teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Archive for October, 2011

Assessing your Environment

Recently, I have had the great pleasure to work with a lady from the Quality Inclusion Support Program. If you have multiple children with additional needs, look them up ๐Ÿ™‚

At the end of her time with us, she held an amazing seminar that inspired me so much that I have been unable to write about it, for fear of not doing it justice! So today I will give you an example of how she helped clarify our thinking. She got us all to break up into our ‘room groups’ and draw up a plan of our room. We added the play areas, routine areas, shelving/dividers and anything else that was part of our rooms. Once done, we were asked to add identifiers for which part of the room encouraged the following goals.

I) Identity – family, life, culture

H) Home – parents can feel relaxed and respected

R) Relationships – sharing enjoyment between adults/children

SD) Sensory Discoveries – textures, colours, smells and sounds

LM) Large Muscle – crawling, pushing, pulling, sliding, bouncing, hiding, throwing, going up/down, up/over, in/out etc

SM) Small Muscle – developing grasping, banging, poking, stacking, shaking, squeezing, patting, pouring, fitting together, taking apart etc

C) Cozy – area where children can get away and relax or watch

P) Powerful – children can feel independent, important and competent

A) Adults – can relax, enjoy, share their lives with children

S) Systems – communication and record keeping among adults

At first we tentatively marked the ‘obvious’ areas, as we gained confidence we began to see how so many of the areas crossed over. The art hanging on our walls elicits a powerful response from the kids, but also acts as a form of communication between adults and encourages visual sensory opportunities.

By the end of it, we had a large paper filled with little letters. Areas that didn’t gather a collection of identifying letters, were looked at again so we could either see the values we had missed or assess the areas to work better for the children, the families and us! Immediately after doing this exercise, I recognised that our book area was far from the relaxed spot we’d planned on – instead it was often used for rough and tumble play. So we moved it. We opened it up to more activity so that those who wanted to read could, whilst those who wanted to be active could use the puzzles, the zipper boards and the tactile activities.

Since then we’ve expanded further and turned our room around to accommodate our growing class numbers and changing needs. And you know what? It feels more like a kindy, there are more engaged learners and definitely less conflicts between kids! This is an exercise I recommend everyone does, I know for sure I will be doing it a few times a year to make sure I keep a fresh view of my room!

Now I want to share a resource with you that also has helped me for years! I can’t link you directly to it, because it is a downloadable document (which I suggest you save, print and keep!) if you google

Pre-K Spaces: Design for a Quality Classroom

you should go there ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s totally worth the trip!

Puzzling it out

Puzzles are wonderful. We all know the benefits of them in regards to cognitive skills and fine motor dexterity. We know we can encourage reluctant learners with puzzles aimed at their interests or introduce new concepts or views through divergent art styles. However, when I was sitting and watching two children do puzzles the other day, it got me thinking about how we approach problem solving. Some people never want to look at the ‘big picture’, instead choosing to work with the constants. Matching things they know together so that it all fits. It’s so logical and precise that you can see how, once finished, their pride is based on being able to compartmentalise and make the world ‘fit’ to their way of thinking.

Others know that they need space to think, they don’t want your help as they look at what is laid before them, assessing their options and coming to a solution in a more abstract way. By connecting pieces that match their memories of how things should be, they are recreating the picture.

Both are valid options. Both get the same results. It’s the process that differs. And it’s the process of problem solving that gets me thinking about learning, resolving ideas, creating opportunities and seeing things around us. I love what is happening around the world as “Occupy Wall Street” becomes an international concept, one that gets us thinking about what we see, how we reconcile what we live with what we know. What we accept as we see and what we feelย  we can achieve.

Living in this world is an ever-changing puzzle. As people and events slide around our boards, we keep trying to make it all fit so that we feel safe and stable.ย  I know it’s not easy, sometimes it feels exciting and other times it feels exhausting. But either way it’s happening and we need to ensure that our role as educators, family members and a complex society, encompasses teaching out young people to think. To understand the decisions they can make and the repercussions of their actions. To take responsibility for the little things, so that they can step up when they need to and say ‘I am owning my actions and mistakes.’

From social interactions to caring for our environment we all have choices to make and that’s why it’s so important for me to see that our children exercise their thinking skills, have opportunities to develop and discuss their ideas. After all these kids are the ones who will be looking after my world when I am old and vulnerable and I’d like to instill in them the skills and ideals of people I’d want to trust.

