Thursday, June 30, 2011

Playful, Purposeful Writing

With so many boys in my class the girls interest in fairies  was bound to be translated into something a little more manly at some stage. When S rushed in from the playground to tell us that she saw two little eyes peeping out from underneath our classroom my kids immediately started hypothesising what it could be.  We brainstormed our ideas and then the children who were interested in doing so drew what they thought could be under our class.

I often ask children to draw their ideas as I find it helps them to verbalise their thoughts more fully and use more descriptive language when communicating their ideas. Recording what they say about their drawings also provides the perfect opportunity for modelling the writing process in a meaningful way.  

Later that day, during playtime, I heard my children chatting excitedly about what could be under the classroom as they peered under. This had really sparked their interest!

Th next day we received a letter from a Gnome called Norman, currently residing underneath our room,  and this provided the catalyst for more spontaneous, purposeful writing...

Letters were exchanged back and forth for quite some time, a number of houses were built for Norman  and the children were engaged in:

Representing their ideas verbally and visually and modelled and independent writing experiences that were meaningful to them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Something A Little Bit Magical

It all started when a small group of girls were dancing and fluttering about the playground, spinning around in graceful circles and flapping their 'wings'. They were playing fairies. I jumped upon the chance to extend their play and later gathered the girls together to find out all about fairies. After much discussion we concluded that we would make two fairy gardens (because fairies love beautiful gardens) - one for the real fairies on our deck outside and one for themselves in home corner so that they might play fairies.

The girls had lots of ideas about what a fairy garden should look like so I asked them to draw their ideas:

Once we had finished we looked at our drawings and I asked "What do all your drawings have in common?" We noted that everyone had drawn flowers, mushrooms and fairy ponds and so we made sure our fairy garden had these three things.

We started with the outdoor garden:

We then read a range of fairy stories that the girls had bought from home and used the illustrations for inspiration when decorating our home corner. We made flowers, butterflies and a fairy pond filled with blue and green glass pebbles - a beautiful garden in which the children could role play and imagine themselves as fairies.

Throughout this project the children were engaged in collaborative decision making and problem solving. They had the opportunity to practice the skills of negotiation, speaking and listening in a group situation and valuing the ideas of others all the while, stimulating their imagination and having a great deal of fun!

"Creative play is likea spring that bubbles up from deep within a child. It is refreshing and enlivening. It is a natural part of the make-up of every healthy child. The child’s love of learning is intimately linked with a zest for play. Whether children are working on new physical skills, social relations, or cognitive content, they approach life with a playful spirit."
- Joan Almon 

Monday, June 27, 2011

Creative Collages

My kids love to collage so we decided to create two large collages to hang on the wall of our art area.

I  cut the two largest flaps off the top of a large cardboard box, put out some PVA glue and told the kids to go for it. They were in collage heaven! They glued bottle tops, shells, small pebbles, buttons, feathers, pie tins, cellophane, alfoil, beads, pom poms, patty pans, pipe cleaners and anything else they could find onto the two cardboard panels. The children continued to work on this over a few days, returning to the art table to stick on something interesting they had found. At the end of the week when it seemed we couldn't stick anything else on, we started adding paint. In the style of Jackson Pollock, the children drizzled, dripped, splatted and swirled thick paint onto the collage panels using teaspoons (an activity thoroughly enjoyed by all).

Inspired By Casa Maria's Creative Learning Zone - a treasure trove of art ideas for kids.

Friday, June 24, 2011

New Possibilities

Well Term Two is officially over and I can't believe that we are half way through the year! How the time has flown! When I told my kids this afternoon that we would be going on holidays for two weeks, J said that that made him want to cry because he loves coming to school! :) So we quickly started making plans for all the fun things we would do when we got back.

Here are some of the things the children said they would like to investigate next term:

Dinosaur bones and the different types of dinosaurs
Snakes and animals... but snakes first
Interesting bits of nature
What is inside our bodies
Princesses, barbies and mermaids
Growing plants (C recently bought in some sprouting carrot tops from home that the children were very interested in)

We all left at the end of today bubbling with ideas and feeling excited about all the possibilities for learning that lie ahead of us- a fantastic way to end the term!

I can't wait to get started!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

See Your Own Song

Over the year we have read many Eric Carle books and so to celebrate his birthday this Friday we decided to do some texture painting Eric Carle style. We got out the cotton buds, sponges, paint brushes, toothbrushes, textured rolling pins, leaves, carpet squares, corrugated board, bubble wrap, duplo etc and of course paint in our favourite colours and got to work.

We then watched this video on YouTube of Eric Carle's book I See A Song.

Inspired, We put on some classical music and started creating our own 'songs' in collage. 

Ladies and Gentlemen:
I see a song, I paint music, I hear colour.
I touch the rainbow, and the deep spring in the ground.
My music talks, my colours dance.
Come, listen and let your imagination
See your own song. 

- I See A Song by Eric Carle

Shared with:

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

More Dinosaur Fun

After playing the game Dig for Dinosaurs on our interactive whiteboard we have become very interested in dinosaur bones. The children started making their own dinosaur fossils with rocks they found out in the playground. We then looked at some photographs and silhouette drawings of dinosaur bones and drew our own dinosaur skeletons. The children's rock dinosaurs reminded me of an idea I had seen on Designing Early Childhood Australia - a salt dough Stegosaurus. So we whipped up a batch of salt dough and the children got to work turning their drawings into 3D dinosaur fossils.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Our News Book - Modelled Writing & Shared Reading in One!

