Sunday, 28 August 2016

My Aistear Journey: Starting Out

This year I am heading back to Senior Infants after spending 4 years in senior classes. I can't deny that I'm feeling slightly anxious about the move (despite having taught this class level before!) but I am excited about the year ahead.

As Aistear was only in its infancy (no pun intended!) when I taught Senior Infants before, I didn't have an opportunity to try it out. While I did use structured play in my classroom, it was unrelated to the theme I was covering with the class that month.

While I have attended workshops based on Aistear in my school, over the summer I completed the 'Infant Education' summer course offered by CPD in an attempt to brush up on my knowledge. I had a look at various Aistear plans online (Infant Teaching Ideas has lots that you can download for €2, Twinkl also has some available if you are a member) to get ideas for what kind of equipment I would need, activity ideas I could use, etc.  I also gathered information from anyone with any experience of using the programme in their school to get as much practical advice as possible.

Thus begins this series of posts about my Aistear journey in Senior Infants. As I am posting this during my Back to School week of posts, I am going to begin the series with a look at how I have prepared for using Aistear in my classroom. Keep in mind that I am in no way an expert in this field but some of this information might give you a general idea on how to organise your classroom before returning to school.

Step 1: Prepare the Room:

My classroom has not been used for Aistear before, so it was laid out as a traditional classroom. I drew out a floorplan of the room so I could decide where I wanted to place various stations. Firstly, I moved my desk to the side of the room to create more 'carpet' space in the front of the room for circle time discussions before and after play.

Next, I created a book corner using two sets of shelves, which sectioned off an area of the room. This will be used as a library area during the day, but will also provide a space to use as a roleplay area during Aistear.

I have a cupboard that is quite a substantial size located at the bottom of my room, sitting on a tiled area. I have allocated this surface for my sand/wet play area.

The desks will be organised in groups in my room, so I will use one group for construction, one group for lego/blocks and one group for art (I have large plastic tablecloths to use on the table). Equipment needed for these stations will be located in boxes that the children can bring over to the table during Aistear sessions.

Step 2: Prepare the Groups:

I downloaded, printed and laminated group names from here. One sign will be stuck to each table and one will be used on the play rota chart. I then used these Play Station Signs to add to our play rota chart. These will be moved daily so that each group will have a chance to play at each station once a week.

Step 3: Create an Inventory:

It's important to utilise what is already in the room for Aistear. I made a list of all the toys/materials already available in the classroom (lego, blocks, finger puppets, jigsaws, animals, etc.). This way, when you are planning your activities during the year, you know what you have to use and where it is located.

Step 4: Buy/Borrow/Make Some Extra Equipment:

Despite having some equipment already in school, there were a few extra materials I needed to acquire based on some themes I am thinking of covering. Some materials I was able to find at home (an old phone, old cutlery, etc.) and some I knew I could make at a later date. However there were some that I needed to buy/borrow also. If you have been given a budget to spend on Aistear or are interested in buying some items yourself, you may get some ideas here for things to buy/download:

1. Play Kitchen (Ikea): €69 (utensils and pots are also available)
2. Play Food (Smyths): €14
3. Happyland Figurines (ELC): €11 (Regularly on sale for around €7)
4. Cars/Trucks/Diggers/Garda Car/Fire Trucks/Letters/Numbers (Dealz): €1.50 each
5. Doctor's Kit (Smyths): €8
6. Cash register (Ikea): €16
7. Tool box (Ikea): €9
8. Finger Puppets (Ikea):  €6
8. Small Storage Boxes (Ikea): €1 - €4  
9. Reusable plastic table cloths (I got the linked ones in Lidl but I'm sure you can get them elsewhere)
10. Make your own playdough
11. Roleplay Resources (Twinkl - membership required)
12. Roleplay Resources (Sparklebox - free)

I stored all of my equipment in labelled boxes for easy access.

Once I have begun using Aistear I will discuss the layout of my lessons and topic ideas however, for now, best of luck with your back to school preparations!

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