Wednesday, October 20, 2010

ABC learning with Alison Lester – and so much more

I attended a workshop with Alison Lester a week or so ago. Alison is a well-known Australian author and illustrator, and very generously shared her experience and knowledge of writing and illustrating children’s picture books. Inspiring is an understatement! She talked us through her various books and explained the ideas behind them, as well as the art techniques. We also saw many examples of the books she makes with children from remote indigenous communities – I’m really looking forward to exploring some of these ideas with my kids. Alison taught us to plan a storyboard and even let us loose with paints, crayons, stencils and watercolour paper!

While our family has many favourite books by Alison, I’ll write about just one today – ‘Alison Lester’s ABC’. This is perfect for Annalise at the moment – at four, she is beginning to recognise letters. Alison’s alphabet book has plenty of detail to keep her interested in the pictures, which of course, are all linked to a particular letter. Even though it is an alphabet book, the story behind it of Alice and Aldo’s day is a lovely thread holding everything together. It's also a fabulous opportunity to introduce the concept of alliteration! It's as simple as this - look, I can see lots of words together that start with the letter G!

Inspired by Jennifer’s post at the write start, Tom and Annalise painted these wooden letters I found at a craft shop. Not surprisingly, it was all about family for Annalise. She painted a letter K blue for me – “because your name starts with a K and blue is your favourite colour!” She also found a J for baby Joe – I didn’t know she could even recognise the letter J.

Such baby steps towards reading and writing, but so very important. Inspiration can start from anywhere ...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Frizzy hair day

Today was a frizzy hair day. I thought it was just me, but no, I had three random conversations today with other girls who bemoaned the wet weather. And it’s not just ordinary rain, but spring rain, which has a little warmth in the air which just adds to the frizz.

After the first frizzy hair conversation, I knew I wasn’t alone. After the second chat, I realised there were other girls out there who had also washed their hair – what a wasted effort! After the third dialogue, I thought of Ella Kazoo.

Just have a look at her hair! (It would be wonderful to paint a picture of Ella Kazoo, using finger painting to create those amazing locks. The illustrator, Cathy Wilcox, must have really had fun!)

"Ella Kaoo will not brush her hair" is a wonderful rhyming story by Lee Fox. If you have a daughter, who is even slightly reluctant to have her hair brushed, this will make you smile. For Ella refuses to have her hair brushed.

Ella Kazoo will not brush her locks.
She stashes the brush in the drawer with her socks.
She covers it well in the garden with rocks.
Her mother has called her a cunning wee fox,
But Ella Kazoo will not brush her locks!

The rhyming is really clever. It’s not a book with obvious, annoying, clich├ęd rhyming words – the rhymes enhance the story and offer fabulous vocabulary extension. Your three or four-year-old will now be able to refer to their hair as locks, mane, mop, curls, frizz or tresses!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

MasterChef learning

Gentle readers, be warned, this is not a post about a book. Nevertheless, it is a story, the story of a boy and his sister, a sponge cake, a television show and that old adage, 'Practice makes perfect.'

Let me set the scene. The television show is Junior MasterChef. The sponge cake recipe is from Lucy, one of the young contestants. The action takes place in our kitchen, with the peeling cupboard doors and Scarlet, our red kitchen mixer. The boy, is of course, Tom, with his able assistant, Annalise. And gosh, did we practise this cake.

We cooked it three times in a week - the first time, just for fun. The second time, we baked it for Pop and Nana to say thank you. The third time, we cooked it for Uncle SP - it has to be the most feminine cake my brother has ever eaten for his birthday!

Each time we cooked it, the kids contributed a little more. This is what we learnt:

* Tom read the list of ingredients, Annalise put them on the bench - sibling communication and teamwork - got to love it!
* We mentioned fractions - 1/3 of a cup - I did say mention, way too early to explain them!
* Tom turned the oven on - 175 degrees is halfway between 150 degrees and 200 degrees.
* Annalise was mainly responsible for turning Scarlet on, which meant reading the numbers on the speed dial - pre-school numeracy.
* By the third cake, Tom had learnt to separate eggs, slice strawberries and turn a cake out of a tin. He also assembled this one with Annalise, while I washed the dishes.

And as for me, I learnt to let go of my perfectionist tendencies. I certainly added the strawberry coulis swirls around the first plate as delicately as I could, but Tom decorated the next two plates. I sifted the icing sugar evenly over the first cake, but Annalise was in charge of the next two sprinklings.

And the moral of this story, gentle readers, is that a solo-baked cake in a clean kitchen is not as much fun as two proud kids with strawberry-stained clothes and cream around their mouths in a messy kitchen! Practice does make the imperfect perfect ...