Tag Archives: Early learning

Using Characters and Themes to Inspire Early Learning.

 

Using Characters and Themes to Inspire Early Learning  supports practitioners in planning and resourcing topics based around popular themes in the early years. Each theme is introduced through a ‘spark’. The ‘sparks’ are an object, or group  of objects, found in the classroom, for example a magic seed.  The projects then develop by presenting letters, posters, postcards etc. from a characters ( these can be found in the appendix of each section).  The characters in the book have been invented by the writers, Jo Ayers and Louise Robson but I see no reason for not utilising other familiar, book, TV or film characters.

Each chapter introduces a new character and theme, including pirates, knights and castles and people who help us.  For those settings who revisit these themes every year, the sparks and resources presented in the book would offer an exciting new angle for engaging the children.

Who is it for?

The book is targeted at teachers in the 3-5 age group, personally I felt some of the themes and activities were more suited to the upper age group, but I would still use the sparks with a younger group and adapt activities to their level and to fit the classroom environment.

How Does it Work?

The book emphasises planning with the children after igniting the initial spark, gathering evidence from comments, questions, observations, photographs and recordings.

The introduction states that topics were chosen based on gathering children together and asking them about their favourite interests.  I would have liked clearer descriptions of the  children’s involvement in the planning, as some of the topics felt more adult directed than others.  In a session which began by finding a mysterious seed, an alien is grows in the seed but it is also mentioned that this could also be an insect.  I would have liked to have seen a description of the thought process behind the decision to make it an alien. Did the children decide it was an alien?  There is a good mind map in the appendix showing the children’s comments and questions which explains this to a certain extent, but I would have liked a little more clarification as to how these comments and questions fed into planning.

The Activities

The chapters are clearly laid out and contain plenty of photographs and support materials.  I would have preferred to see the support materials alongside the description of the activity rather than in the appendix ,as I found flicking between the two distracting. The scenarios weren’t always easy to visualise without reading the materials in the appendix.

I particularly loved the Nancy the Knight and Lord Lawrence chapter for a meaningful approach to the topic of castles. I felt the description of this topic flowed well and the activities were hands on and playful.  I could also see how the children led the learning in this topic.

Who would Benefit Most From this Book?

The book would be a great resource for settings following a topic based approach. It would add wonder and awe to familiar topics and I can see it working really well in reception, kindergarten or year 1 classrooms.  I love the idea of the sparks and think these could also be useful in settings that use more in the moment planning.  With a bit of imagination, one could listen and observe the children, discover their interests and invent a character and scenario that would help them answer questions or develop their interests further. This book would be a great starting point for doing that..  For a theatre person like myself, I can easily imagine adopting this approach in the classroom but it may not be for everyone.

What Did I Think

I love the approach but wish the book was laid out a little differently. I really wanted to hear the story of how each project developed, to hear the children’s voices and see how the children’s ideas and questions led to the next stage of the project or even perhaps how different classes adapted the same scenarios but in different ways.

There is plenty in the book for those who would like to try this approach by following scenarios that work for others or for those who want to try this fun approach but adapt it in their own way.  I think it would be a great addition to a teaching library for new teachers, teachers looking to add a but of fun to their curriculum or those looking for a different approach to topic based learning.

The authors are keen to see how settings are adapting their approach on their social media channels  – Facebook and Twitter

 

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Love to Learn on CBeebies

I don’t generally recommend young children learn by watching television but I am human and like the rest of us appreciate a bit of respite from time to time.  Now that my 3 year old no longer naps during the day, after a busy  morning at playgroup an hour watching television helps her to relax.  I don’t agree with young children watching commercial channels so always put my trust in CBeebies.

The quality of the early learning programming is generally of a high standard and well researched, we particularly like Something Special and Driver Dan’s Storytrain (especially as we are on the lookout for the episodes featuring her big sister).

At the end of February CBeebies are launching a new cluster of programming entitled  Love to Learn. This will bring together a number of programmes, which are designed to give the younger members of the CBeebies audience an introduction to literacy and numeracy. Programmes will include the new shows, Numtums and The Lingo Show, alongside new episodes of established favourites Alphablocks and Abadas. These programmes will be scheduled together allowing children to have fun while they learn their letters and get to know their numbers.
The Numtums  are cuddly Numbats (rare marsupial, native to Western Australia) each with a number on their tummy. Combining a troop of animated Numtums, children, sing-along songs and a distinctive, mixed-media style, the programme introduces the basics of number recognition and then gently moves on to counting objects and identifying amounts in a variety of fun scenarios. The series is reminiscent of the animated snippets that were a key feature of my favourite children’s programme, Sesame Street. I’m sure these will keep the children engaged and make learning fun.
I’m really looking forward to The Lingo Show .  This began life a year ago as an online brand to introduce children to a variety of languages.  It is a long time since I visited the CBeebies website, so I wasn’t aware it existed but I was very excited to see that the languages featured include Welsh. Growing up in Wales I have a very basic knowledge  of the Welsh language, but my children were captivated.  My 7 year old even wrote down a list of words to remember ( we looked at the food section). The variety of languages featured include Polish, Somali and Punjabi and this could be a really useful resource for nursery workers to learn basic vocabulary when teaching children with an additional language. The TV series will continue to introduce children to words in different languages – specifically French, Spanish and Mandarin .
The episodes see host bug Lingo send Mandarin bug Wei, Spanish bug Queso and French bug Jargonaise off into the real world to choose everyday objects and props to include in their grand finale – The Big Bug Show. Each episode focuses on one language, introducing children to six key words, plus examples of everyday vocabulary like ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’. There are opportunities for children to develop both speaking and listening skills as they are encouraged to repeat words with the bugs, voiced by native speakers of the target language.  I’m  definitely    going to make time to  watch  this with the kids.

The new episodes of Alphablocks are in a slighter longer  format than in the past and will continue to use best-practice phonics teaching to help young children develop engagement and confidence with reading and making words.  For those unfamiliar with the series  Alphablocks are 26 living letters who fall out of the sky and discover that if they hold hands and make a word, it comes to life.

Abadas  aims  to help children to learn new vocabulary that corresponds to objects they come across in their everyday lives.
The new episodes feature the familiar fun faces of Hari the hippo, Ela the fox and Seren the bat (all with Welsh accents) who come to life when a pop-up book is opened. Once the book is opened, the Abadas’ world comes alive and it’s playtime for the three adventurers. Through these adventures the Abadas encourage the young audience to re-tell a story and be able to ask questions and tell others what they have learned.
The season of programming will also include repeats of the popular numbers series Numberjacks.

I hope that by scheduling these programmes together, children will become naturally inquisitive  about letters and numbers. The 5 minute programmes are perfect for young children’s attention spans and this short concentrated burst of literacy and numeracy programmes could serve as a great introduction to other hands on activities. Pre-school children do not need to learn to read, write and count but the programmes could introduce the concepts without any pressure. Take the lead from your child, if they are showing an interest you can develop it further.  The Grown Ups section of the CBeebies website has excellent articles about how to support your child’s early learning including phonics , numeracy, story telling and mark making and includes many additional activities. Over the next few weeks I will also be sharing literacy and numeracy ideas here. If there are any particular areas you would like inspiration for add a comment and I will follow it up.

The Love to Learn programmes will be on air from 27th February every weekday on CBeebies. The scheduling is 09:00 Numtums

09:05 Numberjacks

09:20 Alphablocks

09:25 Abadas .

The Lingo Show will air sometime during March.

The timings are perfectly placed just after the school run , before we go out and explore  numeracy and literacy in everyday situations.