This is an idea I picked up in New Zealand from a workshop that Jill Eggleton ran at my previous school. Each day we pick a piece of news - either something that has happened at school that day or something a child has shared from home. I then write it up in the news book (a large scrap book). Depending on our focus, the children help me to write the beginning/ middle/ end sounds of words,  tell me where to put finger spaces, where the full stop goes etc. Later in the day the child whose news it is illustrates the page and then in the afternoon we read the sentence again together. I use this as an opportunity to find words beginning with a focus letter, identify the first word / last word / a word in the sentence, find high frequency words, clap the syllables in a particular word etc. This has been great for getting the children to attend to print and reinforce early literacy concepts. My kids love reading their news book independently in the book corner too. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Dinosaur Land

Dinosaurs are all the rage in my class at the moment as many of my kids went to Walking with Dinosaurs last weekend. So we got out the dinosaurs and turned our water trough into Dinosaur Land! The kids decided we would need dirt and rocks and plants (although they didn't last very long - getting trampled almost instantly). After J bought in a movie of dinosaur photographs he had made with his mum one of my boys suggested that we should make our own Walking with Dinosaurs movie! I was thrilled and quickly got out my Flip camera.

He started filming his friends playing and the next day we used imovie on my computer to add music and words to his footage. Here's the movie he made:

He was absolutely wrapped with the result and it was super easy too! With a little help from me to write the words (I needed to get out the dinosaur dictionary to spell some of the dinosaur names that I'd never heard of before) he dragged and dropped his footage into the imovie template. We were done in about 10 minutes!

Autumn Leaves

Ok so it's no longer Autumn here but my kids have been really keen on drawing the leaves they have found in their visual diaries (paying particular attention to the veins of each leaf) so we decided to make an Autumn leaf mobile to showcase their work.

The children drew their leaves with permanent marker then brushed their paper with water (to make it more absorbent). They then used eye droppers to drop dye in different Autumn colours (that they had helped to mix) onto their leaf. We collected up all the leaves we had found and pushed them onto thin wire to complete our mobile! This activity was great for talking about line and for developing the children's fine motor skills. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Playful Projects

When I first heard the words 'project work' I immediately thought back to late nights with mum sticking pictures onto a large sheet of cardboard and worrying that my handwriting was neat enough to warrant my teachers seal of approval when I gave my morning talk, entitled 'All About Apples' the next day. This was definitely not something I wanted to inflict upon young children and, at first, I dismissed the idea. However, I have since learnt that project work is a keystone of the Reggio approach and, in their context, refers to in-depth investigations usually undertaken in small groups and allowing children to make fuller sense of their world and the things they wonder about. Throughout a project children are encouraged to share their ideas, ask questions of each other and relevant experts, seek out information, collect artifacts and represent their new understandings and ideas in a wide variety of media and symbolic systems or as Loris Malaguzzi puts it - 100 languages. Now this is my kind of project work! 

I now try to undertake a number of projects with my kids each term. I am still learning what makes a really good project - whilst some take off and capture the imagination and interests of the children some fall flat and don't go anywhere at all but this is what I really enjoy about teaching - seeing, each day, which direction the children will take their learning and watching them grow in confidence as powerful learners. 

Here are some of the projects my children have undertaken that have been particularly successful: 

  • Creating a city
  • An investigation into rubbish (which led to a group of children designing rubbish trucks and taking a trip down to the local dump)
  • Building a zoo and making animals to go in it
  • Constructing boats and canoes (and learning about how the Maori people travelled to New Zealand while we were at it) 
Have you undertaken any projects with your kids lately? 
What do you think makes a project successful? 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Under the Sea

Earlier in the term a group of my kids created an aquarium in the water trough using leaves they'd found for fish. They swam their 'fish' around for a bit then one child declared that some fish were very sick. They promptly got out the clipboards and started tallying up and keeping notes on the fish that needed medical attention. During reflection time that day when the children shared with the class what they had been doing J announced that we should make an aquarium in home corner. This idea was well received amongst the others and so we launched into learning about sea creatures and creating our aquarium. We made a list of the things we already knew about sea creatures and then wrote down some things we wanted to find out.

B wanted to learn about sharks (and so did many others - mainly my boys). A said that he wanted to know what a sharks bones looked like and so we set about finding out. We looked through shark books, a few good websites about sharks and examined a few models showing the inside of a shark. The boys (and a few girls) were enthralled and drew their own sharks - bones (or cartilage as we found out) reproductive system, intestines and all! They even wanted to label them (with help from me and my teacher aide) after seeing this in a number of the books we had read. I think they did an amazing job!

It didn't stop there though! We also found out about different shark species, used clay to create our own sharks and measured out the length of a Great White Shark (12m by the way). We did a number of other things around sea creatures but this was the one project that really took off and captured most children's interest and we managed to tick off a number of mandated curriculum achievement targets while we were at it! Happy days! :) 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Hi There!

Welcome to my brand spanking, all shiny and new blog where I will endeavour to share and reflect upon my experiences, teaching young children aged 4 to 6 years. I am a passionate believer in the Reggio philosophy of education and have, over the years, incorporated elements of this approach (particularly documentation and project work stemming from the children's interests) into my own teaching practice.

I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of play and engaging children in playful learning experiences that deepen their understanding of their world, build upon their interests and acknowledge that they are powerful people with infinite potential.

This year (after many years teaching in the UK and New Zealand) I have returned to my homeland and I am now teaching a prep class in Queensland, Australia. I aim to strike a happy balance between play and the explicit teaching of  literacy and numeracy skills and I hope that you join me in my journey and share your own experiences and ideas along the way!

Look forward to hearing from you!