Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

PZCmnepS_400x400

Today Packing for the Journey features two stories from Dr Virginia Lowe. These wonderful anecdotes show how shared book reading enriches children’s knowledge and their ever-expanding understanding of life.

 

* * * * * * * *

I’ll tell you a story Mum’: Two children tell
by Virginia Lowe      

I kept a record of my two children’s contact with books and their responses. Rebecca is almost three years and three months older than her brother. The children’s own stories arose naturally from contact with books. These two stories demonstrate how the children use this literary material – in this case at least, one shows her scientific bent, the other works on relationships.

1. Nick the whale. One morning, Rebecca and I had a row before school – the reason for it is not recorded, but Nick disliked us arguing and was tense about it. Later he was helping me hang out the washing, as usual handing me pegs. (He was 3y1m old.) 
This time he was picking them up in his mouth because he was being alternately a shark and a whale.

       N: I’m picking them up in my mouth cos I can’t use my flippers. I’m a friendly whale.

       V: You’re clever to do that Mr Whale.

      N: Yes, I can do that ‘acouse I’m an excellent whale who can do everything that is magic. 

He talked a bit about his mother who had gone shopping underwater. Then,

        N: I’m having an argument with my mother [imaginary whale one that is].

       V: Oh yes. Do whales like arguments? [Expecting him to say that like him, they didn’t. It’s obviously different for whales]

        N: Yes. Argumenting [sic] is good for whales.

He carried the monologue on over lunch. His [whale] mother was sitting beside him.

        N: I’m sharing my food with my mother. She said to put the plate in the middle.

        V: What am I?

        N: You’re people

He carried through fairly logically, as a completely anthropomorphised whale.

        N: Do you know how we get out of the water? We use our flippers on the steps.

        N: Do you know how we wash our clothes?

        V: No.

        N: In a washing machine! [etc etc].

9781851244287.jpg

Whale’s Way Written by Johanna Johnston, Illustrated by Leonard Weisgard.                                   Originally published in 1962

Anyway, at rest time, I fetchedWhale’s Way (Johnston) to read to him. He at once identified himself with the largest whale on the endpapers and first few pages.


        N: That’s me and that’s my mother. I’m bigger than my mother.
       N: That’s me and that’s my mother [the lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

 

 

Some pages later he chose the smaller of two on the page

        N: There’s me looking small.

        V: Do you look small because you’re further away?

        N: Yes.

        N: That’s me and that’s my mother [lower, closer one]. I’m bigger than my mother. I’m a grown up whale.

On several pages he commented on the more distant whale as ‘that’s me looking small’ presumably to make sure that we both understood it was only through perspective that he looked smaller.

        N: I have those flukes. I swim and splash with my flukes (etc. mainly echoing the book’s text).

But the book is fairly long and very complicated, and he was restless before the end of most pages. 

        N: I’m tired of this whale book

So we stopped and he cuddled down to sleep with it clutched in his arms.

When he woke from his nap, his grandparents were visiting. I asked him if he was still a whale, he grinned and said ‘yes’ and told them with excitement –

        N: We’ve got a book about whales!

* * * * * * * *

2. A story-game from Rebecca. She was 4y 4m, and we were exploring Italy in a campervan.

024102207X.jpg

The Fairy Tale Collection selected by Virginia Haviland, illustrated by Raymond Briggs, first published 1972 by Hamish Hamilton

A day of turnips inspired by ‘The Turnip’ (Tolstoy) which is in two of the collections of stories we had with us, Bamberger My First Big Story Book and Haviland The Fairy Tale Treasury.

First, in a park, by a delightful pond (Florence) – Rebecca pointed to a large clump of grass.

        R: That’s a great big turnip, Mum! There must have been a show here to grow such a big turnip (presumably she meant the biggest vegetables would be grown for and sent to agricultural shows). 

That evening, while tea was preparing, she played ‘turnips’ outside in the campsite for half an hour or so. She was pulling up clumps of grass. This is just a few jotted phrases of an interminable conversation.

