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.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Cats! Cats!! Cats!!!

Anyone who follows me on Twitter or Instagram may be aware that I have a colony of cats out in the shed.  It is a great ice breaker as a relief teacher because it is a lot of cats.  But I also have a few books about cats and my favourite book is The Diabolical Mr Tiddles, which I have blogged about previously.  Below is the cover and back of the book.

But I always have photos of my cats on hand.  Here are some photos of some of my cats.  These ones are all brothers with the same mother cat, but they come from three different litters.

Rocket Cat - the chosen cat who actually gets to live in the house.

Crunchie Cat - he is the colour of the inside of a Crunchie Bar!

Marmite Cat - a cheeky little sod who should never be left alone with toilet paper!

I had a four day block booked with a Year 2/3 class during Term Two and this gave me  the opportunity to do writing that could be revisited and art to a high standard with this class.

To start, we read the book about Mr Tiddles and then we went and planned the writing of our stories.  Some children had their own cats to write about.  Some wrote about their grandmother's cat or their friend's cat.  Some pictured the cat they would really like to have.  We brainstormed the stories using this brainstorm sheet below which we had co-constructed the day before.

It is not often I get the chance to follow a piece of writing through from brainstorm to drafting, editing and then publishing, so I relished this opportunity and took the time to type up each child's story on completion.  I then emailed the stories to a teacher aide who was able to print them out for me.

Each day we worked on drawing cats as well.  I demonstrated how to do it on the board and the children followed me through step by step.  I demonstrated fluffy cat and short-haired cats.  I demonstrated sitting up proudly cats and lying down cats and walking cats.  I demonstrated stripy cats and cats with white chests and cats with a collamoration (is this a word?) of colours.

This is how I teach the children to draw the sitting up proudly cats.

Step 1.  Draw a triangle for the nose with curved corners.

Step 2.  Draw the 'cheeks' and mouth from the top corners.

Step 3.  Draw the eyes.  Make sure they have points at either end and the black iris in the middle.

Step 4.  I draw the ears.  They need to be above the eyes but far apart.

Step 5.  Draw the sides of the cat's face.  In this example I have done the fluffly cat.  If I was doing a short-haired cat it would have a rounded face.

Step 6.  Draw the top of the head between the ears.

Step 7. Draw in any facial features your cat may have for patterns.

Step 8.  Draw on the whiskers.

Step 9.  For the fluffy cat, draw a fluffy chest.  For short-haired cats with a white chest I draw it it.  Skip this step for a one coloured cat.

Step 10.  Draw the front legs.  Show the toes and put on the sharp claws.

Step 11.  Draw the back legs.  Remember the toes and claws.  Also draw in the body between the head and the back legs.

Step 12.  Draw the tail.  I drew a fluffy tail.  I would make smooth edges for a not fluffy cat.

Step 13.  Finally, between the front legs, put the bottom of the cat in.  After this they can put on any patterning on the body, legs and tail the children deem necessary.

After we practiced drawing cats, at least three times, I gave the students the flash cartridge paper and they drew their cats.  I asked them to draw the cat taking up most of the paper.  I did this for several reasons:

  • I don't want to have to use binoculars to see the cats when they are mounted.
  • They were colouring in with crayons, so I wanted them to be able to have big details rather than tiny details to colour.
  • Bigger is easier to cut out.
  • In the words of the big dude who used to do the advertising for Mitre 10 Mega, "Big is good!"
As you can see below, each cat is individual and each child's own work.  I think they look fabulous and they all have attention to detail when it comes to whiskers and toes and claws... and fashion accessories.

As you can see I cut out each child's story and each child's cat.  I ran out of time to glue them onto coloured paper, but when Paula came back to school, she sorted it all out and it was a pleasure to come into the class a week or so later to see the pictures and stories mounted and hanging up in the class.  The children had worked so hard.

Reading through the stories, I love how the funny little things about each cat are reflected.  The children certainly took pieces of the brainstorm to focus on for them to create a word picture of their cat.

This was a fun week and it was a pleasure to have Paula's class to do some fabulous writing and art.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Tales after two weeks of being an NE teacher

I am now two weeks into being a New Entrant teacher and what have I learned?

I am bone tired shattered at the end of each day!!  Guaranteed I will have a kip in the chair in front of the telly each night and that I will come home full on Zombie-like due to the need to be hyper-aware all day.  My old principal Bob used to say, if you are not dead on your feet on a Friday night as a teacher, then you are not doing it properly.  But I am also going to say that after seven terms as a relief teacher, I'm not match fit for full time teaching yet; I need to rebuild my stamina.

