Night and Day…

The written word provides endless possibilities for children to discover and explore. This can begin from a young age, with books from the library, or e-books and progress to online blogs and articles at an older age.

For our Art session, we were given the task of creating a short e-book based on a creative stimuli of our choice for early years. I chose ‘Night and Day’, as this stimuli can link well with ‘Understanding the World‘ in the Early years outcomes, and ‘Science‘ in the National Curriculum, as it allows the children to understand change, similarities, differences, and later, transitions, e.g. the transition from day to night.

I have entitled my e-book ‘Night and Day‘.

This e-book wasn’t written to be complex, or to make the children think deeply about change and differences. I wrote this e-book in the hopes that it would introduce and develop the children’s knowledge and understanding of basic changes in the environment that are unavoidable, and the differences between the changes. I used simple sentences and complex sentences as well as words that are simple to sound phonetically, and some others that require a more conscious attempt to decipher. I did this in order to cater to each ability group in their Literacy and English.

The written word can provide children with so much knowledge and understanding. The images I chose compliment the text by providing children with a visual stimulus to engage them in the book. A picture is worth 1000 words.

T’was the Night Before Christmas…

T’was not long before Christmas,
when in an Art class
We all started creating
in hopes we would pass (…the course!)

Clay, were we given,
in the hopes we’d create,
Some representations of things
with our new mates.

My four friends and I all thought hard
’til one of us clicked,
“We can make a Christmas scene”,
our ears all pricked.

I began to create an elf
who had fallen on ice,
Someone else made an owl,
they tried it just twice.
ElfOwl

To join the gang
a penguin was made just fine,
While two others made
a scene where they could all shine.

Winter scene

 

 

 

 

 

They used paints and some tools
to make nice markings,
of diff’rent shades of blue,
it began sparkling.

We placed our clay-ations
on the Christmas scene,
It was the most excited
that we’d ever been.

Our clay creatures would move and dance
on the set,
They would come to life
(once the paint was not wet!)

Then we placed on the owl, the penguin and the elf,
Took a picture we’d animate by ourselves!

Winter scene with clay creatures

 

 

 

 

 

We tested a program
kids use at their schools,
Mixing art and technol’gy
to make it look cool!

We all took pictures of our clay masterpieces,
Uploaded; moved them, as our int’rest increases!

Owl

Penguin

 

 

 

 

Elf

We cut ’round our creatures,
put them onto the set.
“This next bit is the tricky part” said I “I’ll bet!”

We then had to move them
with fingers on the screen,
It looked like the elf had fallen,
penguin laughed…that was mean.

The owl was unimpressed
so faced well away,
While the elf tried to rise,
but on the ice he laid.

Windows Movie Mak’r
helped us add sound,
In Bach’s flute concerto
wint’ry feel we found.

We were proud at the end
after what we had made,
T’was a Christmas-y, wint’ry scene in a blue shade.

Please do see for yourselves,
I’ve entitled it ‘Ice‘,
We’re incredibly happy,
(even if we tried twice!)

It’s helpful for kids
to mix topics as one,
It makes learning exciting,
and makes it quite fun!

Their eyes –  how they’ll twinkle
and they’ll sparkle and shine,
Extending their learning,
not following one line.

They can go off on tangents,
link things as one.
As they experiment
with things they’ve not yet done.

Cross-curricular can be quite helpful,
adding new dimensions and a brand new level.

They can create as well as
explore and discov’r,
What a wide range of topics
teachers could cover.

I myself have tried to link topics all as one,
It’s quite easy; the effects leave me stunned!

I’ve found that almost all things in early years,
can lead to man’ging relationships with peers.

Motor skills are part of all sessions, I’ve found,
development of gross and fine will astound!

Attempt to link things,
like my friends and I did,
It’s helpful to children
And to you, I do not kid!

Please do give it a go,
It enhances progression,
You’ll capture attention,
ensuring succession!

Digitally Enhanced Learning

With the evolution of technology, it’s not surprising that computers, laptops and tablets, among other technological items are moving into Early Years settings. Due to this, it is important, therefore, that teachers have a working knowledge of their resources, both archaic and advanced (Yelland, 2007). For example, archaic could be whiteboards and pens, advanced could be tablets and bee bots.

Speaking of bee bots, if you’ve never heard of them, they are a remarkable teaching tool!

As the video above shows, the bee bots are very easily manipulated and can be linked to many areas of the curriculum, thus engaging children in their learning, capturing their interest and attention; an important facet in planning (Hayes, 2010).
In an ICT session, we learned about ‘plugged’ and ‘unplugged’ teaching tools. ‘Plugged’ refers to anything tech-y, like tablets and the bee bots. ‘Unplugged’ refers to activities the children participate in without the use of technology.
As a task within this session, we were asked to think of two activities, one ‘plugged’, one ‘unplugged’, that linked together to form a holistic learning experience. My partner and I chose to utilise the bee bots. We believed that they, among other ‘plugged’ teaching tools, provide a whole new dimension to familiar activities, allowing a child’s environment and learning to be enriches, thus leading to additional holistic development (Yelland, 2007).

