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Hooray for Diffendoofer Day!

We are very pleased to feature a guest writer this evening. Freya, an experienced teacher, kindly sent us an article she has written about a book which was mentioned on previous threads. 

Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! How do you encourage your children to think?

I have been lucky enough to have been taking part in an amazing teaching programme which really encourages us, as practitioners, to think about how we teach. Sounds simple, but it has really tested me and made me realise, what am I doing to encourage my children to think?

Yes I can teach them addition, how to count, write in beautiful handwriting, but what am I doing to ensure they are life long learners who will question and test everything they are ‘told’?

Being a lover of books, I was drawn to remember a wonderful book by Dr Seuss called Hooray for Diffendoofer Day. A quick synopsis of the story is the children are taught to think and they love learning. They are taught by wonderfully eccentric teachers, leading to all the children loving attending the school! When presented with the standardised test, the children don’t panic, they know they are equip with the skills to approach questions, even completely new ones, because they have been taught and encouraged to think, rather than the skill of taking a test.

With all this in mind, I have tried ensure I teach the children in my class to think and question. I will ask them questions which encourage them to think about the ordinary in an unusual way. For example (this has been my favourite so far), “what colour is Tuesday?” At first, the children answered ‘red ‘coz it’s in red writing Miss’, but once they were given time for thought and discussion the answers were MUCH better. One child answered, “I think Tuesday is a rose pink, lemon yellow and standing out green because I think Tuesday is a joyful day.” Other answers followed: ” I think Tuesday is orange because Monday is a sleepy day and by Tuesday everything is waking up”. Now it may not sound much, but for children who are always trying to give the ‘right’ answers and are scared of being wrong, I was blown away. This is something I now do on a weekly basis with my children and they are much more inquisitive and will happily argue and discuss their ideas. It has had a positive impact across the curriculum.

I actively encourage my children to think, rather than just be passive learners and I am very excited about having my new class in September to see how far I can push them, and how far they will push themselves, to ‘think’.

Freya

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What is play?

play
/pleI/
Verb
1. Engage in activity for enjoyment and recreation rather than a serious or practical purpose.

As educators we are constantly hearing and talking about ‘the value of play,’ and throughout the decades numerous people have attempted to define the meaning of this all-important word. The definition above is taken from the Oxford English Dictionary. And I have to say, I’m not in total agreement with it. Enjoyment? Definitely. Recreation? Absolutely. But the lack of serious or practical purpose doesn’t sit right with me. Anyone who has seen children exploring a mud kitchen or building junk models will know that there is an awful lot of purpose in their activity!
I would say that the majority of teachers nowadays would not dismiss the value of play. It forms a major part of the teacher training programs. But all too often we are quick to fall into the routine of “you can play when you’ve done your work.” A classroom with play in does not necessarily mean that the play is being valued. And by teaching our children that what we value is the work they do when they are with an adult is directly devaluing their play and discouraging independent learning.

For me, play is a wildly subjective matter. What could be considered engaging and enjoyable by one could be seen as bland and tedious by another. As facilitators of learning it is up to us to find what play is for each individual chid that we encounter. Having a classroom with well-structured and open-ended areas of provision allows the child to decide how they play and ultimately, how they learn.
An experienced colleague of mine recently described a good-quality, provision-based classroom as “feeling like a chocolate box.” I love this analogy as it conjures up ideas of an environment full of irresistible provocations with endless possibilities for the children to choose from. (And having seen her classroom full of happy and fully-engaged children I know that she has it!)

Everyone will have their own definition of play. (I know I have dozens on a Pinterest board to which I regularly refer!) But what I think should be our aim as educators is not to define play as one specific thing, but to constantly change and adapt our definition and understanding of play in order to best suit our current children.

And who better to ask than the players themselves? I did this with my very first class and I was shocked by some of the responses. The answer that stuck in my head was,

“Play is what we do when the teacher says we can.”

I was mortified! I thought that I had it sussed. I had areas of provision and had read countless books and articles about how to set up a play-based environment. But I was so busy setting up what I thought would be a good classroom or what a book told me would make a good classroom that I’d forgotten about the most important opinion of all: the children.

Taking the jump and setting up a completely play-based learning environment is scary. Especially if like me you are in the early stages of your career. But before changing a single thing, we have to be clear about this ‘play’ thing and what it will look like. And that will be different for every school, class, teacher and child.

If I can give you just one thing to take away from this article, it’s this. If you want to know what play is, talk to a child. Ask them what they think play is. Observe their play from a distance and see what it looks like. Because ultimately they’re the ones that define play, not us.

Hannah

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Role play in Year 6, surely not?

An igloo tent in Year 6, surely not?
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This is my Year 6 classroom featuring role-play areas.

The children love the opportunity to act out roles and I have tried to structure each area so that they are linked to the Key Stage 2 curriculum. The children use the areas to inspire writing, develop communication and collaboration and also enjoy interacting with each other in role.

I have recently been part of a project where teachers have been sent to see creative teaching in our school. This is a quote from one of them

“when I first saw the role play I thought, this is year 6 and they are in an igloo tent – how is this going to work? When I talked to the children they explained ‘well when we looked at our APP we noticed that certain aspects were missing. We thought about the genre that would tackle these gaps and we agreed diary writing would, so we are pretending to be the receptionist, the paramedic and the injured climber and then we will write our diary entries in role'”

As a teacher, it is obviously a big tick that they were taking control of their learning and investing in their writing – I was smiling ear to ear !

