Sunday, May 31, 2009


I'd like to introduce Greek author, Liana Metal to my blog audience. Join me while I ask the author some interesting questions.

Q: Tell us about yourself!

A: I am a Language teacher (MA in Ed.), artist, reviewer and writer living in Greece. As a mother of two, I have spent most of my time raising a family and working full time at my own Language School, while painting and writing in my free time. When my kids grew up I decided it was high time I followed my dream to become a writer. I have self published several e books and several print books for my students, and a great number of my articles have been published both in print and online magazines. I started my career by writing children’s stories and educational material, and then created e books of both fiction and non fiction. My articles, reviews and books can be found at, at,
and at my blogs and

I am a member of the authors’ group at OU University, UK, and many writers’ groups online. You can contact me at .

Q: When did your passion for writing begin?

A: It dates back to school time, primary school actually, when I was writing the lyrics for my own songs. I even created illustrated short stories for the English class I was attending, a sort of a diary. I was also fascinated by comics and tried to write my own stories then.

Q: What was your first book?

A: The White Snail, a kids’ story, which is still my favorite little baby. I self published it at a local printer and distributed free copies to my students. I even transformed it into an activity story book so as to use it in class. That was the first story that made me find a way to create an e book, so that more people can have access to it online. Thus, the Bedtime Stories (no longer available) e book was created. Then more e books followed.

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

A: Snails…I love watching little creatures sliding along the grass. I’ve written stories about ants, birds, crabs, mice etc. In my stories, these little animals behave like humans, and that is the essential part of each storyline. Also, there is a morale at the end of each story. Besides, I love sketching, and a story book for kids gives me the opportunity to draw and paint which I love very much.

Q: How long does it take you to write a story like this?

A: The idea and the sketches come instantly, but it takes me some time, a month or longer to create a proper copy.

Q: How do you come up with ideas for your writings and why do you feel you choose some over others?

A: Ideas come at any time, usually by observing things and people around, but sometimes come when I relax or I am ready to sleep. This is most annoying as I have to write down a couple of notes to make sure I remember them the next morning. I usually choose the ones that seem feasible for me to realize, after some thought, but I always pick up those that will make me feel good and happy with!

Q: What about the other e books on your site? There are some non fiction ones.

A: Yes, the first one is Writing Basics, a how-to book for new writers. It includes articles that will help new writers come to grips with the internet and shows them how to get published fast. It is a mini guide that contains a market research as well. Currently it is off line but I intend to revise it and republish it via a new online publisher. The second one is Flowers for Women, an anthology of true stories dedicated to women worldwide. The contributors’ stories are inspiring and positive and will entertain all readers, not only women. This one is also off line for the time being due to the publisher’s problems.

Q: Tell us about your book for young adults.

A: The Hostel is a novel set in London, UK, in the early 70s. Apart from the social issues the story seeks to highlight, such as the age difference between a couple and prejudice and discrimination of other cultures, it is an old fashioned subtle romance that includes historical elements of that time and shows the lifestyle of a part of the residents as well. The main character is Nina, a girl in her late teenage years, who fights against odds to keep her first love alive. Readers can read an excerpt of the story at

I am a member of the authors’ group at OU University, UK, and many writers’ groups online. You can contact me at .

Q: Who is it aimed for?

A: I would suggest that the Young Adults category is appropriate, but I think that adults can find it entertaining as well, especially those who remember the 70s, or those who can identify themselves with the characters of the story. The Hostel is being revised and will soon be available online.

Q: Have you any suggestions for the new writers?

A: Never give up! I was very discouraged every time I got a rejection, but I went on writing and then I got published. If writing makes you happy, you will find a way to do it, no matter how busy you are. Writing is an addiction for life.

Kathy stemke's websites:
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Wednesday, May 20, 2009


Children enjoy read-alouds. I suggest you read to them as early and as often as possible. But don't forget that older children get a lot out of read-alouds as well so don't stop just because they can read for themselves. Here are some ideas you can use to making reading aloud fun:

1. Use musical instruments to create suspense, silliness, happy and sad sounds. This can bring your story to life as well as keep each child engaged. You can even have them make simple shakers with beans or rice inside a can of pringles and decorate. They can use it at different times. For example: shake the shaker when you hear the word ______. Or, shake the shaker when you hear a verb (noun, a word that starts with B, etc.). The possibilities are endless.

2. Teach part of speech or grammar with signs as you read. Discuss verbs or exclamation marks, etc.. Give out index cards so that each child can write either the word VERB (pronoun, nouns, etc.) or any grammatical mark. Each time you read a sentence with a verb (or other) or a grammatical mark, the child should raise the index card.

3. Create the atmosphere created in the book. For example, use cardboard to build a rocket if the book is about outer space. Tons of possibilities here with this one.

4. Have the children act out what you read. If the character walks to the store, they should be able to walk in place as they reach a door and open it and grab some groceries. This should be fun and can help on those days it's raining out and their energy levels are high. It's a good idea to give them boundaries for control. You could have them stay inside a hoop on the floor.

5. Use a prop bag to illustrate parts of the story. Collect items that pertain to the story, and display them when they are mentioned in the story. Let's say your reading, "MIss Spider's Tes Party." You could take out rubber bugs, a tea cup, silk flowers, or a hankerchief to dry Miss Spider's eyes. If your story is about bananas, pull some bananas out of the prop bag. It would be fun to eat them while they listen to the rest of the story.

6. Ask your child questions about the story. Reading comprehension is one of the hardest things to teach a child if it doesn't come naturally to him. In order to comprehend something, you must be paying attention to it. Help your child to develop his ability to comprehend stories by asking him questions either about what he thinks is about to happen or what has already happened. This develops critical thinking, which helps later in life in making major decisions. It teaches him how to survive in the world, once he is put out in it.

