Wednesday, November 1, 2017

12 days of Christmas for your colleagues

I’ve been busy making another version of the 12 days of Christmas surprises for the staff at school because the staff haven’t changed this year so I can’t use last year’s ones. If you like the ideas then please visit my TPT store and leave feedback so that others can share. Thanks.

DAY #1

Alternatives :
A packet of popcorn purchased on special from the supermarket
A packet of ready popped popcorn
Popping candy

DAY #2

  • A bag of dates with a recipe for making a Christmas treat using dates
  • Or a bag of raisins for those who don't like dates
  • Chocolate covered raisins/ nuts 
DAY #3

  • Something that the recipient likes to eat
  • a special Christmas treat

DAY #4

 DAY #5

 DAY #6

  • I broke my canes into 4 pieces (for beginners ) and the warning note letsthe recipients know that  I left the wrapping on the pieces, just in case the bag is recycled to a child before opening.
  • I also created a couple of 'Expert' versions for those that are good at puzzles, by smashing up the canes into fragments. 
DAY #7

  • ·         Red toenail polish
  • ·         Foot scrub or loofah
  • ·         Anything that could be used in a pedicure

DAY #8

  • ·         Gold chocolate coins
  • ·         Or a bar of chocolate wrapped in gold paper to make a gold bar. (Change the third line of the rhyme to read…So here’s a little bar of gold)

DAY #9

DAY #10

       Gingerbread biscuits
       A slice of gingerbread cake

DAY #11

  • ·         A notepad with a plastic eye attached to the front. (Idea found in gag gifts on Pinterest.)
  • ·         Could be replaced with …Here’s an original money clip to brighten up your day. (Gift is a paper clip with a small coin in it.)

DAY #12

  • A Christmas music CD purchased from a local charity shop has a ripple effect... it supports charity at Christmas and it shares the magic of Christmas music
  • A sheet of printed Christmas music rolled up and tied with a ribbon
  • A personalised Christmas play list.

and that's it... for another year.
Hope they like it

Monday, October 23, 2017

Looking for a classroom Christmas activity with a difference this year?

Look in my TPT store Thinking Challenges for a mystery for Juniors  Grades 3,4,5

Or try the new mystery for upper juniors/ middle school students…  ‘Who stole Rudolph’s nose?’ 

Lessons from Matilda Wormwood, the teacher.

My musings here were published by Good Teacher magazine.

The world belongs to those who read

Roald Dahl knew that keeping the questioning spirit alive is an important key to success in life, and his book characters reflect the magic that is all around us in the world if we take the time to look. Matilda shows us that it is never too late to learn about the world though the magic of stories.
Matilda notices that although there are people all around her and they are talking, she doesn’t hear their words when she is engrossed in a book.

It is quiet and I am warm. Like I’ve sailed into the eye of a storm
From Matilda, the musical

 Did you know that there are more than 300 public libraries in New Zealand? And that more than 100,000 people visit a public library every day?  Did you use your local library card during the school holidays? Are you aware which of the students in your class have library cards?  Have you encouraged those who haven’t yet, to join up? 

‘A library card is the start of a lifelong adventure.’
Lilian Jackson Braun


The need for access to knowledge is as essential for us today as it was for Roald Dahl’s Matilda, but access is not evenly distributed in society and our school libraries are in danger of being seen as a poor relation when it comes to funding when forced to compete with technology. Matilda reminds us that the physical space a library occupies is needed as learning transitions from analogue to digital, from institutions of collectors and keepers of the knowledge to institutions that share and preserve society through digital archiving.  We have a duty to support our local library spaces to ensure that the gap between the haves and the have- nots in our society does not become progressively wider and more divisive.

The Wormwood family is exclusively hooked on television. Matilda teaches us that reading can give us ways to understand and to be understood by those we are in contact with, thus expanding our knowledge of the world we live in. It all adds up. If you read for just 15 minutes every day then in a year you will have read more than a million words. To precis the words of Roald Dahl… All the words you have r will give you a view of the world that non-readers don’t have.
And there is the added advantage of no commercials to have to suffer first!
Matilda’s booklist can be found at
Check them out. They are great classics to share with a class.