So, we both liked the idea of ‘pirates’ as a theme, so we landed (pun intended) on the idea that a ‘plugged’ activity could be providing the children with, or allowing them to design their own (depending on their ability) treasure map on sheets of paper. On this map there would be islands, palm trees, seas, obstacles and, of course, an ‘X’ marking the spot! After decorating the bee bot to look like a pirate (hat, sword, the works!), he would begin his long and perilous journey from the start line to find the buried treasure. The only way he can locate his treasure is if the children program the bee bot to move past the obstacles on the map to reach the treasure. This can be differentiated by allowing children of lower ability to press the bee bots buttons in whatever sequence they want, as long as they dodge the obstacles. For children of higher ability, the map could have a red dotted line stretching from the start line and swirling around the obstacles until it reaches the treasure. The children must stick to this line, ensuring that Captain Bee Bot does not stray from the path!

An activity such as this holds clear links to the ‘Understanding the World: Technology‘ section of the Early years outcomes;

  • “Shows skill in making toys work by pressing parts or lifting flaps to achieve effects such as sound, movements or new images” (30-50 months),
  • “Interacts with age-appropriate computer software” (40-60+ months).

As well as holding clear links to the current National Curriculum in the area of ‘Computing‘;

  • “Understand what algorithms are; how they are implemented as programs on digital devices; and that programs execute by following precise and unambiguous instructions” (KS1).

The ‘unplugged’ activity that could follow this, would be allowing the children to go on a real-life treasure hunt; dressing up as pirates by making their own attire (‘Expressive Arts and Design‘ in the Early years outcomes, ‘Art and Design‘ in the National Curriculum), using navigation, spatial awareness and mathematical skills to follow a set of instructions on the map, for example, walk forward 3 paces. This could also be made into a physical activity, by asking the children to hop or jump 3 times to a spot.

I tested an activity like this at my second placement.Hide and Seek with Ginger
I drew a map and simply asked the children to work together with me to help me find a beloved nursery toy called ‘Ginger’.
As you can see, to cater to the age-range, I made it obvious where we needed to go next and added physical skills into it for the children to develop and enhance; ‘Jump to the table!’
So the children knew what they were looking for, I put a large picture of Ginger the cat on the map.

This activity didn’t follow on from a ‘plugged’ activity, nor did one follow it, as the activity was planned with the children’s physical skills in mind. If it were to be followed by a ‘plugged’ activity, the children could use the bee bots by programming them to move to the locations to find Ginger. For example, if one child hides the cat, another child may say “I think Ginger is under the table”; program the bee bot to travel to the table to see if Ginger is there.

I’m sure that the implementation and combination of ‘plugged’ tools, such as tablets and bee bots, combined with ‘unplugged’ tools, such as whiteboards, is a pedagogic strategy we can all BEE happy with!

http://www.teachyourchildrenwell.com.au/other/XO-OLPC%20support%20materials.html

References.

Yelland, N. (2007) Shift to the Future: Rethinking Learning with New Technologies in Education. London: Routledge.

APP-lying Music

Exploration does not stop at any point within a child’s learning; it is continual. If the appropriate tools and resources are provided to them, they may encounter and discover things that can further their learning independently, with an adult present acting as a responder, facilitator and scaffolder to their learning (Fisher, 2008).

In our second Music session, I encountered and discovered music in a whole new dimension. We experienced the use of various mobile apps that enable children to explore sounds, pitch and instruments.

Initially, we attempted to play the popular ‘Simon Says’ game, but as an app on a tablet. If you are unfamiliar with ‘Simon Says’, the game gives the player 4 colours; red, yellow, blue and green. The game will highlight the buttons in a sequence, for example, red, blue, green, green. Each colour plays a sound in a different octave. The player must then attempt to recall this sequence and repeat it, by pressing the appropriate coloured buttons in the correct order. The player progresses by a new colour/ sound being added to the sequence each level. For example;
Level 1- Red, green, blue, blue.
Level 2- Red, green, blue, blue, green.
Level 3-
Red, green, blue, blue, green, yellow.
Level 4-
Red, green, blue, blue, green, yellow, red.
…and so on.

Following this, we experimented with an app called ‘Garage Band‘. The app allows the user to create songs and music without instruments or with their voices. To begin with, I made a noise with my tongue by moving it from side to side across my lips. This noise was recorded.

This is what it sounded like before…

…and here is a video of how it sounded after I had edited the pitch and speed…

As you can tell, the end result sounds nothing like the original noise that I had made.

After this, I made a series of random and funny noises. This was recorded on an iPad. Then, using the Garage Band app, I edited the sound as seen in the video below.

As seen, I used the app options to edit the pitch and sound of the noise, turning it into a high-pitched chipmunk noise.

After this, I decided to experiment with playing ‘instruments’ on the iPad app, as seen in the video below.

In this particular video, you can see that you can switch between notes and chords for the guitar. You can also choose which type of guitar you would like to play (I chose hard rock).

