Guest Post: Virginia Lowe #1

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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.

 

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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].

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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!

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

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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.

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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).

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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

Book Week visit – a week early

Yesterday Andrew and I visited Delta Road Pre-School to talk about our booksP1010591

We read The Riverboat Crew, our very first picture book, published so long ago, in 1978. The big book was published in 1988. Here, I have just read the first page: The Alice was a paddle steamer on the Murray River, and a little voice piped up, My name’s Alice – there’s always someone – or they know someone with that name – a brother or sister, a cat or dog, a mum or dad, or a mouse. Andrew told the children that the riverboat was named after his Mum, whose name was …Alice. 

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I also read three of the ‘Josh’ books. They had already read Josh and the Monster, but hadn’t read Josh, Josh and the Ducks, and Josh and Thumper. Behind me is the Children’s Book Council of Australia’s Short-List Poster. Fabish, illustrated by Andrew, and written by Neridah McMullin, has been short-listed in the Eve Pownall Information Book Category.  The children were excited to point out to us that they had seen the picture of the book on the poster.

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Andrew drew some pictures with sticks of thin charcoal. He says that one of the best things about using charcoal is, if you want to change something you can rub it out with  kneadable rubber – by rubbing, pressing or dabbing. On this paper he drew a picture of our white Skye terrier, Danny. (We didn’t get a photo of the final drawing).

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He also drew a picture of our cat, Norah, who got herself into a pickle one day when she found herself spreadeagled on top to the clothes horse. It took her a while to work out how to get back down, but it didn’t stop her trying again, and again… 

More Mother’s Day Palimpsests

Palimpsest 3

  • palimpsest
    ˈpalɪm(p)sɛst/
    noun
    – a manuscript or piece of writing material on which later writing has been superimposed on effaced earlier writing.
    – something reused or altered but still bearing visible traces of its earlier form.

Otto's Andy portrait
Portrait Andy

Otto sat on my lap while he drew this portrait of Andy – Grandpa. He observed his subject carefully to make sure that he included specific details, including the pointy beanie on his head, spiky hair, moustache and beard plaid shirt with collar. Andy showed Otto that drawing the stripes of the shirt with a curve showed how they go around the body. To the side, Andy also drew a sample hat showing the ribs of the wool and the rim of the hat. An earlier drawing on the back of the paper shows through and becomes part of the final drawing

 

Lucas and Jack – Teacher notes

Teacher Notes
by Janet McLean 

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Written by: Ellie Royce
Illustrated by: Andrew McLean

Every week Lucas’ mum visits Great Grandpop at the nursing home. And every week Lucas waits for her outside. Waiting, for Lucas, is boring. Then one day he meets Jack. Jack is tricky and Jack is fun, and he is a great storyteller. He understands how Lucas is feeling – ‘Not much to do in there with all the oldies, I suppose’. To help pass the time he tells Lucas stories about himself and other residents of the nursing home. Lucas & Jack is a great book for introducing young children to the idea that old people can be fun and that deep down we have more in common than we think. More importantly Lucas & Jack encourages children to ask questions, be curious, imaginative and empathetic.

WRITING & LANGUAGE

Ellie Royce has written a moving, understated story that invites us to see others differently and recognise the bonds we have in common.

Lucas, one of the main characters, is introduced on the first page of the book. Ellie reveals Lucas’ problem – he is bored. Then, throughout the rest of the story Ellie reveals how the other main character, Jack, helps Lucas to look at his world differently.

Ellie uses time-shift to move the story from the present to the past. The present: (Jack) points to someone in the distance, ‘And over there, what do you see?’ Jack asks. ‘An even older lady,’ I reply. – letting us know what Lucas sees. The past: ‘I see Evelyn. A girl who loved ballet so much, she once danced for the Queen of England.’  – revealing what Jack knows and recalls.

