Thursday, May 23, 2013

Helping Children to Spell: Eight Strategies That Work!

How do we learn to spell?

Learning to spell like learning to write has often been surrounded by many misconceptions. It has been misunderstood by children, parents and even some teachers.  The standard way to teach spelling in schools has generally been through the memorisation of lists of words and learning rules.

But as I pointed out in a previous post on spelling (here), it is impossible to learn the number of words that we use as adults by memorising lists. So, while spelling lists might help children to memorise some words, proficient spelling requires the development of a range of generic skills that are necessary for effective spelling.

The stages of spelling growth

Children begin to learn about spelling in the preschool years in rich language environments that support them as readers, offer them many varied opportunities to write, and encourage them to explore and play with words. There are many skills that children need to learn as part of writing for varied purposes. Most children move through a series of stages in spelling development.  While these are never 'neat' and discrete, they are recognisable with most children. Understanding the stages will help us to choose the right strategies to help them become better at spelling.  Gentry and Gillet (1993) suggest that most children move through the following stages:

Pre-phonetic - this occurs very early on (from age 2-3 years) and involves the child trying to form letters or simply drawing symbols that are an attempt to represent letters.

Semi-phonetic - at this stage (age 4 and up) the child is able to write most letters and even some approximations to words, and they know some of the sounds they make (as well as letter names).

Phonetic - eventually the child is able to represent sounds with the appropriate letters (single letters at first). They also begin to represent words in more conventional ways, but often they will use invented spelling patterns where the word has some (but not all) of the letters correct. This begins for most children from 5 years of age.

Transitional - at this stage children (aged 6-7 years) are able to think about the word, develop visual memory and begin to internalise the spelling pattern and know when words 'look right'.

Conventional - at this more mature stage the child can use both visual and auditory skills and memory as well as meaning based strategies (like seeing how the word fits in context). Now they can write multisyllabic words from memory and find the learning of new words much easier as they apply their skills and strategies from one situation to another.  This occurs for most children from about 8 years of age but continues to develop throughout the primary years of schooling.

How can I help children to be better spellers?

Most children learn quite naturally to experiment with writing and spelling. This occurs in varied ways. For example, as we read to toddlers we point to words and language devices; this in a sense is the beginning of spelling awareness (not just reading). Early memorising of rhymes and songs, playing with sounds and word play of all kinds is also the beginning of spelling. The 10 necessary skills outlined in a previous post (here) are acquired both incidentally ('caught') and by explicit help ('taught') and instruction. There are a variety of more explicit strategies that teachers and parents can use to support spelling development in the primary school years. I will share 8 key strategies that are helpful.

1. 'Have a go' strategy

This is a strategy for trying to spell unknown words as part of the writing process (ideal for children aged 6 years and older). Teach your child (or children) to apply the following strategy when they need to spell an unknown word.
  • Ask yourself, have I seen it before?
  • Say the word out loud and try to predict how many syllables you can hear.
  • Ask do I know any other words that sound almost the same?
  • How are those words spelt?
  • 'Have a go' at spelling it (Aussie vernacular for trying to do something).
  • Ask yourself, does the word look right?
  • Have additional attempts at getting the word right.
2. Look-cover-write

This is a strategy that you can teach children new words at any age, once they have started to write. It has three simple steps.

Step 1 - When you need to remember how to spell a new word look at it carefully, say it out loud, examine the number of syllables, any unusual grapheme/phoneme relationships etc.

