Planning for undestanding the world

Within my reception class (F2) we have a deficit of evidence for the curriculum area “the world”. The key objectives are: 

Children know about similarities and differences in relation to places, objects, materials and living things. They talk about the features of their own immediate environment and how environments might vary from one another. They make observations of animals and plants and explain why some things occur, and talk about changes.

So this includes some of my, and usually the children’s, interests. Children love looking at animals and mini-beasts so over the next few weeks I will be planning for this.

Outside I made a start with children this week replanting a row of seedling trees. They had been planted and then pulled out by the children. In order to try to develop the children’s understanding I’ve worked digging deeper holes and packing with fresh compost. The kids worked with me digging the holes, then watering them in. Hopefully by including them in the maintenance they will learn respect for the trees and not just pull them straight out.

We put up new bird feeders to attract some more bird life in.

I’ve added the friends of the earth bee poster from their Great British Bee hunt pack up near the bug hotel. I’ve got few more posters to laminate and put up. It will hopefully get the children talking and looking. Not the biggest change, but may draw them in.

Inside we have a tuff tray of mimi-beasts and woodland animals. There are laminated numbers and tricky words in the hope some children may name them giving us the observations for reading and maths. 

Carrying on from hedgehog awareness week we have paper plate hedgehogs to make

The sand tray is set for the sea with underwater creatures and coloured rice. Lovely sensory objects with the shells and rice.

The light table is set up with the light bricks for investigating colour change.

Within F1 (nursery) more of the chicks have hatched.

So lots of fun to be had next week. Ive got plans for filling the planters to attract in more insect life and a few flowers is good for both the mental health of staff and children. So watch this space for further developments.

Hedgehog Awareness Week

This week is hedgehog awareness week. As such I thought I better check my hedgehog is still happy with the trail cam. I set it up for last night to check it’s still coming in to visit.

I’m glad to report it’s still there. Each time I check the trail cam and see it there on the photos and videos it still gives a thrill that these lovely creatures visit my garden.

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To get the hedgehogs in I did three things to encourage them to visit.

Last year I cut a small hole at the bottom of the back gate to allow the hedgehogs in. Fences can pose a serious obstacle to hedgehogs with many houses changing to impenetrable brick walls. Hedgehogs can cover a lot of ground in a night, but not if they find their path blocked. It does work, as I’ve seen them coming through when taking food waste down to the compost heap.

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A plastic box with a hole cut out made my hedgehog feeding station. The hole was covered round with duck tape to avoid sharp edges. While not the prettiest looking object it allows the hedgehog to feed without next doors cats eating it. The brick is just to weigh it down, so cats can’t get in to eat the food. You can buy neater looking wooden ones with spaces built in for feeding and hibernating.

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Wire hedgehog homes provide a place to hibernate. Mine haven’t been settled in yet, but the hedgehog does come and investigate it.

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Last weeks countryfile episode, in Warwickshire, featured a short section on hedgehog awareness week discussing more of what you can do.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08pnvmg/countryfile-warwickshire

At school I haven’t managed to fit in any hedgehog related activities, so I will be building awareness a week behind.

That’s not my hedgehog-Fiona Watt

These touchy-feely books are loved by Alice. While low on plot, babies and toddlers love the different textured surfaces. While very basic I did use some of this series teaching year one about adjectives.

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The very helpful hedgehog-Rosie Wellesley

This nice little story talks about the many varieties of apples available and teaches about being helpful and friendship.

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For more grown up reading material with less anthropomorphising, Hugh Warick has a nice little book as park of  Reaktion Books animal series.

Hedgehog-Hugh Warwick

It’s been nice looking back over the blogs from the last year of what I’ve done to help hedgehogs. They’ve brought me lots of pleasure. Hedgehogs seem to be one of those animals everyone has a story about with everyone at one point having them in their gardens. What’s your hedgehog memories?

RHS school gardening

Just a quick plug for the RHS and the super work they are doing promoting gardening in school. 

You can sign up at: https://schoolgardening.rhs.org.uk/home

Through registering you get a welcome pack of advice and chances to gain more rewards. There are competitions to give your school gardening a target or focus. There are useful guides for identifying flowers, pollinators, parts of mini-beasts. Lots of useful resources for teachers. 

