Tuesday, 25 November 2014

how do you feel today?...

I have a simple little opportunity beginning in class. Using face shaped mats and coloured doughs the littles are invited to create a face showing a feeling/emotion.

 

My intention is to target individuals who have limited language in terms of describing feelings and emotions, the littles who are either happy or sad - never anything else. It is also to help the littles who need opportunity to 'read' emotions in facial expressions with greater ease, this way I can be quite explicit in my teaching of this but in a play situation. Lastly for now it is intended to give the littles in class experiencing challenging times a space to process feelings surrounding events.


In the coming weeks I shall expand the opportunity to follow engagement and meet differing needs. Vocabulary will be added, images of the faces the littles are creating will be added and slips of paper encouraging the littles to record the names of the emotions themselves. I am also planning to add photos of the littles showing different emotions for us to mould. Where else it will go - we will see. All learning and explorations will be pulled together into a homemade 'how do you feel today' book, similar to the one currently on display.
As always increasing use of playdough also does wonders for elbows, wrist rotation, finger dexterity and finger pressure but those are happy benefits of this opportunity and not centre stage.

This feels like the simplest idea that will grow and grow over coming weeks, I can't wait to see where it takes us...

 

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

what matters most...

Here's what I love about being a teacher....

Out in the playground two children begin collecting leaves..."look at these" they call to me, "they are beautiful colours". I challenge them to find as many different shapes and colours as they can during morning break.

Around and about they go, collecting, dismissing, discussing and sorting....

A busy step is chosen to display their finds and everyone is encouraged to walk around the leaves on their way past. One of the children decides to stay guard whilst they take turns collecting... I see this unfold but do not interfere. They have found their own way around a problem that works just fine for them.

Soon they come to find me, the older children have arrived and are trampling on the leaves before they can be stopped, a box for collecting is requested and found and on they go....

The leaves are brought indoors and as we are busy, busy, busy with other areas of learning they are left to dry and turn brown. Lovely moments, lots of discovery, excitment, cooperation and joyful discussion...nothing recorded - hell no - no cup of coffee for me during morning break either but just a reminder of why I am there, what it is really is all about...

 

Monday, 17 November 2014

spring from a story.... Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten

Each year I study the 3 nominated texts for the Scottish Book Awards in class for one week each, in the 3 weeks before Book Week Scotland...during Book Week we vote for our favourite having studied each text in detail and given it lots of thought.

Book 1 for us was Princess Penelope and the Runaway Kitten by Alison Murray. Now I have to say that I am not a princess promoting teacher, they don't float my boat and I would go there if I had to in terms of engagement but I seem to be able to hook my learners in without needing to go to princesses - phew! One of the benefits of engaging with nationally nominated texts though is that they wouldn't necessarily be ones I would read in class.

 

First up the littles got 20 keywords that I had chosen from the text. They had to read them carefully and try to guess what the book was going to be about. They hadn't seen any covers or had any other clues and they did really well from the keywords I gave them. They then had to predict the title based on the keywords, again some great predictions including some very close to the title of the book.

Next they each drew a picture prediction for either the princess character or the kitten, as they had deduced that these were going to be the main characters in the story...


We then read the book through without looking together at the pictures, just really focusing on the words and the story. Then I re-read looking at illustrations this time. That done the littles created the missing page using pink wool and the same format as the pages in the book.
Really high engagement with this and a great activity to focus them on character and plot development...
If I used the text again I would spend longer on these...
Once complete our learning was collated on the first panel of our literacy learning wall along with our final opinions of the book for now. Sometimes I find that this can change over time as a story rests with them, they can really grow to feel affectionate about a story.
Our display looks like this...
I use my Ideas Sketch app to plan a week like this and then work from there to incorporate any other links to relevant learning in literacy or to follow a path taken by the littles during the week.

Next up Robot Rumpus...

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pumpkins ... part 2

It seems like such a long time ago now but only 2 weeks have passed! To conclude our learning on pumpkins, having gained first hand experience of colour, shape and size, the littles created a growing pumpkin using chalk, collage and pastel. Each one different and created to the littles specifications. Once I have explained the opportunity and demonstrated any techniques I stand back and enjoy seeing what emerges just as the littles enjoy sharing results with each other.

They are displayed with a very quick green border frame as the display was brief and destined for art folders rather quickly as our learning moved on.

