This read-aloud poem is called A Hundred Half-Priced Hippopotami. It’s about a little boy who is pressured into buying more hippopotami than he actually needs…
I was walking briskly to the shop,
When a Jolly Man yelled out, “STOP!”
He asked me what I planned to buy;
I said bread and he said, “WHY?!”
“BUY THIS HIPPO, FORGET THE BREAD!
USE IT AS COMFY, SQUISHY BED!
THIS DEAL ISN’T GOING TO LAST!
HIPPOPOTAMI ARE SELLING FAST!”
The sleazy salesman in the story uses all kinds of ridiculous tricks and tactics to talk the young lad into buying his hippos (he only went out for bread and milk). The themes in this one might be a little convoluted for our little audience but I think it’s worthwhile having a chat about them. Children are assaulted with a barrage of advertising every day. It’s important to teach them the tricks advertisers use to make them want stuff they don’t need. It’s great for inferential thinking skills to identify things like product placement in movies, impulse item placement in shops, etc.
Reading aloud to your children gives them an incredibly strong message. Without words you are saying, ‘I am not washing the car or reading the paper or watching the news. I am sitting here with you, reading a story about a little dog whose family don’t recognize him when he gets dirty. I am enjoying sitting in bed with you, sharing the fun, the fears and the fellowship of this magic moment. You are the centre of my world.’
-Paul Jennings, The Reading Bug… and how to help your child catch it, pg. 17
I had the great pleasure of reading The Reading Bug… and how to help your child catch it by Paul Jennings on a short trip I took earlier this week.
Wow. What a book.
It’s bursting with so many amazing, holistic ways to approach reading instruction. Jennings has a wonderful view of the world and the way we learn and grow. He talks about reading as being an act of love and care between children and parents.
I agree. Learning to read is a deep, emotionally driven experience. Make it a pleasurable experience for them because we seek out what brings us joy. If reading brings your children joy, they WILL want to do it more. The more they do it, the better they’ll get at it and all that.
Read Paul’s amazing book if you’re looking for a laugh and some great ideas.
Have a great week!
This week’s read-aloud poem is called The Marshmallow Dragon. It is about a little boy who contrasts the deadly dragons he’s found to the not-so-deadly Marshmallow Dragon.
There’s the Marshmallow Dragon…
He’s a flightless, toothless beast
Who isn’t scary in the least.
He’s squishy, pink and round
And he makes a very silly sound…
BOING! DOING! SPROING!
His squishy head is rather dim
And I am NEVER scared of him.”
Children love dragons. I love dragons. EVERYONE loves dragons! There are countless stories and pieces of art inspired by the mythical beasts. I would suggest taking a week to explore legends and invent your own dragons. It’s fun and excellent practice for character writing.
Don’t tell your child to go read for 15 minutes while you watch television.
-Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, pg. 90
Teachers and parents: PRACTICE WHAT YOU PREACH.
It is vitally important for you to respect reading if you want your children to do the same. During sustained silent reading in a classroom teachers should be reading a book of their own. They shouldn’t be marking, policing the room, OR WORSE THAN ANYTHING ELSE: fiddling with a smart phone. Children will notice that you are enjoying reading. It lends credibility to the emphasis you put on the subject.
It is equally important for parents to read in front of their children at home. I suggest reading time begins 30 minutes before bedtime to power down for the day and nourish the mind. Your children will mirror your behavior and habits. Intelligent, healthy minds are built with reading everyday. It is as important as nutrition and exercise.
Have a fabulous week and enjoy the poem!
All the best,
As much as I loved all my traveling to different schools and libraries for Book Week, it is absolutely fabulous to be back at my wonderful school with my little Year Ones again.
I wrote a sequel to one of my poems! I’ve never written a sequel before — it was exciting! Billy and his doubting Mum are back in Bear Beneath the Chair.
Billy ran outside shouting,
“There’s a BEAR beneath the chair!”
Billy’s mum said,
DON’T BE SILLY!
There’s no bear beneath the chair!”
“There is a bear beneath the chair!
He escaped from the circus in the town!
He’s dressed up like a very scary clown!”
Read Croc Around the Block before Bear Beneath the Chair to familiarize your children with the format of the story. It’s a great opportunity to compare the two and it’s an incredibly easy story to innovate if you’d like to create a writing task around it.
