Saturday, 10 December 2016

Playing to Learn

My teacher inquiry this year has delved into Play based learning. I was lucky enough to get to observe Carolyn from Russell Street and her NE roll growth class last week. She has also been focusing on play based learning. 

Carolyn made fantastic use of the outdoor space by utilising the deck and courtyard. A small group were talking about and drawing their mums.

Carolyn was asking lots of questions about what mum looks like, what she was wearing and where she was. All the discussion brought a lot of depth to the pictures and students could describe their Mums confidentially and in detail.  

Another group was using Duplo to build and create a variety of things either independently or with a partner. They chatted away together describing what they were making in a role play type situation.

The last group were enjoying zooming around on the courts on their scooters. It was awesome to see them having so much fun engaging with each other and being active. 

Afterwards everyone headed inside for a shared story 'My Mum' and wrote about the pictures that they have drawn. 

Carolyn gave them support to hear the sounds and had a system of marking using visual images. 

She drew the picture from the sound card

Ticked the sounds they knew, circled the fast words, had a pair of eyes for the focus word and an ear for hearing the sounds in a word. 

As students heard the sounds, Carolyn scribed to support them. Those who could only make lines and squiggles instead of forming letters she called 'Magic Writing.' Saying they needed to explain what they had written as it was magic. This took a lot of stigma away from students not being able to form letters correctly. They felt they could just try and it didn't matter if it wasn't 'right.' She had done a big focus on mindset and the learning pit with them as well to support their thinking in this area. 

She had set up the writing to have particular words and simple sentence starters eg Mr 'ing' to focus on weekly. She incorporated this with her Little Einstein's song on the class blog to practices sounds. 
Having these displayed were a visual reminded of how students could start their sentences.

I loved how Carolyn had set up a learning space with so many visual reminders and play based learning activities to let students express themselves in a variety of mediums. Being active was encouraged as was being a risk taker with your learning. I will definitely adapt some of her ideas to support my writing and ESOL programs next year. 

Friday, 9 December 2016

Engaging Young Writers

This week I was lucky enough to visit Robyn at Russell Street to observe and discuss her writing program. There was some fantastic learning taking place! 

Rob had her students focus on two independent tasks: Lucky dip story and word power. 

The Lucky dip activity involved students picking a laminated picture of their choice, drawing a picture and writing about it. This gave them freedom of expression, encouraged creativity and a lot of autonomy over what they could write about. 

Word power used different sight words around the classroom. Both of these activities would be particularly useful for ESOL and my small writing groups. 

Usually at the beginning of a literacy lesson Rob has students use a whiteboard to write their name and other ideas so they are actively involved in the writing process. They then work on a shared piece of writing in a big modelling book. 

Before starting she likes to warm up with Eric Carle alphabet cards and ask the students 'what letter?' Or 'what sound?' 
She felt that many students lacked knowledge of rhymes and had little experience with nursery rhymes so she incorporates this in her program where ever possible. She also uses songs effectively to engage students and get them to hear different sounds and rhyme e.g. I am Robin, I am Jamie..

After doing the date together she starts to draw a picture and the students discuss it and ask questions, perhaps asking what it could be. These are then expanded on as students write their ideas as well. 

Having a picture on the board to discuss was a successful way to write together. Rob felt a great way to promote positive writing and sharing of ideas was to enlarge the students own writing and then have their peers reflect on it in a small group. 

Their work was then displayed together on the wall. Students felt really proud of their work and the prestige of having work on the wall really helped students to value writing. It had the added bonus of being easily shared with parents. Putting this on Seesaw is also another awesome way to share learning with a wider audience. At the end of the shared writing they have a quick fire writing session using the white boards with a time limit of 2 to 3 minutes. Students were then encouraged to write what they could manage in that time frame. 

Rob puts a focus on recounts and looks at draft writing and reworking to focus on aspects such as word families, chunks, blends, full stops and capital letters. Publishing work is something she felt really was a waste of learning time compared to the learning involved in draft editing. 