    R: Look at this great big turnip, Mum! It’s so heavy, and it was hard to pull up. We’ll have turnip for supper.

   R: If I find more than four turnips I’ll invite some friends to tea (a partial quote from Potter’s The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher).

    R: Look at them on the scales. See how heavy the big one is? (One in each hand, arms  straight, bigger one low, smaller high)

Later:
     R: Now I’ve got two little turnips and one big one. Nick will have a little one, and I will have a little one, and you and Daddy shall share the great big one.

      R: Three of them are boiled now. I can’t wait to eat them.

    R: I’ve planted some more of that brand of turnip. They’ll be ready in the morning. They’re the sort that grow overnight. I hope they’re as nice as the ones we’ve just eaten.

As might be expected, this one is now a scientist (a permaculture one) and the other a teacher, coping with relationships all the time.

* * * * * * * *

Dr Virginia Lowe has been a Judge for the Children’s Book Council’sBook of the Year Award and Convenor for the CBCA Crichton Award for new illustrators. She is now an honorary life member of the CBCA (Vic) and recipient of the Leila St John medal from them for services to children’s literature in Victoria. She has taught children’s literature, English and creative writing at university. She is a published poet (her latest, with her husband John, is published by the Melbourne Poets Union, Lines Between), and has also written extensively on children and books with some forty academic articles and a regular column ‘Two Children Tell’ in Books for Keeps  http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/. Virginia’s book Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell was published by Routledge (London, 2006).

SPR_Front_cover

Virginia Lowe’s book  Stories, Pictures and Reality: Two Children Tell is based on a reading journal of over 5000 hand written pages in which she recorded all the books read to her two children and their responses to them. 

Links:

https://createakidsbook.com.au

http://www.shelleychappell.com/blog/introducing-virginia-lowe

http://booksforkeeps.co.uk/member/virginia-lowe

https://monash.academia.edu/VirginiaLowe

A Message to Bubup Wilam

On leaving Bubup Wilam
March 2015

 

IMG_0533 copyTeaching and learning at Bubup Wilam 2009 – 2015

I was going to sit down and write this before I did anything else, but I went into the garden instead.

For me, gardening is a kind of meditation. I recall Jeannie’s words – ‘Just let your mind go wherever it wants to, don’t fight it’.

Now I am ready. I have pulled out some weeds, raked over some dirt, and planted in some herbs.

In 2009 I started working at Bubup Wilam when it was a one room kindergarten in Nebel Street, Lalor.

I had left teaching ten years before and didn’t expect to go back to it.

I had loved being a teacher and I missed the day-to-day emotional and intellectual buzz that I got from being with babies to six year old children.

I jumped at the chance, just as I was turning 64, to return to it.

Our Place P1010458
Our Place – Bubup Wilam, Nebel Street, Lalor. 2010

When I started teaching at Bubup Wilam, I believed my educational philosophy and way of teaching would fit well with Bubup Wilam’s vision and aims.

Now I know how much I still had to learn about teaching, about people, and about being a non-Aboriginal person working in an Aboriginal community.

What challenged me the most was the realisation that I still had a lot to learn about myself. 

It was a steep learning curve, often uncomfortable, sometimes distressing.

Every day we were confronted with the effects of on-going generational trauma suffered by Aboriginal people as a result of colonisation, dispossession of land and culture, and the forced removal of children from families – the Stolen Generations.

BW  Logo
Our Place = Bubup Wilam, Main Street, Thomastown, 2010

THANK YOU…

… all of you, my colleagues who have become my friends, and from whom I have learned so much.

Here I want to single out a few, and what I say to them, applies to you all

Trish, Dianne, Jedda, Lisa – the strong Gunditjamara, Gunnai/Kurnai, Mutthi Mutthi, Yorta Yorta women – that I met when I first started at Bubup Wilam in 2009, at Nebel Street

You welcomed me into the Bubup Wilam family.

