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natural resources

March 6, 2013

The challenge being an early years teacher is being creative and keeping the costs low. I always think that we are surrounded by so much natural beauty that it is a shame not to make use of the many natural resources. My children love to pick up leaves that fall from the trees in their play time. Today  we experimented painting the leaves and then making some prints. We love the finished product.



Messy Play (aka Sensory Play)

February 12, 2013

Sensory play involves all 5 senses.  Over the past month we’ve made an effort to give children more of a variety of sensory play.  It gives the children an opportunity to delight and express their feelings and emotions.  We are always amazed at how vocabulary is developed as children are so eager to express themselves. Asking children questions such as “What does it feel like”? “What is happening”? gives children an opportunity to express their thoughts, feelings and emotions.  By giving children the opportunity to investigate materials with no preconceived knowledge, you’re helping them develop and refine their cognitive, social and emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skillsets.

Here’s how:By Danielle Steinberg

The most obvious cognitive skills sharpened by sensory play are problem solving and decision making; simply present a child with a problem and various materials with which to find a solution, and you can almost see the connections their brains are making. A few examples from Angie Dorrell include deciding how to build a boat that will float, how to turn whipped cream green, or how to make sand stick together. In addition, children can build math skills such as comparing size (big versus small), counting and one-to-one correspondence (matching numbers to objects), timing (does water or oil move faster?), matching (same sizes and shapes), and sorting and classifying (buttons, beans or rice), and science skills such as cause and effect (what happens when I add water to sand?), gravity (water slides down a funnel, not up) and states of matter (ice melts). Without realizing it, children grow into amateur scientists by making predictions and observations, and even develop analysis skills.

Children can’t define parts of language until they’ve experienced the true meaning of the word. The attempt to convey something without the proper words to do so can be frustrating for children—and adults! Sensory play encourages children to use descriptive and expressive language, and to find meaning behind essentially meaningless words or gibberish. Take for instance, the word “slimy.” Sure, you can explain what it means with different adjectives, but until you experience something slimy firsthand, that’s all it will be: words. Angie Dorrell adds that children develop prewriting skills as they pour, spoon, grasp and work on eye-hand coordination tasks while using various materials.

Social and Emotional
Certain sensory play options, like sensory tables, allow children to be in complete control of their actions and experiences, which boosts their confidence in decision making and inspires their eagerness to learn and experiment. Sensory play can also teach kids about cooperation and collaboration. Angie Dorrell suggests, “As the children work together or side by side, they learn to understand someone else’s viewpoint. The children also have the opportunity to express themselves and become confident in sharing their ideas with others.”

Fine motor skills are often defined as the coordination of small muscle movements (usually hand-eye coordination) that enable us to perform a variety of important tasks. For children, these tasks might include tying shoes, zipping zippers and even turning the pages of a book. Gross motor skills involve the larger muscles of the body and include activities such as walking, running, pushing, pulling and throwing a ball. Some examples of sensory play benefit the development of fine motor skills by encouraging manipulation of materials, such as mixing, measuring, pouring and scooping, while other examples, such as exploring surfaces, lifting, throwing, rolling and water play, help develop gross motor skills. Even recruiting your child to help you build a sensory table for future explorations is exercising motor skills.

“Sensory experiences,” explains Angie Dorrell, “provide open-ended opportunities where the process is more important than the product; how children use materials is much more important than what they make with them.” Prompting your child to think creatively in order to solve problems or engage in make-believe helps them express their creativity and build self-esteem.


Learning Through Play

February 12, 2013

This year we have spent a lot of time convincing parents that children learn best through play.  We have done various coffee meetings and met with parents individually and in small groups.  The following write-up is what we posted on our notice board outside our Early Years Classroom to help inform parents and potential.