1.     Questions are really important.
‘Did you know,’ said Matilda suddenly, ’that the heart of a mouse beats at the rate of six hundred and fifty times a second?’
‘I did not,’ said Miss Honey, smiling. ‘How absolutely fascinating. Where did you read that?’
‘In a book from the library,’ Matilda said. ‘And it means that it goes so fast you can’t even hear the separate beats. It must sound like a buzz.’
‘It must,’ Miss Honey said.
From the book ‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl.
Children are constantly attempting to make sense of their place in the world and the world around them and good books are invaluable. 

‘The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’
Roald Dahl. 

One way that teachers can build on the issues raised in books is to ask questions that are open to enquiry and lead to further questioning and are not easily answered. Questions about meaning, truth, value, knowledge and reality. Thinking about and making distinctions between concepts helps students develop verbal reasoning. Good questions are ones that are difficult to answer.
Here’s a couple to be going on with…
Of all the things that you are learning, what do you think will be the most useful to you when you are an adult?  Why do you think that?
What’s the difference between pretending and lying?
Is there a difference between wanting and needing?
For a list of questions for juniors with a free printable
For older students there is a great online portal
The more opportunities that students have to discuss why things are as they are and to think about possible choices and consequences, the better prepared they are when they meet with difficulties and challenges.

To stimulate a philosophical discussion from a book that you are reading to the class…
Read part of the story then ask is there anything strange or interesting or puzzling to you?
(Have one or two big questions of your own ready to contribute just in case it takes a while to get going)
Collect the questions that the students ask and use them as a focus for in depth discussion.
Sophisticated picture books are great to use as a basis for this. Three to get you started…
The Red Tree by Sean Tan  ISBN 9780734411372
How to live forever by Colin Thompson   ISBN 9780099461814
Little Mouse’s big book of Fears by Emily Gravett   ISBN9780330503976

1.     Be confident and have faith in yourself. 

I always said to myself that if a little pocket calculator could do that, then why shoudn't I?
Matilda, Roald Dahl.

Don’t be afraid to highlight your strengths. None of the main characters in Dahl’s books fit in with the crowd, and have to take matters into their own hands in order to find happiness. Matilda reminds us that we need to be able to take responsibility for our own outcomes and we can use our brain power to triumph over stupidity. Mistakes are valuable as long as you learn from them. We all respect inspirational teachers. What are your strengths? If you are not sure what you are good at then ask the students! They will know!

1.     Age is irrelevant.

‘Just because you find that life’s not fair, it doesn’t mean that you have to grin and bear it.
If you always take it on the chin and wear it, nothing will change.
Even if you’re little you can do a lot.
You mustn’t let a little thing like ‘little’ stop you.
Matilda, the musical.
Lyrics by Tim Minchkin

Have you read ‘The Ripple Effect’ by Tony Ryan? It is a powerful proponent of the idea that anyone can make a difference with their everyday actions. We all have the power within ourselves to create change or to inspire others to make a difference, but ideas only work if they are translated into action. Tony Ryan’s book is full of ideas just waiting for the reader to start a ripple.
Or as Matilda would put it… Even if you are little, you can do a lot.  
Believe in your personal power and be the change that you would like to see in the world around you. Who knows where they might end?

And a final thought from me about Matilda, motivated by an article by Dr Susan Rennie, chief editor of the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary who discusses Roald Dahl’s use of creative language. The names that Dahl uses hint at the nature of his characters. Matilda’s school, Crunchem Hall suggests what is in store for the students faced with Miss Trunchbull, who would like to ‘crunch them.’ I feel sure that he must have been aware that the name Matilda is of German origin and means ‘mighty in battle.’
How appropriate!
The full article can be found at

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Friday, June 30, 2017

Invitation to participate.

Dear Reader, 
If you are interested... I would love to issue a challenge to you and anyone else that you would share with...  I am working on a research paper that looks at what it is about gifted teachers that make them really memorable to the learners. Everyone can remember fondly a favourite teacher who made a difference for them at school and I am collecting stories about those people and what it was that they did  to make them so  memorable. If the response is positive then I would use a selection of stories in a proposed book. ( Contributors would not be reimbursed. )  I'm looking for patterns so you don't have to provide names but it would be handy to know the class level that you were in when you encountered that teacher, and approximately how long ago it was. One of the areas I'm interested in is how long the memory of that teacher has lasted. 
If you would like to reply privately then my email contact is 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Books : The Mirrors and Windows of Diversity

