The End of One Placement

Sadly, my time at Claypotts Castle Nursery is already over. However, it has been a truly fantastic learning experience. I have been able to have a hands on experience of working with early years children which I have not yet been able to do for more than a day. This has definitely made me feel a lot more confident now that I have my two schools for my third year placement. A few of my friends who have not been on the transition programme are slightly worried at what they are to do in the nursery and now having been into one for 8 afternoons, I feel a lot more confident and at ease at what I am expected to do in the nursery when the time comes.

Over the last two weeks, I have began to see the planning in the nursery and how lessons are taught in a play environment. After seeing the plans, the group lessons that the children have at the start and end of the afternoon all link back to the experiences and outcomes. This outcome is chosen by the group leader and they meet this in the same way a teacher would in the classroom – developing an idea that they feel would allow the children to develop to meet the criteria. There are also opportunities for the children to choose to engage in an informal lesson with one of the group leaders. This was so informal as it was through the children’s choice if they engaged in the activity that I was unaware of this happening until the second last and the last week.  On the second last week, one of the practitioners had taken children to make pictures simply using felt which was to meet the experience and outcome EXA 0-02a (Scottish Government, 2009, p.3). The children created their pictures on their felt square with pieces of felt before covering them in water and fairy liquid and rubbing this in to make the pieces stick together. I assisted the practitioner to make notes and take pictures for the children’s observation for the learning journey folders. This was a very interesting opportunity as I was able to see the different abilities that were already prevalent in the children with the language development and ability to take turns and think about others. There was huge difference in the abilities and this is something I am definitely going to keep in the back of my mind for my third year placement.

On my final week, I was asked by a practitioner to work with a group of children to create an experiment. The practitioner had read that if you inflate a balloon indoors then put the balloon outdoors due to the cold weather, it should deflate overnight and if you then take it back inside to the warmth, then the balloon should inflate again. The children and myself worked on blowing up the balloons, only one of about seven children could blow up a balloon, which i thought was pretty impressive for a 4 year old. Before taking them outside and tying them to a tree. The children all had their names on their balloons and were excited to come back tomorrow to see if the experiment had worked. Although, there is not significant learning in this I believe, developing language skills in the children such as using the word experiment and asking them what they thought would happen through closed question ‘do you think the balloon will go down outdoors or do you think the balloon will stay the same?’ is developing their hypothesising skills for science which they will return to develop further in primary school.

Overall, the whole project has been so insightful. I have learnt a lot about how the nursery works. I have been able to see what children are like from a young age and how they can learn through play. I am truly thankful to Claypotts Castle Nursery for having me every Wednesday and my three lectures running the project for this opportunity. This has given me a big boost of confidence and taking away a lot of questions and nerves for returning to a school in February for my third year placement. I would definitely recommend if the opportunity is available to the upcoming years to take it!

 

Reference:

Scottish Government (2009) Expressive Arts: Experiences and Outcomes Available at: https://www.educationscotland.gov.uk/Images/expressive_arts_experiences_outcomes_tcm4-539863.pdf (Accessed: 09/12/16)

The Panda Room

Today was the day when it was time for the twos.

My nursery experience today took me into “The Panda Room” and an afternoon painting and getting messy with the two year olds. There were a lot of difference between being with the two year olds and being in with the three to five year olds so I thought I would reflect on today with a blog.

The first thing I noticed before the children even arrived as how friendly with main practitioner with the two year olds was. This came with two lessons. Firstly, I noticed in myself how at ease I was immediately, Mrs Q*, was easily one of the friendly practitioners I have ever had the experience of working alongside so far. Mrs Q was very welcoming, talkative and wanted to know all about my experience of teaching and being at nursery. This made me realise how much easier having/being someone like Mrs Q can make these experience of coming into a unfamiliar environment, both a new place and a new teaching experience, for a student teacher. When the children came in, Mrs Q was exactly the type of practitioner the two year olds needed. She was calm, relaxed and spoke so slowly and well pronounced that it was an easy transition for the children coming away from their parents into the nursery.

