Sunday, 27 September 2015

It is better to know how to learn than to know. - Dr Seuss

Wow! Can you believe that the end of the term and the end of the pre-school year has arrived so soon?!  The children have had a fun filled last term with learning all about numbers, celebrating Fathers day, learning about amazing animals and preparing for the Leavers Assembly.

The first week back, the learning was all about how numbers are used in our world.  From numerals to recognise how old we are to numbers on the weighing scales to weigh the toys.  Lots of fun was had using numbers on a calculator as well as guessing how many cubes each toy measured.

One of the first animals we learnt about was a caterpillar and how it becomes a butterfly. Almost all of the children knew that weeks story of The Very Hungry Caterpillar and were able to use the story sack to re-tell the story as well as re-tell the process in their own words.

There were also lots of fun related crafts and songs to help the children learn. The Fuzzy Caterpillar and Caterpillar Garden were lots of fun acting out the actions and were such a favourite the children chose them as ones to perform at their Leavers Assembly.  

The actions to the first song can be found here

The second week into the final half term was a very exciting one as the children had their Leavers Trip to West Lodge Rural Centre. They had a wonderful time exploring this amazing farm that Brambles returns year after year as it is such a wonderful and exciting place to learn all about the farm and the animals.  The children got to explore the sculpture trails and walk over to the little stone cottage (witches house) together as a big group and enjoyed a barrel ride with their friends.  Lunch was in the very nice coffee shop and provided by the farm before everyone got into their groups to visit all the petting animals, cuddle corner, feed the lambs and go on a tractor ride.  Before the coach ride home, the children enjoyed a well deserved ice lolly and play on the play park before heading back to pre-school. 

The children were busy in the art area as they made some fantastic cards for the special men in their lives as it was Fathers Day.  Miss Sallie adapted a St.Patrick's Day Rhyme and combined it with a Fathers Day rhyme to create 'I'm as lucky as can be' Fathers day card for her group.  Miss Emma used an idea from Pinterest and used the tool template from here to create her 'Tool Box' card. 

Miss Sallie's group had fish as their 'amazing animal' to explore how to learn about as there were a few children who had a particular interest and one little boy, a real LOVE of fish! Miss Sallie and her group looked at where the fish lived, what baby fish are called and how we could we see fish by looking in various types of books in the library and on the computer.  On the maths table the children looked at a variety of fish up to sharks and whales to compare sizes and took it in turns to talk about pet fish, visits to aquariums and the seaside and what they have seen on TV in the communicaion friendly space.  Each child made and created some fantastic fish themed crafts to put in their best books and to show at the Leavers Assembly along with joining in with the words and actions to 'Let's Go Swimming' song.

As a group they worked together to help make a rock pool and an ocean for the small word toys outside in the pre-school


before creating their very own underwater scene to pretend to be divers and move like fish inside the classroom.


Miss Sallie made some blue 'sea' playdough for the finger gym table and the children had lots of fun making caves for the fish, covering the shells pretending it was sand and using it to investigate and manipulate. 

EYFS Links from The Imagination Tree
Using play dough (or in fact any type of dough) with young children is beneficial in so many ways. Here are some ideas of how fabulous it is, divided into the areas of development that it helps: 

Fine motor development:
The malleable properties of play dough make it fun for investigation and exploration as well as secretly building up strength in all the tiny hand muscles and tendons,  making them ready for pencil and scissor control later on.
Poking in objects and pulling them out of play dough strengthens hand muscles and co-ordination
As part of simple, tactile play it can be squashed, squeezed, rolled, flattened, chopped, cut, scored, raked, punctured, poked and shredded! Each one of these different actions aids fine motor development in a different way, not to mention hand-eye co ordination and general concentration. And as soon as you add another element to it, the list of benefits and creative play possibilities continues to grow! Having a wide range of additional extras to use while playing extends the investigation and play possibilities endlessly. Poking in sticks provides a challenge and a new physical skill. Squeezing through a garlic press leads to wonder and amazement at seeing it change shape, as well as using a gross motor movement to accomplish it. Sticking in spaghetti requires a delicate hand and can lead to threading and stacking pasta shapes or beads over the top.By providing objects from nature with a wide range of textures, colours and shapes, children can have multi-sensory experiences and engage with the world around them in a whole new way.
Imagination and Creativity:
As soon as you introduce open ended play items to add to the mix, play dough becomes the perfect medium for numerous types of imaginative play and can represent so many things in a child’s eyes. A jar of candles and cupcakes cases leads naturally to birthday party role-play, counting out candles and singing! Glass pebbles can lead to sea-side imaginative small world play with story telling about sea creatures and mermaids! It can be chocolates and sweets in a sweet shop, cakes and bread in a bakery, grass and mud in a garden centre, sand or ice cream in a beach scene, soil, pebbles, ice or snow at the zoo/ jungle/ farm/ ocean and so on! The list is as endless as a child’s imagination! List of additional flavours and textures to add to play dough: scents and colours: cocoa powder,ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, fruit juices, food colouring, food flavouring, essential oils,paint textures: rice, cous cous, coriander seeds, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, sawdust, sand, pebbles, rock salt, tiny pasta, glitter , glitter glue, sequins