Step 2 - Cover the word

Step 3
- Try to write it from memory


3. Here is a collection of self-help strategies - children as young as 6 can be taught to try to learn new words.
  • After covering the word try to picture it in your mind.
  • Uncover the word and trace the letters, cover and try again
  • Look at the new word, break it into syllables. After studying the syllables cover the word and try to write it.
  • Look at the new word and try to memorise the most difficult part of the word (e.g. the 'ght' in sight).
  • Check your writing environment for the word, or one like it (wordlists, other writing, dictionaries etc).
4. Using sound to visualise words

An alternative to some of the more visual strategies above is a simple auditory strategy that can be used as follows. The key to the strategy is to keep encouraging the child; avoid making the child feel like spelling is one big test session.
  • Ask the child to write the word after saying it slowly at least twice.
  • Encourage them to listen to the word as they say it and to try to write the sounds in order.
  • Now repeat the word breaking it into its parts or syllables; for multisyllabic words some teachers have the children clap as they say the syllables out loud.
  • Encourage the child to try to think of other words that sound the same, and to think about how the other words are written.
  • Finally, have the child write the word (bit by bit) as they say the syllables.

5. Word family approaches

Many young children will benefit from an approach that presents words in sets that have similar phonological elements. For example, you might present your children with a group of words ending in 'ight', others that begin with 'thr' etc. You can have fun forming the lists with your child (or children), writing them down, then trying to remember them. There are many good spelling games that support this type of approach.

6. Using a word connection strategy

This is a strategy that supports the development of the 'connection' skill mentioned in my previous post on spelling. It is a meaning-based strategy.
  • Ask the child whether the word to be spelled reminds them of another word they know.
  • Encourage them to explain how it is similar and then use the information to help spell the word.
  • Then encourage them to think of other words like these words and to use parts of the new associated words to write the new word.
  • Encourage them to think of places or contexts where they might have seen this word used.
  • Then try to write the new word.

7. Morphemic (meaning-based) strategies

Photo courtesy Wiki Commons
For some words a meaning-based approach will help older writers. This starts with the parent or teacher pointing out a morpheme within a new word, explaining the meaning, then analysing a set of words. For example, a word like 'unexpected' can be broken into two elements, 'un' and 'expected'. Discuss with the child or children what 'expected' means and then explain the meaning of the prefix 'un'. Have the child think of other words that fit this pattern and then write them down. Depending on the age of the children you might even go further with an example like this and break it into 'un', 'expect' and 'ed'. In this instance you would also consider how the suffix 'ed' changes the meaning of the word.

For older children (aged 11 and up) you might also consider exploring Latin roots to aid spelling. For example:

  • 'mare' meaning 'sea' as used in marine
  • 'pedis' meaning 'foot' as used in pedestrian
  • 'gress' meaning to walk as used in 'progress' and 'transgress'
  • 'tract' meaning to 'draw', 'drag' or 'pull' as used in 'attract' and 'contract'
  • 'hyper' meaning 'excessive' or 'excessively' as in 'hyperactivity'
You can find a good resource for basic Latin word elements here.

8. Mnemonics

Mnemonics are devices that help us to remember things. I'm not a big fan of this approach but sometimes it helps when a child (or adult) just can't manage to avoid confusing two spellings. So it's usually a strategy that people use to remember how to spell words that they get wrong habitually. A mnemonic simply helps to remove confusion or narrow the options for spelling. There is a down side to mnemonics though. If you use them too much you tend to reduce the use of other key spelling strategies, reducing your confidence and risk-taking as a writer. A simple example of a mnemonic applied to spelling is one used to help us know the difference between 'affect' and 'effect'. It is based on the word 'raven' used as an acronym:

R - remember

A - 'affect'
V - verb
E - 'effect'
N - noun

Online resources

There a variety of online resources that aim to help children learn more about spelling. Most are simply ways to memorise lists of words but even this basic strategy has a place, particularly for irregular words that are exceptions to our languages rules. An advantage of online resources is their appeal for young children and the instant feedback that children receive. One useful site is (here) that offers varied wordlists, a free spellchecker and thesaurus, games to play etc. You can also find sites that allow children to apply strategies like the ones I have described online (see for example application of 'look, cover, write' on this site). You can find other games and activities at 'Games aquarium' (here) and others on the Kent Junior High School site (here). But remember, spelling is much more than learning lists and playing online games.