You have been my teachers.

You have openly and honestly shared your life stories with me.

You have helped me begin building my own understanding of what it means to be  Aboriginal, and living in Australia today, with a sidelined 60,000 year heritage and culture.

And to realise what it means to me to be non-Aboriginal in the same country.

You have been my role models, and helped me to broaden my own understanding of true social justice.

You have introduced me to Aboriginal ways of thinking and living, and to Aboriginal English, and to your unique style of humour.

You are rebuilding the parts of your lives that have been broken through the effects of historical events.

You are healing yourselves, studying, reconnecting with long-lost family, and raising and creating a new generation of proud and deadly kids, with strong connections to Community, Country and Culture.

We are growing and learning together.

14721691_885917151540970_4557528140362211907_n

By chance I turned up at Bubup Wilam 5 years ago.

I am leaving the building.

I can forget the entry code and how to lock up.

I can kiss goodbye to rosters.

I look forward to walking with you as far as I can.


Bubup Wilam

gets into your bones
and lives on in your HEART and soul
HEART
Honest
Ethical
Accountable
Respectful
Trusting 
&
Trustworthy

All images © Bubup Wilam for Early Learning Inc.

 

Bubup Wilam for Early Learning

Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam is a self-determining Aboriginal Child and Family Centre managed by Aboriginal people for Aboriginal children, families, and Community. It provides access to an integrated range of services and programs, including: early intervention and prevention programs, early years education, and health and wellbeing services.

I began teaching at Bubup Wilam in 2009 when it was a stand-alone kindergarten in Lalor, one suburb north of Thomastown.  In 2012, the Centre opened at its current site in Thomastown, and between January 2012 and March 2015 I worked there as the Pedagogical Leader.

Bubup Wilam – Purpose

In partnership with families
to nurture
strong proud and deadly kids
in a culturally rich and supportive
educational environment.

Bubup Wilam means ‘Children’s Place’ in Woi Wurrung language. The Centre is situated on the Wurundjeri land of the Kulin Nation, in Thomastown, in Melbourne’s north. It has become a Meeting Place for  Aboriginal people who have settled in Melbourne from different parts of Australia. 

Aboriginal map (1)

Families from many mobs/clans come together at Bubup Wilam

Bubup Wilam – Vision

Children who are proud
and have
a strong Aboriginal identity
as their foundation for
lifelong learning, health and wellbeing.

Bubup Wilam – Philosophy

‘Community Control is defined as the Aboriginal local Community having control of issues that directly affect their community, meaning that Aboriginal people must determine and control the pace, shape and manner of change and decision making at all levels. This reflects the right of Aboriginal people to self-determination in a meaningful and effective way.’ National Aboriginal Health Strategy (1989)

Bubup Wilam meaning Children’s Place in the Woi Wurrung language seeks to underpin and strengthen (our) vision through the service’s philosophy of

Instilling and strengthening
children’s strong sense of
Aboriginal identity and
personal self-esteem as
their foundation for lifelong
learning,
health and
wellbeing. 

This equates to children, with the support of their parents and extended family,

Taking a lead responsibility in
owning and developing
their learning,
playspace,
interactions, and
engagement with others
in a 
confident and supported way.

23000124_1130179657114717_4797757106704077360_o

 

I was a non-Aboriginal professional educator working within a self-determining  Aboriginal Community. Every day for the five years that I worked there, my beliefs, and ways of being, my knowledge and understanding of Aboriginal history and culture, my educational philosophy and ways of teaching, were challenged. I have never stopped learning, rethinking, revisiting, and searching for ways, as a non-Aboriginal woman, to walk in step with the Aboriginal Community.

Following the announcement by the Treasurer, Scott Morrison, that the Federal government had Allocated $50 million of taxpayer money on a new monument celebrating Captain Cook’s arrival in Australia, I wrote this response.

“Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has said that such incidents (throwing paint on statues of CC) are part of “a deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign to not just challenge our history but to deny it and obliterate it”. Is he serious? 

Spending $50 million on a ‘Captain Cook Memorial is a “deeply disturbing and totalitarian campaign” in the hands of the incumbent government which is setting, and has set the history agenda for over 230 years. 

That $50m would go a long way towards ‘memorials’ to teach all Australians the history of our land in the years prior to, and since 1788. This history is being written, painted, danced and sung, by Aboriginal people, who are still living with the effects of colonisation – telling how First Nations people lived here for 60,000 years, and have survived the consequences of invasion, destruction of the environment, massacres, and the terrible effect on whole families and clans, of the stolen generations. 

This government is setting its agenda for a culture war. That agenda must be challenged

 Sharing Aboriginal Voices is the place on Packing for the Journey for me to share stories of our past and current history from an Aboriginal perspective.                             

Janet McLean 

 

 

 

Anyone can be the mother

screen-shot-2017-03-03-at-2-15-08-pm

“…Vivian Paley observes in her classic study of social inclusion, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”…
“Certain children will have the right to limit the social experiences of their classmates. Henceforth a ruling class will notify others of their acceptability, and the outsiders learn to anticipate the sting of rejection” (p.3)

What then if, as Paley documents in her work, we took a stand against such exclusion, and actively (intentionally!) sought to shape and guide the social relationships occurring before us, just as clearly and strongly as we seek to shape the other kinds of learning that happen in our settings everyday?

http://thespoke.earlychildhoodaustralia.org.au/what-if/#comments

 

 

Our picture books

Let’s Go Baby-o! (2011)

Picture

A young child and his cousin play actions games together, but in between they stop to look out the window. What do they see?

Let’s Go Baby-o! is a fun-filled story for sharing with young children who are discovering the world around them.
Published as a board book in 2012.


Notable Book, Children’s Book Council Awards.


Make It I’m the Mother (2000)

Picture

One morning at kindergarten, Pascal and his friends learn how how to resolve their differences when they all have their own ideas about how to play their game.

Make It I’m the Mother is a funny, honest and affectionate story that many children will relate to, learn from and enjoy.



Josh and the Ducks (1998)

Picture

 

Josh likes to be in on everything, but these two ducks won’t let him play. They don’t like dog games…or do they?


Josh and the Monster (1998)

Picture

 

Josh and his friend are off to find the Monster of Mud. Up and over the mountain they go…but where is the monster hiding? And can Josh catch that Monster?



Continue reading

You can say “You Can’t Play”

I introduced this concept, to Yarralea, after hearing Vivian Paley speak at a conference in Brisbane in the early 1990s. I found that it gave teachers and children a phrase to begin thinking about the complexities of ‘belonging’.

As Vivian Paley states: We must be told, when we are young, what rules to live by … [teachers should] prepare our children to live and work comfortably with the stranger that sojourneth among them. And should it happen that one day our children themselves are strangers, let them know that a full share of the sun is rightfully theirs.'”

“New friendships were forged as children got to know other children. Children felt relieved (even the ones who did most of the excluding). Teachers could handle issues of exclusion simply (You forgot the rule) rather than approaching each instance as a moral puzzle to be solved.” (Laurie Levy)

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/laurie-levy/you-can-say-you-bullying_b_5104903.html?ncid=engmodushpmg00000003

Gus Dog Goes to Work – Teacher notes

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a warm and comical story of a not-so-usual day in the life of a sheep dog, by the top author/illustrator team of the best-selling title I Hate Fridays. It is set in regional Australia and is perfect for preschool and lower primary school age. This wonderful picture book provides lots of room for discussion about differences between country and city life and pets and working dogs, and animal behaviour in general. It also introduces children to the use of Aussie vernacular language.

gus-dog-goes-to-work-hb-cover-aw6-final-5082016-copy
 

Gus the Dog Goes to Work
Rachel Flynn / Craig Smith

TEACHER NOTES
By Janet McLean

Author         

Rachel Flynn was born in Bacchus Marsh, Victoria, and attended Bacchus Marsh Primary School and High School. At 17 she went to Ballarat to train as a teacher, and taught in primary schools in Melbourne before having two children. Since then she has written several books for children and studied for two degrees, a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Education. She currently teaches at the Council of Adult Education (Melbourne) in the Professional Writing and Editing course and at RMIT. Rachel has written numerous picture books and novel for children. 

