Learning outside the classroom

Recently, I discovered through Sue Cowley (Teach Early Years Magazine), that 3/4 of children now spend less time outside than prison inmates do, and with 3/10 children in Scotland overweight or obese (5-14) – primary schools need to have more outdoor learning and children need to be better educated. 

There are many benefits from learning and playing outdoors – from exploring the environment to just being out in the sun, and playing with peers to learning through their senses – outdoor learning couldn’t be more important in 2018.

Outdoor learning helps children understand our environment more – which of course in a world where plastic is destroying our oceans and  littering is killing our animals it is essential that children understand the impact that their actions can have on the environment. The idea of teaching children the life cycle INSIDE a classroom seems insane when all you have to do is walk outside to see the real beauty. Teaching children through a powerpoint that ‘littering is bad’ or that ‘we must recycle’ doesn’t really have the same impact as taking the children outside and looking at the environment for themselves – and see the impact our actions can have. By taking children outside, they will respect our planet and hopefully install morals and habits that will last a lifetime.

Learning to respect and look after our environment, wildlife, plants and oceans is not the only benefit of taking children outside. There is some evidence to suggest that teachers have a better relationship with their students if their students participate in outdoor learning. Teachers had noted that they had improved relationships with students and had better personal development for themselves. Learning outdoors can help combat underachievement and as seen from the image, there are overall benefits to teachers and students. (if the image isn’t clear – then click on this link here and scroll to the bottom. https://www.educationcity.com/blog/benefits-teaching-lessons-outdoors

After reading (through all the websites which have been linked in this blog and Teach Early Years magazine) I have found many many benefits to teaching outdoors. A summary of them include:

  • Better behaviour
  • Higher attendance
  • Improved motor skills
  • Respect and engagement with environment
  • Free and unlimited resources
  • More active lifestyle
  • Become more independent
  • Engages students to learn
  • Creates and supports creative minds
  • Improves communication skills
  • Better personal development (teachers)
  • Better awareness of environment and surroundings.

I’m aware that this list could go on and on, but I thought I would end my blog post upon a reflective point I heard in a lecture recently. Would you teach differently if your classroom had no walls?

Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.
– Mark Twain

Sorry this blog post is so short! Thought I would try to get into the hang of blogging again!

Mathematical Concepts in Childrens Books

Big Bear, Little Brother by Carl Norac.

Big Bear, Little Brother is a children’s book aimed at children ages 3-5. At a first glance, it seems to be a beautiful story about a child who has lost his way and Big Bear looks after him until he finds his Dad. However, when reading the book again with fresh eyes – there are many mathematical concepts throughout this book.

Here is a list of words that I found throughout the book that can be linked to maths:

  • above
  • quickly
  • huge
  • behind
  • side by side
  • slowly
  • “to make sure the ice was thick enough” – this is a good one, evaluating the ice bridge and deciding if it is thick enough to cross, a lot of mathematics in this!
  • different
  • down
  • edge
  • much taller
  • copy
  • “mound of snow”
  • faster
  • same
  • twice
  • stopped
  • distance

This is 18 different words that can be explored and worked upon – however, every time I read the book I keep changing how many ‘math words’ there are! I started this blog with ten, I am now on eighteen! The story itself can also have mathematical concepts and activities can be planned.

For example, some activities that can be planned could include:

  1. Making footprints in the snow, and counting the number of footprints, exploring different sizes and shapes, and seeing if patterns or symmetry can be explored
  2. Compare and contrast all the different words and bring this into the classroom (for example Big (bear) and little (brother). What else is big and little? Faster, slower, quickly, stopped. Look at all these and see if we can compare and contrast.
  3. In the last few pages of the book – it is dark and windy and the headlights shine on Big Bear and Little Brother. Maybe having a cross curricular lesson that involves lights, shadows, size, symmetry etc.
  4. Simple tasks such as counting how many pages there are in the book, how many times a word is said in the book, how many footprints are on each page etc.

These are just some little examples that can be explored through this book – however, there are probably 100 more different ways to implement this book in the classroom and link it to other subjects. For example Minik (little brother) falls of the cliff at the start of the book, and big bear catches him – this could be linked to science and could look at speed and force (eg drop things from a height and measure how fast they fall). It could also be linked with maths and languages – how many footprints are there? Tres! (Three!).