The 'perfect person' of the day then wrote some of the ideas alongside Rob. 

I loved how Robin had identified her students reluctance to share their own work but that they were happy to work on their peer's work together. She had also effectively used Seesaw to share her students work with their whanau. I'm looking forward to adapting some of Rob's ideas for my students next year! 


Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Hauora and Play Based Learning

This year I have focussed on play based learning with my Year 1 students. The primary objective was to support students with their learning in a way which also helped their emotional, physical, social and 'spiritual' well being or Hauora. 

Several of the Year 1 students had anxiety issues or outbursts of anger on a regular basis and they needed a way to learn that would help them manage these behaviours. 

The concepts of Hauora in our Health and PE document shows how this can be related to play based learning and supporting our tamariki to work towards a balance and a stronger sense of themselves as learners. 

This Whare Tapawha model by Dr Mason Durie incorporates the 4 areas where the walls of a whare are each supporting each other and working together to provide "strength and symmetry."

It is this strength and symmetry that I am trying to support my students with. Alongside this scaffolding comes concepts of student agency and growth mindset. 

Many of the students would refuse to do certain activities because they believed they couldn't achieve at them or they became angry and frustrated at their limitations. Through a planned play based learning environment with workshops and open ended activities students could begin to learn in an environment where you could try again, have something not work, talk about the problems through role play and then come to a point where learning worked for them. Failing had begun to be normalised. 

The classroom became a calmer and more relaxed environment. Instead of the constant internal banter and monologue play helped them to clear their thinking to a more mindful state. 

Play based activities could be picked to indirectly target behaviour so they could practice through play. Also areas of passion for the students could be targeted and linked to learning through inquiry, literacy or maths. At the same time these four areas of Physical, Cognitive, Social and Emotional Development are focussed on as well. 

Of course there are still challenges and days where activities and play based learning just don't work. From this reflection comes and we can start to work through changes together. Student input into this is vital to their learning. If we can help our students focus this through play and reflection then their Hauora and mindful state will support their learning journey and future challenges that they may face.

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Maths driven through Play Based Learning

My Year 1 Students learning about Geometry through play based learning was my main focus in Term 3. Since working at an IB PYP school I have been particularly interested in inquiry and play based learning. 

My students and I designed a variety of activities for Discovery time together. We also posed open ended questions so they could investigate areas they were interested in. Questions such as: 
What could we make with these resources? 
How could we incorporate these shapes in our design? 
I wonder how we could use these shapes? 
enabled students to develop their wonderings and explore shapes in a variety of ways. They were free to investigate their own and/or other's questions through out the term. 

Investigating shapes and having a 'shape race.'

Designing a mini golf course using different shapes. 

Making a 3D shape marble run. 

Designing shape robots and describing them with the help of our Year 4/5 buddies. 

Our finished products. I love how they are all so different! 

Making different shapes bubbles with our hands and other shapes made from straws. 

Designing shape jewellery with wire and cardboard. 

'Baking' with play dough. 

Making shape 'mood boards' These have a New Zealand beach and outdoors theme. 

Although the students had the freedom to explore I still incorporated workshops to focus on our Junior Team learning intentions. I could then support or solidify their maths learning with rich learning tasks. Embracing their curiosity meant we could investigate shape concepts as they came up through discussion, reflection and sharing. 

I really like this image from uLearn 2016 as it shows the heart of our maths learning this term.
The utilising connectivity came primarily through the class blog but it is something that we would expand on in the future. 

 In particular thinking critically, communicating clearly, working collaboratively, developing creativity and embracing culture were particularly evident during the term.  This is why I value play based learning as I see students thriving in these areas. 

I would love to hear your thoughts on play based learning or maths inquiry. 