Remember: the art of listening is an acquired one. It must be taught and cultivated gradually — it doesn’t happen overnight.
-Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, pg. 73
Our children build up their ability to sit still for and listen to stories over time. The more you read to them, the more their listening endurance will grow and the greater their attention spans will become. A child that has a greater attention will learn more than one that hasn’t developed the skill. It’s like a muscle that needs daily exercising to improve.
The trick to building listening endurance is to make sure that you pick books that are appropriate for your child’s/children’s LISTENING level. If you’ve been reading picture books to 6-year-olds for months, move onto small chapter books. Don’t get stuck thinking that because they’re little they need big, bright pictures on every page. If you’ve been talking to them, teaching them and reading to them consistently at a high level all their lives, you can be guaranteed that they’re listening level is way beyond their current reading level.
A listening level is the level that your child is able to understand the things that you say and read. A 7-year-old who reads at a 5-year-old level may listen at a 12-year-old level. Keep cultivating their listening level by reading to them daily and their reading skills will eventually catch up — guided-read, shared-read, predict, relate, discuss, question, role-play, innovate, rinse and repeat!
Have a fabulous weekend and happy reading!
Hello Amazing People,
A very special welcome to all the amazing educators and parents I met during Children’s Book Week! Thank you for bringing your children to join in with some ridiculous stories.
This week's read-aloud poem is about a Duck who falls desperately in love with a Horse. Duck tries his best, but it just doesn’t work out for him…
“Oh four-legged lady,
How happy you’ve made me!
Let’s marry with rings,
And have a family of horslings!”
All Horse heard was, “QUACK, QUACK, QUACK!”
But she couldn’t speak Duck so she couldn’t speak back.
I have to admit that I’m not 100% sure about the themes in this one. Will primary school children have the emotional maturity to understand love and loss? My guess: probably. Explore Duck’s feelings and motivations with your kids. It’s definitely an attention grabber.
“There are really only two efficient ways to get words into a person’s brain: either by seeing them or by hearing them. Since it will be years before an infant uses his or her eyes for actual reading, the best source for vocabulary and brain building becomes the ear.”
- Jim Trelease, The Read-Aloud Handbook, pg 5
Today there is tremendous pressure for children as young as 4 to start decoding and reading. I’m not going to debate the validity of this pressure because it stems from educators’ and parents’ deep and sincere desire for their children to excel academically. It makes sense.
The problem is that some children will simply NOT be ready to read until they reach age 7 or 8. These children are considered ‘under target’ in terms of their school’s reading goals. The standard solution for the situation is to put them in intervention classes where they’re exposed to an extra dose of the same techniques that have FAILED to inspire them to read in the first place. What’s the definition of insanity again? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results?
I’m completely aware of and respect the research that tells us that some children need the word ‘and’ flashed to them 20 times to cement it into their brains and others need it 1000 times to make it stick. What I’m saying is why not try a different approach to provide real motivation for reading? Stick with the sight-word/phonics flash card drills because they work, but include a shared read-aloud where a reluctant reader can finally experience some reading success.
With a shared read, they can finally feel the joy of being an accomplished reader. It inspires. Phonics doesn’t inspire — no one has a favourite digraph or consonant blend.
Have a fabulous week!
"Greg the Zombie Dinosaur,
See him shuffle, hear him roar!”
Hello Poem Enthusiasts!
This week's read-aloud poem is about a zombie dinosaur named Greg who loses his head. Literally.
Greg the Zombie Dinosaur,
See him shuffle, hear him roar;
Shuffle… Shuffle… Shuffle… Roar! Roar! Roar!
Greg the Zombie Dinosaur.
One day Greg The Zombie Dinosaur,
Had a leg DROP and PLOP onto the floor!
Now Greg can’t shuffle anymore;
Poor Greg the Zombie Dinosaur.
“Students learn that poets not only think about what words they use but where to place the words on a page.”
-J. Paul Getty from the J. Paul Getty Museum
“CALLIGRAM: This is a picture poem made of letters representing an aspect of the poem. In this example the words are leaning across to reflect meaning: The sloping wall.”