Not only do apps such as these expose children to elements of music, such as pitch and tempo (discussed further in my blog post; ‘See My Class!’), it also allows the children to familiarise themselves with technology and what it has to offer. It can also develop their knowledge and understanding of technology, enhancing their digital literacy (National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), 1996), which is a requirement of the National Curriculum.

As a Directed Task for this session, we were asked to use our voices and any objects we could find to recreate the noise of a train journey, from beginning to end. As a group of four, my friends and I used our voices (and the heels of my shoes!) to make train noises. The heels on my shoes were used to create the clattering of wheels on the tracks. We followed a sequence for this recording, beginning with the steam of the engine, followed by the clattering of the wheels on the track, the whistle of the train. As the sequence progresses, the train gets faster, as signified by the tempo and speed of our noises. The last part of the sequence is the tempo slowing as the train slows down. The very end of the sequence is the train letting off steam.

Below is a recording of our end result…

Allowing children to experiment with body percussion and various sounds that they can make, links to Expressive Arts and Design in the Early Years outcomes; “Explores the different sounds of instruments.”

The last exercise we did in the session involved us creating a sequence of pictures for us to then follow on the iPad;

Playing the drums on the iPad

Each picture corresponded to a drum on the iPad which we had to press. This could be easily differentiated for ability groups, with children of higher ability creating more complex sequences, and children of lower ability creating simple and basic sequences. Our attempt at creating and playing a sequence is shown below…

 

 

The technology and apps that we used within the session are a small number of the vast number of tools that are out there for teachers to use to enhance their teaching. They were all easy to grasp, and took but a few minutes to find my way around them; perfect for young children being introduced to technology due to the ease of the interface. It can enable the children to develop their Communication and Language, Literacy, Mathematical, Physical, and Musical skills in both the early years and the National Curriculum, through the exploration of lyrics and rhymes, counting songs, fine motor skills and tempo and rhythm.

Music sessions have the ability to be differentiated easily to cater to each child’s individual learning requirements. As a subject, it is versatile enough for every child to be able to access easily, as the complexity of songs, tempos, speed, rhythm, dynamics etc, can be altered for each child to feel that they are able to independently explore whilst being challenged to discover something new.

Differentiated sessions for all children to access and gain something from; that’s a tune all teachers can dance to.


References.

Fisher, J. (2008) Starting from the Child. (3rd ed.) Berkshire: Open University Press.

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (1996) NAEYC position statement: technology and Young Children – ages three through eight. Washington: NAEYC.

Making Words Move

You can read the words of a book, and feel their meaning, but can you interpret them? Can you dance them? Can you feel the words and make them come to life? Can you tell the story without the words by just moving?

In our dance session, we interpreted “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt” by Michael Rosen. In order to tell the story creatively, we added movements and dances to correspond to each line. Children can either be given the opportunity to imitate adults actions with familiar rhymes, such as in ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’, be encouraged they could make their own actions to rhymes that already have well-known movements, or they could be given the opportunity to explore how they could tell a story or rhyme that has no set movements, such as ‘Humpty Dumpty’.

The premise behind adding movement and dance to familiar stories and rhymes is allowing children to interpret the words that they read or the lyrics of a rhyme and add corresponding movements; exploring various ways their bodies move and how, if certain movements are put into a sequence, they can portray a word or phrase using just movement.

In the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), learning outcomes for Physical Development are given that focus on the above points. This shows that they are vital in a child’s holistic development and are important to enhance as a child progresses through the EYFS into the Key Stages. Learning outcomes for Literacy and Communication and Language in the EYFS, and Literacy and Language and English in the National Curriculum can also be achieved by allowing the children to link movements to lyrics and phrases from books, much like the YouTube videos above demonstrate. The fact that dance links to many areas of learning and development within the EYFS and the National Curriculum shows that there are clear progression opportunities for teachers to follow.

As a dancer, I fully appreciate and support the idea of movement and dance in the EYFS. I believe that there are many various ways that teachers could encourage children to explore movement and dance. For example, linking lyrics to rhymes and phrases in familiar stories to corresponding actions, either made up by the child or an existing dance. Physical development  is so vital in a child’s holistic development, from their gross motor skills, like walking or spinning, to their fine motor skills, like writing or doing up their zip. Dance and movement can support children in, not only exploring their body’s capabilities in terms of movements, but also in their every day activities and tasks. This can be done by allowing them to focus their attention on moving one part of their body in a certain way. Of course, within a formal dance class, these skills are much more finely tuned and taught intricately. However, whether taught formally in a dance class, or done informally in a taught session at school, dance and movement can provide a child with fitness, coordination, spatial awareness, control over their body and their speed.

Everything can be linked back to dance; it’s everywhere. There is rhythm in your steps, your typing, your clapping, your hand gestures as you talk. Life is a dance, and everyone and thing that you touch is your partner. To interact with your partners (Personal, Social and Emotional Development), aspects like coordination and control are important. These can be learnt as a child progresses through the EYFS. These skills will be used frequently every day from gross motor skills to fine motor skills.

