Wow! What a busy start to the year! We have welcomed lots of new children into Nursery and we spent the first few weeks of September learning the class rules and getting used to our classroom routines. We are so proud of ALL our little superstars, they have come a long way since they first walked through our doors. They are now really good at listening to instructions and following the rules. They work as a team at tidy time and everyone knows exactly where to put all the toys and how to sort them into the correct boxes. All visitors into Nursery have commented on how amazing they are! We think they are amazing too!
Our days are very busy, and although the children are only with us for a short period of time, we manage to learn and do lots of new and exciting things. Here is an overview of what a typical week looks like. It is just the same in the afternoon, but with different timings!
Learning to write is a complex process and can be very demanding for our youngsters. Many times we forget how complex the task of manoeuvring a pencil across a page can be. Holding a pencil, pen or any other mark making tool, puts a great deal of strain on the thumb and first two fingers of the writing hand and can prove quite tricky when you are 3 or 4, especially if the muscles in your hand, wrist, forearm, upper arm, shoulder and back lack the strength required.
Funky Finger activities are aimed at strengthening these important muscle groups, so that our little ones develop the gross and fine motor control needed to hold a pencil with the correct grip - enabling them to form their letters correctly, once they have the strength and co-ordination in their backs, shoulders, arms, wrists, hands and fingers to do so.
We run the Funky Finger sessions three times a week, and children complete the activities to music. We choose four activities per half term, and children complete each activity for a whole week before moving on to the next activity.
The first step in the phonics journey is to teach our little ones to listen carefully to the sounds around them in their environment and support them as they learn to discriminate between the different sounds that they hear. Children need lots of opportunities to listen to these sounds and to develop their listening skills to identify and match them. This ability to listen carefully and identify the different sounds is crucial for their phonic progress. These are the prerequisite skills to being able to blend words for reading later on.
During our phonics sessions we have worked hard at identifying and matching environmental sounds in the home and outside. We have been on a listening walk around the school building and out on the playground, as well as matching environmental sounds on a CD to picture cards. We are really good at identifying police cars, helicopters and aeroplanes! We are getting better at identifying trickier sounds, such as someone brushing their teeth, pouring milk into a cup and drinking through a straw. We have also been practising identifying sounds associated with the weather, for example thunder, rain and wind. Over the past few days we have started to look at the sounds that different instruments make. We have been looking and talking about the sounds that a drum, a maraca, a tambourine and a triangle make. The children are really enjoying these sessions and they often use the instruments to make their own music outside of our taught phonics sessions.
ECAT stands for Every Child A Talker and our ECAT sessions are aimed at developing speaking and listening skills and widening children's vocabulary. Good speaking and listening skills are at the heart of the learning process, and are vital for children's success as they move through school. Sessions so far have involved designing a home for Kofi (our ECAT monkey), putting our hand into a feely box filled with cold, wet, slimy, sticky jelly (the children's words not mine!), describing objects hidden in a feely bag (hard, flat, soft, round, spiky, pointy, tall), reading Monkey Goes on Holiday and taking Monkey and the book home to read with our grown ups, as well as naming and talking about the food we like to eat and why.
Last week, Kofi brought in an unusual object to show us. We discovered it was a letter press and now we have it on our writing table and the children are enjoying writing their letters and using the letter press to stamp their address onto the envelopes, which they then post in the Nursery post box - ready for the postman to collect!
During our number time sessions we have been focusing on knowing and saying our number names, knowing our number names in order and recognising numerals 1 to 5. Some of our little ones are now starting to recognise numerals beyond five and are beginning to count beyond 10, using their knowledge of one-to-one correspondence. We have also been practising sky writing our numerals, as we begin to learn how to form our numerals so that we can record them correctly when we are ready to write them.
We are beginning to describe the shapes of things we find in our environment. We have sorted sticks into long sticks and short sticks and pine cones and conkers into things that are round and things that are spiky (not round). We are just about to start looking at what 2D shapes we can see around us, and we will be going on a shape hunt in the playground and trying to identify circles, squares, rectangles and triangles in pictures.
Every week we learn a new Nursery Rhyme/Song, which we have fun singing before the children go home. We have learnt the following Nursery Rhymes so far:
Jack and Jill
Miss Polly had a Dolly
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
John Brown's Baby
The Days of the Week Song
5 Little Ducks
5 Little Men in a Flying Saucer
Row Row Row your boat
Why not have a go at singing some of these with your little ones at home? Singing nursery rhymes like these helps children develop: their knowledge of stories, their communication and language skills, their social skills and it also creates a sense of community. Furthermore, it is an invaluable way of building our children's vocabulary and knowledge of correct sentence structure - all without them even realising that that is what we are doing. They just think it is fun, especially when we add instruments and actions!
Research has shown that children who sing nursery rhymes and have a wide repertoire of songs, are better equipped to become good readers and creative writers later on in their school journey.
In between our adult led sessions, children are able to choose their own activities and they are encouraged to independently access the resources on the shelves. This is the best part of the day, because this is when we get to 'play' with the children in order to facilitate their learning using their ideas and becoming involved in their imaginative play!