My new units garden area is a mess of weeds in the planters and strawberry plants growing on the path. So my first step is going to be clearing. My outdoor job for next week isn’t a gardening job. I want to put some mini-beast identification sheets up around the bug hotel. I’ve found a few children digging around it and want to extend it further. As little effort as a of w posters and magnifying glasses will be I reckon it will draw a lot of children back in to investigate. We have a lack of evidence for the world and some mini-beast hunting and gardening will help build up our evidence.

Outdoor play

As mentioned previously I have recently got a promotion to a new school. I am now going to be moving back from year one into being an EYFS coordinator. Within my new unit we have provision for two year olds, F1’s (3-4 year olds) and F2’s (4-5 year olds). My job is to oversee the three year groups, but will mainly be working in F2. One of the things I’m looking forward to is developing the outdoor play. The three year groups have their own playground areas that are currently pretty well resourced, but I reckon can still be developed further. But lots of nice areas already established. Anyone who follows the blog knows I care about outdoor learning and these three areas have already made spaces for wildlife and stories, so lots for me to get my teeth into.

The two year old area. They’ve got a slide going down a small slope and under the tarp is a large sand area.

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Water play on the fence.

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A rather good looking mud kitchen.

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Weaved shelters and bug hotels. A nice area for covering to make dens.

The F1 playground.

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A story seating area. A good area for taking the story out.

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Mud kitchen and seating.

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Planters.

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The F2 playground (where I will mainly be).

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A story area again.

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Pathways through weaved tunnels.

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The all important bug hotel.

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Pathways to help with all weathers.

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And the mud kitchen.

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A lot more than I had to work with starting out. It shows how much more significance has been placed into outdoor learning, even in just the last 5 years or so. I’m looking forward to seeing the kids out in it. I’ve no doubt they won’t use any of the areas as adults intended, but that’s part of the course.

Three activity sources for Spring

As it’s made the definite shift to Spring the outside world is looking very appealing in bright sunshine I thought I’d share 3 sources of free inspiration for family or school ideas.

One removed as requested.

 

The Canal and River trust have put together a duck pack giving advice on waterside quests. It details waterside safety, several duck breeds, what to feed ducks, grass trumpets, and a couple of craft activities. As is quite well known feeding ducks bread can be bad for them, especially white bread, so it covers alternatives.

Duck guide

The wildlife trust has a whole load of downloadable idea sheets that feature in their junior members magazines. There a lots of different ideas varying from quick things to do to longer projects.

Wildlife trust ideas.

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Taking the story out: two fire stories

Continuing on from my blog on stories outside and Little Red I plan to dedicate this blog to two fire stories with good school links. Making fire forms a central part of most forest school programs, a scouts staple and adventure holidays. Teaching fire skills has numerous advantages for children. It teaches self control, patience, and gives a great sense of satisfaction when they can admire their fire. I’m not going to go into how to make fires or teach fire making here as there are plenty of sources on this and I’d inevitably miss out vital safety advice. My instructions would be no substitute for experiencing it through physically through a course. In both stories fire is central to the plots making them ideal to tell around the fire.

The tiger child

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This traditional Indian tale tells the story of a tiger who wants fire. He sends his young nephew off to the village to collect fire as the villagers won’t be scared of the little tiger. However the young tiger is seduced by the villages comforts and becomes a kitten to the dismay of his uncle.

The story itself is simple, but it makes a good starting point to develop understanding of the world. The illustrations show aspects of a more traditional Indian village life. Apart from the obvious forest school link to fire making it provides good geography, art and music links.

This is part of a puffin series of books telling tales from round the world. In the same series is how rabbit stole fire. This is a Native American fire origin story. While I know the tale I don’t own this one so won’t comment on the quality or recommend.

The fire children

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The second fire story I’m recommending is a West African tale. The fire children tells the story of how the first people were made and baked from the clay of the earth. Within my current work in year one I teach the Christian story of Genesis and the Hindu creation story. The fire children firms an interesting contrast to these. The picture book has beautiful illustrations and brings about many questions from inquisitive minds.

The story makes a good starting point to look at West Africa. Within key stage 2 we currently opted for the history topic on Benin. Within KS1 it gives another reason to look at the continents ticking the KS1 geography targets. For foundation stage another chance to understand the world.

As with the tiger child the fire children has good opportunities to create art. The most obvious being to look at work with clay. This blog: practical primitive has an explanation of how to extract clay from soil. Alternatively air drying clay can be bought to allow children a more permanent souvenir of the story. Or else just encourage some sculpting in the mud kitchen.  At a stretch if nether are available provide playdough to make figures.