Ellie uses dialogue to develop the characters’ personalities and to move the story forward – for example, Jack’s dry sense of humour. When telling Lucas about Evelyn he says, ‘She still has her favourite red ballet shoes under her bed. Says she never knows when she might need them.’

Lucas is gradually drawn into Jack’s stories, and wants to know more about Jack. He asks Jack, ‘Do you hate being old?’ and he learns he and Jack have something in common – a border collie dog. The next time Lucas visits the nursing home he brings his dog, plays a game of cards, and wonders about Great Grandpop, ‘Pop, before you were old, what did you do?’ Great Grandpop tells him a story about when he was a boy ‘I was about eight when I drove a cart and delivered ice for pocket money.’ This simple sentence captures how vastly different life was between then and now. Lucas wants to know more about Great Grandpop and he is eager to come back next week to hear more stories.

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At the end of the story Lucas has a new friend, and through Jack’s stories he has learned a way to find out – ask questions, listen, explore, and imagine.

ILLUSTRATIONS

Andrew McLean created the illustrations for this book by making rough drawings with charcoal and watercolour on paper then photographing them and scanning them onto an iPad.  Then on the iPad he coloured the drawings using an illustrating app: Sketch Club.

Andrew’s expansive and expressive illustrations complement and enrich Ellie Royce’s subtle text. There are only two single page drawings in the book – the first and last pages. These highlight how, with Jack’s help, Lucas changes from a bored, unhappy boy, into someone who is lively and friendly.

In between these pages the full bleed, double-page spreads reveal information that is not carried in the text. Andrew uses a mix of close up and distant views, with the illustrations always focusing on the characters.  

The growing connection between Lucas and Jack is depicted through their body language and facial expressions – the way they make eye contact with each other, Jack’s wide-spread arms and kindly face, the subtle changes in Lucas’ face from downcast and gloomy to open and interested.

Lucas and Jack see things from different perspectives. Lucas sees ‘an old man in a wheelchair’ and ‘an even older lady’.  Jack knows that these people have led rich lives, and the illustrations bring his stories to life.

Alternating pages contrast the current quieter lives of the elderly residents with the stories of the the full lives they have led in the past.  Andrew has used different colour palette to contrast the present (soft warm colours) and the past  (vivid, rich and sunny)

DISCUSSION POINTS AND ACTIVITIES

This book introduces young children to themes of aging, storytelling and oral history. Lucas and Jack can be used to generate discussion and exchange of stories and ideas about family, the past, and our links with our older members of society.

  • Before reading the story to a large group of children, spend time reading with small groups. This will provide an opportunity for children to share their own responses to the story, and for educators to draw attention to how the words and the pictures work together to tell the story.           
  • As you read through the story respond the children’s spontaneous reactions – which pictures do they respond to most eagerly. Is it the pictures of the detective and the ballet dancer?
  • Ask how we can tell from the pictures that Lucas is interested in what Jack is saying.
  • Ask the children if they know anyone who is old – grandparents or great grandparents?
  • Do they know what this person does now, or did when they were younger. If they don’t know they can find out by asking the person.
  • With the children make up a list of questions they could ask.
  • Ask the children’s families to share any interesting stories about past generations.
  • Make these stories into a book.
  • Invite families if they have any souvenirs or memorabilia from the past – photos, ballet shoes, detective tools, farm implements?
  • Invite families to an event where they can talk about their souvenirs and share their stories of the past.
  • Invite other older people into your classroom to talk with the children about their past lives. You can include people from the school and local communities.
  • If possible establish a relationship with a local nursing home. Invite the residents to visit the class. Find out if you can visit the nursing home with the children. Ask these visitors to share their stories. Find out what songs they used to sing. Learn some of these and sing them with the visitors.
  • Everyone has memories and stories to share about what they have done in the past. Tell the children a story about your past. Ask them to tell a story about what they have done in the past.
  • Look at the pictures of the people in the story. Talk about how Andrew McLean made people look old – wrinkles, white hair, baldness, wheelchairs, walking sticks
  • Ask the children to draw pictures of people they know who are old. They can draw a picture of what they are like now, and one of them when they were younger.
  • Talk to the children about how colour helps set the atmosphere of a drawing. For instance compare the ‘now’ and ‘then’ pictures of Evelyn.
  • Find out more about Ellie Royce and Andrew McLean.

