Back To School: A Journal For My Teacher

Telling somebody how you feel might take more than words for some children. Inspired by the traditional early years ‘All About Me’ templates for starting school, I’ve made this Pages journal for children to share their experiences of home with their teacher when they return to school. This can be done before the children start school or during their first days in class.

There are 4 activities and children use photography, video, drawing and sound to express their emotions when reflecting on their time learning at home.

This is what the journal looks like:

Download the Pages journal here.

MONKEYCOW: layer up your password!

Our youngest learners are using all kinds of online learning tools but what do they understand about password safety? MONKEYCOW is the perfect storybook to teach password safety this year. This blog posts contains an exclusive story video to use at home during the month of Safer Internet Day and free resources to send home too.

The National Cyber Security Centre recommends to ‘Think Random’ when setting passwords. Choosing three random words that are memorable, but not personal to you, makes it easy to remember but also difficult to guess your password.

A good way to create a strong and memorable password is to use three random words. Numbers and symbols can still be used if needed, for example 3redhousemonkeys27!

Be creative and use words memorable to you, so that people can’t guess your password. Your social media accounts can give away vital clues about yourself so don’t use words such as your child’s name or favourite sports team which are easy for people to guess.

National Cyber Security Centre, Think Random

But how might you teach password security to children? It sounds like a really dry lesson for any learners let alone young children!

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Weaving Learning Between School and Homes.

Writing about home learning from an early years perspective doesn’t feel too out of the ordinary as parent partnerships play a key role in early childhood development.

“Children learn and develop well in enabling environments, in which their experiences respond to their individual needs and there is a strong partnership between practitioners and parents and carers.”

Development Matters, 2012

In Development Matters, the enabling environments principle promises that early years practitioners build relationships with the families of the children they educate. The document goes on to say that formative assessment in the early years is most effective when it includes observations, interactions and information from parents:

“Observe children as they act and interact in their play, everyday activities and planned activities, and learn from parents about what the child does at home“.

Therefore, extending learning to the home from an early years setting should be more like a tweak to what we already have in place for parent partnerships.

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Technology at Home: free apps and advice for early years.

If school closures have taught us anything it’s that every teacher matters! We know that the motivation to learn not only comes from good quality resources but from the positive relationships children form with their teachers. This is the greatest challenge with distant learning. There are heaps of free learning materials out there and even more companies are opening up their subscription software as extended free trials. This is most effective when they are resources you are already using in school, so free home access keeps learning consistent

Let’s not get carried away and bombard our families with all of this amazing content in one go though.

What I’ve learned listening to my Apple Distinguished Educator peers who have already transitioned to distance learning, is that simplicity, consistency and relationship is important.

Free Apps for Home

Software is effective as it gives all children access to the same quality resource. It is a great equaliser. We can use software to create a level playing field of access to quality information and resources. But the motivation to learn over the longer time will come from the guided learning with an adult. Remember that relationships are key to learning! Find software which requires conversation with an adult and not only moving through levels in games.

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You don’t need computers to teach code!

This post is about my favourite lesson from the free ‘Get Started With Code’ teacher guide by Apple. I love Lesson 5 because the progression in language, understanding, teamwork and sequencing is always great. In this free teacher guide, every lesson has a practical activity which teachers a computational thinking skill to solve a problem in ‘real life’.

This means you can teach coding without needing a computer!

The lessons do progress on to a free coding app called ‘CodeSpark’ where young learners use arrows (like on a Bee-Bot) to make characters move on screen. But the first part of each lesson plan is effective because it teaches the language and thinking of computing in a practical, off-screen activity. Children understand the concept in a real-life experience before applying it to on-screen coding. It also helps you to teach children how to problem solve and impacts on the Characteristics of Effective Learning by helping them to think critically and change the way they are approaching the task.

Download the free ‘Get Started With Code’ teacher guide here.

The practical activity in this lesson is called ‘Robot Fun’ and uses a squared floor grid with direction cards of forwards, backwards, left and right. You help children to ‘break the problem down’ and solve in it in manageable chunks. This a computational thinking skill called ‘decomposition’. It also helps children to understand what the commands of forwards, backwards, left and right mean in a real life, before applying this to a Bee-Bot or the CodeSpark app (OR BOTH!)

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Lights! Camera! Critical Thinking!

I introduced my class of 4 & 5 year olds to green screen filming this week and even though it felt like a technical process to learn, the ease of the software and the creative process gave the children opportunities to demonstrate their critical thinking and problem solving skills.

I began by setting up an area of the classroom for the filming to take place and I wanted this space to give immediate visual feedback to the children throughout their filming process. I included a TV screen with AirPlay, a small green box to act as the stage, an iPad with DoInk’s Green Screen app installed and some PJ Mask characters.

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Climate Action: global lessons for young learners.

I was set to travel to Isle of Wight and work with teachers on a Stories of a Lifetime project this week but Storm Ciara disrupted those plans. As weather becomes more unpredictable and increasingly extreme across the planet the conversation of climate action becomes more important.

“The SDGs are unique in that they cover issues that affect us all. They reaffirm our international commitment to end poverty, permanently, everywhere. They are ambitious in making sure no one is left behind. More importantly, they involve us all to build a more sustainable, safer, more prosperous planet for all humanity.”

United Nations Development Programme

During January I have been unpacking the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and sharing ways that the goals can be discussed with young learners in school. These ideas link to the Young Children Can Create a Better Planet books which apply drawing, music, video and photography tools of iPad.

All 193 member countries of the United Nations signed and agreed to take action towards these goals, including Canada, USA, UK and Australia. Therefore, we have permission from the leaders of our countries to take action towards these goals in our classrooms. It is our duty to educate students on these global issues!

One target for this goal is to “Improve education, awareness-raising and human and institutional capacity on climate change mitigation, adaptation, impact reduction and early warning”. Acting on the climate begins with developing a relationship with plants and animals. Young children need to connect with the local area, their favourite animals and build knowledge about other habitats. With a strong relationship with plants and animals, children will be able to evaluate decisions and make informed choices.

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