Early Years Village Blog

Early Years Village Blog

posted 15 Dec 2016, 14:10 by Corina Gamble   [ updated 10 Sep 2017, 08:02 ]



September - a month of firsts

        September may be the ninth month of the year, but for us, it is a month of many firsts. First time those little people who went home as our “youngest” come back and find themselves the “old ones”. First time for most starters to be left with us – caring, prepared for everything, but for all that, complete strangers. Each time I go through the catalogue of firsts, and try to enter the mind of those newest to us, I am staggered by their incredible adaptability and resilience when they start nursery.

As a reflective adult, I spend time observing myself and those I work with rather a lot – it’s a part of a cycle of trying to get continually better at what we do. Incidentally, I notice that we adults often struggle with change – from big things, like an organisation shake-up, to little things, like the cup we drink from, or the way we place our chair or table. Most of us adapt, but it takes effort, and time. We move a chair and go to its old place for weeks on end, only to make a U-turn to find its new location…  Yet every September, we meet small people who take on new challenges, new people, new routines, and make them their own in no time. In need of comfort and a cuddle, what must it feel like to suddenly be in the arms of someone new, whose clothes smell differently, and whose hair has a different texture and length? Different voices tell us how to do the things we can’t yet get our fingers around, and more than anything, tell us to “have a go”, “give it a try”, “you first” rather a lot more often than we are used to…

And yet, here we are – half a week done, most of the new children very much at home and already reminding us “what happens next”. Tears were very few, and excitement greater.

They played with kitchens, play dough, houses and built amazing train track layouts. They worked really, really, really hard at running our trains without shouting others out of the way. They sang new songs, and some old ones too – the volume of singing varies so much between the old and the new, it’s easy to spot the difference! They learned that we stop, tidy up, wash hands and sit together to have snack, and the fruit on the plate are not for the quickest but for all. They learned that we share fruit in slices, and that we count, match the number of pieces with that of children, and make it fair. They are learning that we can have a go at pouring our own water and milk, and that spilling is ok – a cloth is never far away, and a drink spill is small beer in the scheme of life. Those “old hands” who started last year are starting to adapt, move along a bit and include their future friends.

We’ve had surprises too: adults and children watched in awe as our Giant African Landsnail, Peepo, suddenly started laying egg after egg, while clinging to the side of the tank. As Evie might put it, “I can’t believe this happened this day!” I can safely say this sight was a first for all of us – in what walk of life do you get to stop everything to watch a snail lay eggs?! 

We also learned that the stick insects are quite a bit faster and wobblier than most of us expected. They look like long sticks on wobbly stilts, they do change colour according to their environment, and they really don’t care how prickly the brambles are, as long as they have brambles to eat!

As the second week is on its way, and a new group making their start, I feel that perhaps, without being complacent, we have the makings of a great year of learning together!  

Nativity 2016

This year saw many changes in the Early Years at our school, and the Nativity play was one of those. The nativity has always been a major milestone for the nursery children - the first time they were expected to sing, dance and perform in front of an audience. It is always daunting to be watched from behind the curtain of darkness, however loving, friendly and forgiving that audience.

For the Owl classes (Reception), it was always a different kind of milestone: joining in with year 1 and 2 children, there was always less to do - the older children had the speaking roles, and reception joined in and aspired.   

This year, for the first time, nursery and reception children together became "The Early Years Nativity" -  without support from year 1 and 2 for Reception, with much less hands-on help for nursery children, with more variety of music and a clear link to the story from the start. A rich and varied set of roles was shared evenly between nursery children and those in Owls class, who rose to the challenge and learned their order, words and particularly how to talk to a packed hall. 

 It was a scene for collaboration for a whole new group of colleagues, with Miss Cliff at the helm, writing script, consulting about suitable songs, words, roles and costumes. The children relished every moment - the words, the story, the art work that went into the props, the opportunities to stand and perform in front of friends, then a large hall full of adults, twice. Story telling and drama - acting out the lives of others - are particularly good ways to learn new things. As always, at this time of year,  this particular type of learning accelerated: they now know that life two thousand years ago was very different, and that we still celebrate things that happened then, but in very different ways. We also learned a lot about counting back (from 25!), cooking and thinking about others. 
Words from songs and from the story will stay with them for a very long time, and the phrases they learned through acting the story will be used again and again, in different guises, throughout their school life.

We, teachers, learned a lot too. An education writer called Bruner once said that you can teach a child anything, at any age, as long as you teach it the right way for that age.  We  all just brought that saying to life with the Nativity play. 




Snack time - sharing food and thoughts

Nativity - through the eyes of three, four and five year olds, perhaps

We started school or nursery in September, and learned how to cope with having every minute organised by an adult, how to walk safely in a group, often in a line, how to listen when an adult talks to a room, rather than just "me", and sometimes to a hall full of people; how to play and stop and play and tidy up and sit and stand at different times for different reasons. 

We discovered by doing, and one of the things we discovered that we love, are stories and songs. Which is a very good thing, because December is all about the story of a baby, born a very long time ago, in a very far away place. On the map, it's brown, and in the pictures, it has few trees and many brown looking houses. There were lots of donkeys and camels and sheep, but no cars or trains or proper roads - only dusty ones. 

Walking on and off a stage half as high as ourselves, wearing 1st century gear or animal outfits: the new normal for December. This is because we are learning how to be Jesus, Mary, the angels or the shepherds. We have to listen and tell the story ourselves, and sing the songs of the story. Once there was a carpenter - who made things out of wood, and not carpets, as we had originally thought. 

We learned to sing the songs and tell the story, and just as Joseph had worked out that some of his lines were quite funny, and started to enjoy saying them, he got ill. A new Joseph had to learn the lines, and she was great too. Some angels had a little argument about the correct way to wear a halo - just as the stage lights shone bright on them. 

The main inn-keeper, who had room in the stable, became extremely uncomfortable with the thought of it all, and offered Joseph the kitchen instead. The wise men were very wise to follow the star, but one of them was really keen to find alternative uses for the telescope. The other lost her robe, but was rescued just in time to travel to Bethlehem. The animals got a little restless, and kept wanting extra turns on stage, but when they did get to the extra final stage appearance, they couldn't agree on the right order and positions. The centurion thought there should be a lot more to be said about the order from the emperor, and decided to do a little extra demo at the end. Luckily, Mary and the Angel Gabriel kept their act together, and spoke up for all to hear, that the story is now over for another year.

There was lots of applause, and much talking about what a great thing the play was. 

    When can we do it again? 

                               Click here to view all the Nativity 2016 pictures

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