A Spring Time Photo Walk

Back in January I took my young learners on a winter photo walk to appreciate the beauty of frosty scenes and notice the patterns in the natural world. You can read about this activity here. Wednesday 20th March was marked as the first day of Spring, and we were learning about the Hindu festival of Holi, so we took our cameras out on photo walk to capture the colours and signs of spring time.

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Before the walk we looked at the photographs from our winter walk. This was an effective way to link learning and notice the changes that have happened in the seasons but also to review the teaching point of good photography. Using photography in the early years is important because young children have access to cameras in almost all devices they touch. We must teach children to use cameras effectively and for a particular purpose so that they don’t fill devices with endless, repetitive images and learn that photographs tell us visual stories.

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British Science Week: Film Focused Talk

British Science Week is a 10 day program which took place between 8-17 March in 2019. This year the theme was ‘Journeys’ and our young children learned about journeys over land, by sea and through the air. But before my early learners set out designing vehicles to test each day I wanted to focus their attention on time passing as a journey and noticing changes that come as time passes.

In a short activity with ‘foam burst’ shower gel and cups, children observed how the shower gel became a cup of bubbles over a couple of minutes. It was hard for them to appreciate how the foam had started out as gel just minutes before though. When asked ‘how has it changed’ the responses were limited to the state now ‘it’s bubbles’ rather than the journey of change.

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Adapting Stories With Photography and Drawing

Having cameras in our mobile devices has changed the way we capture, edit and share photographs. Shooting an image outdoors now means we can crop it, adjust it and share it immediately afterwards. Whilst we are amazed at this as adults, the young children in our classrooms see this as normal and it’s a regular life for them. Children are exposed to cameras in almost every device they can put their hands on so we have a responsibility to teach children how to take and use photography for a particular purpose, otherwise their devices, and yours, become full of repeated, useless images like these:

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In a week themed around adapting the story of The Gingerbread Man, Reception children took their iPads to Woodland Workshop to capture and edit story scenes for their own runaway food stories. Previous learning has focused on taking close-up photographs outdoors or using the camera to capture story scenes of a naughty bus puppet misbehaving in the woodlands.

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The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing

I’m always excited to hear from followers of my blog and connecting with readers through Twitter or by e-mail. Recently, teachers from Mere Green Primary have shared ways they have been using the Young Children Can Create books that I published with Kristi Meeuwse and Jason Milner in August 2018. This blog post has been written by Terri Coombs and Rebecca Murray from Mere Green Primary School and shares the impact that The Rich Potential of Young Children’s Drawing book has had on their early years practice.

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Terri Coombs is the IT Lead for Mere Green and SLE in Computing and IT across the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership. She has 20 years teaching experience which includes 10 years of leading IT and is passionate about using technologies to inspire creative teaching & learning and enable all children to engage.
Rebecca Murray is the IT Lead for EY at Mere Green, she has 5 years of teaching experience in Early Years and promotes the use of iPads to encourage levels of independence.
Mere Green Primary School is an outstanding two form, family orientated school. We are driven to ‘make a difference’ for all our children, through support, nurture and trust. In addition to our mainstream children, we also have 20 places for children with statements for speech, language and communication from North Birmingham, who have enhanced speech provision across the school day. We are a fully inclusive primary school, which reflects the society in which we live.  We have a whole school vision for embedded use of IT to enhance authentic learning opportunities.

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Reading for Pleasure

Language development underpins almost all aspects of the Early Years Foundation Stage and learning stories is fundamental in broadening children’s vocabulary, understanding and imagination. As early years professionals, we are always looking for ways to improve reading provision and engage all learners in reading for pleasure.

Enabling Environments

The principle of Enabling Environments promises that we value all learning in our settings so for those children who are motivated by technology, this is a way in to reading for pleasure. There is an abundance of reading and phonics games on the AppStore so we need to make sure the choices we make for our devices are the most effective for our learners. What are we trying to teach in our reading provision?

The documentary ‘Secret Life of a 5 Year Old’ showed footage of a group of Reception aged children using apps whilst an adult walked in to the classroom with a tray of treats. The children using the software did not notice this until the devices were taken away. This is the usual kind of example of too much screen time, the type of device use that children engage with too much at home. We should be limiting this type of use at school too.

