31 March 2015

What they said....Part 1

I am an avid reader of blogs, facebook feeds and twitter feeds. I have had so many awesome things come through my inbox and feeds recently it's time I start chewing these over, digesting them and thinking about the ever important question in my life "So what?".

This post from Solid Ground talks about traditional reports and argues that we may not need them anymore - especially with the  technology advancements in technology. A blog? a website? even a printed out record of in school learning provide a better picture of a child's learning more than any report can. It comes down to being brave enough to make that change I think...

Why play-based learning? by Early Childhood Australia

All really good points and perhaps the following definition offers us a clearer guideline.

Defining ‘play’While there is no one definition of play, there are a number of agreed characteristics that describe play. Play can be described as:
  • pleasurable-play is an enjoyable and pleasurable activity. Play sometimes includes frustrations, challenges and fears; however enjoyment is a key feature
  • symbolic-play is often pretend, it has a ‘what if?’ quality. The play has meaning to the player that is often not evident to the educator
  • active-play requires action, either physical, verbal or mental engagement with materials, people, ideas or the environment
  • voluntary-play is freely chosen. However, players can also be invited or prompted to play
  • process oriented-play is a means unto itself and players may not have an end or goal in sight
  • self motivating-play is considered its own reward to the player (Shipley, 2008)

Play is NOT organised activities...

Great easy read and perhaps something that should be sent to any new teacher starting a new school (regardless of the amount of years experience they have). In my new role as Pedagogical Leader next year I hope to work on ensuring new teachers are supported in their role. This article will hopefully keep me grounded.

Here are the key points from the article:

1. This will get better. 
2. Always work from the heart. 
3. They will remember this about you. 
4. Be open to surprises. 
5. Find a coach. 
6. And if you can't find a coach . . . 

Investigate their questions and build on what their interests are:

Thinking Big Extending Emergent Curriculum Projects

Long, extended periods of play is one of the greatest gifts I can give children....

Emergent Curriculum, Reggio, and Inquiry: Coming to Terms with Terms

Diane Kashin gives a comprehensive rundown of the common phrases: emergent curriculum, project based approach, play based learning and inquiry learning. Perhaps the most profound question in this article is:

"What is the image of the child?" and "how do I understand learning?" Your image of the child influences the day to day interactions and opportunities your children are afforded.  

19 March 2015

Reading and Writing in the Early Years and Research Fads

I keep saying this over and over again (in my head mostly) but I love my VLN (virtual learning network) and my RLN (real-life learning network)! Today I came across this tweet:

“@vango: Ditch the 4G and find your outdoor adventure #outdoors #camping http://t.co/FMgYMU5a4e”

I forwarded this to a few colleagues as we had just had a discussion about the role of technology in children's lives. One colleague sent a link to the article: A Thousand Rivers: What the Modern World has forgotten about Children and Learning. 

So many things about this article resonated with me. I recently enrolled in a PostGraduate Diploma of Literacy Education. I am intrigued about the huge pressure placed on children in their very early years of life to read and write. Frankly, I don't think they need to formally read and write til at least 6 years old but more often than not early childhood teachers feel the pressure to introduce reading and writing to children early. I am an advocate for play and for childhood and am on a journey to understand what the research says about language/literacy learning.

These paragraphs stood out to me:

In the modern world, unless you learn to read by age 4, you are no longer free to learn in this way. Now your learning process will be scientifically planned, controlled, monitored and measured by highly trained “experts” operating according to the best available “data.” If your learning style doesn’t fit this year’s theory, you will be humiliated, remediated, scrutinized, stigmatized, tested, and ultimately diagnosed and labelled as having a mild defect in your brain. 

How did you learn to use a computer? Did a friend help you? Did you read the manual? Did you just sit down and start playing around with it? Did you do a little bit of all of those things? Do you even remember? You just learned it, right?
So, now what? What can we do to ensure we are providing optimal learning environment for young children and what really is important to know at 4 years old?

17 March 2015

Cognitive Neuroscience approach to literacy in Mwandama, Malawi #CIES2015

Why good leaders make you feel safe

Next year I assume the role of Pedagogical Leader of K2. I've been reflecting on the role of a leader and wondering what makes a good one. This video provided me with some great food for thought.

16 March 2015

4MWT - March 2015

4-minute walk through (4MWT)

Teachers observing other classrooms in action in small groups followed by a guided conversation to promote personal reflection and inquiry.
Finding “gems” for you to use in your own classroom practice and using observations as a starting point for reflection and inquiry.

This morning my Collaborative Pod (4 teachers) enjoyed a 4minute walk through on of our colleagues classroom. This year TKS are focussing on professional practice and an open-door culture. Below are my reflections based on the 4MWT.

"So what's some of the learning you're having right now in thinking about the walkthrough and reflecting on data?"
The classroom was set up with lots of inviting learning engagements for children. As our current Unit of Inquiry is "How the World Works" there was a station looking at floating and sinking, a tape and tubes area and block play area set up as well. There was an indoor/outdoor flow with chilren accessing curriculum areas inside and outside.

When walking the walls I noticed the Units of Inquiry clearly displayed with photos and stories about learning that has been happening within the unit.

"So what might you want to apply in terms of your thinking around this walkthrough to your own practice?"
I was inspired by the tubes and tape area and have adopted this in my own classroom. Children have really enjoyed using push/pull/force/motion as part of their hands-on approach to learning about "How the World Works".

04 March 2015

Concept-Based learning

Update: This video and Chris Frosts thoughts can be found on his comprehensive blog here. Well worth a look and touches on thoughts I have had since coming to an IB School.