagination. I really liked the way this was handled: text telling the reader that the landing was not at all what the soldiers had expected, with a double page picture showing what a lost cause the venture was because of the geography of Anzac Cove. This would be a great page for discussion, I think. The art work, by Max Berry is particularly good because, as you can see from the front cover, it de-sentimentalises the men. These soldiers look like real Aussie blokes.
But the arrival of Meet the Anzacs made me realise that my school needed a plan for 2014, so that each area of the school is covering a different aspect of the Anzac Story. Using content from the Australian Curriculum for History, we’ve sorted out who’s doing what this year, and have left ourselves ‘wriggle-room’ for 2015. Meet the Anzacs is well suited for the Gallipoli centenary next year because it explains the facts in simple terms that make it suitable for Year 1 & 2 and the illustrations by Max Berry are excellent.
The plan for Preps
We’re keeping it low-key for the preps. No stories of blood and suffering for five-year-olds, it’s not appropriate. Prep history is mainly concerned with learning about the past through photos and artifacts, so they’re going to read Phil Cumming’s lovely book, Anzac Biscuits about a child baking biscuits for her father, and the soldier eventually receiving the biscuits from his daughter at the front. It’s a beautiful, tender book, and the pictures by Owen Swan link the family separated by war using visual symbols such as snowflakes at the front and flour being sprinkled on the kitchen table. Classes will bake some biscuits too, of course. I also found a terrific photo of a soldier posing with his wife on the eve of his departure for war: the children can talk about clothing of the past, including the uniform, and they can also investigate the concept of photos as evidence of events that happened long ago. But I am hoping that someone will issue something else that’s suitably gentle for this age group, in time for next year. (I found one called The ANZAC Puppy by New Zealand author Peter Millett at Fishpond, and it looks as if it might be suitable, but I haven’t got a copy of it yet.
Years 1 & 2
The AC content for Years 1 & 2 suggests investigating local buildings of historical significance, so these classes are going to walk to our local war memorial for the school’s wreath-laying ceremony. They’ll also use the ‘We Remember’ kit produced by the Australian War Memorial: it has useful posters of memorials and symbols such as honour rolls and wreaths, and it includes a Big Book ‘Remembering Charlie Cooper’ about some kids who become interested in the names on their local memorial. It’s not great literature and the illustrations are a bit pedestrian, but the story covers the topic well without being too heavy-handed for this age group. We’ve also got a full-sized poster of the Shrine of Remembrance, and they’ll use that too. (There is a book called My Grandad Marches on Anzac Day but they had that one last year). Publishers could usefully check out the Australian Curriculum for this age group and commission a really talented writer of children’s books to produce something appropriate for 2015 as well.
Years 3 & 4
The AC for Years 3 & 4 includes looking at commemorations around the world, and we’ve tweaked this a bit so that we can use three books that we have in our collection. The first is a new one called The Promise, by Derek Guille, and it’s a bilingual book, written in French and English, about how Australian soldiers liberated the village of Villers-Bretonneux on 25 April 1918, and how school children from Victoria raised money to help rebuild the village school. With an unusual plot-line involving a commemoration by the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, the books shows how the villagers have kept their promise that they would never forget Australia. (There is another one on this theme called Le Quesnoy: The Story of the Town New Zealand Saved by Glyn Harper which might be worth getting hold of too.)
Anzac Cottage: The House That Was Built in a Day by Valerie Everett isn’t a story from overseas, but this tale of a house that was built by 200 people in Perth for one of the first wounded ANZAC soldiers to return from Gallipoli is about the 90th anniversary of this community event, and I think it’s an appropriate text to use. The other text is rather old one called A War Far Away by Pauline Cartwright. It may be hard to find: it’s about a Kiwi teacher who goes away to war and is killed. It’s a bit sombre, but I like the way it shows the human cost of war in the wider community and I think it’s all right for this age group. (ISBN: 0170078205, EAN 9780170078207 & originally part of a set of books called The Highgate Collection, now out of print. A smart publisher would reissue this).