She is best known for her hugely successful I Hate Fridays series (also illustrated by Craig Smith) including I Hate Fridays, It’s Not Fair, Worried Sick, I Can’t Wait and Messing Around. She is the author of more than 20 books for children including Whisper Wild, Freedom Child, illustrated by Anna Pignataro, The Goat, the Duck and the Bale of Hay, illustrated by Tom Jellett, and My Mummy and Me, My Daddy and Me, My Grandpa and Me, My Grandma and Me and My Sister and Me, all illustrated by Craig Smith. Some of her books have been translated and republished in French, Spanish, Dutch, Chinese and Korean. Rachel lives in Melbourne, Victoria. 

Rachel’s work is defined by themes related to ordinary suburban life and children’s culture, and her stories usually start with something that has really happened. Gus Dog Goes to Work is based on a true story that happened a few years ago in Kerang, a rural town in Northern Victoria, where a shearer, Tom, was working. One day his dog, Gus, went missing. Tom found him at the end of the day in a purple Ute, even though Tom’s Ute was white.

“This sounded like a good picture book idea to me, so I wrote all that down and added a few more things, like how he smelt everything, listened to everything and looked at everything, and how he learnt a new word, mongrel”. Rachel Flynn.

Illustrator      

Craig Smith is one of Australia’s most prolific, popular and award-winning illustrators of children’s books. He began illustrating in 1976. His first book was Christobel Mattingley’s Black Dog followed soon after by Geoffrey Dutton’s The Prowler. His witty and humorous artwork combines a wonderful sense of the absurd with a fine attention to detail. Craig has illustrated book covers, fiction series, including Too Cool written by Phil Kettle; The Cabbage Patch series by Paul Jennings’ and Rachel Flynn’s I Hate Fridays.  His many picture books include Where’s Mum? (Honour Book in the 1993 CBC Picture Book of the Year Awards), Billy the Punk (shortlisted in the 1996 CBC Picture Book of the Year Awards), Bob the Builder and the Elves and Sister Madge’s Book of Nuns. Most recently he made his debut as a writer/illustrator with his book about a notorious local cat, Remarkably Rexy.

Craig grew up in the Adelaide Hills, and studied graphic design at the South Australian School of Art. He worked at a variety of jobs – including undercoating the Sydney Harbour Bridge – while slowly building a career as an illustrator. He has done the illustrations for over 370 picture books, junior novels and educational readers. The humour and pathos of home and school life, and a fondness for unusual perspectives are features of his work. Craig lives in Melbourne with his partner Erica.

Craig says
“The peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus takes me back in time to my South Australian   childhood. Particularly helping out Uncle Dave organising the cows, and the dog, in a sing-song way. Or back at home Mum in an irritable mood. I hear Rachel’s use of this idiom with recognition and affection. Rachel has got it perfectly. My hope in these pictures was to capture something of this country life that I remember as a kid. In my mind I picture it as somewhat like Orrorroo – Mum’s birthplace.

Synopsis

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a warm and comical story of a not-so-usual day in the life of a sheep dog. Every day Gus Dog goes to work in the back of the Ute with his owner, Tom the shearer. But… One day in October, when Gus Dog (wakes) up, something (is) different. Tom and the Ute are gone, so he decides to go to work on his own. Along the way he stops to listen to everything, to smell everything, and to look at everything. He has some fun, gets up to some mischief, ruffles a few feathers, and learns a new word. Eventually he finds the ute – but, as in all good stories, that is not the end!

