Learning is....
Planting a seed in our brain... learning to
water, nurture and grow it.... so we ca
n live on the fruit of our learning
and plant more seeds.

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Day Two of being a New Entrant teacher - some early learnings

So I've only been a New Entrant teacher for two days, but I have some early learnings I thought I should reflect on while I remember to do it. 

  • You are hyper aware all the time and need to watch what is happening because things change quickly and it can all blow up (not badly - yet - because we've seen it coming).  Consequently you are really tired at the end of the day.
  • I need to remember to wipe the tables down after morning tea and lunch eating time (spillage!) and keep a supply of spoons in the class for the kids who forget their spoon for their yoghurt.
  • Some children are more happy to talk than others.
  • While the child may have been ok on day one, reality sets in on day two and the tears flow - hence I spent 20 minutes having a cuddle with a little girl this morning until she felt she could get back into the flow.
  • It is important to do things like drawing side by side with the children.  This morning we had a session with the St John Ambulance educator and I wanted the children to draw a picture about it.  Some were not keen, so it took a bit of talking to get them started and sitting down to draw with them.

  • Get them to tell you the story of their picture as soon as possible after drawing it before they invent a new story because they forgot the story!
  • Some kids will not try because they are not experts - so this morning I had a chat with one wee boy about how much he has learnt already during his long five years of life (talking, walking, toileting, getting his own drink of water, etc), and while he thinks he is not good at something, we will end each statement with a YET - I also told him I am still learning how to do somethings too.
  • Packing up takes a long time - and the more stuff you play with the longer it takes to tidy up.
  • Printers hate the new person on staff.
  • You can not get everything sorted for the first week and you need to take it slow and add the achievable in each day, building up what you can do (hence doing the calendar and number work on the board).
  • I can not draw gorillas, rats or zebras.  The evidence is below.

I am however really thrilled we got a piece of work finished today to go on the walls, after a failed attempt yesterday to draw a picture of ourselves (back to the drawing board on that one).  So these pictures and stories went up on the wall this afternoon.  I hope they kids like seeing them tomorrow.

This little guy is my resident artist!!  He gives me pictures everyday!!

This wee girl is only on her second day at school, and she's a sharp we thing for the details.

As the teacher, you have to lead by example!

Don't they look cute dressed up as paramedics?

Sunday, 15 October 2017

It's Term Four and I'm freaking out!!!

Tomorrow I am doing something I have never ever done before and I am freaking out!!!

I am opening a New Entrant class tomorrow.

I've never ever taught a New Entrant class before (except as a reliever) let alone started one!  So I am on a big as learning curve - and hence I am freaking out.

I am doing this because I needed to get outside my comfort zone and try something else and grow as a teacher.  I've taught mostly Year 3-8 students because they fitted my personal philosophy of being able to tie their own shoe laces and pack their own school bags.  So teaching five year olds, brand new ones, will be a challenge.  The first big challenge is giving them enough time to tidy up, pack their bags and get their shoes on at the end of the day to get on the bus and cover their mouth when they cough and sneeze; something I need a "must improve" on.

Term Four is also ideal because many schools find that they need to open a new room and so it seemed like the right thing to do.  The school I am going to knows me as a reliever and I really like the students and staff at the school, so I was very comfortable in applying because I knew the atmosphere I would be in for this very busy term.  I'm also in the class right next to the other NE class with a very experienced teacher.

I know some of the students already which I will be teaching, having relieved in the existing class for a few days recently.  But at least half the class are new enrollments early in Term Four, including a very special needs child - another challenge for me and the support staff.

Looking at the children I will be receiving from the existing class and the data already assessed, oral language is a challenge for them.  So apart from building relationships, growing their oral language will be my focus before reading and writing will be.  To grow their oral language and develop the relationships, I am running the class with a play-based philosophy.

I wrote this in the blog post ULearn16: Breakout Three - Research and Inquiry Symposium: Play and Creativity last year:

Play-based learning is defined by Wikipedia as:

Learning through play is a term used in education and psychology to describe how a child can learn to make sense of the world around them. Through play children can develop social and cognitive skills, mature emotionally, and gain the self-confidence required to engage in new experiences and environments.

I strongly believe in the benefits of play-based learning in the early years of school, especially for oral language and the soft skills of problem solving, working with others, creativity and so on.  My thoughts have their roots in how I learnt as a child, starting school in late 1978, with the influences of Beeby, Tovey and Richardson still ringing in the ears of my teachers in my primary school years.

Lucky for me, the principal and deputy principal who interviewed me for the the position were happy for me to run a play-based philosophy and want me to treat this class like it is the first day of the year to develop the relationships.  I'm really grateful for that, because you can not start learning programmes and expect them to run effectively if you do not have the relationships established.  And part of that is routine as well.

So the exciting thing about starting a new class is setting it up.  And I have been able to go and buy some resources to do this play-based learning thing.  So I did a reccy around K-Mart, took photos of everything I thought might be appropriate, went back and listed it all out with prices to check I was within budget and then took one of my best mates shopping.  She just happens to be an amazing New Entrant teacher with the most amazing play-based classroom set up you have ever seen.  Now mine will be no where near the standard Louise has set for a play-based class, but her insights into the mind and behaviour of a five year old were invaluable.  She even took me to her favourite $2 shop which does "teacher hours" (it's open until 6:00pm each day) which was packed to the gunnels with stuff.  Below is what I bought:

I had to stack it all up on the freezer so I could go over to my lock up, go through my resources for what could be used in a New Entrant class, and pile it all into the car. 

