Last week, I found that the children didn't really respond well to the reading tasks I gave them - even when they were acting out stories which is normally everyone's favourite activity. Perhaps it's the group dynamic or the hot weather... Because my group prefers learning kinaesthetically, I designed almost the entire numerals class this way.
And thank god for the inventor of the play parachute! All the children arrive rather meekly and sit quietly for the first few minutes - until the parachute is brought out and they come alive. For that age group, it's the perfect learning vehicle: the run around and under it (they LOVE getting trapped under it), underneath it they have conversations and count in Latin, around it they each take turns in answering questions (while still holding it) in an orderly manner. We even put the parachute down and sat down where we were standing, which arranged a neat circle without effort.
We also revisited 'What's the time, Mr Lupus?' but this time with numerals instead of Latinised names: whoever was Mr Lupus shouted out the Latin numbers for the number of steps the children were allowed to go forward. Everyone of course wants to be the Lupus, and they enjoy repetition of this game again and again.
Again, the two games which were done sitting down were the least successful: human sums were dismissed very quickly (they had to create their own which the other team then had to guess - perhaps it was a bit too tricky). The dice game (adding and subtracting in Latin with 4 dice) went well, but attention span dwindled among the more active boys.
For that reason, this week I added Roman Assassin's (i.e. water gun) tag, because who doesn't enjoy playing with water guns, especially in such heat? [One note of warning: make sure in advance the water guns don't leak - mine were freshly bought but leaked everywhere which wasn't ideal...] Children were meant to run away and, when hit with the gun, had to answer a sum in Latin. If they answered correctly, they were allowed to become the Assassin. Two of the boys in the group have a tendency to get a bit rowdy, but this game kept them both in line as they really wanted to be the Assassin - they answered perfectly! The one problem with the game was that everyone *wanted* to be the Assassin, so the children kept on running towards the Assassin instead of away from them. I need to think about this further... (Any suggestions, feel free to let me know.) It worked really well in the end, though, as we did lots of basic numeracy with adding and subtracting in Latin which the pupils got incredibly quickly.
We ended the class by making "Roman" coins, i.e. coins with their faces on on one side and a Roman numeral on the other side. I happened to have some plastic crystals in the bag so those got used too for decoration.
I'm learning so much by teaching this younger age group: we have hardly done any 'traditional' activities (reading, storytelling) and yet they already understand the concepts of endings based on gender, can have a basic conversation when meeting someone, and can add and subtract with numerals of one to ten. As a teacher, it requires quick thinking as activities need to be extended, altered, or just deleted (and then others added) very quickly to make sure the pupils are engaging with the material. But as I can bring out my inner child to its heart's content, it allows me to use creativity I normally restrain a little, and the children obviously appreciate it. The other challenging factor is the outdoor teaching: there is the danger of focus being lost entirely because there is no classroom setting - but it also allows freedom of movement. I have found it a benefit rather than a hindrance so far - the only difficulty was the coin-making, as bin bags on the ground are not the most suitable surface of craft making.
All the children asked for their homework sheet at the end. I'm so proud of how they're all thriving - can't wait for the next class!
Click here to go to the lesson plan for this class.
Written by Evelien Bracke (Project Coordinator) - with thanks to Josh Somervilla-Jacklin and Dr Matthew Cobb for the help in organising the class! 21 June 2014