Years 5 & 6
Years 5 & 6 are going to research the role of women in WW1. They’ll use a DVA publication called Devotion and another called Australian Women in War (both of which you can download for free here) – we also have some posters typical of their era: one that shows the nurses of the 1942 Banka Island massacre needing to be avenged and another which proclaims that war is a man’s job. I would also recommend that anyone doing this topic also read Kitty’s War by Janet Butler: it is a superb history which interrogates Nurse Kitty McNaughton’s diary, analysing what she included and what she left out, and why. It’s also a vivid picture of the dangers nurses faced and the discrimination they dealt with, and any teacher who reads it will be able to enliven her lessons with an authentic and riveting story. If you can’t get hold of it, read my review instead: it’s a poor substitute for the real thing but it’s better than nothing. It’s high time that a publisher produced a picture biography of the nurses of WW1, and Kitty McNaughton would be an ideal subject.
In the Library, I’m developing a unit for Years 5 & 6 called Indigenous Service. Last year with Y 3 & 4, I taught a unit called Animals at War, using the DVA kit, M is for Mates. (Again, download it for free by clicking the link). Students researched ways in which animals were used: donkeys (yes, including the famous one), horses, carrier-pigeons, dogs and camels. This is an interesting way of making children aware of war beyond the trench warfare images: they learned about how the animals were and weren’t cared for, and at the end of the unit we had a lively discussion about the ethics of using animals in warfare, given how we now feel about animal welfare issues. I’ll teach this unit again next year in 1915.
The Indigenous Service unit for this year will be closely based on advice in the Indigenous Service kit for Primary schools. (Make sure you download the one for Primary schools.
Other books you might use can be found at Kidsize Living.
Download our plan in Word and adapt it to suit your own school. ANZAC COMMEMORATIONS (Whole School Plan) 2014-5 (2)
Click the book covers to buy these books from Fishpond.
Posted in Australian History, Book Reviews, School Library stuff | Tagged: Australian Curriculum and the Anzac Story, Claire Saxby, Meet the Anzacs, Teaching the ANZAC story in Primary school | 7 Comments »
Posted by Lisa Hill on February 8, 2014
Teachers in the government system are very rarely publicly acknowledged for the work they do, and nowhere is this more evident when the time comes for retirement.
The Education Department takes no notice at all. Towards the end of a career they have a shabby little acknowledgement of years of service when they dispatch a form requiring authorisation for a certificate acknowledging 35 or 40 years of service: it doesn’t even come with pre-paid postage, the recipient has to attach a stamp advising them if the certificate is wanted or if they wish to attend the ‘ceremony’ where it is presented. The ceremony is, of course, after work, and since it consists of strangers also ’celebrating’ their years of service, it seems a lot like more of the unpaid overtime that teachers routinely do. Because the department knows absolutely nothing about the work done in the years of service, it falls to the hapless principal to research a few details, adding to her workload for no useful purpose at all since none of the other people attending the ‘ceremony’ are, with the best will in the world, likely to be genuinely interested. The proceedings cost the department the price of an A4 piece of paper and minor catering expenses.
When a teacher in a government school retires, there is usually some sort of ceremony at the school, and depending on its resources, there will be some sort of gift and some speeches made. I have been to some rather shabby functions like this: a multipurpose room at the school jazzed up with a balloon or two and some photos. There are nibbles brought by the other teachers; and the resident wit usually makes what is thought to be a comic speech. Very rarely will there be a speech that actually outlines the teacher’s achievements beyond the obvious. These retirement functions were at their worst in the Kennett years, when the premier eliminated 7000 teaching positions and told parents that it would make no difference to the quality of education. 7000 retirements is a lot, and retirement function fatigue soon set in. Many of our best teachers left the service without anyone marking their departure at all.
This week, my old mate Alan retired. On Friday after school, in a hot staff room where I was the only colleague from any of his previous schools, there were generous speeches from senior staff, and it was obvious from the crowd that he was a well-loved member of staff and they were sorry to see him go. But it was Alan’s inspiring speech that made this a special occasion for me and for everyone else who was present.
I’ve known Alan for more than 25 years, and I’ve always known him to be a wonderful teacher. We taught together for five years, and have kept in touch with regular social gatherings of staff from that school ever since. But it was not until Alan rose to say his farewells that I had the opportunity to hear him articulate his reasons for sticking with the job.
