Monday, August 29, 2016

2016 Australian Childrens Book Council Award Winners

The Children’s Book Council of Australia announced the 2016 CBCA Book of the Year Awards on Friday 19th August. The theme this year was Australia! Story Country. As usual, there were many stunning books. In this the 70th anniversary of the awards, there were over 400 books entered for the varied awards. Australian schools have completed a variety of Book Week activities including thousands of traditional book parades, displays in school libraries, author visits and readathons. It is always an exciting week in schools.

This year there have been many wonderful books, including some that have broken new ground.

The Winning Books

1. Picture Book of the Year


Flight illustrated by Armin Greder and written by Nadia Wheatley

Flight is a wonderful picture book that tells of a small family that flees in search of refuge. It is of course based on the Christian story of Jesus and Mary escaping with Jesus from a wicked King Herod, to seek refuge in Egypt. The traditional story has been used as a parable for our times being applied to the plight or refugees.

Nadia Wheatley explained the genesis of the story in an excellent interview that she did recently.

As the idea took shape, I knew that what I wanted to do was to write the story of the Flight into Egypt in a way that initially lulls readers into thinking that it is set 2000 years ago; then suddenly, by introducing a bombardment and tanks, the story would become something that could be happening on the evening television news. Simultaneously, there needed to be a shift in the ‘back story’ of the characters and the peril that they are fleeing. After all, if the Holy Family were to be depicted as contemporary refugees, then I needed to think afresh about their cultural identity. (Interview with Nadia Wheatley, 'Reading Time').

This is a stunning picture book with its powerful text illustrated brilliantly and with stunning simplicity by Armin Greder.

Honour books:

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! illustrated by Shane Devries and written by Phil Cummings

Ride, Ricardo, Ride! is a powerful picture book that deals with war. Set in World War 2 where our main character Ricardo lives in an Italian village. He loved to ride his bike through the village and life seemed good as he peddles roads under endless perfect and peaceful skies. But one day this changes as the shadows of war arrive. This is beautifully written and delightfully illustrated.

One Step at a Time illustrated by Sally Heinrich and written by Jane Jolly

This is a wonderful picture book that tells of a relationship between a young boy named Luk and his elephant named Mali. This is an unusual tale of love and commitment. It is set on the border of Thailand and Burma where landmines are common. One day Mali steps on one with disastrous consequences, and so Luk helps her to recovery and in a wonderful twist, helps to get her another chance to walk. Heinrich’s wonderful illustrations offer a perfect enhancement to a delightful story. 

2. Early Childhood

Mr Huff by Anna Walker

Mr Huff is a story about the clouds and the sunshine in each of our lives. Bill is having a bad day. Mr Huff is following him around and making everything seem difficult. Bill tries to get rid of him, but Mr Huff just gets bigger and bigger! Then they both stop, and a surprising thing happens…

This sweet story will delight readers aged 4-7 years.

Honour books:

Perfect by Danny Parker (illustrated by Freya Blackwood)

Danny Parker says that this lovely story was inspired by a simple response from his daughter.

One happy day I asked her what she wanted to do. Her reply was simple. ‘I just need a crayon and somewhere to scribble.’ And so began a little story about simple pleasures.

Any parent will be able to relate to Parker's simple story. Freya Blackwood's watercolour images show the delight of children as they roam the beachside immersed in the light, sounds and smell of a perfect summer day.

This is a story that children aged 3-7 will love.

The Cow Tripped Over The Moon by Tony Wilson (illustrated by Laura Wood)

This is an amusing recreation of the traditional nursery rhyme that all children know.

Hey diddle diddle
The dish and the fiddle
The cat mucked around with the spoon,
The cow felt quite lazy
The details are hazy
And nobody went near the moon.

Children love to do their own imaginative recreations of stories and this one will amuse and engage them. Laura Wood's simple images are rich in colour and cartoon-like details, children will love them. A perfect and fun book to read to or with children aged 3-7 years.

3. Younger Readers

Soon by Morris Gleitzman

Soon continues the incredibly moving story of Felix, a Jewish boy still struggling to survive in the wake of the liberation of Poland after the end of World War Two. The Jewish boy shares:

I hoped the Nazis would be defeated. And they were. I hoped the war would be over. And it was. I hoped we would be safe. But we aren’t.