Most of the things I brought are wooden.  I choose wooden toys for several reasons.  Firstly, durability.  Students have a tendency of breaking things.  I'm hoping wooden toys will withstand the use better - and Louise assures me they will.  Secondly, we just have too much plastic in our lives, and I was introduced, by Louise, to the concept of Reggio Emilia which emphasises are more natural approach.  This is the definition found on Wikipedia:

The Reggio Emilia approach is an educational philosophy focused on preschool and primary education. It is a pedagogy described as student-centered and constructivist that utilizes self-directed, experiential learning in relationship-driven environments. The program is based on the principles of respect, responsibility, and community through exploration and discovery through a self-guided curriculum. At its core is an assumption that children form their own personality during early years of development and are endowed with "a hundred languages", through which they can express their ideas. The aim of the Reggio approach is to teach how to use these symbolic languages (e.g., painting, sculpting, drama) in everyday life. It was developed after World War II by psychologist Loris Malaguzzi and parents in the villages around Reggio Emilia, Italy, and derives its name from the city.

As you can see, Reggio Emilia fits in well with the concept of play-based learning.  And so I will be exploring both of these teaching/learning styles over the coming term and learning about how this impacts on my practice as well as the development of relationships between myself and the students and between the students, and how the relationships improve oral language and subsequent learning.  So lots of learning all round for me and the children!!

This is the classroom before I started setting everything up:

Yep, it's one of those panoramic 360o photos where I pivot around to give you the full effect.

My set up was all about finding homes for my things and putting some bits and pieces up on the walls and sorting out the things I splurged on at K-Mart.  I then rearranged some furniture.

The top shelf shows a few of the things I purchased that were not wood.  The cooking set on the left is made of tin.  The cash register is plastic and so is the fruit and veg in the container on the right.

The bottom shelf has several different toys: a floor puzzle with the alphabet; a magnetic fishing game for motor skill development; a magnetic dress-up doll; and magnetic shapes that build things.

I love the car transporter!  I'm also fairly in love with the fire truck, tractor, truck, castle set up and the farm set!

I am really excited about the train set in this container.  I purchased the city version, but I am tempted to go buy the farm version too.  Maybe after a pay day.

I've always wanted a marble run set.  So this is the other bit of plastic I splurged on. 

The containers in the above picture were all purchased at The Warehouse over the last ten years and I have found them to be really good for various activities and storage requirements.

But I do not think this room is truly set up yet.  I need the children in it to try it out for size and it will be rearranged again to suit them and I and the learning we will do.  Also, a significant portion of the class has been set aside for the special needs student.  His needs are very much different from the average five year old.

I'll be reaching out to my PLN (personal learning network) over the next few weeks to check in and ask questions and I will be blogging about the challenges and the learning and successes I may be experiencing.  It's kind of like being a beginning teacher all over again.

Anyhow, it's getting very late and I want to be up super early to get there and start the day tomorrow!!  I'm freaking out and no one ever sleeps well the night before the start of term, especially when it is a new class!!

Monday, 9 October 2017

The Beasts Beneath the Bed - Art with NE classes

Relieving has been a blast for the last seven terms.  I've been lucky enough to relieve in a variety of schools and classes and be creative with the students on the day. 

This coming term I will be going back to fulltime teaching.  I will be setting up a New Entrants class and this is my first time teaching New Entrants so it shall be a huge learning curve for me.

So the next few posts will be a bit of a "I did this while relieving" burst before I start posting about setting up my new class.

So I'm starting with the art I did with two different New Entrant classes at two different schools based on the book The Beast Beneath the Bed, which is a delightful book which rhymes.

Below is the finished product from the first school.  I started these with the class and the teacher finished them off as we ran out of time and I think they look gorgeous.

This is the cover and back of the book to give you an idea about what the book is about.

I wanted these to be as bright and colourful as possible, so I selected a variety of coloured A4 paper.  The children choose the colour they wanted to work with.  With the rest of the coloured paper I cut out an oval shape.  Each child choose the colour they wanted and glued it on.

I then used the scraps to cut out hands and feet.  The goal was for the children to have another colour for the hands and another colour for the feet.  I was amused with where they put their hands and feet.
I then found some red paper for the mouth and cut out a lot of mouths.  I cut out different shapes for noses and a lot of circles for eyes.
As you can see at the top, Gabrielle, the classroom teacher finished them off with googly eyes, material scraps, wool and other bits and pieces to make the Beasts messy looking.
 The ones below are the ones I did at a different school.

 As you can see we used scraps of wool, chocolate wrappers and bits of material.
We started off using glue sticks to glue the paper on, but when it came to the other bits, we used PVA glue as it just works better.

As you can see, some of these students were very creative with where they put the different body parts. 

On this particular day I was quite limited with the paper I had available.  But we did the best with what we had.

It is a really good idea to have everything cut out in advance and to let the students be creative.  No two should be the same and that makes it more fun.
I'm looking forward to trying this with my own NE class this term and seeing how I can improve on it.