Summing up

Language is always undergoing change (see my post on 'English, the Inventive Language') and with increased use of mobile phones, Facebook, Twitter and so on, it is bound to change more than at any other time in history. But accurate spelling is still important. With spellcheckers everywhere and the preparedness of the young to invent their own language online, some suggest that the teaching of spelling isn't as important, but this of course is nonsense. Conventional spelling is still important - let anyone come up with an invented version of your name and see how you react. Accurate and consistent spelling is not just about conventions and good taste; it is important for the communication of meaning.

Spelling is an integral part of reading, writing, speaking and listening. It is learned as we use language for real purposes. But it isn't simply 'caught'; there is an important need for teaching. Most of this 'teaching' does not occur through memorising lists of words, but rather as we draw children's attention to variations in the English language. We need to show them simple rules for spelling, offer strategies for getting words right, provide tools for seeking correct spellings (including dictionaries and spell checkers),  give them new knowledge about how our complex language works and as we simply encourage them to use and 'play' with words.

Other links and resources

'Guide to English Spelling', David Appleyard (here)

My previous post on 'Twenty Fun Language & Thinking Games for Travellers' has some relevant activities that could be adapted (here). 

Christine Topfer & Deidre Arendt (2010). Guiding Thinking for Effective Spelling, Melbourne: Curriculum Corporation (here).

Diane Snowball & Faye Bolton (1999). Spelling K-8: Planning and Teaching, York (ME): Stenhouse Publishers (here).

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Why Re-creation Matters for Learning: Some age appropriate examples

Sam (age 7) holding his 'Swiss Family Robinson' game
Imaginative recreation is an essential part of learning. By re-creation I mean the reconstruction, presentation or retelling of a story in new ways. The story might have been experienced firsthand (e.g. an event, eye witness account, careful observation), seen as a film, video or TV program, heard or read.
Story in its own right is critical to learning, communication and well-being. This is something that I've written about many times (for example HERE & HERE). For children, the re-creation or reliving of a story is a critical part of their growing knowledge of narrative as well as a way to gain knowledge.

Lydia reading with her Dad
From a very early age, children begin in various play situations to experiment with story in the form of literature, song, film or even real-life accounts. My youngest granddaughter Lydia has been fascinated by story since her first year of life. Now as she reaches the age of two, re-creation is a big part of her everyday play. She uses Little People characters, toys and objects of all kinds (even her knife & fork!) to tell stories. Not all of her stories are re-creations, many are highly original and involve the use of varied objects to apply names and roles in situations that she creates. But story for her is stimulated by television (e.g. 'Everything's Rosie', 'Charlie and Lola', 'In the Night Garden') as well as books.

Young children often quite naturally use re-creation to support and play with story. Other children need help and encouragement to do this. Re-creation can be seen in children's experience of story in varied ways, for example:

  • Changing rhymes and songs, e.g. 'Baa Baa Black Sheep' to 'Baa Baa White Sheep' as Lydia does often.
    Acting out 'Little Red Riding Hood' with the resources of the dress-up box and some friends.
  • Dramatizing a well-known children's song from television or CD or a children's picture book.
  • Using art or drawing to imagine a story character, mythical creature or story setting. 
  • Using Lego (or other toys, props and objects) to re-imagine story alone or with others.
  • Creating something new that grows out of an experience of story.

Recently, another of my grandchildren, Samuel (aged 7 and pictured at the beginning of the post) watched the movie 'Swiss Family Robinson' (1960) with me. The story is based on a novel written by Johann David Wyss in 1813 (in reality he rewrote the original version of the story of his father Johann David Wyss). It tells of a family that is shipwrecked in the East Indies on route to Australia.  They face many challenges but manage to create a tree house, gather and grow food and survive.