7. Do a fun activity after you finish the book that relalates to the book in some way. For instance, if the book is about a tall person, make your own stilts using metal cans. Punch two holes on either side of each can, near the bottom. Measure a piece of rope so it is the appropriate length for children. Thread one end of the rope into each hole and secure with a knot. To walk on stilts, children stand on the cans, holding the rope in their hands. It's not easy, children will need practice! (Verify that the edge of the can is not sharp, add masking tape for extra protection.) If you read a book about lions or the circus, you can have your child jump through a hoop like a lion at the circus. This activity may be done indoors or outdoors. Add words of encouragement such as, "Come my beautiful lions!" Continue raising the hoop, then alternate between high and low.

Reading aloud to your child helps them to learn the correct way to read. By hearing you read the words on the page and sound them out, he learns that letters make words, and words make sentences, and sentences are how we communicate with each other. Communication is very important in how a person relates to the rest of the world. Reading aloud to your child encourages interpersonal communication, which is vital to a child's development.

Reading to your child on a regular basis will give them an appreciation and respect for reading. If reading is important to you, it will become important to your child. A bookcase full of a variety of great books should be available. The "Dr. Seuss" and "Dick and Jane" books are wonderful, because they are full of repetition. This will enable your child to learn sight words such as: it, at, on, in, the, etc. Learning sight words will help keep the frustration level down when they start to read books.

So, read aloud to your child, and I guarantee that not only will he benefit in phenomenal ways, but you will bond with your child in the process! Reading aloud calls for a lot more than just listening when you have just a little imagination. Have fun reading!
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Friday, May 15, 2009

Poem:Move Through One Day!

I'm very excited to announce that Action Alley Education is close to publishing, "Moving Through All Seven Days." This book inspires movement as children learn about the days of the week. The lyrical rhymes also teach them how to spell each day! The activities at the end of the book are designed to reinforce the concepts as well as give impetus to movement exploration.

The illustration above is from the new book. Tony Glisson is the talented illustrator who cleverly depicts the fun we have on Tuesday.

The following rhyme which takes you through one day is designed to encourage movement while children learn the concept of A.M., P.M., and time. It's entitled, "Move Through One Day."

6 A.M. I roll out of bed.

7 A.M. I am always fed.

8 A.M. I wash my own face.

9 A.M. I run in a race.

10 A.M. I go out to play.

11 A.M. I gallop away.

12 A.M. I make my own lunch.

1 P.M. I eat a whole bunch.

2 P.M. I clean with my Mom.

3 P.M. I run with friend, Tom.

4 P.M. I hit a home run.

5 P.M. I laugh and have fun.

6 P.M. I sit and I cook.

7 P.M. I read a good book.

8 P.M. I am fast asleep.

9 P.M. I dream really deep.

Set boundaries in your classroom, use the bubble principle, and let the children have fun acting out this perfect day. To prevent contact between children, tell each child that they are in a bubble. If anyone gets too close the bubble will burst.

You can also use this rhyme as a book or a class project. Have the children draw illustrations and a clock for each time. Put it on the bulletin board or bind it into a book.
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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009


Here are some excerpts and reviews of Helena Harper's book, A Teachers life..!

For all the whimsy and lightness, Harper is at her best in her reflections of her role as a teacher and its significance. An example is the concluding passage from the "End-of-Year-Bash" quoted above. In a poem called "The Workroom" Harper describes the chore of lesson preparation with her colleagues. The poem concludes with an almost mystical passage of the unity of purpose that binds those in academic life:

"Unrelated they may be,
but an invisible strand,
like the air each breathes,
ties them together
and makes them as one -
no longer separate beings
but different aspects of
an indefinable whole -
a close, invisible
community of the soul."

In a poem called "The Lesson" describing the difficulty of classroom teaching, Harper again concludes with a meditative passage:

"that's the reward
for hours and hours of work
and patience,
a reward of infinite measure,
a priceless, unlimited treasure."

As a final example, at the conclusion of a poem called "The Exam", the students complete their work, the docents receive the exam books, and Harper reflects on the process:

"The teachers follow,
and silence reigns once more,
broken only by
the great illusion of time,
ticking indefatigably
in the phantom human mime."

In a short, light way, Harper's book explores the frustrations of the teacher's life. Through the short-term difficulty and travail, she captures something of its significance as well. This is a delightful little book.

Review by Robin Friedman

"It's a Teacher's Life!" by Helena Harper may be based on the author's teaching experiences in the British education system [specifically a private girls' school], but I think teachers everywhere will be able to relate to the joys and frustrations expressed in this slim volume of poems. I used to teach in a secondary school in Singapore [for 8 years] before moving to the States, and reading this book of poems about teaching made me reminisce about my teaching years.

Ms Harper has arranged the poems in a sort of chronological order - beginning with the school ethos, the new school year and ending with the end of year school party. The poems are witty, often humorous, and at times satirical. "The New School Year" paints a hectic picture of preparations for the new school year with a multitude of meetings [and which teacher is unfamiliar with that?], lesson plans etc. "The Trips" brought to mind my own experience in taking the students out on a field trip - the planning, coordinating, ensuring the students stay safe etc...I could truly relate to the last few lines:

'Remind me next year
that these trips are
not a good idea!"

Anyone who has been a teacher or is teaching will enjoy this slim volume of poems written by a teacher herself. Indeed, one will read the poems and think "It is a teacher's life!"

Review by Z. Hayes


Available in paperback from all major online retailers. Not stocked in bookstores, but can be ordered from any bookstore.

Author's website:
Authorsden website:
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Kathy Stemke's websites:
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