Visual calendar

The very creative Mandy Barrow (@mbarrow), who is an ICT Consultant, Teacher, Cub Leader and creator and web manager of the excellent Woodlands Junior School (UK) website has devised a visual calendar for 2010. Mandy has agreed to share her calendar with readers of Bright Ideas.


Mainly useful for Primary aged students, there are many days and links that are applicable to Australia. The calendar would be ideal for a brief early morning IWB session a few times a week as it is sure to launch discussions and activities on many different topics.

Mandy has also developed many other first-rate pages such as:

British History

World History


Houses & Homes

History of London

Florence Nightingale

Kings & Queens

Battle of Trafagar

Guy Fawkes

Bayeaux Tapestry

History Timeline

Literacy Zone

Maths Zone

Science Zone

Putting together pages like these is an extremely time consuming task and a big thank you to Mandy for sharing them.

Reading for Life

Reading for Life is a website run by the UK’s National Literacy Trust, ‘an independent charity that changes lives through literacy’.

Reading for life

There are pages for readers, practitioners and families and adults.  The site explains what is contains:

What’s On the Site

The Reading for Life website features information and resources, including reading ideas for individuals, families and practitioners.

  • Projects – literacy programmes to provide inspiration and support for your work
  • Wikireadia – a shared resource for professionals supporting reading
  • Reading ideas – practical ideas for different audiences including children and adults
  • Reading garden – a toolkit to help you create outdoor reading spaces
  • Teachers TV Reading Week –  Information about programmes broadcast on the digital channel for everyone who works in schools

Reading for Life looks like a great site to support all things reading. Thanks to Helen Boelens for alerting Bright Ideas to Reading for Life.

BBC’s Bitesize

The BBC have numerous websites that are useful for teachers and students. Their Bitesize collection focuses on Key Stage 1 (Prep, years 1 and 2) – numeracy and literacy, with Science games and quizzes, Key Stage 2 (years 3, 4, 5 and 6) – English, Maths and Science and Key Stage 3 (years 7, 8 and 9) – English, Maths and Science. The sites include games for students and lesson plans and worksheets for teachers.

BBC bitesize

KS2 Bitesize includes resources for:

  • Spelling
  • Microorganisms
  • Grids
  • Fractions
  • Changing state
  • Argument
  • Probability
  • Light and dark
  • Planning

KS3 Bitesize includes resources for:

  • Reading, writing, speaking and listening
  • Shakespeare scenes and play summaries
  • Number, algebra, handling data, measures, shapes and space
  • Living things, energy and forces, chemicals, Earth and space.

Another excellent tool from a reputable source.

Rouxbe cooking school

Rouxbe is an online video cooking school.

Rouxbe homepage
Rouxbe homepage
Information from the website states:

Welcome to Rouxbe!

Rouxbe is the web’s first-ever online cooking school – the next generation food and cooking site focused on teaching home cooks the skill and technique behind great recipes.

Your video viewing and learning experience is brought to you by DEAN & DELUCA who are providing you with access to all of Rouxbe’s full step-by-step video recipes, and our featured cooking school lesson-of-the-day.

The step-by-step video recipes would be ideal to use in schools, particularly for students who have literacy issues when reading recipes or those who find following aural instructions difficult.

Also good for the home cook!

Making the right to read a reality for kids

This article appeared in Saturday’s Age newspaper and is so inspiring. What a wonderful job Suzy Wilson has done in bringing books to indigenous children.

Making the right to read a reality for kids

August 22, 2009

Bookseller Suzy Wilson couldn’t believe the prevalence of indigenous illiteracy, so she did something about it, writes Clare Kermond.

IT WAS just over 12 years ago that Suzy Wilson’s life took a sharp right turn. Days away from the start of a new semester, the then lecturer in early childhood education had a nasty run-in with her boss. She resigned on the spot, joking to her husband that night that she might finally follow her dream of opening a bookshop.

Luckily for many people, including Ms Wilson, that dream became a reality. She opened Brisbane’s Riverbend Bookshop 11 years ago and adores the life of a bookseller. She is passionate about the value of books and reading, and for the past six years has used her connections in the book world to promote another cause close to her heart, indigenous literacy.

When Ms Wilson, 49, first heard some of the statistics for reading and writing in indigenous communities she could not believe that such a grave problem was receiving so little attention.

”I found the figures completely unbelievable, and the fact that I didn’t know about them. It was like finding out about the stolen generation – you couldn’t believe that was going on while you were at school.”

At first Ms Wilson set herself a modest target, planning to organise a raffle at the shop, maybe donating a shelf of books. But with her background in early childhood education she saw an opportunity to do some good for two causes, indigenous literacy and children’s reading in general.

Ms Wilson approached the seven schools in her local area and pitched the idea of a reading challenge, with each child paying five dollars to meet the target of reading 10 books; the children would get a certificate and the money raised would pay for books and literacy support for remote indigenous communities.

Schools leapt at the idea. Ms Wilson says teachers especially liked the theory that children were helping other children learn to read. For the first challenge, in 2004, 112 schools signed up and more than $25,000 was raised.