Calming and soothing:
As any adult who has played with dough can tell you, the effects of all that squeezing and pummelling are great for stress relief and can feel extremely therapeutic! Little children can struggle to express their emotions and using dough while talking and singing can really help that process. 

Maths and Literacy development:
In more focused play, play dough can be used as a fantastic way to practise letter and number work. Children can form letters of the alphabet, spell out their own name, make numbers, form 2D and 3D shapes, comparelengths/ thicknesses/ weightscount out rolled balls to match numeral cards, match and sort by colour and SO many more ideas too!

Science and Discovery:
The actual act of making the play dough together with your child can lead to lots of questioning and prediction skills. Here we have some solid materials (flour, salt etc) to which we are going to add some liquids (oil, water.) What do you think will happen? What can we make? The child gets to explore and observe the changing state of materials in a hands-on way, and be filled with wonder as the bowl of unrelated ingredients comes together to form a sticky then smooth and squishy ball of dough! We often take these things for granted, but in the eyes and hands of a child that’s quite some transformation! Following a recipe and instructions, counting out cups, stirring and mixing and just being able to spend time on a collaborative project with an adult are all meaningful and important experiences too!

...and that's it!
It sure has been a fun year of learning to play and playing to learn.  All the Brambles staff would like to thank the wonderful children for a super year and to the families for the kind words in the Leavers book, they will be treasured forever along with all the lovely leavers gifts and cards that were very much gratefully received. All the staff would like to say to the children, We know you know a thing or two, you are all super smart!  We are all very proud of you! and enjoy your new and exciting adventures in reception. 

It is only right to leave this year as the children left their Leavers Assembly with their special goodbye song. "We learned our ABC's and counting 123's, and now we all know these, the Brambles pre-school class.  We learned how to share and we learned how to care, just ask us if you dare, the Brambles Pre-School class.  It seems we've just begun, and now we're almost done, this year's been so much fun!  The Brambles Pre-School Class.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

The greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time ~ Bill Bryson

The children returned from their Spring break with their own tales of travelling, exciting endeavours and returning their Spring Treasures to share with their friends.  It was wonderful to see so many creative ways to display their treasures and the variety of 'treasures' they found.  Once everyone had shared their treasures, they were put in the exploration tub outside for everyone to explore.

'Near and Far' was the theme for the first half of the summer term and it took the children to many different places; from Britain to South Africa, Spain to Slovakia and India to Greece. Locally Miss Emma's group walked down to the Post Office stopping off at different postboxes on route.  Further a field Miss Emma's group learnt all about India through listening and dancing to traditional Indian music and trying lots of different types of Indian food at snack time.

Miss Clare's group went to visit the dentist and got to learn first hand about the role of the dentist and the importance of brushing your teeth!  They were able to sit on the chair as it went up and down, use a brush to brush the crocodile's teeth, look at their own teeth with a dentists mirror, learnt how important it is to brush your teeth twice a day and how they must let their grown up help them to brush them and how long for.  They all received a sticker to say they had been good at the dentist too. Miss Clare also planned lots of activities to look at the country we all live in, Great Britain.  The children enjoyed listening to different types of British music and eating lots of traditional foods such as crumpets, Marmite, scones etc.

