Thinking outside the square

When was the last time you did something different in your program? Not just brought something different out of the storeroom, but tried something different. There are SO many different ways to teach concepts and skills. You don’t need to use structured activities to teach letters and numbers. You don’t need to drill children with flash cards and repetitive daily activities to teach them skills and concepts.

Take colour mixing for example. Usually we do this with paints. “What will happen if we mix blue paint with yellow paint? Oh look, we made green!” How many others ways can you think of to mix colours while exploring other skills at the same time?

If you squish yellow playdough and blue playdough together you get green. You also get strengthened fine motor strength, control over the shade of green, hypothesising, experimenting, research, problem solving, creativity when they then use the dough for other things.

Another way to colour mix is through the science experiment where you add food colouring to milk and then add a drop of detergent. As the milk swirls around with the detergent forcing it around, then the blue and yellow will meet and mix. It may need the additional help of another drop of detergent.

And then gradually you start to see green appear as the colours join and mix.

Not only do you learn about colour mixing but you also get to learn about science, explore what might happen, problem solve how to move the colours around more, hypothesise why it is moving, use language skills to express what is happening etc.

Hopefully this will encourage you to think about different ways to bring learning into your program. These are just 2 ways to incidentally explore colour mixing while doing other activities. I’d love to hear how you exploring colour mixing within other activities. Please let me know in the comments below.

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Group Time: A Critical Reflection

The purpose of this post is to provide an opportunity for reflection on what currently occurs in your service and the pros and cons of group time.The purpose of this post is not to say what should or should not be occurring in your service around group time.  Hopefully this post will allow for critical reflection and a deeper understanding of why you do what you do in your service.

Now when I say group time I am talking about a structured large group activity, usually with 8 or more children in it, that has been planned and/or is a predetermined time in the routine. Here’s the requirements around group time…

  • Regulation 156   Relationships in groups 

    (1)  The approved provider of an education and care service must take reasonable steps to ensure that the service provides children being educated and cared for by the service with opportunities to interact and develop respectful and positive relationships with each other and with staff members of, and volunteers at, the service.

    (2)  For the purposes of subregulation (1), the approved provider must have regard to the size and the composition of the groups in which children are being educated and cared for by the service.

  • NQS – Element 1.2.3: Critical reflection on children’s learning and development, both as individuals and in groups, is regularly used to implement the program.

 

These are the only time group is mentioned in relation to the program and relationships with children. However the following requirements are important to mention when reflecting in group time…

  • NQS – Element 1.1.1: Curriculum decision making contributes to each child’s learning and development outcomes in relation to their identity, connection with community, wellbeing, confidence as learners and effectiveness as communicators.
  • NQS – Element 1.1.2: Each child’s current knowledge, ideas, culture, abilities and interests are the foundation of the program.
  • NQS – Element 1.1.3: The program, including routines, is organised in ways that maximise opportunities for each child’s learning.
  • NQS – Element 1.1.5: Every child is supported to participate in the program.
  • NQS – Element 1.1.6: Each child’s agency is promoted, enabling them to make choices and decisions and to influence events and their world.
  • NQS – Element 1.2.1: Each child’s learning and development is assessed as part of an ongoing cycle of planning, documenting and evaluation.
  • NQS – Element 1.2.2: Educators respond to children’s ideas and play and use intentional teaching to scaffold and extend each child’s learning.

So knowing all of this information here are some reflective questions for you:

  • Why do you do group time?
  • Does each child have an opportunity to engage with the learning that occurs in a large group?
  • Are the educators able to identify and assess each child’s learning in a large group?
  • How does group time help children prepare for the transition to school?
  • How do you manage the children who are interested and engaged, and those who are disinterested or disengaged?
  • Do the children have a voice in what is discussed at group time? Do they have the ability to make decisions?
  • How do children with additional needs or different ages participate in the group time?
  • How much time is spent with educators “managing” the children during the group time, vs engaging and teaching?
  • Do educators enjoy doing group time?

Knowing the requirements and having honest critical reflection can help either re-ignite the reason why your routine and program happens the way it does, with group time as an integral part, or provide an opportunity to explore other avenues if you no longer feel group time serves a purpose.

