teaching to learn, means learning to teach

Posts tagged ‘sense of self’

One step at a time

Right now, I’m on holidays. 2500kms from home πŸ™‚ What is hard is that I am so used to being busy and on the go, that I have no idea how to shut down! I have, sort of, settled into a routine where I think about what I could do each day and then try to achieve or complete just one task each day. It’s got me thinking about how much thought and effort I put in to my role as an educator. I have, on average, 20 odd kids a day. I try to ensure that each of those children gets some time with me as well as engages in at least one activity a day. I’m not looking for them to produce works of art or build amazing cityscapes, I just want them to be able to feel a sense of achievement and joy in our environment. After all, if they get that sense they are able to complete things, then they are more likely to strep up to try new challenges πŸ™‚

One thing that I have noticed though, is that parents and families like to ‘see the product of their child’s learning’. Some things require photos, like relationships and social skills. Others require stories, like conversations or ideas. But the one most families look for, is artwork on your walls. Most parents comment on the love their child has for painting, yet they don’t do it much – if at all- at home, because it’s ‘too messy’. Which leaves most child educators with the task of teaching appropriate use, and various ways to explore one of the most enjoyable activities of our daysΒ  πŸ™‚

I love watching how kids interact with art activities. The personality traits they show as they first take on the textures and temperature of paint is so telling of their overall character. I love seeing the tentative curiousity running alongside another’s gung-ho nature. To discover who is ‘clean’ child and who will be putting every toy in their mouth to get a true sense of their world.

Mixing up paint colours. Using cars, balls, sticks or fingers instead of brushes. Exploring wood, canvas, rocks or paper for a base. Vertical or horizontal surfaces, easels or walls. The combinations are endless and even if you are to repeat the mediums used, the children’s ideas and evolution of learning are evident as their interest and skills grow, keeping it fresh πŸ™‚

Hot days and water spray bottles led to our latest art activity. Powder paint sprinkled on the shed wall, children armed with water in their bottles and voilΓ ! Art, science, math, language, connections, discovery and art! Not as messy as acrylics outside, easy to set up and achievements unlocked! Nothing to take home for their families, except for huge smiles, stories, and a willingness to come back and play again!

PS if you are looking for large paper to use on fences or to cover tables, check out your local architects office. They are usually willing to give away rolls and rolls of super-large paper. Printed on one side, perfect for large motor paintings, creating wrapping paper, or cutting and folding into art folders….fantastically useful stuff!


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™‚

Nature and Nurture

For the next fortnight our Centre is hosting a ‘Living Eggs’Β  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 πŸ™‚

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!



There are not enough photos or words to describe the ways in which child care workers and children communicate. From the first moment when your baby reaches out its eyes for your face to that desperate search for its first feed, each and every one of us finds ways to communicate our need for connection and getting what we need. I love seeing the little babies stretching out their toes or their legs towards another baby, telling them they are interested and want to know more about you. I love seeing our girls down on the floor, making communication fun and engaging.

I love seeing children and staff enjoying one on one time, working together to reach goals or sharing a moment that could make the child anxious, but because our staff are their , they feel confident and supported.

I love it when I catch children communicating their enjoyment and ideas through play. When they are left to their own devices, we can see so much learning going on in incidents like this!

Of course our smiles can light up a room and tell everyone how happy we are, how proud of an achievement, how glad we are that someone or something we love is nearby.

That same face can quickly contort to express a range of emotions as well as communicate our intense concentration, interest, thinking or frustrations.

So whatever their bodies and faces are telling us, let’s just hope we are listening enough to understand it!

when you thought I wasn’t looking

There is a lovely poem out there, with many adaptations all over the Internet, called “When you thought I wasn’t looking” by author unknown.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator,
and I wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you feed a stray cat,
and I thought it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw you make my favourite cake for me,
and I knew that little things are special things.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I heard you say a prayer,
and I believed that there was a God to talk to.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I felt you kiss me goodnight,
and I felt loved.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw tears come from your eyes,
and I learned that sometimes things hurt,
but it’s alright to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I saw that you cared,
and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking,
I looked….
and I wanted to say thanks for all the things
I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.

It popped into my head today because I was able to catch some fantastic moments of pure joy, experimentation and learning πŸ™‚

I love seeing children continue on with something after I’ve left. This young man was trying to use the baseball bat on small balls and hitting more ground than ball. So I quickly grabbed a planter pot and a larger ball to create a larger area to aim for and a more ergonomic height. He picked up what steps he needed to do to return the ball and off he went πŸ™‚ It’s wonderful to see children continuing on with something they love.

I soon noticed our climbing frame the happy home of our small balls, with no one in sight.