The Panda room can have up to ten children in it but there were only three girls and one boy in today which meant there were three practitioners as well as myself in with the children which meant we had a one to one basis with the children. This meant that the atmosphere in the Panda Room compared to the 3-5’s room was automatically more relaxed. There were a few differences in the Panda Room, mainly the children did not come straight into group time for registration. This could be because there are less children and therefore there isn’t a need for the register but it allowed the children to come in and just get straight into playing with no formalities such as a set group activity like in the 3-5’s room and in a primary class room. This made me realise that the two year olds are just too young to be coming into nursery to partake in formalities such as these and they are at nursery purely for the play and social interaction with other children.

One of the critical things I noticed whilst in the Panda Room was that there were huge developmental differences in the two year olds to the 3-5 year olds that I have been working with normally at nursery. Normally with the 3-5 year olds – they are able to verbally communicate and many are using their words in full sentences. However, in the Panda Room, the two year olds have very limited words. The children have observation books where any progress in their language and communication is written down, for example one of the children was able to repeat ‘bananas’ and ‘apples’ whilst playing and this was noted in her observation book. This was one of the biggest difference in the two rooms and one of the hardest for myself to get my own head around. I noticed that I had totally changed when I was working with the two year olds for the first half an hour or so. I had realised that because the children weren’t communication through words then I also went a lot more quiet. As soon as I realised this in myself, I told myself to snap out of it. Just because the two year olds have limited words does not mean that I then as a twenty year old also go quiet. I knew that I should be doing the opposite and modelling words and expressions for the children to copy and learn, therefore this is what I tried to do for the rest of the afternoon.

Another key difference I picked up on in the two year olds were just how egocentric they were. Everything was about themselves; they were reluctant to share and play together. They also took a lot longer to process things. The children took a lot longer to come to terms with me being in the nursery. However, one of the children who initially would not even let me touch them or help her put on her coat and do up her shirt sleeve. By the end of day when her mum came to collect her, she ran up to me and gave me a cuddle goodbye which was an amazing feeling that the child had accepted me and her presence in the nursery.

*I have decided not to name anyone in these blogs as I have not asked for permission from the individuals to be included in my blog.

Outdoor play in Early Years

For my second week back at nursery, I was asked to spend my afternoon outdoors. This request was met by my delight at the chance to have a look into some more learning in the outdoor particularly as this is an age that I have had no experience working outdoors with.

In the nursery there are no set lessons or plans for the children and they are free to play how they want, it was a chance to see what the children would do with their outdoor free play opportunities. Due to the fact that parents in this contemporary society are trying to protect their children as best as possible, this unfortunately means that children are not getting the opportunities to “exercise their bodies or to encounter the excitement and challenges of the outdoors. As a consequence an increasing number of children have weight problems. Current figures suggest that 22.9 per cent of four- and five-year-olds are either overweight or obese” (Dowling, 2010, p.172-3).

Whilst I was outside with the other practitioner, Mrs H, we got chatting about the limitations of outdoor play in the primary setting. Mrs H and myself discussed the fact that the children whilst in nursery had the choice to play outdoors in all weather conditions and the nursery practitioners had no choice but to be outdoors as well in all conditions. The only thing the children were told on this particular day was that they had to have a jacket on to play outside. However, on the other side of a fence, life for the children in the primary school was much different. Children were running round in the cold without jackets on but the minute the slightest bit of rain came on, the children were ushered indoors for the last ten minutes of lunch break. This is very common primary schools. It is almost as if teachers are worried of children getting cold whereas from what I can remember as a child as well as from the experience I had today, children tend to want to be outside regardless of the weather conditions. It was really important for me to see the difference between the nurseries practice and the primary stage practice.

