Sunday, 15 April 2018

Term One Reflection

Wow, that term went by in a blink of an eye.  We started the term with 27 children between the two of us, 14 of those first timers :)

Our term has been completely based around play, with children spending large chunks of their day directing their own play.  Usually during the day there will be anywhere between 2 and 4 more teacher directed sessions.

We have altered a few things to start the year, basically this year we are using the developmental indicators that we decided upon through our inquiry last year.  These indicators are a huge foundation of our classroom

The diagram associated with these can be found here and the goals directly associated with this here.

These developmental indicators have proved to be absolutely invaluable in helping not only gauge readiness, but to also 'see' progress in a different way.   About 12 of our children have transitioned to one to one reading with us twice a week and are showing good progress.  By the time they do move onto this more formal reading with us they are usually anywhere between R2-Y1...but even better they already have a good awareness of books and early book skills.  Reading and the whole point of it makes sense to them.  If they do not want to read with us, they do not have to.   If they want to take the book they have read with us home, they can, if not, they don't.

Interest reading has had a huge boost this year, every day children spend time browsing at books that interest them.  They retell stories, make the story up, read the pictures etc.  They then take this book home to share...or not.  It is important to have parents on board with this, so we have created this poster which we send home and pop into our visitor packs.

Our aim is for children to love reading.  If the spend the whole year, or more, getting ready to learn to read, it is no big deal.  I know that when they are ready, they will read.  I believe pushing reading straight on children when they start school can have the exact opposite impact that we hope it to have, it creates an anxiety around reading and for some children is a real roadblock to future progress.  Despite what many think, pushing children earlier into learning, does not mean they will be advanced or ahead of their peers.  What it does sometimes mean is that these children who are pushed lack understanding and comprehension later on, not something we want to happen.  They can also fall into that group of children in Year 3-4 that we notice lack social and emotional intelligence, those children who we just don't see 'growing up.' An over emphasis on academic means these children miss out on the much more important social and emotional learning that play has to offer them.

Writing has focused on storytelling, we had great success with this last year, and are already seeing the benefits.  There is no pressure, children need to have something to say, if they are to want to write something down.  We teach as we see children are ready...not before, and are reaping the rewards for this.  All of our children are happy to write, they feel successful, what more could we want.  It is not that we are not teaching them, it is that we are tuning into those moments in time when children need the knowledge we have to offer, in that moment of need, what we are teaching will make sense, and in turn be remembered.  I have blogged quite a bit about this process if you are interested.

Number Agents never fails to amaze me, and just like the group before them I have a keen group of agents who love participating in this imagined world, it is playful, it is intriguing and they feel a real sense of ownership and control...just like a storybook each day is a new page with new
understandings being developed and new characters being introduced.  I am always quite astounded by how much children remember when in this world, and this also transfers into their mathematical understandings.  They have an emotional connection to what is being learned, this means that they attach this connection to maths and in turn their progress is positively impacted on.

What I did discover quite quickly this year is in terms of play and urges, these children are very different from last years lot.  What worked for our children last year, what lit them up, just doesn't do it for this group.  Our children last year had a fascination with the bush, this group prefer imaginative role play and a lot of their play comes from their real world and a construction and transportation urge.  My goal this year has been to design provocations around the urges and interests I see and to let the play shape our other curriculum areas.  This term we have been involved in fishing and a lot of discovery around this interest, and forces, with much of the children's play exploring motion. 
Fishing has been a real interest

Our class scrapbook has worked perfectly to store class learning stories and I love using it for reflection.
Our Scrapbook of Learning Stories

Learning stories is another one of my main areas of learning this year.  We aimed to do two for each child this term, and used a form that showed the transition through developmental goals through to stories that focused on more curriculum based learning.  This term has allowed us to see that we have to tweak this process....we read individually, check developmental goals individually, catch learning for seesaw AND were endeavoring to do class and individual learning stories.  The conclusion we have come to is that there is only so much we can expect of ourselves.  During term two we will continue to write class learning stories where appropriate, but we will use seesaw to develop learning stories, adding a bit more detail than we have been doing, so that it gives parents a better developmental/cognitive picture of how their child is going.  We are hoping this will be more manageable for us and will still serve the same purpose.

We did write a snapshot paragraph for each child to end the term, updating parents on how their child is going and what their next steps are...these were very well received.

Another major change this year has been the way we start the day, and I have to say it has been really worth it.  When the morning bell goes children come in and start playing.  We wander around, great children and do the roll.  After about fifteen minutes children hear our welcome song playing and they come to the mat to sing with us.  After our songs we may reflect on the day before or talk about some of the learning that we could extend on during our play, or reflect on some sort of emotional/social learning from the day prior.  Children will then move off for their first block of self-directed play.

People often ask what planning looks like and what our timetable looks like.  This is a hard question and a difficult one to answer.  Planning evolves as the play evolves and the timetable is fluid, we have teacher-directed time that we want to fit in, but it falls as it falls without the need for a timetable.  Our day just flows, we don't pack up till the end of the day, and if children are absolutely humming with where their play is taking them, we will not disrupt this.

However I do plan in overview example is here.  Ingredients here.  Specific term one overview here.  Below is a basic timetable that we use, but it is not definitive, just indicative.  We work with readers and developmental goals during play-based time, this can be a balancing act and we keep handwritten records of what has been done each day, with specific children having specific days that we will 'check in' with them.  Now swimming has finished we will probably place agency back in the middle block.
Mat times are short, writing takes about 15 minutes tops.  We do spend longer in agency, but children are so involved in this playful world and adore the professor and cowgirl so much they don't even seem to notice.
What I have been amazed by again (and I don't know why because I have absolute belief in this approach) is the progress children have made emotionally and socially.  They share, they negotiate, they know each other well, they very rarely have conflict, and are largely able to solve their own problems using their words.  They are very aware that they have control over their day and will actively consult us if they would like to go outside of their 'external' boundaries in a search for extra supplies for their outside creations.  In a term this is quite remarkable.  Another thing...yes we have cohort entry...yes a couple were still four...guess what, you wouldn't have picked them, in a developmentally appropriate programme they were able to settle in happily, just like their peers.  Would I rather children started at six...yes for the most part, but if we don't have the ability to change this, then the least we can do is ensure our programmes are designed to cater for developmental needs rather than being based on age.  

Progress...that old pearler.  There are many who would have us believe that in a play-based class children couldn't possibly be making the academic progress they should be.  I am going to call 'fake news' on that assumption.  Our children are doing very well.  They are making progress I would expect, if not better and you know what...they understand what they are doing and learning has a point.

Where to next term?

For myself it will to be continue to work on making learning stories manageable by using seesaw and planning for open provocations that invite but don't dictate or direct the task.

For our learning?  Well the children have exhibited a real interest in barricades and defence systems based on their love of playing wars.  I was thinking of provocations around this area, like castles, knights, periscopes, but we will see where that goes and what direction the children decide to go in.  We talked to them about areas they would like in the class and they really want to garden and tinker, along with a keen interest in we will endeavor to create our classroom space around these ideas.

Looking forward to Term 2!


  1. This is a fantastic blog, thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing this Leslee. I commented on your facebook page- I don't usually comment just check daily to see what you have added, soak it up and go YES but at the end of Term 1 I wanted to say...Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing what you do Leslee, and how you implement it, and your philosophy behind it. It really is so encouraging and inspirational for me, and Im sure so many others, who are teaching in a PBL environment. Hope you have lovely non teaching break.