teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Archive for June, 2011

Feeling Plucky :)

Yesterday a put a lot of questions out there. I was asking myself just how do I tie in learning about recycling, environment, curiosity, learning and healthy eating. I don’t have all the answers and I never will claim that I do, but today I felt a click as I realised that just maybe I was getting it right.

Our jungle area is drying out, we’ve noted the leaves falling, the textures changing and the colours fading. Today I added a new splash of colour by adding in some branches from on of my mandarin trees from home. Complete with mandarins ๐Ÿ™‚

Immediately the smells drifted out, the colour livened up the area and the kids eyes were drawn to it. We started our morning talking about how potatoes grow under the ground, watermelons grow on vines on the ground and that apples grow on trees. The discussion that followed incorporated where we might find mandarins growing, what did they need and how could we get them off the tree. An extra safety tip was added, to hold the tree, because these were just branches in pots and we didn’t want to lose the lot with one pull!

The kids then went off in small groups to pick their own fruit to have for morning tea. It was a really wonderful to watch the children making choices and feeling confident about their food sourcing. We had enough fruit on the trees to invite the younger age groups out to pick their own fruit too ๐Ÿ™‚

Once settled on our morning tea mat, the children quickly learnt how to open the mandarin, either through watching children with prior knowledge or poking at the hole made from where the branch had pulled out the centre piece of skin. We’d asked them to deposit all their peels into the buckets and bowls so that we could put them in our scraps buckets for one of the families chickens.ย  They were tidier than at most morning teas!

I was surprised by how quickly the children devoured their mandarins, often it’s one of the fruits left on our morning platters! I think it really shows how much more likely it is that kids will eat foods that they are part of preparing! I also loved that the younger class used a wicker basket for scraps – it just added a whole new element to the activity that I hadn’t thought of!

Once we were all juiced up, we moved on to a related art activity. Trying to extend the children’s attention to multiple steps as well as delaying the gratification of a single step art project, we introduced 3 key areas to complete our pictures of the mandarin trees.

First, we needed to dray the trunk and branches of our tree. I tend to draw basic shapes to encourage the children to take the first steps towards successful representation, so we saw an array of tree styles. By the end of it, many of the children had begun copying this style of “T-crossing” trees from their peers and it sadly reminded me of an article I’d read years ago about how children of this age will draw birds in the sky with bodies, wings, beaks and eyes. Once they’ve entered primary school however, it takes only a few years and all that individualism and creativity is mostly gone, with children having learnt that they can just add a rounded m shape into the sky and that is ‘enough’ to call a bird.

Then we moved on to print leaves on our tree branches. We used plastic tannagram pieces on these fantastic paint pads. We can just refill them any time the paint runs low and they stay moist for ages!

Finally the children moved to another table and used cotton reels (from our threading box) to stamp on some lovely, fresh mandarins! Many kids saw the joy in this multi step activity and did the cycle numerous times, changing up their art work with each rendition.Which I loved ๐Ÿ™‚

As the art tables tapered down and the other areas of the room gained interest, a few children questioned what would happen to the other mandarins, so we went outside to collect them all and handed the full basket over to our chef for an afternoon fruit salad:)

This whole process felt successful and worthwhile. I’m not a natural gardener so this sort of activity normally makes me feel like I’m out of my depth. However, today has given me the confidence to bring in a basket of lemons from our lemon tree and teach the kids how to make lemonade! I’d really love for them to create a little stall and ‘sell’ it to the parents as they arrive to pick up the kids! Maybe we could bake cookies and sell ‘cookies and lemonade’ to our other friends for snack! Oh my mind has already begun to tick over the possibilities!

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Bill and Ted were gurus of their time :)

We all try to make sense ofย  our world. I come home each day to hear the stories that my kids bring home from school, whether that be about friends, teachers, tests or things that they’ve encountered. My partner fills me in on all the world news he’s gathered from the internet for the day, then helps me to break it down into manageable chunks of information that we can possibly connect like pieces of a puzzle.

