teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘peers’

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™‚


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’.Β  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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ™‚ 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 πŸ˜‰


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˜‰

Outdoor Classrooms

Our Centre is not one that can easily support indoor-outdoor play. We ensure a large amount of play time in both areas, but are just not equipped to fully supervise both areas, without putting too much pressure on staff, thereby losing quality interactions with our kids. It’s something we have learnt to work with and although we dream of the centres who can allow free flow between their indoor and outdoor learning environments, we rate the quality of our interactions and supervision higher than that wish.

Which is why I love coming across images like this on the computer πŸ™‚

This shows me that the girls from the other room have valued their children’s interest in water play and have tried to encourage it in a positive way – especially during our colder months! You can see here the old boat run we have. Some of the rubber stoppers have worn away and it is prone to leaking. It has been used for ball runs and water play in summer months, where puddles abound and the kids can enjoy the cooling water on their feet.

The children are actively involved in getting the water moving, using scoops and watering cans to add more water to the track – which extends into the sandpit and disappears until the sand forms walls that push the water further down its waterway. The concepts of maths, science, environmental effects and sharing jobs and space would all have come into play. Not that they knew the words, but they certainly learnt the ideas!

More building and construction to continue the waters flow, working together towards a common goal – not an easy task as any teacher form a two-year old classroom will tell you! This activity was done over the school holidays, so the mixΒ  of 3-4 year olds in with the 2 year olds probably helped with the sharing of ideas and building on the raw concepts. It’s a great activity, I wish I was there to share in the fun! But I’m so glad that this happened while I was away too πŸ™‚ It just goes to show the quality of our team, the pride they take in creating play based learning experiences, and the love they have for our kids! Well done girls!

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 πŸ™‚ 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,Β  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!

Get out the leads and I’ll follow!

Circles are cool! It’s one of the first shapes that kids can master. They’re great for drawing faces and figures, they create the base of many letters, they look pretty and help us enclose things. HAve you noted how children like to enclose things? Creating a space for themself to work on, putting all their toys into a bag, basket or pocket. Enclosing things links to a sense of ownership and appreciation. “It’s mine!” or “It’s mine, for now!”

When we spin in circles, we get dizzy. When we follow circles, we end up where we started. When we draw circles, we need to make the ends join.

These children were invited to help make circles. To mark their progress and join up the ends. Alternatively, they could walk around and around trying to make the circles join, but seeing that their progress fluctuates and try to alter their path to make ends meet.

We used hoops from the “Outdoor Twister” game, tying ribbon to them and tying that to side-walk chalk. The exercise would be better off being repeated with those little, wetsuit, icy pole covers you can buy from Coles (or make yourself from old stubby holders) as they would give more support to the chalk, meaning less breakages.

However, it drew interest and experimentation in its short lived state. Preparation time was next to nothing and could easily be repeated and set up by the kids.

The end results were pretty and I’d love to try this with wet chalk or water paints πŸ™‚

Also, the children showed me a new use for our rings! We’ve always loved our doggy role play around here and today bought in a new adventure, collars! I’ve been wary of the children tying things around their necks, but the hoops are a great size for fitting heads through and escaping from easily. They also won’t bend or tighten to a choking point and make both sides of the dog walking party aware of their limits!

Some dogs like to run and jump,

while others prefer to sit and behave:)

Either way, it’s nice to see the kids respecting the authority they have as the “owner” as well as being able to be led. No one likes a leash to be pulled onΒ  or dragged somewhere. Having people listen to us and use their intuition on our motives and directions is wonderful. But most of all, we just want to get there together πŸ™‚

I couldn’t put it better myself :)

Motivation, sociability, and the ability to work with others: these are the ABC’s and 1, 2, 3’s of a play-based preschool curriculum.

Although this man’s preschool is half a world away, his schema is community based and his environment almost the complete opposite of mine, I find his blog to be insightful, relevant, inspiring and a damn good read. He says things that ring bells of familiarity in me, phrasing them in ways which make me go Aha- yip yip and nod my head in agreement. Just thought I’d let you know that he’s out there, doing the things that we do, sharing his ideas and making the world a better place, one child at a time πŸ˜‰
I\'m pleased to introduce you to Teacher Tom