24 July 2018

Spiral of Inquiry: Learning about Oral Language

If you've been following my blog over the years, you will know that I have been a real advocate for Oral Language, especially in the form of Digital Storytelling.

Did you know that kids growing up in poverty hear 30 million fewer words by age 3? The 'word gap' has been a rhetoric in schools for the longest of time. Especially in South Auckland (low-socioeconomic area in New Zealand), however, this article found in MindShift challenges this widely known fact, and states that the study was done 40 years ago with only 42 families.

However, in my new role as new entrant teacher, it's pretty obvious, regardless of the study that Oral Language in our young people is in dire straits! 

I thought I knew about Oral Language, I thought I knew how to foster it, but it seems that I actually need to be more strategic and intentional in the teaching of oral language (how did it come to this?)

So I've read a range of books and watched a number of videos to explore how this might work for my class, and have created a booklet with 20 Ideas to Support Oral Language. At our recent OCoL (Otara Continuity of Learning) we looked at oral language across settings (early childhood and primary school). With my head full of ideas and possibilities I called on a team of people to help me whittle down the key practices and package all of this information into a session or programme in my class.

So our Speech Langauge Therapist (SLT), the Resource Teacher of Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), and the Psychologist met over the holidays to look at a programme. We have chosen to go with "Time to Talk" by Alison Schroeder. It looks like it will be a great way to intentionally teach oral language and create ways for whānau to be engaged too.

In addition to this, I am also enrolled in this exciting opportunity to work with a team of people and alongside Jannie Van Hees who is world-renowned for her work on oral language and vocabulary.

So, there are lots of opportunities for learning this year! I look forward to reporting on this new learning and the impact it will have on my students learning.

10 July 2018

Play in the new entrant classroom

Play in education is not a new concept by any means. My very first job in education (back in 1996) was at a centre aptly named "Play and Learn Early Education", the philosophy of this early childhood service was inspired by Playcentre which began in 1941. From the very beginning of my journey through teaching, I have been immersed in play as a way of being, engaging and learning.  In fact, Te Whariki (Ministry of Education, 1996) demanded that early childhood educators honour this as a valid way of learning in our centres. 
"Children experience an environment where their play is valued as meaningful learning and the importance of spontaneous play is recognised" - Te Whariki (1996)
Recently, we have seen a surge of primary school educators embracing 'play' in their classrooms. The Learning through Play Facebook group has over 7000 educators committed to implementing play in their schools. There's a good reason for this too, as seen in the quote below:
"When children spend more time in structured activities, they get worse at working toward goals, making decisions, and regulating their behaviour, according to a study" - excerpt from Ellen Wexle article here.

So what does this mean for me in my practice? 

The ongoing pressures of assessments, achievement in reading, writing, and math can be overwhelming in primary schools. My gut knows that 'play' is so important for children. However, trying to balance everything out in a day can be so tricky! When I truly let go of the structure and let the children 'play' with no agenda in mind - great things happen!

This article "Why every kindergarten and first-grade school day should begin with inquiry and imaginative play" by Olivia Wahl confirmed my hunch about play.
We must have a mindset shift in this country. A shift from seeing schools as buildings that children attend to understand reading, writing, math, and social sciences to schools as part of our communities where children develop understandings of the world around them and social-emotional skills that will help them thrive and communicate their ideas with others. I truly believe if there is not ample time allotted for our children to begin every day exploring, playing, and building social awareness, we are failing them.
Term 3 will bring an opportunity to reassess my planning and classroom curriculum and look at what will make a difference to children's life-long learning.

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