Sister Heart by Sally Morgan

This is a story about a young Aboriginal girl. She is taken from the northern Australia to an institution in the southern Australia. The story takes us through the events of her life as she creates a new life for herself. In spite of tragedy she finds great strength in friendships.

The novel is in free verse, and as you'd expect from Sally Morgan, she doesn't waste a word. It is a powerful story which affirms the power of family and kinship. It should be enjoyed by 13-15 year olds. This is another stunning book from Fremantle Press that keeps turning out many wonderful titles. 

Shadows of the Master by Emily Rodda

Britta has always wanted to be a trader like her father, sailing the nine seas and bringing precious cargo home to Del harbour. Her dreams seemed safe until her father's quest to find the fabled Staff of Tier ended in blood and horror. Now his shamed family is in hiding, and his ship, the Star of Deltora, belongs to the powerful Rosalyn fleet. But Britta's ambition burns as fiercely as ever. When she suddenly gets the chance to win back her future she knows she has to take it whatever the cost. She has no idea that shadows from a distant, haunted isle are watching her every move.

4. Older Readers

Cloudwish by Fiona Wood

Scholarship student Vân U’oc Phan is all work and no play – until star athlete Billy Gardiner develops a sudden and seemingly irrational interest in her. Worried that she’s at the centre of an elaborate joke, Vân U’oc starts to wonder if magic could actually exist. For Vân Uoc Phan, fantasies fell into two categories: nourishing, or pointless. Daydreaming about Billy Gardiner, for example? Pointless. It always left her feeling sick, as though she'd eaten too much sugar. 

Fiona Wood moved from writing film scripts after 10 years and has had great success as a writer of children's fiction. 'Cloudwish' is her third novel, her second YA novel 'Wildlife', won the 2014 CBCA Book of the Year, Older Readers.

Honour Books

A Single Stone by Meg McKinlay

Every girl dreams of being part of the line—the chosen seven who tunnel deep into the mountain to find the harvest. No work is more important.

Jena is the leader of the line—strong, respected, reliable. And—as all girls must be—she is small; years of training have seen to that. It is not always easy but it is the way of things. And so a girl must wrap her limbs, lie still, deny herself a second bowl of stew. Or a first.

But what happens when one tiny discovery makes Jena question the world she knows? What happens when moving a single stone changes everything?

This is a delightful tale set in a dystopian world where Jenna's village has been cut off from the outside world. They have no way out so the villagers need to adapt their lives to this existence. Girls of fine bones are desirable and special, but boys have little value. Jenna begins to question the work that she was born to do. This is a shocking tale in its own way, but there is also hope.

Inbetween Days by Vikki Wakefield

At seventeen, Jacklin Bates is all grown up. She’s dropped out of school. She’s living with her runaway sister, Trudy, and she’s in secret, obsessive love with Luke, who doesn’t love her back. She’s stuck in Mobius—a dying town with the macabre suicide forest its only attraction—stuck working in the roadhouse and babysitting her boss’s demented father.

A stranger sets up camp in the forest and the boy next door returns; Jack’s father moves into the shed and her mother steps up her campaign to punish Jack for leaving, too. Trudy’s brilliant façade is cracking and Jack’s only friend, Astrid, has done something unforgivable.

Jack is losing everything, including her mind. As she struggles to hold onto the life she thought she wanted, Jack learns that growing up is complicated—and love might be the biggest mystery of all.

5. Eve Pownall Award for Information Books

Lennie The Legend: Solo to Sydney by Pony by Stephanie Owen Reeder

This is the inspiring true story of 9-year-old Lennie Gwyther who, at the height of the Great Depression in 1932, rode his pony from his home town of Leongatha in rural Victoria to Sydney to witness the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Lennie’s 1,000-kilometre solo journey captured the imagination of the nation, and his determination and courage provided hope to many at a difficult time in Australia’s history. 

In its day, this true story captured the attention of a world that was looking for good news stories at a time when all was gloomy and hopeless. This is a great read and a very worthy winner in this category.

Honour books:

Phasmid: Saving the Lord Howe Island Stick Insect by Rohan Cleave (illustrated by Coral Tulloch)

Phasmid presents the amazing true story of the Lord Howe Island Phasmid – aka Stick Insect. Once thought to be extinct, the phasmids were rediscovered on Balls Pyramid, a volcanic outcrop 23 kilometers off the coast of Lord Howe Island, Australia, prompting an extraordinary conservation effort to save this remarkable insect. It is now officially known as a “Lazarus species” and has attracted the attention of zoo goers, tourists, naturalists Dr. Jane Goodall and Sir David Attenborough and millions of viewers on Vimeo.