5, 6, 7, 8, dance through life.

Art and Craft

The combination of art and technology is fast becoming integrated into the Early Years curriculum and into the National Curriculum. Siraj-Blatchford and Siraj-Blatchford (2000) state that technology should be integrated wherever possible. This can lead to efficient teaching and an enriched learning experience personalised to each child’s needs (Siraj-Blatchford, 2008).

This being the case, no wonder technology has made its way into schools and into the heart of some teachers pedagogical approaches, including my own. Not only can technology aid teachers in the delivery of their taught sessions, but it can also help further children’s knowledge and understanding by allowing them to interact with it. In the early years, this has been mostly observed through the use of educational games. However, one such game that was not created for the intention of being used in an educational context was ‘Minecraft’. The game was created by someone who has been nicknamed ‘Notch’ in 2009. It has rapidly found its way into classrooms and has enabled teachers (admittedly, mainly younger teachers) to explore different and exciting ways to motivate, engage and teach their students.

The video above shows the positive effects that the implementation of ‘Minecraft’ in classrooms has had on students learning and development, as well as their motivation. To truly understand how it could be used to a teachers advantage, I explored the ‘Minecraft’ world myself. I am a novice when it comes to the game. I was briefly tutored by my brother, who I would consider to be a ‘Minecraft’ expert, about the workings of the game. This aided me in recognising the potential experiences that the player could encounter or make for themselves. I began to think of various experiences that I could provide early years children that would stimulate them and engage their interest. Together, my brother and I began to create mini experiences and mini games that early years children could interact with. The first was based on an idea that, if the current theme within my classroom were ‘Fairy tales’, the children could explore the story further by creating it on ‘Minecraft’…

Minecraft2

 

 

 

 

 

Minecraft9

 

 

 

 

 

Minecraft4

 

 

 

 

 

Minecraft3

 

 

 

 

 

The above photos were my brothers highly successful and impressive attempts at creating Rapunzel’s castle. I (the teacher) asked him to create his own version of Rapunzel’s tower, making it from different materials, decorating it however he wished. This links to English, Literacy, Communication and Language, Expressive Arts and Design. Activities and tasks such as this may further engage children with the fairy tale, allowing them to explore it first-hand and in further detail (English and Literacy), by creating their own interpretations of objects from the story (Expressive Arts and Design, Art and Design and Design and Technology). 

I then asked my brother to simply create a house. The design could be anything he wished, as long as he used various materials.

Minecraft5

 

 

 

 

 

Minecraft8

 

 

 

 

 

As the pictures suggest, he followed my instructions and created a house made from various materials. Encouraging children to explore various materials and their uses can link to Understanding the World in the Early years outcomes, or Science as part of the National Curriculum.

Minecraft1After exploring various ways in which children could freely interact with ‘Minecraft’, I wanted to explore how I, the teacher, could provide challenging tasks and mini games for children to attempt within the game. To the left is an image taken from the game, where my brother and I fashioned a small pond with a chest beside it. The aim of this game is to use the blocks available in the chest to make your way across the pond. Various objects could also be fashioned by the children to make their way across the pond, for example, a boat (as shown in the picture). This could also be linked to ‘Fairytales’, e.g. ‘Rapunzel’, by asking the children to find various ways to transport Prince Charming over the pond to reach his Princess.

Minecraft6

Mini games that do not necessarily have to link to a theme could be similar to the one to the right. The aim is to use the pieces of track to form a railway track. The children could be given a set amount, be asked to form a certain pattern, or could be given free reign to create it how they wish. The red pieces of track are  powered lines. These provide the train with power to move across the track. If these are not used, the train will roll to a stop.

The use of games within the classroom can provide children with diverse range of opportunities that can motivate and inspire them to use their creativity, imagination and innovation. This could be done by creating something from nothing using interactive media such as ‘Minecraft’, allowing the children to explore freely with materials and construction, or by pre-planned activities for them to interact with. With technology becoming such a central part of teaching, providing children with the ability to interact and have fun with it is important in order to engage them in their lessons.

The ability to create something from nothing with such vision, ambition and imagination can begin at school. Providing opportunities for a child to use their innovation and imagination can drive them to achieve great things. They have to start somewhere; one block at a time.

References.

Siraj-Blatchford, I. and Siraj-Blatchford, J. (2000) More than computers: Information and Communications Technology in the Early Years. London: Early Education.

Siraj-Blatchford, J. (2008) ‘PLEASE can we have another bit?’: Information and Communications Technology in the Early Years: An Emergent Approach. In Coltman, P and Whitebread, D. (eds.) Teaching and Learning in the Early Years. (3rd ed.) Oxon: Routledge.

See My Class!

Ma chere Mademoiselle, it is with deepest pride and greatest pleasure that we welcome you tonight.
And now we invite you to relax, let us pull up a chair as the internet proudly presents – my blog!

