The Kuia and the Spider. By Patricia Grace. Illustrated by Robyn Kahukiwa.

Week 6

This is one of my favourite New Zealand picture books. I like the way the kuia and the spider argue and yet they are friends really, even if they won't admit it. Two of my old mates were like that. One was a staunch Labour man and the other was National and they were both brilliant teachers and actually really similar! They argued away but you knew that somewhere in the middle of it was a lot of love. I have read this to all of the kids I teach but never read it lots of times. I always find that the kids don't get it; the ending, I always think is funny, but kids look a bit sad and perplexed. They want them to be friends like the lion and the boy. I wanted a funny and rich book for this week and I think this fits. I have avoided discussing my own interpretation of the books. I am trying to lay my own ideas aside so that I can open myself to what the children think and say. I do see many layers in this book around Maori/ Pakeha relations. I love the weaving and the metaphor of weaving people together that I sense in this story. Last week the children responded to the grandparent theme and the sense of a taonga passed down.
The themes so far: Not a Box-imagination- a story evolves from.. , My Cat Likes to Hide in Boxes- imagination-individuality, A Lion in the Meadow-imagination-fear-friendship-adults don't believe, Kehua-imagination-fears in the dark-a Maori ghost-nanny helps. I will read this story in English and in Maori. I don't know what activity/movie will evolve. We will try literacy circles.
The children took photos for a Humpty Dumpty movie they are making.

Day One
The kids liked The Kuia and the Spider! They laughed at the bits I like and one boy laughed a lot at the ending that I think is funny. He called out, "That's funny, I like that part when they keep arguing." He is the child who says he is not Maori anymore. Some of the kids had perplexed looks on their faces at the ending. I showed them the Maori version along side the English version. They don't know what the words mean. Kuia, pungawerewere, HOHA. They didn't ask either. I tried to be more structured in our discussion, like the literacy circle but it didn't really work. I was a bit impatient so we will have to see tomorrow. I am a bit stuck about what to do with this story. How we will film it.
The kids want to go dragon and lion dancing everyday. We may weave a dance or weave something. Weave a story. Weave ourselves.
I was online last night looking at Cirque du Soleil and their next show is Draglion. Serendipity. About dragons and lions. East and West. I went off to a site about the symbolism of dragons and lions since we have been doing so much with them for A Lion In The Meadow. Jung had something to say about it. "Unconscious fears that are repressed and need to be acknowledged." Another symbol of the dragon is the devouring aspect of your mother. A winged dragon is a symbol of transcendence to a higher level of maturity. The lion can be a symbol of courage, power.. It got me thinking about the way a book works at different levels for both the author writing it and the reader. You could really do an interesting Jungian analysis of A Lion In the Meadow. But I won't!

Saw and hammer or computer? Which technology would they prefer?
Children are making picture books at home and at school now. Just for their pleasure.

Day Two
Today I was jumping up and down in the staffroom, "They know what makes a good picture book!" My colleagues are nodding and smiling at me.
I told the kids we were going to write a picture book. "What makes a good picture book?", I asked.
"The author needs to practice a lot." "It has to have good pictures." "It needs to have colourful pictures." "Good books have problems that you have to solve." " It should have good writing...interesting words and rhyming words." "They have a happy ending."
"What is the problem in The Kuia and the Spider?"I asked. "They argue and argue about their weaving and it doesn't get solved." "Yeh they just keep arguing forever, that's funny."
"Is it a happy ending?"I asked. "No, they reply." "Isn't it? Can you argue with someone a lot and still love them?"
"No", the children reply. "Do any of you argue with your sister or brother a lot and still love them?" A resounding,"YEH!"
Later in the day when we were working in reading groups three children commented on the "problem" they noticed in their story.
They started writing their own picture books. I think they are making the link. There are problems and plots happening!

This afternoon I read Te Kuia me te Pungawerere in Maori. It was a bit hard at first but then I got into the flow of it. The kids listened intently as if I were reading in English. As I was reading, some of the meaning of words was coming to me through the pictures and the words that I already knew. This is what happens isn't it. We read to little children and they don't even know the language but then they absorb it and somehow meaning is made.
We collected grasses and wool and harakeke to make a weaving. It was lovely outside in the sunshine, chatting and collecting and darting in and out of the trees. I wonder what a pungawerewere is a symbol of to Maori.

