teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘communication’

Elephants. What’s not to love?

It never ceases to amaze me that children are so eager to learn! In every interaction, every experience, every routine task and every moment of chilled calm or frenzied playing, there is so much going on that you can’t help but hope that the kids we share our time with won’t ever forget the joy of learning and searching.

I spent a few weeks in the Babies Room recently. This meant I was privy to some of the most joyous leaps of development, as well as an integral part of following up on their interests. I found that the sensory seekers – you know the ones who love to climb over their friends or push at them – could be redirected easier into appropriate play after a quick ‘toss in the air’ game. Setting all those needs for physical connections and movement into adult interactions has been fun! I’d generally follow this up with games of ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ or Peek-a-boo if there were a few rowdy ones πŸ™‚

The quiet ones were seeking their connections through the toy phones, or sharing eye contact before offering a hand to play with. Building trust in the bond we’d share, getting their permission to move in before laying on my tummy in their space and sharing their toys. As with any age group, the boisterous ones would try to join in with my play, effectively locking out the more gentle of play. It takes talent to hold a gentle conversation whilst throwing balls or building towers out of our zone, so that the interactions can remain and be encouraged.

I found that all the babies we have are loving sitting in laps or mini group times to look at books. This pleases me greatly! I hope they continue to find joy in the written word, that their imaginations can be allowed to run wild and that their connections to their life and all that it encompasses will be better understood, because of a love of books.

I found a rather large book with bright illustrations that the babies loved, so of course I read it repeatedly πŸ™‚ The whole thing could be sung jauntily to hold their interest longer too, so we added the song to our music grouptimes!

“One elephant went out to play,

Upon a spider’s web one day.

He thought it was such tremendous fun,

That he invited another elephant to come!”

You can see where this is going yeah? πŸ™‚Β  So lots of re-reading, lots of singing, lots of elephant noises and lots of fun! What better way to extend on this interest, than by putting up a display of elephantsΒ  on to a woolen spiders web and sharing the words on the wall, so that the parents could see what we’ve been doing, feeding their need to know that their children are safe, cared for and that positive thought is being put into their child’s development.

And you know what? Educators Connecting, Children’s Learning and Parental Confidence aside….it was Fun! πŸ™‚

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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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰

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 πŸ™‚

By the time I returned to the sand puddle, it no longer looked likeΒ  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 πŸ™‚ 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 sandΒ  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?’

What’s it like at your place?

My internet connection is having all sorts of dramas at the moment and I am incredibly frustrated by the inability to post up photo stories! So you’ll just have to believe me when I say that I was incredibly proud of the connection I was able to make with this child and so happy that his Mum was able to see that! As a family new to child care, she has many worries of her own, by following up on a conversation with this activity, I hope that alleviated just one of her concerns!

It all started after Mum left and we were having a cuddle whilst discussing what activities we had available in the yard.

My young man and I talked about what he would like to do and he replied ‘I want to make a machine that turns water into food’.

And there it was. My own kids movie watching had paid off. I knew this was a movie reference and was able to ask questions that could confirm this and extend our discussion.

“what sort of food?”

“Cheeeeez Buurger”

“what does it look like?”

“It has a circle on the top and one on the bottom. A place for water to go in and a bzzzzzzz for the cheeeeezbuuurger”

“What do we need to make it?”

“First we need Yellow Paper!”

(sooo lucky that I happened to have yellow paper amongst the colours I’d put out that day!”

I quickly took notes on what was needed then drew a basic picture of the machine as he’d described it.

By now other children were becoming interested in this conversation and we went together to collect collage items so that we could all invent something.

Masking tape, scissors and glue, paper for planning and we had a class of inventors!

My man and I worked on how to connect things together as we created ‘a machine that can turn water into food!’ Facing challenges of height, balance, fit and shapes we managed pretty well to identify everything’s needs and abilities!

I even made him a ‘cheeseburger’ out of cardboard and carpet off-cuts – which he declared ‘Yum’ πŸ™‚

So as I reflect on this connection between home, family and child I feel positive and validated. Watching movies can create positive interactions with those around us, develop thinking skills, help clarify concepts and create opportunities for creative play!


