Kindergarten Developmental Play

Play is a word which often gets dismissed as ‘something’ children do to have fun and is not as important as other KLA’s for Early Stage One. Play is actually something which starts at a very young age but is an essential part of a child’s developmental growth and wellbeing. It allows students to be a part of active learning, exploration, negotiation, risk taking, socialising and encourages students to create meaning of their world.

How does play fit into my ES1 class? From the beginning of the year until early this term, play was part of our morning routine. We would come in, say our prayer, mark the role and then students set off for 10 minutes of unstructured play. This meant that students were able to select what they wanted to play with, who would be involved in their play (if anyone) and what space they would like to use in the room. As all teachers should do, my stage partner and I reflected on the effectiveness of play and discussed the purpose of which we were wanting to gain out of the unstructured play.

Yes, play does assist in the social skills of students although what happens to those students who like solitary play (independent), those students who don’t have effective communication skills or those students who have difficulties with their oral language. On a daily basis, we would have to remind certain students to select another activity as they would only select the ‘drawing table’ or we would place a student with another because they both liked solitary play. Reflecting on these points, it was evident that some changes needed to be made to increase the advantages and effectiveness play can have on young children.

In my ES1 class there are quite a few EAL/D students who come from diverse backgrounds and their first language is not English which therefore impacts on their oral language. There are also a significant number of students who do not know how to effectively communicate and collaborate with one another.

I am sure you are eager to find out what we have changed in ES1 to ensure these skills are incorporated into play on a daily basis so here it is.

We began by playing around with a google document trying to put ideas, information and evidence/ links to the six pillars together in order to see how we could best accommodate for the class. We needed to think about the purpose and what we want to achieve out of developmental play experience.

 As part of developmental play, we decided that for the first few weeks we would structure different activities which would promote team work, collaboration, effective communication and most of all targeting students with their oral language skills. Having two teachers in the class has been amazing and really benefits the students in many ways. Both my stage partner and I work with a small group of students to focus on each day to ensure we model how to communicate and collaborate effectively, encourage students to question and problem solve through tasks. We then record our observations in a separate google document to ensure we monitor each child’s growth over time.

Evidence are also then hyperlinked to the developmental play document with a short blurb of how the lesson went so that we are able to go back and refer to any comments, images or videos we may have as part of evidence. Overall one important aspect which I have mentioned is to ensure there is always a PURPOSE to students learning, even for ‘developmental play’ and continue to act as a role model demonstrating the ways in which we do certain things such as communicate effectively. It is crucial that we remember that students are still learning and have their ‘L plates’ on. We are the educators of the future generations and need to support and guide our students to effectively communicate (oral language), collaborate, think creatively, be innovative, and develop problem-solving skills to assist them with their everyday lives.

Example taken from the first 2 weeks of ES1 developmental play document.

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 8.40.14 pmScreen Shot 2017-08-21 at 8.40.25 pm

Images taken during developmental play 

Screen Shot 2017-08-21 at 8.55.31 pm
Students questioning and describing what they think/feel is inside the mystery bag! Great communication and oral language task!
Advertisements

Ownership of learning…

As a beginning teacher I have had little experience when it comes to reporting on students learning and parent teacher meetings. I can say that I was fortunate enough to have sat in various parent teacher interviews on my practicums as part of my studies. Although when I think back to them, how would I describe them? Were the students involved in the process? The answer is no. Students would arrive with their parents and listen to the teacher discussing the students academic results, behaviours in class and the effort put into their learning. I think to myself, does this put the emphasis back onto the students and their learning?

Being a part of a beginning school has provided me with many amazing opportunities to share my ideas, thoughts and to voice my opinion when it comes to planning, programming, structuring of the classroom environment and students learning. These are only a few examples.

One exciting journey which St Luke’s has embarked, is in fact the changes in the way we report on students learning and how we wish to meet with parents in regards to the usual ‘parent teacher interviews.’ After many discussions and meetings, as a school we decided to follow the path of ‘student led-conferences’. You might be asking, what is a student led-conference. It is a form of parent teacher interviews although the teacher is there to support the students as they take control. This is something, which did not happen right away. There was a process that involved a lot of preparation for students and teachers.

For Early Stage 1 (ES1), my grade partner and I created a document with a few different examples relating to the 6 pillars and next to it consisted of faces. (Students have been exposed to these faces in other reflections of tasks.) As this is a very new concept for the school, especially for ES1, students were broken up into small groups and were guided through the pillar elements together. Students were asked to think back and reflect on their learning and colour in the face which best describes where they sit. (Examples provided in the pictures below.)

