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!

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.

Early years and Language

I haven’t wrote a blog in a while, so I thought I would get back into writing regularly by starting with something small.
Currently, we have been studying talk with children, and how it is so important when we are teaching. I had never thought about talk in any great depth before, and even from the handful of inputs we have had already, I feel like I have learned so much!

Background
In the early stages, we know that children start to read and write. I always thought this started in Primary 1, and as teachers we were responsible for exposing them to books and to letters/words/etc. However, what I have found out is that this can start right from pre-birth. Children can hear what is going on around them in the womb, and they actually develop an accent AND a familiarity with those around them before they are even born. Children can hear Mummy, Daddy, brothers and sisters talking and from this the child hears these voices all the time. From birth, they are exposed to language constantly, and this can be in many different variations: signs, books, drains, art, videos and television are just to name a few (out of 35, 36 if you include art), and not only are they seeing this, they are engaging with it. Children are constantly learning, and they are discovering the beautiful world of language.

Which witch is which?
Language with early years is not learned through a workbook or being forced to read. Language is learned best through play. Children, if they are exposed to rich, supportive literacy play will be swimming in vocabulary and they will become immersed in language. One of the things I have learned from these lectures is that children are keen to learn, and that we shouldn’t discourage or dishearten them when they read a word wrong, we should praise them and support them for making the attempt in the first place. The English language, after all, is the hardest language on the planet. We have their, there and they’re, which and witch, dear and dear, and the list goes on. If that wasn’t complicated enough we also have words which are spelled the same, but depending on the sentence are read completely differently. For example, “I need to read this book” and “I have just read a book”. For children, it is understandable that this can make no sense, and when we knock them for attempting to read, we chip away at their confidence with language. There are plenty more complications with the English language, and the Wug Test is the perfect example.

The Wug Test is a perfect example. If we have one sheep, we call it a sheep, if we have two, we say we have two sheep. If we have one cow, we call it a cow, if we have two, we say we have two cows. If we have one fish, we call it a fish, if we have two, we say we have two fish (which, according to google can vary as well!) The Wug test shows the complications in the English language, and how this can be many different answers; Wug, Wugs, Wuges, or Wugilions (I know it’s silly, but so is the English language). So when we tell children they have it wrong, it discourages them. Instead, praise the attempt and tell them that it should be that answer, but in this case it’s not.  A supportive adult shares the child’s wonder and reassures the child that they are ‘nearly’ right so as to develop a positive risk taking attitude towards reading. All attempts need that support and positive feedback.

Teaching and me
We know that children learn from play, they learn from any environmental prints, books, hearing stories, and being challenged. When I am on my next placement, I hope to make sure that the children I teach have a rich, stimulating and fun environment to learn in, and that the remain curious and engage in their learning.

 

 

I am an atheist

img_1226I am a person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods. I never got brought up this way, I have always been told to have an open mind and that I should never say never. I have many reasons for disbelieving in a God or gods, and until I started University I thought religion was pointless and a waste of time. A few of my reasons very briefly would be something along the lines of:

  1. Where is the evidence for God
  2. I don’t like the argument of design (the argument that says the world is so beautiful ONLY God could have created it)
  3. Since the entire universe and all of creating can be explained by evolution and scientific cosmology, we don’t need the existence of another entity titled God.

However, this post wasn’t about why I don’t believe in God or about how stubborn I was when it came to the argument about God. This post was to say that just having a better RME (religious and moral education) knowledge has let me open my eyes and become obsessed wbhnf52251ith now trying to learn about as many different religions as possible.

My RME knowledge before University was that I watched Avatar in RME in High School, I learned something about the 5 Ks in Sikhism and that Jesus was the reason for Christmas and Easter. Now, since beginning my University journey I have learned that all of these religions are so beautiful and interesting.  They have stories to tell, they are the reason people push forward in life and even if something bad is happening – their religion gives them hope. Now, for me, that is extremely important. Hope is what the world needs in a world filled with hate and abuse and Trump. Hope is a feeling of expectation and desire for a particular thing to happen, it is a feeling of trust and can make people in the darkest of places feel better because they have something to believe in.

img_1236

Taking away the fear of just teaching in general, I felt reasonably confident in all other areas of the curriculum in terms of how I felt about the subject. However, only a few subjects (P.E and the expressive arts being the others) made me worry about becoming a teacher and being able to teach without hating what I was teaching. I didn’t want to learn about other religions and I had no interest in learning. However, since I have researched on my own about certain religions (Hindu being my ‘religion of the moment’) I have learned a great deal – and not just about what others believe in but about other important areas. Such as our values, our family, our home, how we feel, how we are to others, kindness and again, hope. When I thought of RME before I though about boring lessons, now I look with new eyes and I am excited to go on placement and teach about the Holi festival, about why Hindus celebrate this and how it is important. I’m excited to incorporate art into this, I am actually looking forward to being out of my comfort zone teaching children about Religion, and with this I have opened my eyes to the Expressive Arts (however, I am still working on how positive I actually feel about this) and to other religions also.

To the people who know me really well. They know how I feel about religion. They know that my views are so strong against the belief in a God etc. However, since looking into not even a handful of religions my mind has been opened. It turns out RME is completely me. It is about kindness(which, by the way – Random Acts of Kindness Day is on Friday 17th Feb), it is about love, trust, respect, believing and hope.