And that’s it for this blog. Finish with a picture of my tiger child enjoying the roaring tiger.

Den day

Friday the 16th June is save the children den day. Many children in the world live without shelter. They have been displaced by natural disasters and conflicts. Save the children aims to provide them with the basic necessities of life: food, water and shelter. This year I will of just started at a new school when this comes around, so I’m not sure how much I will do this year. To make up for that I am going to spread the word here of the good work Save the Children are doing.

https://denday.savethechildren.org.uk/

On the 16th June or as close to as can be managed you’re encouraged to raise money and awareness of these issues through building your own shelter, by building a den. This can be done in school or at home. By signing up you receive a pack of ideas to fund raise and also how to educate your class or own children about the challenges faced by children round the world.

For a bit of inspiration I highly recommend den building by Jane Hewitt and Cathy Cross.

Amazon link.

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This little book has a wealth of ideas and pictures of different dens both inside and outside for inspiration. Some are obvious like the cardboard box den to some more creative ideas.

My second recommendation is Home-Carson Ellis. This beautifully illustrated book is a great topic starter for home around the world. It shows a wide variety of different houses around the world ideal for the message of den day.

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It is still quite a way of off den day, but if your setting is anything like mine it takes a while to build materials for any of these theme days. For den building I have a good collection of tarps, old curtains, paracord, pegs and poles to allow the children to build nice simple dens themselves. It’s worth building a supply of cardboard boxes for easy quick builds. I like having the children help attach the para cord between two fences on our playground. Then a tarp under as a ground sheet and one over the top, then pegged at the ages makes a simple large den. The children can do most of the work themselves having done it with me enough times and it fits plenty of children at once avoiding disappointment for the children who can’t fit.

Building dens ticks off many parts of the EYFS curriculum. Just in case you work with staff or senior leadership who don’t see a value to the day I’ve listed some curriculum links. I’ve listed EYFS links, but KS1 and 2 have plenty of links too within PSHE, D&T and geography as well as core subjects.

Personal, social and emotional development

Den building always attracts large numbers of children. Within this are good opportunities for evidencing building relationships. They need to select resources and discuss what is working, so self confidence and awareness comes in. While building dens they have to manage their behaviour and once the den is built I often find they put caps on how many are allowed in at once for safety, which is always good for them to develop their own self control.

Communication and language

Hopefully the children will talk back and forth as they build and take into account others opinions. Often how and why questions will come up allowing them to show deeper understanding of what they are doing. If working in large groups generally plenty of speech will be involved. Then when the den is built further language usually comes out in role play.

Physical development

Den building allows opportunities for both fine motor skills such as tying knots, scissor control or attaching pegs and gross motor skills moving large equipment. Then as the den is built they need to negotiate the space in and out the den. Plenty of exercise can be involved in den building allowing for discussion of health and self care.

Literacy

There are plenty of stories that can be linked to den building to develop reading. Then within planning and designing their den their are writing opportunities for what equipment they need and then creating signs, warnings, maps to the den after.

Mathematics

Plenty of basic counting skills can come into den building such as how many children are allowed in the den, but I find den building a better excuse for finding the comparative language of shape, space and measure coming into a real life example. Sizes, position, shape, distances and weight all come into den building naturally.

Understanding the world

The theme of den day is ideal for making those links to other communities and seeing how other peoples lives differ from their own.

Expressive arts and design

Building a den gives the children a way to express something about themselves on a large scale. They can access different tools, mediums and techniques to decide what sort of a den they want.

So within one special day the children can help other children around the world, but they can also cover a lot of ground in their learning. The day can easily be extended into a topic if the children engage well. The dens can easily be extended to homes and buildings. Then yo have many stories that can be brought in. The most obvious being the three little pigs, but plenty of other choices.

Underneath my den ready for Alice when she’s a bit older. Currently she is becoming interested in crawling under things. Under the table, under the armchair, under blankets, so not long until we can start on some den building.

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A quick and easy den. An umbrella and scarfs. Easy to pack away too.


And to finish a landmark soul song from one of my favourite Motown albums.

