teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Archive for July, 2011

eye spy bags

During my holidays, I took some time out to make things for my Kindy Kids. One of these projects was a collection of ‘eye-spy bags’. Very simple to make, although if you were more of a perfectionist than me, they would definitely take longer!

Originally I was going to collect all the little toys from around my house to fill them, but then I saw a selection or eraser packs at K-mart and decided to ‘theme’ them ๐Ÿ™‚ All up i made six in one night; transport, kitchen, beach, tool kit, aliens and environmental. The pattern was just a rectangle of material – a bit smaller than an A4 sheet, with a hole cut on one half. I then sewed on a sheet of clear, pliable plastic that I got from spotlight ages ago,ย  folded it in half, ran the sewing machine over 2 sides and poured in between one or two cups of rice, before sewing it closed. Done!

I have a real problem with using food for art. Working in a low socio-economic area does that to me. Knowing that the rice I’ve used here could feed my family for a week, really puts it into perspective. I looked for alternatives on the web, but came up with dried beans – another food. I did try to make it with bean bag beans, knowing that they were such a no-no for choking hazards, but the entire thing was closed, so I thought it might work. However, the foam balls floated to the top and stuck to the plastic. Not at all good for a bag that is meant to give sensory feedback as your eyes search for hidden treasures!

The children were intrigued by them, and they have become a great resource during quiet periods for the no sleepers. But the first time they came out I had to explain to a few of the children that the toys stayed in the bags. That they weren’t meant to be opened, but it was a game of hide’n’seek. Of course, with hindsight being 20/20 and all….I probably shouldn’t have put out a cutting activity on the same day!

I was only gone for 10 minutes, leaving two other staff in charge, but it was an opportunity that was taken to by two curious kids! A small group joined them to see what else would come out of the bags, but they all knew they’d made a mistake in opening it. As I walked back in the room, the flurry of activity in this corner drew my attention. There they were, scooping up the rice with their fingers, trying to get it in piles and back in the bags. Using dustpans and brushes to fix the mess they’d made. Seeing that they’d realised their error and were working towards fixing it as best they could, I was proud to see their reasoning skills and awareness of natural consequences had kicked in. They continued to clean up, I gave them cups to put their rice into, as putting it in the bags was making more mess, we talked about how we could use the bags without breaking them and how to react if they saw one of their friends trying to open one of the others. It seems to have sunk in, because we haven’t had another incident like this, yet…

Most of all, I was so exceptionally grateful that I had not used the bean bag filling foam balls!


It’s just a step to the left…



Just a quick entry tonight (it appears getting back from holidays is harder than getting used to being on holidays!) thinking about directionality. One of the simplest things you can do to help kids learn to write from left to right, is to write their name from left to right. Starting from the top left hand corner of the page.

That’s as simple as it gets. if you start at the top left, they’ll mimic that and eventually learn to start at the top left. No special words are needed. No magic wands or fancy tricks, just always start there.

Of course other things help. Like following or tracing paths between pictures.

Using chalk boards and getting the children to wipe off the letters or numbers you write.


Introducing patterns, that start from the top left.


For these reuseable worksheets, I photocopied and laminated worksheets from an activity book. The children love the wipe on, wipe off activities.


The only other thing that I might add to this activity, to make it more successful, is to pop these slippery worksheets onto a clipboard for stability. Because, as you may have noticed, there is a whole new skill involved in holding a paper steady! Just watch children who are new to scissors if you are unsure!

Stop, look, listen and think

This cute little link shows you what’s going on with Education from an America vs the World kinda view. And boy, they don’t seem to be doing so well. Mind you, the person who put it together didn’t even include Australia, so I’m not sure how we stand.

Many people ask me why I want to be a child care worker and not a teacher, or a special ed teacher. I know they both pay heaps better, but that’s not why I do the job I do. I want to help these kids find their way into learning and being socially adept people.I want to help identify children with additional needs before they get lost in the mainstream of schools, and lose their will to learn as they battle with peers, reading or life in general.

As much as teachers have studied to get their degrees, the number of hours they can put into individually attending to the children in their class is not high. They are limited in what they can do to encourage the variety of learners to pick up on the same concepts.

As parents, we all love our kids and find them fascinating, endearing and endlessly clever. But in the big bad world of tests and grades, they might suffer through shyness or poor eyesight or hearing. The kids might be struggling with what’s making them feel different or out-of-place, when all around them are kids playing together, seeming to easily fall into groups and games. If the parents can recognise that their kid needs a little bit more help in the outside world, then they can help their child reach a higher potential than if we left them ‘well enough alone’.

So sure, listen to your teachers, stand up and tell your gp what you want your kids to be tested for, but remember that it may have been the humble child care provider, who fretted and worked with their peers, who then screwed up their courage and addressed their concerns with you. Hoping that between the both of you and your local GP or Child and Youth Health, you could start looking at ways to help your child reach their potential.

/end rant.


By Gads! There are no pictures in this post!

As I start to write this, I have to wonder if this will be a post that has any photos in it. I don’t’ have any from the excursion we went to today (not yet anyway) but that’s not what I wanted to focus on.ย  We had a great time, dancing and clapping, chasing bubbles, laughing at a clown, being enthralled by a baby puppet who sang and generally enjoying being there, being a kid and being part of all this fun! I watched as the children were asked to come on down and join in the show, some enthusiastically, some cautiously and others only when led or invited in. Our staff moved in as the kids did. It was a general admittance, so there were a variety of families and generations there. What surprised me, though I suppose it shouldn’t, was that the parents who did get off their seats and come down to the floor with the kids, did so with their cameras. I know how important it is to share moments with our kids, our families our friends and our fellowย  facebookers ๐Ÿ™‚ I just see that so many of those parents were capturing moments but not creating them. Recording memories, instead of being part of them.