As I stated in my blog two weeks ago, It's Term Four and I'm freaking out!!!, I am going with a play based philosophy in this class due to a number of children with low oral language and the need to build relationships.  There have been times when I have felt a bit redundant or fraudulent, and consequently I've had to push myself to make interactions with the children by engaging in play myself.  This is something I will need to make myself do more: get lost in the play.

I have found that this is also useful for when I have needed to do things one-on-one with students.  They are playing and I can call up the one I need and know that (theoretically) all the others are engaged meaningfully. 

After having the equipment for two weeks, I'm finding some students are getting 'bored' and so I have held back a couple of things and I will endeavour to introduced them over the next couple of weeks to re-inject the interest in play that is waning.

But I also think I need to introduce more structured play and some literacy and numeracy activities because I'm thinking some children may be needing more of this.  How I do this is my next big challenge.

Sometimes, at certain times, I feel like the Count.  And then other times I have them in the palm of my hand.  That's teaching!!

I also have a couple of lads who are challenging me with their behaviour.  One thing I did not miss as a reliever was the feeling of constantly repeating myself to the same students day after day for pretty much the same behaviour.  I am now working with the families to be able to report back about how this behaviour is being managed and how we will change it.  That's a work in progress that could be reported on in a future blog.

We have been successful with a few key things:

  • we are really good at packing up our toys and activities.
  • we are getting better at asking to go out to the toilet and to put things in our bags or to get a drink.
  • we are learning to read the shared big books together and do alphabet and sight words.
  • we are improving with learning the days of the week.
  • we all know that each hand has five fingers and thumbs and the Slavic abacus has five of one colour and five of another colour on each row and we are great at counting to 20 on the abacus.
  • we are making some awesome art
We made these awesome bears below because we were focusing on the letter B.  We also went out to blow bubbles for the letter B and wrote some stories to go with the photos.

We also made bees for the letter B.  First I cut out a bee shape from yellow card.  I cut up some back strips of paper and demonstrated gluing them on.  We used PVA and we put the glue on with our fingers because I want them to learn that paint brushes and PVA do not go together.  Then I hung them up to dry over night on the netting curtains.

The next day, after I trimmed the excess stripes and caught up an absent student, we tried to PVA glue on the pipe cleaners for the legs, antennae and proboscis.  Only one child was successful at getting them all to stick.  Not even I was successful.  So the next day I worked one child at a time to hot glue the legs, antennae and proboscis on.  This was more successful.

We have since glued on wings made of gold cellophane with the hot glue gun.  I've also made a big flower on some cupboard doors and the children have made painted hand prints to make the flower a bit more 3-D and frilly.  Eventually the bees will be buzzing around the flower.  There are photos to come.

Below are the letters we have focused on so far.  I get the children to brainstorm the words with me on the board and then I do them up for our big book to practise.  This sits along side our poem for the word.

A wonderful junior room teacher I used to work with, Ruth Foulkes, always taught even the smallest students big words.  So I am not shying away from big words.  As part of the letter A this week we have watched YouTube videos of acrobats and astronauts and anteaters (did you know anteaters can climb trees?  Neither did I until this week!).

For the letter A we had a big focus on "A for Apple".  I went to New World and purchased five different varieties of apples (which all cost differing amounts) and we spent some time looking at the apples and talking about what they looked like.

Then we sketched the apple with our pencils.  We talked about what colour crayons we would need and we coloured our apples in.

Full disclosure:  this was my picture.

I'm fairly pleased with our first go at observational drawing.

Before Morning Tea we sat down and ate the apples.  I cut them up so that we could all try each variety and see if there were differences and similarities.  We did discover some were more sour or tart than others.

After Morning Tea we made apples out of the lower case 'a'.  I got this idea off Pinterest from a Letter of the Week blog.

This one is mine.  I will do all the activities.  I always have.

This activity got them to focus on listening to and following instructions, looking at models, and the fine motor skills of putting on glue and gluing things down.  Learning how to put glue around the outside and then a cross across the middle is still a work in progress, but we are making progress.  Somethings these small skills are actually the biggest gifts we give our littlest learners - and that does not come through on a National Standard.

I'm going to love these going up on our wall.  Watch out in the next couple of weeks for a blog about our classroom environment.