Monday, 22 October 2018

Play-Based Learning

While developing oral language continues to be a focus, this term we have decided to put a greater emphasis on exploring play-based learning.  From observing incidental interactions the children have had with each other while they are engaged in the independent play component of our programme, it has been obvious that there are many positive benefits with play.
Firstly the children are interacting with each other. They are negotiating, sharing ideas, responding to each other, expanding on other's ideas, agreeing, disagreeing, reasoning. In other words, not only developing important social skills but also language skills.
Secondly they are `being creative, such as coming up with innovative and different ways to play with equipment and designing and constructing like with the blocks and sand.

A focus for us now is to try and build on these positive attributes of play and help foster conditions for children to be really developing their thinking skills along with social skills. We are trying to give the children a greater variety of experiences to explore, and looking at ways of focussing their play in particular directions by setting challenges.

We also need to be looking at ways to record their exploring and thinking, in order to revisit their experiences, to help develop their language and thinking more.

Monday, 17 September 2018

Cynthia Greenleaf

Last week I went to the  Collaborative Reasoning PLG with Cynthia Greenleaf.

There were several similarities between her programme and DMIC: The establishment of group norms was important to help create an environment where all children felt they had a voice seemed to be the main one. Having a task where children have to think was another crossover.

In the seminar we were asked to do an activity in groups where we had to look at a picture of an 18th century crime scene, read the accompanying article about it and draw conclusions about what had happened. The most interesting thing highlighted for me was how important it was to have a scenario that was didn't emphasise a single dominant interpretation to help promote discussion, and develop the skill of supporting your views with evidence.

This made me wonder about some of the reasons I have been finding it very difficult establishing group norms in DMIC. The establishment of group norms has felt very teacher-led and forced for me. It hasn't seemed a natural process at all. Now I am wondering if particularly at our level when the problems are fairly simple, that there just isn't the need for discussion. It is trying to force something to happened when the reality there isn't enough depth to allow it to happen.

So my main take-away from this PLG was to try and establish these group norms in a different context, rather than trying to establish them in DMIC. Create some group discussions where children will have ideas to add. Where there are different interpretations so they can learn how to listen to others ideas and share their own but be able to help develop the skill of backing up their views. Then having learnt these skills in more natural and less contrived situations they can transfer these skills into the DMIC lessons.

My next to-do is to come up with some activities to help develop this.

I found the same activity online here.

Nigel Latta's A Curious Mind

Interestingly after having read the article on Mindfulness and Curiosity yesterday I also watched the latest episode of the Curious Mind by Nigel Latta which delved into several of the same issues. In the programme it highlighted schools which have included Mindfulness into their school philosophy and programme. They have found that not only has behaviour and empathy been impacted positively by this but academic success also.

Last year I started after lunch with a simple time to relax or rest. What was interesting was that that the children who had more behaviour issues found this really difficult to do. They just couldn't calm their minds enough to relax. As our 1 class turned into 2 it became more difficult so instead of continuing with it I abandoned it. I am beginning to see now that helping children develop the skill to be able to do this can be hugely valuable.

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Anxiety in children. Can curiosity be a remedy?

Here is a link to an interesting article about a way to try and retrack the transmittors in the brain. For children who suffer trauma or stress too often, their body's response of high levels of cortisol and adrenaline overrides rational and empathetic thoughts. This response can become a well-worn track in the brain because repeated experiences create brain connections. What is needed is to try and make better connections. Here is a possible way to try and help create these better connections.

Think I might try start doing this in our class.

Monday, 20 August 2018

New Focus

Over the past 2 terms in our New Entrant space we have been focussing a lot on how we can get our ever-expanding (space and children) area to work the most effectively it can. In the last holidays we opened up the wall between Rooms 14 and 15 so we now have 3 classrooms joined through openings. We also employed a new teacher Viola Masen to be the teacher for the new new entrants.
We have endeavoured to keep having time set aside for children to play while also continuing to juggle small group literacy teaching and DMIC teaching in maths.

Initially we had planned for quite a lot of mixing up of the 3 classes. We found however that the organisation of reorganising the children took up too much time. Having a new beginning teacher trying to get their head around a more complex organisational structure also meant that for the time being we felt it was better to stay in our set classes more. As time goes on we hope to change this up a bit more as it is really good to for children to have to identify with more than one teacher so they adjust better to change.

On the whole the space works well. It is good having the support of other teachers. Especially as there are often those unexpected occurrence when you might need to focus on one or two children.  It is also great that the children are able to interact with a wider range of children and are able to play with them in the classroom.

As we go forward we need to continue to try share our children across the 3 teachers more often. We need to keep working on developing good protocols for behaviour in our space i.e. noise level, tidying up after themselves, and continuing reinforcing a culture of being kind and sharing.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Keeping in check

Constantly we face the dilemma of juggling the importance of play, (what we instinctively believe and what research has backed) with the expectations of where we need to get children by the age of 6. Observing the thinking, creativity and social skills evident whenever our children are playing continually proves this to me, but still I have to always keep myself in check when I find myself thinking and stressing about what level of reading they should be at, how many words they should know, what they should be able to count to.

Here is a child development expert's views. Well worth revisiting to remember not to over-emphasise traditional formal learning to the detriment of all other diverse areas of learning.

Monday, 5 March 2018

2018 Inquiry - Oral Language

Does having a strong oral language focus affect achievement in literacy and maths for students who come in with below standard oracy skills?

Building on from last year.

One key aspect of trying to develop better oral language last year was having regular tapatoru sharing sessions where the children would get into groups of 3 (knees touching) and follow a format of Buddy A asks Buddy B a question to which they reply, then Buddy B ask Buddy C etc. 

This formalised structure helped listening and repeating skills. It modeled correct language structure which the children then gotto practise. It also modeled the asking and answering of questions. 

It was too set so didn’t really encourage extended conversations. Most children answered with a short, simple sentence. While some could have coped with extending it so it was more like a conversation, others struggled with it as it was.

This year so far
I have been trying to get the basic tapatoru routine going but time has been a bit limited with swimming to get it going well. We have had a go at respoding to someone’s ideas by asking more questions. This means the other children in the group need to listen more actively. Over the rest of the term the aim is to try and introduce more of the Talk Moves such as repeating, rephrasing  and adding on to someone else’s ideas. 

DMIC Maths 
DMIC maths with a strong emphasis on children exploring maths ideas through solving problems and explaining theirs’ and others’ thinking is another good opportunity to develop these oracy skills. At present however it is very much a work in progress in trying to implement it successfully.

Recording Oral Language To Make It Repeatable
I think that one way children can develop their storytelling is through drawing. Allowing them the space and time to draw more extended pictures helps them include more details in their thoughts and stories which in turn means they have more stimulus to talk about in more detail. I have begun to record children talking about their stories. This is also a way of them being able to relisten to themselves talk and share their ideas with others.

Talk Through Play
Through the children’s play  it is really fascinating to see their language develop. Given the opportunity to interract, negotiate, respond to eachother, and be imaginiative, more richer  oral language interrations occur.  It would be good to find ways to capitalise on this more.