”The message we always give to schools is, ‘Can you imagine a world without books and reading?’ A lot of these [indigenous] kids don’t even see a book until they get to school and then they start learning to read in what is often their third language. Think about how hard that would be. My children have done Italian all through primary school and they couldn’t read a book in it.”

Ms Wilson’s idea has grown into the Indigenous Literacy Project (ILP), a national scheme backed by the publishing and bookselling industry around Australia. The fund-raising ideas have broadened too, partly to avoid doubling up with the Premier’s Reading Challenge, which most states now have in all schools. Each year on Indigenous Literacy Day, September 2, publishers and booksellers that sign up donate 5 per cent of their takings to the project. Schools fund-raise in a variety of ways.

For the first time, there will also be a benefit concert on Tuesday at the Melbourne Town Hall, organised by one of the project’s ambassadors, Felix Riebl of the Cat Empire band, and with some big musical names including Paul Kelly and Archie Roach.

Ms Wilson says some people question how the literacy problems in indigenous communities could have become so serious but even minimal research finds some obvious answers. ”There’s health issues, there’s English as a third language, there’s no access to books, there’s also things like consistency,” Ms Wilson said. ”One principal told us that five of the teachers were new in the last three weeks. How do you address literacy if the teachers are turning over that quickly? There’s also truancy and just getting kids to school over long distances. At the first school I ever visited the library consisted of a few boxes on the floor of a classroom and the school had been built on the floodplain and it flooded four times a year, so they lost their books.”

Tara June Winch, an indigenous author and another ambassador for the ILP, has run several workshops with children in indigenous communities in Arnhem Land. She is clearly moved when she talks about meeting young children who have never handled a book.

”It’s so important to build up that idea of books at home for the little ones. My daughter is 3½ and she’s always had books around. One thing I noticed going out to Arnhem is watching the children opening the book, turning the pages, it’s the first step in learning to read.” June Winch is organising board-and-cloth books for babies as part of her work with the ILP this year.

Ms Wilson is one of a committee of six volunteers who run the ILP with some paid administrative help. Although the project has raised more than $500,000 since it started five years ago she says some days the challenges can seem overwhelming. ”When we’re all getting a little bit tired and burnt out we go on a field trip to the Katherine. You see these kids opening a box of books and it’s like five Christmases have arrived all at once. They’re the very real joys.”

Songs for Stories, the benefit concert for the Indigenous Literacy Project is at the Melbourne Town Hall at 7.30pm on Tuesday.

Congratulations to Suzy and everyone involved in this wonderful project.

GiggleIT Project

The International Association of School Librarianship has created an innovative and exciting project, GiggleIT.

GiggleIT home

GiggleIT home

From the IASL’s media release:

  • The GiggleIT Project is a global collaborative publishing project hosted by the International Association of School Librarianship (IASL), working in partnership with the International Children’s Digital Library (ICDL).
  • Designed to help children around the world improve their English language literacy skills, the GiggleIT Project encourages students ages 10-14 to contribute their writings to an online book (eBook) celebrating stories and humour from their culture. Humour, just like tragedy, is a vehicle that can be used to promote cross-cultural understandings and collaboration for children and young adults around the world. Children’s work will be published internationally and will identify their culture through literature.
  • Written by children for children, the eBook will contain children’s stories, jokes and poetry. The project will inspire children to be creative and make cross-cultural connections with other children from around the world as they learn about humour from other countries, while improving their literacy skills. 
  • A range of competitions, and teaching and learning packages, will motivate and stimulate reading and writing skills whilst supporting the teaching and learning with examples and worksheets which can be downloaded into handouts for the class.

Registration is free. GiggleIT sounds like a fantastic way for students to improve their literacy, have fun and collaborate with other students.


ToonDoo is another social networking/comic strip creator that has relevance to education but is also a lot of fun!

The best part about it is that the ‘toons’ use just one, two or three frames. Such a short toon means that students must really think about how to get their message across in three ideas. Applications for ToonDoo could include:

  • Book reviews
  • Demonstrating understanding of a historical event by using three key ideas
  • Writing Haiku poetry

And as users can select from multiple languages, there are endless uses for LOTE classes.

ToonDoo also have their own blog that gives examples of educational uses of ToonDoo. One example is to learn a new word each day and make a one frame toon that shows understanding. A great tool for literacy.

For teachers and parents worried about the content of the site, there is a ‘safe search filter’ which edits out any toons that have been flagged as inappropriate by other users. And toons and books do not have to be shared with other users if you prefer students to keep them private or share with friends only.

It is also simple to embed toons into blogs by simply clicking on the toon and dragging it into the blog. You can also save your toon to your computer and then copy it into Word, PowerPoint, etc.

ToonDoo also has ‘books’ where comics that are longer than three frames can be created. Books are perfect for story writing or longer presentations such as planets in the solar system.

ToonDoo has a range of images, props, backgrounds and effects that you can select from or you can upload your own pictures to incorporate into the toon or book.

ToonDoo also has a help wiki linked to its site and you can add features that you’d like to see on ToonDoo to their wishlist. If you would like to see how ToonDoo works, access this slideshare presentation which outlines the steps.

Have a look at this toon I created in about 5 minutes:

ToonDoo has a lot to offer educators and students. The use of the three frame toon means that students really need to identify the three most important points of any idea they are addressing. An excellent tool!