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, 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!!


  1. Hi Mel! I am excited to follow this journey with you. I have only taught Yr 5 and 6 (with a one year break with a super awesome yr 2/3 class). To be honest NE scares me - it takes a special kind of person to go there in my mind. However, as I am looking for a new challenge, much like yourself, I hear myself saying to my principal - I could do that. Look forward to seeing what you get up to.

    1. I think my nerves, once the start day was imminent, started to get the better of me. There were times today I was at a complete loss because this is an age group that is delicate. And at times it was total chaos!! If it was a Year 4 class I would have been all over it like wool on a sheep. I had to keep reminding myself that I needed to get down with the kids and play with them and talk with them. After all, it all starts with building the relationships and getting them talking. Thank you so much for your comment.

  2. That sounds so fun, Mel. How many children are you starting with? I'm dying to hear how your first day went.

    1. Hi Nic, I started with ten children today and I believe another two will start before the end of the term. Five have been moved through to me from the other NE class and five started today. We began the day (after the roll) with a powhiri. The senior kids at the school are amazing (which I knew already because I had a ball relieving in their class earlier in the year) and the whole school just sound amazing as they waiata. Afterwards we had an early morning tea. When we went back to class we spent the rest of the morning playing with the toys and equipment. The biggest challenge was the boy with special needs - we have no routines set in place and today was his first day and it was letting it roll out and see how it went. After lunch, we shared about the holidays, went outside for some games, came back in to pack up to go home and then I read them a story until we went down to the gate for bus and pick ups. I was completely shattered at the end of the day between not getting much sleep last night (due to nerves and excitement) and being hyper aware all day. Thanks for your comment. I really appreciate it.