Tag Archives: Early Years

Beautifully Bilingual

I am lucky enough to have grown up within a large extended family rich in language and culture. My father was born in Portsmouth, Southsea with a ‘traditional’ mother and father in the sense that they sat down every Sunday for a roast lunch and forced my dad to attend church even though they never actually went themselves! My mother was born in Nairobi, Kenya and came to England where she met my dad at university and the story goes (as my dad likes to tell it) that my mum was something of a mysterious Indian beauty amongst the students and by the time my dad realised she wasn’t a rich, Hindu princess, they had already married!

My sister and I spent a lot of our school holidays either at my Nanima’s house playing with my cousins or at an Indian wedding, which seem to happen every other week! Hindu weddings are beautiful! Full of music, colour and dancing. And whilst I loved every minute of it, I barely understood anything that was happening as it was all spoken in Hindi, Guajarati or Urdu. As my Nanima also barely spoke any English and my mum herself spoke five different languages, it was decided that I should attend Saturday school and learn to speak, read and write Gujarati. I suddenly found myself in a new environment where I couldn’t understand what anyone was saying or read the workbooks or make friends, as most of the other children either spoke to each other in Gujarati or Hindi. I went home to my parents so upset to be out of my comfort zone that after a few meagre weeks, I eventually quit – something I continue to look back on regretfully.

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(Me (in the blue dress) and my beautifully bilingual family at my sisters English/Hindu wedding)

When I give training about teaching children with English with an additional language, I like teachers to experience first-hand what it is like for children new to English by asking them to follow simple instructions given in another language. The feedback is always ‘enlightening’. Imagine yourself in a new country, where you don’t know the spoken or the written language, the culture, the routines, the traditions. How would you navigate? How would you know where the toilets are? Or how to ask for help? This is what it is like for all children with EAL. On top of that, they would be dealing with getting used to having left their old familiar school, home, friends and possible family members – that’s a lot for any adult to deal with, let alone a child.

My advice to teachers is this: do your research! If you know you are about to have a new pupil, try and meet them and their parents beforehand (home visits are great for this). However, as we all know, sometimes you don’t have time to do this and a child suddenly appears in your class first thing Monday morning with no warning or information. So, make the time! Arrange to meet parents as soon as possible, consider that they might need an interpreter too. Find out basic information about the child; how do you pronounce their name? How much English do they understand? What do they like doing? Do they have any dietary requirements? Where are they from? (In Thailand, the head is considered to be the most sacred part of the body and so you should never touch their heads and in some Asian, African and Latin American countries it is deemed disrespectful to look a member of authority such as a teacher, in the eyes). Are they religious? How do you say key survival words or phrases such as toilet, lunch, home, sit, stand, coat on etc?

It is also important to make sure that children with EAL aren’t categorised as being in a low ability group or SEN group (although it is useful to find out from parents if they are concerned about their child’s development or speech in their home language). Many teachers can often mistake a child with EAL’s ‘silent’ phase as being SEN when actually they are simply watching, listening and observing.

An aspect of planning that I often see in schools is where teachers differentiate for ‘SEN/EAL’ – that’s not to say that you might use similar resources e.g. visual aids, but for many children with SEN they need lessons that are broken down in manageable steps and need to take in consideration sensory and physical needs. When working with children that are new to English, you should be thinking about pre-teaching key vocabulary in the form of games and fun activities, repetition, gestures, buddying up with another child or adult that may be able to translate.

My mum was one of the first EAL consultants in Croydon and she would go into schools and support teachers through training, observations and in-class support. Unfortunately today, due to our ever increasing cuts in all things related to the public sector, specialist consultants are few and far between. The feedback I often get from NQTs is that supporting children with EAL is barely covered in teacher training despite this being an area that the majority of new teachers struggle with.

