Friday, December 20, 2013

Holiday Learning for 3-6 year-olds Week 1

Term is over and I am now enjoying the holidays with my three-year-old son. We made a list of ‘must do’ activities, and then I made another list of learning activities either related to the Early Years Learning Framework or preparing for the Foundation level of the Australian Curriculum.  I wrote the learning activities on coloured paper and put them into a bag so that there is an element of surprise when my little guy pulls one out. 

I have actually been a bit surprised with how keen he is to do these learning activities. On some days he has run straight back to the bag after we finish so that he can choose another! Rather than type out the whole list, I thought I might explain the activities day by day so that I can provide greater detail.

I think these activities would work well for 3-6 year olds – either as preparation or revision. I find the initial activity holds his interest for about 10 minutes and then he takes things off in his own direction - sometimes leading to even further learning. I also find that he refers back to the ideas in the days that follow. Let me know what you think.

Make some sequence photos. Then put them in order.
We took a sequence of photos related to everyday activities and experiences in the little guy’s life: getting dressed, washing clothes, ripening strawberries, going for a bike ride, sliding down a slide. Later in the day when we were shopping, we got the photos printed. Back at home, we scattered the photos on the table. My little guy chose a ‘story’ and collected the pictures he needed. He put them into the correct sequence and then I supported him as he told the story using words like: firstly, then, after that, next, finally.

Make your name using playdough
One of my good friends gave us the Cookie Monster's Letter Lunch Play doh set, which my little guy enjoys without realizing that he is even learning! He loves to feed the Cookie Monster, but with this learning activity card, he was prompted to make his name first! We talked about the letters he needed and found the moulds. We repeated the activity in a second colour before he lost interest and moved on to feeding Cookie Monster.

Play a Reading Eggs game on the iPad
We have Eggy Alphabet and Tap the Cat on my iDevices. Eggy Alphabet is great for learning letter formation and we use a stylus so my little guy can also work on pencil grip. Tap the Cat focuses on a range of skills including word recognition and vocabulary (which are the two we have worked on so far!) Both have reward systems that give my little guy a sense of achievement.

Learn a new poem
My little guy wasn’t so excited about pulling this one out. He was very hesitant to repeat back the poem I said to him. After working on it for a while with very little joy, I realized that this is an area to keep working at and come back to. A little later he quite happily recited the poem to me. Sometimes you just can’t win!

Make a photo book to show how you have changed
I must admit, I was a little less excited when this one was pulled out. On the bright side, Snapfish had a special deal running for Christmas, so it wasn’t as difficult as I was expecting. My little guy helped me to find some photos to add to our book and suggested a few captions, but as a 3 year old, he didn’t have as much to contribute as I’m sure an older child would.

Play the taste test game
A favorite from my childhood, this was a winner! My little guy went into the other room while I loaded up teaspoons with all sorts of flavours. I blindfolded him and gave him the tastes one by one. I asked him to describe what he was eating – gooey, runny, sweet, salty, crunchy etc. While he didn’t guess all of them correctly, he definitely had fun doing it!

Go for a walk. Take photos of all the signs you see. What do they say?
We didn’t walk too far for this one, as we only had a short amount of time. We still found quite a few signs and the next time we went for a drive, the little guy had more of an interest in the signs around us.

Choose an experiment from the Big Book
The Big Book aka “730 Easy Science Experiments with everyday materials”  is one that I picked up from the social book club at school. My little guy chose an experiment to see the strength of different structures made from paper. After we completed the experiment, my little guy used the structures for a craft project.

Put some music on and make up a dance
This is an activity we don’t do a lot of in our house, so that’s why it was included. My little guy pulled it out during lunchtime, so I cheated a little and just put on some kids songs that have dances connected to them. Between bites, he ran around in circles doing some of the actions!

Do some pages in your numbers book
I purchased a simple numbers workbook set for numbers 1-20. It comes with stickers and paper ‘ribbons’ as incentives for completing the work. I thought that something like this would transfer learning we have been doing from the iPad to pencil and paper tasks. It was very convenient too, that my little guy pulled this one out while I was bagging a quarter of a cow for freezing, so he could do it in the kitchen next to me with minimal help!
Take photos of shapes using the iPad. Outline the shape.
We walked around the house looking for shapes my little guy recognized and took photos of them. We then traced around the outline with a drawing app.

Follow our journey on Google Maps as we drive somewhere
I used Google Maps on my iPhone to direct me to the pool. My little guy asked if the blue line was us, so I explained that that was the path we were travelling and that the blue arrow was us. I handed him the phone for the remainder of the trip and he kept telling me what was coming up ahead. I was quite surprised when he informed me that we were about to go on a bridge over some water. I asked how he knew it was water, and he told me it was because there was blue on the map!

Follow the instructions to build a Lego set
We worked on a Lego set together and my little guy has been getting much better at looking at the pictures to create the cars and buildings in the book. He has been using Duplo for quite some time and has just recently made the shift to the smaller Lego pieces. There are lots of  skills involved in following the instructions, so I offered help with finding the pieces and gave minimal direction on where to place them, encouraging my little guy to look at the picture.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Two New Writing Resources

It has been a very long time since I've sat down at my home computer for any decent length of time. At the moment it seems only to happen when I'm feeling a bit under the weather! So, as I've been suffering from a cold, I've found time to create a couple of resources to add to my collection of Writing Goal Strips. 

