I delivered an inset day training session recently to a nursery group. The session was called: ‘Are you listening to me? Really, listening to me?’ In short, looking how educators need to be tuned into children in order to effectively support them with their learning and development.
One of the delegates, who I know from previous training and who follows me on Twitter, said: ‘Laura, I know your son works for Arsenal. What does he do? Love Thierry Henry, best player Arsenal had. If your son ever meets him, please ask for a photograph and autograph!’
I then burst out into The Thierry Henry song. I am an Arsenal supporter as well and I remember going to a game and singing the ‘Thierry song’, loud and clear with the rest of the fans!
She then went on to say how a child in the nursery was an Arsenal supporter and that she’d taught him the song and shared Arsenal paraphernalia and was that OK? Of course it is ok! Why not? (Be mindful though of any inappropriate lyrics.)
Is it that we have a degree of snobbery against football and a child learning a football song is not the thing to do? Is it that we can’t see the learning outcomes that we could explore from the child’s interest of Arsenal and football?
It also comes to mind, that we need to clarify the term ‘teaching’ and what it means in practice within early years. Especially as the Minister, Elizabeth Truss, has made reference to teaching within the early years and Ofsted, within its new guidance, has included the term several times.
Here is the thing; I think at times we have a degree of confusion regarding what the term ‘teaching’ means. To clarify – the Oxford dictionary states: ‘impart knowledge to or instruct (someone) as to how to do something’.
Within my new book: ‘A-Z of Inspiring Early Years Paragraphs’, I have made reference to teaching as something that we do consistently with children.
So, with the educator teaching this song to the child and talking about Thierry Henry and Arsenal, it does definitely link into the seven early learning goals. For example, analysing football results: Arsenal’s position in the league table (doing well at the moment-top of the premiership league!), what is meant when a team draws, how many players in a team. Mathematics! Not to mention developing his communication and language skills. Also Understanding the World – Thierry played for the French national team. With the child look at where France is on a globe and look in an Atlas. Not forgetting tons of literacy with all the paraphernalia. Planting surprise propositions as well to support this interest. So much more to learn… how exciting!
I am a firm believer that if we ‘teach’ around a child’s interest they will retain so much more and therefore learn. This is especially the case as we have many boys and children from disadvantaged backgrounds not reaching their full potential. This approach works to engage with children on their level and then build up their learning and thoughts. To coin the psychologist Jerome Bruner’s metaphorical term: ‘scaffolding’ children’s learning. Love that term!
This example reminded me of when I worked in a nursery (in a disadvantaged area) and we had a swing in the outdoor area and one of my key children, Martina, loved being pushed on the swing. She would often call ‘Laura, please push me?’ I decided to sit on the parallel swing and I mirrored to Martina how to move her body and lift her legs up and down with the movement of the swing. One day, whilst with another group of children, I heard Martina shout: ‘Laura, look at me, I am swinging!’ Well, as an educator, to me this was a profound moment! This experience had enhanced Martina’s physical, personal, social and emotional development. Also, as exemplified by Martina shouting with delight to me, it had definitely increased her communication and language skills! For Martina, who at home regularly witnessed domestic violence, this was an amazing achievement; this experience was a real boost to her self-esteem.
Teaching is therefore not rote learning with pre-school children sitting in rows, with the educator at the blackboard, with chalk in hand!
I believe that educators need further support on how to teach to children’s interests and personalised learning, as that is the only way that our children develop a love and passion for learning. I am willing to share my knowledge and expertise with others within this important area.
Coincidentaly, the ‘Thierry song’ uses the instrumental version of the Piranhas, 1980 song ‘Tom Hark’. The chorus, states, ‘The whole thing’s daft, I don’t know why’.
Indeed, teaching is not daft, but a unique and valuable experience for children.