YOU need to get involved in the future of the Irish primary education system!
Last year I attended a number of cluster meetings that discussed the proposed redevelopment of structure and time allocation of the primary school curriculum. This was concluded with a conference in Dublin Castle where people from all areas of education got to give their opinions and suggestion on this consultation. This week I attended the next stages of the consultations at seminar one: Review and Redevelopment of the Primary Curriculum. Today's blog will you give a brief overview of the key points of the day and link you to the papers discussed.
Let's put things in logical order...
As a child's ability to be active learner develops so to does their need for more challenging and abstract ways to explore and practice the same skills. Sequencing skills are extremely important in everyday life and in the new language curriculum sequencing has it's own learning outcome. Retelling and elaborating in sequence plays an important role in the development of a child's language skills and comprehension of written texts. It is one of those foundation skills that children will use to build on other skills in the future, while also helping children to recognise patterns that make the world around them more predictable and understandable. There are plenty of daily activities that offer opportunities to practice those important sequencing skills... story time, aistear play, P.E., art. Most activities involve some form of sequencing. Sequencing can be practiced in a simple two minute activity, a whole lesson or even a whole class project worked on over a week. Ideally the language of sequencing could be integrated into most lessons.
Every now and then I raid my children's book collect... Frog in Love is perfect love story for infants classes and I'll be planning all my lessons around it this week. So, here's a few ideas I've put together...
Have you ever found yourself stuck for a book to kick off a new topic? Looking for a fun way to introduce a new maths topic? or a story that reinforces the letter of the day? Well look no further than this online digital library... Get Epic!
New beginnings and fresh starts all round!
At least that's the way it should be... I have mixed feelings as I head back to the class after the Christmas break. Before the holidays I allow myself to feel that I have the whole year ahead of me, take it easy and allow the children time to adjust to all things new. Then all of a sudden, it's Christmas and you tell yourself you're half way through the year and you think of all the things they don't know yet and you try not to hyperventilate... but panic not because all is not as you think.
The last week before we break up for Christmas holidays is a magical time for children and teachers. It is hard not to buzz off the excitement of the little ones! The classroom is a hive of festive activity and it's nice to ease back on the hard work and do some fun activities. Last year we did something really special that kind of happened organically. We were discussing food which was our language topic. What started off as a conversation about Brussel Sprouts... turned into an idea for a food tasting lesson... but it turned into something far more magical and I think I can say that this is the cutest thing I have ever done with a class. Our very own mini Christmas dinner. It was so much fun!
Now they're ready to write...
In most European countries, children are not expected to start formal handwriting with a pencil until they are 6 years old (or the countries the do best in international comparisons scores in Literacy, until they are 7). So, when are children ready to learn letter formation? Once children have are fluent in their phonological awareness and after months of working on mark making, building confidence with their writing tools, perfect pencil grip by everyone, great hand eye-coordination, good drawing skills, I know that all the children (bar the exception of a child how might have specific needs) are ready to write letters with little difficulty and less stress. The average age when I start formal letter formation is 5 years old, in February of Junior Infants. I do this simple assessment with my children just to make sure they are ready to write letters before I start. Children should be able to write these 9 pre-writing strokes before asking them to write letters, as mentioned in my previous post on Mark Making.
Print is just talking on paper - Thomas Edison
Through their marking, children are communicating their ideas, expressing their feelings, developing their imagination and creativity, and testing their hypotheses about the world, it is a truly valuable experience for young writers. For the focus of this post I am referring to the role of mark making in the development of handwriting skills and letter formation. In the early years children make marks simply for the sensory enjoyment of that smooth feeling of moving a marker across the whiteboard or the bumpy sensation of chalk grating across the tarmac, or simply the visual sadifaction of coloured paint dripping down the page. All these experiences are building their confidence and dexterity as well as the fine motor skills needed for compedent use of writing tools.
To celebrate Science Week we have been super lucky to have our very our Professor Science Pants (impromptu name) visit us every day! Each day, Professor S for short comes bursting through the door after morning break looking mad as a hatter and ladened down with all sorts of science equipment... strangly Ms Murray is nowhere to been seen for the next hour and a half??? probably enjoying a well earned extended coffee break we think...
Strand Unit: Length
Content Objective: 1) Develop and understanding of the concept of length through exploration and discussion and use of appropriate language. 2) Compare and order objects according to length
It is always nice to start a new topic or lesson with a story. The children and I go to the carpet for this lesson. Read a story that discusses length. Talk about the topical language. Long, short, longer, shorter, longest, shortest etc.
Outdated? Or is there a way to make it work for everyone?
