Sunday, July 31, 2011

Structuring Play

At my school, our 5 and 6 year olds are expected to have achieved certain literacy and numeracy benchmarks by the end of the year. I believe that the best way to do this is through small group teaching that is specifically tailored to individual children's learning needs and so for one hour each day we have a structured play time. This allows me to give the appropriate amount of time and attention to my small groups whilst the other children are engaged in independent play.

I started by introducing the children to a range of play icons (on cards) for them to choose from but I soon found that the children who loved construction would always choose to play in our construction area and not try their hand at anything else. I then decided to use this as an opportunity to expose my children to a range of activities that they might not otherwise try.

Now my children work in groups to progress through four activities that are different each day.

Here are some of the things we do during this time...

Puppet Plays

Buddy Reading

Writing Centre

During this time, my teacher aide supervises and assists the children when necessary and some days we have parents come in to play literacy or numeracy focussed games.

After much trial and error (and worrying about how I was going to achieve small group explicit teaching in a child friendly way) I am really happy with how structured playtime is working at the moment.

We spent a few weeks at the beginning of last term getting used to the new routine (during which time I didn't take groups) but the children are now self managing and seem to love trying out different activities.

Here's what I'm loving about our structured playtime...

  • The children are engaging in play based activities and aren't doing worksheets (Worksheets don't grow dendrites! as Marcia Tate says)
  • They are practicing the important skill of being self managing.
  • I am able to take small groups for focussed explicit teaching and am ensuring that children have the opportunity to work at their individual level to achieve their learning goals. 
  • As structured playtime only goes for 1 hour each day, the children aren't missing out on developing their interests through play or working on 'projects' which I am free to fully facilitate throughout the rest of the day.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Art Inspiration

I love to share the work of artists with my kids and discuss what they see, how they think the artwork was created, what materials might have been used and what else the artist might create using the same media. I then put similar materials out on the art table for the children to experiment with and create something  unique of their own. Here are a few inspirational art ideas that I will be sharing with my kids in the near future. 
Wire Sculpture

Found Items Collage

Louise Nevelson's artworks are assemblages  of found objects.

Art inspired by Louise Nevelson on Art Projects for Kids

Laurel True


Spire Designs
Clay Sculpture

Inna's Creations
Working with Light

Patricia Zapata

Friday, July 15, 2011

Gooey, Brewy Wombat Stew

Today my kids asked to me to read Wombat Stew- a story featuring well known Australian animals. There are some great repetitive chunks of text in this story and the children love to join in the chant 'Wombat stew, wombat stew, gooey, brewy, yummy chewy wombat stew'. 

Recalling some of the fantastic concoctions that have been mixed up and featured on Let the Children Play recently, I invited the children to mix up their own stew. I asked them "If you were one of the animals, what would you tell Dingo to put into the stew?". We brainstormed our ideas and the children went outside to collect up the items they would need.

Once the stew had been brewed, the children started acting out the story, taking on the roles of Wombat, Echidna, Platypus, Koala and of course Dingo. They stirred the stew with a stick whilst dancing around singing Wombat Stew! I'm sure the parents who were gathering around for pick up time thought some strange ritual was being performed but hey we were having fun and through re-enacting the story were developing important comprehension skills - story structure and sequencing of events.

You can find teaching notes for a wide range of literacy activities based around the book Wombat Stew here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Letters & Nature

Over the year my children have of course been learning lots about letters and the sounds they make. To revise this in a way  I knew would interest them we made the alphabet out of natural materials.

 My children are always bringing in interesting natural items to use in their block building and collage so I knew that they would love going on a 'nature hunt' and using their found items to make chosen letters.

Luckily, the night before had been quite windy so there were lots of leaves, sticks and even large seed pods lying around our school grounds for the children to use.

We took a deck of letter cards out with us and the children busily made their chosen letter, took a photograph (with the help of my teacher aide and me to make sure they got the whole thing in) and then chose another card from the deck. They were so engaged in hunting for the right materials (short sticks, long sticks, curved leaves etc) and making each letter that I think each one of them could have made the entire alphabet themselves. Here's a few of the letters they made...


I am planning to use these photographs to make an alphabet chart with the kids which will be a good activity for reinforcing the order of the alphabet.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Mud Party!

We missed International Mud Day recently as we were on school holidays but after seeing all the mud play photos around the blogs I had to do this with my kids - I knew they would love it! The water trough was already full of dirt left over from Dinosaur Land so I encouraged the children to add water and watched as they delighted in squelching their hands through the mud. They proclaimed that they were having a mud party and set about making mud pies.

The children excitedly talked amongst each other about how the mud felt in their hands and used words such as squelchy, mushy, icky, sticky, gooey and squishy to describe what they could feel.

 Not only was this a great sensory and oral language experience but the delight on their faces as the mud oozed through their fingers was priceless!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Cooking in the Garden

Today was the first day back at school for us (after a two week break) and we spent it cooking pizza in our edible garden. The children normally spend time in the garden each week but today was the first time that they have been able to harvest and cook what they have planted and cared for.

The children picked garlic chives, thyme, oregano, basil and spinach which they took back to their tables to wash.

They spread a delicious homemade tomato sauce onto pizza bases, then sprinkled cheese on top.

Their pizza went into the wood fired oven and while they waited, the children washed up the utensils they had used and set the tables.

Once cooked, the children put the herbs they had picked on top of their pizza and sat down together to enjoy the delicious meal they had prepared. I was surprised to find that all the children tried all the herbs they had picked without any encouragement from me and I had to smile when J exclaimed that this was going to be the most delicious thing he had ever eaten!

Once finished, the children washed and dried their dishes (one group even formed a production line in which everyone had a job), tipped their water over the plants and fed the left overs to the worms in the worm farm.

This was such a lovely experience during which the children were not only learning about co-operation and responsibility but also about food preparation and sustainable living.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Interesting Display Ideas

I'm always looking for new ways to display my children's work and document their learning. Here is a collection of photos from around the blogs that have caught my eye recently...

Bear Park Mt Eden
What and how we choose to display children's work conveys strong messages about what we as adults value.

"At some level, the children are aware of what the adults really care about, what they judge to be interesting, worth doing, worth probing, and worthy of their time and serious attention. The children know what the adults take great pains to explain, take pictures of, make notes about and display very carefully".
- Lilian Katz

Friday, July 8, 2011

Imaginary Birds- The Nickle Nackle Tree

We have been reading the Nickle Nackle Tree by Lynley Dodd - a counting book featuring all sorts of wonderful, imaginary birds. Not only has it been great for recognising numbers to twenty and counting groups of objects in the range of 1- 20 but with sentences like "Six sleepy Snooze birds, snoring side by side" we were also able to have fun with alliteration.

Of course, we couldn't help but imagine and create our own fanciful birds...

... And after some experimenting in their visual diaries, the children used black permanent marker pens and oil pastels to draw their bird onto card which they then stuck onto our very own Nickle Nackle Tree.

The children made up names for their birds such as the Fittle Fattle bird, a Rickle Rackle bird and a Hooty Whooty bird. This was a great art experience but also, a perfect opportunity for using descriptive language and playing with words. 

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