The mystery was resolved when a few boys trotted over from the tossing game with the last of the balls in their scoops. These scoops came out of a board game that had lost many of its pieces and had to be tossed. I couldn’t bear to throw them out and wasn’t really sure where they belonged, so put them into our home corner. Turns out the kids know how to connect the different areas together quite successfully without me πŸ˜‰

The music pole has being seeing visits from a variety of kids who tend to treat it fairly well. Today this young man took it upon himself to extend his interest in the xylophone keys into creating a drum beat on a pile of plastic stepping-stones.

The next time I looked he’d set up a whole drum kit and was gaining interest from some peers. ‘Twas music for my ears and eyes.

I just realised this post has all boys in it! Considering the class is at least two-thirds girls, I better keep anΒ  eye on how my little ladies are going about things!

Bill and Ted were gurus of their time :)

We all try to make sense ofΒ  our world. I come home each day to hear the stories that my kids bring home from school, whether that be about friends, teachers, tests or things that they’ve encountered. My partner fills me in on all the world news he’s gathered from the internet for the day, then helps me to break it down into manageable chunks of information that we can possibly connect like pieces of a puzzle.

At school, I’m seeing the same thought processes being acted out as the kids play and run and chase and get up to giddy kiddy fun.

Like just how are we meant to chase the ‘Australian Dream’ if the world economy if floating around, falling and popping or flying over our heads, like bubbles on a breeze?

What efforts can we make each day to clean up our environment and ensure we aren’t adding to the mess? What subjects are we sweeping under the rug? What news items are being swept away from our visions and understanding?

If we make silly faces and the wind changes direction, will our faces really be stuck like that forever?

So many conspiracy theories of our recent past have risen to a level of general assumption that they’re the truth. Some conspiracy theories have proven themselves to be valid (like JFK’s assassination) while others are still awaiting scientific evidence to back them up (faked moon landings anyone?) When did we stop looking for answers to opinions instead of just accepting every piece of information the media that we read, watch or hear?

With each turned page this child’s interest was reignited. It wasn’t a story or an informational book about colour and numbers. It was a book of puzzle and game boards. He spent his time tracing pathways and matching steps, following patterns and coming to conclusions.

Years ago the first group of people started working on electronic toys, computers and machines that could interact with us. Today their groundbreaking inventions and mind-boggling systematic thinking styles have been surpassed by the newest apps on phones, upgrades for computers and expecting things to work at the touch of a button (or screen!). I hope that there are still people out there that understand the creative systems behind computers and their ilk, because I for one am not among them. Seeing the intense interest in patterns gives me hope that there will be further understanding and positive development and recycling in the next stage of our computer age.

Sturdy balance boards are like people sized scales. How can we make this go in the direction we want o? How hard will we crash if one side hops off quickly? Can one person walk the length without upsetting the other two? Can one person work this alone?

Life is a series of checks and balances. We all experience fantastic highs and lows that have us curled up in beds with tears streaming down our faces. Many things offer us our strong foundations; family, friends, faith, social groups, self esteem and belonging to the world around us. We can rely too heavily on others for our own happiness, be too ready to pass the blame or dismiss responsibility for events, actions or consequences. Sometimes we need help to bridge gaps and reach goals, other times it’s important to reach goals by ourselves. Sure it’s hard work, but the result can be exhilarating!

From a large box of blocks thatΒ  make animals, cars, buildings and more, this selection of blue wheels meant something to him. I’m not sure why he chose blue, or only wheels, but I know that the process and the sorting and the counting made both him and me happy.

And you know that’s what I want for people everywhere. I want people to feel the freedom to make a choice and not be ridiculed for it. I want everyone to feel a sense of satisfaction from their actions. I would love to see people enjoy their collections of teapots, bells, stamps, stones, shoes or magnets without guilty associations. I would love for everyone to have a moment of quiet contemplation to tally up their deeds for the day and hold them close to their hearts.

If it’s what’s inside that counts, we’d better find out what “it” is!

Originally I planned to write a post about the range of learning and activities we’d been engaged in this month. Our kindy program is running under a “body” theme. I know lots of people don’t like running their rooms under a theme, but I find it helps me to create a frame for our room that gets the most successful learning.Β  I can incorporate the theme into all areas of play, whilst still plan around children’s observations and extend on their skills. However, the further we’ve carried the theme, the more excited learning I’m seeing happen, the more activities, discussions and the more photos I’ve taken. So, it’ll have to be split into 2 or 3 posts (at least!)