As a Directed Task for our Music session (Major Music for Minors), we were asked, in groups, to compose a verse of a song to a familiar tune with the theme of Early Years. We were asked to use various percussive instruments as accompaniment.
Naturally, our mind’s were racing with ideas of instruments and what familiar song we could rewrite.

http://disney.wikia.com/wiki/Be_Our_Guest

Eventually, we chose to rewrite two verses of the well-known song Be Our Guest from Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast‘. We chose this song as we thought it was a catchy tune that most adults would be familiar with. This could be due to growing up alongside movies such as this. We also believed children would be familiar with the tune as we thought that ‘Beauty and the Beast‘ may be a well-known tale among children.
We chose to use daily objects as our instruments, primarily due to the issue that none of us had access to instruments. However, this played to our advantage as we quickly realised that using ordinary house-hold objects would enable children to become creative in constructing them into instruments. It would allow them to explore and experiment with the different sounds ordinary objects can make. For example, we used tins, a film canister with small sequins in it, a tub with a hand-full of beads inside and a packet of Tic-Tacs.

We wrote two verses to the song. The original lyrics to the first two verses were:
Be our guest! Be our guest!
Put our service to the test.
Tie your napkin ’round your neck, cherie
And we’ll provide the rest.

Soup du jour,

Hot hors d’oeuvres.
Why, we only live to serve.
Try the grey stuff;
It’s delicious.
Don’t believe me? Ask the dishes.

We replaced these lyrics with something a little more pedagogical and named the song ‘See my class!;
See my class! See my class!
See just how our time is passed.
Pick up your books and toys and pens and smile
And we’ll make this fun last.

We use paint,
We use sand.
We even made our own class band!
Try joining in; it’s exciting.
Don’t believe me? Just tune in!

We attempted to write the lyrics with a similar amount of syllables in each bar, as this way the tune would not have altered much, meaning that it would remain familiar to the children. The instruments that we used were simple, yet effective in creating the percussion we required. Allowing the children to construct instruments from everyday objects could create Piaget’s idea of schemas, creating links and organising knowledge, in this case, of elements of music;
Pitch: High and low.
Duration: Pulse, rhythm; long and short sounds.
Texture: Single sounds or layers played together.
Timbre [tarm-br]: Qualities of sound; hollow, scratchy etc.
Dynamics: Loud, quiet, increasing and decreasing in volume, silence.
Tempo: Pace.
Structure: How the music is arranged; echoes, verse and chorus.

If the teacher was to allow the children to write their own lyrics to another verse, the tune and rhymes in the song would encourage the children to explore various words and phrases while thinking about how many words belong in each line. For example, 6 syllables in the first line. This would most likely be split into 6 one syllable words, much like we did ‘See my class, see my class‘. Singing and rhyme would also aid children’s understanding of pronunciation, intonation of words and sentences, and the importance of enunciation, linking to Communication and Language in early years, and English in the National Curriculum. Children experiencing and experimenting with different ways of playing with instruments, singing in a group, sharing their thoughts through song, and creating links between their ideas would link to their Personal, Social and Emotional Development, and their Understanding of the World in early years. The children could create a song about any aspect of their learning, linking it to any area of the curriculum, be it singing about what they have recently learnt in Mathematics, both in early years and in the National Curriculum. Asking the children to write their own lyrics would link well to their Literacy skills, through spelling, rhyme and structure of a song. An activity such as this could also link well with Physical Development and Expressive Arts and Design, in early years, and Physical Education and Art and Design in the National Curriculum, as the children are experiencing how to interact with instruments and the appropriate posture to adopt when singing. However, they could also incorporate actions into their song, making it interactive for those that perhaps do not feel comfortable singing or playing an instrument.

Music can be easily linked to every area of the curriculum, making each one fun, interactive and inclusive for each child!

If you want to use music, composition and instruments in your teaching and in your learning environment…

Be my guest!

http://www.dvdizzy.com/beauty.htm

Primary Colours

The point of art is to create from nothing; to turn a blank canvas into a masterpiece. Any creation that a child makes can be regarded as a masterpiece, as it is what the child sees or wants to see. To disregard a creation as nothing is to stifle creativity and imagination. There should be no correct way to draw or paint. Different colours are there to be used in whichever way the creator wants to form their desired effect, whether it be as simple as a dot on the page, or as intricate as a creation by Picasso, or as complex as a landscape scene.

There are many different versions of the poem ‘The Little Boy’; Helen Buckley and Harry Chapin’s version are possibly the most well-known. All versions tell the story of a imaginative young boy whose creativity is stomped out by his teacher who does not value his creations to the full extent that they should be. Instead of allowing the child to use any colours to draw a flower, the teacher tells the child that he should draw a flower with red petals and a green stem.
Adults have the ability to strongly influence all that a child may say and do. Don’t take this lightly! If someone told you that your work wasn’t important, or made it seem insignificant, how would you feel?  Under-valued? Unappreciated? Unimportant? Maybe you wouldn’t feel good enough? Now imagine how a child would feel in that position. They would be less likely to turn the other cheek and think “Maybe I could do something better” like an adult possibly could. It would resonate with them in a strong way and hinder their confidence.