I wanted to create a resource for Early Years teachers that was easy to access and not too ‘wordy’, understanding that teachers’ time is limited. I always loved the ‘50 Fantastic Ideas’ series because it let me dip in and out for new ideas and the activities were usually easy to resource and fun to do. So, I decided to write 50 Fantastic Ideas for Children with EAL. I tried to design the games and activities so that you would use them not as a stand-alone intervention for children with EAL because, as we all know, our time is stretched, but instead you can use them with a whole class or in small groups with children that might need encouragement to build relationships, to enhance their speech, to help with 9781472952639.jpgconfidence and to develop respect and knowledge of other cultures and customs. I recently hosted a network meeting for teachers in Southwark on how to support children with EAL in the class. Afterwards, one of the EYFS consultants said it was one of the highest attended meetings they had held which proves that it continues to be an area where even the most experienced teachers want help in. I hope that my book goes a little towards easing this need.

 

Natasha Wood has worked in the Early Years for nine years and has built a great breadth of knowledge in child development and play. Her latest book, 50 Fantastic Ideas for Children with EAL, is out now!

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Poetry in Unexpected Places

When Bob Dylan won the Nobel Prize for Literature, back in 2016, there was a collective gasp from the literary establishment. While some critics leapt to the defence of the Nobel committee’s decision, others devoted reams of newsprint to the inevitable question: ‘Can song lyrics be poetry?’

Back in 2008, the renowned poet Simon Armitage had spoken for many when he confidently asserted that ‘songwriters are not poets’, going on to say that ‘songs are often bad poems. Take the music away and what you’re left with is often an awkward piece of creative writing full of lumpy syllables, cheesy rhymes, exhausted clichés and mixed metaphors’ (and this was in an article in which he professed his love for the Arctic Monkeys. Rather than saying that songs were bad per se, he was suggesting that we take them on their own merits).

It is true to say that few children are exposed to much of what many people would consider true ‘poetry’. ‘Poetry’ can so often be seen as something ‘difficult’, and certainly when I was at school a number of teachers analysed the joy out of it, so that what should have been an enriching experience became a dull one. Syllabuses these days focus less on dead white males than they used to, but nonetheless the notion of ‘poetry’ has, in some circles at least, retained that rather elitist veneer.

But what children are exposed to are songs and rhymes, ranging from skipping rhymes in the playground to the latest rap lyrics (and it is worth noting that Seamus Heaney, himself studied on many school courses, praised the ‘verbal energy’ of rap artist Eminem). Take one of the playground rhymes I learned as a child (chanted while throwing balls against a wall):

‘Please, Miss, my mother, Miss,
Forgot to tell you this, Miss,
That I, Miss, won’t, Miss,
Be in school tomorrow, Miss’.

Doggerel? Perhaps. And yet there’s a lot to learn from it. That repeated use of ‘Miss’, providing the verse with its rhythm. The ‘this, Miss’ – two rhyming words jostling against each other within a line, marking both a rhythmic change and one in the rhyme structure. Or how about the skipping rhyme:

‘On the mountain stands a lady,
Who she is I do not know.
All she wants is gold and silver
All she wants is a nice young man.
All right, [girl’s name], I’ll tell your mother,
Kissing [boy’s name] round the corner!
How many kisses did she give him?
Five, ten, fifteen, twenty…’

Not much poetry in there, you might think, and it’s true it wouldn’t win any prizes (not least because of the appalling sexism of ‘all she wants is a nice young man’, although in its defence we also sang ‘all he wants is a nice young girl’ on the few occasions when the boys joined in).  And yet the words have a strong beat, and the abrupt change in rhythm in the fourth line is one worth noting.

Or take the lyrics from Stormzy’s ‘Blinded by Your Grace’. I can’t pretend I know much about rap music – my main exposure comes from one of the characters in Zadie Smith’s On Beauty who is an aspiring rapper, and his lyrics are very clever (perhaps unsurprising given that they’re in fact written by a prize-winning novelist whose brother is himself a rapper). But here’s Stormzy with some blinding half-rhymes in Blinded by Your Grace:

On the main stage runnin’ ’round topless
I phone Flipz and I tell him that we got this
This is God’s plan, they can never stop this
Like wait right there, could you stop my verse?
You saved this kid and I’m not your first
It’s not by blood and it’s not by birth
But oh my God what a God I serve

Can we not, when learning poetry, note this and learn from this too? The ‘topless’ juxtaposed with ‘got this’ and ‘stop this’ in the next lines? That repeated use of ‘God’ that punctuates the final line that I’ve quoted?