We started with the basics, could the children name their body parts? Could they create facial features on a template? Could they use their body to mimic movements? Could they identify what different parts of their body could do? Turns out they could! This meant it was time to up the ante….two of our puzzles shows you the layers of the body, one a girl and one a boy; the skeleton, the internal organs, the musculature, the bare skin and finally, dressed. Taking our inspiration from this and from our body paint activity, we’ve begun delving below the skin.

I thought we’d start easy, with something tangible, something we could see and understand. Our lungs. They breathe, they help us yell, they cough, they help make funny noises and they make our chests move. I’d already drawn up a near-life-sized picture of a child and we used this to identify where our lungs were hiding. We tested out how we could make big breaths and little breaths then discussed how the shallow breaths felt. This lead on to a discussion about exercise, getting sick, asthma and smoking. The kids really seemed to know what they were talking about! Now for the fun stuff! using a large sheet, we created ‘breaths’ by pumping it up and down like lungs.

Then to show how much harder our lungs had to work when they were put under stress, I added a lightweight carpet mat on top of the sheet πŸ™‚ Oh boy, we had so much trouble creating that breeze and all of us had to work our muscles to move it! It really showed the ‘working harder’ concept better than I thought it would!

It did however the lead to one of our favourite songs “My Lovely Lycra”, which was lovely for me, as I hadn’t sung this in ages and for them to remind me of the song was flattering.

During the day, after each ‘body part’ discussion, we’d lay out a particular art activity to extend our learning. Of course, with lungs on the ‘menu’ we did blow painting πŸ™‚

Seeing as I don’t think you’re bored yet, I’ll go on to another body part we looked at. The Heart. We talked about the difference in shape between a ‘Love Heart’ and our own ‘hearts’. We talked about how the heart cleans our blood and pumps it through our bodies. The kids all knew that our blood was red (which was a nice sideline to discuss how even though we were a great range of skin colours, we all bled red…..oh and that the darker your skin tone, the less you can see the veins in your wrists!) and that when you cut yourself, you bleed. But how did the heart move all that blood around? Well, like this πŸ™‚

and this (Balloons are awesome hey?!) By pumping the air from one end of the balloon to another, we were able to see how our heart pushes blood and why it comes in spurts ba boom ba boom.

The follow-up art activity for this was to create people from cardboard shapes and split pins, add a heart and a brain (just so they could have an idea of another organ to go to) then take them over to the tables for painting in veins with red paint and ice block sticks. The lines were fine and encouraged the children to focus on direction and not just smear the bodies, like a range of actors form a B grade Zombie flick!

I apologise, but I have no pictures of the art work, the process or the steps. It was a fully involved, multi step process that had all the kids clamouring for a go! No hands free, means no photos for you but a great time for us! I might take one of where they are displayed in the room and add it as an edit! Sorry about that, but you can’t blame me for forgetting you all when I’m so immersed and engaged with the kids πŸ˜›

Words to “My Lovely Lycra” (note that I couldn’t afford a large piece of lycra, so I’ve used a large piece of stretch knit cotton)

*everyone sits in a circle, with their legs outstretched under the ‘Lycra’, holding the edge with both hands. I usually start with a round of the chorus, sort of as a warm up πŸ™‚

My lovely Lycra can stretch (*everyone leans back, pulling the lycra taut) and relax (*everyone sits up, lettign the lycra go slack, still holding on)

Stretch and relax, stretch adn relax *add movements

My lovely Lycra can stretch and relax, str-eee-tch and re-la-a-a-ax (stretch these movements out longer to match the longer sound)


*shaking the Lycra quickly from side to side

Ching Chinga ching, ching chinga ching, ching ching ching ching

My lovely Lycra can make lots of waves (small short bursts of an up and down movement – no higher than the kids shoulders)

Make lots of waves, make lots of waves, make lots of waves

My lovely Lycra can make lots of waves, make lots of wa-aa-aa-aves


My lovely Lycra can show all the toes (lift above your head and look at everyone, then snap it back down all in the space of “show all the toes”)

Show all the toes, show all the toes, show all the toes

My lovely Lycra can show all the toes, show… all… the… to-o-o-oes


(for an older group, pop a large soft toy on to the Lycra and bounce it up and down with large ‘up and down’ motions, for a younger group, I’ve sewn large buttons on in three places and tied elastic around the body of three ‘beanie’ toys with a loop at the other end to fit around the button – this stops them flying off the mat and keeps this ‘wild’ part of the game fun! 3 buttons for 3 toys to extend the fun!)

My lovely Lion/pets/animal name can play trampoline,

Play trampoline, play trampoline, play trampoline

My lovely Lion/pets/animal name can play trampoline, play tra-mpo-li-i-i-ine