Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Children’s Book Reviews: Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds

Children's Book Reviews by Susan Stephenson,

Pickle and Bree’s Guide to Good Deeds is a new picture book series from Alison Reynolds and Mikki Butterley, published by Five Mile Press, that teaches kids 5-8 about values, teamwork and accepting differences. Today I’d like to introduce you to two books in the series: The Big Snow Adventure and The Playground Meanies.

But first - I always have a concern about books that want kids to learn from them. Is a book going to make me cringe because it’s preachy? Is a book going to have unrealistic characters and stilted dialogue? Will a book be something kids actually want to read?

Kudos to author Alison Reynolds for the Pickle and Bree books! Together with illustrator Mikki Butterley, Reynolds has created books that get the balance exactly right. Reynolds uses language and incidents kids will readily understand, and weaves stories that will engage both children’s hearts and their minds. Butterley gifts young readers with cute characters and colourful, active scenes that help bring Pickle and Bree to life for kids.

I liked the way the characters in these books are not always good or bad, just like in real life. Kids will identify with both Pickle, a bear, and Bree, a little girl. In The Playground Meanies, Bree encourages the other characters not to be mean. But in The Big Snow Adventure, Bree herself learns a valuable lesson about the impact her thoughtless actions have on others. I think it’s important for kids to realise that being human is about doing our best, and when we make mistakes, trying again.

I also liked the one page Guide to Good Deeds at the back of each book. These are tips from Pickle and Bree about being kind and following rules. The tips come across as things that two "kids" (Pickle and Bree) have learnt and want to share with other kids. We read about ways of coping when people aren’t kind, and strategies for dealing with bullies. This is commonsense practical advice, all of it reinforcing the message that “You are okay just the way you are!”

So far, I have read The Big Snow Adventure and The Playground Meanies. You can also grab The Decorating Disaster and The Birthday Party Cake for your kids. I have no doubt the whole set of Guide to Good Deeds books would make an excellent acquisition to libraries and homes everywhere. Check them all out via Reynolds’ website.

I’ll be adding these two books to my List of Children’s Picture Books about Friendship.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Global Project for Kids – Endangered Animals

By Christine Trimnell and Susan Stephenson

Recently I heard about a fascinating global project for students in Years 3 – 8 titled “CAN WE WORK TOGETHER TO SAVE THE ENDANGERED ANIMALS OF THE WORLD?” I love the idea of a project that enables students to collaborate with children from other countries, particularly one that strikes a chord in most kids’ hearts – endangered animals. But I know that Australian teachers are already flat-out trying to cover all the curricula and extra curricula activities with students.

I asked co-designer and ICT Specialist, Christine Trimnell, what the purpose was behind the project, how teachers could possibly fit it into their curriculum objectives, and where they could find helpful information about it:

Do you believe the 5 C's - communication, collaboration, critical thinking, citizenship, and creativity are important in a student’s education?

Do you want to transform your students learning and prepare them for life in a digitally connected world?

If you answered ‘yes’, but also want to integrate and satisfy curriculum objectives, then you might be surprised to learn that you can achieve all this and more by participating in well-designed global projects!

Sadly, schools in the southern hemisphere are often under-represented in projects involving schools from around the world.

My thinking is that classroom teachers mostly view a global project as something that would be great to do, but it’s an extra they just don’t have time for.

With this in mind, Julie Lindsay (Flat Connections) and I have designed a 6 week project for Years 3-8, titled: “Can we work together to save the endangered animals of the world?" I have gone through the Australian Curriculum requirements and identified all the objectives that can be met by participating in this short, free project. It will be conducted twice in 2017 to give as many teachers as possible a chance to plan its integration into their teaching and learning programs.

Check out the project, the dates, the curriculum links and the application form here.

Curriculum objectives that can be satisfied via this project are clearly identified in this table.

When you click on the links above, I guarantee you’ll be amazed at what can be covered in one global project. This is in an exciting 21st century learning environment using web 2.0 tools that engage students. It goes without saying that Julie and I want teachers and students to succeed, so we will be there to support you in your journey!

Information about other Flat Connections Global Projects can be found here.

If you have any queries or concerns please don’t hesitate to make contact.

Children’s App Reviews, April - June 2017

by Susan Stephenson,

It’s time for that periodic but regular feature where I curate and share my own iPad app reviews and articles. Today I’m rounding up my app reviews and articles to do with iPad written in April, May and June of 2017, again with the help of Listly. Using Listly means I can update my lists if I need to, and the post itself automatically updates too. You can embed any list on your own blog, and also vote for apps and articles you like (moderation is on.) Find the actual list below.

