More than just play…

To begin our day every morning, Early Stage One have 20 minutes of purposeful play. I have previously written blogs on play and the impact it has on students learning although as term 2 comes to an end I stop to reflect on all the great things that have happened in the classroom and things that could be done even better.

During the 20 minutes of play, students have a large variety of toys to choose from although it is extremely interesting to see the various interest across the cohort. There are some students that LOVE the dramatic play areas and others that love the lego/duplo. The one interest which seems to have emerged as the term went on was something as simple as writing on the ‘whiteboard’ tables. To begin with I was shocked that students were even doing this during their ‘play’ time as it can be difficult to motivate students to write during ‘writing’ time especially the reluctant writers.

We talk about how important play is and how beneficial it is for students development but also how it promotes communication, collaboration, creativity and exploration. The question is why do we stop after the 20 minutes every morning and continue on with the rest of our daily timetable?

There have been many discussions with my team on how we can do this better and what it could look like in ES1. We quickly came to realise that play fits in with many KLA areas and can be incorporated in various ways.

During literacy groups, students can often lose interest very quickly and become unsettled and off task. We decided to try creating relevant experiences for students where they would have the opportunity to learn through ‘play’ during literacy time.

After trialling 4 different play experiences incorporated into the literacy block, I can definitely say how much of an improvement the students have made and the improved effort they are now applying to their learning. Students in the class who are reluctant writers are engaged in the experience and are enthusiastic about their learning whilst the more capable thinkers are beginning to independently extend themselves.

Below are 4 examples of play experiences that have been incorporated in the last few weeks of term 2.

Duplo Animal enclosure 

  • Students chose an animal of their choice and given a 5-minute timer to create an enclosure. Students share their thoughts and ideas with their group. Once the timer has finished, students given a clip board and paper to write about their creation.

Home corner

  • Students take on different roles as part of a restaurant dramatic play experience. Students have been creating their own menus, order lists, pay checks etc

 Doctors Surgery

  • Students create their own patient forms to be kept on file at the doctors! They use the environmental print to support their learning.
  • Students take on different roles to then act out a Doctors surgery (see my blog on … for more information on this)

Weather Station

  • This play area links to our science unit ‘weather in our world’ and has been a great tool to support the learning in both literacy and science.
  • Students use the environmental print to support them in creating their own weather report. Students then take on different roles acting out a ‘weather report’. Students have been working on their oral language skills and have been recording themselves report on the different seasons and the change in weather conditions. They have also been reporting on the types of clothing that needs to be worn.

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This is only the beginning of something very exciting and I am really looking forward to incorporating more play in other areas of our day and sharing the journey with you all!

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Mathematical Thinking

Mathematical thinking, concepts, skills and language begin to develop at a very young age. Exploring through play, everyday activities and classroom experiences are just a few examples of where students will engage in the learning. Mathematical thinking continues to develop and emerge as students explore, investigate, problem solve and make sense of the world around them.

Last week I engaged in a Numeracy K-2 professional learning course where we discussed various addition and subtraction tasks, strategies for counting and the importance of rich tasks with a balanced diet of both open AND closed activities. It is essential to provide students with open ended tasks but it is crucial to also include closed questions where students explore the various ways they can approach a question and the different strategies and methods can may use in order to solve a problem.

When teaching mathematics in the early years, teachers almost always (after a warm up) begin the lesson by explicitly explaining a task whilst taking the time to unpack the question and model an example of how to approach it using concrete materials and recordings. It was stated that students should be exploring and working out the problem before any of the explicit teaching happens. My first thought was ‘how will the students know what the task is asking of them without being shown first?’

Students approaching the task on their own to begin with can benefit them in many ways. By providing students with a problem to solve first and not being the ‘answer key’ as teachers, students will have the time to think critically and creatively whilst encouraging them to take risks, develop curiosity and the skills needed in order to problem solve.