Many of today’s picture books contain powerful messages that apply to today’s world and can be used to stimulate critical thinking, reflection and discussion. Books can make you feel valued by providing a mirror, or introduce you to alternatives by offering windows on diverse views.  My contention is that sophisticated picture books can provide us with curriculum etcetera for our gifted students.
E… Empathy
T… Tolerance
C… Connection

E Empathy and sensitivity in gifted go hand in hand with emotional intensity, and stories about characters dealing with anxiety and compassion help the student with exceptional ability in reading and working with text information to make sense of the world. With higher ability comes greater awareness and understanding of the bigger picture behind the text. It is not always easy to find stories that provide young gifted readers with lots of opportunity for further research, but   I can heartily recommend Emily Gravett’s book ‘Little Mouse’s Big Book of Fears ‘ because it not only gives the reader a chance to reflect on his/her own fears but provides wonderful ‘big words’ to find out more about and relates to experiences that a child is likely to encounter.

Do you know what these phobias are? Read Little Mouse's book and find out!
Rupophobia. Entomophobia. Teratophobia. Clinophobia. Aichmophobia. Isolophobia
And no, I didnt know all of them either! :-)

T Tolerance  

Tolerance can be defined as an interest in and concern for ideas, opinions, practices and viewpoints that are different from our own and books can definitely help to increase awareness and serve as motivation for change. . In a world where it has become increasingly harder to find agreement on decisions about the future, it is necessary to generate as many alternatives as possible and to look at how these decisions will affect others. The ability to switch over and look at things in a different way is termed ‘insight.’ De Bono defines it as a shift of emphasis from proving the logical ‘rightness’ of your own point of view, and therefore the logical ‘wrongness’ of the other person’s, based on the questionable assumption that you are both looking at the same thing. Looking at things from other points of view may even cause us to refine our own ideas.


C. Connected yet disconnected
In her research into the friendships of profoundly gifted children, Miraca Gross notes that gifted children look for friends to develop close and trusting friendships at ages where their age mates are looking for play partners. Their advanced intellect may result in difficulties where there is little or no access to like-minded peers. Some react by having imaginary playmates, while others may need help to practice social skills. Books can offer insights to help young students to support the message that everyone is unique in their own way and no matter how different you are there are others in the world like you. It helps for parents and teachers of gifted children to have an understanding of age related issues to do with friendship because students who are operating at a level in advance of their chronological age will have progressed beyond their age mates but may not have the maturity to recognise what it is that is setting them apart and making it difficult to create connections. Adults need to be prepared to offer a sympathetic ear but not try to solve these problems in order to build resilience and a tolerance for frustration.
Before the age of 4 a child is egocentric.
Between 4 and 7 they become more co-operative in play and prepared to a greater or lesser degree to share belongings.

The book ‘Feelings’ by Aliki is useful for helping young children understand about the feelings they may have associated with interacting with others. It has lots of little vignettes in cartoon form.
Between the ages of 6 and 8 children begin to realise that being a friend is having similar interests and they share likes and dislikes.
Older primary age students (8-10) focus on helping each other to foster friendship.
Between the ages of 11 and 15, most students understand that there needs to be an element of give and take in any friendship and they start to build affection and support for each other.
At ages 16+ friends look for commitments to each other based on trust and acceptance.
The way in which many gifted students cope with these differences is to gravitate towards older students who are like minded peers, and to build on similar interests. One way to foster this at school level is to allow opportunities for students to get together on a voluntary basis to discuss philosophical questions. Tiffany Poirier’s book ‘Q is for Question’ provides a whole alphabet of idea starters and ideas for follow up.

There you have it.
Gifted readers have a unique ability to perceive relationships and solve problems.
As a pre-schooler I had a family of pegs and would tell stories about their difficulties with life in a peg box. I was thrilled when I found the story of the Borrowers when I got to school.

Gifted readers demonstrate keen observational skills and a unique child’s view of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do trees look the same under the ground as they do on top of the ground? The tree in my book has roots that look like branches.

They are able to grasp abstract ideas quickly but their conclusions might be more in keeping with their experience of the world.
Conversation with a two year old…
Do babies have blood inside them?
Well, how come you can’t see their veins? You can see my veins. And you can see your veins. Do they get more blue when you get old? Yes. That must be it, because babies are new. And I’m not new because I’m not a baby any more. And you can see your veins easily because you are old!

You suspect a gifted reader when a student in your class complains that he has read everything in the school library, and he may be right! Our gifted students have a lot to be thankful for with the increase and ease of technological access.