Tuesday, 19 August 2014

a new year begins...

Hello *waves wildly* here I am after summer break. Are you well? I hope so. I have an increasing feeling of so much to do and so little time as I've really completely switched off this summer in an attempt to replenish all things. I've been super inspired by all things nature, outdoors, family and creative...


I won't be alone in having sad feelings around returning to school after such a lovely long summer break but beginning of term is HERE and a whole year of adventures and journeying lies ahead...

So to set the scene I'm teaching this year in the same school as last, remaining in the same classroom and taking forwards my class from last year, with the addition of 8 new littles. The children will be aged between 4 and 7 as we begin our year. We will be a class of 20.

Our first days together, which began this week, will be focused on relaxing in the classroom, getting to know each other, establishing our shared expectations in class, sharing our hopes and dreams for this coming year and using the room to it's fullest allowing me to see individual likes and interests. I balance these first few days with directly leading, as of course I should and allowing unguided time where I can stand back and make lots of observations that are going to serve me and the littles well in the coming few weeks.

 


Calm, creative open ended opportunities gave a backdrop to lots of chatter about the summer break. Funny things that have been seen or heard about, sad things and things still to happen before summer fades completely all tumbled out as the littles painted away side by side....

 

Everybody painted a couple of pictures and chose one for wall display, the older littles decided upon a title which they will type up next week....I particularly like 'Elephant eating Blueberries'.

Some heart singy moments already, no tears and no signs of fear from my new starts. I have more to share but need to sleep. Next time I'll share the words the littles are hoping will describe our year, if 'mind blowing' is to be attempted I'm going to need more early nights!
If you are still on summer break enjoy your remaining weeks. It feels good to be back.

Sunday, 6 July 2014

upcycling, memory books and our year ends....

You find me here on the second day of our summer break, having crawled my way through last week at a fairly leisurely pace. The littles enjoyed playing and talking together as I joined them and tidied around them in equal measure. Our days were punctuated with a few scheduled end of term events but on the whole we enjoyed winding down and making the transition to summer break together.

A parent joined us for a couple of mornings to show the littles how to create a pencil pot out of what would ordinarily become landfill...

I enjoy seeing each of the littles with busy hands, each master of some aspects of an activity and each challenged by others. We also explored beach found charcoal.... is that what it's called when you chip parts from a burned tree down on the shore? I've decided that it is!
Again busy hands, individually absorbed...

 

 

My end of year gift for my classes for the last 3 years has been a personal photo album, filled with a compilation of a dozen or so photos of each child taken during the year. On the day before the end of term at the very last minute I printed 170 photos, gathered the albums, a self portrait from each little and some labels and set to....

Labels first....

The self portraits were fab...


And a little later I had a personalised album ready to give each of them on our final morning...

This took nowhere near as long as my Christmas gift of a handmade crochet pudding each! I need to go back to that post just to remind myself never to do that again!
I worked out that it cost around £3 for each album, which I think is pretty good value. The albums were 75p each from Wilko and the photos were printed at a local shop. Once you are over 100 photos they are only 10p each, much cheaper than the supermarket. Each album had a slightly different number of photos and these albums are really easy to trim pages out of without it looking really unsightly.
So there we have it, the end of this school year. Six weeks to rest and relax.
I have mentioned here before that I am taking the littles again next year. We have 7 littles joining us and will become a p1/2/3, that's a reception/y1/y2 equivalent. Eek, when you say it like that it sounds a bit scary!
There are adventures to be had outwith the class between then and now though, until then......

 

 

and our year ends....

You find me here on the second day of our summer break, having crawled my way through last week at a fairly leisurely pace. The littles enjoyed playing and talking together as I joined them and tidied around them in equal measure. Our days were punctuated with a few scheduled end of term events but on the whole we enjoyed winding down and making the transition to summer break together.

A parent joined us for a couple of mornings to show the littles how to create a pencil pot out of what would ordinarily become landfill...

