In Year 6 science, we have a unit called Reef Warriors. The children explore how the growth and survival of living things are affected by the physical conditions of their environment. What better way to explore this concept than by looking at the Great Barrier Reef ecosystem! One that is in a constant battle of balance so that the plethora of species that call it home can continue to thrive and survive.
As part of this unit we encourage teachers to recreate the reef with their students using this fun Coral Reef Sculpture Art Idea.
And I thought it was just so fun that I couldn’t just keep it hidden in the unit. It had to be shared! So here it is… the steps we followed to create a Coral Reef Masterpiece!
What You Will Need:
Carboard from boxes
Crayola Model Magic clay
Hot glue gun (optional)
Step 1: To begin this project I cut out the sculpture bases 20cmx10cm (but you can use any sized base really – just remember though, whatever size you do choose to use, the larger the space your students will need to cover with their reef – so you probably don’t want your base to be too large!) and covered them with alfoil (you can get your students to do this part if you like).
Step 2: Then, after showing your students an example of one you have made up prior to class (which I find is best practice when doing art projects to help students see the bigger picture before they begin) have your students use the collage paper and cardstock to experiment with different folding techniques and arrangements on their alfoil base to come up with reef looking structures. Your students may like to try rolling their paper, folding their paper accordion style, and cutting their paper into a fringe and then rolling it. These techniques all work great from my experience. Maybe have them show you their structures before they glue them down but if you don’t have time for this encourage your students to at least place their pieces where they would like them to go before gluing so they can plan their layout.
Step 3: Allow your students to glue their paper structures to the base.
Step 4: Once they have these paper structures in place, your students can now begin using the Model Magic clay (this clay will air dry so is fantastic for simple projects like this). The clay can be used to create additional coral pieces or be used to help hold other things in place like their recycled materials (bottle caps, pipecleaners, straws, etc) that they would like to add to their reef to create different looking coral structures. If your students are feeling creative they may even like to add some animals living among their coral using the materials available to them.
And there you have it! A super simple art idea, that is delightfully open-ended and will result in not only some fantastic art sculptures but also some pretty happy students as well!
Given this a go? Please tell me all about it in the comments below!
So if you have been following our Homeschooling Through COVID-19 blogposts series, you will now have a rough plan in place for how you are going to tackle a homeschooling routine and have some idea of what topic you are going to start immersing your children in first to help teach them reading, writing and maths skills.
But I bet you are now thinking… ‘Where can I find the resources I need to teach my child this content’.
Well, never fear! Ridgy Didge has you covered.
We’ve scoured the internet for the best online resources that meet the requirements of the Australian Curriculum. Check out the list below for more information!
Khan Academy Khan Academy is an online portal of lessons created by experts and covering topics such as maths and science. The best part about it, is that it is FREE!
K5Learning This website provides reading and maths lessons and worksheets for Kindergarten to Grade 5. This is a paid subscription but they do offer a 14-day Free Trial.
Epic Epic provides a digital library for kids 12 years and under. Again this requires a paid subscription but they do offer a 30 day Free Trial.
KidsNews KidsNews offers a great variety of news type articles that would be fantastic way of launching a new topic or for use as non-fiction text type reading.
Studyladder Mathematics, English, Science and more! A comprehensive program of online educational activities for students aged 4 to 12, mapped to the curriculum. They are offering Free accounts for parents currently and have detailed information on how you can use their website through school closures here.
Hit the Button Hit the Button is an interactive maths game with quick fire questions on number bonds, times tables, doubling and halving, multiples, division facts and number squares. The games, which are against the clock, challenge and develop a child’s mental maths skills. AND its free!
Read Theory This website provides personalised comprehension exercises for K-12 and ESL students. AND its free!
Typing.com Typing teaches the fundamentals of keyboarding skills, digital literacy and coding. AND once again it is free!
From the Pond Mel at From the Pond designs beautiful colouring pages and offers a FREE Colouring Club – for when you need a bit of quiet time and want to strengthen your little peoples fine motor muscles!