-Pie Corbet, The Works Key Stage 1
A calligram! I’ve finally discovered an official name for the tricks I’ve been using with the type design in my poems. While poets use calligrams as a whimsical addition to their work, we can use them as a serious tool to aid our children’s fluency, decoding and comprehension skills.
Teach your students the character of typefaces (fonts). In Greg the Zombie Dinosaur, the typeface used when he’s roaring or shuffling is a broken, distressed one — just like broken and distressed Greg himself!
Assign a tone of voice and actions to this font during a shared read so that when they read it on their own, they’ll be able to inflect their voice accordingly.
Teach your children that when someone is SHOUTING THE WORDS MIGHT BE LARGE AND BOLD and when someone is whispering the words might be small and light.
Dynamically typesetting written work gives your children extra visual clues to help with their fluency. It makes the reading experience much more entertaining for them and for you!
Enjoy your week and enjoy reading every day.
Don’t be SILLY!
There’s no croc around the block!”
Hello Inspiring Humans!
This week's read-aloud poem is about a little boy named Billy who is desperately trying to convince his mum that there’s a cross-dressing, old-lady-eating crocodile hiding out at number four. His mum doesn’t take his warnings seriously and gets the shock of her life when she goes to investigate his claims.
Themes of open-mindedness and attentive listening can be explored by analyzing the dialogue between Billy and his mother. It’s an opportunity to discuss how important it is to pay careful attention to what others have to say — listening could save you from becoming a crocodile’s dinner!
"What we teach children to love and desire will always outweigh what we make them learn”
- Amazing quote that I could not find a reference for
We read aloud to and with our children every day to teach them motivation for reading. Stickers and stamps and prizes for daily reading teach our children that they have to do a chore to get something good. We need to guide them to the idea that reading is its own reward and it’s something to celebrate — definitely not a chore!
What happens when children get to old for stickers to inspire them to read anymore? By reading with them you give them your time and attention and connection that builds the strong, mental foundations for good grownups.
Your children will not remember the stickers and stamps and prizes you give them for reading when they’re old and grey. They will remember you for taking the time to read to them and with them every single day. I promise.
Have a fabulous week and remember; reading is its own reward.
"Sweet obese water beast…”
Hello Ridiculous Readers!
Before I introduce this week’s poem I’d like to say a huge thank you to the wonderful EAs who came to my session with the amazing Samantha Hughes at The West Australian Association of Teacher Assistants Conference this past Saturday! Welcome to the newsletter. J
This week's read-aloud poem is about a little girl who desperately tries to stop her brother, sister and the family baby to STOP playing music in the house. If the music doesn’t stop…
Oh please no…
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Sweet obese water beast…
HIPPOPOTERINA IN THE ROOM!
Themes of personal responsibility can be explored in this piece. Older children may be able to identify that the Hippopoterina is just an imaginary scapegoat for the lead character’s destructive dance habits. Discuss how the mum isn’t mean at all when she makes the little girl clean up the debris left by her dancing routines — it’s what should be expected of someone who makes a mess of things!
"Education is not the filling of a bucket but the lighting of a fire.”
- William Butler Yeats
I touched a little on this subject last newsletter, but I’ll say it more explicitly now:
As educators and caregivers, it is our obligation and privilege to guide our children towards finding a desire to read. Not forcing them to read.
It’s a subtle art and it’s hard work. It means taking a proactive interest in the lives of your children and their families.
Teachers — I recommend the following if you wish to inspire a hesitant reader:
Have an incredible week and remember to love what you do because it takes enthusiasm to breed enthusiasm. J
"Mr Grumble was an awful teacher when he died
(He forgot his seatbelt on a rollercoaster ride)."
Hello Happy Readers!
This week's read-aloud poem is about a grumpy ghost named Mr Grumble who terrorises any teacher sent in to take over his class after his untimely death on a rollercoaster. Mr Grumble's Ghost does not believe in talking, playing, or games of any kind in his classroom and sends the wonderful new teachers screaming for the hills.
This is a great piece to explore your children's thoughts about what makes a good/cool teacher and you will definitely be surprised by their deep insights. Use their opinions to reflect on your own practice.
I suggest for the week you're reading Mr Grumble's Ghost that you bring something to class or do something wacky to shake up your routines every day — just like the cool teachers in the story. Some examples of what you might bring in or do:
I hope you have an inspiring week full of wacky words and giggles!