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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Your First Class Book Project

Creating class books is something I remember doing as a child in school. We would all contribute a page by drawing and writing. Every member of the class had something to put in and our book would be displayed proudly in the classroom library. Do you remember those kinds of activities too?

They were very manual tasks, with a lot of potential for practising literacy skills but gave so much pride in our work too! The sense of a real audience for our class book was so motivating.

The problem was, we only ever made 1 book and if you wanted to show it anyone, they had to come in to the library. What if your class book could be shared in an unlimited capacity, to anyone, anywhere?

It’s now possible with Pages book templates and creation tools.

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Pages is a free app from Apple for your iPad and to make a class book, you only need 1 iPad! This is great first activity for book making in an early years classroom, where each child can add their own page to the class book.

 

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Don’t Touch The iPads!

There has been a flurry of articles published recently about tablets, and general technology use, and how overuse at home may be having a detrimental impact on early childhood development. These articles often highlight a practitioner’s viewpoint that physical development is the lowest it has ever been, that children can’t hold paintbrushes and there are no mouse or keyboard skills these days. As with most good things in life, good health and well-being comes with careful balance and always in moderation; it’s not often that a total ban is a necessary solution.

I was going to write about this, and why I think a complete ban or avoidance of technology in early years will not close the gap in physical development and social skills. I would have written something along these points:

  • We are supposed to find out what children bring to their learning, what skills they have, and develop them.
  • Technology is 1 area of learning where children’s home skills do not match the skills we want to see in learning.
  • Children are consuming content at home (watch video, play games, listen to music) and we need to teach them to create with technology (make films, code games and create music).

My point would be, if we are recognising children have an unbalanced diet with technology, that they are consuming too much content, then we should be planning for our children to learn how to create. If they learn how to create with technology, their characteristics of effective learning are enhanced. We would give them another way to express themselves, in a medium they are interested in. Then, what if, they go away and download these apps at home? Suddenly, the gaps could start to close. That children are making stunning photographs, meaningful films, collaborating and sharing their work with a real audience. Their learning becomes focused on the idea and the task… and not the device.

But I decided not to write about that.

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Instead, I want to share apps to use on 1 iPad, that require no touch at all and we can put the iPad down and make it respond to us using all of our physical skills. Those skills that we need to develop now more than ever.

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50 Things To Do This Summer: Number 49 “Make a PicCollage”

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I am an advocate for using Spread The Happiness resources for more effective partnerships with parents.

 

Last year Shonette Bason-Wood introduced 50 Things To Do This Summer; a checklist of activities to get families having fun together. It's full of real simple ideas that sometimes get forgotten in busy life, but when we look over it as adults, we remember those things from our childhood – well most of them!

Number 49: "Make a PicCollage"

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Technology is part of children's lives now and 'screen time' gets a lot of bad press. Not all screen time is the same though. No doubt many of us are in settings where children's communication, language, social and physical development are behind age-typical development so we are quick to assume this is because of their use of technology.

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