Art provides children with the opportunity to express themselves on paper; they can be as imaginative and innovative as they like.
When we had an Art class at University, I was incredibly excited and anxious to discover what we’d be doing!
To begin with, the teacher gave us a large piece of paper each and a tray of different coloured pastels. She talked through a story with us, telling us to draw what we’d imagine to see if we were part of the story. For example, imagine it’s raining…it’s getting heavier now…when suddenly a bolt of lightening appears…draw lines as soft as a ballerina…draw lines as flowing as the wind…you look up and see the brightest star in the sky.

She told us that there was no right or wrong way to draw this; we just had to draw what we imagined. She explained that it was a constructive way to allow children to display their creativity.

Next, she asked us to explore various ways of displaying a line. My group decided to experiment with various ways of showing a spiral.

She informed us that this was a creative way of asking children to explore a mathematical concept; lines; long and short, big and small.

We also explored how we could use objects around the room to represent letters. She asked us to think of words we could use to describe pieces of art we have seen or created:


These objects around the room were used to spell the word ‘iconic’.

These objects around the room were used to spell the word ‘symbolic’. This could aid children’s Literacy skills and their Communication and Language skills in the early years as they search for obscure ways in which to represent graphemes, as shown above by using twisted wire to represent an ‘o’. This could also aid children’s English skills in the National Curriculum, as children can explore digraphs, trigraphs and more complex spellings.

Any object could be used by the children to create a piece of art work, from pencils to clay, from fabrics to plastic cups. If the child’s environment permits them to explore freely, then it could result in their creativity and imagination developing to the point that they are able to create art from anything they find. This art could be conventional, such as a drawing, or abstract, such as sticking objects to a balloon.
Even if a child’s art is conventional or abstract, subtle or quirky, their imagination should not be stomped out. It’s something valuable that should be nurtured, cherished and encouraged to grow. After all, if a classroom was void of imagination, all that would decorate the walls would be red flowers with green stems.

http://www.cafemom.com/group/114079/forums/read/17222057/Red_Flowers_with_Green_Stems_or_The_story_of_how_we_learn_to_distrust_our_own_creativity_by_Helen_Bu

 

Major Music for Minors

Good morning
Good morning
Good morning to you.
Good morning everybody
and how do you do? 

When you listen to the first song of the day, whatever it is, how does it make you feel? More alert? Motivated? I know it makes me feel ready to go! It’s something that is used in many settings; singing in the morning to motivate the children, wake them up and get them ready for a day of active and creative learning.

In my experience, I have found that singing motivates children. It appears to develop their listening skills, aiding their development of intonation, enunciation and rhythm when speaking and singing. After our wonderful Music class as part of our PGCE Early Years course, it just validated and solidified my thoughts on Music in the early years and National Curriculum. We were shown a variety of creative and convivial ways in which not only to motivate children in Music lessons, but to implement Music into every aspect of the curriculum and daily routine. Our lecturer (Sue Nicholls) showed us that you could make a song from anything, all you need is a familiar tune and a few good rhyming words. We created our own raps at the beginning of the session after being given a variety of rhyming words on a sheet.

Wave your hands right up to the sky,
Wiggle and jiggle and jump up high.
Shake your body to the groove,
Click and clap and start to move.

After we made the lyrics, it was time for the actions. She asked us to do this as an example of how any song can have actions to reinforce the words. This can be done to aid children’s listening ability; their ability to interpret the words and follow the instructions of the song, much like the Hokey Cokey.

Wave your hands right up to the sky, [begin crouched and interweave your hands up to the sky as you stand up]
Wiggle and jiggle and jump up high.
[wiggle entire body and jump as high as you can]
Shake your body to the groove,
[step to the side and clap twice]
Click and clap and start to move.
[click both hands, clap once and turn around]

Sue advised us to create actions to songs that enabled children to cross their sides from one to the other, such as landing with your feet crossed after jumping, then jumping back to normal, or interweaving your arms. We were informed that it could aid children’s coordination and ensure they remain alert to follow the instructions being sung. I have found this to be true in practice, as children tend to join in songs when there are actions to match the lyrics, whether they are small or large actions.

To create cross-curricular links to aspects of the Early years outcomes, such as Literacy, and links to English in the National Curriculum, it is possible to sing about traditional tales using familiar tunes. We attempted to create our own song based on the traditional tale of ‘Sleeping Beauty’ to the tune of ‘One Finger, One Thumb’:

http://necrophashion.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/disney-princess-manicure-part-2-sleeping-beauty-edition/

A special baby Princess x3
Aurora was her name.

A wicked fairy cursed her x3
And said that she would die.

They hid her in the forest x3
To escape the fairy’s curse.

And then she pricked her finger x3
The Kingdom fell asleep.

A handsome Prince did kiss her x3
She awoke and fell in love.

And then there was a wedding x3
And so our story ends.

This activity reinforces literary pieces, giving the children an active and creative way in which to familiarise themselves with a story’s important plot points, as they must choose the vital points to use in their songs.

