Category Archives: motivation

Scrap Workshop

Scrap Workshop cover

One of my favourite workshops to lead at a local play centre was scrap workshop.

I liked it because it was suitable for all ages, it was a natural extension to my heuristic play workshops with toddlers and it gave children the freedom to develop both creativity and skills.

We collected all kinds of scrap materials, large and small and displayed them in separate containers.

Examples of materials

  • boxes
  • tubes
  • plastic containers
  • fabric
  • pipe cleaners
  • beads
  • shells
  • pinecones
  • bottle tops
  • straws
  • netting

Sometimes we would give the children a project

  • make something that moves
  • make something that makes a sound
  • build a replica of the Mayflower

junk boat

or a problem arising from a project or book

  • invent something to help Rapunzel get out of her tower
  • Can you build a house that can’t be blown down
  • How could you be rescued from a desert island?

but best of all we would make sure there was plenty of tape, string, scissors and markers and let them create and explore.

Sometimes they worked on small projects

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a boat with an anchor

or larger group constructions

building a boat

they practised threading

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and joining

scrap workshop

made things for dramatic play

wings

and problem solved

‘ When children engage with people, objects, ideas or events they test things out and solve problems.  They need adults to challenge and extend their thinking. (EYFS 2008 – Active Learning).

 

scrap workshop
How can you balance 3 boxes without them breaking?

They made choices

Provide flexible resources that can be used in many different ways to facilitate children’s play and exploration’  (EYFS 2008 – Supporting every child).

 

joining parts of the boat

and tested strategies

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they discovered how two different materials could work together

‘ Every child’s learning journey takes a personal path based on their own individual interests, experiences and the curriculum on offer.’ (EYFS 2008 – Supporting every child.)

 

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and nobody asked them “What is it?”

Active learners need to have some independence and control over their learning to keep their interest and to develop creativity.’ (EYFS 2008 – Active Learning).

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They worked at a table

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or on the floor

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and made discoveries using all of their senses.

An open-ended project like this gives plenty of opportunities to observe and work alongside children, guiding them towards their next steps and sharing ideas together.

’ When children have opportunities to play with ideas in different situations and with a variety of resources, they discover connections and come to new and better understandings and ways of doing things.  Adult support in this process enhances their ability to think critically and ask questions’  (EYFS 2008 – Creativity and critical thinking)

 

filling and emptying

This child wasn’t interested in joining pieces or making anything. They explored filling and emptying.

scrap workshop

This child wrapped and wrapped their construction with tape.  They went on to wrap their hands with string. We provided them with materials they could explore wrapping in more depth – paper sheets, tape, string, ribbons , blankets, paper strips with tubes, poles, boxes, and table legs wrapped in string.

‘ Children need and will respond positively to challenges if they have a good relationship with the practitioner and feel confident to try things out.’ ( EYFS 2008 – Supporting learning).

The children were able to work in mixed ages. The youngest children were 2 and the oldest 10. All the children enjoyed the workshops and learned from and supported one another.

‘ In their play children learn at their highest level’  (EYFS 2008 – Play and Exploration).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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20 Children’s Books to Prepare for a New School Year

Typically when I think about books that prepare children for school, stories about starting school come to mind.  However, when I received a couple of books encouraging self reflection for older children and teens, I was inspired to compile a list that could prepare children of all ages to face the challenges of the school year ahead.  I was helped in this endeavour by literary expert Sally Allen.    A writer and speaker, Allen advocates for reading books that inspire us to think more deeply about our world and to empathize with others’ experiences. In her latest book, Unlocking Worlds: A Reading Companion for Book Lovers (Griffins Wharf, 2015), she explores these beliefs while providing reading lists that deliver on the promise of inspiring empathy. Sally’s recommendations are in the chapter book section. The list also includes recommendations from my 12-year old daughter.

Picture Books 

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Not to leave out books about starting school for the first time, my favourite starting school book is ‘I am too absolutely small for school by Lauren Child.  Narrated by the  charming and comical Charlie and Lola, it is a wonderful book for children who are anxious about starting school for the first time.

Ming goes to School  by Dierdre Sullivan

This picture book with simple text is perfect for younger readers or perhaps those who are beginning to read on their own.  The beautiful watercolour illustrations are delightful and tell the story of events in an ordinary school day.

children's books for back to school

The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn

This classic back to school book  deals with separation and the reassurance that you are loved, as you leave for your first day of school.

Something Else by Kathryn Cave

A heartwarming tale about being different and making friends and one of my personal favourites.

The Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister

This children’s classic encourages children to share and find happiness through making friends.

Chapter Books

The Clarice Bean Trilogy by Lauren Child

This trilogy deals with many issues from childhood in a wonderfully humorous and endearing way. The third book in the Trilogy ‘Don’t Look Now’ finds Clarice in a turmoil when her best friend moves to a different country.

Wonder by R. J. Palacio

Ten-year old Auggie wants what most kids want, but a facial deformity has kept him apart from his peers. Told from multiple points of view, his story of seeking acceptance and community unfolds as he enters a regular school to attend fourth grade.