Superheroes on the wall

Visual storytelling unlocks the images (children have) stored up from
cartoons, movies and video games and helps them make more sense of the 
media-transmitted stories that fill their environments.

Gerard Jones, Killing Monsters – why children need fantasy, superheroes, and make-believe violence. p.9

On this day in March 2015 when R and O came over, they raided the stack of recycle A4 paper, found the markers and began drawing. O began drawing his favourite superhero characters. He told me who they were and I wrote down the names. When we began to display them on the wall R decided he would draw some too.  O was 5yo and R was 7yo when they drew these pictures. R’s drawings were more detailed, and he wrote his own labels.When we ran out of space in this corner of the gallery R took all of his down and moved them to another wall. As well as doing his own drawings O asked for a copy of a black line master  to colour in – hence the lifelike Spiderman.

Gallery CornerR&O's superheroes1

Facing wallR&O's superheros5

L. to R: Top row: Wonder Woman, Hawk Guy, Green Gremlin
Bottom row:Poison Ivy (makes superheroes ticklish with her powers), Batman, Mr Beast

Side wallR&O' superheroes6

L – R: Top row: Captain America, Spiderman, Thor, Hulk, Spiderman
Bottom row: Gaston (He flies around the world), Asgard, Captain America, Superman,
Iron man

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.
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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’

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

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The day we found cat poo in the sandpit.

This post is in response to the Child Care Collection Online Course – “Potty” Story 1 http://www.naeyc.org/tyc/poop-machine , and “Potty” Story 2. Define “potty.” Define “scientific thinking.”

At kindergarten one day we had to warn everyone not to go into the sandpit until we had dealt with the overnight offering left there by one of the neighbourhood cats.

I was annoyed that we were still having to deal with this problem because the promised sand pit cover hadn’t arrived yet, but I did what I always try to do when these kind of problems arise. I paused, assessed the situation, and then set about fixing it as quickly and calmly as possible. At the same time I watched and listened to see how  the children were responding. I sensed a heightened level of excitement as the word ‘poo’ spread through the group.

There’s dog poo in the sandpit!
Where? Show me! 
Ooh!
Yuck!
Errgh!
Pooh!
My cat did a poo in our sandpit.
Mine too! Mum said we’ll have to get a cover for it.
(I sigh)
Let’s make a sign. Come on!

We put the signs up near the sandpit, and no-one went into the sandpit until it was safe to do so.

dog-poo-1In the sandpit.
Dog Poo

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Poo

Throughout the year making signs had become an integral part of the program. These children knew how to make signs to warn, control, direct, make announcements, and advertise.They had learned the art of using words, images and symbols to get their messages across in simple and direct ways.

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The lost footy jumper

Sunday night. Just settling down to watch TV when the iPad started buzzing.

Hello?

         Hello, Janna?

Oh! Hello Rory

         Hello Janna. Is my Essendon footy jumper at your place? 

Ahh, well, I think it might be. Let me go and look.

Hang on. It might take me a minute or two to find it.

Okay.

I went to the cupboard where I stash the clothes that get left behind for me to wash when the brothers come over. I pull out five pairs of trakkie daks – two Size 8s, two Size 6s, and one with a flying bat on each knee that looked about a size 4.

Then out tumbled five T-shirts.