I have only read this book a few times, and only studied it in depth about 30 minutes ago. But in that time, I have noticed how mathematical concepts are featured in this book, and how important it is that when we are reading childrens books there can be different mathematical concepts in all of them.

Reading, Writing and Listening in the Early Years

In my previous post (Early Years and Language), I spoke about how children recognise speech from birth, and how complicated the English language is. In a sort of ‘part 2’ of Early Years and Language, I thought I would speak about how I have struggled with speech myself and the struggles I am having personally in becoming a teacher.

Background of me (according to my Mother).

When I was about 6 weeks old, I had my first ever ear infection. Something that would become a reoccurring nightmare for the rest of my childhood. When speaking to my Mum about this, she said I had ear infections 4-5 times a year, I had perforated ear drums and was on and off antibiotics when I was younger. I started nursery when I was three and a half, and Mrs Adger (my old nursery teacher) spotted fairly quickly that I was struggling to hear. She told Mum she had concerns about my hearing and speech and thought I should see a speech therapist. I went to about 10 sessions of speech therapy, and was told I would ‘grow out’ of my ‘bad’ speech phase.

Between three and a half and five and a half, this was a tough time for me as a little girl, and for my Mum. I had poor vision, my hearing wasn’t great (along with constant ear infections etc), I felt like I always had tonsillitis and I I had several operations in this time. My adenoids came out, my eye was operated on and I had my first grommet (the first of three).

I was meant to leave nursery when I was 4 and a half, but instead was held behind for an extra year. My nursery teacher was concerned I would always be playing ‘catch up’ and I would fall behind. I eventually started school at 5 and a half, and turned 6 less than 4 months later. I was the oldest in my class, and to begin with I was in all the lower groups. My speech, hearing and eyes had taken its toll. Once I was in Primary 2, there were further concerns I still couldn’t hear properly and that my “ths” and “fs” were not being pronounced correctly. This involved more speech therapy, which my Mum was told again would ‘phase out’. Throughout my whole Primary School life, I fell ill constantly with tonsillitis, ear infections and once in a blue moon a perforated ear drum. I don’t ever remember being told I had bad hearing, and I was aware my eyesight wasn’t fantastic as I had glasses! When I was about 15/16, I stopped having tonsillitus as regularly, and my ear infections were basically none existent.

However, I was never aware of my speech. I never knew the difference between ‘f’s and ‘th’s and it wasn’t until a year or two ago, my partner pointed out I didn’t actually say “thank you”, but instead, said “fank you”. I could never hear the difference, and I never had. I didn’t know what he was on about. I still can’t hear it very well, but I am aware that I don’t pronounce my “th”s now and this is one of my biggest concerns in becoming a teacher. I am reading out loud every night, spending 10 minutes a day practising saying words like “thigh” and “thin” and “thick” and “thinking” (and other words). I am studying how to teach this to children, and yet I am still learning myself. This is something I struggle to cope with. This is my biggest fear, that I fail my children in class, or that I fail my placement, and I feel that as a 22 year old woman, I have failed myself.

Glue Ear.
Glue ear is when the middle part of your ear canal fills up with fluid. This can cause temporary hearing loss, and can be hard for teachers/parents to detect as its such a minor loss. Symptoms of glue ear can include earache/ear pain, a fever and buzzing sounds.
Glue ear is what I was diagnosed with, and what it means is that my ear basically filled up with wax very quickly. It blocked my ear drum, I would have an ear infection and inevitably I would have a perforated ear drum at some point. A grommet is the ‘fix’ to this, however, I’ve had three and still struggle to hear sometimes. With glue ear, I really urge people to have a look at the website here as it has very valuable and important information on signs, symptoms and just general information.

Positive?

I could try and put a positive spin on this, and say that as a student teacher I’m glad I realised sooner rather than later, and I am glad I have such supportive people around me.
Another positive spin on this however, is that it puts me not only on the teaching side, but on the learners side. I can actually test out for myself how I learn best to speak better and which methods and techniques work for me.

Language

Hearing impairments however, are just one possible reason that may be stopping a child from speaking, writing or reading. There are hundreds of different reasons why a child may not be able to say “thanks”, read the word “cat” or write the word “mummy”. This is something that I don’t have enough knowledge on now, but I am excited to learn about how to help children identify different sounds, helping children read and write and learning about what can stop children from progressing in their language development. Hopefully, I will have more to write in my next blog post that is about language and will be able to say that I don’t struggle with my “th”s anymore.