teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Archive for November, 2011

Cooking with the Babies

Live and Learn right 🙂 We all make mistakes, plan an activity and then go ‘Uh Oh, I should have expected that!’ From not having enough towels or washing water after an exuberant finger painting activity, to not allowing the space for drying or displaying the fantastic large collage or art pieces!
I had a new one this week.

The Babies are making salt dough hand prints for end of year gifts. I was covering a shift in their room and asked to whip up a batch of the dough and see if I could get any hand prints done. 

No probs, thinks I! I can even get the babies involved with this!

A bit of pouring and mixing, they will probably try to taste it, but it’s all plain ingredients and Ok 🙂

I was truly impressed with the way the babies handled it, taking turns and eager to try for more!

What I didn’t plan on or think about was  Pavlov’s effect. Sitting the children at their regular eating table, offering ingredients to play with and then not prepping any food for afterwards! Oops. One hungry little batch of babies waiting for the immediate love of whatever they had just mixed! Big Oops!

A very quick snack of biscuits to tide us over as we sat among our floury mess and a big *headdesk* moment for me!

Of course babies appetites would be stimulated by the smells of cooking, of course their table means eating, how could I have missed this?

At least the activity went well, the presents were made, the babies were fed and smiles were all round!

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Re-creating the freedom of my youth

Remember when we were kids and there would be random piles of bark, soil and rocks that were on the edges of building sites and we’d run up and over them. The feel of danger and achievement as the ground slipped away and you ascended higher. To reach the top and take a running leap or slide, just to start all over again.

So I recreated that feeling, albeit on a smaller scale, with tyres piled on top of each other, covered in sand, that was dug from a moat around our mountain.

The first child to find it was excited and pointing and yelling ‘Look! Look! A mountain!’

The brave ran and jumped up the mountain, finding their feet as they went,

often travelling so fast it was hard to catch a picture of their movements!

Others had to work harder to climb up, using their whole bodies to stabilise and move,

enjoying the challenge and ownership of the climb.

Before too long, the numbers grew and the children sorted themselves into a semblance of a line. This was their doing, you can see our ringleader at work, organising the masses into order so that everyone gets a turn 🙂

With every challenge there is more than one solution. Watching the children develop their risk taking skills and being part of a large group activity that focused on their abilities was wonderful. I loved that my presence there was just as a pace keeper. Which allowed them time to climb and celebrate before another child jumped in on their play. For the very essence of discovery is in repetition and development of concepts, of practice and persistence and that’s what makes me happy 🙂

Him, Her and Friend

As I dropped my youngest child off at Kindy today, I had the most wonderful moment. It was wonderful because I saw the connections he was making, I saw another child light up at his words and I got a massive boost to my work-esteem by seeing what I’ve taught get carried somewhere else.

For years I’ve watched children struggle with the concepts of boy/girl and him/her. Just as we’ve finally gotten them to acknowledge that they ‘are’ a name, a word that would have no meaning otherwise, we try to extend on their identity by introducing the boy/girl concept. Once they are happy to claim themselves and their sex (and not all of them are, my daughter was incredibly disappointed to realise that she wouldn’t grow a penis when she was ‘bigger’!) We try to encourage the sexual identity of others. What makes a boy a boy or a girl a girl? Hairstyles, names and colours of clothes are no longer the clear separation that many of us are used to. Our multicultural society introduces us to a plethora of names that trip our tongues and set our hearts racing as we try to get them ‘right’.

In fact, even though it’s a developmental milestone I am ‘meant’ to assess, I simply refuse to encourage a child to learn their last name if I have any doubt that I am saying it wrong. If it was my child, and someone was trying to teach them our family name but butchered it repeatedly, I’d ask them to leave it alone! I see it as a mark of respect for the family that I don’t go there, and am willing to stand up for myself if any accreditator questions me. But I diverge.

I introduce the boy/girl identity through play and group times, in discussions and transitions. It is something that needs explaining and I’m pretty open about that too. Him and Her, I will identify during conversations, using the correct terms as required and letting it sink in. If they seem to be struggling with it, I go into more detail, but it’s a concept that comes at its own pace and I’m happy with that.

‘Friend’ is a word I love. I love to ask someone to deliver an item or pass a message on to ‘their friend, Junior’ or complimenting a group of children with personal statements like ‘Sakshi, I can see you good friends with Akriti, because you are helping her with the puzzle’.  In the past I have used puppets to put on shows for the kids, had them explain what makes you feel good, what it means to be a ‘friend’, how to ask for help or how you can help out yourself. After all, it’s just a word until you give it meaning.

