Quote of the Week

“I am often amazed at how much more capability and enthusiasm for science there is among elementary school youngsters than among college students.”

Carl Sagan


Give a child a typewriter and they will create worlds

I had a wonderful conversation with my grandparents a few months ago, about the types of things I liked to play with as a child. We chatted about paint, paper, notebooks and huge canvases (plentiful in a house full of artists and teachers) before moving on to things children find in the garden and the beliefs children have (fairies, mythical creatures, etc…); as a professional the conversation gave me the opportunity to consider whether the resources within my setting instigated the sort of quality play I wanted children to experience. One of the items I remember very vividly from my childhood was an old typewriter. My grandfather had an electronic typewriter for his work and I remember watching it in absolute wonder (being a bookworm I adored the idea of creating a book as much as I enjoyed reading them). In response to my interest (and to save the electronic typewriter from the over-zealous toddler, I suspect) my grandmother found a typewriter complete with black and red ribbon and reams upon reams of computer paper for me. Upon recollection, my mother states that the typewriter hardly went a day without being used for creating stories, invitations, bills, menus, newspapers, lists, messages (at one stage my sister and I became preoccupied with telegraphs) and other written communications.

In the setting…
A few weeks ago, my grandmother informed me that she had bought an old typewriter (with black and red ribbons, no less!) for me, at auction for the princely sum of £3. Since installing the typewriter (after a grand unboxing) at a table with a variety of different types of paper and stationery items, I’ve been able to observe literary behaviours unseen in some children using the computer or normal mark making table/tools within the setting. Children who thus far had no interest in writing have spent upwards of ten minutes carefully tapping away (bearing in mind that they are 2-5 year olds!) and children who previously wrote their names and various letters upon hand-written notes have been writing stories and messages. With the help of a practitioner, children have been requesting assistance in typing such words as “crocodile” and “monster” alongside favourite nouns such as “mummy” and “daddy”. Practitioners and parents/carers alike have had a go at typing, providing excellent role models and illustrating the enjoyment that can be had from expressing yourself upon paper (even if it is just to say “cheese sausages milk” – child’s snack time wishlist!)
The typewriter has also reinforced mark-making with pens, pencils and chalks as children patiently wait for “the ding” to tell them it’s someone else’s turn (a fantastic built-in turn-taking mechanism!) and name recognition has improved dramatically as children search for their name on a “turn-taking” list and urge practitioners to cross names out as children take their turn.
Although it has only been a few weeks, interest hasn’t waned and the children’s enthusiasm for reading (and creating things to read) has spread across all the areas of provision. As a setting that focuses mainly upon child-initiated learning, this addition of a springboard item has set off an explosion of fantastic ideas that I cannot wait to follow up (and possibly blog about)!




Summer Continuous Professional Development (CPD)

I thought that perhaps I would theme some blog posts around the official professional development I log during the summer term.
My personal approach to training and extending knowledge has never been “less is more”. Since becoming an early years practitioner (and later a senior early years practitioner) I have adopted the motto of “never be content with practice but strive to be” – this does not mean being negative when reflecting upon practice, instead it is a reminder that a great practitioner is also an industrious learner. All learning need not be formalised or arduous, this term I have Beach Schools training and a messy play workshop planned.

Quote of the Week

“The direction in which education starts a man, will determine his future in life.”


BOOK COMPETITION: Celebrating World Book Night 2013

To celebrate World Book Night UK 2013 (@worldbooknight) on the 23rd of April, I am running a competition for my Twitter and WordPress followers (based in the UK) to win some books!

The rules are quite simple: to enter you must currently reside in the UK (eligible for Royal Mail delivery), be a follower of newtonoakley on either Twitter or WordPress and you must tweet a favourite literary quote or a reason to be passionate about reading tagged @newtonoakley #book. For example:

@newtonoakley #book ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’


@newtonoakley #book Escapism, I can always visit Narnia when my own wardrobe is boring.

(Of course, your reason will probably be less silly…)

Five (5) winners will be picked (see notes below) and their Twitter handles posted. Winners should then send a direct message to @newtonoakley via Twitter; with their full name and email address.