Students worked with teachers to find the evidence to support the coloured face and were then photocopied and placed in a folder ready to show to their parents. Some of the evidence wasn’t necessarily found in students workbooks, examples were also displayed though the ‘seesaw’ app, photographs and/or videos. After lengthy discussions, my grade partner and I have decided that we now have a better understanding of the 6 pillars and how they directly link with the curriculum we teach, next semester we will have the evidence uploaded as digital portfolios to all students files. The next step is to have students reflect and select their evidence with less guidance and support from teachers as an ongoing progress for future conferences.

At the beginning of this process if you had asked me how I thought this would work in ES1, I would respond by saying it would be a challenge. I can confirm that yes it was a challenge, but what a wonderful, exciting and purposeful challenge it was. Yes the students needed prompting and reminding of what to speak about next, but it was all the students. The students took control of their learning and discussed with parents their strengths and what they’ll be working towards next to improve their learning. I must say the students did an AMAZING job at their first ever student led-conference!

I believe this experience has helped to shape our students for the better and will only continue to assist them in growing as reflective 21st Century learners and thinkers. I look forward to the next student led-conferences in semester 2!

 

19620037_10156280958475744_429194539_oDefinition of faces to assist with reflecting.

19578551_10156280959070744_748621291_oSelf evaluation of 6 pillars.

19619959_10156280958590744_1861640594_oPrompts to remind students what comes next during the student led-conference.

Expectations of behaviour

During our staff development day to kick off term 2, one of the discussions was based around some of the behaviours we had experienced with students from K-6. We asked ourselves the question of what might have been the main causes or contributors to these behaviours and how can we move forward in a positive way where students learn about the culture of our school. As a staff, it was important that we reviewed how the PBS4L framework has gone so far and how we can ‘develop further consistency around teacher expectations’ to assist in reducing ‘incidents or intensity of incidents’ throughout the school community.

The question is, how do we distinguish and establish what each staff member believes to be a minor or major issue within our school community and how might we deal with these issues which arise?

The key to success in these circumstances means that ALL staff members need to have consistent expectations of behaviours at all times and the way in which we may deal with certain situations.

I think about the students at the school in which I teach and some of the expectations around behaviour. Why is it that the concept of how to act or behave appropriately is harder for some students to grasp? It is important as educators to remember that every student throughout the school have each come from different experiences, various cultural and family values, expectations and prior knowledge of how to act and behave. It is virtually impossible to control how students act outside of school, although as teachers it is essential to ensure that we are prompting, redirecting, teaching and providing students with the chance to make the correct choices at school and hopefully further apply this outside of the school environment.

As mentioned above, PBS4L (positive behaviour support for learning) was something that was looked at during our staff development day to “ensure a consistent school wide positive approach to behaviour management.” We have put our ideas together and created a matrix, which provides examples of our school key values (respect for self, respect for others and respect for the environment). This matrix displays how these key values will be demonstrated through our students and has been unpacked with not only the staff but with the students themselves so that they are made aware of the expectations which will then form the culture of our school community.

Screen Shot 2017-04-30 at 6.47.02 pm

University vs experience

Did university prepare me enough for my future teaching profession?

The first term of the year has flown right by! Whilst Kindergarten embraced their first term at a brand new school, along with stages 1-3 in February 2017, it was my first term of teaching altogether as a new graduate! The question is, did I feel university completely equipped me for my future teaching profession?

I believe the answer is no, university did not prepare me for all aspects of the teaching world. Until you are put in certain situations and experience it for yourself it is hard to know what to expect just by completing 3000 word essays. I believe it is all about the practical experience, which enables us to grow and extend to be the best possible teachers we can be for our 21st century learners.

My first term so far has been incredible, exciting, overwhelming, extraordinary, and exhausting all at the same time. You are probably thinking how can you be feeling all of these emotions at once?

Coming into Kindergarten this year I have experienced many tears, toileting accidents (not just the wet!), challenging behaviours, various learning abilities, EAL/D students as well as lack of sleep. To add to that, I have come into the new world of teaching through ‘agile learning spaces’ all which have helped shape my ideas, pedagogy and ways of thinking when it comes to assisting my students to become motivated and engaged learners.

I have been very fortunate this term to be supported by an amazing grade partner. We work collaboratively every day and most nights to plan and cater for all the needs of our students. There are so many things which I could share based on how we work collaboratively in the classroom and what it looks like for us as teachers and for our students although I am going to save that for one of my future blogs!

I not only have a great partner to work with by my side, I am also grateful that I work with such a great team of colleagues that surround me. Everyday is a treat with the staff members and I feel extremely supported and encouraged. At the beginning of the year a few of the staff members had said ‘no question is a silly question.’ It got me thinking, without asking questions, how do would we learn? How do we grow and extend our current knowledge to think outside the box whilst supporting, guiding and mentoring our students learning to prepare them for their future. I’m still growing myself, and with that, I continue to do so throughout my entire teaching career! Bring on Term 2!