Friday, May 24, 2019

Creative Prompt for Kids - Start with a Secret Power

by Susan Stephenson,

Because the Children’s Book Week theme for 2019 in Australia is “Reading is my Secret Power”, I’ve brainstormed some prompts that use the idea of a “secret power” to nudge kids towards some kind of creative activity. The deal is to use my ideas simply as a springboard to any kind of creativity, and the more, the better. 

Whether kids are drawing, composing music, designing graphics, embroidering, sculpting, choreographing, writing, telling digital stories, decorating a cake, making a movie or designing the set for a play, they are thinking creatively and expressing themselves. And that’s just as exciting as having reading as a secret power! Far below, you’ll find the list of all my other creative prompts.

* If you could choose any one secret power, which one would it be? Would you choose super strength? The ability to fly? The power to read minds? Write a list of all the good things about your power. Now write a list of the problems it might cause. Which list is longer?

* Secrets are important. But sometimes we trust a few people with a secret. Write a list of people you would trust with a secret and keep the list somewhere secret.

* Which superheroes do you know that have secret powers? What makes a power secret anyway?

* Work together with your friends to create a list of special powers that could also be secret powers. Have a vote to choose the top three secret powers.

* Make a play about a character with the secret power of being able to transform into an insect.

* Choose a simple catchy tune and change the words to something about a secret power. Teach your new song to your friends and work out a way to present it to an audience.

* Create a cartoon about a character who believes he/she has a secret power, but doesn’t.

* Paint a picture of yourself using your secret power(s).

* Imagine a machine that can give people secret powers. Draw your machine, and label it.

* What if you had the secret power to walk through walls? What might go wrong? Create a cartoon about it.

* List some secret powers. Now invent a name that would go with each. For instance, one secret power a hero could have might be being able to transform into reptile form. Her name could be Leapin’ Lizard Woman. Choose one hero from your list, write a description about them, and draw them.

* Imagine that you had a secret power where everything you touched turned to gold. How would you feel? Would you be excited, happy, feel safe? What sort of problems could you have? Write the story.

* Bake a cake and decorate it with a secret power theme.

đź“šYou might also be interested in Children’s Book Week 2019, Activities and Resources.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Children’s Book Review, Australian Backyard Earth Scientist

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

Australian Backyard Earth Scientist is by Peter Macinnis and published by NLA (2019.) RRP: $Au 29.99

I have previously reviewed Macinnis’ The Australian Backyard Naturalist and The Big Book of Australian History.

From the publisher:

Find out where rain comes from and what geysers look like! Read about soil becoming too salty and why greenhouse gases are increasing. Did you know that fog is a cloud sitting on the ground and that ice can tell you about the environment of millions of years ago? And what is lightning anyway? Australian Backyard Earth Scientist is full of fantastic photos and fascinating information that help explain different aspects of earth science - a science that discovered how old the Earth is, what fossils tell us, how mountains were created, what causes earthquakes, what the difference between weather and climate is, and why glaciers are melting.

From the beginnings of the planet through to climate change, 'Australian Backyard Earth Scientist' includes interesting and fun facts and projects help develop an understanding and appreciation - like making your own fossils, collecting cloud types, and using tree rings to find out about past weather. Young readers can discover the influences that have fashioned our earth - and are still acting to change it.

If you know Macinnis’ other books, you will not be surprised by the excellence of this one. Using language and sentence structure children will understand, the author delves into earth science, explaining what it is, and encouraging kids to delve into it right alongside him. The format of this book, like the others, is well-designed, with intriguing photographs, maps, diagrams, colourful headings and call-outs, cartoons, sketches, project pages, and special fonts - as well as all the explanations a young scientist could ever hope for.

I loved the hands-on projects Macinnis leads children through, so they can discover earth science for themselves. I also loved the cute cartoons that popped up to add humour and visual interest. There is evidence of meticulous research and scrupulous editing, and above all the enormous effort that has gone into making the subject matter accessible and entertaining.

With chapters about Rocks, Erosion, Water, Weather, The Oceans, Climate Change … and snippets about glaciers, salination, lightning strikes, king tides, carbon-dating - including what it’s like inside a volcano from personal experience - this is not just a book for schools, but also one adults can dip into, be fascinated by and learn from. I recommend it to both public and school libraries, and to homes where science and knowledge are valued.

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

Friday, May 17, 2019

Children’s iPad App, Fiete Choice

Reviewed by Susan Stephenson,

Fiete Choice is a children’s app from developer, Ahoiii Entertainment. It’s available for iOS and Android. I have previously reviewed Fiete Match, and Fiete Islands. (22/2)

From the developers:

You see two sheep and a pig. „Which one is out of place?“ - That’s right! The pig is the odd one out and you have to click on it. The levels in this logic game carefully build upon each other and are sure to make you laugh. After all, it’s not every day that you get to see a sheep wearing wellington boots :)

What I liked:

All the things I liked in the other Fiete apps are here too. I especially value the lovely art work. This one focuses on making choices, hence the name. Finding the odd one out or the one that doesn't "belong", discriminating between objects and elements, deciding on a choice between several - these are all activities that are part of pre-reading. For kids to be able to practise them in a fun, game environment is definitely worthwhile. There are lots of levels, and I sadly admit I had to stop and think at least once! Adults can also use the app to discuss things like positional vocabulary, colours, shapes, direction, size, counting, one-to-one correspondence etc.