NOTES: Kate Oakley and affiliates are not responsible for: any incorrect or inaccurate entry information; human errors; technical malfunctions; failures, omissions, interruptions, deletions or defects of any telephone network, computer online systems, computer equipment, servers, providers, or software, including without limitation any injury or damage to participant’s or any other person’s computer relating to or resulting from participation in the competition; inability to access the Entry Sites (Twitter/Wordpress); By entering the competition, entrants confirm that they have read and accepted these rules.
WINNER SELECTION: Five (5) winners will be selected from among all eligible entries on or about 27/04/2013 by @newtonoakley. If a prize notification or prize is returned as undeliverable for any reason, the prize will be awarded to an alternate winner in a subsequent selection. Prize is not transferable or redeemable for cash. No substitution for the prize by the winner will be allowed.
PRIZES: Five (5 to be awarded) books – one per winning entrant – in either digital (Kindle/iBooks) or paper format.

How do you encourage children to be globally empathetic?

Last week I retweeted a friend’s intention to “Live Below The Line” in aid of the charity International Service. She hopes to raise £800 by living on just £5.74 a week – calculated using poverty baseline of $1.25 a day – including all of her food, drink and travelling costs. You can read about her experiences and inspiration here; if you’re feeling particularly altruistic today, you can support this worthy cause here.

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.”
Frederick Douglass

But what does this have to do with early years education, aside from the obvious concern that children in developing countries have yet to access quality early years education universally? Within the foundation stage, practitioners are encouraging children to empathise with and to give consideration to others’ feelings, needs and wishes. Usually this is an informal process, using everyday events as “learning opportunities”; occasionally fraught with tears (“but I WANT that fire engine!”) it can be an emotionally exhausting process as you filter and reflect the behaviour you want children to replicate independently (“he’s sad because I hit him… That wasn’t kind, was it? Sorry.”)

However, outside the realms of everyday events are what I believe to be the situations for which we most require emotional intelligence. Things like abject poverty, war and injustice. We want our children to grow up to be resourceful, resilient and knowledgable adults; who will do a better job of taking care of the world and the people in it than previous generations. In the grand scheme of things, that’s what we do as practitioners: we’re trying to create a better world.

In the next few months, I will be introducing the tricky topic of poverty through philosophical discussions with children and encouraging them to consider the difference a donation of chickens to a poverty-stricken family across the world would make. This will be timed to coincide with a delivery of “live” chicken eggs which will hopefully hatch successfully and provide a talking point for children, parents, carers and staff. Already the foundations of such discussions have already been laid; for example we discussed why the bears in Goldilocks and the Three Bears were so cross upon finding their porridge had been scoffed by the cheeky girl who broke their chair and had a sleep in one of their beds. We talked about whether the bears had any more porridge, whether the chair was fixable and as one child thoughtfully stated “what if they don’t have any pennies for chairs? Chairs are a lot of pennies and they can’t share two…” We also talked about whether Goldilocks had any food at her house, or whether she even had a house to begin with! One child noted that they had seen a homeless person on a recent trip to the shops “…and Daddy gave him a sandwich” which extended the conversation from the story world to the local community. We even touched upon the concept of finite money when visiting out local farmers shop; each child was given some pennies to take care of to help pay for the shopping and “when all the pennies are gone, that’s it.” Even the smallest children understand that the amount of pennies directly relates to the amount of fruit or vegetables we can buy – to date there has never been an upset over “but I want ….!” which we attribute to the honesty and transparency we approach the concept of money with.
These familiar stories and scenarios will lay the groundwork for lateral thinking and empathetic understanding as the children grow up. As adults, our job is to explain the world in a developmentally appropriate manner. At some recent training, I noted that a contributing factor in the development of children’s fears or upsets is the unknown. Of course, there is a need for sensitivity and understanding – some horrific things do not belong in the childhood conscious – but for the most part, with a carefully worded explanation or appropriate reassurance most topics can be conveyed and understood. An example of this could be Remembrance Day. In the town where my setting is situated, there is a prominent memorial and services are held to mark the day. It is inevitable that at some stage students will see wreaths, people paying respects or ceremonies and it is their right as a child to question “what?”, “who?”, “where?” and “why?”