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....

 

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

activities for first few days of term...

I thought that I would share a few activities to use with any class between the ages of 5 to 7 in the first few days of term hoping that they may be a worthwhile memory prompt for me next year and may be useful to you too. We are 3 days into the year and aside from open ended provision throughout my classroom....

  • I've been developing a sense of ownership, a sense in each little that they can shape our year...

I read the story of 'The Fish Who Could Wish' by Paul Korky. Any story about wishes will do as long as it's not overcomplicated and serves to channel their thinking and discussion into the realms of wishes. After sharing the story I had the littles work in pairs to record words that described what they hoped and wished our class would be like this coming year. A short while later we shared our words as a class and I collated them onto the interactive whiteboard....

It's not a list for the faint hearted...mind blowing...no pressure! The older littles will create collages of these words for our Terrific Team display allowing us to refer back to them.

 

Next we will take our hopes and dreams and I will have the littles draw what that looks like in our classroom, I would like to see what they anticipate they (and I) will be doing in an exciting, snug, interesting etc classroom.

  • I've been developing a sense of shared responsibility.....

I've bought a super looking little book 'Do Unto Otters' to be read before we create our team rules. It really is an infant teachers dream covering manners, being fair, being friendly, considerate etc. I haven't used it before but would highly recommend getting just from content alone. We will consider this story along with our hopes and dreams to create our team rules.

  • I've been developing a sense of having your voice, feelings and experiences acknowledged within and beyond the classroom...
We have played Just Like Me a few times. This involves arranging the class into a seated circle, me making statements which I linked to summer break e.g. I have been eating ice cream, I have been for a picnic, I have visited the beach.... and when the littles agree they stand up and declare "just like me". They think this game is quite magical, as simple as it sounds it astounds them that others have been doing and thinking the same things. As the days go on it can be used again to check on and explore emotions e.g. I am not feeling like myself today, I felt nervous when we went to assembly etc.

  • I've been developing a sense of belonging....

During summer break I purchased a cheap drawing pad with golden framed pages and the littles have each drawn a self portrait which has been displayed on our classroom door welcoming people in but equally saying 'I am part of this' to the littles themselves....

  • I've began to set my expectations and style as teacher in our team...

Simple, familiar games are great for this. We have played dominoes in small groups, again purchased cheaply I have enough sets for my whole class to play at the same time, developing our systems for small group work, offering opportunities for me to reinforce negotiating, listening, turn taking, playing fair and listening to start and stop signals.


Finally - despite the chilly weather - we have taken opportunties for outdoor learning. As I utilise outdoor learning throughout the year it's important that boundaries, expectations and a sense of indoor/outdoor learning is also established in these first few weeks. The Nature Detectives website is an amaZinG place for resources that I use regularly outdoors. We used the Colour Bingo download in pairs to great effect. used it so that the littles had to carefully collect natural objects to attach to their collection sheet. Very visual, motivating, accesible to different levels and allowing me the opportunity to develop these outdoor space stop/start signals, gauge engagement, figure out who was determind to wander off!

 

Phew that's a little flavour for now. I am struggling with the mornings and missing my lazy summer starts but I'm sure in a few weeks time we will all be settled and adventuring and summer will be a distant memory....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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....