Mother’s Day Palimpsests

 

Palimpsests 1 and 2

Friday, not Sunday, was the day we celebrated Mothers’ Day this year with Alex, Damon and the brothers, Rory, Otto and Fraser. Andrew, Cat and I were coming over early to cook the tea because Alex and the boys had footy training and wouldn’t be home ’til about 7 o’clock, and, at the end of his first week in a new job, Damon had to stay late at work. We thought that the hamburgers would be ready to serve up as soon as they walked in. As it turned out we all arrived at their house at the same time – about 7 o’clock As usual, we had left home too late, stopped to buy a bottle of wine, got caught up in Friday night can’t-wait-to-get-home-and-watch-the-footy traffic.

As we let ourselves in the side door, three boys aged nine, seven and two (one of them in a particularly bad mood) burst through the front door, closely followed by Alex who was taking in a few deep breaths. Damon had already arrived home.

We opened the bottle of wine, Andrew got on with making and cooking the hamburgers. and the rest of us found a place to be – in front of the tele, on a device, on the floor, on a bike, at the table, in a bedroom yelling MAAAAAM!!, on the couch calling out, ‘If you want to talk to me come out here.’

I asked Otto if he had found his SRC badge which he had lost somewhere in the house last Sunday. He and Rory have both been chosen (by their friends) to be on the school Student Representative Council – known as The SRC. No SRC at primary school in my day. The badge did turn up and they had been to their first meeting. 

“How was it, Otto? I asked.
– ‘Oh it was really good,’ he said.
‘What happened?’
– ‘We talked about respect. We all had a piece of paper and we had to write and draw about RESPECT!.’
Tell Janna about your idea,’ said Alex.
– ‘Oh yes. I had this idea for a Fun Group. It’s for people who don’t have a friend. They can come and have fun with me – play sport and, …have fun games.’
‘You could make a poster to put up around the school to let everyone know about  group – make copies and put them around the school to tell everyone about your idea.
– ‘I’ll have to talk to the principal first. I’ll talk to the principal, and if he says ‘yes’ then I’ll put them up and hand them out.’

Otto found a sheet of A4 copy paper and started on his his poster at the dining table. The ink went through to the table. Alex told him to put something under the paper. He got a few more sheets and slipped them under the poster, and went on writing with large outline letters for maximum impact. 

‘Where did you get the idea to start a Fun Group?’
‘Oh, well Lachie, he’s a boy in my class, he came up with the idea for a Nature Group, and then I thought I could make a Fun Group.’

I didn’t get a copy of Otto’s poster, but, if or when I do I’ll post it.

Here are the notes I took at the time. I need to do that these days. They are written on the back of a drawing Otto did of his favourite St Kilda footy player Nick Reiwoldt (see below).

Otto's Fun Group poster

  • 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 RoowyOtto also created his own distinctive signature. 

Who is the mother?

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Can I play?

    I ‘m the mother 
I want to play
    I’m playing with the baby

You can’t say I can’t play
    Yes I can – You can’t play
You can’t say you can play
    Yes I can – you can play
Yes – I can play
    You can play
    But
    I’m the mother

© Janet McLean, 3 March 2016
After Vivian Paley –  ‘You can’t say you can’t play’

 

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

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

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

dog-poo-3
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.

these-children-are-bricoleurs-copy

My Brother – Teacher Notes

‘When a gentle creature sets out to search for a lost brother we are taken on an ethereal journey across land and sea to strange, beautiful and faraway places. To fantastic, floating cities, and mediaeval towns full of dark alleyways and winding staircases – to vast open grasslands and eerie, silent forests – and eventually to a place of timeless beauty and light. My Brother is a metaphorical picture storybook for older children that looks at loss and grief from a sibling’s perspective.’

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TEACHER NOTES
by Janet McLean 

My Brother
by Dee, Oliver, and Tiffany Huxley


WRITING / ILLUSTRATING / DESIGN STYLE     
My Brother has been created by Dee Huxley, with her son Oliver, who created the visual characters, and her daughter Tiffany, who designed the book. Together, they drew on a heart-rending experience to create a book in which the words and pictures tell a moving, symbolic story of loss, and grief, and of the gradual steps taken towards the hope of renewal. Dee Huxley says,

 This book came about because of the loss of a loved one in tragic circumstances, & our world changed forever. It is both a tribute & a release. A tribute to a beautiful, empathetic soul, who touched so many lives, young & old, & who will be loved & missed forever. A release, albeit sorrowful, to be able to make this book for him, & us, & others like us, & a hope that he is somewhere beautiful & safe now. The main character, a metaphorical gentle creature, represents the emotional journey of loss, disbelief, grief, but also a journey of hope.”

The reader is led gently into the story through the title page with a soft black and white drawing of a pair of carelessly discarded boots; and the dedication page with a simple inscription and a drawing of a single tree. On the next two pages Tiffany sets up a layout that will be the pattern for most of the book. She has used various design techniques that help establish the pace and mood of the story. The text sits, like a stanza of poetry, on the stark white left-hand page. The text is spare and understated, but every word and line, and the placement of text on the page, adds to the deep meaning of the story – beginning with a simple statement:‘I miss my brother’. The space that is left between this line and the next, creates a catch-of-breath pause, before: ‘I’m so l o s t without him’. The tiny word ‘so’ combined with the word ‘l o s t’, with a space between each letter, heightens the sense of anguish.

On the facing right-hand page a single illustration is enclosed within a white border. In contrast to the pared down, but poignant, text, the illustration is complex and layered with meaning. Graphite and watercolour have been used for the illustrations in this book, although the watercolour is not introduced until the last three double pages.

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On this page:

  • The softness and sharpness of the moonlit shadows in the blacks/whites/greys of the graphite drawing evoke deep sorrow.
  • The reader’s eye is first drawn to the creature seated at a table. This character represents the journey that must be taken through grief and loss, to a place o
    f release and hope)
  • The creature is placed in the centre of the picture – drooped head, slumped shoulders, downturned eyes, a piece of pie uneaten, on the table.
  • Around the room are real and metaphorical images that relate to the lost Brother, and to the intense sorrow of the main character
    • Light from a full moon shines through the window where a duck (in boots) stands keeping a watchful eye a friend.
    • A flock of dark birds gather near the ceiling, symbolising dejection and loss.
    • Two hats and two coats hang sadly on the wall.
    • Two pairs of boots wait on the floor.
    • On the table sits one cup, untouched, another is still on a hook.
    • One dark bird nestles in a coat pocket.
    • Another bird is anchored in the bottom left-hand corner investigating the rest of the pie, a passing allusion to the child’s nursery rhyme, Four-and-Twenty Blackbirds.

On the wall is a memory of happier times – a picture of the siblings together. Continue reading

This is how much I love you

‘My Grandparents’ 

A Card from R

this-is-how-muchLots of love

this-is-how-much-1‘Grandmar’ with a silvery pipe cleaner smile 

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Though he says my pancakes with lemon juice and sugar are ‘The best!!’

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’).

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