Saturday, June 30, 2012

Portfolio Ponderings ...

I was flipping through some portfolios at a service I was working in and I made some observations:

Firstly, the portfolios looked the same. There were a few differences, but for the most part, they were copies of group observations all put into the children’s individual books. And by differences I mean, there might have been one or two entries that I could see that were individual – and they were something that the family did, not the services. The other aspects that I noticed were individual were the art works – but they themselves were novelty art (splatter painting etc) which are fun, but really not, in my opinion, a truly artistic practice.  There were no detailed paintings like what my old kids used to create, as the children only had those short fat brushes with only 2 or 3 colour choices.

I read parts of a few of the observations, but they were describing what all the children had done, and there was little or no focus on the individual. I remember years ago working at a service and that was one of the criticisms of some of the educator’s portfolios – little focus on the child/ren, more focus on the larger group or the experience. I believe in a happy medium.

I didn’t bother reading what was written because it was just a narrative. I didn’t even see the educational point of the observation in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, the staff put a great deal of energy and thought into what they were writing, I just didn’t enjoy reading it.
The photos were not very inspiring either – they were photocopies of a print out or the child from a distance. I think that the photos should be really thoughtful – there should be intent behind the image chosen and the child should feature, or the child’s work.  Also, there were so many different boarders themed to whatever the observation was about. It was so visually busy and really detracted from the work of the children.
I know I’m being critical. I’m not questioning their motives or their dedication, merely their focus. It’s easy to make judgements as an outsider, I know this. But I like reflecting upon my own work, as well as others as it encourages me to think and be creative and evolve as a professional. I have also seen some awesome things that have made me feel at a professional loss! I’ve seen some wonderful observations! But this experience of sitting down with the has really led me to think about what I am going to be including in portfolios in the future. I see value in some old practices that I was pushed into doing at a previous service. I can utilise these ideas and weave in more of the EYLF into them...
What do parents and children want to see in the portfolios? The children and their engagement and their relationships!
The children should be a prominent feature in their own portfolio/journal/learning story ...
(c) Teacher's Ink. 2012

Monday, June 18, 2012


I’m not working today and I thought I would take advantage of the off-time at home. You see, I moved rather suddenly about 9 months ago during a time of personal turmoil. While it took me 7 or so weeks to pack ... it’s taken me a great deal longer to unpack! I had a huge commute to work plus work drama plus work at home plus my responsibilities at home and I didn’t have enough life left in me to tackle the rest of the unpacking. It was much easier just putting things in the spare room to deal with later.

I’m a bit of a hoarder. I have so many teaching things and papers with ideas on them, or magazine articles or photocopies of sections of books that would have been great for teaching, university papers (most of them are gone now, but some still remain) blah blah blah ... lots of crap!

I’ve always been a bit of a clutter-bug ... but I found that through my years of tertiary education they were telling me to save this and save that for this and for that and ... yeah ...I need to change my thinking on the matter: Use it or lose it!

So, papers I want to keep are going into reorganised binders/folders with labels on the sides so I know what’s in them – I’ve given myself a shelf or two for those things ... then some shelves for books ... and then that’s it. If I’m not using it – it’s got to go!  I want clearly defined spaces.

I want life to be easier! I want more space to create! And right now, with clutter, I simply can’t do it!

Besides, it’s nice finding some treasures! I'm also finding alot of my portfolio ideas! See - something to inspire my writing!
Once there is organization, I can then play around with some creative projects - like the dolls! I found my patterns! Yay! And portfolio stuff!!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Puppet Adventures

I have a case of finger puppets that live inside my teaching bag. I use these puppets to make stories - either typical fairy tales or ones that I make up as I go along. Anyway, I sometimes let the children use them under supervision. This has often led to a spontaneous experience of making our own finger puppets.

I have done this a couple of different ways.
1. I have cut out a template outline of a finger and then cut them out for the children to draw on. Then we've stuck two of the shapes together using sticky tape for the children to have their own finger puppets.
2. I have photocopied my finger puppets in b&w and the children  have cut them out on their own (with varying degrees of success) and then we have just used sticky tape to attach them to a popcicle stick.
3. I have used felt cut outs that are used for craft as well as foam cut outs to glue to sticks which then create a puppet character.
4. I have made a puppet theatre using a cardboard box, with coloured paper just sticky taped to it.
5. I have made a puppet theatre using a cardboard box with paper mache.
6. Let the children use your puppets under supervision! There is nothing more "special" than getting to use the teacher's things.

