Do You Dare To Bear?

It’s been all things bear in Kindergarten this week. You will find bears in the book corner and at the Maths table and, of course, in the role play area. In fact, if you dare to enter, and step right into the Three Bears’ cottage, you will find that some of the children themselves have turned into furry bears. You can paint bears; you can thread with them, and you can make Baby Bear ears out of playdough.

Inspired by the sight of so many bears, your blogger dashed off to her classroom cupboard to retrieve her own set of Goldilocks finger puppets to add to the collection, for this week’s blog is rather a special event. Even though I have been writing a blog entitled Through The Classroom Door, in over six months I haven’t actually stepped through anyone’s classroom door for the purposes of blogging in anything other than a virtual sense, except for Mrs Buxton’s hockey lesson, and that wasn’t in a classroom, of course. This time, because working with Kindergarten children is such a unique experience, I couldn’t resist seeing for myself what was going on.

The theme for the term in Kindergarten has been Traditional Tales, and this week it has been the turn of Goldilocks to step into the spotlight. It never ceases to amaze me how many fantastic learning opportunities can be derived from the story of one very naughty girl who goes nosing round a house that does not belong to her. A great deal of planning, co-ordination and preparation goes into bringing everything together so it is cohesive and purposeful for the children without being in any way contrived. As ever, Mrs Eades has worked wonders and, having arrived at school, the children were keen to explore the activities on offer.

Staff transformed the role play area in Kindergarten into the living room and kitchen of the Three Bears’ cottage. Children could choose to dress up as bears in there and check that the bowls and chairs were in size order. When Milo went into the cottage, he made sure he put the correct bowl and spoon by each of the chairs. I don’t think Goldilocks would have bothered to do that.

Meanwhile, alongside the sandpit you would normally expect to find in any Kindergarten setting, a porridge pot had appeared, full of spiky, scratchy porridge oats. Oats behave like sand in so many ways. You can scoop them up and pour them, but I wonder what would happen if you added water? I wish I had suggested this to Mrs Eades, but I have a sneaking suspicion she will already have thought of that!

For these very young children it is vital to provide as many opportunities as possible for Speaking and Listening. Mrs Eades has collected several version of the Goldilocks story to read to the children, and they were encouraged to talk about the similarities and differences between the stories. Later on, when Traditional Tales are revisited further up the school, teachers become more adventurous at playing around with the characters and plot, even turning the story on its head to suggest that Goldilocks is the innocent party. However, it is ideal for Kindergarten children to re-enact the story using the words spoken by the characters. Mrs Eades used puppets to help them, showing the children how to vary the volume in their voice as they talked. This will be beneficial to the children as they develop as readers to understand how expression can be used when reading a story aloud.

Mrs Eades also pretended to be a news reporter covering the break in at the Three Bears’ cottage. She interviewed the Three Bears about the incident. Daddy Bear, aka Jeevan, told her how Goldilocks had made him feel sad and how hard he had tried to fix Baby Bear’s broken chair. I have to admit I have never encountered recordable cards before, but I can see how they can be used to great effect to develop listening skills in Early Years children. In this instance, the children recorded themselves speaking using the big, medium and small voices of the Three Bears. When the cards were played back, they had to listen very carefully to guess who was speaking each time.

When I visited on Tuesday morning, Kindergarten was, as usual, a happy and buzzing place to be. Mrs Eades was with the puppets in the reading corner while Mrs Maher was sequencing pictures from Goldilocks with individual children, helping them to describe what they could see happening in each picture. At the next table, Miss Price was working with the number stamps. The children are only at the very beginning of their learning in number, of course, and Miss Price was helping them to recognise the numerals and put them in order. I could tell that doing this required an enormous amount of effort and concentration on the part of the children.

Sadly I missed the porridge making, which took place earlier in the Goldilocks topic. The children were fascinated to see how the texture of the oats changed as they were cooked from dry and crunchy to soft and wet. Unlike the Three Bears, who I’m sure wouldn’t consider anything other than honey, the children could also choose to add either banana, golden syrup or sugar to their porridge. Sophie thought the porridge was so yummy she ate two whole bowls of it! Some of the other children, judging by their faces, were not quite so sure.

Going through the classroom door into Kindergarten was a very rewarding experience for me as I am used to teaching older children, and I am hoping to return as soon as I can. I also had a few surprises, not the least of which was being called ‘a silly sausage’. I should emphasise that it was meant in the kindest, sweetest way. All the same, I hope no-one in Form 3 ever decides to compare me to a sausage.