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.

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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.

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“Now that the weather’s turning cold…”

Permit me to have a little moan.

It’s becoming a commonly accepted idea that outdoor play is hugely beneficial for children in so many different ways. With the growth of forest schools and nature based learning; one of my favourite quotes is always “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing.” (Of course, I’m not suggesting you take the children outside in flash floods or hurricane winds but you get the idea!)

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Despite this, while scrolling through my twitter feed, I keep coming across tweets and blogs with messages along the lines of “Now that the weather’s turning cold, here are some indoor activities.” Now don’t get me wrong here; there’s nothing wrong with indoor learning and play, but I can’t help but feel that the theme of these posts is that children should completely avoid the ‘cold’ and stay wrapped up warm inside.

If the children are kept indoors during the Autumn and Winter months, then they are missing out of so much fantastic learning; from the increasing knowledge of the way that nature changes through the seasons, to the wonder and magic of sparkling frost on a spiderweb. Among other things, getting outside also allows children to burn off that excess energy which prevents them from being able to settle and focus on other activities.

And so, here is my plea:

By all means, post your lovely learning ideas (indoors or out) but please don’t spread the message that cold weather means that children should be kept inside!

Let’s allow all of our children to embrace the outdoors, whatever the weather! Remember, lead by example here – if the children see you being enthusiastic and leading the fun, they will likely follow.

Here are my Autumn/Winter outdoor play tips:

  • Wrap up warm – This means children AND adults! Jumpers, coats, waterproof suits, wellies, gloves, scarfs and hats are all necessary for the colder months. I find it’s always a good idea to have spares as some children at nursery inevitably forget their coat…
  • Promote physical/energetic play – If it is cold, a good run around is the best way to warm up! Why not play some sports or get out the bikes – any physical activity will keep away the cold!
  • Short bursts – if the weather is particularly cold/wet/brutal, take the children out in short bursts. This means that they can still benefit from outdoor time but do not get too uncomfortable.
  • Have a change of clothes – if you’re outside in the wet weather, ensure that the children have a warm, dry set of clothes to change into when they come indoors. There’s nothing worse than squelching in wet socks!

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Can you think of any more? Please comment or tweet to me @EarlyYearsIdeas

Have a great week everyone and please – spend some quality time outdoors!

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Happy Halloween

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Halloween is a wonderful excuse for some silly, spooky fun! I’ve been having a think and here are some of my favourite Halloween themed activity ideas:

  • Spiderweb threading – using a paper plate with holes punched around the outside, encourage the children to thread wool across as many times as they like to make a wonderfully tangled web. For added fun, try drizzling some glue over the top and sprinkling with silvery glitter (Health and Wellbeing, Creative, Science)Spider
  • Spiderweb on floor – Using masking tape, map out a large spiderweb on the floor, then add colours/ numbers or shapes and turn it into a fun game by shouting out one (colour/number/shape) and having the child jump on it/stretch to it (Health and Wellbeing, Numeracy, Science)
  • Pumpkin carving – for more on this see Enjoying Autumn
  • Dancing – play some spooky music and get involved in some dance and movement! Think about the different ways that different Halloween characters might move – a stiff skeleton, a floaty ghost, a slimy monster… (Creative, Health and Welllbeing) One of my favourite pieces of music for this activity is Greig’s Hall of the Mountain King (I love how it builds up to an exciting climax!)

  • Haunted castle bingo – use an outline of a spooky castle (plenty to be found on google), then add numbers – using either computer skills or by hand. Numbers can be hidden in windows or could just be added onto the castle using clear white circles/stickers. Remember to blank out a few so that not everyone has the exact same sheet! Then practice number recognition either by matching the number to the one you hold up, or identifying it by name alone. (Numeracy) 302589_10150902988750374_423956221_n
  • Spooky slime – Halloween is the perfect opportunity for some gloopy fun! Why not experiment with adding hair conditioner or even soap flakes for an exciting sensory experience!
  • Darkness and Shadows – set up a dark den or create an area which is as dark as possible, then let the children explore with torches, glow sticks and other light up toys. Develop this further by shining a light on the wall/ floor and experimenting with creating weird and wonderful shadow shapes. You could even try telling a story using shadows as your pictures. (Language and Literacy, Science)
  • Go for a torch walk – everything looks different in the dark, and now that the dark evenings are closing in we have more time to enjoy it! Take the torches outside and use them to look at the trees, buildings, landmarks etc. My favourite time to do this would be at dusk, however ff the light levels are really low when you go out, please make sure to use an enclosed garden or very safe space. (Health and Wellbeing, Science)

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Other people’s ideas that I love:

These fruity treats from One Little Project

This super cute masking tape mummy from No Time for Flash Cards

Cotton bud skeletons from All Free Crafts

Pumpkin potato prints from Roaming rose

Have a great week everyone!