After coming home from the professional learning day, I then went on to research more information about mathematics in the early years and how to best support my students. I came across an interesting TEDx video and although it does not specifically speak to the early years, Dan Finkel discusses five principles of extraordinary math teaching. He shares that mathematical learning and teaching should be approached with courage, curiosity and play. As Dan Finkel talks through the five principles it is stated that we need to be starting the lesson with a question allowing the students to explore first where they are given the time to ‘struggle’ and use some ‘hard thinking’. They then begin to make observations, develop questions, debate and justify their solutions through mathematical conversations.

This then brings me to my next point. The importance of mathematical conversations in the classroom. In ES1, we do a lot of reflecting and talking with peers during literacy and other KLA areas through a knee to knee, eye to eye process. Reflecting is an essential part of a mathematic lesson where students share their work and strategies used but how often are students using ‘talk moves’ during mathematics to extend their thinking…

Examples of talk moves include;

Wait time – Letting the students know that you will be giving them some time to think about the question/answer before asking for a response

Turn and talk – Students share their work with a partner and explain the strategy used. This is a good opportunity for students to then feed back to the class their partners work which encourages active listening.

Adding on – Asking students if they would like to add on any more information to what has been shared.

Revoicing – Clarifying “So you are saying…”

Reasoning – Asking specific questions to encourage reasoning skills.

  • Why do you think that?
  • How do you know?
  • Do you agree/disagree? Why?
  • How did you solve the problem?

Repeating – Asking students to repeat what another student has shared but in their own words.

Revise thinking – Ask questions that encourage students to reflect on their learning/ findings.

  • Did you change your strategy? Why?
  • How did you get to the answer?
  • Have you change your thinking? Why?

Attending this professional learning course has me thinking about my teaching practices and how I can change some things in the classroom to support students mathematical thinking. I will be trying various activities and strategies with ES1 and look forward to sharing the learning journey of both the students and myself.

Play… An interest sparked from an X-ray

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Children are constantly engaging and participating in imaginative play whether it be the home corner, construction area or simply just creating their own play experiences. I have previously written a blog based on developmental play in kindergarten and the positive impact it has on students learning.

To start off our day, ES1 students continue to engage in a variety of play experiences which provides them with the opportunity to develop their skills in the area of communicating, collaborating, and developing problem solving skills.

This term, play was taken in a different direction compared to the end of last year. A student in the class had an x-ray to check whether or not she had a fractured finger and shared the images with the class. Something that adults may see as common procedure sparked the imagination of students and generated a whole lot questions which turned into an evolving inquiry learning experience.

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A doctor’s surgery was set up in the classroom where students take on various roles such as doctors, nurses or receptionists. Just like that, students who are not confident communicators or have difficulty with their oral language are thriving to engage in the learning experience that provides them with the skills they need to develop in an ever-changing world.

The doctor’s area has been filled with environmental print (words associating with a doctor’s surgery) and tools to support engagement of the students and integrates many elements of literacy. Not only are speaking and listening skills evident, students are also exposed to letter and word recognition. This is also then being transferred into their writing.

Through the video link below you are able to see one of our confident readers assisting and encouraging another student with low letter id through a role play experience of the doctor ‘testing’ the eyes of a patient. Both students actively engaged in their roles. What amazing opportunities play can bring…

 

Many questions were being asked and over time have been put around the doctor’s area to develop an inquiry wall. To extend and support students interest, a nurse was invited in to share knowledge of the field, answer specific questions students had around doctors, nurses, hospitals and showed essential tools that are used on a daily basis e.g. a stethoscope. This also sparked further questions such as ‘does a stethoscope hurt?’. The nurse was then able to demonstrate how it is used. New knowledge was gained by students and we were then able to add new words to the doctor’s area e.g.  ‘pupil’

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What a fantastic and exciting way to end term 1! Excited to see what term 2 will bring and the interests that will emerge from the students themselves…

 

 

 

 

 

 

A step into my second year of teaching!

A full year in the classroom and half way through the first term of my second year, I am certain about one thing, teaching does not get any easier. Well not at this point for me right now anyway.

Before I started my career, I was told that if I can survive my first year of teaching I will be ok for the rest of the years to come… In some ways that is true with all the ups and downs, excitement, positive energy and all the learning that comes with being a first-year teacher, although are my ‘training wheels’ really off now that I am a second-year teacher?