Miss Michelle's group walked to the Co op and brought a selection of foods for snack when they returned to pre-school and also learnt about money. Part of Miss Michelle's week welcomed one of the children's dad who came in to the class and read to the children in Greek and answer questions they had about Greece as that is where he and his family are from.The children also enjoyed a week of trying traditional Greek food and some home-made Greek feta parcels made by the child's mum.

There is not a police station in our village and the one in town is too far to walk, and as there are quite a few parents this year who are in the police force, Miss Sallie arranged some of the parents to come and speak to the children. Two children's parents visited and showed the children the many types of uniform they have to wear and the items they use.  The children got to try on various hats, jackets, handcuffs and hold the baton. They both spoke about how they not only catch 'baddies' but they do help people too!!!  Miss Sallie also looked at the wider community of South Africa as there are two families who are either from there or have family who live there and they helped provide all of the items for the table, including music, children's books in South African, musical instruments and more.

Miss Joan's group took a walk to the Florist in the village and had lots of fun looking at and smelling all the different types of flowers and they even brought some back to pre-school.  The florist is very supportive of the pre-school and allow us to visit many times throughout the year.  Further a field, Miss Joan looked at both Spain and Slovakia as she had two children in her group who's parents came from those countries.  Both families helped the children learn about their countries by a dad coming in to speak Spanish and for snack trying various tapas food alongside trying a traditional Slovakian snack that a mum made.  The children also learnt some Spanish words and a Slovakian rhyme.


EYFS Links
Culture is learned through language, ceremonies, gatherings, stories, music, games, arts and crafts, as well as land-based experiences. It is important for settings to have a good understanding of their own cultural beliefs and to respect the diversity of cultural beliefs of the children and families they are working with. Older people and other people in the community are considered the most important means for cultural knowledge to be transmitted to children and families. (Citation)

'Culture is the fundamental building block of identity and the development of a strong cultural identity is essential to children’s healthy sense of who they are and where they belong'

‘Cultural competence’ is one of those expressions where we all think we know what it means, but we might all mean something different. It’s a term and a set of concepts we need to return to and come to understand over time. Cultural competence is much more than awareness of cultural differences. It is the ability to understand, communicate with and effectively interact with people across cultures. Cultural competence encompasses: being aware of one’s own world view developing positive attitudes towards cultural differences gaining knowledge of different cultural practices and world views developing skills for communication and interaction across cultures. Cultural competence is underpinned by:
  • secure
  • respectful and reciprocal relationships
  • partnerships
  • high expectations and equity
  • respect for diversity
Brambles encourages all the families to be part of helping all the children to learn about the cultures within the setting by bringing in artefacts, books, music, clothing, food and coming in to read in their native language. Families are also encouraged to share what they do, being a parent, police, paramedic, porter etc by either allowing the children to visit them at their workplace or coming in to visit the children at pre-school. By working with children's families, children are able to experience first hand lots of local community and wider community events, celebrations and every day things.

Early in the morning as the sun begins to rise, the chickens are feeling peckish and so are the beautiful butterflies. There's a snuffling in the pig sty and a buzzing in the barn, fish swimming in the pond and growing trees around the farm. 'Amazing Animals' and the leavers trip to the farm are all to come in the last term of the pre-school year.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

'The art of teaching is the art of assisting discovery' - Mark Van Doren

There have been meteorologists, inventors, entomologists, horticulturists and environmentalists at Brambles this second half of the spring term!  The role play area was changed weekly to keep up with all the different areas of discovery over the past five weeks!

It started off with Miss Emma and her group of meteorologists who turned the role play area into an outside area and each day the weather and seasons changed. Monday it was autumn with sun, showers, umbrellas, hedgehogs and squirrels followed on Tuesday that had turned into winter with snow and warm clothes to put on.  Wednesday saw the season change to spring with the sun shining, rainy showers and flowers with gardening implements and seeds to plant.  By Thursday is was summer complete with sunshine, deckchairs, sunglasses and sun cream!

*** PHOTO ***

The second week, Miss Michelle stayed outside in the 'wooded area' complete with grass, tree bark and a variety of insects (plastic) complete with magnifying glasses, and check lists to enable the entomologists amongst the children!  Miss Michelle's group also had a fun snack that week or 'dirt and worms' (chocolate Angel Delight, crushed Oreo biscuits and a gummy worm) and some of the children were really unsure about eating them!

