At the Seaside – Professional Reflections

My favourite activities at the pre-school in recent weeks have been our trips to the beach. We are lucky in our geographical location that we have a beautiful beach with a variety of natural resources on offer (for example, chalk and rock pools) within easy walking distance. We aim to extend children’s interests beyond the confines of our setting as often as possible when appropriate (in response to child-initated ideas).

The children’s interest in beaches has been sparked by the sudden improvement in weather (although one child noted “it’s [the sea] still very cold… Only for silly swimming.”) and the addition of a seaside themed natural materials basket. As always, I am humbled and awed by the vast number of ideas and experiments children come up with whilst exploring such simple things. By the end of the first morning we had children: requesting different colours of paper and wooden boards to draw on using the natural chalk, creating “castles” with the pebbles, adding sand and water to a shallow tray to make a lake for boats made of driftwood and seaweed, creating paper beach clothes for the small-world dolls (so they could go swimming), making lots of lovely sounds with the pebbles and sticks, taking the natural chalk outside to draw on the ground, crushing the natural chalk to make a lovely tactile material (which when water is added to becomes “milk” and “hot chocolate”), etc.

It was then that we decided that the best way to really explore our local environment would be to organise an impromptu trip to the beach. Full-waterproofs were donned (staff and children!) and we discussed beach safety before setting off down the gangway towards adventure. We spent far longer down the beach than originally anticipated (why prematurely halt such engaging and meaningful experiences?), so the return to the setting was hasty, however the enthusiastic communication heard between parents and children during collection time validated every practitioners’ belief that what we do is one of the most important jobs in the world. After answering the children’s curious questions on the beach, we utilised several books to help us explain tricky concepts such as erosion (“where does chalk come from?”, “will that house fall off the cliff?”); tides (“what makes waves?”); ecosystems (“that seagull is eating the crab”); natural occurences (hermit crabs “moving house”), etc. in a familiar visual format.

In the next few weeks, I will be collating the books we have utilised and giving each a short review. I hope you will find these as useful and inspiring as we have!


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.

Setting featured in Haylock & Cockburn’s new edition of “Understanding Mathematics for Young Children”

Last June, my setting was fortunate enough to play host to Derek Haylock (an education consultant and author; he worked for over 30 years in teacher education and was Co-Director of Primary Initial Teacher Training, responsible for the mathematics components of the primary programmes at the University of East Anglia in Norwich) whilst he collected observations for the new edition of the popular mathematical education book “Understanding Mathematics for Young Children”.

You can find Mr Haylock’s blog here and the edition that my pre-school is featured in here.

Review to follow.


“In this indispensable book, the authors help teachers understand mathematical concepts and how children come to understand them, and show how to develop your own confidence with mathematical activities.

Each chapter of this book includes:

– real-life examples and illustrations from children and teachers;

– the research behind some of the concepts and teaching approaches discussed;

– pauses to reflect and discuss your own mathematical knowledge and experience;

– age-appropriate classroom activities to try with your class or group.

This is an essential student text and professional reference work for teachers of children aged 3 to 8 years.”

Derek’s blog post following the visit can be found here.

“On Tuesday I spent half a morning at the [PRE-SCHOOL], on the North Norfolk coast. The main reason for the visit was to talk to Kate Oakley who runs the pre-school and who had some interesting observations to share on the ways in which children in the age range 3 to 5 years engage with mathematics. It was a delight to spend some time with the children as well. It was particularly intriguing and exciting to see how much mathematics they were doing informally through play within a suitably prepared and relaxed environment. The staff let the the younger children take their play in whatever direction they choose but then ensure that opportunities for learning arise by the provision of resources and by focussed conversations and questions.

Here’s an example of one my observations. One 4-year-old girl was walking around on ‘stilts’ – standing on a couple of upturned buckets with strings that she could pull on to keep them in place under her feet. We were looking at the scale on the wall for measuring the children’s height, and she hobbled over to join us. Standing against the wall on her ‘stilts’ she was able to talk about the fact that her height had increased. In this way she was getting an early experience of the key idea of ‘increasing’, which later on she will learnt to connect with counting on and the concept of addition.”




Quote of the Week

“All that mankind has done, thought, gained or been: it is lying as in magic preservation in the pages of books.”

Thomas Carlyle