teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Archive for August, 2011

A drop in the pond

My aim when creating this blog, was to write in it five days of the week. To keep thinking and revising and learning from each day that I work with kids. I wanted to share what I was learning and be able to look back on activities to see what I could do better.

However these last couple of weeks I have let that slip. I have been inundated with fantastic opportunities to dress up and enjoy playing at being some one else! It’s times like this that I find myself remembering how important role play is to connecting what we have experienced and have seen into actual learning and understanding!

But that’s not what I was planning on talking about!

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve been covering shifts in the babies room. I’m finding it inspiring. To spend time with these little ones whose main form of communication is non-verbal. Who rely on us to understand what it is they are trying to tell us. Lots of this knowledge comes from time spent with each individual baby, getting to know their cries and gurgles, understanding their limits and strengths. Personalities are evident fromย  such an early age, each with their own quirks and interests. I love it!

Being with the babies has made me notice lots of the smaller details in communication. Things that might normally be covered up by the loud noises or mannerisms of boisterous kindy kids ๐Ÿ™‚ Watching two little babies reach out with their toes, showing interest in each other is like magic! The excited thumping of hands as they respond to toys that make noise or move. A cheeky smile as they look up to you or working a smile out of a wee little baby, using a quiet voice and eye contact.

It has me asking, how much am I missing in my own room? I know that I try to ensure that I spend quality time with the quiet ones in my class, to not let the chatterboxes take all my brain space. I am missing my kindy kids and am truly looking forward to getting back in, but for now, I’m going to enjoy what the babies have to offer and revel in the cuddles and the intimate moments ๐Ÿ™‚

Shhh, don’t tell! But sometimes, working in Childcare is REALLY fun!

 

One of the things that every good boss should tell you, is that you really need to look after yourself. Some days at work can be stressful and demanding, but when they’re not, ENJOY them! Stepping back and letting yourself play in the now is as rewarding for the kids as it is for us.

I could see the kids in the sandpit were starting a game of burying their toes in the sandpit. Unfortunately, the recent rains had made the sand cold and it was closing in on the end of the afternoon – so I took the bullet for them ๐Ÿ™‚

I offered myself up as the one to be buried, so that they could keep their shoes on and their bodies warmer. It took no time at all for them to grasp the game ๐Ÿ™‚

You can see one die-hard fan of being buried on the left. There was no way that she wasn’t going to enjoy the sensation, so I let her. Together we became mermaids. Quite cold mermaids, packed in sand but happy none-the-less. You’ll also notice my toes poking out at the end. That’s because my friend in the stripy jumper wanted to be able to tickle my toes:) It was only when she offered to take off my hat and bury my hair that I had to start getting worried!

Although the insistence that I have large and perky ‘boobs’ had me worried that Disney may just be infiltrating our images too much! Then I remembered that just about every mermaid I’ve ever seen has been drawn in this buxom manner. Are there any older, wiser and saggier female mermaids out there? In The Little Mermaid 2 thereย  was an older mermaid. THey covered up her entire torso in a corset-like number and gave her perky boobs.


Between body image and some of the gyrating hips I see when we dance, I think it’s time to bring back in classics like the ‘shopping trolley’ and the ‘sprinkler’, cause heaven knows that my non-animated chest isn’t up for jumping about like Stephanie from Lazy Town!

Creativity and a stream of conciousness

People tell me I’m a pretty creative person. Is that because they see me with the kids telling stories or making up games? More often it’s because they see the products of my creativity. Whether that be an art activity with paints or felt pens, a construction of planks and A frames for an obstacle course or things grabbed from around the way to enable complex role-playing. As with most things in life, I’m pretty sure it’s the process of creating that opens gateways to learning. It’s being able to explore the attributes of items and assess their usefulness, their liabilities and their qualities for whatever we would like to see them become.

I love the internet because it opens so many minds to me – it’s like having the best arrangement of teachers in one room – with me there to absorb and retell their tales! But not everything in Childcare is about doing new things. Children learn so much from repeated activities, from being able to try techniques they learnt last time and can now extend upon orย  to gaining satisfaction when they are able to complete activities with more precision and control. Practice makes perfect isn’t just a clichรฉ!