Miss Clare turned the role play area into a workshop with a tool box and various objects to 'fix', 'mend' and 'invent' alongside the old fashioned typewriter to type up the invoices and ideas for those children who wished to become inventors. On the small world table was a collection of loose parts where the children were left to their own devices to invent, create and discover.  The children really enjoyed this table and came up with some fantastic creations!

'A bee and beehouse' (red bottle top and mini pegs for the beehive) & a face using assorted parts

The 'potting shed' was the next theme for the role play for the budding horticulturists complete with pots, seeds (black eyed peas), compost (coffee flavoured playdough), flowers (fake) and watering can as well as seed packets to design their own plant or vegetable with Miss Sallie.  Miss Sallie's group also took a walk down to the local garden centre to choose some seeds and bulbs to plant back at Brambles later on that week.



The fifth and final week saw Miss Joan and her team of environmentalists learn how to look after the environment by recycling in the 'Brambles recycling centre' (role play area) and composting the uneaten food from snack times in the outdoor compost bin.

*** PHOTO ***

EYFS Links
Planning these types of real life experiences are important in early years.  It encourages active learning through real life situations through investigation and play.  Brambles staff have an important role during these types of play and experiences. Each member of staff ensures interactions in developing, supporting and monitoring each child's development through scaffolding and supporting each child's learning.
  • Teacher scaffolding to support learning:
    • facilitating e.g. modelling strategies
    • collaborating as a learning partner e.g.negotiating learning experiences
    • making learning explicit e.g.verbalising thinking aloud
    • building connections e.g.linking prior knowledge to new knowledge
    • extending children's thinking to develop deeper understanding e.g. questioning
These are the types of scaffolding that Brambles staff provide to move children towards their Zone of Proximal Development (Vygotsky).

"Early childhood can be a time of delight, discovery and wonder. Central to the EYFS is an uncompromising view of the child as capable of co-constructing knowledge and understanding."

"Using a social constructivist approach, early childhood educators make decisions about co-constructing learning based on the recognition that:
  • learning takes place in authentic and real-world situations
  • learning involves initiation, negotiation and mediation
  • content and skill development is understood within the framework of the child’s prior knowledge
  • learning is assessed formatively, with the child actively involved in the process educators facilitate and encourage multiple perspectives and representations of realities and futures."

"Learning which engages and challenges children’s thinking using real-life and imaginary situations." 

Opportunities for learning are presented via:

  • spontaneous play
  • planned, purposeful play
  • investigating and exploring
  • events and life experiences
  • focused learning and teaching
"..supported when necessary through sensitive intervention to support or extend learning. All areas of the curriculum can be enriched and developed through play."

Play is especially important in early childhood education. It provides opportunities for children to
  • express and test themselves and their ideas,
  • make decisions, 
  • solve problems, 
  • explore, 
  • negotiate,
  • learn to regulate their own behaviour and that of others

"Early learning needs to be rich, contextualised, developmentally appropriate and connected to young people's worlds and their community experiences."

  • the importance of building on the child's prior learning experiences, 
  • knowledge and 
  • skills 
  • in close partnership with families. 
  • The role of hands on learning experiences through play is central for children to develop an understanding of themselves as learners and of the world in which they live.

    The Spring term has come to an end and the children were all looking forward to some family time over the Easter / Spring break.  Over the two weeks at home, the children and their families were encouraged to see if they can find and bring back to Brambles their spring treasures to share with staff and their friends. 
      Something fuzzy
    Something straight
    Something smooth
    Something rough
    A chewed leaf
    A beautiful rock
    A piece of man made litter
    Something round
    Something that makes a noise
    Something you think is beautiful

The summer term starts back with a fun packed week of  'Celebrate good times, come on let's celebrate!' followed by five weeks of 'Near, far, where ever you are' where the children will be looking into our local and wider communities.

Spring is here, let's give some cheer! Flowers bloom, trees grow, water falls, winds blow. Bees buzz, kids play, say horray! Spring is today! - Author unknown

There has been plenty of cheer in Brambles over the first part of the spring term as the children have been able to use all the outdoor area and made good use of the bird hyde, digging area, communication spaces and playing on the bridge.  The children even got to enjoy a snow day and really made the most of it by exploring the pre-school garden and also the school playground, sledging on the mound and making snowmen in on the field.