Taking the story out-Little Red Riding Hood

Having written previously about taking story books out I’m now going to look at one that I particularly enjoy using in the outdoor provision: Little Red Riding Hood. Little Red Riding Hood is an all round good story for Foundation Stage and year one. It can be done quite dark, it’s got a good villain, a brave hero to come along and rescue the heroine or their are alternate versions with Little Red saving herself. While it has lots of less than suitable interpretations for the younger years it still has a basic moral about listening to parents and not talking to strangers that still has as good a place today as when it was written.

Three of my favourite versions are:

Little Red Riding Hood-Lari Don

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This version tells the traditional version with granny and Little Red getting eaten by the wolf. No messing about with wolves putting granny in cupboards this wolf does what fairy tale wolves are meant to do, eat people. Then the huntsman comes along to find a snoring wolf in the bed. While the wolf is asleep the huntsman opens up the wolfs belly and releases Little Red and Granny then sews the stomach back up filled with rocks. The wolf then drowns at the end. I’m not a fan of the many toned down modern versions of fairy tales as they generally lose something in the telling. This one engages children well. It has lovely illustrations and details the children remember.

The wolf’s story-Toby Forward

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This version of the story comes from the wolf himself. It’s delivered in a Del Boy style tall story with the wolf explaining unconvincingly what he was doing at Grannies cottage. Better towards the end of F2 and year one as the children understand the story more and get the jokes. There are quite a few alternative versions of Little Red, but this remains one of my favourites. It provides lots of good opportunities in the class for further development of the story. For follow up work this story really helps with hot seating with the children playing the part of the wolf and getting into the characters head. It has good possibilities for PSHE and writing. I’ve used it as a lead in to the children writing letters as the wolf apologising to Little Red and trying to explain to her what happened.

Revolting Rhymes-Roald Dahl

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Roald Dahl’s version is full of humour with Little Red as the heroine. She later turns up in the three little pigs to take on another wolf. It has wonderful rhymes that stick in the children’s heads.

The small girl smiles. One eyelid flickers.
She whips a pistol from her knickers.
She aims it at the creature’s head
And bang bang bang, she shoots him dead.

Little Red makes an ideal story for telling outside as much of the story takes place outside. The parts in grandmas cottage are easy enough to set up a role play area for outside. Reading a story outside and practicalities around this were discussed previously. Once the children know the story it is one they have no problem finding areas outside to roleplay the story. if you are lucky enough to be working in forest schools you have a perfect setting for Little Red to meet the wolf. If you are within school hopefully you have at least one tree to be your wood, but even if you don’t a hedge or fence is enough for most children’s imaginations. For parents a trip to the park maybe with Little red’s basket seems a good excuse for a picnic. Children are good at assigning settings that look nothing like the actual ones. Within my school playground. They assigned three small trees as the forest, a stump as the woodcutters spot and the stage as they cottage. In small groups they successfully acted out the different parts of the story. Role playing and acting out stories makes up an important part of learning to make their own stories. By becoming familiar enough with lots of stories they can then draw on the different elements to make their own stories or change existing ones.

Extending it beyond the role play back at one of my previous schools we had a mud kitchen where the children were encouraged to make cakes for Little Red to take to granny. We had a fairy tale post office with the children writing letters to different characters from stories. The example from the wolfs tale given earlier was the starting point done as a lesson with the class, but they quickly started to expand to do their own ideas. The wolf sidetracks Little Red sending her off the path to pick flowers, so it is an easy step from the story to explore wild flowers. While I’m not in favour of sending classes off to find and pick wild flowers I have taken them around the school field to look and see what we can identify. It’s usually little more than daisies, buttercups and dandelions, but they enjoy it and it does form part of Year Ones science curriculum. We have also planted small pots of wild flowers to sell at our school fairs. Den building is a good way to set up granny’s cottage. Many units have a home corner outside already or one that is wheeled out each day, but often these are ignored much of the time. Building a new cottage each day sustains interest over longer periods than the same home corner day in day out. Story mapping is nice for an outdoor activity in warmer weather. Some large scrap card some pencils, felt tips and crayons and you’ll find many children will enjoy mapping out, drawing the different events of the story.

So ideas summary for outdoor play with Little Red:

  • role playing.
  • Letter writing to characters.
  • Cake baking (mud kitchen, playdough).
  • Wild flowers (planting and exploring).
  • Den building (making granny’s cottage).
  • Story mapping.

