Category Archives: Foundation Stage

A place to explore and experiment, our Art Studio

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One of the greatest challenges for teachers is to try the find the key which unlocks the potential inside each and every one of the children in their care.

Creating a climate in which it is possible to observe, explore and experiment, to share ideas and to listen to others calls for a very special environment. It is a place where choice is encouraged and risk-taking is welcomed, where the pleasure comes from doing and not from producing. It is, above all, a place of trust and cooperation. It is a beautiful space, and it is our Art Studio.

Last week we could see how children enjoy activities such as the dancing & painting one that Miss Jane organised for this first weeks. Take a look at it!

One of the greatest pleasures of the past term has been to observe the children as they respond to the different stimuli provided by Miss Jane. They are learning to negotiate and make decisions. They are choosing materials and techniques. They are discussing likes and dislikes and justifying their opinions. They are intent upon their work and know what they want to achieve. They are creating in a hundred different ways and it is beautiful to see.

When Loris Malaguzzi described the 100 languages of children he was reminding us of the need to recognize the many ways in which they respond and engage with their environment. It is through the Expressive Arts that each individual has an opportunity to find his or her inner voice and to communicate with the outside world. But the voice also needs to be heard.

We love questions in Curious Kids

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We all know children ask lots of questions about anything and everything. It is part of their natural curiosity. You can see they take real joy in discovering something new.

All these facts gave us the idea to build our project Curious Kids in Foundation Stage. As teachers, our challenge is to take this natural curiosity and allow enthusiasm and passion to stimulate learning.

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But what is Curious Kids? It is our response to a need to create spaces in which children can let their natural curiosity lead their learning. And how do we do it? We let the children choose questions which interest them and Voilà: a new project is born. They take the lead of their learning. Very often their own answers are unexpected or lead to further questions, challenging the adults’ preconceived ideas and creating an environment in which both teachers and pupils are learning side by side.

Once a question has been raised the children are given the chance to experience different hands-on activities provided by the whole team. Both adults and children have the opportunity to share ideas and discuss different opinions. It is a chance to move away from the confines of the classroom and to work with new faces.

Each project lasts around three or four weeks and culminates in an exit point, which allows the children to share what they have discovered. An exit point can be anything from a discussion at Assembly time, to making a video or even creating a mini exhibition. You may even have seen videos of our previous projects on this blog.

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You may also have seen examples of our latest exit point in the entrance hall, where the children from F4 and F5 have responded to the question “Where do minibeasts live?” by creating a minibeast habitat of their own, based on their observations of the where small animals choose to live. They have been so excited that at least one real insect has found its way there from the playground accompanied by a group of pupils!

Enjoying Project Based Learning

C2 celebrated the Holi Festival related to their PBL topic on World Festivals
C2 celebrated the Holi Festival related to their PBL topic on World Festivals

When we decided to implement the PBL at St. Peter’s School almost two years ago, we wanted to move away from the traditional idea of education.  The image of a class full of students sitting in rows at desks, dutifully listening and recording what they hear has become less useful and purposeful in a world which values creativity, analytical skills and progressive thinkers.

For us, it was a challenge that required lots of teaching planning, designing cross-curricular activities and introducing new ways of assessing. Now it is the teaching/learning practice followed throughout each of the primary stages.

More than two school year later, if you take a look and some of the topics that are taking place from Foundation Stage to C6, you can see how children are enjoying their learning, how aware they are of it, and how they are able to develop the kind of life-long learning skills we were looking for.

Classes 1 & 2: Push me, Pull me – Learning about Force and Resistance

One of the last topics C1 & 2 have been working at is “Push me, pull me”. In one of the activities, held this week, Miss Pat’s children were blown away testing the effects of air resistance using different types/sizes of paper and card. 

Children made rockets and launched them - learning about force and air resistanc
Children made rockets and launched them

Here is a brief video about the activity:

C5: From “The Great, the bold and the brave” to Fair-trade

Last term students in C5 were learning about the Ancient Rome on their PBL. One of the activities consisted of recreating historical battles:

Last term C6 learned about Romans on their PBL topic
Last term C6 learned about Romans on their PBL topic

This term they have been learning about Fairtrade and one of the activities was to organise a fairtrade shop. They baked, sold and earned 350€, which they donated to one Non Profit Organisation.

