Reflection on the #UoDTransitionEY

 

Phew! After a busy term, I have finally managed to find the time to reflect upon my Nursery Transition experience. I would like to thank all those at my nursery who helped me develop my learning throughout this opportunity. Three areas which I wanted to develop in particular were communication skills with the children, behaviour management and the layout of the space and how it is used.

My own language was an area which I was less confident with going into this nursery experience. I was unsure how to pitch my level of vocabulary so that it was not too complicated for the children but at the same time not developing the children’s learning effectively. I developed this through observation of the other practitioners and how they interacted with the children, I then tried to emulate this in my own practice.

In order to develop this, I had a great opportunity to be able to observe a ‘school group’ being taken, a group of children either interested or about to move into school in the coming year. These sessions focus on a set learning outcome for the children, the group I witnessed were being introduced to the concept of rhyming using words which they know and exploring the rhyming sound through speech. This was really beneficial as I saw how the practitioner engaged these children through her language and musical rhythm of the words, as one child really engaged with the task when an obvious beat was given to the words and so she used this to the groups advantage through keeping the children engaged but also emphasising the rhyming beat.

Another area of communication I developed was my use and understanding of questioning in a Nursery setting. As I have previously said, I was unsure at what level to pitch my questioning. However, through discussion with the other practitioners and observation I have developed my understanding of this. My main development in this area was understanding that it is not as complicated as I made out to be in my head. At the same time, I saw how fundamentally important questioning is in the nursery setting as there is less direct teaching therefore, effective questioning needs to be enhanced in order to help children learn. At the same time, it is through these conversations that practitioners are able to assess the child’s learning, further showing the importance of this to me.kids-playing-blocks-clipart-vector-86312906

It was interesting for me to see how the teachers use behaviour management with the children. At the same time, I could see the importance of explaining to the children why what they were doing was good or bad. At this nursery there is a lot of positive feedback given to children which helps to build their self-confidence and general happiness in the nursery. Throughout my experience I tried to replicate the practitioners behaviour management schemes, congratulating children when they have done well and explaining to them why something was bad. This has further drawn out the importance of language choice and tone in order to effectively communicate what I wish to tell them.

The use of space was an area which I wished to understand better, as within any education setting this is an important aspect to learning. More so, maybe, within a nursery setting due to the concept of free play. I believe this nursery is well organised and through working with the same group each week I was able to see the different rooms and how they were being used by the children. At the start of each session the individual learning groups are in a particular room e.g sand and water, and they get to choose an activity to start on. I thought this was a great way of allowing the children to try different things which they may not play on generally while also giving them the chance to choose what they wish to play on. It was clear to me what the different sections of the nursery were and how they were used by the children. It will be particularly interesting to me to compare this nursery with the one that I will visit in May to see how they use the space.

I have learnt a lot throughout this placement but this is just a short overview of my experience. Additionally, all these aspects are areas which I will continue to develop in my official early years placement in March. I am also excited to see how the children transition from a nursery free-play situation to a more formal classroom environment and how this will affect my educational philosophy.

a8c68272cabce4d65aa84e2f191f8935

First day of #UoDTransitionEY

a8c68272cabce4d65aa84e2f191f8935

Last Wednesday marked my first day going into a nursery placement. During this year at the University of Dundee I and a 7 other training teachers have been given the opportunity to go out into a nursery setting in Dundee prior to our formal placement this coming March. This is for a research project proposed by 3 of my tutors. We will be going into our nursery placement one afternoon a week for 8 weeks.

This opportunity is to help me develop my skills as a practitioner by improving my communication skills through play with the young children and adults at my placement. I am also looking forward to developing my confidence working with this age range as I have had little experience in this area. I was lucky enough to work with Kindergarten children last March on my second year placement in Abu Dhabi and in a year one class during maths in Paris. However, I have never worked in a Scottish nursery setting and it will be interesting to develop my prior knowledge through this opportunity.

I was a little bit nervous heading out to my placement last Wednesday and of course ended up arriving way to early so I went for a little walk around the area before heading into the nursery. I was immediately welcomed by all the staff and given a small tour of the nursery. On first impressions the nursery space is lovely, there are lots of open areas for the children to play in with everything being (apart from door handles to the adult areas) at their height.