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

The first in Stewart’s series brings together a group of gifted children who go on secret missions to save the world. Beautifully written and moving, the story highlights how even the smartest among us benefit from friendship and teamwork to overcome challenges.

El Deafo by Cece Bell

Witty and touching, this graphic memoir is named for the superhero personal Bell crafted for herself in childhood. She recounts her early hearing loss, growing up with a Phonic Ear and hearing aid, and the challenges of young friendships and first crushes.

Liesel and Po by Lauren Oliver

Oliver’s mesmerizing and brilliantly plotted story about loss has heavy and difficult but ultimately rewarding moments. With the help of a ghostly figure called Po, orphaned Liesel escapes her bleak existence and sets off on a mission to bury her father’s ashes at the place he most loved.

Inside Out and Back Again by Thanhha Lai

Autobiographically inspired, this poignant verse story describes the narrator’s last days in Saigon, fleeing from Vietnam, and struggling to adapt in a new country.

Give Me Liberty by L. M. Elliott

In the early days of the U.S. revolutionary war, a young indentured servant grapples with the contradictions and injustices contained within the emerging country’s battle for sovereignty.

A Traveller in Time by Alison Uttley

A young girl, Penelope, travels spontaneously between her time (the 1930s) and the 1580s, where a plot is underway to save Mary, Queen of Scotts. In this potent meditation on the power of witnessing, Penelope cannot bring anything from one world into the next or affect the outcome of the doomed plot.

Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead

Seventh grader Georges struggles to face up to bullies at school and a frightening situation at home. This heartening story is about learning to face up, speak up, and take control when faced uncomfortable and scary situations.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson’s moving and eloquent memoir in verse follows her from Ohio, to the Civil-Rights era South, to Brooklyn in the 1970s. Her exquisite sensory poems touch on race and injustice, friendship and family, and finding one’s purpose.

Books for Older Readers

how to be you

 

How to be You by Jeffrey Marsh.

This is an interactive book that is warm and upbeat and shares a clear message ‘There is nothing wrong with you’. It invites readers to write, colour and engage with the activities within to internalise the concept presented in the book. Interlaced with stories from real lives, a humorous voice and reminders that they are not alone, it is the perfect book for those who feel like an outsider.

self help book for teens

Start Where You Are – a Journal for Self Exploration by Meera Lee Patel

My personal favourite because it is visually stunning and includes inspiring quotes from many of my favourite authors and artists. It features Meera’s hand lettering and watercolour illustrations on every page, alongside exercises to spark reflection through writing, drawing and chart-making. I found it difficult to give this one up to my daughter. It would make a wonderful gift for anyone who wishes to reflect on life and get to know themselves better.   The exercises would be  valuable start of term activities for older children and teens.

Very Good Lives by JK Rowling

This is JK Rowling’s inspirational commencement address at Harvard University, in book form. It is perfect for anyone who finds themselves at a turning point in life.

The Cupcake Queen by Heather Helper

When her mother moves to start a new venture, Penny is made to leave her lifelong friends and city life to start again in a small town. This book deals with transition, change and friendships and the uncertainty and hope that accompanies a new life.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.  Copies of some of the books on this list were received for review purposes. All books in the list are personal recommendations and no payment was received for writing this post.

How I Encourage my Children to Become Confident Writers

Happy New Year everyone.

writing toddler

The lead up to Christmas was a great time for writing messages in our house.  Our visiting elf Christopher Poppinkins left notes for the girls and they responded with their own notes, we made gifts for the neighbours with a little note attached, wrote Christmas cards for the family, shopping lists and yesterday the girls helped me write a list of songs for my music class.

As children approach school age, parents are often anxious about their children’s emerging literacy and how best to support them at home.

When is the right time to introduce writing?

Does my child need to be able to write their name before they go to school?

How do I start?

Do they have to form letters in a particular way?

Writing is a complex skill involving much more than the correct formation of letters. I can’t guarantee that my girls will continue to love writing but I think we are headed in the right direction.

If you are interested in finding out how I  encourage the girls to write and keep it enjoyable I am sharing some of my experience in a guest post for ‘What to Expect.’

4 Ways to Help Toddlers Fall in Love with Writing

Why Use Technology in Education? Professor Tanya Byron

In the above video from Tanya Byron’s keynote speech at the 2011 FOSI conference, she explains her response to the government when faced with this question.  She speaks with such passion and conviction and I found myself nodding with excitement all the way through.

I think there are 2 key points to this argument.  Firstly that education needs to be made more relevant to children’s everyday experience. Children live in a multimedia world and are excited by it.  Bringing this multimedia world into their education will make learning more exciting and when learning is exciting we achieve better results.

My 7 year old often says school is boring and she hates writing.  She is one of the brightest children in her class, if she finds it boring imagine how the least able children feel. Which brings me to the second point.  Education in this country is about whether or not you are academic, if you are academic you are clever , otherwise you are not and pushed down a seemingly less important vocational route. This notion of what ‘clever’ is forms from the very beginning of school and unfortunately it is often boys who are not academic and would prefer to do something more active. Unsurprisingly the gap between boys and girls widens.