I heard Dorothy Butler on the radio. She said,"Books can be bridges between children and parents and children and the world."

In maths we did surveys today. Every child has a computer at home. Seven out of ten there today watch T.V. before school. I don't have a T.V. I wonder what they watch.

Picture book photos, by kids

At reading time kids play on the deck. It is nice and quiet inside to read with small groups.

Day Three
At news time I sneezed and it was a really really enormous sneeze. When I do that the kids laugh and roll around and I do think it's quite funny too and this time I had a minor epiphany and said, "That's it! Mrs. Sneezalot. Or maybe The Big Sneezer." The children joined in straight away and we made up a funny story and then I drew some noses and children flying everywhere. We have decided to become authors. The children are making plans on a storyboard for a picture book. I told them to just draw simple plans but their drawings are so good I can't bare to not use them. One child wrote a poignant story about finding her goat dead. One boy's Dad is chasing the cops instead of the other way around! There are fairies, unicorns, babies being born, rainbows, the weather, octupus and sharks, and so on.
One child typed most of her story on the computer herself today. I tried and tried to get the pages to print like a book but I lost. All of the classes are making books on their computers. I want to make ours beautiful like Craig's. I need to learn how.
We watched Humpty Dumpty and I asked the kids to be critical and say what they liked and what needed changing.

A few days ago I told the children there are some stories that make me cry when I read them and I didn't really think it was so good of me to cry in front of them so I hadn't read them. They asked me why I cry. I said that it wasn't sadness, just big feelings of some kind that the story made me feel. They said that they don't mind if I cry and what is the book called and can I read it to them. Now they keep asking when I will read the book that makes me cry.
Every time I read those ICT magazines I feel useless and inept and overwhelmed by all that online STUFF to do.

I am over my denial now. I know that someone is out there reading this. I got a message from another e- fellow. Teachers at her school are looking at my wiki and movies and teachers at my school are trying literacy circles. I wonder who you are? Why are you reading this? Maybe someone in another country is a teacher reading this. That is a nice thought. If you feel like leaving a message just to let me know, if you are a teacher, say from France, you can write in french and I will understand. I can read Spanish a bit too. I wish I new how to find out what teachers do in Europe to teach reading and writing. In Scandinavia? There is a place to click on the Home page at the top called Discussion. It's O.K. if you don't feel like it though.

Day Off
I forgot to say. The boy who is not a Maori anymore is starting to speak in Maori now and again. By reading The Kuia and the Spider in Maori I think I have made him feel some kind of "Nod" "Yes." Who you are is O.K. Better than that. It is good."
You don't need to surf the internet for hours to find information about things. Better to find one really good book and read it three times. I need to get The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter. There is a good little resource called Imagined Worlds that I found at a garage sale. It is by Tanya Batt.(N.Z) Full of ideas for drama for early childhood. She recommends some good books too. I also read The Reading Race written by Donna Awatere Huata. I don't agree with her which is why I read the book. I do agree with her about some aspects of the way we teach reading. Too fast. An emphasis on whole language but with a presumption that all kids come with the same cultural capital and early language experiences. Which they don't. I'm also reading On Reflection: Reflective Practice for Early Childhood Educators by Angela O Connor and Cathy Diggins. I think all teachers should study Te Whariki and have a look at Kindergartens. What a shocking transition most children have to make to school. That's why I teach. To make it easier for them. But I am split into two. I do what I believe when I can but I do what I have to as well and I have to try to believe in myself even though what I believe is not what I am supposed to believe. I have read lots of educational research and theory and lots of it is wrong. How wide is the gap between what we believe and what we do? How many principals or Ministers have ever taught a group of five year olds? This is where the foundation for all learning takes place. I know it is about the economy and production and child minding as well. It is about power structures and class and race.
I talk to teachers all the time. We are too busy. Are we too busy to think and to say what we know? New entrant teachers are mostly women. Why? Have the people who made the decisions ever even watched a year one class during "reading time"? It can be mind boggling. Multi tasking extraordinaire. One to fifteen! Such a small class. Have you ever tried to have 12 five year olds working independently and kind of quietly while you teach a small group to read! Honestly it's a miracle that anyone learns to read! I've watched a lot of really skilled junior teachers and actually I need to make some cartoons about this because now that I think of it, it is just absurd.