I enjoy seeing each of the littles with busy hands, each master of some aspects of an activity and each challenged by others. We also explored beach found charcoal.... is that what it's called when you chip parts from a burned tree down on the shore? I've decided that it is!
Again busy hands, individually absorbed...

 

 

My end of year gift for my classes for the last 3 years has been a personal photo album, filled with a compilation of a dozen or so photos of each child taken during the year. On the day before the end of term at the very last minute I printed 170 photos, gathered the albums, a self portrait from each little and some labels and set to....

Labels first....

The self portraits were fab...


And a little later I had a personalised album ready to give each of them on our final morning...

This took nowhere near as long as my Christmas gift of a handmade crochet pudding each! I need to go back to that post just to remind myself never to do that again!
I worked out that it cost around £3 for each album, which I think is pretty good value. The albums were 75p each from Wilko and the photos were printed at a local shop. Once you are over 100 photos they are only 10p each, much cheaper than the supermarket. Each album had a slightly different number of photos and these albums are really easy to trim pages out of without it looking really unsightly.
So there we have it, the end of this school year. Six weeks to rest and relax.
I have mentioned here before that I am taking the littles again next year. We have 7 littles joining us and will become a p1/2/3, that's a reception/y1/y2 equivalent. Eek, when you say it like that it sounds a bit scary!
There are adventures to be had outwith the class between then and now though, until then......

Sunday, 29 June 2014

one week until summer break...

I am pretty tired. I am ready for summer break. This school year hasn't been easy in many ways. Moving back into early years/year one from a middle stage class and taking over a classroom from a teacher with a very different approach to me has been tiring. Sharing classes during this transition has been tricksy and filtering through a few years of accumulated resources, mismatched room furniture and assorted clutter is a bit draining BUT I am through the worst of it. I have had advEntuRes with the little people and I have had lots of fun. They have grown and adventured with me.

 

As we have multi composite classes in our school I'm actually taking my whole class again next year with the addition of 7 new littles. That takes a little getting used to if it's not your norm, it means I can't reuse the same contexts without losing impact and I have to think carefully about refreshing and renewing the environment, my delivery and my planned programmes to meet the needs of 3 classes working as one. I chose to be there though. When everything falls into place in a mixed age setting it works marvellously well and I think for the little people that there are many benefits to learning in this way. Last week I asked the littles to come up with any contexts they'd like to base their learning around next year and I've got lots of avenues to explore... depending on how the new littles respond to those ideas.

 

Before then, for that is a whole summer away, a little round up collagey type thing seems to be what's needed today. I have 1450 photos from class on my camera card. That's probably having deleted half as many...yikes! As a leaving gift to the littles I make each of them a photo album of their year and I'm having trouble choosing around a dozen for each album.

Anyhoo here goes....

Finding my crochet mice tucked up at the end of the day, splatting sticky eyes, sharing plans,

searching for the owner of false teeth, weaving spider webs, building our alphabet tree,

writing numerals, telling stories, hang your numbers on the line....

Learning at the shore, a visiting guinea pig, memory frames in the woods,

reading for personal topic, exploring capacity,

we're going on a bee hunt, using the bands to weave webs, identifying bees...

Alphabet stones, Chinese New Year, Katie Morag,

word jars, learning to regulate fighty play with castles, important words - friends,

frogspawn in the pond, drawing dragons, grouping and sharing with glass beads.


I am so glad I began my blog in autumn. Some of this would have been remembered for a while, lots forgotten, some of it thought about and pondered over, some not so much. It's been a great way to reflect. My intention was only ever to capture these adventures here so I wouldn't forget them and I feel giddly happy that that's what's happened.

Friday, 27 June 2014

self directed learning...