We have participated in and learnt about many different celebrations as part of our topic this term. We decorated delicious cookies for both our McMillan Coffee Morning and Children In Need celebrations.
Wow! I can't believe we are already half way through the Spring Term! It is just flying by.
This term we are learning about different types of animals and have already looked and talked about different farm animals. We are just starting to look at different sea creatures and will watch some of the Octonaut series to learn more about certain animals. The Octonauts and their gups have already proved very popular with the children in our small world area. Later this term we will go on to learn about certain jungle animals and mini-beasts.
We are also thinking about how we can use our imagination in our play and model making. We have already read 'Not a Box' and talked about how boxes (and any other objects like toilet rolls and egg boxes) can be anything we want them to be! The children have had great fun making their models and are very proud of their creations. We can really see a difference already! The children are really beginning to develop their imagination - an important skill that will serve them well as they move through school and will hopefully equip them to be creative adults later in life.
As you can see the children have tried really hard and made some amazing things out of boxes, toilet rolls and milk bottles. This project has allowed us to work very closely with each child and has meant that we have been able to discuss ideas and help the children plan what resources they will use and what techniques they will need to apply. Where difficulties have been encountered, we have been able to work with the children to come up with alternative ideas and strategies. Some children have enjoyed making their models so much that they now use their new found knowledge and skills to make new models independently.
Our deconstructed role play area has also proved a success! At first the children thought we were mad, but with a little encouragement they have seen that they can have more fun with boxes, crates and wooden blocks than they can with shop bought toys - as they can be anything they want them to be. A plastic apple is just a plastic apple, but a green wooden block can be an apple, a kiwi, a jewel, a dinosaur bone or pirate treasure. The children are only limited by their imagination. Apparently, we now have a resident flying octopus in our classroom. The children have spotted him flying over our heads at choosing time, but he is very sneaky and hides from the adults.
We continue to do Funky Fingers three times a week and we change the activities every half term. This half term everyone will have the opportunity to play finger football, make structures with plasticine and lollipop sticks, participate in Dough Disco and try and make a pom pom pop out the top of a cup.
This term we have had the opportunity to learn about many different celebrations. For Chinese New Year we watched both Lion and Dragon dances and ate noodles with chopsticks - which was a little tricky, but great fun! On Valentine's Day we made heart shaped sun catchers for our families and on Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday) we got to try pancakes with our special guest - Mr Bramley. Then we all dressed up in our own clothes on Red Nose Day.
Creative Week Activities
As part of the whole school Creative Week we have been doing different Science experiments. By putting flowers in different coloured water and observing what happened to the petals, we learnt that 'flowers drink water' and that 'the water travels up, up, up to the top' (the children's own comments). Did you know that when you put flowers in red water the petals will turn red too?
We have also learnt about volcanoes and jet engines and we have had the opportunity to make our very own volcanic eruption and power a paper aeroplane across the room using the same technology engineers use to power planes through the sky. Have a look at what we did ...
Frank and Phil have been with us for over a week now and they are starting to get used to their new surroundings, although it is a little noisier than what they are used to. The children have shown lots of interest in them and often request to hold them. We have discussed how to take care of them and we now know that guinea pigs need water, hay, dry food and fresh vegetables to stay healthy. We also know that they get scared if we are too noisy, so we are trying to be a little quieter. We have also learnt that to stay safe ourselves, we need to wash our hands after holding Frank and Phil.
Well I don't think my feet have even hit the ground this half term. It has been so busy! We have welcomed many new children into Nursery over the past few months and would like to welcome them, and their families, into Bentinck. They are now starting to settle into their new environment and we look forward to working with them over the coming months.
We have just completed our internal assessments of all the children and I can't tell you how proud I am of ALL of them. They are doing so well and have gone from strength to strength in all areas of their learning.
This half term we have had the privilege of observing the life cycle of a frog first-hand. We started off by studying the frog spawn (which I got from a local pond) and discussing what the children observed. We discovered that frog spawn is the frog's eggs and that it is 'like jelly' and 'you can see through it'. We also observed that there were tiny black dots in the centre of each egg.
Soon those little dots started to grow and then they began to push their way out of their egg sacks. At first, the tadpoles were so tiny you couldn't even tell they were tadpoles ... they just looked like little black squiggles! It didn't take long for them to start to grow and within a few days you could see a definite head and tail. We were amazed at the rapid transformation.
Did you know that for the first few days tadpoles eat their own egg sacks because they are full of energy, so that they can grow and develop quickly? They then develop teeth. Yes, teeth! They need them to be able to bite bits of algae off and eat it.
The tadpoles grew very quickly and nearly doubled in size on a daily basis. As they grew they changed colour and began to look more like frogs. They then developed back legs and were no longer tadpoles but froglets. The froglets back legs grew quickly and they used them to swim frantically around the tank.
We also noticed that the froglets no longer wanted to eat their lettuce (our algae substitute), so we used the internet to do some research. We discovered that they were no longer herbivores, but needed to eat things like flies and slugs. Ewww! It was definitely time to release the froglets back into the wild. So that night, I took them back to the pond where I found them and the next day I showed the children the footage.