ABC Podcasts Probably more suited to the older kiddos, these podcasts are short and sweet and are great for encouraging your children to think globally.
Fierce Girls Another ABC product that is completely free, and educates our children on the famous women who helped shape Australia’s history.
Vocabulary Spelling City Not a free service but a fun one if you are looking for games to help your child with their spelling.
P.E. With Joe Starting Monday 23 March, Joe will be hosting a free workout aimed at kids LIVE on his YouTube channel.
Wushka Wushka is a cloud-based digital school reading program, carefully levelled to support students learning to read. Currently there is no cost to using their program until June 30, 2020.
BTN This is probably one of my most favourite websites. Current events presented in a child-friendly manner. A great source of inspiration for further research and study.
ABCYA Stacks of interactive maths, STEM and reading games, sorted by grade.
StarFall Loads of videos about letters and sounds, sorted by grade.
Letter School A FREE app to practice writing letters and numbers.
Jack Hartmann This is a kids music channel with loads of active songs to practise and consolidate an enormous range of concepts.
The Night Zookeeper The Night Zookeeper is your online writing too, class blog and library of interactive lessons. You can sign up for a 1 month free trial.
AlphaBlocks Youtube Channel The Alphablocks are 26 living letters who discover that whenever they hold hands and make a word, something magical happens. Learn to read and spell easy, intermediate and hard words with the phonetic spelling technique designed especially for kids learning to read.
Art Hub for Kids Art Hub is run by a man named Rob. He uploads new art lessons M-F, every week! Follow along with him and learn how to draw plus other fun art lessons for kids.
GoNoodle GoNoodle® engages 14 million kids every month with movement and mindfulness videos created by child development experts. Available for free at school, home, and everywhere kids are!
Cosmic Kids Making yoga and mindfulness fun for kids since 2012. Free adventures on YouTube. Online kids yoga teacher training. Kids yoga DVDs. Kids yoga class plans.
Okay, so now that you have a plan in place for your day, I bet you are asking yourself the question, ‘What on earth do I need to teach my child?’
This virus has certainly forced us all into roles we weren’t expecting, as educators to our children, but there are some very clear and simple guidelines you can follow to ensure you child is progressing and you are teaching them what they need to know.
From the very start I will tell you there is a very easy way of finding out what you need to teach to meet the requirements of the Australian Curriculum. They are found here on the Australian Curriculum website. But if you aren’t a teacher, all this information can be a little bit overwhelming. So let me simplify it for you and make it manageable for a homeschooling context.
If nothing else in your homeschooling day you need to make sure you are covering the following subject areas:
These three curriculum areas are the pillars on which you can then base everything else. But what does Maths, Reading and Writing look like in your home context?
That really is totally up to you. Remember this is your classroom. How you teach is up to you but here is a helpful diagram explaining what these three pillars actually entail:
There are definitely more types of writing and reading strategies and maths topics but these are the very basics. It causes you to kind of wonder how on earth your child’s teacher actually gets all that done in a year doesn’t it?!
Well let me let you in on a secret!
The key to pulling all of this together and making the learning experience enjoyable for your child, is to use overarching topics/themes to teach these three pillars.
For example you may be doing an under the water theme. To start with you might do some READING to research the topic. You may then do some WRITING to record what you have found. You may then do some science experiments which involve measuring and recording data so this brings in your MATHS. You may draw some pictures of under the sea creatures and paint them. You can then WRITE some sentences describing what is happening in the picture. You then might like to do some more READING to find out more about the topic or simply READ some picture books relating to the topic. You may print off some whale pictures and write numbers on them that are relevant to your child’s age, have them put them in order, have them write them down using words and numerals and other ways of representing to draw in a bit more MATHS.
Can you see how one topic can cover so many areas of the three pillars?! It really is magic! And by teaching this way you are making the content engaging and fun for your child/ren.
The Australian Curriculum is very specific about the topics that need to be covered in every year level. So to save you time sorting through the curriculum website, I have simplified it for you in our Homeschooling Curriculum Overview document. Available now, in our Free Resource Library.