Sue also informed us of a technique that teachers use to make music and songs more visual for the children; the use of puppets. She stated that a teacher can use any puppet to create a song. For example, using a wolf puppet to help tell the story of ‘Little Red Riding Hood’ or a fairy puppet to help tell the story of ‘Cinderella’:

I have a magic friend on my knee, [adjective]
She’s going to tell a story; what will it be?
Here is Tinkerbell  
[character’s name e.g. dragon, Princess]
Wave hello!
She grants wishes
[something they did in the story]
Off we go! 

Lyrics like these allow the children to identify with obvious characteristics and actions of their puppet in their story that would make them recognisable.

These types of songs can link to areas of the Early years outcomes such as Physical Development, Literacy, Communication and Language. But there are various songs that can also link to Mathematics. There are the well-known songs, such as ‘5 Little Speckled Frogs’, ‘5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer’, and ‘5 Little Monkey’s Jumping on the Bed’. They can also link across the National Curriculum to Physical Education, English and Mathematics.

However, Sue taught us a song that I had never heard before that aids children’s Mathematical knowledge by allowing them to become a part of the song:

I’m a train: I’m a train, going down the line.
When I stop, when I stop, please join on behind. 

At the end of the song, a child blows a whistle and the leader [engine] stops and the nearest child joins on behind the leader. The game repeats gathering children [carriages] in a long line. Start a second train after a few verses and then a third. Mathematical questions can be asked, such as which train is the longest? How many more carriages does Lucy’s train need to be the same as Freddie’s?

All of these songs can aid in children’s Personal, Social and Emotional Development, as they interact with other children, however, Sue taught us another song which highlights children’s achievements in a song:

What a star! What a star! What a clever clogs you are!
Tell/show us something you have done today!
Well done, Caitlin! Hip Hooray!

Once the song has finished, the teacher performs the ‘magic clock’, wherein they put both hands in the air and moves one arm around in a clockwise motion to meet the other arm. During this time, children that have been given instruments play them like a fanfare to celebrate their achievement. This song allows children to confidently share their accomplishments and have them praised. This song can also help children with their Physical Development as they play the instruments. Their concept of time could also be enhanced if they are asked to perform the ‘magic clock’ motion.

Instruments can be made from anything, as Sue previewed to us. Even placing rice into a bottle and allowing the children to experiment with how to make it louder and quieter can develop their Physical and Personal, Social and Emotional Development.

To link to area of Understanding the World, a song like ‘5 Little Ducks’ can be used, as it allows children to familiarise themselves with animals, as well as building on their Mathematical knowledge. Other songs such as ‘Old McDonald had a Farm’ can also aid their familiarisation of animals.

There are other songs that are less academic in the sense that they do not aid areas such as Mathematical development, rather allow the children to move freely through their actions, such as ‘Father Abraham’:

Father Abraham, had seven sons,
Had seven sons, did Father Abraham.
And they never laughed, and they never cried.
All they did was go like this;
TO MY LEFT! [children repeat and throw their left arm out]
[Verse is repeated whilst children move their left arm freely]
All they did was go like this;
TO MY LEFT! [children repeat and throw their left arm out]
AND TO MY RIGHT! [children repeat and throw their right arm out]
[Verse is repeated whilst children move their left and right arms freely]

and such as ‘Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups’, which begins quietly, gradually building up, allowing children to control their volume, matching their level of excitement to it;

Reese’s peanut butter cups! [children repeat]
We sing this song to pump us up! 
[children repeat]
Wham bam, choo choo train! 
[children repeat]
C’mon Abby, do your thing! 
[children repeat]
Abby: I can’t!
Other children: Why not?
Abby: I can’t!
Other children: Why not?
Abby: I just can’t!
Other children: Why not?
Abby: My back’s too sore and the sun’s too bright, my booty shakes from the left to the right!
Everyone: To the left, to the right, to the left, to the right, to the left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right, left, right! 

I have since implemented music into my pedagogic practice during my second University placement by trialing ‘tidy-up music’ at a nursery. Tidy-up time would usually last for approximately 25 minutes. I played various upbeat songs from ‘Mary Poppins’ such as ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ and ‘Step in Time’. I turned the music on and told the children what to do once they hear the music playing. They began to follow my example as I tidied up the nursery, much like Mary Poppins does in ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’!

http://charliekneen.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/blurring-the-lines-of-work-and-play/

http://charliekneen.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/blurring-the-lines-of-work-and-play/

A child asked me what they should do when the music speeds up. Instead of providing an answer, I asked him what he thought would be best to do. He responded with “We should tidy up really, really fast!” This shows an understanding of tempo, as well as an ability to match the speed of his actions to the tempo of the music.

 

Songs can be used for anything; any mood and for any purpose. Why talk when you can sing?

If you go down to the woods today…

When we went down to the woods today
we were took by a big surprise.
When we went down to the woods today
we got to dress up in disguise.

Everywhere that we looked around
there wasn’t a piece that could not be found
for us to dress up and create a woodland sto-ry!