There ARE ads for other Ahoiii apps and t-shirts BUT I like the way the t-shirts are behind a code and the other app pics don't link through to the app store. This is a great app for kids up to six years, in my opinion, with a good balance of learning and fun.

Where to get it?

Check out all of my iPad App Reviews on Pinterest, and find more apps and articles via my Listly page. I’ll be adding this app to my List of iPad Puzzle Apps for Kids

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Children’s Book Review, This is Home

Children's Book Review by Susan Stephenson,

This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children is a children’s poetry book with poems selected by Jackie French, illustrated by Tania McCartney, and published by National Library of Australia (2019.) RRP: $Au 34.99 HB.

From the publisher:

In 'This Is Home', much-loved author Jackie French has gathered a poem for every child and every mood. What do you feel like doing today? Sit beside a bush campfire with Oodgeroo Noonuccal, watch people going by with Henry Lawson, float away with Alison Lester, learn to read with Andy Griffiths or be brave with Shaun Tan.

Ideal for sharing with the whole family, this extensively illustrated edition brings together old favourites and sure-to-be new favourites in an indispensable addition to children's bookshelves. From poems that whisper to poems that roar, from words of tranquillity and heartbreak to those of the witty and absurd, there is something within these pages to make everyone feel at home.

This is Home: Essential Australian Poems for Children is an excellent choice for teachers who want to share Australian poetry with their students. I also love the idea of parents buying it so they can make it a priority to include poetry in their family read-alouds. Anything that raises the profile of Australian poetry, and indeed of poetry in general, is a truly wonderful idea. For those children or adults who have sadly already developed an aversion to poetry, there are many inclusions in This is Home to tempt them to change their minds.

French has included a range of appealing poems, from classics to moderns, and from serious to silly. She has given short introductions to each section, and has offered suggestions for those who prefer to read by “inclination “- eg for those in primary/high school, for those who like animals etc. McCartney’s illustrations really sing. They will immediately attract youngsters, and are also appropriate to the accompanying poem’s theme.

I admit to being a little disappointed in one part of the book’s appearance. Not the illustrations - as I said, they are excellent, and will attract young readers to This is Home. But with a couple of the poems, I thought the size of the font and the length of lines made the text look blocky and off-putting for those kids who like more white space. However, the idea of an anthology is to have a range of poems, with the understanding that some will appeal to this person, and some to that. So my observation is minor, in that context.

I hope children will enjoy the many wonderful poems as much as I did. This is Home - Essential Australian Poems for Children is a must-have resource for Australian libraries, will round-out a unit on poetry or Australia, and makes an amazing gift for those special children who love words.

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Writing Tips for Kids 9 - Remove Fluff Words

by Susan Stephenson,

Last year I began a series of Writing Tips for Kids which I continued in 2019. Today’s article is the ninth in the series. Over coming weeks you’ll see more short articles, each of them addressing young writers and dealing with a topic helpful to them. I’ve created a new List for these articles and will add to it over time. The List is embedded below.

How and Why to Remove Fluff Words

What are “fluff” words? Is it words that mean people have gas? Not today it isn’t!

Do you remember in Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, we talked about removing repeated words and sentence types to make it easier on a reader? Fluff words slow our writing down the way repetition does. Such words are filler. Examples are: very, really, quite, a bit, sort of, got, just. Mostly we don’t need those words in a sentence. They clutter up our writing and make it slower and more boring to read.

Here’s an example: My brother is sort of cranky when he wakes up. I tease him about it quite a lot but Dad just says that’s not very nice.

Here’s one way to write it without the fluff words: My brother is cranky when he wakes up. I tease him about it but Dad says that’s not nice.

Fluff words have less impact than a strong verb, adjective or noun. They don’t create as clear a picture for the reader. Instead of "a really big pile of rocks", we could write "an avalanche of rocks" or "a mountain of rocks", depending on the situation. Would you choose avalanche of rocks or mountain of rocks if the rocks were looming above you? Which would you choose if the rocks were starting to fall on you?

Sometimes "that" can be removed. Example: "Trey thought that he would go". "Trey thought he would go." means the same, but is quicker to read. One word sounds so small, but in a whole story, removing one word here and another there can make a huge difference. If you have to write a set amount of words, taking words out can make your story tighter, and make it an easier read.

Sometimes "the" can be removed. Example: The candle flames flickered as an icy wind blew. The shadows danced on the wall, creating monstrous, menacing shapes. I shuddered as the clammy hands circled my neck.

Can you remove "the" to make stronger sentences?

Here's one way: Candle flames flickered as an icy wind blew. Shadows danced on the wall, creating monstrous, menacing shapes. I shuddered as clammy hands circled my neck.

When you're checking your work (editing or revising), look at each word or phrase you've written. If you can take it out, without changing the meaning, it's not necessary. Our goal is to make writing strong and clear. Very few writers can do that the first time. That's why they read it over several times and change it. Some even read it backwards to help themselves look at words more carefully. Don't worry though, there's no need to stand on your head!

You might also like to read Writing Tips for Kids - How to Start, Writing Tips for Kids 2 - Write What You Know, Writing Tips for Kids 3 - Developing Characters, Writing Tips for Kids 4 - Writing Funny Stories, Writing Tips for Kids 5 - Start with a Hook, Writing Tips for Kids 6 - Remove Repetitions, Writing Tips for Kids 7 - Use Strong Verbs and Writing Tips for Kids 8  - Use Specific Nouns.

Clipart Credit: Phillip Martin

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