I’m an occasional donor to the RSPCA and recently they sent out a request for people to sew pouches for orphaned native wildlife. Baby possums, sugar gliders and kangaroos are kept in these pouches which keep them warm and mimic the pouches of their mothers. They included an instruction sheet and I thought this would be a great activity for our kids to do, while also giving them an opportunity to do some community service.
I put a request in the school newsletter for donations of old sheets or leftover material and parents brought in several bags full. We borrowed a sewing machine from the Art Department and my aide brought her machine in from home. The students needed a piece of fleecy material to make the outside pouch, a piece of cotton or flannelette to make the inside liner, scissors and a ruler and pen.
Students chose which animal they wanted to make a pouch for. There are several sizes needed for the different sized animals. They then measured out the required sized rectangle on their two pieces of material and cut them out, folded them in half and took them to the sewing machines. My aide and one of my Year 6 library monitors, who is an experienced seamstress, manned the sewing machines and sewed up each rectangle into a pouch. The liner was then placed inside the outer pouch and the two were stitched together around the top.
I’ve contacted the RSPCA to see if someone would like to come to assembly so the kids can present their pouches. Otherwise I’ll just mail them in. It was an easy and enjoyable activity and it was good for the kids to make something that had a purpose and would benefit someone other than themselves.
I decided to try book speed dating with my Year 8 classes this week. Too often when they come for wide reading they grab a magazine and just flick through the pictures without actually doing much reading. I wanted them to engage with a number of books and read for a focused amount of time.
I arranged the tables and chairs into groups of four, and made it look special by adding tablecloths and a box of artificial flowers to each. (We found about two dozen artificial flower arrangements sitting in a cupboard a couple of years ago. No idea where they came from but we claimed them and they’ve been great for displays on Spring, Valentine’s Day etc). I then created a response sheet where students could give a quick opinion of the books. I put together a trolley of suitable books which would appeal to both genders, aiming for a mix of genres. Each place setting at the tables had a book, a response sheet and a pencil.
When the students arrived there was much speculation about what was going on with the new look of the library. I explained what speed dating was and how it related to our activity. I discussed how, just as we form first impressions of people, we get an impression of a book by looking at its cover, font, use of white space and blurb. We also discussed the etiquette of speed dating – giving people/books your full attention for the allotted time, not ignoring your date/book or passing them over for another.
Students then had three minutes to get to know their “date” by reading solidly. When I was planning this I thought three minutes might be too short a time, but some students struggled to focus for that long and had to be reminded that they were being rude to their date. At the end of the three minutes I played some music to signal the time to move – poppy, romantic music such as Taylor Swift worked best. Students filled in their sheet and moved to the next table.
Overall it was a successful lesson and something that got the kids talking – when my second class arrived they’d been prepped by the earlier class and were eager to try it. The response sheet was a bit of a distraction for some students – they tended to doodle rather than read – so I might rethink that next time.
It was Grandparents’ Day today at school, a day where the children are encouraged to celebrate their elders and where the grandparents get to come to school to see what their grandchildren are learning. We had many children proudly showing their grandparents around the library and sharing a story with them. We had a big display of picture books all about grandparents. Our Year 6 classes have a relationship with the local aged care home, RSL Centaur, and they invited the residents to the library where they interviewed them about their lives and shared their experiences with them.
We challenged students to come up with a catapult that would fling a polystyrene ball. We gave students free range of our craft trolley, including paddle pop sticks, cardboard rolls, rubber bands, plastic spoons, bulldog clips etc and let them design and experiment to see what would work best. I had a slideshow of images of catapults playing on the screen in the background, but I avoided giving the kids any instructions, as this often closes off creativity. We then lined the students up in the library foyer and had a competition to see whose catapult got the greatest distance. The winning team got a packet of M and Ms.
As part of our push to include more coding and digital technology skills in the curriculum, I organised for our Year 3 and 5 students to take part in the Bebras Computational Thinking Challenge for the first time. This involved students using one of their IT lessons to log on and complete a quiz, either individually or in groups, to test their ability to think logically and to reason. A sample question for Year 3 and for Year 5 is shown below.
This week I presented the certificates of merit, credit and distinction on assembly. We had a lot of merits and credits and one boy in Year 5 got a distinction. This was a fun and worthwhile event to get involved in and we will be expanding our participation next year.
Our senior reading group meets on the first Tuesday of the month at lunch time in the library. It’s been running for a couple of years now and has around 8-10 members, mostly girls. The students bring in the books they’re reading and discuss them and I bring in some new titles to show to them. We sit on comfy armchairs around bowls of chocolate – all very civilized. I can’t take credit for the name of the group – I remember reading it somewhere but I’m not sure where.
I’ve just bought 10 sets of Makedo toolkits which allow kids to easily cut and join cardboard using simple reusable screws and hinges. There are some fantastic creations on the Makedo site and kids can really use their imagination to easily construct all kinds of things. I also found some cheap Makedo “Ready to Build” kits where kids can punch out printed pieces and join them together to create dinosaurs, cars, animals etc. I thought this might be a good entry point for kids who need a bit more guidance before feeling comfortable coming up with their own ideas. I put everything out at lunchtime today and let the kids explore.
The girls liked using the kits but the boys preferred to make their own creations using the scrap cardboard and boxes. The kids’ creations are on display in the library for a week and then we can disassemble them. I think I should be able to reuse the kits a few times before the cardboard is destroyed.