PedagooPerth CPD

Last Wednesday I was lucky enough to attend PedagooPerth – an event where teachers and education professionals from around the area come together and take part in learning conversations.

 

I joined in with 3 conversations:

  1. The wonderful world of lego – how lego can be used to develop a range of skills in primary children.
  2. How can we develop education outdoors within our community?
  3. Music in the primary classroom.

I chose these conversations because

a) I’ve always been a lover of lego and I was looking for ideas as to how I can bring that fun and engaging resource into my lessons at school,

b) Outdoor learning is one of my big passions and I was interested to see how it can be implemented effectively within a primary school,

c) My next university placement (‘learning from life’) is music based and I was hoping to gain some ideas and inspiration for this.

 

The Wonderful World of Lego

This first conversation provided me with loads of ideas that I would like to incorporate into my future practice. One of these ideas was using lego challenges as a soft start activity. These can vary in complexity and can encourage creativity, for example: a challenge can be as simple as ‘build a car’ or as tricky as ‘build a nightmare’. HERE is a blog with an example of some lego challenge cards.

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Image from morguefile.com

I also learned about a kit that schools can acquire which links lego with technology and ICT. These kits include the pieces and instructions needed to build a robot. Once the model is made, children are required to use simple coding in order to make the robot move. Children can then use these robots to enter into a competition known as the First Lego League. It was easy to see all of the various learning and skills which the children can gain through these experiences; from problem solving and teamwork, to the mathematical and computer skills involved in coding.

During this talk, the leader also spoke about the lego club at her school. This club was completely run and managed by the children themselves, and was used to allow the children to build, code, and try out techniques to allow them to score points for the competitions. I really like this idea and would love to see something similar in practice. This might even be something that I look into setting up in the future.

How can we develop education outdoors within our community?

This talk was really interesting as we were able to hear about how a primary school was developing their outdoor area and small patch of woodland to not only allow the classes to use it for learning, but also to encourage the local community to get involved.

The project was being run in a way that the children were given ownership, involving them in all stages of planning and even allowing them to help with the practical development i.e. digging up the ground for a path! We discussed all of the brilliant learning that can take place with a project like this, such as budgeting (as the children were helping to decide what was going to go into the wooded area). We also were able to hear about the future plans, such as allowing each class to keep an allotment within the woods, and using this for enterprise as the children could sell on the produce.

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Image from Morguefile.com

I was particularly interested to hear that, as the site is community owned, the plan was for the community to take an active role in using and maintaining it. This would mean that the area would be open to families, even when the school was closed (for example during the summer holidays).

Alongside all the positives of this project, there are also barriers and challenges which must be overcome. One of these challenges is that in the past, the area has been subject to littering and vandalism. It is hoped that as the site is improved, and everyone is involved in its development, this will deter such activities. Another challenge is ensuring the sustainability and minimising the negative impacts of human activity on the trees and the wildlife. Rangers and the Forestry commission can be used for this purpose, for example conducting a tree survey, however it is important that staff, pupils, and the community are educated and made aware of what they must do to look after the environment.

This talk left me enthusiastic and feeling positive that forest school and outdoor learning can take place effectively within primary schools. Obviously, this is easier for those schools which are lucky enough to have a natural outdoor area which they can use (rather than a concrete playground), however I am confident that all schools can find a way to incorporate more of this valuable learning.

Music in the Primary Classroom

This conversation included lots of really practical ideas on how to teach music to primary school students. I was able to see how children could learn rhythms and patterns using their bodies, or spots on the floor, and how this would link with eventually reading written sheet music.

I was also able to make connections between the learning ideas presented, and the methods that I observed and have read about for my learning from life placement. This style did not use figurenotes, however the progression was very similar, and it was obvious that there was very positive results.

I particularly liked the idea of a noise pyramid activity which involves children making individual sounds, but being brought in, and brought off at different times so that the sounds build up in layers. I feel that this has clear links with helping children to understand written music notation.

While I have always been fairly keen and confident in using music within the early years, this talk has provided me with lots of ideas which I feel I can bring into my practice, both within my next university placement, and throughout my future teaching career. It has helped me to feel more confident about teaching music to primary children.

music

 

Overall, I feel that PedagooPerth was a really worthwhile event. I was able to meet with some really interesting and incredibly friendly people and I learned a lot too! If you have to opportunity to attend one of these in the future, I would highly recommend it.

Twitter Chat Update

In an effort to ensure that our weekly #EYshare’s are relevant and engaging, I have created a board where people can post their own ideas/ suggestions for future chats. This board is open to all and does not require a subscription so I do hope that it will be used!

Here is the padlet board:

Made with Padlet

As this post will (obviously) move down and become less visible, the board will also be accessible through the ‘Twitter’ page (see top menu).

This is a little bit experimental so let’s see if it works! Thanks everyone!

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It’s Story Time!

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Image from iStock. Credit Romolo Tavani

As you probably know, on the 2nd March it will be World Book Day. Not only that, but it is in fact the 20th year of World Book Day! So, in preparation for the big day, I have been thinking of some story and book based activities and experiences.