Whether or not such examples are ‘poetry’, is, for me, something of a moot point. Rather than arguing over genre divisions, perhaps we are better off seeing the potential for poetic learning in so much of the ‘verbal energy’, to use Heaney’s phrase, which surrounds us on an everyday basis. Maybe what we should be doing is using children’s lived experiences – through songs, through rap, through rhymes – as a springboard from which to discover other uses of language (while at the same time not falling into the trap of making value judgements about which linguistics usages are ‘better’).

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Bob Dylan famously dithered over accepting the Nobel prize, in part because of his own doubts about whether he deserved it. Perhaps this could be summed up by the oft-quoted (and presumably anonymous) lines ‘I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it’.

But maybe all of us, even young children, can say the same.

‘I’m a poet and I didn’t even know it’.

Precisely.

 

Elli Woollard is a writer of picture books, young fiction and poetry. Her new poetry book for younger children, Perfectly Peculiar Pets, publishes on 21st March 2019 and is available for pre-order now.

 

Resilience Or ‘Bouncebackability’

I have been lucky enough to take the wonderful journey involved in writing a children’s non-fiction book in the areas of wellbeing and emotional health, several times. What I absolutely love about this process is the distillation of all I have researched and learnt over the years into a simply worded text (supported by illustrations). What’s Going On In My Head?, a book about positive mental health for young children, made me embark upon another such journey. I had to consider everything I knew about maintaining mental health – a key component of which is resilience – and put it into simple words.

Resilience is a word that’s been bandied about for a while now with the general understanding that it is one’s ability to deal with and ‘bounce back’ from life’s negative events. There is a fair amount of certainty that it is a good thing and it is so good in fact, we can’t have too much of it. However, even though the term is on most people’s radar, how to increase our resilience is a little more elusive. My book aims to make it less elusive so children can start thinking about and addressing the issues relevant to developing resilience.

In the book I have covered many of the well-known components that contribute to resilience, such as….

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…but I also made a few further reflections relating to resilience that I think are a little less obvious. They are as follows.

Self esteem

I was there at the start of the ‘self-esteem’ movement in schools. I remember running INSET training on the stuff in the early days of the national Curriculum. I would say most people’s understanding was quite primitive back then and more or less amounted to, ‘we must praise the children more.’ We have certainly moved on but I still think there is room for further fine tuning.

I think we focus too much on the positive. Yes, you heard right! I think that genuine self-worth comes from not only enjoying and celebrating our strengths and achievements, but also from the complete acceptance that there are things we are not naturally talented at. It doesn’t mean we can’t practise and get better at those things, but there will always be others who excel in some areas with considerably less effort. (It makes sense therefore that if we have become good at something through exceptional effort, this is indeed praiseworthy). We need children to know that being less than great at some things is absolutely fine.

Emotional literacy

I could go on about emotional literacy for hours. In fact, I do! But a message about emotions that I think we are often being too indirect about or not delivering at all, is that we really do need to stop believing the unrealistic idea that we are meant to be happy all of the time. It’s partly advert and social media culture that promotes this idea. We need to help children understand that negative emotions are to be expected, and as long as we are mentally healthy, they will soon be replaced by another equally transient emotion. Humans experience a huge range of emotions – both comfortable and uncomfortable – and this is how it is meant to be. Negative emotions need to be fully acknowledged, validated and accepted so we can then move on and develop healthy coping strategies for when we are experiencing them.

Coping strategies – rumination

 Rumination – a thought that is bothering us by going round and round in our heads, and our ability to prevent or moderate it can have a huge impact on our mental health. There is no doubt that some people are afflicted with a tendency to ruminate more than others. 9781472959232 (1).jpgHelping children, especially the more anxious ones, to recognise 1) what rumination is, 2) when they are doing it, and 3) what they can do to ‘park’ it, can help maintain positive mental health. What’s Going On Inside My Head? explores all these messages and what’s more, it says it in ‘Kidspeak’!