Gus Dog Goes to Work is a wonderful example of a picture book where the author and the illustrator work as a partnership, using their own special skills to create an engaging and believable story. Before even opening the book we know Gus Dog is a working dog. Gus Dog’s appearance and character are shown in the illustration on the front cover. His name, Gus dog,  implies there is a warm bond between him and his owner. His body language is loose, but alert – friendly and lively – alert eyes, pricked ears, and his tail waving in the air. The illustration on the back cover shows Tom driving the Ute past a paddock of sheep. This image provides a few more hints about the story. The warm earthy background colours tell us that the story is set in the country. The and sheep hint at a farm and shearing.

Writing      

Rachel Flynn (Rachel) tells Gus Dog’s story though action and dialogue. She uses a straightforward, rhythmic pattern of language, and verbs and nouns that focus on action and dialogue. Rachel begins the story simply: This is Gus Dog.                                                                                                                                             He has a house, a yard, a Ute, and a man. Speech balloons are used for most of the dialogue throughout the book.

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-2-02-55-pm

This is a wonderful way to introduce to readers to what Craig Smith calls ‘the peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus’ 

After meeting the characters on the first page, the next couple of pages give enough background information (the pre-existing situation) to set up the story that is to follow. We learn that Gus Dog already knows ‘lots of the same words’, has ‘Working dog Formula’ for breakfast every morning, and goes to work with Tom in the ‘back of the Ute’. On the next page, a ‘problem’ arises for Tom: ‘One day in October, when Gus Dog woke up, something was different. The house and the water tank were still there. The ancient red gum and the magpies were still there. 

screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-1-59-51-pm       screen-shot-2017-02-17-at-2-00-06-pm

Rachel then establishes a predictable storytelling pattern over five episodes, each with two double-page spreads. Each of the five incidents follows the same pattern

·       Gus Dog arrives at a place
·       He listens to everything, he smells everything, and he looks at everything
·       At each place he causes a ruckus
·       At most places he gets yelled at, (in a speech balloon), and runs away
In the next to last scene there is slight change to the pattern, when Gus rolls in a dead thing that smells fabulous, and after that he felt much better. A warm and funny conclusion is created in the in the last part of the story. Gus finds a ute, and jumps in the back to wait for Tom to come and say goodboy and drive them home. However, the reader knows something Gus doesn’t know – he is in the wrong ute. This is when Tom turns up and the two friends are reunited at last.

‘Gus is a working dog, but with initiative and resourcefulness and not much respect for authority’.                (Rachel Flynn)

ILLUSTRATIONS

  • The illustrations for this book are done as pencil sketches, then coloured digitally using Corel®Painter software.
  • Craig Smith says that this software is good at mimicking real paint, yet allowing for the efficiencies of digital production.
  • Rachel’s straightforward style of storytelling allows Craig to bring his own perceptions to the story.
  • Rachel says Craig’s ‘witty and humorous artwork combines a wonderful sense of the absurd with a fine attention to detail’.
  • His warm, comical pictures of the characters and place expand and enrich the story. Gus Dog, Tom and the Ute are depicted as quintessential Australian country characters.
  • Gus is shown as an alert, blue/black-and-tan kelpie/cum/heeler sheepdog.
  • Tom, with his moleskins, blue singlet, check shirt, wide-brimmed hat, pull-on leather boots, and his laconic ‘Gidday’, is portrayed as a loose-limbed, laid-back shearer.
  • Specific details in the drawings include – the type and colour of the dog, Tom’s clothing, and the use of a speech balloon to draw attention to the colloquial language that is used throughout the book. 
  • The special bond that exists between Gus and Tom is clearly shown in the illustration on the first page. They eye each other closely as Tom saunters over to give Gus his breakfast – a bowl of Working Dog Formula. Gus is looking back over his shoulder at Tom. He has his paw on the bowl, and his mouth is watering. He is bristling with anticipation. 
  • In every illustration Craig has thought about the characters and the setting. What will the different characters look like? What will the characters be doing? Where will they be situated on the page? 
  • Craig has added many other characters that are not mentioned in the text. The extra characters include: magpies, chooks, a bull, flies, a great variety of school children, birds on the fence, a boy on a bike, people on holiday in a hippie van, a petrol station, crows, farmers, rabbits, galahs, a kangaroo, a shearing shed and plenty of sheep.
  • He has thought about how will each scene be composed, and about the places Gus would/could go to on his way to work. He takes the reader on a trip through a small Australian country town and its outskirts – we see paddocks, a school-ground, a backyard, the main street, the petrol station, full rubbish bins ready to be collected, and tipped-over rubbish bins that Gus rummaged through to find something to eat for breakfast.
  • The colours Craig uses are the colours of an Australian the rural landscape. Craig’s pictures are full of action, dust, sunshine and attitude. As Rachel says, ‘Gus is depicted as a working dog, but with initiative and resourcefulness and not much respect for authority. Craig’s pictures are full of action, dust, sunshine and attitude.’