Alice

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Awe and Wonder-how do we nurture it?

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For me this photo exemplifies awe and wonder! This was just one moment in an afternoon when Rosie (then 8 months old) discovered daisies. She spent in excess of half an hour concentrating on one daisy, turning it over, turning it round and examining it closely.

My question is this; if this level of concentration and fascination is so natural in a child of this age why do we hear so many teachers bewailing the fact that they cannot get the children in their class to concentrate? My suggestion is that somewhere along the way we lose the awe and wonder of learning. Probably around the moment a child is asked to sit down and write about a teacher chosen topic or given a mass produced worksheet on which to fill in the answers.

For too many children school becomes a place to be endured, a school day is a period of time to get through in the best way they can and they don’t see school as having any relevance to them or their life. I am fascinated by ways in which I can make learning fun for every child in my school and luckily I am surrounded by an eager and creative staff who are keen to explore new ways of working. Over the last year we have been looking at the motivation and interest generated through true child-initiated learning in our Early Years environment and experimenting with ways of applying this throughout our school.

In the last two days I have been inspired by a wonderful book ‘Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today’ by Richard Gerver. Richard talks about making his school have the same appeal as a trip to Disney World for each child. I love the question he asked his staff, ‘Why is school not as exciting as Disney World? (So beware any of my staff reading this piece, I will be asking this on our September training day!) Richard goes on to ask “Why is it that on a cold February morning, if my child wakes up with a sore throat, they will cough, splutter and act as if they need to be read the last rites, instead of wanting to go to school, yet if they woke up on that same February morning with the same sore throat in Disney World, Cinderella’s mice turned horses couldn’t keep them away from a day at the Magic Kingdom? Why should school not feel more like that?”
I want the Disney World effect in my school! I want every child to wake up every morning and think ‘I can’t wait to get to school today’ and when they get to school I want school to be a place where rich, vivid and exciting opportunities are waiting for them; a place of true awe and wonder.
Watch this space for how I plan to develop this further in my school!

Kathrine

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What a great first day!

Thank you everyone for their interest and support on the opening day of ‘Love of Learning’.

Remember if you like our site then ‘like’ us on Facebook or ‘follow’ us on twitter so that you receive updates about the latest posts and articles. 

We have some great articles lined up for the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

Thanks

Love of Learning 

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D.T. or Literacy?

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D.T. or Literacy?
As you know I have just completed my NQT induction year. I was recently flicking through my evidence file when I came across some photos that I thought I would share.
First let me set the scene. It’s second term of my NQT year. I’m tired, stressed and up to my eye balls in assessments and the numerous other facets that make up our job as teachers, when observation time comes around again. The year group: Year One. The lesson: literacy. The topic: houses and homes. My children need to work on their descriptive writing, so what can I do to encompass all of these?
My frazzled brain’s first thought: “I know! We can design a dream house, draw it, label it and write about it.” Sorted, right? Wrong! Whilst that probably would have been a perfectly okay lesson for the few children who enjoy drawing and writing, how was it going to engage the children who don’t enjoy sitting down and writing or hate drawing or just generally have no interest in the topic?
So I opened up my trusty Pie Corbett ‘Talk for writing’ book for some inspiration and re-read the ‘warming up the word’ section for possibly the hundredth time since starting my teacher training. And then it came to me. Why DRAW the houses, when we could BUILD them?
So here’s how the lesson went. We started by looking at some amazing houses from around the world: fairy tale castles, desert island paradise, jungle tree houses, bat man’s house…the list went on. In the background I played the song ‘Little Boxes on the Hillside.’ After thought-showering the describing words we had thought of so far as a class, off the children went. The challenge: make your dream house. I laid out the classroom with natural resources, junk modelling, gardening resources, paper, pens, post-its; the works. They could choose how to present their dream house either through drawing, collage, junk modelling, small world… the choice was theirs. The floor was covered with ground sheets for those that wanted to work on a larger scale. The only condition: their model had to include labels and adjectives ready for their ‘Big Write’ the following day. What followed was a morning of creativity, discovery, collaborative working, problem solving, language and vocabulary development and all-round enjoyment (from children and staff!)
The photos below show just some of the work that was produced that morning. The writing that followed the next day was descriptive, creative, and a true reflection of what those children could do when given the chance to engage with something and the time to ‘warm up the word’ properly.
So in answer to the title question: ‘D.T. or literacy?’ I say, “Why choose?!”

Hannah

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Welcome to ‘Love of Learning’

Hello one and all!

Welcome to our brand new site ‘Love of Learning’.

Love of Learning is a space for practitioners to share ideas and learn from each other so that we can all provide the ‘awe and wonder’ in learning that we believe is the right of every child.

We are a group of primary school practitioners all at varying stages of our careers with a range of experience.

We hope that you find the site helpful and enjoyable. Please take a moment to have a look at our belief section and about us section to find out more about us.

You can also follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. If you have thoughts or ideas that you wish to share with us and our followers then please feel free to get in touch through any of the various ways.

Thank you for your support so far, articles on a broad range of topics will be following shortly.

The Team