 

Molly Potter has taught in both mainstream and specialist provision primary schools as well as being a county PSHE advisor. Her new book, What’s Going On Inside My Head?publishes on 21st February 2019 and is available to pre-order now.

A Sense of Place: Young Children, Resilience and Climate Justice

“If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”- David Attenborough 2018.

Whatever your beliefs, you cannot escape the issue of climate change.  Scientists all over the world agree that this is the greatest disaster facing life on earth. Our mortgages, bank accounts, university educations and insurance policies will not protect us. Personally I flip between anger and the urge to campaign, and the temptation to bury my feelings with mind numbing distractions. I feel fortunate to have young children and nature in my life  –  both of which are huge incentives to stay awake and practice resilience to face the future – whatever it might hold.

I often talk to teachers and carers of young children about how to share this most pressing concern with young children. They are not responsible for climate change and yet it is their generation that will deal with the consequences if we cannot find a way to halt global warming and mitigate its effects on their chances of survival.

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Whether our children become scientists, philosophers or politicians of the future, is it our job as teachers and carers to raise them with the capacity to respond to these central questions:

  • What is it to be human and alive on this planet right now?
  • What is needed of us? How can we lead purposeful lives and leave a legacy of more good than harm?
  • How do we share our journey with young children with courage and fortitude?

Slowing down and shifting perspective

Our increasingly materialistic, technologically-driven busy-ness gives plenty to distract ourselves and our children from reflecting on these central questions.

But simply stepping outside under the sky, feeling the wind or the warmth of the sun on my cheeks and drawing breath can open up space in my mind to think differently.

Nature is my daily resource and it’s accessible wherever I am to support a shift in perspective when needed. Whether it’s stretching my eyes to change the view, tuning into bird song to shift receptivity, finding a sit spot to calm my mind, or going on a ‘no destination’ mindful walk to order my thoughts.

Nature gives children a multi-sensory, multi-dimensional environment in which to develop physical resilience and lay down the neural pathways for lifelong learning.

Children need time to ‘do nothing’ – to daydream as well as to explore their own ‘unadulterated’ lines of enquiry (or play) without interruptions and timetables getting in the way. We can take our cue from Nature’s rhythms, night and day and the changing seasons and weather.  Without electronic white noise, children can experience what quiet feels like and develop their capacity for greater attention. In the absence of bright neon and screen lights they can experience the restfulness of natural light and dark, or the magic of fire light or stars.

Finding the ways to share the hard stuff

When children are very young, we don’t want to overburden them with the troubles of the world. It would be like dumping too much grit on a bed of new seedlings. They need the right amount of water, sunshine and shelter to develop strong roots. But they also do not need to be wrapped in cotton wool. They need gradual exposure with much care, attention and support. Our job is to notice what they need and when.

Outdoors, children will encounter the hard stuff of life – cold, heat, discomfort, impermanence and change, and most likely at some point the death of a bird animal or insect. They will learn through observation, experience and gentle guidance of an adult companion about scarcity and abundance and about impermanence and the joy of sharing and caring.

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Responding to children’s questions with honesty and integrity is important. But mostly we need to listen well. We need to listen to what they themselves are expressing through what Magaluzzi calls ‘the 100 of languages of children’, and be prepared to receive what they communicate. They will tell us when they are ready to hear more.

What can we do about it?

It is through our behaviour that children absorb the values of the culture in which they are born. We can show appreciation for the gifts of nature that sustain our lives. We can learn the names of plants and animals; we can explore the properties and gifts of the earth and air around us. We can develop empathy and alleviate suffering through kindness and fairness. Outdoors children recognise their interdependence with plants, animals, minerals and ether. We can grow food with them, we can harvest water, and we can recycle and save energy.

As teachers and carers we are advocates for young children and their future on earth. The way in which we practice this advocacy will vary according to what feels right for each person. Some will campaign for and against policy locally or nationally, others will focus on teaching children, talking to parents and carers. Most importantly we need to keep learning ourselves, and developing our own resilience practice.