This made me reflect on the idea of learning in the outdoors and the fact that the majority of teachers, regardless of this being a vital part of the CfE, only viewing outdoor education as a one of lesson when the weather is nice.  However, as the nursery children proved to me – they do not care what the weather is like, as long as they are having fun, enjoying themselves and getting to play, they are more than happy to be outdoors in the rain. Robertson (2014) stated weather as one of the common reasons that teachers worry about before they start outdoor learning. This should not be a worry for teachers as on my Learning from Life placement with Adventure Aberdeen there was not a single session we considered cancelling due to the weather – the students were just equipped by the centre with appropriate clothing for the activity and weather. Therefore, when teachers are planning for an outdoor education lesson, they should advise parents in advance that the class will be going outdoors and that children will need the appropriate clothing for this and remind them we are in Scotland. Teachers also need a degree of flexibility when planning for learning outdoors as Robertson (2014) suggests as the weather may not allow for one activity but this does not mean the lesson should be cancelled but simply adapted to fit with the weather

With weather, I have experienced both extremes whilst at camp and whilst on placement. As already stated on placement, the children were out in all weather conditions from sunny days in the sea to snow sand sledging. However, at camp, the as soon as it rained – in a little bit – the children’s activities were changed from normal schedule to rainy day schedule. This meant that the children were kept indoors even when it was just drizzling. You could tell from the children that this was frustrating for them as they looked forward to the activities they had selected and these were often cancelled, normally these days were back to back. In my views, if Scandinavians countries can have children out in all weathers and this clearly has an impact on their children’s wellbeing and education then we should follow the lead of Adventure Aberdeen and the Scandinavian countries and try to get our children out in all weather conditions.  In contrast to the nursery and the primary setting this is two extremes on the scale although it rather remarkably shows the same point – a little bit of rain can totally hinder the joy the children are having outdoors.

Children, in my view, should, like in the nursery, have the opportunity to have their voice heard and make decisions for themselves as to whether or not during their free play time they would like to stay outdoors in any weather, as long as they have appropriate clothing for the weather on, or if they would prefer to go inside. I understand that this is not always possible as the children need to be supervised and this would be stretching the playground assistance, there could possibly be solutions, for example the children who want to play indoors go to the games hall instead of their classrooms.

Reference

Dowling, M (2010) Young Children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development 3rd Edn. London: Sage Publications

Robertson, J. (2014) Dirty Teaching: A Beginner’s Guide to Learning Outdoors Wales: Independent Thinking Press

First day at Nursery!

On Wednesday, as my previous blog post stated, I was off for my first day of nursery for part of my Transition Project at university. The nerves this morning were there a little bit but not as much as the night before.

The minute I walked into the school, I was greeted by a lovely receptionist at the front desk for the school which automatically made me feel more relaxed.  When I arrived at the nursery, they weren’t exactly expecting me. Which seems to be the issue whenever I arrive at a school so thankfully that never made me nervous at school. I was introduced to the staff at the nursery which was a team of 16 ladies for a nursery which can have 60 3-5 year olds and 10 2 year olds in their panda room. Although, they currently aren’t working at full capacity.

Immediately, this amount of children and the size of the nursery was a big change from the nursery I went to which was about half the size in both respects. I had not yet seen the size of the nursery but I was imagining it to be quite big. Much to my surprise, it was about half the size I expected however it did have a big outdoor space to play. Outdoor play is something I am hugely passionate about due to the positive impacts it makes on childhood; the statistics on how well the Scandinavian countries, from whom outdoor play holds a substantial part of their pedagogy for early years’ education; and because many of the fond memories I have of my childhood are from playing outdoors with my parents.

The afternoon in a nursery was very similar to an episode of “The Secret Life of Four Year Olds” from channel 4. There was a lot going on for the children to choose from but apart from at the beginning and the end of the session there was no structure to the day; it was all free play. When the children first come in, they are spilt into six groups of ten (when the nursery is a full capacity) to have a chance to speak with one of the nursery teachers* and to do the register amongst other things.