Upon arrival the children are able to play until they go to group time which is a quick register and then giving them a choice of activity that they would like to do today (although they aren’t restricted to this one activity all afternoon). They then go to their area and allowed to play completely at their leisure, the outdoor play area I was told is always open to the children and they are able to come and go as they please.

When we went into the free play part of the afternoon I did feel a little uneasy as I have always been in settings where there was more emphasis on a set structure. Even in my time in kindergarten the children were allowed to play wherever they wanted but they had set areas set up and everything was tied into something that they were learning that week (I learnt a lot about ants very quickly there). So to start with I wandered around the nursery not wanting to disturb anyones play, 5 seconds later I was then asked to read “Three Billy Goats Gruff”, my brain immediately went back to my lectures last year about reading in the early years and to the discussions we have had about reading to children in the ESW Book Club. I hope I did a good job!

I then seemed to spend the rest of my time outside doing a variety of things, mainly looking for bugs which was really great. The children were so fascinated to look under all the logs and into the nooks and crannies of the nursery. They got a bug jar to collect the beasties that they caught and investigate them further, once they were finished they gently released them back into the garden.

It was a fantastic first day at placement and since then I have been reflecting on my time there and coming up with questions and areas that I wish to explore further within my own practice. The main area I wish to look at is questioning, throughout the day I was speaking to one of the practitioners about the importance of extending the children’s learning through discussion. I really want to develop my skills at this as although I try and use “Bloom’s Taxonomy” and higher order questioning I am not confident at it. I also want to explore the structure of the day with the practitioners as I am interested seeing how they allow the children to explore a specific topic. But also how they allow the children to experience a range of things, as the children pick what they want to do what stops them from choosing the same thing over and over again?

I am thoroughly looking forward to going back after the October holidays.

Can you teach creativity?

 

This is a question I have begun to ask myself after reading Elisabeth Gilbert’s (the author of Eat, Pray, Love) 11 ways to think smartly about creativity (2015). Creativity is an area which I personally want to develop within myself which is why I initially began reading this article. However, it sparked this question about how to enhance creativity in my classroom. I believe that encouraging children’s creativity is an exceptionally important aspect of education as it is all too easy for teachers to destroy this and something which children may never get back.

Gilbert (2015) believes that “if you’re alive, you’re a creative person.” Through coming to university and encouraging myself to try new things (such as blogging) I agree with this statement, you just need to find the medium of creativity for you. Although, as a child I may not have agreed with Gilbert like I didn’t agree with my music teacher who believes everyone can sing (though I certainly can’t). However, as a teacher I have said very similar things to kids in my class about their creative work.

Ted TalkMy thought process through doing this, as every time I say this I think back to my music teacher, is that I am trying to maintain a positive belief in every child about their own work. Although I know that not all creative mediums may be a child’s forte I think it is important to encourage them to look positively on their work and maintain an attitude of trying.

Colin Barras (2014) concludes his article discussing creativity by stating that “everyone accepts you can’t teach genius” so suggesting that you can’t teach creativity either as amazing art skills are innate within certain people and you can’t create this. However, he believes that developing creativity is more about encouraging day-to-day creative thinking in all aspects of life. Thus suggesting that creativity should factor into every lesson in my class and not be confined to a set lesson time such as art class.

Gilbert (2015) continues this argument to suggest that we need to remove the idea that creativity needs to be perfect and that we need to move away from the anxiety created when thinking that something needs to be perfect and that creativity is something that only ‘gifted people’ have. Ken Robinson (2006) believes that f you are not prepared to be wrong you will never come up with anything original.

This encourages me to develop an ethos in my class which encourages mistakes as I believe mistakes are as influential in learning as getting things right. Although, this is possibly an outlook on life I have developed over time as I have made ‘mistakes’ through my own education. However, as a child all I could see were the people in my class always getting it right, and this discouraged me from making mistakes as I felt that mistakes meant that I was wrong and less able than the others in my class.

Gilbert (2015) further suggests that creativity should be encouraged through curiosity as all creativity begins with an interest in something. She develops this argument to say that inspiration isn’t created within you but actually comes to you, and this is possible through being curious and exploring new avenues.

Education Scotland (No date) have launched a ‘Creative Learning Plan’ developing creativity skills in every child, as this is to prepare them for life and work. They encourage 4 main skills which are applied across Curriculum for Excellence to encourage creativity; curiosity, open mindedness, imagination and problem solving. So suggesting the many avenues which a classroom teacher can use to encourage creative thinking and to change the idea that you either are or aren’t creative.

