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.

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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