By Jenny Graham
A Christmas Calamity.
A Christmas Calamity, book six in the Astro’s Adventure’s series by Susan Day has been on my to-read list for a few months, which for a children’s book is a long time for me.
My hesitation in reading this book was, I bought the book as an e-book, although it also comes in paperback. When I taught Year 5/6 in schools, my reading sessions would be small groups with parent helpers and the whole class listening to me reading a book while sitting on bean bags or laying on the floor. When I read to my own children, it is either curled up on the couch or in their room. In each scenario I would use paperbacks. My past teaching experiences meant I couldn’t see the potential of how to use an e-book in an educational setting. As I prefer writing Educational Reviews, this had caused my delay.
However, after reading A Christmas Calamity my mind started to open up to new ideas. The very real image of schools with technology to read e-books whether for every child or in small groups. The use of digital white boards in every classroom to read and display the book. The hyperlinks, or as the author, Susan Day states, ‘Spylinks’ throughout the book to encourage active technological participation.
The fact is, in 2015 technology is not going away. The Australian Curriculum Framework lists Technology as a separate subject and it is also assumed that teachers integrate technology into every area of the curriculum, just like it is integrated into all areas of our life. As an Educational reviewer I needed to embrace this technology and what better way than an Astro’s Adventure book.
A Christmas Calamity provides a chance for a range of educational activities whether in the home or school setting. I have based my activities on a Year 5 independent reader although the book allows itself to be read to younger children or as a shared reading book with children beginning to read chapter books.
The books main theme I feel is team work and helping others. Both these are shown from the dedication on page one through to the final page. The author, Susan Day, dedicates A Christmas Calamity to all dogs in Rescue Shelters. And the books storyline is about a group of dogs with Astro as the leader working together to solve the problems the robot (Astro look-a-like) dog and Speed Bump Charlie (a cat) have created.
Civics and Citizenship is a curriculum area which could easily be covered while reading this book. One objective from the Australian Curriculum Framework Civics and Citizenship strand is, Why people work in groups to achieve their aims, and how they can express their shared beliefs and values and exercise influence (ACHCK027)
This objective can be covered by looking at not only the team work involved in real organisations such as Rescue Shelters but also Astro’s team throughout the book.
Children can discuss how Rescue Shelters and Astro ‘Work in groups to identify issues and develop possible solutions and a plan for action using decision making processes (ACHCS032) ‘
A Christmas Calamity is a great chance for students to create a character profile, which would work extremely well in showing the characteristics of different team members, both in real life and in Astro’s Adventures. The author’s ability to create animal characters with many human-like characteristics makes it easy for children to complete character profiles.
Using sections of text from A Christmas Calamity, displayed on the interactive digital whiteboard, a range of English objectives can be covered. Activities could be
- Re-write sections of the text from different points of view
- Re-write sections of the text from past tense to future or present tense
- Look at the structure of paragraphs, sentences or the chapter layout the author has used
- Discuss the words the author used to express specific meaning to the audience
The list is endless, by using an e-book and interactive white board, activities are able to be set as a whole class or small group lessons.
As a parent or teacher when your child/student has read A Christmas Calamity, think of follow up activities to promote the digital age.
- Send an email to the author or Astro.
- Create a fictional story with your own hyperlinks to factual websites throughout your story.
- If your school or you have a twitter account, ask permission to send a tweet to the author.
- Create suggestions for your local Rescue Shelter and email them.
- Create a digital cartoon strip of a scene in the book
- Email about setting up a Skype session with the author to discuss questions students may have about the book
All these activities the author would love to receive a copy of, and I am sure would acknowledge by a return email.
Regardless of whether you have A Christmas Calamity as an e-book or a paperback book, this story is a delight for children to read. The story has enough suspense to keep children reading and thinking of what they would do if they were Astro or any of the other dog team members.
I am still hoping to get a chance to read the book to my two boys aged 5 and 7 and will update when my boys have a chance to review it. I do know that I have one boy that loves dogs, who will happily fall in love with Astro and probably Speed Bump Charlie also. I am looking forward to reading it to them.
To buy your own or school copy/ies , watch a you tube clip of the book or contact the author, click on the below link
A Christmas Calamity, Educational Review provided by Jenny Graham founder of AbcJenny.
If you are an author and would like an Educational Review of your Picture Story Book or early chapter book please email me for details.
I can also at a cost, provide more detailed activities including worksheets linked to the Australian Curriculum Frameworks in all subject areas which can be used with school groups.
Thank you, abcJennyG@hotmail.com