I'm not one for obvious theme based learning like 'people who help us' or 'homes' or 'colour', the very thought of trying to inspire little people to want to develop skills through this kind of context makes me want to run in the other direction. There are sooo many other things to be inspiring, exciting and engaging children with. *climbs off high horse*

 

A few weeks ago a little asked if we could visit his home to meet his new rabbit. I decided then that we would finish the year with each little selecting their own 'topic' that they'd like to find out more about, as part of this we would head over to meet the rabbit. One week in and already it has been such a motivator at the end of an 11 week expanse of a term with no mid term break. We have all manner of topics being looked into, from snakes to Victorians to sea life to rabbits to guinea pigs to Vikings to dinosaurs to hedgehogs. I made absolutely no suggestions to anyone and was amazed to find no Monster High or Minecraft.

Our week began with a visit from a little's guinea pig....

Each little confirmed their chosen topic and I made a trip to my local library that evening to collect information books for each of them. Alongside that I had them check the school library for relevant texts too. I had slight anxiety complete panic that there would be some with no books when I couldn't find any but no need to have worried. The library seemed to be just waiting for my visit and had a huge selection which I was able to tailor to reading level when making my selection with individuals in mind.

 

They have poured over those books this week. It's been great to step back and watch them apply all of the learning that's been covered these last few months. They have shared findings with each other when they've been particularly amazed by something or proud of a piece of note taking or drawing....

 

I have giving them time this week to read and discuss and find out without imposing any agenda, I haven't had to. I requested that they wrote down their wondering questions after a couple of days and some are working hard to find the answers to those whilst others are 'just finding out all I can'. They are either drawing or note taking information they want to remember....that works just fine for me and gives me a great assessment of many aspects of literacy as I plan for next session.

Who's having a go with reading? What strategies are being used to decode unfamiliar words?

Who's sticking with drawings as a means to record preferring not to use text?

The little below has asked to work on a whiteboard such is her ever present anxiety at committing to a 'jotter'.... really important that I know this.

We have finished the week with one to one reviews. I've talked about what they have found out and what they plan to find out next week before we break for summer. They have identified what they will need in class to find that out, maybe more time with their information books, use of online texts or clips online. One little said 'I'd like to watch clips of these 3 creatures so that I can watch them in real life and listen to them'. Sounds great.
I'm grateful to this long term for throwing up this opportunity. I would often use this type of interdisciplinary personal selection with 7 year olds and up but don't recall having used it in this extended way with this age. Sometimes in class there is complete silence as they become absorbed in their learning. I'm sure the same couldn't be said if 'holidays' was my theme right now.....

 

 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

down at the shore and in the woods...

As part of our transition work with the pre-schoolers - blog post sometime soon it's been FabULous - we went on a 10 minute bus journey from school to the local country park. Our context for the entire transition process has been Journeys so this was an ideal plan but we wanted mostly to make the use of the beautiful shoreline, climby rope play park and wooded area in that location.

I have very few photos edited without full on littles having massive fun with beaming smiles so this may be part one of how I record things here but I'm in a hurry to get this down ...it's nearly the end of this session!


Whilst on the shore we explored what we could find living there or visiting, jumped and pootled about in a flowing stream and had a good look around. I then challenged the littles to work in teams to create a magnificent minibeast of their choosing. They loved the results and we could have spent hours more pootling around creating than the short time that we had...

Here's a ladybird....