Painting is an opportunity to master pre-writing control and connect our artistic and logical parts of the brain – among many other things!

As an art medium it is easy to apply and offers instant gratification.

As a learning tool, it has endless possibilities for application.

As a toy, it’s heaps of fun ๐Ÿ™‚

There is a certain pride in being face painted. It might have something to do with all the sensory feedback that makes us relax or giggle, sit rock solid or twitch like a bunnies nose. Becoming a character or embodying the essence of a superhero/animal/fairy/magical creature/robot is a powerful feeling, having others recognise your play is also a great communication and self-esteem booster!

As much as we introduce animal names and sounds, letters, numbers and math concepts. We can’t forget that today’s children are raised in a world of multi media. Where at the touch of a button they can become immersed in a different world or click away at computer games as they chase dreams and fantasy. Although there are many personal debates over how much we should be including ‘marketed’ toys or games in childcare, I see how the connections some children make between a favourite TV show or movie Character can really bring their language to life and support friendships. So, I’m thinking it’s not all bad. This doesn’t mean I’m going to sit the kids down to a day of Yo Gabba Gabba or Sesame Street, but I’ll certainly celebrating their learning and investigation brought on by their personal involvement in their favourite shows!

As with all creative process’ there is an element of danger. Our words can hurt someone’s feelings, our painting can become messy and slippery, out what we need to learn is that with every element of danger, there is an equal and opposite role of responsibility. To wear protective gear, to behave in a way that won’t hurt anyone, to accept that it is often our own actions that lead us into getting hurt. From poor preparation to misreading ourย  aim or judgement. But without the opportunities to practice these skills, we can’t improve our techniques!

We will also have a hard time learning to manage our own pain.

Cause and effect or natural consequences, it’s often not the end of the world.

And you know what. Kids can deal with that, so why shouldn’t we let them? ๐Ÿ™‚

Now it’s time to say goodbye…

Our little chickens have been through quite a lot this year. Surviving a night without their heat lamp on, one ‘prematurely hatched’ by a curious toddler and all the manhandling that comes about from growing up with 80 kids around you! Last time you heard about them, they looked like this.

We each took joy in watching them ‘peep’ and finally hatch. Interestingly, each chick I saw erupted into the world in their own way. Gently tapping their way out, quick exits and entries, slow and deliberate movements and the one I missed but loved hearing the story recounted about – the one who cracked their egg completely around the middle and pushed both sides out like a superhero escaping an avalanche!

I did however catch this little one confusedly making it’s way out, spine first.

Last year we had 8 yellow chicks and 2 black ones. This year we have 6 black chicks and 3 yellow (although if you count our premature hatchling, that could have made 4)

AS the chicks have gotten bigger and braver, so have the kids. The more they handle them, the more they learn to accept the skittish movements or flutters of wings whilst balancing.

We’ve even let them start to explore our bodies as we’ve learnt to sit still and quiet.

Some of the chicks have gained a bit of wing strength and can hop/fly as they travel along our bodies!

Some of us have even been gifted with the chicken making to the top of our heads! But most of us are just happy to get up close and say hello!

I’d really love to keep a couple at school for a bit longer, as the kids really enjoyed the visit from last years chickens.

Trash to treasure :)

Sometimes the simplest things can seem like genius! I’d picked up two large blackboard easels from the local cheap shop. I love them because they go right to the ground, so that even the littlest of kids will have a large drawing space.

I’m not so fond of them, because they don’t have locking sides and are prone to falling over as the kids lean on them.I had a quick look around and found that the tyres were too large and the buckets too small. The milk crate styled boxes not tapered enough and the pot planters didn’t offer enough surface area to stop the sliding. I’d almost given up when I looked at the old school chairs we use at our outdoor tables. Bingo!

Screws quickly removed and our easels are supported with no more incidents!

As much as this made the group of four kids drawing happy, it enticed a larger group of kids over who wanted a turn at using the screwdriver, dismantling the chairs and seeing what they looked like! In fact, the very first ‘legless chair’ was run into the sandpit and sat on, before I could think what to do with it!