  • One black, long-sleeved, size 18-24 months emblazoned with a Superman logo, and the words My Daddy is Superman.
  • One plain grey, size 8.
  • One black, size 6.
  • One white, size 8, with long blue sleeves, and a huge lion’s head wearing a stars and stripes helmet.
  • One red, size 6, with a picture of a bear holding a skate board and gazing pensively off to the right.
  • Another grey, size 6, with a bear wearing a baseball cap, sunglasses and an orange T-shirt.

There’s also a bag of too-small nappies, two packets of baby wipes, four bibs, one pair of pajama pants, nine pairs of socks, and any number of odd socks, and…

…an Essendon footy jumper.

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Rory, are you there?

         Yes.

I think I’ve found it. Is it sleeveless?

         Umm…

Does it have KIA logo on the back?

         Urr. It’s…

I think this is it. Do you need it straight away?

         Yes

What do you need it for?

         Tomorrow is hot dog day at school and we are allowed to wear our colours.

What are your colours?

         Our footy team.

Oh, okay.

         So, how are we going to do this?

You need it tomorrow do you?

         Yes

I could bring it over in the morning before you go to school.

         Oh, okay. What time?

What time do you leave for school?

         We leave at 8.30.

Okay, I’ll be over there by 8.30.

         Thanks, ‘bye.

         ‘Bye.

 A few minutes later the iPad dinged with a message.

“Hi it’s Rory thank you so much for finding my jumper see you tomorrow I don’t know how to thank you send us another message to tell us what you want me to do.”         

I messaged him back.

I’m happy to bring the jumper over – If you want to do something for me maybe you could do a drawing of the Queen Fairy to go with this story. See you tomorrow at 8.30. xx

This is the story I sent. It is one of many that I have collected over many years of teaching in a story-sharing preschool.

THE QUEEN FAIRY

By: Anon. Aged 5 years

She is wearing a crown.

She has golden teeth

In one hand she is holding her wand, and juggling water

With her other hand she is juggling the whole moon, which she has picked out of the sky

She changed the moon into the world because she didn’t want it to be light at night

All of the people wanted to be scared so they told her to do that

Then she took the sun out of the sky, so every night and day it was dark

The snake in the grass bit her because she took the moon away

It was a good snake and if you did something bad it bit you

 It wasn’t long before the iPad dinged again. It was Rory sending a photo of his drawing…

…with the message:

is this ok for you                                                                                                  

Perfect – thanks Rory

(The snake says, ‘You took the moon’).

the-queen-fairy-rory

 

 

A 68-word story

Sorry for the poor quality of the reproduced drawing. I hope you get the idea how Tyler used the drawing to help process his thinking.

And there was the day Tyler asked me if he could ‘do a play’.

Sure, I’ll just go and get my writing book and a pen. 

Tyler fetched a large sheet of drawing paper, and the red, blue, green, black, and pink markers. He placed these side-by-side on the table, and said:

Captain Planet gave some rings, with diamond rings, to little kids.

While I was writing Tyler started his drawing. Up in the top right hand corner of the paper he used the blue marker to draw Captain Planet. Then he started on the rings, which he placed on either side of Captain Planet, and as he drew he said,

A red diamond on it.

A pink diamond.

A blue diamond.

Now, there’s two more.

Now let’s see – green, I think.

Now, one more.

Blue – water.

Red is fire.

The pink one’s heart.

The green one’s …

I’ll just make up a name for green.

The Black one’s wind.

I’ll just call green, earth.

 I need to draw the little kids.

Red is fire.

Now, what was the second one?

Heart Continue reading

Drawing

Sharing a link:

WHAT CAN WE LEARN FROM CHILDREN’S DRAWINGS?

http://theconversation.com/what-can-we-learn-from-childrens-drawings-64527

Things that make an impression on them loom large on the page.

another drawing milestone is reached as children start to anchor their drawings on the page, where previously their objects had floated randomly in space.

They draw in baselines and skylines, usually thin lines of green grass and blue sky, as they try to represent the world they see around them.

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Drawing, anon, aged 5

Image © Janet McLean