If you would like some training or consultation around this please feel free to get in touch. Otherwise if you would like to subscribe to my monthly newsletter for tips, ideas and upcoming events subscribe here http://eepurl.com/b7KQHT

The benefits of planned transitions

Often transitions between one part of the routine and the next are chaotic, confusing, stressful and not at all child focused. They revolve around the needs of the educators and whether they have finished what was just happened and if they are prepared for what is about to happen. Some common transitions can be between inside and outside play, before meals, before or after a group time, before toileting/hand washing.

Children are not designed to wait. They are not designed to queue in a line waiting for the bathroom for long periods. They are not designed to sit unsupervised on the mat while they wait for further instructions as the room is packed up. It is often a cause of stress, anxiety, and even behavioural issues in children. Children with separation anxiety often have time to pause and think about how much they miss their family when there are not planned transitions, and therefore periods of waiting, causing them to become upset again.

Through planned transitions you can have the following benefits:

  • Getting additional learning into your program.
  • Assessing children’s skills in a range of areas.
  • Children are busy and engaged so less behavioural issues/anxiety.
  • Children are sent in small groups to the next activity to avoid chaos or queues.
  • Transfer skills/knowledge into a different context.

 

Some suggestions of transition activities are:

  • Singing songs like 5 cheeky monkeys, 3 jelly fish, 5 speckled frogs, 5 grey elephants etc and having the children act out the role and when they are eaten, or fall/jump off, they are sent to the next activity. 5 elephants
  • Have the children recognise shapes/patterns etc and seeing whether they pay attention, and sending children based on what they are wearing. You can pick basic things like colours of clothes, or patterns/pictures like stripes, stars, trucks, letters, numbers etc, or even increase vocabulary by the type of shoes etc. Just make sure if you are sending onto something with a number limit (like the bathroom) you pick something that isn’t very common and will only see 3 or 4 children go at a time.
  • Have the children recognise their names in more challenging ways as they become more capable. Start with just saying their name. Then people who’s name start with a letter, or rhymes with something (“wibbly wobbly wessica, an elephant sat on Jessica”), then move on to spelling names. It is surprising to see how many children know how to spell other people’s names.
  • Have children pay attention, remember and recall information through activities like 5 currant buns, but switch it up to 5 sandwiches or 5 ice-creams as examples. The children who are the items get to pick what flavour they are, and the children who come up to pick one have to remember what flavour the child is that they pick. To be inclusive you can allow the children who are still developing skills in this area be the ice-cream etc and they just need to think of a flavour, not remember who was what.
  • Use felt board stories or similar for children to come and add a piece to the board as the story is told. A good transition for children who are moving to another activity in the room, such as lunch, so they can still hear the story. Hungry Caterpillar

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5 tips for Managing your time

There are so many things to do during the day from observations to daily check lists to meals, routine times and writing the daily diary for families. Often it can feel like we are always struggling for time and herding the children around so we can get our jobs done. Here are 5 tips to help you manage your time…

1

Reflect on why you are doing each task – Look into why we do the many tasks we do in a day, who we are doing them for, whether they serve a purpose, or whether we feel we should be doing them. If families don’t read the daily diary and just look at pictures, why write an essay in it? Are all of the WHS checklists necessary or could they be combined or cut back?

2

Explore the times of day things are done – When are these tasks being done? Do they interfere with relationships with the children? Do they cause added stress? Do they require all the children to be in a teacher directed activity for an unreasonable amount of time while these tasks are done? Instead of writing the daily diary at rest time when children are not resting, why not write it at lunch time when they are all sitting and busily eating and 1 educator can be documenting while supervising and keeping an eye out.

3

Consider when children are most engaged – If we want children to be busily engaged when we write documentation, so we don’t need to be worrying about what they are up to, then perhaps we need to reflect on what this means. Are children most engaged when having an educator run a large group for long time periods of time when children have the opportunity to get bored or cannot developmentally sit for long periods of time? Or are children most engaged when they have challenging, open ended activities based around their interests to play freely with? Which one is likely to allow for more freedom complete tasks?

4

Multi-task – When doing documentation or other tasks around children do not be so absorbed in what you are doing you are ignoring the children. Sit near a group of children, get up and move when they move. Think about if the parents were watching, would you like them to see an educator sitting and writing documentation in a quiet corner of the room and ignoring the children? Or worse, saying to children “not now, I have to write this, go play.”

5

Get the children to help – Have a paper daily diary and get the children to help write in it, draw in it, talk about what to write, become involved and even plan for what to do the next day. This will help children to be engaged, be included, and also provide them with a voice and sense of agency over the program as they develop literacy and language skills in a meaningful way.

 

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