It was because he had once heard someone say that the kids who end up in gaol are the ones who can’t read. Because they can’t read, they can’t get decent jobs and they lack the skills to make a success of their lives. Alan determined there and then that he would always do his very best to see that any child who came into his care would learn to read properly.
A modest man, Alan admitted that he didn’t always succeed. But he tried. He never gave up. It was his mission in life, and he gave it his best shot.
If the Minister for Education had any idea what the profession has lost in the retirement of my mate Alan, they would have been there with a gold watch, at the very least.
Posted by Lisa Hill on February 7, 2014
As many school teachers know, the history of Australian Federation is a bit of a dry and dusty topic for students, and it takes a great deal of skill to make it palatable. Which is why I welcome this very readable biography of Henry Parkes a.k.a. ‘The Father of Federation’ because there are plenty of interesting titbits to liven up proceedings in the classroom.
He looks such a miserable old fogey, doesn’t he? It’s probably just the way his shaggy beard grew, but the drooping moustache makes him look positively sour. So it was a considerable surprise to discover that there was more than one young woman who took a fancy to him in his dotage: he had a mistress of long standing who was more than half his age and – aged 73 – Parkes married her very promptly as soon as his long-suffering wife Clarinda died. And gosh! three months after Nellie died he whisked off her nurse, 23-year old Julia Lynch, to the altar!
I lost track of all his children but the bio has a handy family tree to remind me that he fathered 17 children altogether, which is all the more remarkable considering his propensity for getting into debt. How they didn’t all end up in the Poor House or starving in a gutter is a minor miracle. He was absolutely hopeless with money, starting one futile business after another, declaring himself bankrupt half-a-dozen times or so, and finally dying with nothing more than a burial plot to his name. Still, next time I’m in the Blue Mountains near Faulconbridge, I think I might visit to pay my respects, because for all his flaws, this man was the visionary who united the Australian States, and much more besides.
The book begins with some Notable Quotes (sic) from H.P., my favourite of which is this:
On Australians’ Obsession with Sport
‘One danger to a sound and healthy public spirit in Australia is the inordinate appetite for sports and amusements … Man in a civilised state has capacities for something more.’
There’s more to this comment than meets the eye. (It’s from his book, Fifty Years of Australian History, 1892.) Parkes was an entirely self-made man. He emigrated to Australia with little more than hope and a wife (Clarinda), and through hard work, ambition and initiative he rose to become Premier of New South Wales when that was the highest political office in the land. He was self-educated, incredibly hard-working, and had no time for self-indulgence with amusements of any kind. So, reading between the lines, I suspect that he would have wished that there were more people like him at that crucial time in the colony’s history, more people of an ordinary background like his on the parliamentary benches, more people who understood the importance of improving the lot of ordinary people for the wealth of a nation.
The list of his initiatives is impressive. Most notable is his championing of the rights of women. At a speech in Adelaide in 1892, he said:
We cannot term ourselves a democracy as long as we exclude half the human race from the franchise… I have always favoured women’s franchise, and no one could be a democrat unless he also does so. I admit women’s claim to the franchise because of their common humanity, as intelligent, responsible members of the community. (p. 360)
And even though it doesn’t seem much of a big deal now, he put his beliefs into practice when he could. When the husband of the husband-and-wife team who ran the parliamentary dining-room died, he terminated the advert for a replacement declaring that the widow Agnes Dettman, was perfectly capable of running it on her own. Although unsuccessful, he also tried to have his daughter Menie employed as Australia’s first female journalist.
Among his other achievements, he also introduced the Public Education Act in 1866, requiring for the first time that teachers be properly trained, and was responsible for improvements in nursing standards when he asked Florence Nightingale to send nurse-trainers to the colony.
There were some less edifying aspects to his career. Quite apart from his frequent insolvencies involving astronomical amounts of money, he seems to have been involved in some dubious practices with cheques, and he borrowed huge sums of money when he had no real prospect of ever repaying it. What is remarkable about this is the extent to which his friends and supporters baled him out, time and again, because they recognised his remarkable leadership qualities. What he needed was a good accountant!
