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. 

Monday, 6 November 2017

Learn Create Share

In today's staff meeting we were looking at how Learn, Create Share has helped bring about acceleration. We looked at one child in particular and focussed on what evidence of acceleration there was. and what particular examples of learning (that implemented Learn, Create, Share) may have supported this acceleration.

My inquiry this year has been looking at implementing  the Quick 60 Literacy Programme and improving Oral Language. In looking at Oral Language in particular many of the children come in with very low skills - operating at 1-2 years below where a 5 year old should be.  There are several components of our programme that have supported the acceleration of Oral Language acquisition. 

We regularly have the routine of sharing in a group of 3. We practice asking a question to a buddy and then the buddy answering using a set language pattern. This modelling and repetition has really had a positive impact on oral language skills. For one particular child his early testing showed that he struggled to say a three word sentence. He could say a dog, and reply to the question 'What colour is the dog?'  by saying black  but couldn't say a black dog. Last week when talking about the bike track said "You have to ride bike carefully." Although his lformation of words is still at times difficult to understand he is continuing to improve in putting his ideas together with more complexity and sharing them with others.

However when reflecting about what impact Learn Create Share has had, I came to the realisation that we could  have been taking this learning further by sharing it online and making it rewindable. Part of the difficulty is needing to manage the children learning these routines, and being on hand to support the process. However despite these challenges it would be good to try to regularly capture what happens in these sessions. I know the children really enjoy seeing themselves on the TV or online, and it will help for them to hear themselves talking. It also will be a great way to record their progress. 

Another way of accelerating oral language is giving the children loads of opportunities to play. Having times where the children can be building, playing with sand, dressing up, making things with play dough, and drawing,  provides situations where the children are being imaginative, sharing ideas and negotiating with others. This all help extend the children's language and vocabulary.  
While I have captured some of these moments it would be good to regularly record this to be able to play it back to the children and share it with family.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Dramatic Play

Here is an interesting article I read today about dramatic play. It is the realisation I have come to  also that giving children opportunities to play in their own imaginative way is great for their social skills, language skills and thinking skills. This is an area I would like to definitely like to explore more next year. I think those experiences would also be a great starting point for extending oral language in the more structured way I have been doing this year.

Monday, 14 August 2017


 A fellow teacher came across this clip about 'Grit' which I found really thought-provoking.
Angela Lee Duckworth,  (a teacher turned psychologist), defines "Grit" as passion and perseverance for long-term goals. Her studies found it was the most significant indicator for success. Although there have been few studies done on it she says having grit is something you can teach.

So should we purposefully be teaching grit considering its impact?

Articles like these make me reevaluate what we are trying to achieve in our reception class. The past term I have continued to struggle with the balance of getting the nuts and bolts of literacy underway with the intensive Quick 60 programme, while also trying to incorporate play-based learning, as well as trying to shape students into the Pt England Way in order to cope with the structure and expectations of classroom and school life their journey here will involve.

It feels that the main emphasis ends up being on shaping in order to have a classroom that is managed  and prepared well but I'm not sure that this is the way to go. In order to undertake the intensive literacy teaching requires the other children to be able to be more self-managing. While having free playing is generally easier in term of keeping children engaged and on track it does need a greater variety of equipment like in kindy and also does little to prepare them for what their school-life beyond the reception class will be like.  So I have tried to have a mixture of structured activities and free choice playing. But some students really struggle with the structured activities. So on reflection it feels that the main lessons I am teaching are that at school you have to do what is asked of you and there are consequences if you don't, and rewards if you do......not really the learning I was hoping for.

Big question. Should we really be having such a focus on beginning to learn the nuts and bolts of literacy when to do so requires so much of the teacher's time and focus? Or should we be putting more emphasis on building things like grit, thinking skills and social skills?

How can I design a programme that achieves the best results and what are these results? What qualities are we trying to achieve and what are the priorities of those qualities? How much emphasis can we put on certain attributes over others which may be to the detriment of others?

Lots of evaluation and discussion needed.