Discussion Points and Activities

  • Much of the pleasure and humour of this story is achieved through dialogue. Before sharing the story with children, practice reading the dialogue aloud so that you can capture ‘the peculiarly Oz country drawly way that Tom and everyone else use to talk – or yell – at Gus’.
    •  If you aren’t sure how to pronounce the words, maybe you can find someone who can demonstrate how to say them in an Oz country drawly way – gidday, getup, getdown, come’ere, getoutovit, gohome, goodboy and mongrel. Children will love the sound of these words and will soon be reading along with you, and maybe even using them using them spontaneously as they go about their day.
  • Gus is a working dog. Have a chat about what kind of work he does – helping Tom round up the sheep. Show a video of a dog rounding sheep – preferably one where the owner uses ‘working dog’ language.
    • The story has a pattern of moving from one incident to the next, starting on the morning there was NO TOM, NO UTE, NO BREAKFAST
  • With the children talk about how each incident is a little story. How does each story-within-a-story start? What does Gus listen to, smell, and look at along the way? Why does he get into trouble? Why do people yell at him? What words do they use that Gus understands? How does he leave each story and where does he go next?
    • In small groups retell and illustrate each story, and put them together to make a class story. The children can write or dictate their stories, and draw the pictures for each incident. They can also use their own words to go in to the speech balloons.
  • Many tiny details in the illustrations add interest to the story. Look through the illustrations to find separate other stories going on: the magpies in the red gum, the girl in the school office, any of the children in the playground, the woman with the white chooks, the hippy in the van playing the guitar, stickers on the purple ute, and Tom in his white Ute.
    • Gus doesn’t know where Tom is and sets off on his own. The text doesn’t tell us but there are clues in the pictures as to Tom’s whereabouts. Ask the children if they can find these clues? Are they on every page or just some?
  • When the real Tom told Rachel the story about the day the real Gus went missing, she asked him, ‘Why would he think the purple Ute was yours?’  Tom said, ‘Dogs are colour blind.’ You might want to find out more about how and what dogs see. Is it true that they are colour blind and what does this mean? Talk about how colour blindness affects some people.
    • Rachel also asked Tom what words Gus knew. ‘A few,’ said Tom, ‘getup, getdown, come’ere, getoutovit, gohome and goodboy.’ Ask the children what words they use when they are talking to their dogs. Make recordings or videos of the children ‘talking’ to their dogs. Can they use Tom’s way of talking?
  • Another question Rachel asked Tom was, ‘What do you think he did all day?’ ‘Well,’ said Tom, ‘he probably ran into the school yard, chased a rabbit, knocked over some bins, rolled in a dead thing and rounded up someone else’s sheep. He might have thought he was at work by then.’  Ask the children about some of the silly things their dogs (or other pets) have done. These could be compiled into a class book
    • Craig uses the colours of an Australian rural landscape. Look carefully at the different colours in the book and use a colour chart to find the names of colours. How many hues of reds, yellows, browns, greens, blues can you find? What other colours are used in the illustrations?
  •  Ask the children to create heir own pictures using the colours and style of illustrating  – drawing with pencils, charcoal, and watercolour using paints and brushes, or digitally programs are available
    • Look carefully at how Craig uses line, colour, light and shade, to show how Gus are feeling throughout the story. Look for examples of happiness, fear, contentment, joy, uncertainty
  • Children in small groups can choose an illustration they think is the funniest, and make up their own funny story
  • Links – Rachel Flynn https://penguin.com.au/authors/24-rachel-flynn
                   Craig Smith http://craigsmithillustration.com