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A Frosty Photo Walk and the Impact on Writing.

Teaching young children to take photographs is one of my favourite uses of technology in the early years. The potential of children’s photography is rich in learning opportunities for many areas of learning and a purpose which supports all aspects of the Enabling Environment principle.

Supporting Exploration

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The cold weeks of January and the frosty mornings gave perfect scenes for outdoor photography at our Woodland Workshop so our iPads came with us. Children were challenged to take close up photographs of the frost. They needed to get closer, and even closer, then wait for the camera to focus before pressing the shutter button. It needed a steady hand and firm grip but the children needed an artistic eye too. Children had to look closely at the frosty environment and notice patterns. A good photograph works with the rule of thirds and the more photography children admire the more their eyes are trained to capture good images. Photography is an opportunity for children to explore the beauty around them.

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Inventors Day: the importance of tinkering and play.

Working with Shonette Bason-Wood, and being a Spread The Happiness Teacher, has taught me one thing… stop waiting to be happy!

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The Spread The Happiness diary and calendars make everyday an exciting day for you and your class. What’s best about the diary is that you are never quite sure if the days in the diary are real or not! But that’s the point, don’t wait for a day to do something new, exciting, daring or different. The diary gives you permission to be the teacher you want to be, and the teach in ways you’ve always wanted to. Which brings me to Inventors Day.

Thursday 17th January was marked as Inventors Day on the Spread The Happiness calendar. I hadn’t seen any of the usual posts on social media about an international day for inventors but it motivated me to observe play in the Maker Space that I set up and developed since 2016. So I spent the afternoon tinkering with the robot kits we have and it made me remember all of the fun we’ve had working with different robotic toys over the years …. and I’ve never shared them!

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Unplugged to Debugged: coding in the early years.

Bringing coding to the early years seems like a big step as the Early Learning Goal for technology narrowly states that young children should use technology for a particular purpose. It’s one strand of the curriculum where practitioners may be less confident in working that cross-curricular, linked-learning best practice that we are the true experts of.

To bring coding to the early years we need to better understand what coding is and how the skills of a good coder are related to the skills we are developing across the areas of learning.

The Cornerstones of Coding

Being good at coding is more than inputing commands in sequence. Good coders are actually good problem solvers. Coding is a process underpinned by the skills of:

  • Pattern Spotting and Sequencing
  • Breaking larger problems down in to small steps (Decomposition)
  • Looking for mistakes and correcting them (debugging)
  • Making predications based on prior knowledge (Logical Reasoning)
  • Testing out ideas (Evaluating)
  • Playing around (Tinkering – yes that’s a technical term too!)

Looking at this list of skills and the definitions, I immediately see a link to The Characteristics of Effective Learning.

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For readers who are new to the Early Years Foundation Stage in England, you can view the 2019 profile handbook here and read about The Characteristics of Effective Learning which underpin all learning for birth to 5 year olds here (page 22).

 

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Photography and Story Writing

The Naughty Bus is one of my favourite stories to read to children. The text is presented in a fun way, with words that help convey meaning. It’s the illustrations that bring the story to life for me though, real photographs in a fiction book. I love the way a real London Bus toy comes to life on the pages in the way that children imagine when they are playing with their own toys.

These illustrations made me think about the ways that photography can inspire children to write. What if children used their own photography as a stimulus for writing?

Each day this week, children have come to school to find our own Naughty Bus in various scenes of chaos.

These scenes created lots of conversation and excitement each morning, and I modelled how to capture these moments with our camera. In a few taps of the iPad, I could snap a few photographs, swipe through them with the children on the spot, select the ‘one best’ photo and print it wirelessly to display on in our classroom. The children then set to work cleaning up after their Naughty Bus but the moment was captured forever (and shared with parents via the class blog).

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Remembrance Day Exhibition

This year for Remembrance Day our school planned an exhibition of work. As with any time of remembrance and reflection, the community comes together to support each other. Differences are put aside and similarities are found between us.

I wanted the Foundation Stage exhibition of poppies to show this so I took inspiration from the new Everyone Can Create Photography guide.

Physical Art

First of all, children drew their own simple representation of the iconic poppy symbol of The Royal British Legion.

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