When children lack motivation they misbehave and eventually give up on school altogether ( as happened with my younger brother). Technology has so much promise as a way of engaging children and raising standards.  It is relevant to their lives and gives them skills for their future.  My own daughter’s teacher recognised that children of this generation will be unlikely to use pen and paper as a main source of writing in the future.  Yet there is still fear about doing something different and worries that they have insufficient equipment .

This is why we need inspirational leaders, with ideas, energy and enthusiasm to show teachers what can be done. If enough influential people share this message, perhaps one day we will be heard.

TEDx London 2011 The Education Revolution

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I was fortunate to attend TEDx London this weekend. This event was born from issues raised in Sir Ken Robinson’s 2010 TED talk and was designed to raise the question ‘ How can we bring on the Education Revolution?’

What can all those involved ACTUALLY  DO to ensure that the old and irrelevant in education is thrown out and  that we can build a new model of constant reinvention to ensure that  education provides what industry requires and more importantly what   young people need to flourish in today’s world.

I returned from TEDx London, my head buzzing with ideas, questions and things to explore.  Many of the underlying concepts were not new but were reiterated by passionate individuals and illustrated by exciting examples from the world of education. These were some of my highlights:-

The talks were split into 3 sections

  1. What’s Wrong / What’s Happening
  2. What’s Right
  3. What’s Next.

The first session began with a live feed from Sir Ken Robinson.  He discussed his views on the purpose of education

Economic – Education underpins the modern economy and for a modern economy there is a need for creativity and innovation.

 Cultural – Helping to understand each others cultures and relieve the problems of cultural mistrust.

Personal – Education is about individuals, it cannot be mechanistic and should encourage students to become engaged.  For this reason education should be personalised.

Sir Ken Robinson’s vision for change includes

  • Education that is personalised
  • Improvements in the motivation of both students and teachers
  • Education that is customised to the needs of the particular community or individual school
  • Education is about diversity and standardisation offends diversity.
  • Education is about partnership with great institutions and the community.

A number of these points were a common thread throughout the talks.  The importance of recognising children as individuals and encouraging, rather than stifling their talents and interests, came time and again. The need to motivate children and encourage them to think for themselves and the many possibilities that technology offers  also kept reappearing.

I consider myself fortunate to work in Early Education.  Active learning, teaching that stems from children’s interests and strengths and listening to the child’s voice are fairly widespread.  Learning is fun in the early years and it would be unusual to find a pre-school child who grumbled that school was boring. I hope that all education can take lessons from early education at its best.

Adam Roberts an 18 year old human rights campaigner talked about  critical thinking and how his mother’s encouragement to ask questions set him up for life. As young children we instinctively ask questions, but as we grow older children are often discouraged from questioning. This point was made even more strongly in Ewan McIntosh’s talk. Ewan explained the need for children to be problem finders rather than problem solvers.  He showed a group of 7 and 8 year olds who were asked to put on their own TEDx event.  The children were inspired to come up with their own questions, prompted by ‘have you ever wondered?’ The children came up with wonderful philosophical questions and the excitement and animation shown by the children was truly infectious.

Another common thread was the potential for  embracing social media and technology in the classroom.  By doing this we are bringing the real world into the classroom rather than viewing education and school as separate to other aspects of life. Dan Roberts  believes strongly in education through technology and demonstrated some of the things his students at Saltash.net Community School are doing.

The What’s Right sessions showed a number of inspirational projects including:

History pin – building a history of real people and places using photographs and video footage.

A workshop from Seeper with a school for children on the autistic spectrum, showing how technology can motivate and engage children.

Dr Matt Whitby  showing how awe-inspiring science can be, through his off the wall science experiments.

Tim Exile – a musician who has invented a machine to create spontaneous electronic music using a variety of sounds.

The Final session involved speakers who are thinking in a new way and their pleas for like-minded individuals to join them in this journey.

Dougald Hine was inspirational.  He talked about change  with determination and self belief, a firm believer in making things  happen.

Emily Cummings the 24 year old inventor has been named Barclays woman of the year in 2009 and one of the top ten outstanding young people in the world in 2010.  She explained how her passion for designing began when her grandfather taught her to make things in his workshop. Teachers recognised her talent and entered her for competitions, harnessing her enthusiasm and giving her new goals.

Sir Ken Robinson closed the day with a plea to make alternatives a part of the mainstream.  A new vision for education including personalised learning, group activity, the closeness of the community and using and sharing talents.  Many of the case studies from young people at the conference showed that talents were often discovered and utilised outside of school.The community then has an important role to play in educating children.

The closing lines resonated with me

New technologies will make change possible.

Technology alone doesn’t do much, it’s what we do with it that matters.

There were some wonderful examples of what we do with technology and creative thinking.  I came away with lots of ideas and things that I wanted to share but also a feeling of uncertainty about what I can do to make a difference.  I want to share inspirational ideas and inspire others to try new ways of teaching.  Why?  I believe that we need to be able to use the tools that children are used to at home and that will form a large part of their future rather than sweeping them under the carpet .  Technology will not replace traditional play but will enhance it if we use it creatively. It gives opportunities for awe and wonder, for raising questions, self discovery and creative expression. My endeavour is to show this in practice and inspire others to do the same.