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

Sunday, 17 December 2017

What I have to show for nine weeks for being a New Entrant teacher.

Last Saturday I went to school and put up the last of the children's artwork that I had not yet had a chance to put up.  Sounds strange.... with it being the last week of school and all.... but I only had this class for nine weeks and I wanted to see eight weeks of work on full display before I took it all down in Week 9 to send it home and turn the children's bedrooms into mini art galleries.

Firstly, standing at my desk, I did a panoramic shot of my class.  I had also scrubbed the tables clean of PVA glue, so they are gleaming.

B is for bear and B is for bee.  I'm so proud of the work we did in the first week.

D is for dinosaur.  I got this off Pinterest and was a good one for following instructions and getting things glued on accurately.  Originally we were going to do dragons... but then my cousin, Susan, a long time NE teacher and now RTLit said (after I had done S) not to focus on words that start with blends.

D is for dabbing dots on d.  Another inspired by Pinterest and it got the children using a paint brush in a different way.

N is for numbers.  Another simple idea I got from Pinterest.  It also helps children put numbers in order and practice their gluing skills.  While the examples I saw on Pinterest used capital letters, I focused on teaching the students lower case letters.

T is for turkey.  Again this was an activity to teach the children gluing on and spacial awareness.  T is for tree.  It is important to give the students the opportunity to draw what they see for themselves.  T is for taniwha.  T is for tui.  For these two communal activities we were learning to "colour inside the fence" with crayons and then use long brush strokes to dye the picture.  Some students needed to be taught how to not keep stroking in the same place.

T is for tiger.  We made the tigers from paper plates and I got them to paint both sides as I envisaged them hanging.  We looked at a picture of a tiger when we put it all together and used white crayon before we glued on the black stripes.  We used white wool for the whiskers.

S is for snake.  We started off with the ideas of putting a pattern on the snake.... but these kids weren't very good at colouring patterns that repeat with crayon.... it was a bit above them.  And then we used dye.  I cut out the snakes and glued them on coloured paper and cut them out again.  Then I cut different coloured shapes and after we had done some patterning with beads on thread, and other materials, the children had more of an idea on patterning and were able to make a two colour/shape pattern and glue it on the back of their snake.

S is for sheep.  An idea inspired by a former colleague in 2014, Kimberley, when she was a BT.  Finally found an opportunity to use it.  Two learnings from this: don't make your sheep so big because you use so many cotton wool balls; this would be a better activity when teaching blends - sh.  Thanks for that tip Susan!

S is for strawberry.  We looked at and discussed the strawberries before we drew the strawberries and then we ate them.  Again, this would be a better activity for str.  S is for sweetcorn.  I bought the sweetcorn for our class garden.  We discussed what it looked like and then we drew it.  Again... sw probably would be best for this activity.

This is an idea I got off Pinterest in 2014.  So I made it for my new class in term three 2014.  I did not use all of the cards this time.  I went for a few to keep it simple.

A is for ambulance.  We were visiting by Daniel from St Johns in Week 1 and the following week we were doing the letter A, the short one.  A is for apple  So I made a study of apples.  I purchased five different varieties of apple for us to discuss, examine, draw and colour.  I love their apples.  Then I had also found an awsome apple in an a activity on Pinterest.

G is for garden.  For this one I wanted to introduce the children to using scissors themselves.  So I drew a whole pile of flowers in pencil, gave one of each colour to the students and asked them to cut it out.  I cut out the yellow centre, stalks and leaves, but this gave the flowers a more individual look.  I first got them to draw a flower garden on blue paper using crayon to give this depth.  Then we glued the flowers over the top.

G is for goose.  Another cool as idea I got off Pinterest.... but I was up to after 2:00am cutting out 144 feathers and sorting them into twelve individual snaplock bags so each child would have a variety of colours.  My original intent was to also discuss the various textures of the paper.  But we had some difficulty doing this as two of my special needs students were somewhat distracting.  As you can see we had a variety of individuality in how the feathers were stuck on.

