Earlier today I was reflecting on how our planning evolves in response to the skills we want to teach, the interests of the children and pressures from whole school, the government etc.
Don't worry - I'm not going to go off on one about how the government shapes what we do in the classroom (that would be a MAJOR blog!) but I was thinking about our baseline. Since the children started in September we have been making observations of the children to supplement the transfer data we got from pre-schools and nurseries. We knew we wanted to get a good handle on the children's letter knowledge but hadn't quite worked out how we were going to go about it. I wanted to avoid just getting the children to come with an adult ("Put that Lego sword down before you have someone's eye out! Come and say some sounds with me. Wouldn't that be fun? What do you mean you'd rather be playing ninjas?!") and say sounds as we point to them. Where's the fun and engagement with that?! Sometimes you just can't dress up a learning opportunity to be attractive to everyone but surely we could do something...?!
What are the children interested in I hear you cry?! Lego - maybe we could write letters on bricks and get them to build something?! Babies - maybe we could make clothes for the babies with letters on them (sort of like a Mrs Weasley from Harry Potter, only I can't sew anything)! Dressing up - maybe the children could dress up and we could stick name badges to their dressing up clothes?! Okay - so we'll call those ideas 'Plan B' and we'll think about what story we are looking at next week.
Why on earth are you reading such a random story? Well that little story starts way back in July. You see, someone came up with the fab idea of inviting all of new children into school for a morning and to bring a parent. We invited a local artist to come along and spend time helping everyone to make their own monster. Their monster would go home with them over the summer and start school with them in September!
The workshops were really successful. We gave the families an introduction to school, got to know the children a little and had the chance to speak to the parents and ask them what kind of support we could offer them in the future. The children all began school in September and the monsters joined the classroom. We even took them when we felt brave enough to explore the rest of the school!
We knew that we were going to use the monsters to help the children explore different learning opportunities - for example to help understand emotions (they're going to be a representation of 'The Beast' that 'comes out' when we experience strong, negative emotions - an idea suggested from ClassDojo) before they went home again. We also realised that we had a book called 'The Day the Gogglynippers Escaped' which is about a boy called Diggle who helps find the Gogglynippers from McDoogle's Monster Farm after they get out. It's a funny book with some basic counting and a good dollop of poo to keep everyone entertained! Towards the end of the story Diggle attracts the last Gogglynipper by using smelly socks. Surely the children would like to catch monsters using smelly socks...?! So naturally we thought about making fishing rods with magnets and put paper clips onto monsters with letters on (from twinkl.com). Of course we attached socks to the fishing rods - it all made some kind of mad sense...!
The children were really keen to have a go - even though I knew they didn't know all of the sounds. What I hadn't anticipated was that with 2 children fishing at the same time some of them would help each other and I loved that accidental learning! And so it was that I found myself watching children fish for monster sounds with a smelly sock. All in a days work, eh?!