And a butterfly....
One little worked with his Mum to create a dinosaur, totally fine with me and the first time that they had done anything like this together. Afterwards Mum said she wasn't sure who enjoyed it more, her or her son.
On our way to the woodland area we stopped at the climby park to take risks and climb and run around and shout and feel the cold that enveloped as we stood under the trees...
Here's the before shot when I was there risk assessing without the littles...just to put to rest any fears that I am completely without safety awareness!
And here's the fun part, getting to watch as they made full independent use of the equipment...
Moving deeper in to the woods we spent time once more investigating what was there, this time with magnifying glasses so that we could take a closer look. On close inspection we found that the woods were literally crawling with ants, slugs and worms. No photos of this as I was called here and there to share exciting finds.
We gathered in a clearing under this tree...
Isn't it magnificent?
Whilst underneath I explained to the littles that there would be lots of pictures that they would want to keep in their memories from our woodland adventure today. I asked them to go and gather 4 sticks and with adult help to tie them at the corners with wool to create a memory frame....
I explained that they were going to have a few minutes to take pictures with their frame to keep and look back on after we'd left the woods. I showed them how to press the button on the top of their frame just as I do with my camera when I want to remember something. Off they went looking up, down and around, taking pictures of each other. It was pretty special just to be there with them whilst they did this.
A full week later back in school we reviewed our journey as a conclusion to transition, creating a class memory box to open in August, I couldn't believe their replies when I asked 'what pictures can you see that were taken with your frames?'. 'The big tree and it's branches', 'the adults helping people', 'that big black slug' and 'the light coming through the leaves when I looked up'. Oh my I had a moment! My favourite line of all time came rushing to mind...
We're going to build on our outdoor adventures next session and I can't wait. My plan is to make frames quite early on in term so that we can take them with us when we are out and about in different places. I might even have begun to collect the sticks.....
..... idea for memory frames adapted from the Nature Detectives site, link in the right of my page...it's wonderful, go have a look if you want to find some magic....

 

Sunday, 22 June 2014

exploring capacity...first steps to using a scale

It's soooo easy to forget how busy this time of year gets and we are doing some fab stuff in class that I don't want to forget. I seem to be constantly running to keep up, maybe if I didn't do some of the lovely stuff with crochet and my garden and general phaffing I would get more done. I'm a bit 'writing things down' weary following reports, keeping up with our school blog posts and all of the other StuFF so a few photos and a few words might be as good as it gets this week and next.....2 weeks to go to end our crazy 11 week term - with no breaks!

 

So capacity....now that the littles are confidently reading numbers to 1000 I could do some direct teaching around reading scales on jugs and measuring cylinders and assorted paraphernalia that goes with water in schools.

 

First up I organised them into groups of 3 and gave each group a 'pouring jug'. To keep things really straight forward this was the one that would be taken to and from the tap, used to store water between directed activities and the container that we weren't trying to read as it had no scale. So we filled up our pouring jugs and were ready to go.

 

Let's get going - fill your measuring container to 100ml. I stood back, observed and took photos (my way of noting down what I can see) and on the whole they all managed. Then we swapped measuring containers and repeated the task with each one. We had a real variety, some small and slim holding max 250ml and the largest held 1000ml. This caused quite a stir as each group gradually realised that full and half full were changing depending on the container. I knew this was a discussion taking place but didn't stop to discuss as a class.


Next step - use your measuring container to find out how much liquid this glass holds. I showed them how to do this with a little yellow cup as a different example. I also asked them to estimate first and wrote these down then they set to. Great discussion, thinking through the process, being careful to pour the water in and out of the correct container.

We finished our first session there and spent a bit of time working through how to clean up well whilst learning with water in class.


Next session the groups were set up in exactly the same way. This time they were given 4 containers which they had to put in order of how much they thought they would hold and then use their equipment to measure each of the 4 capacities. A real challenge again in terms of sequencing, pouring and filling into the correct places, working through 4 containers repeating the process. There were lots of spills, disagreements, puzzled expressions but on the whole each team got there without me.

Whether they all worked out how exactly much each container held was neither here nor there for me. I finished that session knowing that on the whole each little is aware of how to read a scale at eye level, how to find the capacity of an unmarked container and that liquid is measured in millilitres and litres.

 

My plan moving forward is open ended use of all materials for the next week so that they can revisit and independently replicate the learning that's been covered with my direction. Final week of term I'll provide an independent challenge card that revisits the 4 container activity but asks them to record their findings. That will be enough and we can begin where we left off after summer break.

