Spring Term 2021
Active learning for powerful minds
Being active in learning and play does not mean the children have to be physically running about or moving. It is equally stimulating to challenge the activity of the mind and this is why Little Stars have so many opportunities to explore and experiment. Not only are they learning facts in an active way (for example that the chemical reaction of mixing bicarbonate of soda and vinegar produces gas to blow up a balloon just as their breath does), but they also are allowed to actively engage with and follow the journeys that their own thinking takes them on. It is often the investigations that they have once the “actual” experiment has concluded where we see the sparks flying. Allowing them to use different resources and utensils in their own way, mixing different substances and observing changes effects produces the powerful learners who are prepared to make new discoveries, direct and take control of their own learning and their own future!
Fearsome tales for powerful story telling
Whilst I talk about making learning real and meaningful in some ways, in others the powerful learning comes from the mythical, legendary and magical. We all know the attraction of princesses, knights, superheroes and right now it’s dragons. Combine those themes with story and you have a powerful connection and inspiration for the children. And so we have seen, by telling a range of different stories (our favourites are shown in the gallery) that mix up and subvert traditional ways of telling stories and presenting ideas (with princesses bored of being locked in a tower and wearing pretty dresses, or dragons scared of mice), telling them through books and through actions, drawings and orally, the children have at their fingertips, and on the end of their tongues, the ability to fly with their own fantastical tales where anything and everything can happen: even new words can be invented for in the world of magic and fairy tale the more fastastical the better!
Take a look at our week of reading and writing, the Little Star way:
Making phonics fun and meaningful
Whilst our ethos is to allow powerful learning to come from children’s own lead, there are of course certain nuggets of knowledge and skills that need to be given to children, but this still doesn’t need to be delivered in a static way. And so in as many ways as we can we make links, offering alternative ways and avenues for children to grab onto the pieces of knowledge and skills they will need and adapt as they grow in a way that interests them. Hence the phonic sound ‘h’ is introduced through linking it to honey, how it is produced, drawing pictures of honeycomb, noticing shapes, patterns, we danced to the flight of the bumblebee and made honey cakes. These pictures show the gallery of learning that the children are open to:
Providing a sustainable life and attitude for learning and for life for now and the future
We can give children knowledge in many forms of learnt skills: reading, writing, maths, facts, figures. But what an entirely knowledge based curriculum fails to do is to provide life skills and to provide children with the necessary skills to protect our planet, to be resourceful, to be part of a caring, considerate society who thinks of others and can save the world! Thus our true superheroes are these children who will be the saviors for the future. They understand where food comes from, how it grows and are self sufficient in growing their own; they understand how to care for other species with whom we share this fragile planet and they are able to solve problems for themselves and apply practical solutions to situations. We support not just the children’s growth, but that of the environment. Here’s how:
We can give the spark but it’s the children who light the fire
Real deep learning comes from allowing the children to find their own answers, make their own discoveries and answer their own questions. Otherwise it’s just a manner of filling a child with facts that are never allowed to link up into something meaningful. ‘STEAM’ learning (science, technology, engineering, arts and maths) offers a manner of open ended problem solving opportunities for the children to become self learners and it has been in full swing over these past few weeks as the Shooting Stars have been exploring and experimenting with mixing materials and ingredients and watching chemical reactions; such as exploding volcanoes with vinegar and bicarb of soda and undertaking many outdoor exploratory adventures with water.
It’s also not what you’ve got but what you do with it, and such is the importance of having resources available at all times to aid and support play and learning when and wherever it takes place: such as using tape measures to work out whose vehicle is the longest.
Isn’t it ironic that the very word ‘phonics’ is phonetically incorrect?! The glorious English language for you….and this minefield is what our children have to find their way through! Luckily then phonics is not such a scary or intimidating prospect when done the Little Star way.
‘Magic bags’ (any given bag filled with props of the same letter) are always a popular way of introducing the children to a certain beginning sound. The true learning comes though from leaving the children alone with it once the adult led session has finished. I’m a great believer of letting the children have access to as many of the resources we use through their continuous play as they are then able to re create, re discover and re live the learning for themselves. So I over hear the children “being teacher” in the book corner with the phonic resources we have used in the group time.
This is why I believe that a mix of adult and child led learning is the best mix. And learning when they don’t realise they are. Hence a “phonics lesson” of fishing becomes a discovery of the properties of magnets, number identification and ordering and again leads the children to make their own investigations as they follow their own interests in exploring the room looking for what is magnetic.
Who’s that trip trapping over my bridge?
It’s not just called ‘Active’ story making for no reason! The format of active story making whereby we tell a story through words, actions and pictures really does capture the children’s imaginations as well as their drive and desire to tell the story for themselves: be it through just the words, pictures or physical re enactment: which is its power, to give ownership of story telling back to the children. And so we have had puppet shows, rickety bridges in the woods as well as in the garden, telling it to each other with props and puppets and I know many of you have heard it at home too. Please ask for a story map if you haven’t already had one or even better ask your children to draw one for themselves and tell the story while they are doing it.
So, that’s just a taste of all we’ve been doing just for starters to kick off the term. Below are some other letters and information that may be useful to you as we help our children live, love and learn throughout this year. You can find more on the parents page. But if “all” you are doing in “school preparation” is reading a bedtime story then you are giving them the best possible preparation ever