Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘All the Ways to be Smart’

Home » Review + Teachers’ Notes: ‘All the Ways to be Smart’

Title: All the Ways to be Smart
Author: Davina Bell
Illustrator: Allison Colpoys
Publisher: Scribble
Themes: diversity; talents; creativity; strengths; confidence; kindness
Age Range: early childhood – upper primary

Click on title links or cover image to purchase.

When the school principal asked me for a book to read at our final awards assembly last year, I immediately popped down to her office with my copy of ‘All the Ways to be Smart’ – and fortunately she was as enamoured with it as I am. It was the perfect book to read to an entire Junior School at an assembly celebrating ‘all the ways to be smart’ and it sent a strong message that as a school we value the individual strengths and unique talents of all our students.

In a world which too often seems to value a narrow view of ‘smart’,All the Ways to be Smart’ is a flashing neon sign which says we must do otherwise. Its pages burst with vibrant colours and words which nurture confidence in individuality and describe all the ways in which you might be smart. This is a book to be poured over time and time again and read aloud often and with enthusiasm.

‘All the Ways to be Smart’ is the third book from Davina Bell and Allison Colpoys (‘The Underwater Fancy-Dress Parade’ – review here and ‘Under the Love Umbrella’) and together they really seem to create something utterly whimsical and magical. Their work has enormous child appeal but is also so well designed that I’m calling it home décor! I realised recently that Allison Colpoys was the designer on the Penguin classics I avidly collected; not to be read…just to be admired on my shelf. Books are totally home décor items in my world and you can read more about this gorgeous collection here.

Follow it Up in the Home, Classroom or Library

Teachers’ Notes prepared by teacher Melissa Kroeger for Children’s Books Daily in context with the Australian Curriculum.

These notes are designed to be used in the home environment to extend a shared book reading experience with discussion and some ideas for follow up activities. They can also be used in educational environments where in depth study of text is undertaken.

Title: All the Ways to be Smart
Author: Davina Bell
Illustrator: Allison Colpoys


  • English


  • Literacy



  1. Without showing the cover of the book to the students, tell them the title of the book ‘All the Ways to be Smart’.
  • Ask them what do they think this means?
  • What are ways to be smart?
  • Do they have to be about achieving well at school? Reading? Writing? Maths? NO!
  • Who’s good at swimming? Who’s good at running? Who’s good at drawing? Who’s good at computer games? Who’s good at being kind? Who’s good at helping?
  • What are some ways that you are smart /or good that might be different to others?
  • What do you think the book might be about?

2. Show the front cover to the students.

  • The illustrator has drawn different children doing different things. What are they doing? Are these different ways to be ‘smart’? YES!
  • Look at the colours the illustrator has used on the front cover. What colour do you see most of? What is the brightest colour used? What does that highlight?
  • Why do you think the illustrator has used just some select colours?

3. Read the blurb on the back cover.

  • What does it mean by ‘Smart is not just ticks and crosses’?
  • Can you be a mermaid or ride a dragon? What would you need to do these things? IMAGINATION! What are some other things you can imagine?
  • The blurb has rhyming words in it – re-read the blurb again accentuating the rhyming words. Ask the students what words rhyme? See if they can guess them as you read it – read ‘Smart is not just ticks and crosses, smart is building boats from … (hopefully they will all say ‘boxes’). Read ‘Painting patterns, wheeling wagons, being mermaids, riding … (and they will all say DRAGONS)
  • Discuss that the book is full of rhyming words and what rhyming words are. Ask the students to tell you some like log and dog

Read the book

  • Then re-read it, stopping at the rhyming word as practised above to see if the students can guess the word. Tell them to look at the illustrations to help them guess what the rhyming word is.


Content Description: ACELA1439 Recognise and generate rhyming words, alliteration patterns, syllables and sounds (phonemes) in spoken words


  • recognising and producing rhyming words when listening to rhyming stories or rhymes, for example ’funny’ and ’money’
  • identifying patterns of alliteration in spoken words, for example ‘helpful Henry’
  • identifying syllables in spoken words, for example clapping the rhythm of ‘Mon-day’, ‘Ja-cob’ or ‘Si-en-na’
  1. Discuss what syllables are and demonstrate clapping them out. Clap out student’s names broken down into syllables ‘Em-i-ly’, ‘Da-vid’ etc.
  2. Read out the text on page 2 and have them count the syllables on each line (7)

“Smart at drawing witches’ hats,
smart at gluing wings on bats”

3. Write on the board or have printed on a large piece of paper this:

I can’t wait to share with you

how smart I am the whole day through.

I’m smart at ____________ __________ ____________

smart at ____________ _____________ _____________

  • discuss words that could go in the spaces
  • discuss the rhythm it needs to follow
  • discuss the seven syllables that are needed on each line
  • Fill in the blanks with the students
  • Have the students do their own on their own piece of paper. You could have pre-printed sheets with the above text on it so the students just need to fill in the blanks


Smart at drawing crazy cats
smart at sitting on the mat

Smart at playing with a friend
smart at helping ouchies mend

Smart at jumping really high
smart at making yummy pie

Smart at swinging on the swing
smart at drawing anything

Smart at being a good mate
smart at never being late

Smart at balancing on a log
Smart at playing with my dog

4. Title:

  • Discuss alliteration with the students to come up with a title for their poem: Marvellous Michelle, Daring Davina, Awesome Ari, Lucky Lucy etc.

5. Illustrations:

  • Discuss that the illustrations on each of the pages on the books show what the text means, so therefore their illustration must represent their text.
  • Have the students illustrate their Smart Poem using the same colours from the book – green, neon orange, peach, light blue, black and grey. Demonstrate if necessary with your shared poem.

Take it further:

By increasing the content accordingly, you could undertake the above lesson aimed at any primary age group. Prompting self-awareness and self-esteem by discussing shining qualities of learning within ones-self (and others) by either:

  • group discussion of saying one good learning quality about themselves (and one good quality about another person)
  • written on a piece of paper for own personal use or to share with a friend
  • written on a piece of paper anonymously and given to the teacher to read out to the class

Discussion of this book and all things that individuals (and others) are successful to tie in with the Learning Continuum of Learning and Social Capability, Self-Awareness Element, under the Australian Curriculum.


Sub-element: Understand themselves as learners

  • Identify their abilities talents and interests as learners


Sub-element: Recognise personal qualities and achievements

  • identify and describe personal interests, skills and achievements and explain how these contribute to family and school life

Sub-element: Understand themselves as learners

  • discuss their strengths and weaknesses as learners and identify some learning strategies to assist them


Sub-element: Recognise personal qualities and achievements

  • describe personal strengths and challenges and identify skills they wish to develop


Sub-element: Recognise personal qualities and achievements

  • describe the influence that personal qualities and strengths have on their learning outcomes

Megan Daley Bio

Looking for more great book reviews and recommendations? I’m Megan Daley and you can find out more about me here.

My book recommendations (for babies to young adults) is here and you can peruse ALL of my reviews (searchable by age, genre and theme) here.

Check out my mini ebook, 'What to Read Next' or sign up for my FREE webinar, '3 Tips to Start the Best Book Club Ever'.

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