After all, it’s not every day that you can say it’s “cloudy with a chance of meatballs!”

Balancing the load

One of the great things about working in childcare is that you are constantly reviewing your own bias’. We get opinions of experts, we hear from our peers and we share ideals, but when it comes down to it, it’s your own Bias’ that are most important to understand and learn to be flexible with.

Each and every childcare environment should be inclusive of sex, race, belief and ability. We are taught (and learn that it’s best) to leave our play spaces open – if boys want to dress up in fantastic fabrics and role play with dolls, we’re cool with that. If the girls want to get muddy in the sandpit as they dig with trucks or role play with dinosaurs, we’re cool with that. Often more so than the parents.

But children really do have their own agendas, their own favourite places to play. And that’s OK. If a girl is intent on carrying a baby doll with her everywhere, I’m happy with her doing so, exploring and working with her baby alongside. If a boy needs the physical feedback he gets from riding bikes, moving fast, kicking balls, let him have it!

The kids will express to you how they need the environment to change. Through increasingly diverse behaviours we’ll find ourselves wondering “What am I missing?” When in fact it’s the environment that is missing something. The challenges we need to take on are recognising the kids needs, interests and strengths so that we can include these in our daily environment and scaffold their learning with new opportunities.

There are so many educators and journalists have opinions on how to do this, but once again, it’s up to you. Challenge your bias’ on what is appropriate play and see how you can get the boys into the art areas. Rolling cars and big trucks through paint, using Ben 10 colouring in to scaffold pencil grips and skills, using house painting brushes to water paint on the walls and cement, just the tip of the iceberg. Adding materials,dolls, furniture or animals to the block area so the girls can create and learn about spatial awareness and balance.

I know this sounds kind of obvious, but this week I had an epiphany over one of my little men. My classroom has been female dominant for so long that his needs were not fully being met in our indoor environment. How did I not notice this? His behaviours were a form of communication, a connection, reaching out to me to tell me that he needed something more. Now my challenge is to change-up what I’m doing and see how he reacts to it. To watch how he uses the resources to see how I can better suit our environment to his needs.

It’s not going to be quick or easy. in fact, I think I’m going to be getting it wrong a few times first! But that is far better than doing the same things over and over again, yet expecting different results. It doesn’t take Einstein to figure out I’d quickly go insane like that, but he did phrase it well πŸ™‚

Awash in a sea of colour

I love it when the sun shines but doesn’t make us sweat. I love seeing ideas shared between workers. I love seeing smiles on kids faces as they see us valuing their product.

Years ago the centre I was at was going through accreditation and one of the complaints she had, was that we weren’t “respecting the children’s art” enough. Her case in point was that one wall had all the children’s art mounted on different sized pieces of paper and put up in a wobbly line. As opposed to mounted identically and presented straight. Just to be clear. This is not what I am talking about. I’m thinking about how often the children will ask me to take a photo of them, their artwork, their building or a favourite toy. How this new generation recognises that photos are a keepsake, often more so than the art they take home.

I know I try to get the art we do for displays to go up straight away, to show the kids it’s theirs and it’s fantastic and it’s here. If it’s artwork to go home, I want it in their bags as soon as possible to show their families. But it’s not often we get to create the display as the children create the art. Which is why I love fence painting πŸ™‚

I still fully believe in the value of the process, the learning that comes from exploration and repeated use of new or familiar mediums. The up-scaling of skills as kids begin to form pictures or differentiate between colours, spaces and techniques.

These lovely large papers are free from any architects office, it’s printed on one side with building plans (fun for colouring in or map making) can completely blank on the other. We are lucky enough to get rolls and rolls of it from a family at the centre, but I have been known to approach nearby architects to rummage through their paper waste πŸ™‚

As the paintings are declared ‘done’ they are left on the wall to dry and be admired, owned and attached to. They create a gallery of communication in a sea of colour. They make us aware of our own abilities and open us up to ideas from our peers.

In fact, it prompted the idea that we should do this activity in the days leading up to our end of year party so that the parents have something to focus on and our children have something to show off and we have something to ‘prove our worth’ – plus it just looks really pretty πŸ™‚

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 fromΒ  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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