gus-endpapers-v4-copy

See these teacher notes at Working Title Press
http://www.workingtitlepress.com.au/teachers_notes/Teacher%20Notes%20Gus%20Dog%20Goes%20to%20Work.pdf

Palindromes and Drawings

One day O, aged 5 years, drew our house, wrote some palindromes, and had a drawing lesson.

The first drawing O did was a picture of our dog, Callan, sitting down. He showed it to Andy who did a little drawing in the corner of a sitting dog, then O had another go at grounding the feet.
os-drawing-lesson

callan-sitting-thinking

On the other side of the paper O drew a detailed picture of our house – with pitched roof, chimney, front door with transom window, decorated glass side panels, a number 2, and himself standing in the doorway. There are shrubs in the garden. The dotted line at the bottom of the page depicts the street, the solid line separates the footpath from the road, and there’s a path leading to the front door. Our car is parked in the driveway next to the house and, from the top of the gable a bird is pooping SPLAT! on the windscreen.

O signed his name and Andy told him it was a palindrome, then he wrote ‘pop’ and ‘poop’

otto-j-as-house

O carefully cut out a plain piece of paper from his drawing and, with Andy, wrote some more palindromes

os-palindromesjpg

Pirates – part 2

I do not ask the children to stop thinking about play. Our contract reads more like this: if you will keep trying to explain yourselves I will keep trying to help you think about the problems you need to solve.

Vivian Gussin Paley (1981) Wally’s Stories

 The pirates nudging each other

When Richard told me his next story Ned was sitting next to him.
‘I’m going to do a play,’ said Richard.
‘There’s only two people. Ned, do you want to be in my play?”
Ned didn’t answer.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Silence
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
Nothing.
‘Ned, do you want to be in my play?’
‘Maybe’. Continue reading

Pirates – Part 1

Nudging Ned

a-sams-drawing

For many weeks Ned and Richard were playing pirates together. The day Richard said, quite politely, ‘Walk the plank, Ned’, things changed. Ned stamped his foot, got red in the face, and stormed off to the cubby house, shouting. ‘I’m the captain, Richard!’.

Ned refused to be in Richard’s story – the one where Richard was the captain. I had been watching this drama unfolding, aware that Ned always assumed the role of captain, and that Richard was getting a bit sick of being the pirate who always ended up in the shark-infested water.

I couldn’t help them work it out that day. I tried to help them find other ways to tell their stories.
‘You could paint or draw a picture about your pirate story.’
‘I can’t paint a pirate.’
‘You could each tell me the story that you’re thinking about, and I could write it down, and we could act it out at mat time.’

Richard was the first one to tell me a story.

‘There’s only Ned and Richard. There’s only two people. It’s about Ned and Richard. Ned and Richard fight with the swords and I’m the goodie and Ned is the baddie. There was a sea and I pushed him into the sea and I made him walk the plank.’

At mat time, Richard asked Ned to be the pirate who walked the plank. Ned shook his head, ‘No’, so Richard chose someone else. Ned wasn’t ready to take on that role – not in dramatic storyplay, and not as a character in Richard’s story. He as watched another child acted his part – a baddie being pushed into the sea. Continue reading