Building Blocks to Literacy: where does it fit with Play Based Learning?

Building blocks to literacy was introduced to me in 2015. It focuses on identifying foundational literacy skill and teaching these rather than diving head first into the things kids ‘ought’ to be doing. Presented as a framework rather than as a programme, it is a useful tool for ensuring that the bucket is ready to hold water, or spotting the leaks (so to speak). To this end I mean that it is very well and good making a child learn to read because they have turned five, but matters such as oral language, reasoning, pattern recognition and visual discrimination also need to be considered. If these are lacking how much harder will it be for the child learning print literacy? Is it not wiser to teach foundational skills that will ‘plug the holes’ so to speak rather than pouring water in and wondering why the learning doesn’t stay? Such a statement of course, connects with the readiness, age and stage debate. The trick is letting go of ego and recognising that you might not be the one to get the credit in the academic year…it might take time for those results to happen. This also requires trust and support from those in management and your parent community. In the interim however, strong foundations are built which will support students’ life long learning and sense of self.

As we reach the end of this decade we are becoming more informed about the neuroscience of learning. This has been particularly highlighted in a resurgence of interest in play based learning.

Like Barbara Brann’s building block, play based learning addresses the underpinning structures of learning…the soft skills or key competencies as they are known in the NZ curriculum. A skilled teacher can notice and utilise these opportunities to access the breadth and width of the curriculum…or the academic curriculum within this context.

In short I believe that the two can work together, with Branns work providing access to a wealth of knowledge which will support the enactment of play based learning. It is not an easy balance to find and will be affected by teacher knowledge, where you are in your experience, your school and community ethos and by sheer adult to child ratios. It is well worth it!

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Looking back to the future…

* an old post I discovered.

No. I haven’t become confused (at least – no more than usual). Nor have I become caught in a cyclical wormhole which intersects with the space-time continuum. After doing some more readings I am looking back to move forwards, considering what my teaching was like last year to what it will be when I return from study leave at the start of next year. Continue reading

Coding

Around the Western world coding has become a part of curriculums as governments seek to futureproof education and their ability to compete at a technological level. Putting aside for a moment whether one agrees with that or believe that such a move whilst simultaneously marginalising the arts will be beneficial… I stumbled across this awesome looking site with genuine coding projects that could be implemented.

As teachers we have to enact a curriculum, but we can make even coding purposeful rather than getting caught up in a repetitive rote learning cycle (hopefully – at least, that is what is suggested by our draft curriculum in this area).

Here’s a few ideas – I claim no credit for them but do intend to use them in the future. They even look like fun!

Coding project ideas!

Capture

The ultimate workplace

This place looks awesome to work. Talk about student driven! I think I have just found my dream job AND a way to be thrown right out of my comfort zone. And even if you aren’t quite as convinced, it provides some great examples of ways to promote success, student  driven learning, child agency and develop great human beings. Imagine if this school’s curriculum became that of the nation!

Sudbury School

Getting Started with Schemas

Before I begin, I have woefully ignored this blog this year. I have just completed part time uni studies for the year, as well as recently introducing play based learning (with the rest of the teaching team I am in) into our classroom curriculum. More posts on this to come.

Today’s post is a notes summary. It comes from the text:

van Wijk, N. (2008). Getting started with schemas: Revealling the wonder-full world of children’s play. New Zealand Play Federation: Waitakere, New Zealand.

 

What are schemas?

At the simplest level, schemas are repeating patterns in children’s play. More specifically, a schema is a thread of thought which is demonstrated by Continue reading

Cave teacher

I am very aware that I am not currently discussing research. That is on my mind, and I will get back to that presently. 
Regardless – Cave teaching. 

I come to the end of my two weeks teaching in the cave. I have thoroughly enjoyed this. School activites are settling into a more normal routine as I am sure they are around the country. The students at my workplace are beginning to get a handle on the concept of coming to the cave for teaching in their groups.  Our wonderful, skilled teacher aide has been assigned four groups to take during whole class times (although I generally do the planning). 

Initially I walked away from most sessions considering my pedagogy a joke. I considered myself hauling students out, chasing them up to get them there and then rushing through a lesson so I could ‘tick the box’. Some sound advice from my team leader and team mate helped immensely. I began getting through less groups, well, and being extremely specific about the routine of coming out to see me.. As those routines have become more established I have felt less like a shepherd and more like a teacher. 

I have been using modelling books with the students. With all three of us taking turns in the cave as well as a teacher aide taking groups on alternate days, these are allowing communication between the teachers. Students are also able to take the modelling book through with them to the clearing/the glen to work with. As I have an apple TV in the cave I do most of the session sung the app Notability, printing it at the end of each day and sticking it into the modelling book. This allows me to capture evidence from our whiteboard table and mini whiteboards  rather thn getting students to squish around  scrapbook. 

 The planning itself is on a google doc (colour coded of course).
Larger groups can be taken for each subject, with a much higher quality lesson taking place. I am really thrilled. Additionally, as the cave teacher, there are less behaviour issues to deal with. Those are the domain of the other two teachers (generally) so groups can keep having their deliberate learning. 
I have found that I have to be constantly on the ball, but I have more thinking energy at the end of the day. I discovered that I still dislike worksheets considerably, but can see the value of them. 

Personal growth

The week has once again begun and has been going really well. The last stress that I blogged about recurred and I managed it quite successfully. It was not an issue this time!

What was different? I was no longer as tired, becoming used to the routine of teaching swimming in the water for an hour and the pace of day to day teaching as I find my pace again. I had a back up plan (B): it was no longer a new scenario. I had a plan c and realised if A and B failed that my team would be fine with the invention of plan C.

We began planning for next week. I will be the cave teacher. I was pretty excited at this prospect! Continue reading

I begin to learn more about myself than I want to…

As per normal the term has gotten away on me already! I encountered my first issue (and really it was a need to be flexible+tired teacher+small change = issue). It was a case of me needing to adhere to a sudden change to the afternoon rotation pattern. I misunderstood, was unncertain and became rigid and inflexible. The changes stood. We moved forward.

As I later understood it was less to do with others making the change decision (because it had to happen and I was on duty-they did fill me in) and more to do with me feeling out of control of the situation. Frankly, I am disappointed in how I responded. The afternoon of course continued and students learnt. Not the end of the world.

It was an important occurrence though, highlighting a big weakness of mine: control – I need to feel in control of what is happening.

This is the biggest challenge that I have found, and is not one that I was expecting to be a problem, is that I have less control over what is happening. I work in a team with two others (both amazing, talented teachers, one of whom is the team leader). As such we all need to be on the same page. Continue reading