Sam was captivated by the video and watched it at least 6 times while staying with us. He began drawing some things based on the story and wanted to talk about it often: "I wish we could build a tree house". His grandmother suggested that he make up a game about the story. He eagerly took up the suggested idea and with some simple advice from his about the form the game might take, he began creating his board game version of the film. The game was based on the shipwreck and the family fleeing the ship for the island. He suggested that he'd do a second game for the defense of the island and the attack of the pirates. The game was played with dice and buttons for markers. Players moved forward and often landed on squares that either offered chances for progression or regression. For example, 'Hit rocks, go back 1', 'Pirates defeated, go to finish', 'Help, tiger! Go back 5'. It was a wonderful re-creation of the opening scenes of the movie.

Close-up of Sam's Game
But why is re-creation so important? Is it more than 'just' play? As an aside, I've written much about the special value of play HERE. If it were 'just play' it would still have an important role to play in any child's intellectual development. But, imaginative recreation does many things to support language and literacy. It helps children to:
  • Play with and understand the complexities of plot development.
  • Comprehend any story at much greater depth.
  • Understand character development in new ways.
  • Enter 'into' a setting as they create an imagined version of the setting and events of a story.
  • Understand story in three dimensions.
  • Appreciate the way the language of story is shaped by, and in turn shapes, characters, settings and plots.
In short, imaginative re-creation is a powerful learning strategy for children that stretches them as language users and learners.

Examples of Imaginative Re-creation by Age Group

a) Toddlers (1-3 years)

  • Being encouraged to be a wild thing as the story 'Where the Wild Things Are' reaches the critical moment when Max declares 'Let the wild rumpus start'.
  • Finger Plays and rhymes ('This Little Piggy', 'Incy Wincy', 'Round and Round the Garden')
  • Retelling Thomas the Tank Engine stories using the various engines that feature in the story.
  • Using dolls or soft toys to act out domestic scenarios.
    Using dress-up clothes in association with well-known stories.
  • Creating a story using toy soldiers, Polly Pocket toys, magnetic boards with characters, fuzzy felt and so on.
  • Joining in the television dramatization of a well-known story on a program like 'Playschool'.

b) Early years (4-6 years)

  • Many of the better story apps for iPad or android devices are an innovative way for multiple re-created experiences of stories (see my recent post on this HERE).
  • Drawing maps, key characters (dragons, people) or scenes.
  • Acting out stories with a group of children or with adult family members.
  • Creating an adapted text to re-create part of a story (e.g. poetry, a character interview, telling the story from a different point of view).
  • Using puppets to re-create a story.
  • Using modelling clay or craft materials to create characters to re-create and retell a story.
Creating knights for storytelling

c) Later childhood (7-12 years)

  • More elaborate dramatization, with involvement in making props and costumes.
  • Simple animations using one of the programs readily available (see my previous post on animation HERE).
  • Using materials like Lego to re-imagine a well-known story.
  • Creating a board game that recreates the plot or a specific part of a story (as Sam did).
  • Creating a complex map or plot summary as a device for others to use.
  • Create a script to be acted for a specific part of a story.
  • Write a newspaper report based on an event within a story.
  • Use a variety of written genres to create a new text ('The Jolly Postman' and 'The Jolly Pocket Postman' are published examples of this).
These are just some of the ways that imaginative re-creation can be stimulated.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Appreciating Aboriginal Dreamtime Stories*

An Introduction for non-Australians
Emily Gap N.T.
Indigenous Australians were the original inhabitants of the continent we know today as Australia. They include Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders. Together they make up 2.5% of Australia's population today.  It is believed that they are amongst the oldest races on earth with estimates suggesting that they first arrived on this continent between 40,000 and 125,000 years ago. They are an ancient people with a rich and unique culture. There is enormous diversity across the many nations and clans, with an estimated 250-300 spoken languages with 600 dialects. Sadly fewer than 200 of these languages remain and most are in danger of being lost.  Like many non-Indigenous Australians I see the preservation of Indigenous languages and their stories as of critical importance. While travelling in Central Australia last year this was brought into sharp focus for me.