And me? What do I do? When I am outdoors I find it easier to let go of overwhelming feelings of fear, loss, grief and suffering. These difficulties don’t go away but somehow the vastness of the sky and the sea, the rootedness of trees shift my perspective. Outside I often feel smaller but also part of something bigger and eternally changing – a universal dance of light, air, space, ether and life! I draw strength from it.

We owe it to ourselves and young children to advocate for sustainable human life on earth however we can.

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With thanks and with gratitude to our teachers  and companions in life and in work – those that help us find resilience to stand with the challenges that life present us.

 

Annie Davy was Head of Early Years in Oxfordshire where she led an award-winning service for 12 years and is founder and director of several community-based projects. Annie’s book A Sense of Place publishes on 7th February.

All of the images are credited to Schnell Photography.

 

Introducing Bloomsbury Early Years

I have been thinking about ‘blooming’ a lot lately. My friend gave me a succulent two years ago, after she landed a part-time teaching job, as a thank you for my support. I managed to take cuttings and now have four, ready for a small rockery area in my garden. This means I’ve not only had the initial joy of receiving a gift and enjoying it when it was first in my home, but after a patient pause and a little bit of work, the joy of it blooming into several little plants. Here they are!

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Bloomsbury Early Years is an exciting and blooming product. The Little Books series has helped numerous Early Years practitioners since they were first published. And now, after a patient pause and a lot of work, the activities from the Little Books are blooming into a library resource that is online and keeps growing, and highly relevant in today’s Early Years settings.

Bloomsbury Early Years is a digital library resource for Early Years practitioners. Its activities are organised by the seven Areas of Learning of the EYFS and can be filtered by age range or type of activity to find the most appropriate activities for your children. The authors are all experienced practitioners who have developed activities across the breadth of the EYFS.

The Early Years Foundation Stage has four guiding, overarching principles: the unique child, positive relationships, enabling environments and children developing and learning in different ways and at different rates. The next steps of learning for each child should be meaningfully based on the child’s own ‘child-initiated’ learning and around their interests. We know practitioners are great at weaving themes so that they encompass children’s fascinations. In the last three weeks of the Summer term, I saw settings where the teacher had digitally photoshopped pictures of a fairy in the classroom outdoor area to ignite the imagination of her class, and another where an Early Years team had constructed a beach (complete with parasols and deckchairs) in their outdoor area – amazing!

When I first stepped into a Reception classroom, as a PPA teacher, I had only a few weeks of background reading and cramming to help me (oh, and the single day I had spent in Reception in my ITT!). In hindsight, I would have been really helped by Bloomsbury Early Years. If I knew that ‘Jayden’ loved outdoor learning and needed to find something that would help him to develop his understanding of number, then I could have found something here. Or if ‘Hannah’s’ understanding of People and Communities would be really enriched by a cooking experience because her family had told me that she spent some of the holidays baking with her aunt. It is in these everyday moments where Bloomsbury Early Years can really help planning learning to specific needs of children, using that personal knowledge of that unique child and linking it with their learning.

And we know this resource can’t stay still, so we are busy finding more great ideas to add to the site throughout the year so that it can grow more and help you, in your setting and in your classroom, to bloom into the best practitioners you can be this school year.

At the moment (Autumn 2018), if you subscribe to Bloomsbury Early Years (whether you are a childminder or a preschool or a nursery or a school), you will receive a free pack of 10 great picture books worth £69.90!

Heather Sargeant is the Digital Projects Assistant for Bloomsbury Early Years.

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Celebrating 100 Little Books!

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By Phill and Sally Featherstone

How should we say goodbye to Little Books?

Maybe we should start at the beginning. In 2000 the first Early Years Foundation Stage guidance was published, clearly establishing that the Reception year was part of the early years, and not just the first stage of primary education. Previously, practitioners working in Reception classes had no clear guidance about how they should plan the curriculum, or what the entitlement curriculum might look for children between 3 and 5.

The birth of an idea

It was around this time and to meet these new needs that we (Phill and Sally Featherstone) started Featherstone Education. Sally was then working as a consultant and trainer in early years education, trying to help practitioners to get to grips with the new curriculum. She produced almost all the early Featherstone materials, including the first Little Books. Phill managed the day-to-day business, including production and marketing, and edited many of the titlelb_woodlands_16s we produced.