Nga Mihi Nui

Monday, 19 September 2016

Giftedness in the Early Years

As part of my professional and parental learning I am embarking on a journey into giftedness in the early years ( birth to 8 years old). I'm looking forward to the challenges and new learning that lay ahead. 

 l would like to focus on changes to curriculum, how to best respond to their specialised knowledge, interests and dispositional learning strengths. I have a particular interest in learning how to support students with emotional issues. 

Obviously there is a huge amount to learn 
and it will be an ongoing process but "It is the responsibility of all early years teachers to engage with giftedness." 

At present I'm using this book as a starting point and initial guide: 

I would love to hear how other teachers are supporting their gifted students or children. So if you are interested in this area it would be awesome to hear about your thoughts and experiences. 

Nga Mihi Nui

Saturday, 13 August 2016

An Inquiry into Maths in Discovery Time

This term I have begun to focus on incorporating Maths concepts, specifically Geometry to begin with into a play based learning format. 

On Friday mornings we have Discovery Time and I have set up 3 or 4 maths based investigation areas. Our first week used art as a base to learn about 2D shapes and experiment with them.

Our first option was to tape out shapes and paint in the spaces, removing the tape when the paint was dry. 

We also used print making with polystyrene containers and 2D shapes. 

Finally we used the story 'The Dot' as inspiration to experiment with circles. 

During this time I asked students to tell me about the shapes they were using finding out what they knew and how this fitted with the Junior Team's maths Learning Intentions. From here I could group the students for Maths workshops. 

This was designed so that workshops would cover areas students struggled with. I would then plan for relevant play based activities to be focused on in the following weeks Discovery time. 

So at the heart of the play was structured workshops, some opt in activities based on need and open ended rich maths tasks which would help guide our learning. 

The following week we focused on using more hands on manipulatives. Firstly making a simple road map in workshops. We looked at the shape names in Te Reo and expanding this concept at Discovery Time making giant roads. 

It was interesting to note that the girls had huge interest and impressive design ability in making the roads and adding features such as roundabouts, traffic lights and signs. In comparison to the boys who enjoyed playing with the roads and talking about driving around the shapes. 

The second choice was making origami animals with our visiting Japanese teachers. The teachers spoke primarily Japanese and the Year Ones spoke to them only in English! Every student was successful in making their design and could easily follow the instructions. They were really proud of what they had produced. 

The final activities were based around experimentation with shapes using blocks, Popsicle sticks and thin cork to make shapes and designs with. 

As we move through the Term we will continue to develop our maths thinking and maths literacy as we make, discuss, design, create and manipulate shapes through play based learning. I would love to see how other teachers have incorporated maths into their play based learning environments, so if you know of anyone or are doing something similar, please comment.

Nga Mihi Nui.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Getting Busy Learning with Busy Bags

A new addition to the play based learning arsenal are busy bags. I've just started developing them to help my 2 year old with certain skills and also to support the areas that he has an interest in and is passionate about. 

Designed to be used for short term play eg 10-20 minutes they have proven to be a fantastic resource for my Year 1 students as well. 

At present I have focused on using recycled, upcycled or cheap items as I like the concept of using your imagination, role play and creativity to lead learning rather than expensive gadgets or resources. 

Here my Year 1 students have opted into a shoe tying workshop busy bag activity. Their first opt in workshop of the year. It was exciting to see so many students recognise this as an area for development and choose this busy bag option for play based learning. 

Part of the focus has been fine motor skill development. As you can see below they all involve ideas, drawing, colouring etc from my 2 year old so he has ownership of his busy bags. 

As teachers we sometimes like things to look a certain way but in reality true ownership is built through co construction. Wonky cutting, crooked lines and scribbles all show that we did it together. The resources are then free to be enjoyed and played with in numerous ways, often in a totally different direction than anticipated, but that's what makes them awesome! 

If it's not possible to play outside due to weather, time or schedule constraints then consider incorporating busy bags into the classroom. Talk with students about areas of development and then develop play based activities to cater to their needs and interests. The only limitations are your own creativity and resourcefulness!