This is a wonderful book. It has stunning watercolor illustrations by Coral Tulloch. It is a positive story about the survival of one 'species’ when many others are dying.  It will hopefully challenge young readers to think about the survival of all species and become more ecologically engaged.

Ancestry: Stories of Multicultural Anzacs by Robyn Siers (illustrated by Carlie Walker)

Ancestry is the third book in the Century of service series. It tells the stories of individuals and families from a range of cultural backgrounds who served with Australian units during the First World War. This image-rich publication draws on the Australian War Memorial’s diverse collection, including private records, photographs, works of art, and relics.

You can download a version of this delightlfully produced free of charge.

6. Crichton Award for New Illustrators

The Underwater Fancy Dress Parade by Allison Colpoys and written by Davina Bell

This is a delightful book for younger readers that explores social anxiety and how a boy copes with it. Faced with the fancy-dress parade. Parties, school events and other social occasions are worrying times for him and now he isn't brave enough to participate. He doesn't want to take part, so his mum takes him to the aquarium. He wanders round miserable and depressed and seeing himself as a failure, until a fish pokes its nose out from amongst some coral and captures his interest.

This lovely picture book introduces the work of Allison Colpoys an exciting new illustrator, who manages to capture the reality of insecurity and vulnerability. An interesting book for children aged 3–8.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How Can Teaching Change Learners? 6 Steps to transformation

What is Transformational Teaching? In the simplest possible terms Transformational Teaching (TT) is teaching that creates environments that change learners. It changes the way they approach tasks, the questions they ask of the tasks, their expectations for what they will learn from a task, and their expectations for its use and application. It in effect helps to change the way learners understand learning, co-learners, their teachers and themselves.

The opposite of Transformational teaching is 'Transactional Teaching'. This can be recognised by its characteristic transmission of knowledge from teacher to child and its focus on integrating knowledge of others largely as individual learners. Its major concern is what the learner knows and will learn.

While knowledge is important and there is a role for transactional approaches to developing it, there are other ways to learn. Transformational Teaching values knowledge too, but it is characterised much more by inquiry, discovery, firsthand experience, critical thinking and the use of varied communication and thinking skills, than simply knowledge transmission.

6 Key Steps to using Transformational Teaching.

Step 1 - Develop effective routines

What I mean by this is that a classroom that allows inquiry, experimentation, problem solving and lots of interaction needs to be VERY well organised. It is not synonymous with classroom chaos, although there will inevitably be a little more noise.

Step 2 - Organise classroom space & materials well

TT requires a room where materials are available, spaces are provided that permit interaction, additional access is given to computers and other key resources.

Step 3 - Establish clear expectations with students about what can and cannot occur

We need to establish some basic rules about sharing space, movement, sharing materials, how class members interact, time frames for task completion and so on. All must be clear and revisited regularly.

Step 4 - Implement routines for the sharing of ideas and discoveries

Classrooms where TT is practised need to be places where ideas are shared and celebrated. Audiences are very important to testing ideas, receiving feedback and learning from one another.

Step 5 - Place a high importance on quality outcomes and behaviour

Classrooms that are characterised by TT are places where standards are high. Near enough is not good enough, there must be accountability in terms of quality, task completion respect for others and so on.

Step 6 - Place a priority on communication, feedback, task evaluation, honesty & respect

This is the key to a vibrant engine room in any classroom. Classrooms where there is honesty, generosity and accurate feedback are places where members will take risks as learners. Ensure that these are present and part of you regular maintenance work as a teacher.

What do these classes do?

I'll probably say more about this in a future post but in general terms Transformational Teaching leads to classroom environments where you will see:
  • much greater interaction between students as well as much great interaction with the teacher;
  • much more group work (and these will vary based on topic, interest and expertise, not simply general ability;
  • the teacher leading from behind as much as from the front;
  • more celebration of work and achievements;
  • greater learner autonomy within clear boundaries;
  • regular demonstration, and expert resource people visiting;
  • increased use of multi-modal responses (shared use of images, words, drama, art etc);
  • increased risk taking, experimentation, problem solving and creativity; and
  • high expectations and standards for work and behaviour.