In 2013, I did a big round-up of my 2013 iPad app reviews and articles.

In 2014, I gathered my reviews from January to March 2014 into one post, April to June in one post, July to September into one post and October to December into one post.

You can find January - March iPad App reviews from 2015 here, also April - June 2015, July - September 2015, and October - December 2015.

Link through to 2016’s January - March, April - June, July to September and October to December if you missed them last year.

Earlier in 2017, I had still more children’s app reviews in Children’s App Reviews, January - March 2017.

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Children’s Book Review, This is Banjo Paterson

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

This is Banjo Paterson is a children’s picture book written by Tania McCartney, illustrated by Christina Booth and published by National Library of Australia. RRP:$Au24.99

From the publisher:

Andrew Barton 'Banjo' Paterson loved to write poetry. He loved hunting and fishing and horses, too, especially a horse named Banjo. In this charming picture book, little ones can celebrate the life of a great poet, journalist, bushman and world traveller.

Join Banjo, his family, dog and neighbourhood friends, as they recount the life of Banjo Paterson with an afternoon of backyard playtime that truly typifies childhood.

At the back of the book, read extracts from some of Banjo's famous poems and look at some historical photographs from the National Library of Australia's collection.

McCartney and Booth have used a similar construct to their book, This is Captain Cook, in which school children acted out a play about Cook while the reader found out about him. This time, we see kids dressing up and playing Paterson’s story in an urban backyard. For instance, when we read about Paterson’s favourite horse, Banjo, we see a youngster galloping around a Hill’s Hoist on his hobby horse. I like this idea very much. It means the book is enormously child-friendly with lots of fun and warmth, but there’s still learning going on. The inclusion of excerpts from Paterson's poems is great, and I hope children and teachers will be inspired to go on and read more Australian bush poetry.

McCartney has a real knack for choosing salient facts that are going to interest kids, and for using words and constructions that make the reading effortless. Booth adds so much colour and fun - I love the fact that there are often wry comments in cartoon-style bubbles and kids will too. For instance, we read about the beginning of Paterson’s abiding love of poetry while his speech bubble says, “Books are cool. So is school. Horses, rhyme and poems rule!” Children will discover Banjo Paterson to be an accessible Australian hero, one after their own hearts.

I’ll be adding This is Banjo Paterson to my List of Picture Books and Educational Activities about Australia.

Find more Children's Book Reviews on The Book Chook by clicking Reviews in the right sidebar.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Children’s iPad App, My Felt World

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

My Felt World is an app by developer, Digital Playbox. It is described as “an interactive animated playset.” I love that kids can create scenes with it, and that oral stories and discussion automatically and naturally flow from this activity.

From the developer:

Let your child's imagination take them all over the world! My Felt World uses the soft familiar texture of felt fabrics to create four animated adventures. Feed the animals on the farm! Swim with fish in the ocean! Go on safari or wrap up warm at the North Pole!

My Felt World is accompanied by original music and atmospheric sound effects. Each scene has a set of lovable felt characters that come to life when touched or moved. Double tap them for surprise extras! Scroll the background with a touch of the screen. Learn a thing or two from the Fun Facts page within each scene. Take a picture of your child's latest adventure and save it to the iPad Photos folder - ready to share with friends and family.

There are four different felt worlds: down on the farm, under the ocean, on safari and arctic. Once kids choose a world, they are presented with a felt scene and a visual menu of attractive felt stickers to choose from. Sliding an animal sticker into the scene is a breeze, and it’s cool that kids can still see that same sticker’s indented head shape once it’s removed from the menu. Once their scene is arranged, children can press play to make the animals come to life, listen to music while they create, or take a photo. There are reasonably realistic sounds that accompany each scene too. There’s even a Fun Facts section to read with a parent. (NB This is not meant to be a science-based app, as evidenced by the penguin in the arctic scene. Make it a teaching moment and explain exactly where penguins DO live on our planet!)

I road-tested this app with a delighted three-year-old who loved talking about what she was doing with the felt stickers, and naturally put her finger on one to jiggle it a little while she supplied its voice. We tried all sorts of unusual image making - a snake for a hat, or all the animals frolicking in the water. We had the best fun playing together, and it reminded me all over again how much more worthwhile an app can be when we play and talk WITH our kids. At time of writing this review, the app is $Au1.49 which in my book makes it perfect for kids 3-5 with iPads at home, or in an educational situation.

Where do I get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page.

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