Have a read and let me know what you think by commenting below. Was this helpful for you? Is there something I’ve missed? I want this to be helpful for you so please let me know if there is anything I can add to it.
And while you wait for the third and final blog post in this series focusing on the resources you can use to teach the Australian Curriculum content in your home, have a go at integrating the three pillars into some of the topics outlined in our Homeschool Curriculum Overview. I hope you find it as fun as I do!
Whether you have withdrawn your children voluntarily or your school has been shutdown due to COVID-19, the reality of homeschooling your own children can be a daunting one. I totally get it! I’m a teacher and it has me a little anxious about how I am going to educate my own child here at home too. Particularly with further travel and social restrictions being put in place, the options of environments to educate your child are getting few and far between, putting pressure on the few resources you most likely have in your home to cater for education.
But let me put your mind at ease straight away!
In fact it is the very opposite and when embraced openly can have great advantages over the traditional schooling system.
A typical homeschooling day looks very different to a typical school day. In a typical classroom, a teacher has up to 30 little people to manage and educate. At home you may only have one (as I do) or you may have several more (my hat goes off to you!). For this very reason then, the amount of time you need to spend teaching can be reduced dramatically. Really you should be spending no more than 2-3 hours engaging in ‘formal’ learning activities. Of course you can totally spend more, but for most children, with one-on-one attention, 2-3 hours will be plenty.
Who is feeling relieved already?!
The remainder of your children’s time may be spent doing the following: – reading – bike riding – outside play – building cubby houses – arts and crafts – bushwalks (if socially possible) – cooking in the kitchen And the list could go on…
Do not underestimate the value of these activities to your child’s education. Not only do they provide a brain-break opportunity, but they also serve to engage other parts of the brain that normal paper and pencil activities can not.
So then how can you plan your day? No doubt you will have other busy jobs to attend to, whether it be making dinner, cleaning the house, working from home yourself or even just needing a bit of downtime. Don’t underestimate the need for downtime. It isn’t you being slack, it is you being sensible! Teachers in classrooms need breaks too! DON’T FEEL GUILTY!!!
So let me layout a few ground rules before we talk about the specifics of a daily plan. Keep these close so that when you are feeling overwhelmed from trying to juggle everything (including teaching your children) you have a base-line to always go back to.
#1. KEEP THINGS SIMPLE I can’t emphasise this enough. The best learning can happen out of the simplest ideas. You don’t need whiz-bang resources to help your child understand a concept.
#2. DON’T BE AFRAID WHEN YOUR CHILD DOESN’T GET IT Repetition is the key to learning. Most likely your child will not get a concept the first time you teach it to them. You will need to revisit concepts several (and I’m talking possibly up to 50 times!) before a child has fully grasped a concept!
#3. BE PATIENT I know this is easy to say from afar, but it really is important. And if you feel like you are loosing your patience, step away from what you are doing and take a break. Come back to it another time when both you and your child are fresh.
#4. CONSIDER THE TIME OF DAY I can guarantee you will have the best success teaching your child in the morning rather than in the afternoon (although I’m pretty sure most of you would have worked that out yourself). Personally I am going to be avoiding doing any formal teaching after lunch. If we do anything after lunch it will be online, craft, art or physical activity based.
#5. ATTENTION SPAN Did you know the attention span of your child is equivalent to their age? So my daughter who is 5, has a MAXIMUM attention span of 5 minutes (unless of course she is watching the television ;p). This is really important to note, as this will impact on how long you should be spending explaining something. Keep things as short and simple as you can. You may need to break things down into steps.
#6. DON’T BE AFRAID OF CHANGE Don’t be afraid to change things up if they are not working. Google will be your friend during this time no doubt as you research different ways to teach certain concepts. You may also need to experiment with your daily routine until you are all comfortable with it. Also don’t be afraid to contact your child’s classroom teacher for tips and tricks to help teach your child.
#7. YOU DON’T HAVE TO TEACH EVERYDAY You will no doubt need a break as much as your children will. Feel free to take days off from the routine to aide the sanity of all!