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Enjoying Autumn

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year! The cold, crisp and clear skies, the colours of the falling leaves, the cosy feeling of being snuggled up in wooly jumpers and scarves…

There are many lovely activities on an autumn theme – some of which I explored in a previous blog post (see Bonkers for conkers) and I feel like blogging a few more – particularly focusing on getting outdoors:

Nature walks (H&W, Social, Lit&Lang, Num, Creative, Science)

Oh yes, this one again! Never underestimate the learning that can take place on a walk! You can:

  • Look for changes that are happening around your area2015-10-21 14.03.12
  • Collect interesting leaves to be sorted and compared
  • Jump in the leaves or over the puddles
  • Listen to the crunching of the dry leaves
  • Look out for any animal homes
  • Explore the light at different times of day – what happens to your shadow? (Try standing in the same place and having someone draw around it with chalk!)

Leaf sorting (Science, Num)

When you return from your walk – or anywhere where you can collect lots of leaves; have the children sort them into categories of colour, size, shape or whatever else they are interested in (or skill that you’re working on). Then look at different ways that you can display the information, for example – make a pictograph by gluing the leaves onto the paper – making it easy to identify which category has the most/ least. What a wonderful, practical way to introduce some comparative, mathematical language!

Natural art (Creative, H&W, Science)

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  • Leaf or bark rubbings
  • Painting leaves/ twigs
  • Using glitter and glue to make some wonderfully sparkly autumn decorations
  • Explore autumn colours – mixing and experimenting
  • Use a hole punch on some sturdy leaves and then thread them to make leafy jewellery or even some fab autumn bunting

Cooking on the campfire

If you take part in forest school activities, or have a setting where this is possible – outdoor cooking is a favourite activity all year around. Just be sure to complete the correct risk assessments and ensure that you and your children are 100% confident with safety procedures

Pumpkins (H&W, Lit&Lang, Num, Tech)

No list of autumn activities would be complete without a mention of that halloween tradition: pumpkin carving! My preferred  method is to cut off the lid, then allow the children to get stuck in – scooping, scraping and picking out all of the insides. Don’t let it go to waste! The insides are great fun in your sensory tray as a squelchy, slimy experience, and the seeds can be roasted to make a tasty treat (see method here and perhaps add some literacy and numeracy by following a recipe).

Once the innards are well and truly gone, I allow the children to draw a face onto the pumpkin. This is often the job for just one child, so you might like to get the others involved by researching different designs and offering their own ideas.

Depending on the age of your children, you might allow them to do some of the cutting out of the face/design, but please be very careful (we don’t want any missing fingers!)

Finally, add a battery powered candle to complete the spooky effect!

More Halloween themed activities to follow in my next post. For now, wrap up warm, get outside and enjoy!

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Riverside fun at Whitby

I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week down in the beautiful area of Whitby (England) recently while on holiday with my family. We stayed in a house that was right next to the river, and me being me spotted so many opportunities for learning that I just couldn’t resist blogging about them!

There were no children with us on this holiday – so I roped the adults into playing with me – and we all had a blast!

So! Here are some of the ways that you could use the natural environment around a river to promote some learning and development within children:

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Wildlife Spotting

This may seem like an obvious one to start with but there are so many different types of birds, fish, insects and other creatures to be found around the river. Why not introduce some wildlife books or spotter sheets for some literacy and language development.

Observing the tides

You can discuss how the tides change and the river moves. Is the tide always in at the same time of day? What does it look like when the tide is out?

Sounds and sights

Take some quiet time to listen to the water. What words can you use to describe that sound? Trickling? Wooshing? Swishing? Can you hear any birds or ducks? Also, what can you see? Look at the colours of the water and the reflections in it. Maybe even get creative and have a go at painting or drawing the wibbly wobbly reflections that you can see!

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Throwing stones

A very simple activity – throwing stones helps to develop a child’s physical co-ordination and control. You can also look at the way that the stones create splashes in the water, and the ripples that follow. Bring in some lovely ‘real life’ maths by looking at the size of the stones – does it make a different splash if we throw a big/ small one? What shape are the ripples? Watch as they grow larger and larger.

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Stone Sculptures

Another fun way to use the pebbles and stones that you may find is to make stone sculptures. This involves creative thinking, problem solving, fine motor skills and co-ordination. It could also involve team work and co-operation if children decide to work together.

Shadow art

The sculptures that you create, or through using other materials can cast wonderful shadows! Why not try to trace them onto paper or using chalk onto the path/ surface. An interesting extension to this would be to observe the shadows at different times of day and see how they change (growing longer or shorter). This brings some maths and understanding of time into the activity.

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Stone Measuring

Continue to use your stones and pebbles by using them for measuring. Here we compared the stones and decided to line them up from largest to smallest. This involved mathematical thinking and decision making. Another way to use the stones could be to create the longest line possible and then measure it in footsteps. Or to line them up against something/ someone to find out ‘how many stones long’ they are.

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Climbing and Physical Play

We were lucky enough to find this wonderful heavy piece of driftwood by the river, but there are always wonderful banks or large stones which children can climb on/ over. Be sure to let them take some risks – but risk assess carefully (and don’t let them fall in the river!)

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Natural Art

This is always a favourite of mine! Using anything and everything around, let the children create their own masterpieces. These could be actual pictures, or just patterns and arrangements. Let their imaginations run wild with different textures, colours and materials.

I’m sure that I’ve only scratched the surface of activities and experiences to be had down by the river! Please do comment or tweet to me at @EarlyYearsIdeas with any of your own – I’d love to read them!

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