At the same time, there is an argument suggesting that schools are killing creativity within their classrooms. Barras (2014) suggests that this is due to standardised testing as they encourage children to conform rather than to value thinking differently. Back in 2006, Ken Robinson argued that schools do in fact kill creative spirit. He believes that creativity is as important in education as literacy is, as it is becoming an important skill to have in the work place. Further supporting the argument that creativity should be a core aspect of any school day and curriculum, as children should be allowed to explore their imagination and the different mediums to do this.

Robinson (2006) goes on to state how every curriculum has the same hierarchy of subjects, maths and languages at the top and arts at the bottom. This suggests how creativity can be seen as a less important skill to develop within education as there is not the same emphasis of it in any curriculum model. In some ways it can be seen as a less academically challenging choice to choose art or something similar as an exam subject. Further supporting the argument that testing ruins creativity in pupils as there is more focus on the ‘academic’ subjects to pass at an exam level and entry into further education courses. Maybe this idea about creative subjects is initially developed in the primary school though?

In conclusion, I feel that schools need to nurture children’s creativity through giving them ample opportunity and a variety of ways to express themselves in the classroom and core curriculum. I also feel that an ethos of making mistakes needs to be created within the classroom to encourage risk taking and using a variety of methods to achieve a goal. From this research I would also like to encourage an ethos of doing something for enjoyment than necessarily for the future academic benefit in order to help creativity thrive.

References:

Barras, C (2014), Can you learn to be creative?, (Accessed at: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20140314-learn-to-be-creative) (Accessed on: 2/04/16)

Education Scotland (No date), (Accessed at: http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/learningandteaching/approaches/creativity/about/index.asp) (Accessed on: 2/04/2016)

Gilbert, E, (2015), Fear is boring, and other tips for living a creative life, (Accessed at: http://ideas.ted.com/fear-is-boring-and-other-tips-for-living-a-creative-life/?utm_campaign=social&utm_medium=referral&utm_source=t.co&utm_content=ideas-blog&utm_term=humanities) (Accessed on: 2/04/16)

Robinson, K (2006), Do schools kills creativity?. Available at:  http://www.ted.com/talks/ken_robinson_says_schools_kill_creativity?language=en#t-1138279 (Accessed on: 2/04/16)

An update on my educational philosophy…

We have been encouraged to develop our own education philosophy when beginning this course. At this point in the academic year we are about to go on our Learning from Life placement, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to reflect upon my own educational philosophy and how this has developed over the year.

Last year my educational philosophy agreed strongly with John Dewey’s suggestion that education is a social process. I feel schools provide should provide a broad holistic education to children, going well beyond what can be found in a textbook. I feel that this development in education is as important as the facts and figures which they might learn in a classroom as it provides them with social skills which they can use for years after they leave school. Additionally, I believe that education should be child centred, this is an aspect included in Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), as through the Experience and Outcomes document lessons can be developed to the classes individual needs and so enabling personalisation and choice (Scottish Government, 2008, P26). This option can ultimately develop children’s love for education as they are learning something which is relevant to them and that they are passionate about.

Throughout this year we have looked at a variety of aspects within the curriculum and education system. Through looking into Languages, Maths and Science curricular areas to the history of education and differing curriculums across the world, I feel that teaching is less about dictating facts to a room full of silent children, as it was in the past, and instead it should be more about giving children the opportunity to explore and develop their own learning in a safe and supportive environment. I feel that this allows for more meaningful learning as the children can feel proud of discovering something for themselves and through communication with their peers about it, consolidation of this learning is achieved. This is an idea which is being further explored within Upstart, a campaign to change the starting age of children in formal education from 5 to 7 and instead allow children a greater opportunity to explore the world through play. You can see further reasons for this change on their website at: http://www.upstart.scot/reasons/.

At the same time, we have just completed an interagency module about the importance of working with other professionals and methods which can enhance this but also hinder it. This has developed my educational philosophy as I have seen how important it is to a childs education and welfare when all professionals are working together to achieve the same goal. This has encouraged me to strive for this within my own practice as through this collaborative practice every child can receive the support necessary for them to achieve their full potential. This is an important aspect to think about when looking at inclusion within the classroom, as multi-agency support can help children in a variety of manners. I am interested in furthering my understanding of how to develop this inclusive practice.