An encounter with the 'The Three Caterpillars'

Mparntwe or Alice Springs is home to the Arrernte people, Indigenous Australians who have called this beautiful place home for at least 45,000 years.  It is at the geographical centre of Australia. The photo opposite is of a place called 'Emily Gap'. At this place I was able to view Indigenous rock art that tells the story of how three caterpillars named Yeperenye, Ntyarlke and Utnerrengatye created the MacDonnell Ranges.

 The Arrernte people, believe the ranges were formed by giant caterpillars that entered this world through one of the gaps in the escarpment of the area. In traditional stories the caterpillar ancestors, Yeperenye, Utnerrengatye and Ntyarlke are the major creation forces of the Alice Springs area. These stories tell how they arrived from all directions, first stopping at Mparntwe, a particularly sacred site in Alice Springs, where they battled with the Irlperenye (green stink bug).

'Three Caterpillars' - Emily Gap
The Caterpillars fled when the Irlperenye (stink bug) started to kill them. The ranges around Alice Springs are the seen as the remains of the many caterpillars. The gaps in the ranges like Emily Gap indicate where the stink bugs tore the heads from the bodies of the caterpillars. The rock formations around the area are and the few surviving Yeperenye went on to sculpt the rivers and trees along the tops of the ranges.

'The Three Caterpillars' were painted on the cliff face at some point in time. The dark red and light orange stripes were created by red ochre and white lime blended with animals fats and applied to the rock surface.

Indigenous Dreamtime stories are associated with specific Indigenous clans and nations and their lands and these stories are passed on to younger generations by elders and storytellers. They have survived for thousands of years but the loss of traditional languages and the separation of many Indigenous people from their traditional land is a threat to their survival. While some of these stories are secret, or are seen as of such a sacred nature that they are only told by specific people (e.g. told by men to men, or by women to women), in the last 40 years many Indigenous Dreamtime stories have been shared through children's books.

As a non-Indigenous Australian I love these stories and read them to my children and grandchildren from a very young age. I would like to see more of them written down by the people who own these stories so that others can enjoy them. Thankfully, many are being recorded but just as many aren't. For example, to date I haven't come across a written version of 'The Three Caterpillars' that I learned of when exploring Alice Springs.

Some of my favourite Indigenous Stories

Some of my favourite Indigenous Dreamtime stories have been passed down to all Australian children through the storytelling and wonderful art of Dick Roughsey (1924-1985) or Goobalathaldin to use his tribal name. He was from the island of Langu-narnji in the Gulf of Carpentaria in northern Australia. His first picture book 'The Giant Devil Dingo' received wide acclaim for the richness of the storytelling, the distinctiveness of his painted illustrations, with their vibrant colours, fascinating detail, and the integration of art and word. It tells of Old Eelgin, the grasshopper woman who was evil and had taught her giant dingo Gaiya to kill men for food. But one day Gaiya meets his match in the Chooku-Chooku (butcher-bird) brothers.

Another of my favourite works by Roughsey is 'The Rainbow Serpent' first published in 1975 and still available. It won the Children's Book Council of Australia award for best picture book in 1976. Goorialla (the Rainbow Serpent) travelled across Australia to find his tribe. As he travelled his tracks formed the mountains, the creeks, lagoons and rivers. The Bil-bil brothers plot to kill him. When Goorialla's anger is spent and he disappears into the sea the world is changed.