M is for mouse.  Another inspired by Pinterest and getting the students to glue on and be aware of space.  The original Pin uses a capital M so I adapted it to a lower case m.

 N is for nest.  This inspiration came from a staffroom discussion.  So I found some simple birds on Google images, printed them out, gave the children water colour paints to paint their birds and then we went off looking for things in the school grounds to make nests with.  A bit of PVA glue and waahlaa, we have a nest for our birds.

This was delightful to see as we went off to collect nest materials....

D is for dog.  This was our Art & Craft day focus.  We put together all the skills we had been learning for the term:  crayon and dye, long brush strokes for both paint and dye, gluing on, cutting out (they cut out their spots for their dogs).

M is for me.  On the first day of school for the term, I tried to get them to draw a picture of themselves in crayon.  It was a failure.  But later in the term I decided to try again.  So here they are in crayon with dye.

M is for monster.  This activity was all about getting the children to cut out their own shapes.  I was trying to teach them some tricks like folding the paper in half and how to draw the shape before cutting.  I also was trying to teach them how to hold the big side and cut off the small side.  All those things we take for granted when cutting.

L is for lemon.  We had already drank lemonade and sucked on lollipops, so I brought in a lemon off our tree and we looked at it and discussed it before cutting it in half, sniffing it and drawing it.  Later I squeezed it out and we tasted the juice.  Lots of good oral language and very impressive detail of the features of the lemon.

P is for pig.  Paper plates were my inspiration for this.  We painted our pigs pink.  I cut out ears and noses for them to paint too.  We glued on the ears and under the nose is a thick piece of corrogated cardboard to make the nose "stand out" from the face.  White and brown circles for the eyes along with black buttons, and the nose is finished off with two pink buttons for the nostrils.

This is the teachery stuff at the front of the classroom: thinking hats, months of the year and days of the week, colours, visual timetable, the calendar, number of the day and all that.

We made a Christmas tree.

These were our Super Acts of Kindness.  On the last day we took them all down, sorted them and sent them home.

These are the toys I purchased for the play based aspect of my class....

And from the outside of my class, I photographed the plants we have grown this term for the children to take home.  We grew a sunflower plant each and the seed tray has four pea plants and a basil and corriander plant.... that's if all the seeds germinated!

We took regular photos to record the growth of our plants.

This is our class garden.  We planted a tomato plant, marigolds, basil, peas and sweetcorn.  The mint and gladiolus were already in place.

I am so proud of what we achieved in our short time together.  I learnt a lot.  I hope they learned a lot too!!

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

I may be the teacher, but I am on a big learning curve every day!!!

I've been a teacher for nearly twenty-two years, and that is a pretty long time considering we are hemorrhaging teachers at the five year mark in their career.  I've mostly taught between Year 3-8 and I am comfortable having multi-leveled classes.  As I've said in a previous post, my philosophy was that I did not teach students who did not know how to tie their own shoe laces, pack their own bag, blow their own nose or dress themselves.

Which is why a few people, including myself, are slightly amused to see me as a New Entrant teacher this term.

I decided to go for this role as I really liked the school, the staff and the students, and I thought it was high time I stretched myself professionally and got outside of my comfort zone and learnt how this New Entrant teaching thing was done.  Mixed into that, I wanted to explore play based learning as a philosophy.

And boy, am I learning a lot!!

I am the first port of call in teaching these things:
  • sitting on the mat
  • not disappearing out the door
  • coming into class when the bell goes
  • taking turns
  • listening and following instructions
  • how to stick things down
  • how to use a paint brush without going through the paper
  • colouring in between the lines
  • how to cut stuff out
And all of this is before we learn to read or write or master the alphabet!!!

