Ok I have been terrible at updating my blog. It has been a very busy year at school with lots of changes going on.
Anyway, enough of the excuses. I am combining two things I enjoy here- baking and Early Years. In Keighley we are very lucky to have Mike Armstrong, top baker at Sainsburys. He comes into schools and does workshops with children, demonstrating various baking techniques. We recently had a parent and child workshop led by Mike and this inspired us to bake with the children in class. The photo above shows the children’s wonderful loaves of bread. I have to say they are better than any bread loaves I have made at home. Bread is such a good way to get children baking. It is very hands on and the children learn about how the dough changes throughout the process. My children really enjoyed kneeding the bread, building up strength in their arms which will help in other areas of development!
The recipe: http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/10121/bread-in-four-easy-steps
Now it has been a long time since my last blog post. I have been really busy passing my NQT year and setting up for my second year in Reception. I have to say, this year is even better!
I do have a snow day today so I thought I really should do a quick update. I have updated my links to include my favourite Early Years Expert, Alistair Bryce-Clegg. His blog is definitely worth a visit, I have found so many creative ideas on there and I bought his book too.
I have also made some changes to my classroom this year. After reading this book I went for a deconstructed role play area and have not looked back. I now have a challenge area which is great for those times when you have just found that you need to address something such as number formation. I can quickly put something in the challenge area to develop this and the children enjoy using it. I will write more about this when I have some photos. I also have a woodwork area now. This was introduced just last week with the help of my partner in crime (Mrs Taylor). We are both very excited about this area as we are hoping it will develop the children’s ability to take and manage risks safely. More to follow…
Time to go and dig my car out!
Unlike many, I did not have the entire summer holidays to set up my classroom due to delays in building work. I had half a day to set up my classroom. Yes it was scary but I was also very lucky to have been given a new classroom and lots of new furniture to play around with.
My school is expanding to a 2-form entry and my classroom is part of the new reception unit. Our unit is two rooms with a connecting door so that we can facilitate a free flow environment. It’s great to be part of something new and I feel it’s a great opportunity to create an environment that works for the children and excites them. This doesn’t come overnight and is something that will be developed and changed as time goes on. I wanted to share with you some of my favourite pieces of furniture that arrived during my first week.
This is our book tent. It is a lovely enclosed space where the children can go to read and enjoy stories. I have a particular soft spot for it because my colleague and I spent one Saturday assembling it! The children needed some reminding at first that it was a quiet reading area and not a tunnel to run through and after a week we are starting to see this. The books go on the shelving on the outside, maximising the space inside.
This is another great piece of furniture, as you can see, from TTS. We are using it as a small world area at the moment and have put some dinosaurs in as a temporary measure. Once we have some more interests emerging from the children it will change. We have hung some ribbons from the holes in the top which look great and add another dimension to the area. It can also be used as an investigative area as it is a plastic tray so you could put messy things in like cornflour, foam and jelly. Under the tray there are some storage boxes which make resources easily accessible.
There are some other lovely areas in our unit and I will blog about those once we have developed them. It’s still early days but I can’t wait to get properly up and running. The children are staying for their first full day on Monday so we are still settling them in. The next big mission is to set up our outdoor area (that’s new too) whilst finishing the inside! There are not enough hours in the day!
I have been having some input this week about Steiner schools, particularly the kindergarten phase. The Steiner approach is rather different to mainstream schooling in the UK. If you don’t know anything about it then I would recommend you take a look at their website. Today we were fortunate enough to have a visiting speaker talk to us about her experience of working in a Steiner kindergarten. It was very interesting to hear what happens and to compare this with a mainstream early years setting. Here are some of the main points I picked up from the Steiner approach:
- Rhythm and repetition are crucial.
- Children are able to be imaginative and creative.
- All toys and furniture are natural and there are no bright colours.
- Teachers should be worthy of imitation.
- Story time – children are told stories instead of them being read.
- Children’s work is not displayed.
- Formal learning does not begin until the age of 7.
- There is no ICT in a Steiner setting.
Some of these I am more keen on than others, for example I would be keen to introduce children in reception to some of the uses of ICT and it is quite an important tool to me. However the emphasis on creativity and imagination is something I think is very important in early years education.
As this is now my final year at university I am required to undertake a small research project. I realise I in a better position than my friends on other courses who are all doing huge dissertations and in comparison, mine is relatively small. However they have not spent half of their time on teaching practice like me so I feel this is a fair deal 🙂
My research is to be based on a key issue in Early Years education and I am to use the school I am currently placed in. Immediately I think of outdoor learning as the school have just developed their outdoor area for Foundation and this is an area I am really interested in. The only drawback is that I would like to use forest schools as a topic for another assignment and having the same topic of outdoor learning for two assignments is not allowed! I have already made links with forest schools so ditching that would not be an option. So I am now left with another key issue to find that would be relevant to my school. I am quite interested in parental involvement so this may be something to look into. I think the school have also been working on this too so it could be an interesting issue and one that would benefit my classroom practice.
I am going to give myself 1 week to make a decision on this and then I’ll update this post.
Update: (took longer than a week!) I am going to do the outdoor area as the teacher in school thinks this is most relevant to the school. I am allowed to do this too it just means my knowledge won’t be quite as broad as it could be but it will be more in-depth. Now to decide what exactly to focus on.
Early Years Research:
I did come across this site which may be useful for general advice: http://www.researchwriters.co.uk/
What is a forest school?
A forest school is a space within a woodland area where children can learn. Children are given free time to play and they are also given adult-led activities. There are some important qualities that define a forest school:
- Regular visits to the forest, usually once a week at least.
- Use of a woodland setting.
- A qualified leader.
A forest school is a place where children can take risks in a secure environment. The ratio of adults to children is ideally 1:3 to allow for activities that would not be possible in the classroom such as toasting marshmallows on a fire. In all of the research I have done, building confidence is something that has always appeared. This is so important for young children to develop their confidence and to enjoy school.
Why is it relevant to me?
Whilst forest school is for everyone, it is particularly suited to foundation stage children as at this stage their outdoor learning is seen to be just as important as their indoor learning. However the foundation stage style of teaching and learning is being transferred into KS1 in some schools. I am training for the 3-7 age range and have always been keen on outdoor learning since starting my course. During my second year in training I was given the opportunity to do a work placement with the North York Moors Education Team. This was a wonderful experience working with the team educating children around the North York Moors. This experience fuelled my interest in outdoor learning and has led me to study forest schools for my final year in training.
I was fortunate enough to visit a very good forest school yesterday. The first impressions were impressive as the resources they have were great. When I arrived the children had already spent the morning outside and were preparing to go back out again (getting on wellies and waterproofs!). The afternoon was a mixture of child-initiated learning and adult led learning. The children were clearly enjoying their learning as I saw them all happy and engaged. In my opinion this is what learning looks like and if you need to bring children outside to achieve this, then do it is what I say!
I was given a group task at uni to creat a science display on the topic of pushes and pulls. As I am specialising in early years we had to aim it at the ages of 4-5 years olds. We chose to use the story of The Enormous Turnip as a stimulus. The idea of pulling the turnip out of the ground fit really well with our theme.
Here’s a picture of our display:
We used sound buttons to record important questions or activity ideas for the children to do. It’s not perfect and there are things we can do to improve but for a slightly rushed effort (after being stuck abroad due to volcanic ash) we were pretty happy with it.