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!
Plan your new Aistear topic with the children during your discrete lesson time the first week of a new topic. During the first week of a topic I will spend the Monday planning with my class instead of playing(this is the only day I will forgo play). An Aistear concept map of possible stations will cover any number of literacy, Maths or SESE curriculum objectives. The children will give you a world of ideas for learning through play, they’re the professionals after all! Also the simple fact is, they should be telling YOU what they want to learn. This is best practice when teaching infants.
Have a list of resources you need ready to send out to the parents a week before your new topic begins. Just watch as the wonderful resources come flowing in (fingers crossed!) Have a large box ready to collect things in, by your door. Make sure to acknowledge the parents and children who bring things in with great enthusiasm each morning. Others will want to follow suit quick enough! (however, we never want to put pressure on people to buy things, so make it clear that it is only second hand stuff we need. If a child can’t bring in something, tell them that you urgently need a brown leaf… sorted!) Here is your free download of a parents' note for Aistear resources.
I got these beautiful leaves from a parent today, after asking for large, clean, colourful leaves yesterday (i'm not half fussy!) WOW! they're so beautiful, I'm going to dry them out between blotting paper to make them perfectly flat and last longer. An old phone book would do just as well. I'll let you know how that goes.
Model, model, model! Loads of topical language lessons and modelling the skills they need to play in their new stations using the visualizer, videos of other children playing, or have the children practice a role-play situation for the class. This will really help the children stay on topic during their play. A good time to do this is just before they head off to play. We eat after yard time, so I do this while they eat and then they plan in their Asitear copies or just go straight to play.
Setting up new stations is time consuming. So don’t try to do it all on your own after school. Get the children involved in creating a new station during your discrete lesson time, again you're covering lots of language, art and SESE objectives when you do. It is also incredibly important for the children to learn how to create play areas from whatever resources you have gathered. Children are way too comfortable getting all their toys in shiny new wrappers, we need to reignite their imagination. Here the children have learnt that by adding the leaves, twigs, chestnuts we collected on a nature walk and putting them into a box they can create a Autumn woodland, all the while revising our topical language and sharing ideas on how we might play with it.
Plenty of topical stories and books for the children to read during their D.E.A.R. time and in teacher-lead story time help the children become familiar with topical vocabulary and also gives them plenty of ideas for their play scenarios. Make sure you include a mix of genres including factual as well as fiction. I nearly always have a station on the go that links into our focus fairytale too. Remember all the stations don’t have to follow the same topic. While a lot of my stations cover Autumn, next week the home station will become the fire station to cover fire safety (I missed it this week!)
Don't put yourself under pressure to introduce a whole new array of stations in one day spend a week introducing a station or two each day, leaving some older ones running too. This will also help the children get to know a station properly as they arrive. If you do free play as I have suggested in previous posts don’t worry about all the children wanting to go to the new station. The children came up with the idea of placing chairs around the stations to stop the crazy amount of sand spillage the was happening (and it worked really well by the way!). But it also worked as a way of controlling the numbers at a station. The children know that if they want a turn they have to tell a person at the station that they are waiting and if needs be you could have a five-minute timer or sand timer that could be set. They have to learn to be patient and take turns. My children also know that they are free to use the station any day, so not too worried if they didn’t get a big play at it today. They can go to it tomorrow.
Conker Hunt Station. Here the children rummage through the soil to collect conkers. They have to count their sets to see how many they collected. The child with the most is the winner. The chairs have been a hugh success in managing the number of children at the station and keeping the soil off the ground.
The last suggestion I would have is to arrange your storage of topic specific resources well. Teaching through play is just such a broad methodology. Whether this is your first year teaching Aistear or your fifth, you may feel you are still trying to get to grips with it. Do not for one moment think you're going to ace Aistear in your first year. Trust me, this is my 4th year teaching Aistear and I'm still learning and will never stop exploring new ideas. However, when something works well or you spent time creating a resource, keep it filed and stored well for use the following year. Having your resources from the previous year stored well will make your transition to a new topic all the easier next year. For each topic I have a box and a folder at least. Some resources stay out all year, but some really specific ones get put away for safe keeping. Our school fruit comes in these really sturdy boxes that stack really well, so I grab one for each topic and my secret storage area is... behind the Hibernation Station! No fancy slide robes for me!
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