Apart from those old standards of "Walk, don't run" or "Keep your hands to yourself", I've added such stunning phrases to my standard fare as "We don't put the toys/pens/pencils in our mouths" and "Your feet do not go in your lunchbox".  I think I talk too much because I am losing my voice every day.  For my personal health and safety, I will need to find a way to modify my practice to save my voice.

I'm also having a fast learning curve on Autism too.  I've had students with Autism before, but every child is unique and has their own peculiarities, talents, challenges and delights.

I have a wee girl with Autism and sometimes she is willing to do what we are doing and other times I have to try my best to coax her and find ways and means of her wanting to be included.  She gets high anxiety.  Today it was over a spider being in the girls toilets; the other day it was because a certain person looked at her.  Dad and I had a meeting the other week where I let him know the issues happening and got some feedback from him on how they manage the anxiety and other issues at home. 

Sometimes I can de-escalate the anxiety; many other times I fail.  And now she has a taste for fleeing the class when she does not want to do something.  I do not have a teacher aide in the room for her (still doing the paperwork for ORS), so occasionally, when the admin team do not answer their phones, I've had to leave my class on their own to stop her from disappearing down the road. 

So I need to find another way of keeping her inside that doesn't include having to have the doors constantly shut.  Fencing for the New Entrant/Year One classes won't be done until next year to accommodate another student on ORS funding, who is also a flight risk.

I'm thinking of introducing a safe cave for her as she is light sensitive.  But the challenge is in making it a space for her and not having every other child invade it.  I'm also thinking of creating a form of recognition for her participating in whole class activities and staying in class.  I've set up a similar one for two other students who sometimes struggle to show respect and participate appropriately.

Each row represents first, middle and third blocks of learning.  The first box in each block is mat time.  The second box covers any activities we do and Play Exploration time.  The third box covers packing up time.  If I get no issues, the child gets a star for their box.  The child gets a verbal warning if an undesirable behaviour happens.  If the behaviour is repeated, the child receives a dot under the box.  If no further warnings happen, they get half a star for that time.  If they get a second dot, there is no star for that time.  If they get four dots they go to time out in another room.  I photograph this each day as a record.  One child's parent is emailed the photo each day as she wants to monitor in-school behaviour to ensure learning progress can happen.

So I am thinking of adapting this to my wee girl.  A box for mat time, a box for doing the activity, a box for tidying up (she hates that time the most), and a fourth box for staying in the classroom.  Now to put it into action!

The ORS student is in my room too.  I've had an ORS student previously, but again, each one is an individual and has their own challenges and delights.  This student is non-verbal and it is a challenge to find a way to include him into class activities as he is functioning at such a low level intellectually.

I want to explore how we can provide the best learning for this boy as he will never be in a position to participate at any level in a mainstream programme,  I feel that I am not quite equipped to provide what he needs, and neither is the school (despite doing its very best to provide spaces and personnel and support to all involved) even with a special school teacher onsite three mornings a week.  So I want to explore what other options are available to him to grow the potential he possibly has while allowing him to attend a mainstream school as his family wish for him.  So I'd really value any suggestions in the comments.

Over the last few weeks, I've had my CRT days.  This has been really valuable for me.  I've learned about the testing at this level that I've never had to do with older children.  JAM, for example, is new to me, as is how to administer and assess Marie Clay's Letter Identification and Dictation tasks.

But it has also given me the chance to spend time one-on-one with each child and talk to them and learn where they are at, what they know, what their gaps are.  This is great because it then means I have to up my game and change how I do things, tweak stuff, to ensure they are clicking with the alphabet and numbers and sight words and so on.  So I've spent a bit of time talking to the teacher in the next room and my cousin, the RTLit, on how I can do things a wee bit better.

Every day is a learning curve.  What happened well yesterday or this morning may not work during the next block.  The children reacted poorly to hot weather last week and were like wilting plants in the afternoon blocks with barely the energy to sit.  This has been another added challenge and something to consider when planning the day.

I am sure that the next two weeks and four days will bring further lessons for me as the teacher.