The older littles spent time creating sequence books about how to carve a pumpkin lantern. Notes were made first, spellings checked and writing began...

 

Again nothing fancy, all driven by the littles and a great little writing assessment for me to plan forward from.

Our thoughts today turned to our nativity performance....eeeek!

 

 

Saturday, 1 November 2014

pumpkins...pumpkins....part1

Lots of learning experiences in class this past week using the context created by the cheap and easy to buy supermarket pumpkins at this time of year. Oh how I wish we had a pumpkin patch within 50 miles!

I took 10 into class so that the littles could work in pairs, one pumpkin per pair, through the week.

My planning looked like this, I like to use the IdeasSketch app for planning this type of week. Curriculum links are on the reverse... well they will be tomorrow when I get around to doing it :)

My first focus was to encourage descriptive language - what can we see, feel, hear, smell and taste - as well as using the seeds as a real life context for counting in groups of 10 and 100 and the pumpkins themselves for ordering by size and volume. I also wanted to incorporate work around the story of 'The Old Woman and the Red Pumpkin' to link with recent learning around traditional tales. I had planned a cover re-design task but the discussion we had evolved and the littles did a wonderful job of creating maps of the story in their jotters.

Great teamwork from the youngest littles to order smallest to largest...


As well as my initial plans the rest of the week evolved and time was spent following the littles wondering questions - I wonder where pumpkins grow, I wonder how long a pumpkin takes to grow - this led us to watch video clips and use a sequence chart to find out about a pumpkin's lifecycle. Someone asked 'I wonder what colours pumpkins are?' which led us to some online research and discussion.
Scooping, scraping, handling and persevering provided great opportunities in themselves. I was surprised at the number of littles who needed support to touch the flesh and seeds as they were overwhlemed with the urge to wash the slime from their hands...
Sorting the seeds into tens, then grouping into hundreds and counting totals was brilliant. At the beginning the entire class had no idea how we would go about counting the seeds apart from knowing that counting in ones wouldn't be efficient.
We had a busy, coherent week, lots of assessment for me in a fun context for the littles and each pair decided at the end of the week who would take the pumpkin home for Halloween, no arguments, lots of kindness, the perfect end to the week.

We tracked our talking and thinking in our big book, photos of that, super open ended artwork and pictures of those story maps to follow...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, 12 October 2014

leaf man by lois ehlert

Love this book sooo very much. We have been developing more skill and exploration in both colour and collage in class and I knew that Leaf Man would be a perfect way to end our journey....

The sun shone on us as we worked in pairs to collect leaves that we liked, either because of their shape, size or colour. If you don't discuss careful collecting you go back into class with a hopeless bag of muddy autumn debris, lesson learned in a previous year and never to be repeated.

I like the littles to be as unhindered by me as possible when they are finding natural treasures. We did a little leaf identifying, looked at colours through sunlight....

We searched specifically for yellow and golden leaves as during a pitstop we found there to be none in our collections. Back in class the smell was amazing as we sifted through our bounty...
This year's leaf men are pretty fabulous. My older class having completed the similar experience last year greeted my large leaf man like an old friend and were able to come to the activity a whole year older...
Management wise I have name labels in class and once completed the littles pop these beside any work they would like photographed. After tidying up we can all the sit together and review the completed work on the interactive whiteboard. This helps manageablity in many ways and also makes for some great comments during evaluations as they are almost seeing their own work through others eyes via the photograph.
We went on to sort our autumn treasures in the next day's maths lesson by size, shape, colour and object giving me a great assessment opportunity as we move into a block of learning around information handling.
Phew 2 posts down in the big catch up!
 
 

 

taking our classroom outdoors...

It has been a busy few weeks and the time that I have to come here and keep track of our goings on has been cut short with other commitments. I don't want to loose all that has happened though and so plan to post some short updates in the next few days... it's October break this week. Yes that sigh was the sound of relief!

First up being outdoors. The weather has been mild and kind, not always the case in September and October up here in the north. It is difficult to sustain large amounts of whole class outdoor learning when everyone is cold, damp and needing to visit the loo more frequently as a result! Even with warm clothes and the correct footwear it becomes increasingly challenging so I have welcomed this mild turn of events and taken advantage of it.

At times we have utilised parts of our playground to allow me to be instrumental in frienships, intervene to redirect and model ways to play.... the mud kitchen has featured heavily in outdoor play.