Dick Roughsey and Percy Trezise (1923-2005) formed a strong partnership to produce many wonderful books together. While Trezise was not Indigenous he became Roughsey's brother in a traditional Aboriginal ceremony and was given the name 'Warrenby'. Roughsey lived with his wife and their six children on Mornington Island, but often spent half the year on the North Queensland mainland. He and Percy Trezise discovered and studied the art of Aboriginal cave galleries in the Laura region of Cape York. The Quinkin gallery inspired the award-winning books 'The Quinkins' and 'Turramulli' the 'Giant Quinkin'.
'The Quinkins' is a wonderful story that tells of the Yalanji tribe of Cape York and their encounters with the Quinkins, spirit people of the land with two tribes: Imjim and the Timara. Imjim were small fat-bellied fellows who stole children while Timara were funny and whimsical spirits who like to play tricks. They were tall and very thin and lived in the cracks of the rocks, and they didn't like the Imjim. This is the story of two children, Boonbalbee and Leealin.  This book was an IBBY Honour book in 1980, and was the Children's Book Council Book of Australia Picture Book of the Year in 1979.  As I travelled through northern Australia and looked at the crevices in the rocks the echoes of this story made me think, "could these be Quinkin rocks?"

There are so many of their titles that I love and have enjoyed sharing with children. These include 'The Cave Painters' by Percy Trezise (1988) which tells of the experiences of two Bullanji children Nonda and Mayli as they travel to visit their mother's people, the Yalanji who live in 'Quinkin Country'. 'The Magic Firesticks' (Trezise & Roughsey) is another story of the Yalanji people in Cape York and tells how the people discovered the way to light fires, not simply sustain fires once they were alight. After monsoonal fires quenched all their fires two young men (Bandicoot and Curlew) travel to a far off Fire Mountain where it was said Didmunja (a wise man) had magic sticks which could produce fire when you wanted it.

'Banana Bird and the Snake Man' (Trezise & Roughsey) tells of a time when people who were later to become birds, animals, plants and reptiles were still in human form. The snake men of Cape York were cannibals who would kill people and hang them in trees to be collected later when they were hungry. This story tells of the triumph of Coucal the brother of Banana Bird man who avenges his brother's death and destroys the Snake men. 

Another wonderfully simple book is 'When the snake bites the sun' told by David (Bungal) Mowaljarlai, which was retold and illustrated by Pamela Lofts. This delightful story of the Ngarinyin tribe of Western Australia, tells the story of the sun and why it is as it is today. This was one of a series of simple picture books for preschool children produced in the 1980s some of which are still available. Other books in the series included 'Dunbi the owl', 'Echidna and the shade tree' and 'How the birds got their colours'. We owe Pamela Lofts (who lives in Alice Springs) a great debt for recording and illustrating many Indigenous stories. You can find a full list here.

Tiddalik Rock (Wollombi NSW)
'What made Tiddalik Laugh' has been produced in various versions of varied authenticity. It is based on the 'Cylorana platycephala' (or Water-holding Frog) that swells as it swallows water. It is sometimes referred to as 'Molok' as well as 'Tiddalik'. The version I first read was Joanna Troughton's beautifully (and amusingly) illustrated version, although this might not be the most authentic traditional version of the story. Tiddalik woke up one morning with an unquenchable thirst. He began to drink all the fresh water he could find till he was satisfied and every creek and billabong was dry. All the creatures and plant life began to die, so the other animals decided to do something about it. But how could they get the water back? Wombat had the answer, make him laugh? But how? The amusing solution involved Platypus in Troughton's version of the story. The story is said to have originated in South Gippsland Victoria but is common along the Eastern seaboard of Australia, so this is unclear. The photo of this rock (opposite) known as Tiddalik rock is located near Wollombi in NSW.

'Enora and the Black Crane', by Arone Raymond Meeks is another fine example of a traditional story being turned into a picture book. Arone Meeks is a member of the Kokoimudji tribe from the Laura area of far North Queensland. This story tells of Enora and how his killing of a crane led to birds acquiring their colours and him becoming the black crane. Winner of Australian IBBY Award for Children's Literature (1994), CBCA picture book of the year (1992) and UNICEF Ezra Jack Keats International Award Silver medal (1992). Arone Meeks also illustrated Catherine Berndt's wonderful book 'Pheasant and Kingfisher' (1987) that was shortlisted by the CBCA in 1988 and won the Crichton Award for Meeks in the same year.

