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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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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Young Children Can Create

In England we teach young children (Birth to 5 years old) from a non-statutory curriculum now known as Early Years Outcomes (formally Development Matters). The curriculum is structured around 7 areas of learning but themed on A Unique Child, Parent Partnerships, Enabling Environments and Learning & Development. Learning across these themes, principles and areas of learning are woven together through The Characteristics of Effective Learning.

Development Matters, and Early Years Outcomes, explain that theEE theme Enabling Environments theme should ‘value all people’ and all learning. Yet there is a division in the early years community about the role of technology in learning. Our young children have access to technology in the home and there are an abundance of reports and opinions claiming screen time is a contributing factor towards low attainment in physical, social and language development. For this reason, there are settings who switch off to technology provision.

Technology is the one strand in our early years curriculum, and throughout the National Curriculum, where the application in the learning environment is different to the application at home:

  • talking at home is similar to talking at school,
  • sharing at home is similar to sharing at school,
  • reading at home is similar to reading at school,
  • numbers at home is similar to numbers at school,
  • whereas technology at home is different to technology at school.

At home, children (and adults!) watch TV and video rather than film movies ourselves. We use the internet at home to browse and shop. We more often choose to listen to music rather than make it. We look at photographs at home rather than take them. We regularly relax in front of screens. 

At school and nursery, the Early Learning Goal for Technology states that children should ‘select and use technology for particular purposes’. In the National Curriculum for Key Stage 1 this extends to digital skills such as using images, video and sound for creative projects.

We should be teaching children how to create with technology, in meaningful ways that are cross-curricular where ‘experiences respond individual needs’ and interests.

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Draw and Tell app

Here’s a spotlight on an app I discovered Apple’s Get Started with Code teacher guide. This is a mark making and story telling app which crayons, paint brushes, stickers and templates. It’s free, it’s lots of fun and it’s another tool to engage children in early writing skills.

The launch screen has 3 options:

  • Blank paper (start a new picture)
  • Colouring (access to templates)
  • Your drawings (saved work)

The screenshots in the tiles above show you what happens as you move through the ‘Blank Paper’ option and begin a new drawing. There are heaps of tools available, all of the tools you would expect in a digital painting package (including a rainbow crayon!).

Why not paint, draw and mark make with real art tools though?

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Our first week with iPad – Mastering the Basics!

I came away from the Apple Distinguished Educators Institute brimming with ideas about photography and why we need to enhance learning by giving children a camera.

FullSizeRender-2-300x300.jpgCathy Hunt, of the iPad Art Room, shared the idea that “it all starts with the camera, because from this launching point we can support students to develop their ability to communicate”. In her classroom she sees how cameras help children ‘see their world differently’ and that their ‘connected cameras are always collecting’.

 

dave-profile.jpgDave Caleb, a digital literacy coach in South East Asia, explains “images are an incredible medium. They transcend language barriers. It doesn’t matter what language you speak, you can read a photograph”. He reflects that ‘your camera roll is your story’ and now that students have access to devices, they have a powerful story telling device at their finger tips. He concluded that ‘We need to teach our students to capture powerful images. It is a literacy we need to teach. It is tied to what it means to be human’.

Both of these presentations at the ADE Institute support the reasons why I start and end with photography each year my Foundation Stage classes. At the end of last year I published the ‘One Best Photo’ resources with The Forestry Commission but each September I wonder how I will progress my new class of 4 year olds to this level of creativity on their iPads. And each September, the 4 year olds amaze me!

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MakerSpaces: Foundation Stage Best Practice in Key Stage 2

What is a MakerSpace.

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I was interested in MakerSpaces because of their strong links to Foundation Stage best practise. It’s a place in school where children use sets of resources to work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children design on their own projects or respond to challenges. I wanted to see how best practises and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning further up school. For the Year 4 teachers, they wanted to see how our new range of iPad compatible robots can be used in their coding curriculum.

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For this MakerSpace I was joined by Jason Milner. Jason is an Apple Distinguished Educator (ADE) from Sydney, Australia. Throughout July he visited other ADE schools across Europe and today we collaborated on this project at my school. Jason wanted to gain experience using iPad compatible robots and also observe the impact that wrapping code around the curriculum may improve the way in which children apply mathematic skills.

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The MakerSpace: A Foundation Stage Challenge

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Monday 4th July was the day I had been waiting for since February. Apple Distinguished Educator, Jason Milner a Year 4 teacher from Sydney, visited my school to work with me on a MakerSpace project we had been planning for months.

 

 

What is a MakerSpace?

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I was particularly interested in this concept of MakerSpaces because of the strong links to Foundation Stage style practice. It’s a place in your school or setting where children use open-ended resources or work on projects related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematic skills. Children work on their own projects or respond to challenges set. I wanted to see how best practices and resources from Foundation can be extended to support learning in computing and programming skills. Jason also wanted to gain experience using our Dash robots with Foundation Stage children.

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Shape Hunts with Pic Collage

Last year I used Padlet as a collaborative tool for shape hunts around school. It was really effective to use a collaborative tool and create a shared document that displayed all of the 3D Shapes we found around school. You can read about that here.

This year Padlet released a free app for iPad making this resource much more stable on iOS, but it requires the latest iOS and we are using iPad 2 which I don’t want to update to iOS 9. So I had to rethink how I can make use of technology to enhance the traditional shape hunt.

“This adult led activity happens in so many foundation classes, and I have led shape walks many times. During these walks, we carry a bag of plastic shapes and we match the plastic pieces to real objects. This happens for 2D and 3D shapes. The children might even mark off on a clipboard the shapes they spotted, like bingo, or draw pictures of the shapes they have seen. By the end of the walk, they have all recorded the same shapes in the same places. I wanted to enhance this experience, to make it more personalised”

So this year we used the free app PicCollage. It makes use of children’s photography skills which they are all secure with when using iPad but creates a very simple and effective poster showing the shapes they noticed around school. They also like it because they get to take a selfie instead of writing their name!

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Kinectimals Inspiring Writing

This year was the forth time I have used Kinectimals with a class to inspire their writing. And this year staff in our unit said this was the best writing we have seen all year! So I thought I would share a few ways in which game play has inspired writing in my classroom.

Kinectimals

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This an X Box game and it is also an app game available for iPad. You adopt a tiger or a bear on an island called ‘Lumeria’ and meet a character called Bumble who has been looking after the animals since the explorers left many years ago. It is an adventure game where you lead your animals through different tasks and challenges, find treasures and discover new parts of the island. It’s also a virtual pet style game so it is self paced and children can navigate the island themselves, moving around the place instead of moving forward in game play. Graphically it’s stunning, very beautiful and the story is captivating.

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