Outdoor Play

As children play outdoors they are developing control over their bodies and movement. They are learning how their body parts interact and how to make one side do what the other side can do. Running, jumping, throwing a ball, sliding and riding a tricycle are fun ways children develop coordination of both large and small muscle skills. Outdoor play gives children opportunities to use whole arm movement and leg muscles. These activities are essential to physical development and help in the development of the small muscles needed for precise tasks. Reading, math and writing develop when children have control of their bodies and their muscles. Finally, outdoor play gives children an opportunity to work on social skills in a less restricted environment. In an outdoor setting children learn to share, take turns, express hurt feels, and work cooperatively.

Block Play

The Block Centre is a very versatile learning place. Reading, writing, math, language, and social skills occur through the use of blocks. When children plan and organise their structures they are learning beginning skills necessary for reading and writing. Children develop important thinking skills such as creating balance, order, and symmetry as they work with blocks. Blocks are in direct mathematical proportion so fractions, part/whole relationships, shapes, and counting are a natural part of building. When children work together to create a structure, they are sharing not only the blocks but their ideas and plans for the structure. Planning together gives them a reason to work cooperatively.


Construction Play

The Construction Centre is a favourite place because all the activities are open-ended since the resources have no stopping point. By having open-ended materials, children can develop the ability of taking different approaches to solve problems they encounter when building. There are no “wrong” or “right” answers at this centre. The children work with small blocks, various shapes and other similar manipulatives. When the children are creating a pattern, putting pieces together to form a whole, or measuring their construction they are using math skills. The purpose of the Construction Centre is not to have a “finished” product but to give children the opportunity to experiment, initiate, create, and solve problems.

Music and Dance

Children are naturally drawn to music and dance. As children sing songs or move to the beat of the music, they explore and practice important developmental skills. Singing helps children develop new vocabulary words, practice words they already know, create and imitate sounds, recognise and repeat patterns, and compare sounds to each other. Science skills are develop as children strike a triangle and discover cause and effect. They learn about pitch, volume, and sound waves. Large muscles are developed as children express the mood of what they hear with their body movements. Movement, music and children go hand-in-hand.

Dramatic Play

As children play in the Dramatic Play Centre, they learn to take turns, share, and select their friends based on common interests. They take on family and community roles that help them understand what other people do and how they at. In essence children have an opportunity to try on a role to see if it fits their personality style. The Dramatic Play Centre helps them learn to make choices and decisions as they discover ways people help each other. Both math and reading skills are practiced as the children use a variety of objects like the phone books, recipe books, coupons and menus. Children learn to problem solve, work out difficult situations, develop vocabulary and practice social interaction in the Dramatic Play Centre.

Sand and Water Play

The sand and water centre is a place to learn many different concepts and skills. Children learn math by measuring volume, weight, balance and distance. In addition, they learn the concepts of more and less, empty and full, and solid and liquid. They develop find motor skills when they scoop, pour, drip, dump and mix. Children develop scientific principles when they explore different textures and experiment the the properties of many kinds of materials. Vocabulary is increased as children work with and talk about the funnels, water wheels, basters, and pipettes. As they move wet sand they “excavate” and when they make a channel for the water to move through they construct a “canal” and sometimes they make a dam to stop the water from moving.


The Manipulatives Centre has many different areas such as magnet boards, puzzles and games. There are many choices so that children have many opportunities to select an activity of interest to them. At this centre your child works with a puzzle with a friend or learns to share cooperatively by playing a game. Finding the different pieces of a puzzle helps your children learn about similarities and differences or figure ground perceptions (distinguishing shapes from their background). Puzzle work also helps develop the understanding of the part/whole relationship, a valuable math and reading skills. By working with a friend there are lots of opportunities to negotiate and problem solve which leads to the development of effective communication skills.