The group I was placed with for the beginning was consolidating what they had learnt yesterday from their visit from “Farmer Jill”. Firstly, I thought the fact that they had left this consolidating until today instead of the group time at the end of yesterdays session was a fantastic idea. This meant that the children could go away yesterday and think about what they had learnt , giving them time to process all of the information they had learnt before they had to summarise their knowledge. This was very similar to what I can imagine a structured lesson with a small group of Primary 1 pupils could consist of. When we began the questions on consolidating their knowledge were very closed questions such as “can you remember who came to visit yesterday?” but this meant that all of the children knew the answer but the same children were always the ones who wanted to speak which quickly became chaotic was three or four children were shouting out different things. The children’s group leader* improvised and had the children pass round one of the spaces which meant that the children all had a chance to share what they could remember from yesterday and what they enjoyed most. This first half an hour of the afternoon session was very structure and the children were sitting for a long time before they got to play. However, I can see this as beneficial for the children for when they are moving into primary school and are expected to have structured lessons all day very soon.

The rest of the afternoon was free play for the children. One of the big things I noticed was the lack of interaction with technology. There were two computers and one smartboard that the children, as far as I am aware, can use. However, the children were much more interested in doing activities such as baking, making puzzles, arts and crafts but mainly they were interested in playing games outside including tig and tag and hide and seek. To see children enjoying playing outdoors in the current age when technology is an ever growing medium and outdoor play is steadily decreasing was very encouraging to see.

One of the big things I have observed with the teachers in the nursery today, is their range of tone of voice and their excitement when talking with the children. I was always aware that this would be something I would need to work on when going into an early years setting as my ability to change of my tone of voice with ease can be rather limited. To be able to observe how the nursery teachers do it and how the convey excitement when the children are excited about something is definitely something I am paying close attention to. It was also when the children were speaking over one another in group time, the teacher was never cross or shouted at them but the way she spoke when she asked them to allow someone else to have a turn meant the children understood what they were doing was not kind to the person whose turn it was to speak. I am hoping that through observing this practice over the next 8 weeks that to be able to pick up and replicate some of their skills to be able to improve my practice for my third year placement.

Overall, I had a fantastic first day at nursery: there were many great opportunities to observe, learn, build bonds with the children and most importantly, play. I am thoroughly looking forward to going back after the October break.

 

*As I have not yet had the chance to ask permission to name the teachers in my reflections, they will currently stay anonymous.

Hi Ho Hi Ho it’s off to Nursery We Go

Before I get started, Happy World Teacher Day!

Facebook reminded me today that it was 5 years ago that I lasted stepped foot in a nursery. That was for a grand total of one afternoon and I was a 15 year old who was keeping an open mind to my career path. I must have had about 4 different careers I wanted to do after I left school at that time. Now, after that week’s work experience 5 years ago, I am in my third year of studying to become a primary teacher and I am heading back to nursery today.

I have signed up at university to take part in a research project – #UoDTransitionEY on twitter if you’d like to follow our updates –  with my tutors and 7 fellow students. The project is to get the eight students into a nursery setting for one afternoon each week, for eight weeks. The aim of the project is allow the students to develop their communicative and free play skills in an early years setting before our third year placement in the early stages of primary school (primary 1-3). The project comes with out any paper work or folio work that would come with a normal university placement and it is solely to allow us to focus on developing our skills with young children.

My skills with young children are on the limited side. I have taught swimming lessons, athletics classes and played with younger children whilst out in America at working at a summer camp. However, my main base of experience working with children tends to be with children normally over the age of around 8 years old. Therefore, this project is looking to be a fantastic opportunity for myself to gain some experience and confidence working with younger children before going to my third year placement.

However, today I am currently feeling rather nervous. It’s the first day at a new place with new staff and new pupils which always seems a little daunting. Yet one of my biggest worries (a typical girl one that is) is what to wear? This already makes me feel a little bit more at ease than I would heading off to placement on my first day as there is no paper work, no file, no questions that I can forget to ask. It’s all about play, having fun and developing my confidence today. The tweets from my tutors are definitely helping to lower the nerves and encourage the excitement!

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So let’s go play!

After I pick out an outfit that is. Wish me luck.