We have been focusing on both Expositions and Narratives this term, as I'm sure other Year 2 teachers in Australia might identify with! We are giving our students a bit of a boost in preparation for NAPLAN testing early next year. 

These writing resources can be used to guide students in setting goals prior to writing. They can select one goal, a couple, or use the goal chart to monitor what they are achieving.

Each resource contains:
Instructions for use
Connections with both Australian Curriculum and Common Core
16 pages of writing goal strips 
1 page for students to write in own goals
1 goal chart

Both are free at my Teachers Pay Teachers store until Friday 22 November 2013.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013


I think it's time for an update on how I'm getting along at my new school. A couple of images have come to mind and have been bumping around my head.

I'm not a very strong swimmer. When I try to do laps at the pool, I can get through a few, but I struggle to pace myself. I seem to think that the only way I'll stay afloat is if I keep moving. So, I go through a few somewhat frantic laps and then pause for a break before going at it all again! That's how I'm feeling about school at the moment. My weekdays are frantic as I try to do it all, swallow a little water, and finally make it to the end. I take a quick breath over the weekend, and then it's go, go, go again.

Another image that I can't get away from is that of a jigsaw puzzle. It feels a little like I am faced with a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzle. At a quick glance I can see a few pieces that look familiar, but I can't see how they will all piece together. As I'm going along, I am starting to see more and more familiar pieces, and as I clip them together, things are starting to make more sense. Every now and then I get a new piece of information, and know it connects with something else I've seen or read, but then I have to remember what that was and link it up.

I'm finding it both challenging and rewarding. I'm aware that it is a lot of hard work at the moment, but at the same time, I know that a puzzle always gets much easier once you near the end, as does swimming with practice and training!

Tech Tips Tuesday

Two more simple uses for iPads in the classroom 

As I am becoming established in my new school, I am starting to work out the processes for borrowing and using ICT equipment. This week I made use of iPads for a couple of simple tasks, mostly just to get into the swing of using technology with my students. So, here are a couple of simple tips for this week:

Teach doubles with Photo Booth
Students set out some counters and take a photo using the mirror setting in photo booth. They can then count the counters in the image to work out the doubles fact. These can be printed out for students to glue into their books and label with the number sentence.

Student created clip art for class notices
Why not have students create the clip art for class newsletters, the class blog, or a secure web environment? You can use any drawing app and have students draw with or without a stylus. Save the images, crop where necessary and use as required. Always remember to give credit to the student/s who created the images, and check whether they are happy for their work to be used in this way. This helps students to appreciate the rights of others, and understand their responsibilities when it comes to using images.

For more simple uses, you might like to read: Three simple uses for iPads in the classroom

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tech Tips Tuesday

Seating Arrangements and Groupings with iDoceo

This week I am sharing another tip for working with iDoceo for iPad. As I set up my new classroom, I have been considering different arrangements for my class seating chart, as well as student groupings for different tasks in Maths and English. iDoceo gives you five different arrangements per class. To select the arrangements, click on the icon I have boxed in red below.

iDoceo main tool bar

Seating Arrangements
The first arrangement I set up was the class seating plan. While in at the school, I set out my desks for optimum use of the interactive whiteboard. I could have taken a photo of this arrangement to use in iDoceo, but instead I made a quick sketch on a scrap of paper and then took a photo of this sketch. I added this image to my iDoceo folder in Dropbox so that I could import it into my background selections using the Settings icon on the tool bar (boxed in purple). I was then able to move my students around on my background to experiment with different arrangements.

Quick sketch of desk arrangement

iDoceo seating arrangement tool bar

Using data to help with sorting
I entered student data regarding reading levels and Maths and English bands based on information provided by the previous teacher. This information can then be used while sorting students into groups and is displayed as a coloured bubble alongside the student's name and image.

I used reading level information to help ensure that each table grouping had a mix of reading levels, with the opportunity for students to support one another for reading and writing tasks. As my second arrangement, I paired students with a reading buddy of different ability. I plan to use these pairings as an alternative to 'silent reading' after the lunch or recess break.

I used Maths bands to sort students into two groupings for Maths - one ability based groups, and one mixed-ability groups. These are my third and fourth arrangements. To label each arrangement, you enter its description in the settings.

Just for fun, there is also an option to group students randomly in the settings (boxed in purple), or to select a student at random by clicking on the dice (boxed in green above).

Things to watch for
Only one subject area (or tab) is displayed at a time, and within that you select one criteria to be displayed. For example, to see students' Maths data, you need to have been in the Maths tab prior to selecting the arrangement tool. Click on the icon boxed above in red to select the information to be displayed. Return to the data entry page to change tabs, and thus access different information. To cancel the bubbles, simply click on the icon with the photo and an x symbol (boxed in red above).

Another trick I found was that sometimes my arrangements seemed to be saved, and other times they didn't. From what I can tell, you 'save' the previous arrangement by moving to another numbered arrangement before returning to the data entry page. (Change arrangements by tapping the numbers in the blue box above). This seems to have been working for me, at least! I have also been taking a screen shot of the data when I am happy with it so that I have a copy should anything go wrong. Screen shot can also be used as a way to is also a useful way to create more than 5 class arrangements.

What I liked
I liked that I could use this to fiddle around with the arrangements at home, and draw on the information I had in a simple and very visible way. Obviously, I wouldn't purchase iDoceo for this feature alone, but it adds to the value of what I am already finding to be a very useful classroom tool.

For previous posts about iDoceo, click here.