For my learning for life placement, I am going to Abu Dhabi and working with a learning support team in a school which follows the American Curriculum. It will be interesting to see how these ideas are reflected through the American Curriculum and especially how they create inclusion of all students.

Copyright: http://www.gulenmovement.us/fethullah-gulens-educational-philosophy-in-action.html

Copyright: http://www.gulenmovement.us/fethullah-gulens-educational-philosophy-in-action.html

 

Too much pressure on children?

Thus

With the introduction of standardised testing in Scotland are we further removing children from their childhood and just instilling the pressure of education earlier. The belief is that these tests will increase attainment in schools. The results of these test will also be published to create league tables for primary schools. However, I feel this will just increase the pressure of achieving and progress for both schools and more importantly children and remove the enjoyment of education for all.

In a recent lecture at university, my lecturer mentioned UpStart, “A campaign to introduce a kindergarten stage for children 3 to 7”. This prompted me to look further into this as our module this year has covered comparative education and in particular we discussed Sweden who have a similar model to that proposed by UpStart. (Upstart Website: http://www.upstart.scot)

Sweden has a different approach to early education than the UK. Primarily their primary education doesn’t start until the age of 7 and instead they have a pre-school stage for 6 year olds. The children also address the staff by their first name, and the staff sit down with the pupils to eat lunch together in a homely environment. I think this promotes inclusion in the classroom as the teacher has the chance to get to know all their pupils, build a class community and a trusting bond together. These are all important aspects of education today and I hope to be able to build into my practice.

Additionally, their classrooms accommodate for children’s play by incorporating a large area in the classroom just for the children to explore through play. I feel that UK nurseries should incorporate this more as it is important to allow children to discover their own learning and interests and be free to be creative and learn through their mistakes in a supportive environment.

sunbelt-cultural

Copyright: https://sites.google.com/site/aninclusiveclassroom/

 

This is what UpStart proposes, to build children’s social skills, language and a solid foundation to then build on in school. At the same time, they suggest that a later start to education can close the achievement gap that standardised testing may increase. In fact Maggie Dent, in her article shows that Australia, who in their previous government introduced formal testing and school rankings, are 5th in the recent OECD rankings for basic literacy and 13th for numeracy. Whereas Finland, who leads this kindergarten approach of starting formal education at the age of 7 and no standardised testing, are at the top of this league table.

These statistics show the potential educational benefits of this system, as children build a strong foundation in which to develop and confident in their abilities before being introduced into formal education. It can also create a lasting enjoyment for education as their is no pressure to develop at a prescribed speed but at one which suits each individual learner.

Furthermore, I agree with her point that as teachers we need to see children as learners and explorers than a statistic and percentage for a particular ranking. Unfortunately this is not particularly possible in our education system today due to the hierarchy of schools to ensure standards of education, from the government to headteachers. This is an important factor to ensure standards of education and to make sure every child is being supported through their development. However, I feel that we may lose sight of what is important due to the accountability aspect of teachers.

Additionally, Dent suggests that giving formal work to young children just increases their stress and so builds early anxiety in the children. Thus potentially further hindering their education as they are given work which they may be unable to achieve and so pressurising the children to achieve rather than allowing them to enjoy their learning. This can also make them very result orientated as we are with exams in higher education thus creating doubt and failure in pupils at an early age and so demotivate them from challenging themselves later on.

I am looking forward to looking further into this idea and finding out more about UpStart’s campaign in Scotland and especially in Dundee.

References:

Heard Article about Standardised Testing: http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/homenews/13610810.Nicola_Sturgeon_announces_standardised_testing_for_primary_pupils/

Upstart Website: http://www.upstart.scot

UpStart Article by Maggie Dent: http://www.maggiedent.com/sites/default/files/articles/TeachersMatter_StopStealingChildhood.pdf

¡Hablando y escuchando en una clase de lengua moderna!

ML

Copy right of Education Scotland http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/resources/0to9/a1plus2approachtolanguagelearning/introduction.asp

Modern language teaching has become a very important aspect of education today. This is particularly seen in the Curriculum for Excellence’s 1+2 approach to modern language teaching in todays classrooms. This approach allows for schools to teach a variety of languages from German and Spanish to Chinese and Gaelic, depending on their resources and teacher availability.