The theme for the first half of the term was 'Elbow to Elbow' taken from the Dr. Seuss rhyme. Books are essential in early years. By reading to your child from a baby helps teach your child to use language and communicate both through talking and written word.  Reading skills are important to their success in school and later on in work.  Reading should be fun and imaginative to help them open up all kinds of new worlds for them. Parents play a critical role in supporting their child develop an enjoyment in their ability to read.


EYFS Links

Research has identified five early reading skills that are all essential.  They are:
  • Phonemic awareness—Being able to hear, identify, and play with individual sounds (phonemes) in spoken words.
  • Phonics—Being able to connect the letters of written language with the sounds of spoken language.
  • Vocabulary—The words kids need to know to communicate effectively.
  • Reading comprehension—Being able to understand and get meaning from what has been read.
  • Fluency (oral reading)—Being able to read text accurately and quickly.
You can make reading part of your everyday lifestyle by:

  • Turning off screen time (TV's, iPads, phones etc)
  • Teach by example - let your child see you reading newspapers, books, magazines, menus etc; your child sees you reading, then your child will learn that you value reading.  You can’t over-estimate the value of modelling.
  • Read together - Reading with your child is a great activity.  It not only teaches your child that reading is important to you, but it also offers a chance to talk about the book, and often other issues will come up.  Books can really open the lines of communication between parent and child.
  • Hit the library - Try finding books that interests your family and child's life, and then read them together. Read a book about going to the dentist prior to your child's dental check up or get some books about the seaside after a trip to the coast.  If your child is obsessed with dinosaurs, as the librarian to recommend a good dinosaur novel for your child. Find out about the free story sessions they offer.
  • Car journeys - listen to an audio book whilst on a long car journey and encourage you child to imagine what it would look like or talk about the feelings of the characters. 
  • Make your own - children love looking at photos of themselves and family members.  Consider making your own story from a day out you had using photos and your child's own drawings and own words or upload them to make a photo book.

    There are many ways to include reading in your child's life, starting in babyhood, and continuing through the teen years.  Focus on literacy activities that your child enjoys, so that reading is a treat, not a chore. 

The idea was to look at traditional stories as well as more contemporary ones and compare them. The children soon discovered that most of the stories rhymed and quickly picked up the repeated refrains! The children looked at traditional stories of 'Little Red Riding Hood', 'Goldilocks', 'Little Red Hen', 'The Three Little Pigs' and '3 Billy Goats Gruff' and used the role play and small world to explore these stories some more. They also identified that you must always tell as grown up where you are going and never go anywhere without them.  They also learnt that it is good to help your friends!

                  Miss Emma's Group                                    Miss Clare's Group

The children helped to choose their favourite more up to date stories.  Miss Emma's group had fun with,  'We're Going on a Bear Hunt' by Michael Rosen and enjoyed going through the school woods on their own bear hunt and found the bear, not in a cave but at the fire pit with some cakes for snack! Whilst Miss Clare's group chose,  'Gingerbread Baby' by Jan Brett which was a twist on the original tale of the Gingerbread Man.  The children enjoyed cooking their own gingerbread men and baking their own bread like the little red hen.

                  Miss Michelle's Group                                Miss Joan's Group

Miss Michelle's group explored Handa's Suprise by Eileen Browne  and had fun taste testing all the different fruits that various animals steel from her fruit basket and Miss Joan's group looked at the different and unusual animals from  The Grumpalump by Sarah Hayes and enjoyed a visit to Karen's Florist in the village to purchase and blow up their very own balloon to release into the air!

                                          Miss Sallie's Group

'The Gruffalo' by Julia Donaldson was the clear favourite from Miss Sallie's group who had fun in the role play, dressing up and becoming the Gruffalo!  They also had Gruffalo themed snacks al week: roasted fox (carrot sticks), scrambles snake (popcorn), owl ice-cream (ice-cream with a feather) and cornflake cakes (Gruffalo crumble).

Before we knew it the first half of spring term was over and half term was enjoyed.  Over the half term, families were encouraged to take part in Skill! Will! Thrill! For those families who wanted to, they could take a photo of their child having a try at something by themselves e.g. putting on their coat, doing up the zip/buttons, putting on and doing up their shoes etc. The photos were put up and displayed in the children's cloakroom.