A more recent book which I love is the 'Papunya School Book of Country and History' (2001). This isn't really a Dreamtime story, it is the story of the Anagu people of Central Australia. It offers a balanced telling of the people, their place, their culture and history. It does a good job in speaking of some of the difficult issues arising from the impact of white settlers. It is a wonderful collaboration between well-known non-Indigenous advocate Nadia Wheatley and Indigenous writers, storytellers and artists from the staff and students of Papunya School.

Another more recent community collaboration is 'Our World: Bardi Jaawi: Life At Ardiyooloon' (2011) by One Arm Point Remote Community School.  Ardiyooloon is home to the Bardi-Jaawi people and sits at the end of a red dirt road at the top of the Dampier Peninsula, 200km north of Broome in the north-west of Western Australia. 'Our World: Bardi-Jaawi Life at Ardiyooloon' takes readers inside the lives of the children of a remote Indigenous community; lives that are very different to those experienced by most Australians. Worthy Honour book in the CBCA awards for 2011 in the 'Eve Pownall Award' for Information Books.

Yet another wonderful collaborative book is 'Playground' (2011) compiled by Nadia Wheatley with illustrations and design by Ken Searle, has been short-listed for the 2011 Children's Book Council of Australia (CBCA) Awards. This is an unusual book isn't quite a graphic novel, but then again, it isn't simply a reference book.  Drawing on the stories of 80 Indigenous Australian Elders, 20 Indigenous secondary students and with Indigenous Historian Dr Jackie Huggins as adviser and critical friend, Nadia Wheatley has created a unique collaborative work.  The book offers a wonderful insight into experiences of childhood for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people from 1900 to the present.

With stunning photographs and illustrations, it takes us into the daily life of Indigenous children (past and present) who are connected with their land from birth. The stories and drawings help the reader to understand Indigenous life in all its facets - learning, playing, understanding and respecting the earth, the first days of life, relationships in families, what 'home' was, languages, daily food gathering and hunting, the place of song, dance, art and ceremony.  With the arrival of European people there have been adaptations, but Indigenous children remain embedded in their culture. Daily life is different, but Indigenous children are still learning from country and community. This book would be a good introduction for readers who want to know more about Indigenous people not simply read their stories.

Some other great resources

Based on an Aboriginal Dreamtime story of Waatji Pulyeri (the Blue Wren)

Lovely example of Indigenous Storytelling, 'How the Kangaroo Got its Pouch' A Wirrajuri tale

Some brief further notes on Indigenous Australians

In Central Australia the Indigenous people are called the Anangu. Within this group there are many different language groups including the Pintupi, Warlpiri, Anmatyerre, Pitjantjatjara and Arrente. All Indigenous Australians come from different 'Ngurra' (homelands or traditional countries) and within their rich cultural traditions have stories, drawings, dances other cultural practices that have been passed down through the generations for millennia.  There has been a wonderful balance and 'bond' between people and their land. They see their ancestors as their teachers and for thousands of years they have taught their children the knowledge of ancestors and a history seen within the very rocks, water courses, hills, fauna and flora of their place. This has been passed down often (but not exclusively) through story. Often these stories are told in the context of place and have been oral, but in the last century some of these stories have been written down so that they can enrich all people, even if perhaps not understanding their full significance.

There is a deep sadness that many non-Indigenous Australians feel that there has been some loss of language and stories of these unique people. It was with a mixture of joy and sadness that I caught glimpses of the rich connection between Indigenous people and their land while I travelled across Central Australia.  The joy comes from the richness I could see in this connection, but the sadness is that for many Indigenous Australians this connection is made more difficult by their dislocation from traditional lands. My hope is that more Indigenous stories will be captured in written and spoken forms.

Note: * This is a revised version of a post I wrote in 2011