We had one Grade One from each of our classes up against the Grade 2s and 3s in the Speaker Reader finals on Wednesday. There was much excitement as we filed into the hall. There were four external judges seated at their tables ready and waiting. Who would the winner be? My little finalist was all dressed up in her tooth fairy outfit as she would be reciting a very topical poem about loose teeth! Those judges had a hard job choosing a winner. All the children were dressed up fancily with elaborate props, their confidence was phenomenal and they presented their pieces with a polish that belied their age. There was no microphone and the judges were right at the back of the hall. During practices I had encouraged h to her to speak as loudly as possible but she was still quite soft. But when she got onto that stage she blew me away – WOW – her voice was animated, loud and clear! She performed flawlessly. It just took an audience to bring out the best in her. I could have burst with pride.
But the competition was strong and I thought at most she’d make it to third place. Well the third place winner was announced and it wasn’t my fairy. So when her name was called in second place I jumped up from my crouched position where I was taking photographs and cheered! The third place was a Grade 3 girl who gave advice on how to survive as an eight-year-old and the winner was just outstanding – a wonderful poem about a smelly welly done by a talented little girl in Grade 3.
At my school there is always something happening. We have a full programme of varied activities as we believe in teaching children not subjects. However, the three RS are not to be neglected. In order to do all the marvellous things we do we have to be creative about time management in order to fit everything in. I find that honing in on small groups is the best way to ensure that each child’s needs are met.
Teaching children in small ability groups on the mat while the rest of the class get on with a task at their desks gives the teacher the opportunity to give each child the attention they need. Each group will work at their level. The material presented will never be too challenging for the slower learner nor too easy for the faster child. Because of this, each child feels secure in her learning environment and because she is not being stretched beyond her capabilities, she feels successful.
A six to seven year old child still needs to work in the concrete. She learns to count by rote and to recognize number names and numerals even before she comes to school and this is important. But learning the three-ness of 3 and whether four is more or less than five objects requires objects that can be seen and touched. This is why it is important to be given this opportunity in the small learning group where the teacher can observe individuals and give guidance.
At home, counting actual objects, sorting socks into pairs, counting the cutlery when setting the table and sharing items with siblings and friends are all good concrete activities that help children master basic mathematical skills.
While one group is being taught on the mat the rest of the class get busy with a task. We investigated shapes in nature and with this inspiration decorated an African Pot for a book cover.
Yesterday I asked my girls, Who wants to come back to school tomorrow? They all put up their hands. “Why do you want to come to school?” The answers I got were all to do with play and fun. – School is fun. I can play. I get to meet friends and make play dates. Break is cool. – And I was so waiting to hear – So I can learn to read, write and do mathematics!