#8. USE PLAY Play is a powerful tool for engaging children and teaching concepts without formally doing so. A great addition to your afternoon perhaps, to continue teaching covertly 😉
#9. BREATHE This may sound like a given but make sure you schedule in time to breathe and have some space to yourself.
#10. HAVE FUN This is always our motto here at Ridgy Didge. At the end of the day, if you and your child are having fun, the learning will follow. If an activity is not engaging you or your child, you have permission to think outside the square and make it more engaging for yourself and your child. Rather than writing your sight words out on a piece of paper, take a piece of chalk and write it on your driveway! If the sums on your sheet are driving you bonkers, head out to the sand pit and write the equations and answers in the sand! If your child is struggling with their reading, make a ‘microphone’ out of alfoil so they can speak into that as they read! There really are so many ways you can add fun to ‘dull’ activities.
So with all this in mind… To help you further I have laid out a possible homeschooling plan you can follow to get you started. And remember, you can take this and tweak it to suit your own individual needs.
The template for the plan can be found in our Free Resource Library and is editable for you to use to schedule out your homeschooling day. Below you can see how I have used it to plan out my homeschooling days with my daughter. I’ve added notes in there for you to consider and justify my reasoning for my schedule choices. Mould your schedule around these tips and your child’s needs.
Remember: Despite the world circumstances that are happening around us, you are being offered a really wonderful opportunity to connect with your child. We are wanting to support you in your transition to this new role in your household as educator. This is the first of four blog posts helping you make the transition with ease and reducing the overwhelm.
Let’s help one another make the most of it! Add your thoughts below in the comments of any other tips and tricks you may have to share with new homeschooling parents.
I love picture books. I love their weight in my hands, the promise held in a few pages. I love that you have to hold them up to really share them with others, inviting your audience to stop and look. And I love all the ways they can be brought to life in classrooms!
1. Use them to start the day (or the session)
While not all picture books are short, there are plenty of short and sweet picture books out there. Why not try starting your day (or session) with a picture book? A short text allows students a connecting activity, something to let them settle into the routine of the day. It gives time for late students to make their way into the classroom. It can be tied to the theme of the day or touch on a behaviour you’d like to improve. In older classes, students can even take turns to be the reader, allowing you the time to mark the roll or get beginning of the day jobs done. And by starting the day with a book, you’re showing your students that you prioritise literature and stories.
2. Use them to explore vocabulary
Picture books can be surprisingly rich in vocabulary. Authors have limited space to bring their world to life, and they tend to choose their words carefully. Students can search for unfamiliar words in picture books, create word wall displays from them, try to use them in their own writing. As students grow older they can explore how the author uses different words together and how the text might be different if the author used different words.
3. Use them as mentor texts
Picture books are ideal for students to explore text features – from how sentences are constructed to how punctuation is used to how an author describes characters, settings or actions. This is particularly good for guided reading or reading centres when a group of students can explore one text together.
4. Use them to explore different genres
The world of picture books is a rich one. Students can explore fantasy, contemporary fiction, historical fiction, wordless picture books, memoirs and biographies, poetry – even books with significant scientific, history or maths content! This makes them great introductions into new genres, but they can also be used for comparisons or as examples for students writing these genres themselves.
5. Use them to explore different subjects
Just as picture books cover many different genres, they also cover many different subjects. Learning about bushfire? There’s a picture book for that! (Try the beautiful The House on the Mountain by Ella Holcombe) Learning about war? There’s a picture book for that! (I still love Gary Crew’s Memorial) Learning about the 1967 referendum? There’s a picture book for that! (Say Yes by Jennifer Castles)
Picture books are a great way to introduce a new subject, to introduce new vocabulary and ideas and to build background knowledge for students. It also allows you to ensure that literacy is a priority across the curriculum.
6. Use them to build writing skills
Picture books are wonderful prompts for writing. Students of all ages can ask what might happen next – or what might have happened if something was changed in the book. Students can put themselves into the shoes of the characters to write first person narratives like diary entries or letters. The events of a story can make for a wonderful newspaper report.