With the benefit of a more inclusive age, we can now see also that his acts to limit Chinese immigration were racist, and so was the exclusion of Australia’s indigenous people from the Constitution. (This latter omission is not something that is acknowledged by Dando-Collins, which it should have been.)
It was interesting to learn that elections in this turbulent period of NSW politics were almost constant, and they were not held for all electorates on the same day. This meant that Parkes could stand in one electorate and if he failed to win, he could then stand in another electorate in the next round and get a seat that way. On more than one occasion, after resigning his seat for one reason or another, he declined to stand, but his supporters nominated him in some country seat and he won it notwithstanding. There was also a quaint custom that required anyone appointed to a cabinet position to resign his seat and go back to his electorate for reindorsement. Imagine that today!
I hope schools invest in a copy of this biography: I’ve taken a look at the long, verbose and somewhat confusing entry for Henry Parkes at Wikipedia, and I think that students would be much better off using this book. The author’s style makes light work of a complex career, and it humanises the man as well:
Henry found that he could relax at Helene [their home at Ryde, then a rural outpost of Sydney], although he was only there one day a week at best. Setting up a camp bed in his new Empire office [where he ran his doomed newspaper], he spent six days a week there, only heading to Ryde by steam ferry most Saturday nights, returning to the city on Sunday nights. At Helene he filled his study with the books collected over the years, while outdoors he began to build a collection of birds and animals which would grow more and more exotic over the years. Every Sunday morning during 1855-56, Parkes would go for a tramp through Helene’s bushland, intent on trapping a wallaby to add to his collection. Ryde’s wily wallabies were always much too quick for him, and he would never succeed in catching one. Nonetheless, a wallaby would soon join his collection – in 1856, the master of Regentville, Robert Jamison, son of the late Sir John Jamison, Parkes’ first employer in New South Wales, would give Parkes one as a gift.
As comfortable as Parkes had made himself, and as happy as he had made his family, this new lifestyle was unsustainable. It had been built on a mountain of debt, which only grew larger. In late 1854, just as Parkes had been revelling in his first months in the legislature and planning the relocation to 173 George St and Helene, a recession hit the New South Wales economy, and advertising revenue at the Empire had halved. Yet, instead of tightening the belt, Parkes had thrown the belt away. It was a case of wishful thinking fogging reality, with Parkes seeing what he wanted to see. (p. 113)
The biography is also enjoyable reading for teachers who just want a bit of extra background to liven up their lessons about Federation!
The book includes B&W photos, an index, notes for each chapter, a bibliography and a family tree of Parkes’ wives and children. I would have liked a timeline too.
Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers.
Author: Stephen Dando-Collins
Title: Sir Henry Parkes, The Australian Colossus
Publisher: Knopf, 2013
Source: Kingston Library
Posted by Lisa Hill on January 18, 2014
The Art of Children’s Literature: What makes a picture book a classic by Lisa Clausen at The Monthly is essential reading for teachers, teacher-librarians, parents and anybody who cares about books and reading:
Anyone who has ever loved a picture book knows how much they matter. They make sense of the world, even as they rearrange it with flying beds and tigers at the dinner table. They feed a child’s imagination. They delight and scare and comfort. They create readers. And some, because of the worlds they bring into being, or by an alchemy of voice and story, lodge in a child’s memory so deeply that they never really leave.
To read the rest of this article, visit The Monthly.
@OzKidsYALit for the link.
Posted in Australian Children's Literature, Learning and teaching, School Library stuff | Tagged: Lisa Clausen, The Art of Children's Literature What makes a picture book a classic | Leave a Comment »
Posted by Lisa Hill on January 17, 2014
That’s a Kaurna translation of a contemporary greeting now used in Pitjantjatjara and other Aboriginal languages, and it’s my introduction to learning the Kaurna language of the Adelaide Plains in South Australia.
It’s long been a concern of mine that although I can fudge my way around in Europe with a smattering of languages, I don’t even know how to say thank you in any of the indigenous languages of my own country. There is no better way to understand another’s culture than to learn a bit of their language, and that is why I am so delighted that Wakefield Press has sent me this book.