I like these quick and easy experiences because they are somewhat 'instant' and can be made quite quickly and used til they collapse or fall apart. It shows the children how to recycle and reuse materials. It shows creativity on your part (when we are always expecting it from children). It fosters creativity and story telling! The children can tell the traditional stories, variations of the traditional, or they can make their own stories up. I even did a 'group' where the children came up in pairs and shared a story with their peers (this was semi-successful as some of the children really werent intersted).

Here are what the puppets looked like photocopied

So all I did was cut them out, and then use some sticky tape and attach some paddle pop sticks for 'instant' puppety goodness ... The children used these for a couple of weeks but their interest did taper off a bit.

I have also colour copied them, and laminated them and attached velcro hook spots on the backs and used them as felt stories with and for the children. I often do this with my felt story resources as this way my personal property is protected, but it gives children another resource that fits within a tight budget.

A basket of random characters next to a felt board stand has been also a popular experience for the children - especially those who are creatively inclined! It helps to children to share, fosters negotiation skills, memory and story telling, imagination and language and literacy skills. I have also put felt characters into a basket at a table with four small felt boards for quiet time experiences. These lived on our manipulatives shelves and the children were free to select them as they wished.

And when I can find some paddle pop sticks in my stash ... I will show you the 'finished' products ... Right now I've put them someplace safe ... yeah I know ... NEVER do that! You're bound to lose it!

While the photos are my copyright - the images of the puppets are the property of Rainbow Educational. I highly recommend their puppet set as it has been a worthwhile purchase and has had much use over the past 3 years!

The link for the puppets if you're interested in purchasing them is here:

(c) Teacher's Ink. 2012 All Rights Reserved

The Gifts of Autumn

Everyone must take time to sit and watch the leaves turn.
~Elizabeth Lawrence~

I was inspired and reminded by my last block placement at a long day care service of the gifts that autumn has for us. In fact, nature in general gives us gifts each season that we can embrace in our teaching practice.

I've noticed that when I'm not attached to a service or to a group of children (you know, 'shackled' to their portfolios and the daybook: document document DOCUMENT!!!), you are able to just chill out and go along for the ride.

I thought I might play around with some ideas from my past as well as some new ones and put together documentation on leaves and quite possibly with an emphasis on autumn.

Now, this effort will not include any pictures of children, nor pictures I’ve taken at jobs. I am going to have to be creative with images from my collection and my environment. I am also going to have to use my memory from the past 6 years of teaching.

The photo in this blog entry is from the Liquid Ambar that used to live at my grandparents house. Sadly, my parents chose to remove the tree and replace it with a Manchurian Pear tree which is lovely in its own way ... but I do miss that beautiful Liquid Ambar. But unfortunately Liquid Ambars are not very sewer pipe friendly. I personally would have spent heaps of money changing the pipes and kept the tree! But that’s me! I’m a sucker for a gorgeous tree. In fact trees have played such an important part of my childhood:
*  the “oak” tree we used to climb as children and play helicopters (no idea if it was an oak tree, we just thought it looked like it might be one and that was that!)
* the giant sequoia we had growing in our backyard back home that I used to play  under ...
* the Japanese maple we had planted next to our fish pond ...
* the giant copper beech tree our neighbours had which had the most gorgeous plum coloured leaves.
* our fruit trees: apple, plum, apricot, lemon, lime
* the oak grove at the local botanical gardens we’d visit almost every weekend as a family

So as you can see, I'm a nature loving girl who has an affinity for trees.

So, I'm going to play with a mock-up documentation on leaves and see where that goes. I'm not professing that this will be the best documenation out there. I'm not claiming that this is how it should be done ... I'm just going to put together based upon events of my past and ideas that I havent yet followed up on. It's up to you to do your own thing. This documentation just sits within my experience, my personal practice and is part of my own professional development path. When it's complete, I'll turn it into photos and post them on the blog. Afterthat, I can convert it to a PDF and if you'd like a copy I can email it to you. Here goes!

The quote came from:

(c) Teachers Ink. 2012 ~ All Rights Reserved