I feel this is a great opportunity for teaching children an additional language at a young age. Although like anything there are potential problems with any scheme. Some of these problems occur through the variety of schools, through size and location, which Scotland has. For example, as highlighted in the video below, one school in the centre of Edinburgh had one teacher who could come into school to provide one hour a week of language teaching whereas in the rural school in Aberdeen the teacher was able to manipulate her timetable as she wished to provide more hours of languages.

ML 2

Screen shot of the video http://my.dundee.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-4364503-dt-content-rid-2420553_2/xid-2420553_2

http://my.dundee.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-4364503-dt-content-rid-2420553_2/xid-2420553_2 

Throughout my personal education I haven grown to love languages and can not wait to be able to pass on this passion to my pupils. I was first introduced to foreign languages in primary school however I did not particularly enjoy the teaching methods of my teacher and in fact she made me quite scared to try and speak in the foreign language. This has influenced me to not create this similar environment in my own classroom and instead foster an atmosphere which encourages pupils to enjoy their learning of a foreign language.

Last week we had our first input in modern language teaching, I specifically went to the Spanish input, where we discussed methods of enhancing talking and listening skills in the classroom. This was supported through my reading of Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School by Kirsch (2008). This reading supported the input through the methods we can use to create a confidence in our learners to speak and listen in a foreign language. The main methods we discussed were presenting, practising, drilling and finally producing the target language.

One of the main aspects that I took away from this input was that a teacher should not introduced the visual word to the pupils until they are able to confidently reproduce this word. This is because when the pupils see the word for the first time they try and apply British pronunciation of the sounds to the word.

Finally, through my reading and the discussions in the input I have learnt ways to present the target language, but also to allow the pupils to practice it in confidence. This will help the pupils to build their confidence of using the target language pronunciation methods as if they make a mistake they are the only ones who know. Some of these methods are using a puppet or introducing the vocabulary through a familiar story or song.

From this experience I am looking forward to further inputs on modern languages.

References:

http://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/images/LearningInTwoPlusLanguages_tcm4-306089.pdf 

Kirsch, C, (2008), Teaching Foreign Languages in the Primary School, London, Continuum International Pub

The Great Tug of War

Copyright of Beverely Naido with illustrations by Piet Grobler

Copyright of Beverely Naido with illustrations by Piet Grobler

*This is an old post that I created in my old blog last year*

While at uni this year I have joined a book club within the School of Education. This is a club where we discuss possible books that we would use in our classes. The first meeting we talked about “Diary of a Wimpy Kid’. We thought it was relevant and engaging to children today but it would be used as more of a lesson about bullying than a personal read for children.

Coming up to Christmas we discussed the differing representations of Santa. As a club we watched the film ‘Father Christmas’ and looked at the book alongside this. Unfortunately, due to the language, we did not feel this book would be appropriate in the classroom. However our discussion soon moved onto modern day representations and why we thought these were so appealing to children. One popular discussion point for us was ‘Arthur Christmas’ as it was a modern take on the theme and that this would appeal to children and their various ideas about Santa. The most fascinating point to me was how meeting Santa in a ‘Grotto’ has changed to being able to Skype him!

We recently met, just after our Christmas holiday, to swap books that we felt we would use in a classroom. I chose “First Term at Mallory Towers” by Enid Blytton as I personally enjoyed it as a child, and as an adult I feel that it has a lot of important lessons for children.

In this book swap I was able to read “The Great Tug of War” by Beverly Naidoo. This was a great book even if, in my opinion, some of the morals towards the end were a little questionable for a classroom. I feel that this book would appeal to children due to the characters and pictures featured in the book. In particular, Mmutla the hare as the children could relate to his cheeky personality.

I felt this book was great because of all the cross-curricular activities you could do with it. The obvious one is literacy, where the children could create their own story using the characters from the book and create their own moral, this would also link into RME. I feel that you could extend this lesson to drama or PE as you could do a creative piece to music reenacting their stories to the rest of the class. This could then incorporate peer assessment as the children could feedback on the different aspects of the piece. You would also be able to include social studies through this book as the author is South African and uses traditional words to name her characters, therefore you would be able to teach about a different culture and the significance of the language chosen.

Overall a great read for teachers and pupils!