It is a beautiful, enticing, brightly-coloured book on glossy paper with lots of illustrations to complement the lessons, but it begins in a way that no other ‘teach yourself a language’ text does. In the preface there are 23 profiles of the people who contributed to this book, making the salient point that like nearly all Aboriginal languages the Kaurna language has been put at risk by a combination of factors arising from the colonisation of the continent by the British. In different ways and coming from different starting points, these profiles confirm what I already knew from talking to award-winning indigenous author Kim Scott, that the resurrection of these languages is difficult when so many indigenous Australians – whose birthright these languages are – were severed from their families, their culture and their language under Stolen Generation policies. That is why a book like this is so important.
Languages have all kinds of embedded cultural codes: Kaurna is a bit like Indonesian in that in some contexts what is said changes according to how many people are being spoken to, and how. For example, in Indonesian, unlike in English, the word ‘we’ can be inclusive of the people being addressed (kita), and exclusive of them (kami). In Kaurna the traditional ‘where are you going?’ greeting varies according to whether you are speaking to one person, two, or more than two. This distinction bothered me in choosing the contemporary greeting Naa marni? because I am not sure of the etiquette for addressing the readers of blogs! I assume that most people are reading this as individuals, but I expect that it will be read in toto by many, certainly more than two. In the end I went with more than two, but I am not confident that I am correct. It’s always, always better to learn a language from a native speaker who can help out with thorny issues like this …
My next stumble came with the word ‘thank you’. The text explains that Aboriginal languages didn’t have words for thanking people because in pre-colonial times people did things for others either because they were obliged to under kinship rules or because they wanted to. Indigenous Australians don’t expect to be thanked; what is more likely is an expression of affection such as Ngaityo yungandalya (My brother!) or Ngaityu yakanantalya (My sister!) Ngaityalya (My dear!) can be used for anyone regardless of age, gender or relationship to the speaker. This last form is an example of the way indigenous languages have adapted to contemporary needs. The suffix -alya on the end, is explained in a little grammar box on the side of the text: it expresses endearment. How nice to have a language grammar which expresses endearment! The only equivalent I can think of in English is adding -kin/s to the end of a word, as in lambkin, or using it to add to the name of my grandniece, as in Poppykins. I have a feeling that my use of this suffix -kin betrays either my age or my origins!
Look how much I’ve learned simply by exploring how to say ‘hello‘ and ‘thank you’! Even if I never ever get a chance to use this language, this book is invaluable. But I’m going to have a go with these chapters to guide me:
I’m intrigued by the two long sections about Talking about Space and Time, because I already know from teaching indigenous children that their concepts about this are entirely different to ours, and I’m also keen to explore the differences between Talking with Children, and Talking with Elders.
The book is designed for people who are teaching Kaurna and assumes no knowledge of the language or even the culture: apart from the easy-to-understand lessons which are based on a communicative approach there are posters at the back (which can also be ordered from the creators).
The blurb at the back of the book sums it up better than I ever could:
Awakening a sleeping beauty tongue is a remarkable achievement of ethical, aesthetic and utilitarian significance. This textbook is an exquisite contribution to Revivalistics, a new field emerging in the wake of greater concern about intangible heritage, intellectual sovereignty, human wellbeing and social justice.
Professor Ghil’ad Zuckerman, chair of Linguistics and Endangered Languages, University of Adelaide.
Marni padni! (Go well!)
Cross-posted at ANZ LitLovers
Authors: Rob Amery and Jane Simpson
Title: Kulurdu Marni Ngathaitya! A Kaurna Learner’s Guide
Publisher: Wakefield Press, 2013
Posted in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander histories and cultures, Book Reviews, Indigenous Teaching Resources, Recommended books | Tagged: Jane Simpson, Kulurdu Marni Ngathaitya! A Kaurna Learner's Guide, Rob Amery | 1 Comment »
Posted by Lisa Hill on January 6, 2014
This is an exceptionally good article by Dean Ashenden at Inside Story.
I particularly like what he has to say about the Quality Teacher harangue:
Highly effective teaching is hard to do, hard to learn, and hard to find. It is exceptional. The proposition that we can make classroom maestros the rule rather than the exception by tinkering with pay structures, teacher education, bonus schemes and the like is implausible.
See more at Inside Story (one of the best online news journals around!)