Still Kicking :)

It’s been a horrible time here for my internet. all sorts of drop-outs and issues, but (fingers crossed) it all appears to be back on track! Which means I can continue to post up stories that have impacted on me during the day.

Whilst I’ve been unable to update this blog, I’ve read as many others as I can and gaining inspiration for activities but also intelligence on what I want my writing to reflect.

Yes I want to maintain a record of my moments. Share with you things that I connect with. Now I realise that I want to be more than a blog of ‘look what I can do’ and more about ‘look how we got here’ Lots of my art things have been teacher led. Lots of interactions have been spontaneous and lots of my day is filled with moments that open up opportunities to extend on the children’s interests. I’m hoping among all these things you’ll discover what I love, what the kids love and the learning that is involved without me having to point out literacy, numeracy or motor skills (though I’ll still tag them).

Anyhow, yesterdays story was a prime example of what I want to do. There are some photos, but they are still at work. So I shall update that as soon as I can ๐Ÿ™‚

 

A Treasure Trove of Connections!

As many people working in Long Day Care Centres will tell you, we love our sandpits. Unfortunately that also comes with the job of keeping the sand IN the sandpit. Not travelling around in buckets to be dumped down drains or poured on to the cement or carted around in trolleys or trucks, leaving little trails to be swept up by staff.

So when I saw an enormous pile of sand that had obviously been distributed there and then forgotten, it was off to fetch the dustpan and brush before it became a spread too large to clean up quickly. However, as often happens, I was waylaid by more important matters with children and parents. No drama really, that’s what I’m here for after all ๐Ÿ™‚

By the time I returned to the sand puddle, it no longer looked likeย  a discarded mess to be cleaned, but an important piece of art and communication.

So I stopped what I was going to do. And instead asked the children nearest to it, what had they been drawing.

“A treasure map!”

“You start here but have to go to the bridge and fight monsters”

“And use a boat!”

“You need a sword! *schwiiing*(sword being pulled out noise)”

“This is where you walk over the mountains”

“This is the treasure!”

“But more monsters and then you get the jewels”

 

My lovely Boy was eloquent and explanatory about their map. My beautiful girl was able to relate the whole thing back to “Playing Link on the computer with my brother”

What an important connection between home, care and friends had just happened here! And to think, if i was quicker at sweeping it all up, I would have missed such a fantastic opportunity to expand on this Treasure Map Role Play! So, Brooms away and off I went to collect paper, crayons and coffee tinted water.


As I came back with my arms full of art supplies, a decent sized group trailed after me like I was the Pied Piper ๐Ÿ™‚ Luckily, I’d figured this would happen, so had bought out lots to share!

We all sat around the sand map and let S and A explain the story again. Each child took a page and a crayon and began drawing their own treasure maps.

Knowing that coffee water could stain paper, but hoping not to make a bigger mess, we moved to the sandpit to finger paint on our maps. The first few to try were upset that some sand had gotten on to their art, but I excitedly explained that now their treasure maps looked like they had been buried for a long time! Soon, everyone was finger painting and then pouring sandย  on their pictures, followed by a shake and a display!


So I didn’t clean up the sand that day. But what I did do was far more important. So next time I see a random sand pile in the yard,I plan to stop, look and think ‘How was this important to someone today?’

New Spaces!

We’ve made some changes and boy does it feel good! We moved our tables outside, meaning meals are al fresco and instead of focusing on table activities we can now create play spaces that are geared more to the group play that our children seem to love ๐Ÿ™‚

We rethought the whole room and kept what was working and opened up new areas to expand on play we’d seen that couldn’t be fulfilled.

Like our block area. Now more enclosed, with less traffic, means the children who love to build can do so without the accidental knock overs or frequent visits of the ‘touchy’ curious ๐Ÿ™‚

To embrace our caring side and open up a doctors office!

Room to explore technology in small groups without crowds pressing in on us.

Room and Time to work on individual art pieces – whether that be at our new and evolving ‘Making Station’ or at the consistently used drawing table.

Not to mention creating opportunities to follow our ideas and connect with our friends in play!

But most of all, leaves us with room to grow into our skills and our abilities by being ourselves, to become curious and competent learners, to belong to a community of peers and educators who help us understand the world we live in and last but not least, time to cherish the friendships we make.