The Art Centre

The Art Centre is an exciting place for children to work. It draws them like a magnet. When children work in the Art Centre they are learning more than how to paint. They are learning reading, writing and math. Reading occurs when children see the differences in their brush strokes and learn to duplicate different strokes or shapes. Recognition of likenesses and differences are basic skills necessary when learning to write and do math. When children use thin and thick brushes or paint thin and thick lines they are learning math. Math skills also evolve when children select and paint on paper of different shapes. When children try to title their painting or put their names on the paper they are practicing writing skills. Skills that are the foundation of writing such as learning about spacing things on paper, working from the top to the bottom, and painting from the left to the right develop when a child is in the Art Centre. Creativity blossoms when children are painting. There are many ways to put the paint on the paper and many ways to express ideas and thoughts. Expressing creativity leads to building problem solving skills.

Three Year Olds are the Epitome of Inquiry

February 4, 2013

Three Year Olds are the Epitome of Inquiry

Three year olds are natural inquirers. They WANT to inquire and they are naturally inquisitive. Our jobs as Early Years Teachers is to provide a safe environment where children are encouraged to take-risks, share, co-operate and develop their social skills that are necessary to be successful in this world. Everyday as we plan, design and set out our learning centers we aim that each center would scream out “Open Invitation” to all our young students. We encourage children to explore and to get their hands dirty, to question and solve problems but most of all enjoy the experience of making sense of the world around them.

More fun with Science

February 4, 2013

More on Science....

Savy Scientists

February 4, 2013

Savy Scientists

This year we’ve done a lot of sand and water experiments. As the children have spent so much time mixing, scooping, pouring, tipping you can imagine the mess that is created! All good stuff though. At clean up time I posed a question to the children if they could figure out a way to separate the sand from the water. Today I put out some extra materials for the children to use and to enhance the learning centre. We used some cotton wool and the children had fun scooping and collecting the sand using the wool. This then developed into a water filter, where the children enjoyed making muddy water and then using the cotton wool to ‘clean‘ the water. Lots of fun with Science! Take a look at some of the snap shots.

Learning Stories

September 10, 2012

It is not how smart you are but how are you smart.


This week we have been exploring how we can make our portfolios more authentic and meaningful. Rather than having Portfolios look like a factory processing plant that all Portfolios look the same we really wanted to give credit and value to children’s individuality and to their needs as a learner.  So it made sense to include some Learning Stories that could be added to a  Portfolio.

Learning Stories were developed by Dr Margaret Carr from Waikato University, New Zealand.  Many schools have taken them on board and are now used internationally.  The purpose of a Learning Story is to validate and give credit to children’s work and their thinking and can also be used as a form of assessment for planning. It is important to note at this stage that Learning Stories are not the same as case studies or running records about children – they are narratives or stories and they need to be a good tale/story – something worth talking or sharing about.

As Kelly Goodsir writes “Learning Stories are an assessment tool used to describe a child’s learning process and are also a way of documenting that learning.  Using a storytelling format (known as a ‘narrative’) to capture the meaningful elements which influence a child’s learning process, Learning Stories are particularly effective in illustrating how children cope with challenges, resolve conflicts and persist when faced with difficulty”.

The elements which can be described in a Learning Story include the child’s;

-Interests, strengths and achievements

-Skills, knowledge and feelings

-Interactions with peers and adults

-Family, heritage, culture and community.

Following, is a Learning Story example of a child I observed today while watching him at the writing center.

Gun’s Learning Story

Gun approached the writing centre and independently chose to create a train using paper, glue and scissors. He organised the materials that he needed and proceeded to cut his papers into the shapes he wanted. He then glued each shape together to make the shape of a long train. “I made a train!” Gun proudly announced to his teacher.
What it means: Gun has demonstrated his ability to use the paper, scissors and glue appropriately and use his fine motor and organisational skills to create. He had an idea in his mind and was able to recreate his idea in a different context.

Learner Profile

You showed what a thinker you are by using your initiative and exercising your creativity.


You are so creative and imaginative in your approach to your work

Transdisciplinary Skills

What excellent Self Management Skills and Thinking Skills you showed Gun!

We can take this learning story and use it for planning.  We know what Gun’s capabilities and interests are and we can now plan to go further with Gun providing the support and materials he needs to continue to develop and strengthen his skills.