‘Unlimited Thinking’ allows children time to think and time to try by themselves and not stepping in or speaking for them. Children need to be motivated to learn and using the approach, ‘Skill! Will! Thrill!’ ensures that they try to do something independently such as putting on their shoes, the process of having a go and the feeling of achievement when they have achieved this. These skills are also really important for school readiness. “Never help a child with a task at which they feel they can succeed”-Maria Montessori (Early Years Pioneer and Theorist)

The weather is warming up and coats are coming off. The children are continuing to pull up their sleeves and bloom themselves in preparing to become scientists over the second part of the spring term.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Love is an open door - Frozen

The end of the children's first term at pre-school was marked with a Winter Assembly for family and friends.  The Brambles door was opened wide to parents, family and friends for this special occasion and of course the soundtrack of the year was playing in the background - Disney's Frozen! The children certainly did 'let it go' during the assembly as they sang loudly and proudly and shared their art work.

Miss Sallie's group sang about the clothes you need in winter time and getting ready to go outside and play!  The children in Miss Sallie's group all made mitten cards after the song and also one of the books during that week was 'The Mitten' by Jan Brett

Now everyone was dressed warmly and outside, Miss Joan's group's song was all about the winter birds you can find.  The children used their cutting skills to cut out the tree and the painting skills to paint the robins sitting in the tree (5 Little Robins was written by Miss Sallie and Miss Clare)

Whilst looking up in the trees at the robins, the children could also see some snow clouds and some snowy white flakes falling from the sky!  Miss Michelle's group made her favourite thing ever - snowflakes!  Cupcake cases were used alongside scissors to create the snowflakes before adding glitter to make them sparkle and shine!

With a cold cold nose and cold cold toes, the children warmed themselves up by making a snowman - 'do you want to build a snowman?' Miss Clare's group stood proud as they completed the actions to 'I'm a little snowman' and showed their fantastic cards that matched their song, including the snowman melting away.

The sun has melted the snowmen, the sun is going down and their's frost in the air.  Miss Emma's group used their arm and hand to create a tree before adding toothpaste paint and glitter to create the snow and singing about all the different places the frost can be found before telling us that 'the frost tells us it's cold' and going inside, because 'inside is nice and warm, so inside we'll stay!'

Now everyone was back 'inside' and warmed up with all the singing and dancing it was time to celebrate with the children's families and friends with the bring and share lunch in the other side of the hall.  As the children left they each received a gift.


Some families at Brambles do not celebrate Christmas, the assembly and gift was adapted to ensure that every child was included in our end of term celebrations. 

EYFS Links
Working in partnership with families is an area Brambles staff believe is very important and one which they strive to ensure is a positive one.  As parents themselves they know how it feels to leave their children at pre-school and how their child/children do not inform them about their day or what they have had for snack etc.  They also know what it feels like to receive those precious art work creations, cards and watch their children perform with their friends.  Staff are also aware that some of the friends their children make at pre-school, their parents become friends of theirs too for a very long time!  Being able to host events such as the winter assembly is just one of the ways Brambles staff celebrate those small steps (creating a picture), to bigger strides (writing their name on their art work) and to huge leaps (standing on a stage) of the children with their families.

The relationship between parents and practitioners within the theme of Positive Relationships – in particular to view parents as partners in young children’s learning and development. The commitments to practice within this theme are: 
Respecting Each Other: Every interaction is based on caring professional relationships and respectful acknowledgement of the feelings of children and their families. 
Supporting Learning: Warm, trusting relationships with knowledgeable adults support children’s learning more effectively than any amount of resources. 
Key Person: A key person has special responsibilities for working with a small number of children, giving them the reassurance to feel safe and cared for and building relationships with their parents
Parents as Partners: Parents are children’s first and enduring educators. When parents and practitioners work together in early years settings, the results have a positive impact on children’s development and learning. 

'The best way to spread winter cheer, is singing loud for all to hear!' - Elf and the assembly certainly was a wonderful opportunity to share the children's work and how proud as staff we are at their super confidence to stand up on a stage and sing to over 70 adults and younger siblings!!! Such a lovely way to end the first term with such warm winter wishes!