When we stepped into the woods, we were asked to explore the surroundings, finding any hazards that may cause injury. We found loose branches on trees, branches that had fallen to the floor that were tripping hazards, clay pipes/ pots that had been broken and became jagged, and bricks left loosely on the ground.

Clay pipe/ pot.

Sharp twigs and branches, some of which were hanging loosely from the tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Branches that had fallen to the ground and roots that had risen up 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loose bricks.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When children are introduced to such an environment, it is paramount that they understand and have knowledge of their surroundings, so they are aware of what is safe and what is not. This can be done by asking the children what they would do to stay safe whilst exploring in the woods. Subsequently, the children could, in pairs, explore a small section of the environment under the constant supervision of a teacher, and discover one aspect that could be hazardous. This would allow them to search the environment and analyse, whilst also being vigilant, before they are given the opportunity to explore more freely. It allows them to scrutinise the dangers, so they are constantly aware, following independent and peer risk-assessments, of what they can do to stay safe in the woods.

Similar to Forest Schools, enabling children to explore the natural environment can primarily aid the development of their Personal, Social and Emotional Development and their Understanding of the World in the early years, and Geographical knowledge in the National Curriculum. Additionally, the other 5 areas of learning in the early years, and other areas of the National Curriculum can be included and developed within outdoor planning and provision.

We created a story wherein characters began to feud over who was the rightful ruler of the wood.

For example, when we stepped into the woods, we were given the wondrous opportunity to explore the surroundings. There were hats and fabrics, balls and, of course, the natural environment to interact with. We were able to create our own miniature story set in the woods. Our story consisted of two woodland creatures, aesthetically dissimilar, but both wanting to rule the woods. They begin to feud over who the rightful ruler of the wood should be. It would go without saying that allowing children to create their own story in the woods would mean that they were extra cautious using twigs and sticks. This would require health and safety to be explored when they visit the woods.
Allowing the children to explore the environment independently (though under the supervision of the teachers) and create their own story aids their Communication and Language skills and their Literacy skills in early years, and their English skills in the National Curriculum. This is shown through the children’s ability to discuss and collaborate with peers to create a story. Their knowledge of stories, their discourse and particular language denote their literary abilities. Prior to exploring the woods, the teacher could read a fiction and non-fiction book set in the woods with the children. This allows the children to become familiar with jargon that they can then use in their own stories, such as ‘branch’, or onomatopoeic words linking to the woods, such as the ‘crunch’ of a leaf.

Defender of the Woods.

To further enhance these skills and to link to Personal, Social and Emotional Development, the children could also be asked to use the natural resources available to them to create a character. When we attempted this, we decided to create a character to protect all the animals that may be found in the woods, and to protect nature. She was called the Defender of the Woods. She was decorated with leaves in her hair, a fan made from leaves and a small branch as her weapon to ward off evil woodland visitors.
Allowing the children to interact this deeply with the natural resources would allow them to create links, much like we did turning the leaves into a fan. This also links to Expressive Arts and Design in the early years, and Art and Design in the National Curriculum, as the children use their imaginations and creative abilities to design and create their own characters.

As a Mathematics activity, the children could simply be asked to collect as many leaves as they could in a given time. Once they had returned with their assortment of leaves, the children could be asked to first count how many they have. Following this, they could then count how many different coloured leaves they have, for example, 3 green leaves and 2 brown leaves. Once they had explored the different colours of the leaves, the children could find a partner, put their collections together and sort their leaves into organised piles. For example, arranging their leaves from smallest to largest, or by shape (these leaves are pointy, these leaves are curvy). This then allows them to use scientific inquiry in their learning.

To aid children’s Physical Development in early years, and their Physical Education in the National Curriculum, the teacher could first read a woodland book with the children, for example The Gruffalo. As there are a variety of woodland creatures that star in the book, as well as the fictitious Gruffalo, it would be simple, yet effective, to ask the children to use role-play in their Physical Development. This could be done by asking the children to explore various ways of moving similar to the creatures in the book. For example, how the mouse would move, gently with small movements, or fierce and large? This not only has the capacity to develop their physical skills by allowing them to experiment with a variety of different movements, but also builds upon their Understanding of the World as they identify character traits specific to certain creatures.

I would strongly recommend allowing children to explore the natural environment, as they do in Forest Schools (discussed previously) and in the Reggio Emilia approach to learning (influenced by Lev Vygotsky’s social-cultural theory, stating that children learn best through forming relationships and interacting with the environment). Allowing the children to interact with and explore the environment, both artificially created and natural, provides children with the opportunity to make connections. These ideas are transferable to other outdoor environments, such as farms, the beach, or just simply the outdoor play area at a setting.

Instead of teaching children that the rain is wet, why not let them jump in a puddle?
Instead of teaching them that the snow is cold and crumbly, why not let them make a snowman?
To fully understand nature, one must experience nature.

If you go down to the woods today
you’d better look with your eyes.
If you go down to the woods today
who knows of what it could comprise?

For ev-e-ry twig, leaf, rock and tree
may well teach something different to me.
So have fun exploring nature to its full-est!

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