This berry and rosemary mud pie makes my heart sing...


There's such importance in being able to play with stone...we have come out to utilise these stones left for exploration by a talented colleague. We have sometimes simple needed a break from the indoors, the first few weeks of school are full on...
Simple ideas like traditional games, a colour themed nature hunt, a transient art challenge with any loose parts that could be found in the playground allowed me to establish and secure outdoor boundaries and early on provided a good assessment of previous experience for those that I didn't teach last year... I thought that this rabbit was quite amazing...
Being outdoors gives the opportunity to find out so much about things that inspire the littles that aren't always to be found indoors in the 'classroom'. Some reluctant volunteers will become quite animated when they are taken with passing clouds or want to show what's growing in a nearby field. I have discovered that one of the littles is as much of a nature magpie as I am...
That's a tiny snippet of our days, much more to come.....

 

Friday, 12 September 2014

our journey begins...single sounds

This week I have launched into single sounds with my newest littles...

We are recognising letter shapes and learning to correctly make the sound that they make. I'm using a range of multisensory letter shapes collected together into a basket. We look at them together making the sound whilst I hold up the shape and after this have played a few games where the littles spot the letters that I have placed the wrong way around. I've really spent time on this so that when they write the letter sounds they will have begun the self checking and self correcting journey. 'If it's not this way up and this way round, it doesn't make the letter sound'....catchy eh?

Once we have had lots of sound making together and watched a snippet from the Alphablocks we learn how to write each letter using cursive formation. I have used the interactive whiteboard, magic pencil and a tray filled with grains for large and multisensory experiences before moving to paper. Remember magic pencil when I was at school, I'm bringing it back!
I know that there are a wide range of surfaces and multisensory ways we can engage with each letter but I felt that I needed to select a few and keep to the same routine for now and as it's working for the group of 8 that I'm teaching this year we will keep it for now.
They are particularly enjoying selecting a colour to write over my letter on the interactive whiteboard and watch each other in silence checking the formation flows correctly. Helping each other and sharing learning without seeing me as the expert is really important as a culture in my classroom so I'm really happy with this...
We are slowly adding to our alphabet basket following an order that quickly enables the littles to create words using the sounds that they know. It really is a little magical to be part of this, the first time they have blended sounds together and read a word aloud...that's a bit ace!
At the end of the week the class arrived to find a tree had grown and once we had shared 'The Alphabet Tree' by Leo Lionni they helped to add the letters that we have covered so far to the branches. The alphabet basket was placed at the base of the trunk.
The littles that are with me from last year were happy to see it re-appear in class which was lovely and recognised the journey they had been on themselves. This for me is one of the huge benefits of learning in a multi-composite, cross age classroom. The littles really see progression in areas of learning, they can see where they have been and look to where they are going as their peers learn around them. I love it but it's not for everyone. I have 20 in my classroom but it actually feels to me a lot like home school sometimes.
Busy first weeks of term have reduced my time for blogging I have a 4 day weekend and lots to catch up on. How do you teach the letters in your setting?

 

Sunday, 31 August 2014

making my heart happy...

Last week was the first full week back for my older littles, the younger part of my class begin full days next week. So many small moments, glimpses of the adventure and wonDerFullness to come this year.

A very small opportunity taken to overcome some unseasonably cold weather has grown into our first interdisciplinary topic for learning but more on that in another post. For now images of a few of my heart happy bits caught in the moment....

There was lots of cuff and crown making as the girls became princesses...

There was a seat carefully wrapped in wool.... and just as carefully unwrapped later...
Therer was a request to wash some sandy dinosaurs...
There was clever use of a fan heater to create a dough oven...wasn't sure whether to laugh or go down the safety route at the time but it was switched off and I took it as a cue to provide a box for oven fashioning next week...
There was open ended painting....this time of electric eels....
This was found one day when the littles were out at break, making me smile....
Much use and oohing and aaahing over homemade materials this week, the charmers!
 
We have been so busy that these are really fleeting moments. There have been team rules created including, support for each other in learning how to reflect as we ponder our experience answering such questions as 'what was a challenge' and 'why', finding out about each others favourite things - great chance to sing the song at the top of your voice with the class! I found out about favourite sounds and smells...
I could go on and on but shall stop for now and next time share our context for topic that already has us sailing the seven seas....