Of course, this meant that taking apart two chairs was no longer enough! SO we continued removing screws and separating chairs until their were enough for all the kids who showed interest.

*we have heaps of these chairs from an old school sale*

The kids lined them up in front of the edge of our sandpit, facing out to the swings. Then repositioned them to sit on the edge, looking in. Finally they moved them into the sandpit so we could dig and build ‘without our bums getting wet!’ ๐Ÿ™‚

But now I am left with extra bases from our chairs. We managed to use one for low level climbing (loving that they stand under 50 cms!)

But the more I think about it, the more I’m being led to try some table top pendulum painting!

New Yam Festival!

Technically the New Yam Festival is on Saturday, but as with all great weekend occasions, we make them fit into our week day experiences ๐Ÿ™‚

We started with a group time that introduced Nigeria, as a country, what a Yam was – and how I didn’t have one but a sweet potato was like it – what the difference was between potatoes and sweet potatoes, how and why the Nigerian people celebrated the harvest of their yams, hen I made a mask/headdress like the ones they wear for the festival and parade.

It all got a bit crazy after that, as I fitted hats, another staff member added double-sided tape (for ease of decorating) and the children moved on to a table which had and arrangement of leaves, feathers, flower cutouts and insect cutouts.

Once done, we grabbed out instruments, chose our leader and ‘tail’ then prepared to entertain the younger kids with our parade ๐Ÿ™‚

Straight down our yard, making lots of noise – no doubt having the centrelink customers on the other side of the fence wondering what was going on ๐Ÿ™‚

Into the koala yard following the balance walk along the sandpit and around the obstacle course!

We had one teacher giving out sweets to the children as we returned, in high spirits to our outdoor group time area – getting to make so much noise and showing off our creations was an invigorating experience!

Our wonderful cook had gotten right into the theme and created two sweet potato dishes for us, one a roasted savoury number, the other a sweet concoction of melted marshmallow and boiled vegetable! The majority of children enjoyed both dishes, with some making their way up for seconds of their favourite dish ๐Ÿ™‚

Of course the best thing about wearing crowns in getting to keep wearing them during play! Interestingly, the boys wore them, while a few of the girls allocated characters to them, the two that stand out in my memory are a fairy and Princess Fiona (from Shrek)

The craziness of busy we felt as teachers was probably due to us normally having a fairly calm morning time that allows for small group play and individual interactions, so getting everyone together at once for art activities and big noise was definitely not normal for us! However, the children coped well with most able to self-regulate their hyper activity to move on to productive outdoor play.

In the late afternoon, I grabbed an African tambourine and donned the headdress then began a rousing game of chasey and hide ‘n’ seek, beating my Tambourine slowly as I crept along the yard, shaking out my headdress for emphasis on ‘looking’. As I approached the hiding places, I let the bells ring more and sped up the beat of the drum so that the kids had an aural sense of anticipation of being found. It was fun, it was exciting and it was hard work wearing that headdress – I might need to trim a layer in front of the eyes for more play on Monday!

Nature and Nurture

For the next fortnight our Centre is hosting a ‘Living Eggs’ย  experience. We were given a humidifier with eggs in it, all of which should hatch in 3 days and we get to keep them, watching them grow, learning about gentle hands and connecting with our natural world.

At the end of the fortnight, families get to take them home and raise their own family of chickens – although we usually have such a high demand, that people end up taking home a pair of them.

Last year, one of the staff took home a couple and raised them. She was lucky to get two fantastic laying hens. And we are lucky cause she can bring them in to work with her occasionally and share them with the kids!

The kids were quick to visit the chickens and try to make friends with them ๐Ÿ™‚

Feeling brave, we pulled out a chicken for the children to pat and then let them go for a wander around the yard. The kids thought this was amazing and many were happy to run around and let the chickens chase them, while others tried to entice the chickens to come closer!

It takes craftiness and forethought to approach a chicken at the best of times – in a yard filled with noisy, moving kids, I’d consider it close to impossible!

Of course, one of the things I love about kids, is that Nothing is Impossible, Implausible or even Unimaginable!

Now let’s go chase our own chickens!