At school, I’m seeing the same thought processes being acted out as the kids play and run and chase and get up to giddy kiddy fun.

Like just how are we meant to chase the ‘Australian Dream’ if the world economy if floating around, falling and popping or flying over our heads, like bubbles on a breeze?

What efforts can we make each day to clean up our environment and ensure we aren’t adding to the mess? What subjects are we sweeping under the rug? What news items are being swept away from our visions and understanding?

If we make silly faces and the wind changes direction, will our faces really be stuck like that forever?

So many conspiracy theories of our recent past have risen to a level of general assumption that they’re the truth. Some conspiracy theories have proven themselves to be valid (like JFK’s assassination) while others are still awaiting scientific evidence to back them up (faked moon landings anyone?) When did we stop looking for answers to opinions instead of just accepting every piece of information the media that we read, watch or hear?

With each turned page this child’s interest was reignited. It wasn’t a story or an informational book about colour and numbers. It was a book of puzzle and game boards. He spent his time tracing pathways and matching steps, following patterns and coming to conclusions.

Years ago the first group of people started working on electronic toys, computers and machines that could interact with us. Today their groundbreaking inventions and mind-boggling systematic thinking styles have been surpassed by the newest apps on phones, upgrades for computers and expecting things to work at the touch of a button (or screen!). I hope that there are still people out there that understand the creative systems behind computers and their ilk, because I for one am not among them. Seeing the intense interest in patterns gives me hope that there will be further understanding and positive development and recycling in the next stage of our computer age.

Sturdy balance boards are like people sized scales. How can we make this go in the direction we want o? How hard will we crash if one side hops off quickly? Can one person walk the length without upsetting the other two? Can one person work this alone?

Life is a series of checks and balances. We all experience fantastic highs and lows that have us curled up in beds with tears streaming down our faces. Many things offer us our strong foundations; family, friends, faith, social groups, self esteem and belonging to the world around us. We can rely too heavily on others for our own happiness, be too ready to pass the blame or dismiss responsibility for events, actions or consequences. Sometimes we need help to bridge gaps and reach goals, other times it’s important to reach goals by ourselves. Sure it’s hard work, but the result can be exhilarating!

From a large box of blocks thatย  make animals, cars, buildings and more, this selection of blue wheels meant something to him. I’m not sure why he chose blue, or only wheels, but I know that the process and the sorting and the counting made both him and me happy.

And you know that’s what I want for people everywhere. I want people to feel the freedom to make a choice and not be ridiculed for it. I want everyone to feel a sense of satisfaction from their actions. I would love to see people enjoy their collections of teapots, bells, stamps, stones, shoes or magnets without guilty associations. I would love for everyone to have a moment of quiet contemplation to tally up their deeds for the day and hold them close to their hearts.

Instant coffee has a lot to answer for!

Look, here’s the thing that’s been bugging me a bit lately. I’m seeing kids (my own included) looking for quick fixes and getting frustrated at their inability to do something, finish something or get something. We can instantly create fantastic cakes from packets, change channels quicker than we can make up our minds, we can buy clothes and electronic goods for cheaper prices than fixing things or making them ourselves. SOciety throws away so much packaging, wasted produce and perfectly good stuff, without even thinking about how quickly we’ve become accustomed to short-term gains. Heck, if I don’t want to make dinner I can go down the shops and buy it, or buy ready-made dinners from the supermarkets so tat I don’t have to do all the ‘hard work’.ย  But I’m not here to rage against the machine, I just want to level out the playing field with experiences that really count, for the kids that I care for.

But sometimes I have trouble with waiting too….

I purposely introduced my 8-year-old daughter to layby, so that she can feel the build up and wait for something she *thinks* she really wants. As we all know, Christmas gifts can sometimes be wished for so eagerly and when they get them, be superseded by something entirely different.

*my daughter the mermaid*

The work that’s been going into redeveloping play concepts in my yard and room have had me enthused and patting myself on the back. However, in creating play areas that I want to see being used for real learning through play, I’ve forgotten that it often takes time for the children to adapt to that. That sometimes new toys are used in old ways, before old toys can be used in new ways.