 

Hope that you are not bored reading this, it all sounds straight forward and a bit dull but worked so well I would want to do exactly this again in the same circumstance. Lovely pics of outdoor learning next post...

 

Monday, 16 June 2014

exploring symmetry with washi tape and objects...

This is the most engaging way I've found so far to get the littles engaged and working with symmetry. First up they all arrive into class to lines on the tables and find a seat...their very own line of symmetry ready to be explored...huge excitement!

 

On the interactive whiteboard I had a matching top to bottom line and some large dots which I placed in different areas of the board whilst I explicitly explained symmetry again to them. It's all about colour, shape, size and position....4 things to consider, use them as a checklist.

 

We used a quick interactive activity to add another angle of rotating the shape, having more than one line of symmetry and showing that the check can be folding things over, exact overlap shows symmetry, butterflies were discussed and we set to...


Each table was given a basket to use to create their symetrical patterns with - buttons, natural objects, glass beads and sorting objects of the normal school type, they have the challenge of same shape and colour but different size so I was happy to use them for this activity, normally I baulk at them!

Every little used their name card to make photos focused on their pattern, no smiles, patterns can be easily transferred onto displays, into jotters and used on the interactive whiteboard for immediate feedback from the class, as I pop my camera card into my laptop part way through and at the end of the session...

 

Super engagement, instant assessment, easy to differentiate, lots of discussion, visual, practical, learning can be moved on through demonstrating and describing.
Next time we'll recap and change the angle of our line to diagonal and begin to record some of our work in drawings as we make the step to working representationally rather than practically.

 

Saturday, 14 June 2014

I wonder how a spider weaves it's web...

I would like to say this was just one of those learning experiences when you reach the end thinking "that was just too fantastic"! I had a plan from the outset of this session but made a couple of decisions as we went that just changed the shape of the littles learning.

 

First off we went outdoors to search for spiders in our playground. We were looking to find out where they built their webs, thinking about Incy Wincy not choosing the greatest place at the top of a down pipe.

 

The littles raced here, there and everywhere and we came back together to discover that the webs were every place we could think of - in cracks of walls, around structures...at every height, in shade and sun. They were sure that they were built for trapping flies and food for the spider as they'd seen many trapped flies waiting for spiders to return.

Having had a great time observing and finding out for certain they hadn't found out anything new. All of the littles live in a rural location and are quite familiar with the day to day life of a spider. We gathered together and I asked 'how does the spider makes it's web'.....silence and thinking time followed and one by one they suggested a variety of ideas 'it comes out of it's bottom', 'it comes out of it's mouth', 'it's stringy stuff inside it's belly, like gunk'. 'How could we find out more?' I asked, 'books and watching something' was the unanimous response. So back inside we went to find out more.

 

We have direct access to the www in the classroom projected straight onto an interactive whiteboard that everyone can see but with the littles it's reaLLy important I have a quick check of what we are about to view first. That's probably what prompted me to get them busy whilst I found an appropriate clip to view. Even uploaded clips of children's programmes can have shouty swear words blasting out from them that some loser has thought might be funny...anyhoo I put the littles into teams of 3 with the boards and bands and asked them to create a web just like a spider does....

 

 

It worked well, great discussion, compromising, demonstrating and re-organising, all of the skills they need to develop....nobody had any accurate ideas on the construction or shape.

After a while we stopped and watched a BBC David Attenborough clip of a spider weaving a web from start to finish, it was fascinating. First watch we listened carefully and weren't allowed to ask questions or make comments, though when we reached the end someone said 'wow' I'm just the BeSt way. We then watched through again, paused and went over bits whilst the littles chatted about what they had saw.

 


Finally I asked them to strip their boards back to the beginning and remake their webs with their new knowledge. Wow the difference, the talk about what they'd seen and the absorption with getting it done just like the spider was fantastic.

 

 

 


We'd simply ran out of time by the end of the day and the bell rang to bring our learning to a close but I felt quite giddy after they'd gone home.