Create a Reading-Nook

There’s nothing better than a little cosy space to get lost in a book. Why not move some furniture, lay a blanket, build a pillow fort, or just grab loads of cushions to make a really appealing space for the children to read?  You could even try making it dark, adding a few fairy lights for that magical touch! Just remember – you don’t want the children to strain their eyes, so try providing some torches or small (safe) lamps for them to use.

Read Together

This may sound obvious but it’s SO valuable and important to children. I wrote about some ideas for making story time engaging in THIS previous post – take a look!

Get Creative

Do your children have a favourite book? Why not help them to make a new book cover? You can approach this in lots of different ways (draw it/ paint it/ use ICT/ act it out and take photos…) and can use these activities to develop plenty of skills. This can also spark discussion about the key features of a book cover (title, author, picture) as well as about the story itself.

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Image from iStock. Credit: Orensila

Take a Trip

Why not go for a walk over to the local library or even the local bookshop? Choosing a new book can be so exciting for children, and it can even help to encourage those reluctant readers. Some libraries offer story sessions and other activities, it might be worth your while doing a little research!

 

I hope you have a brilliant Book Day! I look forward to seeing some fabulous activities and inspired costumes – please share! Tweet me: @EarlyYearsIdeas

 

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Boy/Girl…Neutral?

Following a really interesting and informative chat last night on #EYshare (Read the tweets HERE), I’ve been thinking a lot about gender stereotypes and gender issues that need to be considered when working with children.

Firstly, I have to admit, this topic made me feel a little uncomfortable!  It’s an important topic and I’m glad that it was suggested (and so competently led by my wonderful guest hosts), but there was something inside me that made me doubt myself and double check anything that I wrote! However, this awareness of my own feelings has alerted me to the fact that, perhaps I need to do a bit more reading and research about this topic. In today’s world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and avoid these kinds of issues!

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Image from morguefile.com

Anyway (back to the point), the overall consensus of the chat was that ALL children should have the opportunity to experience ALL activities and ALL toys. In other words; there is no such thing as a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy, there are just toys. This is something that I strongly believe and hope to continue to actively promote in all of my work, whether in pre-school or primary. We need to provide opportunities for children to make their own choices and decisions, without putting any of our own judgements or pre-conceived ideas onto them – for example, we shouldn’t giggle at that wee lad who has decided to wear the pink gown and the high heels. And we should reassure the girl who wants to play racing cars instead of baby dolls. The bottom line is, we need to respect each child as an individual. It is our job to open those doors!

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Image from morguefile.com

 

Another point that came up was that it is vital that we are introducing our children to role models which challenge unhelpful stereotypes. It is clear that film and TV are attempting to bring more women into strong, leading roles, however there are far less examples of caring and gentle male characters. As it was pointed out last night – this is YET ANOTHER reason why we need more men in childcare!

 

 

One of the big issues discussed was challenging parents/ families gender opinions. For example,

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Image from morguefile.com

if a parent doesn’t want their girl to be playing football/ their boy to be playing with barbies. I feel that it is important that EY practitioners and teachers attempt to talk to these parents and explain to them the value of these different types of play. However, it is also important that we do not disrespect parents and families. Children often have the firm belief that their parent is RIGHT and we need to be sensitive to this.

Finally, the chat got me thinking about my future practice as a primary teacher. Currently I have a pinterest board full of displays and ideas for ways that I would love to decorate my classroom. On second inspection, I realised that much of what I have pinned, and what I might choose could be seen as rather ‘girly’ and may not be appropriate for my entire class. I think that there is a simple way to address this – I will involve the children! Rather than making all of the decisions myself, I will ask the children’s opinions (where appropriate). Not only will this avoid suiting the environment more to one gender/ preference, it will also give the children a sense of ownership over their classroom.

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We’re going on a Maths Hunt!

During one of my university inputs, I was asked to look at a picture book and to consider how it could be used to develop children’s early mathematical skills.

The picture book that I chose was ‘We’re going on a Bear Hunt‘ by Michael Rosen. I chose this book because it’s one of my favourites, and one which (in my experience) never fails to capture children’s imagination.

I have used this story to explore language, and for various dramatic and creative play experiences, but I have never before taken a particular focus on the mathematical element. That being said, it is obvious that there is plenty of mathematical language and concepts throughout. Here are some of the ones that I spotted:

  • language of measurement and size: “we’re going to catch a BIG one” and “long, wavy grass”
  • positional language – over/ under/ through
  • counting – “one shiny, wet nose, 2 big furry ears…”
  • rhythm and repetition

If I were to use this story with my class, there are various activities which I may use to focus in on some of these concepts. I would always begin by reading the story with my class. I love the actions which Michael Rosen uses in his reading and would use the same, or my own variation of these to engage the children.

I have chosen 2 mathematical concepts to explore further: measurement and counting.