Now I’m not perfect, I’ve been known to take the odd photo or two (hundred) of my kids. It’s something I’ve become more aware of as I’ve being taking more photos of our day at child care, how much is too much? So the photos we take aren’t perfectly framed or capture a funny face instead of a charming grin. I refuse to be held down by the joking clichรฉ “photos or it didn’t happen!”. I want to remember how it felt to dance with my kids (biological or in my care), how our laughs sounded as we saw the clown ride his bike upside down, I want the touch of furry material to remind me of the day we met a Giant Panda and he gave us a Hi-5. These things can’t be captured by film but hold more meaning to our kids and relationships than what we give credit for. I still smell a particular brand of aftershave and am taken back to a teenage boyfriend, I have no photos of him, but that smell drags up images of him from the recesses of my brain.

So there you have it. No pictures in today’s post, not on purpose, but that’s ok. Because even though there are no photos, we still know it happened ๐Ÿ™‚

Maths in action


As we near the end of the month (and the end of my holiday!) I thought I’d catch you up on some of the great activities the kids have been doing. Maths Concepts is such a great monthly theme, it opens up so many opportunities and discussions during play!

Like this dial board. A variety of circles connected to a large board with split pins. shapes are decorating the dials and the children spin them, finding differences in speed that relate to size!

Admittedly, this was done in the next classroom as they explored shapes, but it’s worth including as a great activity! Recognising rectangles, getting sensory feedback about high and low, in and out, not to mention the shapes and counting and stacking and colour mixing that’s going on!

Cooking! One of my all time favourite (and yet seriously under used at child care) things to do! Mixing, measuring, watching dry and wet mix to create a new texture. Seeing colours change and making something you can eat!

Maths andย  Literacy are important to our everyday lifestyles, therefore important for our kid to learn. But it’s not like we have to actively teach this stuff. It comes from the interactions and importance we place on it. How we share it with our kids. From writing shopping lists to asking for help picking a certain number of things. So let the everyday learning happen every day!

Magnifing Times

At one point I’d bought a little bug inspection kit. A container with three tubs on top with magnifying lids, tweezers and a small magnifying glass. My kids explored it and then passed it over. As my kids know, anything that is not looked after or left lying around quickly makes it into a bag destined for the op shops or school! Anything that can be reused or refashioned will get an overhaul, but we are not hoarding toys and knick knacks that are uncared for!

So these magnifying lenses had made it as far as my handbag….intending to go to school, but just hanging out invisibly on the bottom of my bag ๐Ÿ™‚

As I was about to leave work the other night, a few of the remaining kids noticed ants coming out of the skirting board. Now whether these are regular ants or termites, I don’t know, but the opportunity was there to extend the kids interest as well as get the lenses out of my bag!

At first the boys tried to catch the ants under the lens to see it. But after a bit of practice they could zoom in and out to change their view ๐Ÿ™‚ Once they got it, the only limitation was the space. Three boys just couldn’t’ squeeze in tight enough! But that’s OK, because the room had lots more to explore through these ‘new eyes’!

Personally, I love lenses. Magnifying glasses, reading glasses, binoculars or a kaleidoscope! I remember being at a seminar on learning environments and hearing a woman talk about how she had placed binoculars by the windows for the kids to look out and see what was in the park next door to them. I thought it sounded fantastic, but my classroom had frosted windows to reduce the Queensland summers heat. Now I have clear windows again and a view of trucks, buses and cars going past….but that’s not going to stop me from sourcing out some binoculars for my windows! I figure a hook to hang them off will entice the kids to keep them there and have them always accessible. Yet another item for my wish list, but it’s a worthy one!

Loking at Lost things to create something new :)

I love my laminator. I know that not everything needs laminating, and I certainly don’t make a habit of having all shiny, smooth poster like art around my class room walls. In fact, I’m often found searching for different textures and mediums to adorn our environment!

Sometimes though, they just make a dead toy fun again.

Last term, I took every single puzzle in our centre and sorted them, completed them and found missing pieces. I was left over with some puzzle pieces whose boards are long gone. I photocopied the pieces, to create dark shadows – although you could colour copy them for true matching – and popped them in a bag with their newly laminated matching boards. By adding small magnets to the back of the puzzle pieces and taping this to the fridge or filing cabinets, you’ve created a new play area in a dead space ๐Ÿ™‚

Not a difficult exercise for my kindy kids, possibly more suited to the younger age groups, but certainly a nice way to reuse otherwise ‘lost’ pieces. My other ideas for the remaining puzzle pieces include baby mobiles, as part of eye spy bags or adding magnets to their backs for use on filing cabinets ๐Ÿ˜‰

I recently made a selection of eye spy bags, and tried to find an alternative to food based fillings like rice and beans, but each thing I tried just didn’t have the flexibility and movement these bags require. It makes me sad to put good food into a toy, especially when so many people with kids are doing it hard. I never do pasta threading or used food for non-edible art. I have been known to share out a mix of cheerio’s cereal and fruit loops, for the kids to make their own candy bracelets and necklaces, but they got to eat those right away or bag them up and take them home! I remember when I started my child care studies, over a decade ago now, my tutor telling me a story about her time in childcare, where one Mum looked at the pasta and rice on her collage table and said “That would feed my family for a week!” It’s an eye-opening statement for many people. Recognising that the things we throw away or consider ‘broken’ can be reused in so many ways. By Using old puzzle pieces and repairing things with the kids, I hope to subliminally embed the idea that most things can be fixed and we don’t need to throw away nearly as much stuff as we do. After all, today’s catch cry is Reduce, Recycle and Re-Use!