I use the term ‘training wheels’ as teaching is like learning to ride a bike for the first time, you sometimes fall down but get right back up and try again. I definitely feel as though my first-year experience has really helped shape who I am as an educator and has led me to go into teaching this year with a completely different mindset to last year.  Although I am in my second year, there are still so many things I don’t know and things I am still yet to learn.

It is important for all teachers who have past their first year of teaching to remember that it is ok to still ask for advice and support when teaching in the classroom. When I am unsure of things or even just wanting some advice on where to next, I know that I can turn to my ES1 team, fellow colleagues and learning coach. No teacher knows everything, although every teacher brings different experiences, advice to give and support to provide. No matter what amount of experience a teacher has, no one should feel embarrassed to ask for help.

This year, ES1 has had a significant increase of students, from 29 at the end of last year to now being at roughly 85 (with the potential to take up to 120 as the community grows and expands). Not only have numbers increased with students in ES1 but has also gone from two teachers to now four Early Childhood and Primary teachers working together to meet, prepare, deliver and evaluate lessons in the classroom.

How do four teachers work together across the stage? There are two teachers in each space with roughly 44 students (being able to take up to 60) and the ratio being more than 1:30. Although there are two teachers in each space, the four teachers make the time most afternoons in order to share and evaluate the way lessons went and prepare for future lessons we will deliver. Communication and collaboration is the key to successfully doing this. We ask our students to do this on a daily basis as part of our 6 pillars of learning therefore we are expected as teachers to also model this through our own teaching and learning. The question is, have we mastered it yet? We work well as a team and work really hard to ensure consistency across both classes although we are still in the process of making this work even better to ensure the best learning for our students.

ES1 team…

We meet, prepare, deliver and evaluate together.

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I survived my first year of teaching!

A few things I have learnt as a beginning teacher

The final days of the year are approaching quickly and as I look back to reflect on the year I have had, the first thing that pops in mind is how fast 2017 has gone by. I survived my first year of teaching in a brand new school, teaching kindergarten yet it feels like I am only just beginning my journey as a teacher.

2017 has been a wonderful experience which has helped shape me into the teacher I aspire to be. One word to describe my experience would be… a rollercoaster!

Late last year I joined the ride of being part of the foundation staff who helped build the St Luke’s community but what a journey it has been, not only being a beginning teacher overcoming many challenges and obstacles of teaching but starting at a school which is only just beginning. I can definitely say it has been a year I will never forget and I am very fortunate to be in the position I am in.

Being a beginning teacher amongst experienced teachers in the profession, I felt as though I needed to be perfect, making no mistakes. I quickly came to realise that if I don’t make my own mistakes and fail then how will I learn and improve my skills? Teaching is messy, but without mess how will I create the craft of teaching and be a unique teacher for my students.

I have learnt that colleagues are friends, we are all at school for the same reason, to teach students of our future. My advice to beginning teachers is get to know your colleagues, don’t be afraid to ask for advice, feedback or even just to chat with. I have learnt so much, shared the delights of teaching and survived all the obstacles that have been passed my way mostly because of the supportive staff I work with.

One of the challenges that I have faced this year is creating a work and home life balance.  As a teacher starting in the profession it is easy to get caught up in the world of teaching and spend a lot of time in preparing, marking, thinking about school and students whilst also creating all the exciting resources! I have been so engrossed and dedicated to my work that I forgot about the balance. I will always thrive to do my best when teaching and completely dedicated to my students but I feel as though any beginning teacher out there needs to remember that limits and balance is essential to a healthy and happy life. I am not saying that you will not work outside of school hours, any teacher can tell you that is impossible but finding that balance is crucial to enjoy the journey of teaching and not burn out.

My first year has been full of memories and amazing experiences which have taught me so much. I look at my students and and how far they have come and it brings me great joy to know that I was a big part of their learning journey and was their to support and guide them along the entire way. Looking at where I began, I feel as though I have grown as an individual but mostly with the confidence in my ability to teach. I still have a lot to learn but I look forward to continuing and sharing my adventures of teaching as I head into my second year.