Early in 2001 Sally was on her way back from training in a school in East Anglia. She stopped for a sandwich in a layby, and while she sat looking out over the Lincolnshire fields she thought about the people she had just been working with and what they had been discussing: i.e. how to manage the emerging demands of the new legislation while hanging on to the best of what they were already doing. The germ of an ilb_numbers-aw1dea came to her, an idea for books for practitioners that would show them how they could build on their existing good practice to meet the requirements of the new Early Years Curriculum. These would be small enough to go in a practitioner’s bag, and would be bound so they would sit flat on a table while they worked with the children. They would be little books, but they would promote big ideas. The concept and title for the series were born. So was the strap line – Little Books with BIG Ideas.

An idea becomes a series

Featherstone Education began to produce more titles. Most of the early ones were written by Sally, but an ever-expanding group of other writers later contributed to the series. Many were practitioners, and all were knowledgeable about the early years, able to connect interesting ideas and good practice into new titles. Phill designed the covers, featuring un-posed photos of real children doing real things in real settings, and these became part of the Little Book identity. The demand was great, and so we set ourselves the target of producing a new book every month (ten titles a year – there were no new ones in the summer months). This pace of production, extremely challenging for a small company, continued until 2008, when Featherstone Education was acquired by Bloomsbury.

Illustrations at this stage were also carefully commissioned to reflect the principles of the series, and as every page was illustrated this was a key feature. Some of the early writers illustrated p14their own books, and friends and family were roped in to help before we could afford to employ professional illustrators.

The new era and a final goodbye

Bloomsbury Publishing continued the Little Books series, and 40 more titles have been added. The most recent title, the 100th (The Little Book of Talk), continues the tradition of taking familiar activities, giving them a twist, and linking them to a focus for early years practitioners.

Little Books have been a continuing success and we are proud of them. They are valued by practitioners and their managers and advisers, and have been used in many thousands of settings across the UK and abroad. We are sure they will remain what a practitioner once described as her constant backstop, as she said, ‘Whenever I am stuck for an idea, or wondering what to do on Monday, Little Books are there to help me’.

We wish Bloomsbury Publishing, all the users of Little Books and the chwoodland_generalildren with whom they work the very best for the future.

 Sally Featherstone has a wealth of experience as a teacher, head teacher and a local authority adviser and inspector. In recent years, alongside her activities in publishing, Sally built a national reputation as a trainer and consultant in the Primary and Early Years field. She is currently concentrating on expanding her writing about learning in the early years.

Phill Featherstone has been a teacher, local authority adviser and OFSTED inspector. He now spends his time on conservation work around the pennine farmhouse where he and Sally live, and on writing fiction. His first novel, ‘Paradise Girl’ will be published at the end of January.

To celebrate 100 Little Books, we are offering 35% off when you buy any 4 titles in the series! For more details visit: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/superpage/littlebooks/

Ten Stress Busting Tips From James Hilton

Welcome back to the start of the school year, we hope that most of you aren’t feeling the stress yet but it is always good to have a few tricks up you sleeve for when the pressure does start to creep up on you. Keep these top ten tips from James Hilton, author of Leading From the Edge, in mind and hopefully you’ll be able to help yourself feel in a better frame of mind.

 

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James Hilton is a former headteacher working as a conference speaker and author, specialising in leadership, stress management and positive psychology. He applies his experience of human leadership to inspire a wide range of clients including school leaders, the NHS, local government and businesses. James provides fresh insights into the challenges of leadership in the intense environment that is the modern workplace.

It’s time to… Discover Maths!

By Trudi Fitzhenry and Karen Murphy, authors of the award-winning Time to… Featherstone Early Years series

Creating a positive maths mindset in young children is part of the reason for writing this book.  As early educators we model many of the attitudes and beliefs that young children absorb.  In our experience of supporting early years staff in a range of settings,  many of the adults we work with have a deep reluctance to engage with maths based on their own unhappy experiences of the subject in the past.  If we can offer ideas for making maths fun and remove some of the potential misconceptions held by maths-anxious adults then our youngest learners will benefit!