Props are good for telling stories, although not necessary it does add to the story telling. My Little Red contains:

  • A basket
  • Little Red’s hood
  • Wolf ears
  • Wooden food
  • A wooden axe
  • A shower cap (for granny’s night wear)

Cheap enough items that add an extra level of interest to acting out the story. The children particularly like putting the cap over the top of the wolf’s ears. _dsc0984

I won’t be going into my park though to tell Alice this one though at the moment as the trees have become a duck pond with all the rain.

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I’m sure there are many other ideas that can be done with Little Red. If you do anything else with it, please share in the comments.

Taking the story out

Today I’m going to be starting a series of articles covering ideas for 30 days wild for teachers and parents. Fairy tales and traditional tales are a key part of childhood. They capture children’s imagination, teach moral lessons and prepare them for the hardships of life. The vast majority of these stories take place outside and often in woods and forests. The backdrop of the forest makes up a large part of our fairy tales and folklore going back to a time when people were worried about the perils of the forest.This idea was well covered in gossip from the forest-Sara Maitland

Now we have the reverse situation if we don’t get people outside we face dangers for their mental well being and physical health. Teaching and taking the children out has been shown to be beneficial for children’s health and developing their education. Whether you subscribe to forest school practises or just the ideas in Richard Louv’s-last child in the woods, outdoor play is important. It promotes health, helps tackle childhood obesity, but more importantly for me it develops a love of nature and creates imaginative children.

A key message in last child in the woods is that a lot of the best imaginative play happens outside, seeing as many of the best fairy and traditional tales happen outside it is a perfect chance for going out of the classroom, out of the house to tell them. This might only be a basic as taking the picnic blanket out in the garden, to the park on the school playing field, but it changes the engagement with the story. It makes it more than just a story at hometime in school. Some parks have dedicated story spaces to go and read a story in or a story chair.York Museum Gardens have a storytelling area hidden away.

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For some teachers reading in this way may be a worry. The children will be too excited, their focus will be elsewhere. At the start of the year I explain to classes these times we are going outside to learn have the same expectations as the classroom. We are still going out to learn and the same expectations to listen are still required. It is made very clear that children who can’t follow instructions will miss out next time. I am fortunate in that my school has a large playing field (it is one that hasn’t been sold off to make a new housing estate)  with trees along the back giving us nice spaces to go out onto, but even going out a concrete playground will add interest to the kids.

In terms of practicalities in Summer going out to read a story on the field or playground is straightforward as most of the time the grass is dry enough to sit on. Currently though it is not. I have a large tarpaulin that we take out. The children take the edges and stretch it out and then sit on the edges while I peg it down. If you have a nice spot under a tree or maybe a stage on the playground it again adds to the feeling of the story being more of an event than just home time story.

I like telling stories orally, but that requires an element of performance and acting some teachers may not be comfortable with. For stories I don’t know as well I generally stand to read the story with the children sat on the tarp. When it’s a story I know well it can be told orally acting the story out. This allows more fluidity and movement, moving amongst the children keeping their attention better. It’s a good way to engage the children in their topic. By reading the story outside it encourages the children to continue the story during their break time as they connect their story with outside. So I find stories read or performed outside will be re-enacted during break and dinner time extending their learning into these times. Becoming familiar with stories and having the opportunity to act them out is a vital element in children becoming story writers. Pie Corbett refers to this as imitation. Through this stage of imitating stories they then come to innovate and change the stories to make their own versions. By reading and performing stories outside it widens the possibilities of a story. For example a chase between the wolf and woodcutter in Little Red Riding Hood can stretch over the field rather than being squashed in the classroom.

For parents just taking the picnic blanket to the park with a story again has an added element of excitement, taking the story beyond just reading it for bedtime.

So key reasons for reading outside:

  • Create excitement and engagement.
  • Extend the learning beyond the classroom, children will often continue their story games into break and dinner time.
  • Time outside benefits health and mental health.
  • Space to roleplay stories with no limits on running, jumping, etc that you would have in the classroom.
  • Boy engagement. It always makes up an element of school improvement plans now. The boys in my class like getting out and generally end up following close behind for outdoor stories so they can spread the tarp. This then ends up with many of them sat at the front for story rather than trying to hide at the back not listening.
  • Creating a love of literature and the outside.

 

I will be following this blog up with several examples of stories I like to use outside and what additional activities I do alongside reading the story. If you use any stories outside currently or decide to take your class or children out please comment below. I’d love to hear others experiences.