*these last two photos are of my kids and not at all school related ๐Ÿ™‚

but they are kinda related to this post!*

So today, I was fabulously surprise to extend on an observation of one of my co-workers. She’d noticed one boy throwing a ball at our ‘limbo rungs’ and then knocking it down with a baseball bat. SHe had been watching this relatively harmless play incase it led to more destructive play or wilder, more dangerous swings and come to the conclusion that he was playing cricket! He was role-playing at knocking the wickets down. I was pretty darn impressed, knowing that if she hadn’t been watching his role play may have been misconstrued as destructive play.

Still the play was drawing attention and getting a little bit wild. So I quickly grabbed a basket so that he would have something to aim the balls into and my fabulous co-worker figured out how to balance the basket using the limbo rungs for support ๐Ÿ™‚

We adjusted the height a few times to get it at a slightly challenging level for throwing, but still low enough that the whole thing wouldn’t tip over when they went to retrieve their balls.

We added rings to create a boundary that made the throws larger, and not just dropping them into the basket. WE found some little plastic nets in home corner that acted like lacrosse sticks. Overall, the games were well-played and visitors were welcomed in.

Now I know I have to get working on moreย  ‘project’ based activities; seeing the plants grow, developingย  artworks by layers, working together to create stories and the like. I know that the long-term rewards for teaching children patience and that it’s worth putting the extra effort in to reap what you sow. But sometimes, a little instant gratification can be a nice reward!

I couldn’t put it better myself :)

Motivation, sociability, and the ability to work with others: these are the ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s of a play-based preschool curriculum.

Although this man’s preschool is half a world away, his schema is community based and his environment almost the complete opposite of mine, I find his blog to be insightful, relevant, inspiring and a damn good read. He says things that ring bells of familiarity in me, phrasing them in ways which make me go Aha- yip yip and nod my head in agreement. Just thought I’d let you know that he’s out there, doing the things that we do, sharing his ideas and making the world a better place, one child at a time ๐Ÿ˜‰
I\'m pleased to introduce you to Teacher Tom

I love it when a plan comes together!

The classroom environment is a huge part of the children’s learning. We often think of spaces for quiet, soft, noisier, building, small group, large group, individual play and off course art work. WE make beautiful displays of the children’s art work, we theme walls to role play areas, we look at passage ways between areas to try to minimize running lines and maximise children’s ability to concentrate on tasks.

Sometimes we see going outside as a bit of a relief, a place for the kids to run off their energy and for us to chill a little as the messes are meant to be there, the areas are laid out for them and the running rules cease to exist.

Since moving into the Kindy room, my outdoor area has kinda stumped me. It’s a long yard of cement and astro turf. We added the \’jungle\’ but the yard seems more bare because of it! I keep looking and trying new things, tweaking bits, but I’ve come to the decision that I’m going to have to do a bit of an overhaul on it. Some things just won’t sit well with me until I do. I want it to be more of an outdoor classroom than just a yard. I’d love a workbench, with hammers and nails and glue and goodies to work with. I’d love to create a swirly walkway path that is covered in Arches of plants, with large rocks and small pebbles. I’d love the path to end at our dividing fence to the Koala yard and have little tubes of pipe for us to ‘post’ toys back and forth, use as telescopes and as foghorns. I’d love my jungle to be filled with real living plants and not just off cuts. I want a wall off herbs and flowers that we can care for and eat. Most of all I want the yard to be an area that excites and entices exploring and play. I want the thought that goes into the inside program and design to go into my outdoor area. But I also know that I have to start small.

I’d like to see areas for role play, gross motor, music, science and environments all work together in an easy and relaxed setting. So I’ve started small, on things I can change.

After a few days trying out different ways to make this work, I finally pulled it together from op shop and cheap shop buys! A pulley system!

With wooden ‘coins’ cut from some of the larger branches I acquired for our ‘jungle’ to use as weights. They really aren’t heavy at all, which makes me feel better about the safety of the area if someone tips the bucket on their own head!