Foundation Stage: Curious Kids

After the success of our PBL implementation in Primary, this year we launched Curious Kids in Foundation Stage. One of the first projects which the children were working at was “Means of transport”. As part of it, the children in Foundation 4 & 5 reflected on how they would like to come to school. The following video  gives you a taste of what it involves a project on this stage.

Project Based Learning helps children to be comfortable at the non-comfort zone, which is, for us, the best way to face an uncertain future. By letting them inquire, explore, research, discuss, reflect and present, we are encouraging their curiosity and passion for knowledge, and the capacity to adapt and face challenges they might encounter in their lives.

However, we would like to remember that mundane projects that are strictly assessed but do not provide any real-world applications are stunting the growth and creativity of students. This is not what we look for when applying PBL. We need to plan projects that excite children. Only these kinds of projects will create a positive, engaging environment and be memorable for all involved.

 

University Workshop at Blanquerna: “Sharing how we teach literacy in the early years”

This week two of our teachers in Foundation Stage have given a workshop on Jolly Phonics at Blanquerna University. Katie Owen and Tracie Butler were invited to share their knowledge and expertise with the students who are following the Master’s in Teaching and Learning English in Early Childhood and Primary School.

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Katie Owen explaining how children learn to identify sounds

Included in the subject Teaching Methods (coordinated by Professor Salvador Rodríguez), the workshop was a practical approach to how we teach early literacy at St. Peter’s.

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Tracy Butler explaining a sounds game

The experience was a great opportunity to share our methodology and discuss it with the teachers and students who attended the workshop.

Adapting Jolly Phonics to our own needs
In fact, we don’t use a unique methodology when teaching literacy to children in early years. We started using Jolly Phonics about six years ago but adapted it to our own needs. This one of the ideas we wanted to share and discuss at the workshop: any school or class requires their own specific method, matching practice to individual context. It is not the same to teach literacy in an English Immersion school than to teach English in a Catalan school or in an English school in London. It was fascinating to talk about different ways and methodologies applied by the teachers attending the course.

If you want to know a little more about Jolly Phonics
You can have a look at our list of youtube videos, prepared for the workshop and related to these five skills:

How does Jolly Phonics work?
Using a synthetic phonics approach, Jolly Phonics teaches children the five key skills for reading and writing. The programme continues through school enabling the teaching of essential grammar, spelling and punctuation skills.

The five skills taught in Jolly Phonics:

1. Learning the letter sounds
Children are taught 42 main letter sounds. This includes alphabet sounds as well as digraphs such as sh, th, ai and ue.

2. Learning letter formation
Using different multi-sensory methods, children learn how to form and write the letters.

3. Blending
Children are taught how to blend the sounds together to read and write new words.

4. Identifying the sounds in words (Segmenting)
Listening for the sounds in words gives children the best start for improving spelling.

5.  Tricky words
Tricky words have irregular spellings and children learn these separately.

A synthetic phonics approach, Jolly Phonics teaches children the five key skills for reading and writing. The programme continues through school enabling the teaching of essential grammar, spelling and punctuation skills. At St. Peter’s we adapted this methodology but changed it to our needs and the cultural background of our school.

 

 

 

First Steps Together (1): Play

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Our Roadmap for Foundation Stage encourages children to look everywhere, notice patterns, make connections, and share their discoveries.

One of the pleasure of exploring the world is to do it alongside friends, teachers and parents. We could see it last Friday on our first Parent Participation Day.

It was a pleasure for all of us to share this adventure with you. Take a look at the video and enjoy 🙂

There will be more Parents Participation Days throughout the year (Yoga, Light and shadows, Child osteopathy,  Fun with food, Christmas singalong, Swimming…)

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Our Roadmap

Come and join us if you can.  You won’t want to miss it! And if you want to share it with someone else, bring a friend with you! Many will be open activities!