Measurement

To continue with the concept of measurement and size, I would encourage the children to explore tape-measures, rulers, measuring sticks and even non conventional measurement resources like lego blocks. I would then provide opportunities for the children to begin to sort items that they had measured into groups of big/ medium/ small etc. I would model and encourage the different words and language which can be used to describe these measurements: large, tiny, huge, little…

Another fun activity could be to have the children arrange themselves in a long line from biggest to smallest or visa versa. This activity could be done as a transition (for example when lining up for lunch) and would help to secure the children’s understanding.

Counting

163568_460302010707036_766482142_nOne way to continue learning about counting and labelling, in the way that the story does, could be to use the same method to describe something else. I would provide playdough with a variety of materials such as googly eyes, straws, sequins, string, etc and allow the children to create their own creature. I would encourage them to make their creature as weird and wacky as they liked, because when they are finished I would ask them to describe it to their friend. This activity could be linked to learning about description, or could simply be about how many eyes/ ears/ noses etc that their creature has.

 

Do you have any other ideas as to how we could use this book to develop maths skills? Please drop me a comment!

Making a little change

file5951239550691As some of you may know, I’ve been hosting the twitter chat #childcarehour for some time now. It has been a real pleasure, and during this time I’ve had the privilege of co-hosting with some wonderful professionals, and have also run the chats independently. I am extremely grateful to those who allowed me to be a part of this!

However, after much thought, I have decided to make a change and begin my own twitter chat using the hashtag:

#EYshare

 

There are a variety of reasons for this decision, some of these include:

  • Starting a new hashtag  which is shorter and easier to fit into tweets. I’m also keen to  emphasise the most important aspect of the chats – sharing!
  • I feel that the chats have moved in a different direction to where #childcarehour began and I would like to continue this.
  • I’m hoping to link the chats more closely with my blog (more details to follow).

 

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has participated in my previous chats, and for your support. I hope that this support will continue in my new venture!

 

#EYshare will continue to take place on Wednesdays from 8pm – 9pm. 

 

Thank you 🙂

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Discovering new resources

This is a post which I wrote for my university blog, but it applies here as well as the resources could be used within Early Years. Take a look and let me know what you think 🙂

 

 

Over the last few weeks, I have come across 2 online resources which I feel could be really useful in my future teaching career. These have been shown to me by university lecturers, and in the spirit of sharing, I thought I would write a little post about them to hopefully inspire some of my fellow course-mates.

The first of these resources was comes from the website ‘Chrome Experiments’. This is “an online showroom of web browser based experiments… and artistic projects” (Wikipedia.) In other words, people have been creating all kinds of weird and wonderful things and uploading them to share with the world.

The particular experiment which appeals to me and that I can imagine using within the classroom, is Chrome Music Lab.

Chrome Music Lab

Within music lab, there are various different activities, all connected with music. For example, the first activity (entitled ‘Rhythm’) you can experiment with having the characters beat their drum (or ting their triangle, or knock their wooden block…) at different times according to where you place a marker. This is a great introduction to simple rhythm and patterns, it also gives children a very basic, first introduction to how music can be represented on a page.

A screen grab of Chrome Music Lab

A screen grab of Chrome Music Lab

Another part of Chrome Music Lab is ‘Arpeggios’ . Here you can click on any letter to hear the arpeggio played in that key. You can also adjust the speed in which the arpeggio is played. I think that this could be a great tool for looking at how music can be used to provoke feelings and emotions – for example, the arpeggio in d#, playing at a slow tempo could be perceived to sound slightly sad/ melancholy whereas playing in G, at a faster tempo may sound happy and joyful.

A screen grab of the Arpeggios activity on Chrome Music Lab

A screen grab of the Arpeggios activity on Chrome Music Lab

The second resource was introduced to me through a TDT task which was sent earlier today. Again, I’d never seen it before, but it got me quite excited and I just had to try it out.

This resource is Padlet.

Padlet

Padlet is a virtual space where you can add ‘post-it’ style notes, as well as photos, links and media from your own computer or from the web. What I really like about it is that it can be used as a collaborative space.

Each board can be set to be private (for your eyes only), public, or password protected. This means that it could easily be used for students to work together on a project – collecting their research or sharing ideas together.

HERE is my example Padlet board (pictured below). To access it you will need the password: uodedu. Feel free to add/ remove/ change things if you would like to.

A screen grab of my example Padlet board

A screen grab of my example Padlet board

Having this information stored in a secure online space means that pupils could continue to add work or ideas to it outside of school hours if they so desire. It is also attractive (customisable backgrounds and icons) and easy to use, which may help to engage the children.

THIS article from Education World has some more ideas about how you might use Padlet within the classroom. I particularly like the idea of having a question wall – with children perhaps adding questions about what they are currently learning and showing any gaps in their understanding, or perhaps adding questions which show what they would like to learn next.

Of course, an issue with this is that not all children have access to computers or the internet at home. Therefore I would not use a resource like Padlet for any homework tasks or compulsory work unless there is time allocated to it within the school day.

 

*EDIT* 

Within EY, I could see Padlet being a useful tool for sharing ideas, planning and CPD. A team could work together on building up ideas for a play and learning.

Being a visual person – I love creating mood boards for a new area of learning! 

 

I always love discovering new resources and I would urge you to have a play with these. Let me know what you think of them in the comments below!