My co-workers loved it – as did the kids! they started cheeky games with each other to pull the buckets out of reach, they held onto them to create more weight, they raced each other to fill them up. All fantastic learning opportunities for maths and science skills without me saying a word!

You know,ย  a few kids even clocked themselves on the head with the bucket or tipped wood coins on their toes, but not a sound of complaint was hears! Instead it was giggles and surprised looks. They’re learning resilience and testing hypotheses without even knowing what the words mean! I’m looking forward to this becoming less of a ‘new thing’ and more of an experience that the children drive and create themselves ๐Ÿ™‚

Here’s another thing that I’d picked up a long time ago. Xylophone pieces that were mounted individually. I believe someone was throwing them out because there is not a complete set. I’ve had them at home, not knowing what it was I wanted to do with them, watching my kids play with them and ignore them. When I started thinking of permanent musical structures in my outdoor area, these quickly came to mind (along with some other things I’ve been sitting on, but I’m yet to figure out how to make them work successfully) A few cable ties later, borrowing sticks from our indoor musical kit, and voilร ! A beautiful sounding musical pole!

I thought I’d add this pic in, because I found it so amusing when I figured out what he’d done…. can you see the stick is actually being held in the hand of one of our action figures (no, I’m not sure what happened to the rest of him either!) And E is using the action figures hand to make the music! So impressed with his spatial awareness to figure out that the stick would fit in, guess everyone needs a helping hand every now and again!

This is your life!

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is also the key moment when your heart skips a beat and you wait anxiously to see how other people see you. A telling example of your skills and abilities.

Today we had some cute little moments that made me pause so that I could use my everyday audience to do my reflective practice for me. It was almost as nerve-wracking as Accreditation!

Here you see the group crowded around their ‘teacher’. There was story telling and asking for input from the ‘class’, she pointed out parts of the story and told the girls what book she would read next. I was so proud of her – and me ๐Ÿ™‚

What I didn’t realise until after I’d taken the photo, and lightly distracted the class as the flash went off and they felt the need to turn and smile, was what was happening in the background.

Can you see how 3 girls up the line the other girls are facing the other way? That’s because there is ANOTHER ‘teacher’ up there telling more stories! She was even heard to ask the girls which group they were in ๐Ÿ™‚

I love it when kids play ‘teacher’, holding court in front of their peers or toys, emulating group times and remembering key stories or songs. It was as I was thinking of this that I realised that this play is how I played at being a teacher, but surely I was more than the person that held the book? And you know what, I am! ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m the person who taught them to sing ‘Ring a Ring of Rosies’ whilst holding hands and dancing in a circle.

They’re the ones emulating the same song whilst holding two dolls together at the hands.

I’m the person who showed them that sand can be about big holes, patted mounds and tracks in the dirt.

They’re the ones who create stories and jobs for their friends and trucks.

I’m the one who made them feel special as we sang for their birthday.

They’re the ones who come to me in the sandpit with cakes, songs and gifts of food.

I’m the one who offers hugs when they’re sad, help when they fall and advice when they struggle.

They’re the ones who reach out to their friends, who greet me with hugs and who want to help each other.

I’m the one who gets paid to spend my days teaching, playing, interacting, resolving and distracting.

They’re the ones who make it all worth while ๐Ÿ™‚

They like me, they really like me!

Oh guess what I just found?

At the bottom of this page is a ‘like’ button.In fact on the bottom of every post is a ‘like’ button! So for those of you who are happy to read my ramblings, but not really in the mindset to reply, you can just click the ‘like’ button so that I know what makes you tick click.

This is a blog for me as well as for sharing, it’s about me and the wonderful other out there who make up the world wide community of teachers and carers and ultimately to remind me of all the wonderful things that happen in the everyday. If I know that you are looking more at the things I say on a particular subject, then I’m happy to share my ideas and talents more on those subjects. Chances are, that you’ll still end up with the hodge podge of ‘cathyisms’!

Thanks!