Setting the Scene

Today in Room 2 we upped the ante in terms of our Role Play preparation. Following regular chats with Ms. Dee (blogging about her Aistear experiences here) who teaches Senior Infants across the hall from me, I decided to follow her example and let the children become much more involved in the set-up of the Role Play area.

Up until now, with the introduction of a new theme, I have had to get in to school extra early on the first morning in order to dismantle the previous Role Play area and set up the new one. Often, I have printed out relevant signage and other stimuli and need to spend time setting the scene. There also tends to be a fair amount of clearing out to be done, as I find bits of ‘shrapnel’ that have fallen behind benches etc., during previous play times. After setting a scene according to my vision of how it should look, it is also necessary to explain to the children what I thought each table/ box/ etc was for.

Ms. Dee always seems to be able to involve the children far more in the set-up. So after discussing in detail how she goes about it, today I was able to introduce the children to the New Day 1 of Any New Theme: Preparation Day.

Brainstorm Shop

First we discussed our new theme – Shopping – and brainstormed the kinds of things that you see, do and buy in a shop. Then we divided the responsibilities of arranging a shop in our Role Play area into four categories, and started adding suggested tasks to each topic.

Jobs: 1. Dismantle old Role Play set-up and move furniture to create shop 2. Make things for use/ for sale in shop 3. Find things already in the classroom for use/ for sale in shop 4. Make and stick on price tags for everything in shop

Jobs:
1. Dismantle old Role Play set-up and move furniture to create shop
2. Make things for use/ for sale in shop
3. Find things already in the classroom for use/ for sale in shop
4. Make and stick on price tags for everything in shop

Next we chose volunteers for each group. There was a clamour for the ‘set-up’ role but everybody was happy with their assigned jobs in the end and the children all worked well to achieve their goals.

Straight away the children in the set-up area started to come over and ask me whether they could use this or that as a prop. Soon the others started to add their own creative flair to proceedings!

Abdulmaliq suggested we use the wheelbarrow from our gardening theme as a trolley. Killian wanted to use a box of nails from our construction theme, and sell them like it was a hardware shop. Abbie found a hanger for a dress in the dress-up box and suggested the dress could be for sale. Chloe wanted to use an empty Ribena bottle from the junk art supplies, and pretend it was full. Several of the children wanted to sell their favourite toy in the shop. Ayse suggested that we could turn a table sidewards and use it as a conveyor belt.

The children’s suggestions started off tentatively and their confidence visibly grew as the shop began to take shape.

The pricing station

The pricing station

The children at the pricing table priced up a storm using sticky sheets, pencils and scissors. My concerns that they might not be sure what price to assign to particular items was unfounded – once they got started there was no stopping them! In fact there is now a price on my stool!

Lollipops - 6c each

Lollipops – 6c each

The junk art table generated a balloon, a variety of lollipops and a selection of canned goods among others. Finally we had the shop set up exactly how we wanted it. In our enthusiasm we went over our allotted time, meaning we had to eat lunch AFTER yard time, and THEN discuss what we had achieved – but take a look at what a great shop has been installed in our Role Play corner!

One of our shelving units was appropriated (and the toys that usually live on it carefully stacked out of the way) for use as a display for all of our wares. Tables and chairs were moved. Unnecessary props like the rocket from our Space theme (which had more recently been appropriated as a prison during our Garda Station theme) were unceremoniously disposed of and the area soon began to look and feel like a shop.

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Now that we have put the Shop together as a group effort, I feel that the children are more likely to add to the scene as necessary. In our discussions after finishing setting the scene, the children remembered some things that they hadn’t yet found or made, including some more signage – and I am optimistic that they will use their time at the Junk Art station to make the Shop even more authentic.

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I hope that having spent time considering the form the shop would take, the children will be even more likely to immerse themselves in Make Believe as they play in the Shop. This will take me one step further towards feeling content that our Role Play is all that it can be!

Skyping Washington DC

Yesterday we made our first foray into the world of Skype. We Skyped the Ms. Linney and the Kindergarten girls in the Excel Academy in Washington D.C. and it was an enjoyable, worthwhile experience. Having said that, it was not without its challenges.

     The Logistics:

I connected with Ms. Linney  through Twitter several weeks ago and arranged a time to suit us both for Skyping. (Skype offer a facility for connecting teachers with one another but I have not used the service yet myself.) We had a test Skype call earlier in the week to ensure everything was working properly and also discussed the questions the children might ask each other.

Prepping the classroom for the Skype session meant finding a webcam (at the back of the junk press at home) and a mic (a less-than-ideal desktop mic from the school’s computer supplies) and then seating the children in a layout that would allow them all to be visible when the webcam was switched on.

We also needed to prepare the questions we wanted to ask, as well as our answers to their questions, to ensure we wouldn’t have any uncomfortable silences! Still, logistically, it was a struggle. Our desktop microphone is not very sensitive and this meant that to be heard, the children needed to stand right in front of the mic with their mouths an inch from the it. Any time a child wanted to ask or answer a question, they had to come up to the mic, speak and then return to their seats.

Ms. Linney at the Excel Academy had a wireless microphone that she was able to pass around amongst the children in her class, but the sound quality was muffled and we found most of what the children said quite difficult to decipher – meaning that the children in my class often needed me to repeat what had been said to understand.

We also lost the connection at one point in the session and the call was dropped. Luckily, we were able to reestablish the link within a minute so the momentum was not lost. But despite the challenges, the Skype session was a worthwhile learning experience.

     What We Learned:

During our conversation with the girls at Excel Academy, we learned about several differences between our two schools: we established that in America it was only 8.15, while here in Dublin it was 1.15 – almost home time. We found out that the girls wouldn’t finish school until 3.30 their time; that they have a much longer day than us. We also discussed the weather, our ages, our uniforms, the fact that their school is single-sex, and what class the children are in. In fact, when Sofia came to the microphone to ask the girls what class they were in, she decided to say ‘grade’ instead, as they had already asked us what ‘grade’ we were in, and she knew they didn’t usually use the word ‘class’.

     But Most Importantly:

The most valuable aspect of our Skype date was how it brought the reality of the outside world into our classroom. This is something I have discussed in an earlier post about Twitter – the capability of modern technology to take the content of a lesson and make it tangible, identifiable, relevant and FUN!

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Here’s a video we took of the Event – warts and all!

Part 1:

…and Part 2:

    What Learned (WWW/EBI)

  • Involving all of the children in a question helped to keep them engaged – e.g. hands up everybody who is five, hands up everybody who is six.
  • Listening to multiple responses from the other class led to some children becoming distracted/ antsy (particularly with our audio difficulties) – maybe best to keep questions and answers as short and snappy as possible to hold all children’s attention
  • While we had planned questions to ask them, towards the end of the session some of our class were putting their hands up to ask their own questions – I will try to allow time for this next time