Homework... most people have an opinion on it! Some children love it, some don't. A recent poll of 10,000+ on journal.ie shows the debate is fairly split in favour of homework in primary school. But if you are a parent I am sure you will agree that it can be difficult to find time to fit it into busy family life. In primary school, if you must set homework it should be short and sweet. Some follow the rule of 10 minutes per year (10 minutes for infants and first, 20 minutes for second class and so on). We need to ask ourselves how can we make homework add value to family time, making it fun while also supporting what a child is learning in school. Is there a way homework can enhance family time rather then invading it?
Eight Tips To Encourage Correct Pencil Grip...
Before I share some tips to support correct tripod pencil grip with Junior Infant, I want to mention that like every other stage of a child's development there are different stages of pencil grip, children start exploring their pencil grip as early as 3 months old. It is important not to force a child into holding a pencil a certain way before they are ready. This could actually have a negative impact and create a dislike of writing and colouring for a child. The chart below shows the development of pencil grip and each are completely normal at different ages. Some children will be comfortable using the trip-pod grip from the start and some children will progress from one grip to the next at a different pace.
The importance of continuing to develop fine motor skills in and beyond the pre-school years...
I believe it is our fellow pre-school educators who are the experts in this area. It wasn't until my daughter went to play school that my eyes were opened to the wonderful range of fine motor activities that were available to help her specifically develop her fine motor skills. I realised then, just how important it was that we continue to develop these skills when children arrive in junior infants before we make any attempt to teach letter formation. In this post I set out to compiled a selection of fine motor activities that will help infants develop their fine motor skills as well as hand-eye coordination, while also making them a little more challenging and fun by integrating them into our early maths and literacy learning. Building the muscles in their hands and fingers does not stop when we begin to teach letter and number formation either, teachers should develop these activities, integrating more hands on tasks into children's learning as an alternative to worksheets and workbooks.
Nourish them and watch them grow.
Relationships... our pillars, our shadows and our being. Every part of a child's life is built on and around their relationships. Their growth, their self-worth, how they function within society is almost wholly influenced by the quality of their relationships, especially during the infant years. It's no wonder that across research, one constant is the importance of the relationship between children and their teachers. The importance of ‘quality’ relationships for teaching and learning as well as the development of their social and emotional wellbeing. These relationships are central to high-quality teaching in the primary years which, in turn, is crucial to any child’s success. If you can build a secure relationship with a child they are far more likely to demonstrate good peer interaction during play and learning (NCCA 2016).
Fall into Autumn with ease!
Making the transition from one Aistear topic into the next can be stressful and time consuming! Follow these Seven Simple Steps to make the transition into your new Aistear topic as easy as possible!
Assessment that informs your teaching!
Assessment is paramount when supporting the learning and development of the children in your care and provides the bases of informed teaching. Without it you may as well be teaching blind folded. It also supports the children in becoming involved in their own learning and creates opportunities for them to understand their achievements and know what they need to work on. But what you really need is assessment methods that are quick, relevant and inform your planning. In this post I share with you many valuable everyday assessment methods, with lots of visual examples taken from real classroom situations. I also have a few free downloads for you too!
Teaching the skills of successful learning through play!
As children mature so do the expectations we place on them. You need to allow children the time they need to adjustment from one learning environment to another. Just like every other area of a child's learning, there are stages to their learning development and developing their play skills is no different.
Focus on speech before print - What you can teach in the dark!
Therefore, it is vital that we teach phonological awareness skilfully, using teaching methods that are informed by current research. The good news is that when taught this way, most children will learn to read at acceptable levels.
Lets make them ones to remember...
For most children it is an exciting time where they get to make new friends and play with lots of new toys, and for some children it can be a terrifying time of anticipation of the unknown... they might feel completely out of their comfort zone. Your job is to be prepared for every event! No pressure...
Curriculum integration is key.
There are so many benefits to teaching through themes. If you understand language and vocabulary to be one of the most fundamental componants of a child’s learning, you will then understand the benefits of teaching through themes and topics. By choosing an over all topic or theme you will provide children with constant reinforcement of topical vocabulary throughout the days/weeks or month and it is likely that the language will be absorbed by the children in fun and relevant lessons. A thematic approach also offers children the opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things.
“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you'll go.”- Dr Seuss
The dreaded timetable!
Aistear organically allows for child-led differentiation
Aistear organically allows for child-led differentiation. Children have the freedom to choose where are they want to play, with whom they want to play and how they want to play. With practice they will learn to challenge themselves, become more adventurous and test their own limits and abilities. It also allows for the child to set their own learning pace, a child who finds social interaction more challenging can slowly build confidence until they feel ready to become more involved in group play. Aistear is a language rich hour where each child is immersed in topic specific language, children tend to become more confident as a given topic develops and becomes more involved in verbal interactions with their peers. Plenty of discrete oral language lessons and guided role-play will support children’s play.
Creating an environment that oozes FUN.
We need to be creators and not consumers.