Wednesday, 4 March 2015

the bfg...

We are officially in the middle of a nonfiction text focus in class but I took this week's World Book Day as a good reason to briefly visit my all time favourite text 'The BFG' by Roald Dahl. There is nOtHing that isn't wonderful about this book.

 

I have used it many times over the years, focused on lots of different aspects of the story depending on my intended learning. Here are the opportunities that I provided this time, just a very short focus over 3 days using a combination of reading from the text and watching film clips found online. I used the first 20 or so pages of the text leaving lots still to explore should I revisit with this group of littles in the next couple of years.

First of all I covered the cover of the book so nothing visible and read the introduction to the giant's character. We then pulled all of the descriptive phrases out and the littles used them as prompts to draw the character that they had heard about. I was delighted with their drawings...

We then read on to discover the new setting of the cave. At this point the youngest littles drew pictures of the giants that they imagined lived in Giant Country whilst the olders completed a Missing Person poster sent out for Sophie....
Having read a little further the older littles completed this task where they had to work in pairs to discuss and record what a character was like on the outside...
and on the inside...
A great activity that produced superb conversation and debate.
We finished today by writing our own story introductions imagining that we were Sophie but inventing our own giant, all beginning 'I woke up and...'
A really fun 3 days of literacy sessions. Play this afternoon centred on dramatic reinactments of princesses being stolen from their beds. I hope that there are no nightmares tonight!

 

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

big steps...

I had to take a few photos today when I looked around our room and watched my youngest littles blending, reading and writing. It is such a privilege to teach little people and see them make tentative attempts at recognising single letters and then suddenly big leaps to becoming confident with different words.
The concentration as they worked...
The discussion as they alighted upon each word...
Even after years in the classroom I still find it absolutely magical.

Thursday, 19 February 2015

holding on to the reason why...

You can see from my recent post that the past few months haven't been too inspiring in my school. I have come to realise during this holiday week that I must now hold on to why I pour my energy into class. I must refocus on the achievements and revelations that unfold before me everyday whilst freezing out the silliness being pushed my way through the temporary management situation.

 

With that in mind my favourite capture from the last few weeks...

It says 'Winter. Water turns to ice when it is cold.' Four months ago this little knew nothing of the alphabet, letter/ sound correspondance, sentence making or cursive letter formation and this writing is an independent response to the question 'what signs are telling us that it is winter?'. Pretty awesome I think and the only real reason that I am in this teaching lark.
Posts of magical moments to follow whilst I rediscover my sparkle....

 

Sunday, 15 February 2015

exploring shape...

Shape is one of my favourite areas of Maths to teach as it seems so relevant, open ended and practical in class. The littles have enjoyed time exploring 2D and 3D shape with the materials we have in school. Lots of time first for exploratory play and then a move to more structured and guided activities.

It made me smile to hear the change in the language of shape being used as time passed, 'can you pass that one' gradually changing to 'can you pass that cylinder'. After prompt questions were modelled 'why did you choose a cube there' etc the littles soon began describing and explaining their shapes and structures as they worked. Games like 'guess my shape' and 'secret picture making' facilitated lots of discussion which I listened carefully to and used for great assessment to feed into plans.

My favourite shapes are simple and natural coloured....

Exploring faces through printing...
A rather complex game of secret picture making - this picture is being described to a partner sitting behind a screen for them to copy with their matching set of shapes, linking the language of shape, size and position...
This opportunity was new to me. Very simply cocktail sticks and plasticine were provided. Open ended exploration to begin with gave us lots of hedgehogs and letters and then we moved to being able to make some super cubes and cuboids, stars and pyramids. Cheap and disposable, challenging and engaging.
 
 

 

A long absence...

I really lost my voice there for a few weeks. A combination of a long horrible illness which I hope is slowly lifting and the unrelenting dull ache of a temporary boss who has managed in a few short months to suck every ounce of enjoyment out of the job I love.

I can honestly say in the last five years at least I have never felt so uninspired to go into school. I am not interested in whether all of the labels are the same font or whether we can get our monthly photocopying bill down by a few pounds, I don't care for people in management who think so much of themselves and so little of those around them. I put my energy into teaching because it's about people, connections, inspiring and growing together - very different priorities to the ones currently being heralded as those that matter most.

I am trying my best to close my ears and hold what matters most close to me but it's rEaLLy tricky. Perhaps I return here today because the temporary duration of their post is now past half way and we are all counting months until it finishes - the end is in sight.

We are at the beginning of February break. A week to refresh and replenish is my plan. I hope to return and post a little about what we have been up to, me and the littles.

 

Thursday, 1 January 2015

a Christmas round up from class...

The month of December flew by in class.

My focus for all things Christmas was of course firstly on the nativity story as we retold this through the performance of the Donkey Seller for parents and families. Phew many, many rehearsals, singalongs, learning about an audience and how to perform sometimes for the first time on stage. It all came good in the end though, many proud parents and even more importantly all of the littles had achieved something for themselves whether that was acting, speaking, singing or just focusing through the performance on stage. They were proud and excited to know that lots of hard work had rewarded them.

Christmas is the only time of year where my class generally produce quite adult led artwork to take home, alongside any individually led creations. We made reindeer cards, cracker cards, hanging snowmen for trees, jigsaws from cards, model stables and advent wreaths...
 
The advent wreaths came from holly wreaths that we were making being transformed after some learning about advent wreaths that the littles were particularly taken with.

We also had an advent bag taken home each day by a different little with one of my favourite seasonal stories by a local author and a hastily crocheted matching character. This went well with families and ensured at least one bedtime story during a busy few weeks at home.

We had lots of little nativity scenes and seasonal opportunities in class but definitely took things a bit slower this year as we worked on our nativity performance and the end of a long 9 week term.

It seems so long ago now!

Happy New Year.

 

 

Thursday, 27 November 2014

the alphabet...

Now that my youngest littles have worked through matching each letter shape to a single sound and learned now to form each letter in writing they are consolidating and learning about letter names and alphabetical order.

 

I have found from previous experience that it is best to leave letter names out of things until we get to this stage. The littles tend to come in singing the letter names at the beginning of the year and hold onto them like glue, really confusing letter names and the sounds they make, getting in a real tangle. The littles who are ready of course take it all in their stride, but for the more vulnerable learners or the ones just on the edge of readiness in a system that doesn't quite acknowledge this fully I have simplified to get the best possible outcomes.

Yesterday we had super fun working in pairs to order different alphabet sets that we have been working with. We used picture cards, alphabet stones...

Great assessment here of someone muddling g and y...

We used our wonderful woven letters, which are large and tactile and have a smell of bamboo...
We used mirrored letters...
The materials provoked great interaction and engagement. It was interesting to see which materials individuals gravitated towards and how they went about the task. We have other options but ran out of time. I can't wait to pick up where we have left off with this....
What materials would you recommend?

 

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...