Quinn has being going to Kindy for 2 terms now. We talk about going to see his friends and where he can play and what they can do. We talk about wanting space and how to ask for it. We talk a lot 🙂 So today, when he ran into class and some girls came up to say ‘Hi’ to him, he smiled, looked at me and confidently declared ‘This is my friend!’ The girls smiled and stayed around to chat. As Quinn settled his things in, he showed me the things that were important to him. He showed me the toys and told me what they were for, he pointed out others and called them ‘My friend’, each time eliciting a small smile from the intended person.

When he moved into his favourite space to say goodbye – the ‘Quiet Room’ with books we might read or toy, puzzles and doll houses we can choose and use – he stopped in front of a boy who was rolling cars down a ramp and into a mountain. The boy looked up at us with eyes that assessed the situation to see if Quinn was going to break his play. Once again Quinn announced ‘This is my friend’ and the boy relaxed somewhat. Now he was eyeing me off to see if I was going to overpower this play. I slid in, asked if a piece might connect together, the boys locked them in and now had two ramps with multiple cars and a ‘crash zone’ in the middle. I’m sure it wasn’t designed that way, but that’s how they built it 🙂 As Quinn grabbed a car he said ‘This is my Best Friend!’ Suddenly, the boys demeanour changed. He relaxed and smiled and played with Quinn with a new openness. I can only attribute this change in character to Quinn’s words putting value on the boy. For him to feel accepted and wanted, to be a part of this relationship and not just a participant.

And that is the power of words. Once you have been introduced to a concept, you need to understand it. Even as kids try to understand what being a friend is all about, they know it’s a connecting word. A powerful word. A word that bonds them to another or identifies a place as a buffet of social relationships. Understanding what role you play and how to play it is as important as knowing what you expect from others – and for some of us, this takes decades to figure out! So I reckon anything I can do to help them start the process now, is a good thing 😉

 

After all the ‘nails down a blackboard’ sensations, it was worth it :)

This last week has seen a big push to start our ‘end of year’ gifts for families. Photos taken, frames made, collecting pieces to use in the kids art. Which means that I keep forgetting to take photos to share with you. Ooops.

During the year I made a mixed CD of songs for the kids, including their favourite Justin Bieber song. In fact, the reason I made it in the first place, was because there were often spontaneous outbursts of his ‘Baby’ song 🙂 Unfortunately, in her enthusiasm to get the CD from our room to the room we were all in at night, one of my girls fell and broke it. She’s been asking for days if I could replace it, but I knew I wanted to pick songs that better reflected the kids interests and kept them more engaged as well as extending their language and social skills. So that’s what I did. a new collection of top 40 songs that would bring my class together.

 

As I sat at home, sweating over the lyrics and content, trying to justify to myself the validity of making this mix, versus the bias I hold against this genre of music, all I could hope for was that my awareness of the kids, their families and their lifestyles would mean that this was the ‘right’ mix for them. My kids have shown diverse musical tastes from a young age. Each one responding to a different genre by the age of 1 1/2 that seems to reflect their current characters 🙂 In fact my 4 yo hates listening to what I term ‘kindy music’!

Today was the big day. Justin Biebers ‘Baby’ made it back into my kindy room. As soon as it started playing the dancers of my group rushed over and started their butts a-waggling and their voices singing! We had girls doing some very fancy stuff, boys showing off their hip hop moves and even a couple of guys who managed a sort-of waltz to it! As the next song came on, they asked for ‘Never say Never’, which had followed it on the previous CD but wasn’t included on this one. I was quickly forgiven though, as more top 40 tunes worked their magic in connecting a group of children with similar likes, engaging and responding to music with their whole bodies and language.

I couldn’t help but smile. In fact I believe I was grinning. *This* is what I love about connecting with my kindy kids 😉

I went on holidays for 2 weeks and it was a fantastic break. I know that the girls in my room worked extra hard to share their knowledge of our kids whilst I was away. It’s hard for anyone to walk into a room and truly understand the dynamics of it. But they survived. 🙂 Coming back, I was greeted with hugs and excitement. It really is awesome to feel that connection with the kids, to feel like *I* belong. All those elements of EYLF that we’ve been working on, coming full circle to include us!

I also got to come back on Halloween – which I love! Any excuse to dress up! I’d been on holidays for Diwali,  so wanted to do something different for this dress up day.

I stayed up making paper flowers, a skill which will come in handy for Remembrance Day, and checked out the sugar skull faces from Mexico. Normally on Dress up days, I face paint the kids in all manner of superhero, fairy, animal inspired wonder. But on the 31st I had heaps of requests for sugar skulls 🙂 I felt it was a wonderful direction for my class to take, and they all looked superb as they ran around.

Sharing in the many cultures of the families at my centre just became all-that-more real to me, because I was able to bring a part of my life to them. 🙂