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Having the confidence to play with maths concepts in an open way, without the fear of being ‘wrong’, is crucial.  A fun way of introducing a maths problem is to allow the children to become the experts and you, as the adult, let their enquiries lead the learning.  So if you are looking at the number 5, you might ask ‘What do you know about the number 5?  Can anyone show me what 5 looks like?’  The children may place 5 objects together or may write the digit 5.  They may draw 5 spots on a whiteboard or show you 5 fingers.  All of the responses are welcomed and valued.  Encourage further sharing of ideas by asking ‘What else can we do to show 5?  Does anyone have another idea?’  Collect all of the children’s ideas and examples and create a book of 5, including songs and rhymes and simple calculations should these begin to appear.

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Taking maths learning outside is a powerful way of engaging children both in the natural world around them and in the natural patterns that exist.  Looking at flowers that grow around your setting allows children to compare petal shapes and quantities.  They can ask their friends which colours they prefer and create a simple tally or chart.  Collecting twigs, cones or leaves to use in a repeating pattern or as tools for counting or measuring engages the children in a worthwhile pursuit.  Looking for the tallest sunflower or widest branch, or seeing who can make the longest daisy chain adds a sense of competition that young children love!

Our message is simple.  If the children see us as adults engaging in exciting maths activities and hear us asking questions and following a simple line of enquiry, they will learn that curiosity is a good thing.  If we share our misconceptions and how we have figured out a solution to a problem, they will learn that this is okay, too.  With this kind of encouragement we can grow a new generation of maths-confident children and lose the all too common fear of maths that many adults share.

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Meeting Alistair Bryce-Clegg

We’ve just attended Childcare Expo in Manchester, and had the privilege of Alistair Bryce-Clegg signing copies of his bestselling book Best Practice in the Early Years and books in the 50 Fantastic Ideas series on our stand.

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To celebrate, we’re continuing our Summer Offer on all Featherstone Early Years books until the end of June! Receive 30% off all of our books with code Feather30 at the checkout.

If you missed Alistair at Childcare Expo, then check out his website abcdoes.com  for lots of fantastic tips on working in the early years, and his brilliant Ted Talk from TEDxNorwichED below.

 

The Games We Play

Simon Macdonald, author of The Little Book of Team Games, explains the importance of games in the early years. 

This Little Book focuses on encouraging emphasis on ‘togetherness’: a move away from the individual and towards the collective. Children in early years settings are faced with huge challenges regarding socialisation, sharing and growing in responsibility, and this book provides excellent opportunities for them and their carers to address these issues through team play.

I guess that I have always loved games.  For as long as I can remember I have always wanted to play them.  And I’m not picky.  Any kind of game will do.  The joy of game-playing is that once the rules have been learnt and mastered – or, frequently in my case, not – then there will always be another game along in a little while.  Or an old favourite.  Or a completely invented and arbitrary one.  Whatever it is that draws us towards playing games against someone else or in teams, I would argue that the feeling is something collective and shared: we want to challenge ourselves, test our mettle, push ourselves, but, overwhelmingly and perhaps more tellingly, we want to have fun and we want to have fun with each other.

The Little Book of Team Games is my attempt at acknowledging their value while being only too aware of the c-word lurking in the background.  Competitiveness has become a byword for all the evil excesses of team sports – and I share many of these doubts about the suitability of team game playing for young children especially when the role models they are shown can often behave rather badly when put to the test.  But I would argue that the extreme alternative of Sports Day events that dilute the need to compete at all – the following are ‘real games’ that I have witnessed at first hand: Walking Slowly, Hanging the Washing on the Line, and Sleeping Lions – do something far worse.  They dismiss the sense of taking part as a collective and cheering each other on as well as the sense of achievement a team may feel in doing well at something.

Yes, let’s not teach ourselves to win at any cost; to not only beat our opponents but to grind them into the dirt, but let’s encourage those who can run, throw, jump, catch, dribble and so on so that these skills are seen and valued as something to be proud of and, that we, as a team, are right behind each other.

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