One series of picture books with many, many writing opportunities is the Pig the Pug series by Aaron Blabey. You can find more writing ideas for that series in this blog post – along with a free download!
7. Use them to explore visual literacy
Picture books tell so much of their stories through their illustrations, whether it’s the intricate details of a Shaun Tan book, the beautiful realism of Freya Blackwood’s illustrations, or what Mothball the wombat is really up to in Bruce Whatley’s Diary of a Wombat illustrations. In a world which increasingly requires visual literacy, exploring the illustrations of picture books is a great way to improve our students’ skills.
8. Use them to explore reading aloud
The length of picture books – and the complete stories within them – make them perfect for students to build their reading aloud skills. Students can reflect on how they might use their voices to bring the stories to life – should they read faster or slower, louder or softer? Should they try an accent or different voices for different characters? (I like making Lion in The Very Cranky Bear very posh).
9. Use them with other media
Have you ever sung the song from Wombat Stew? Or watched the fabulous movies of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child? Picture books can be brought alive in a range of different media from songs to movies to museum and art gallery displays. You can introduce these different types of media based on picture books to students and explore how they enhance, change or build on the books. You can also challenge your students to create their own work based on a picture book you are exploring in the classroom.
10. Use them for enjoyment
It is okay to just have fun with picture books. To have a collection in your classroom which students can explore in their own time. To read them aloud when you have 5 or 10 minutes of spare time. To take them outside under a tree to share with your students. To examine old favourites. To admire the artwork and the way the author put the words together. To invite other teachers and staff and parents to share a picture book with the class.
When we give ourselves permission to enjoy texts in the classroom, we show our students that reading is fun – that picture books are fun – whether we’re new preppies or experienced Year 6 students or teachers or parents. And we show them that reading is something we can carry with us all of our lives. Isn’t that a great thing to share!
I’m passionate about education, reading, Australian authors and illustrators, fitting the right book to the right students and more! I create picture book studies for my Galarious Goods TpT storeand blog about books and more at galariousgoods.com
There is a key element that can unite all areas of the Australian Curriculum whether it be content areas, cross curriculum priorities or general capabilities. Let us explore this key – Picture Books.
Research has long shown the correlation between higher academic achievement and children who read daily for pleasure. However, the benefits of engaging regularly with quality literature extends well beyond academic achievement. It has also long been recognised that literature can be a powerful tool for developing children’s social and emotional well-being.
Literature can provide role models for children as well as a context for discussing morals and values. Children’s literature can also be used to extend children’s knowledge and understanding of themselves and those who may be different culturally, socially or historically.
With this examined briefly, we can begin to see how a well selected collection of children’s literature, coupled with sound practice, has the potential to provide a strong linking thread across the Australian Curriculum.
When working with picture books it is important to consider how the listeners or readers are responding to the text. It is important to let go of any notions of control to direct the responses and input of children. But rather let the discussion free flow so that children are given the opportunity to develop their oral language skills in a non-threatening environment.
Building a Picture Book Collection
Choosing age-appropriate material is vital to the success of language and literacy development in your students.
I have taken the hard work out of finding such books, by creating a list of book recommendations that are suitable for each Primary School grade listed in the Australian Curriculum. I have even linked each book to their most relevant curriculum areas although you will quickly see that many of the books address multiple curriculum requirements.
Well selected and used picture books can be powerful tools for educators. The magic of literature includes elements such as: helping children view others as equal members of society, promoting a more positive sense of self, helping children learn about the world, helping to cope with stress, providing insights into problems, and the list could go on.
When these elements are viewed in line with the Australian Curriculum it is clear to see that well selected and carefully used children’s picture books can and should be a vital key used by educators to unlock the Australian Curriculum, making the content more manageable for teachers and students alike.
Do you use picture books in the classroom? If so, I’d love to know some of your favourites for the grade you teach! Feel free to tell me by leaving a comment below.