Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Awesome Auditory Pattern Practice

Its week 4 of Term 2 here at Head Start and we have been having a ball practicing our auditory pattern listening and creating skills! Auditory Patterns are all around us and learning to listen and attend to them is another important skill that will help our children prepare for the rigors of formal learning. Auditory patterns are sounds or words that repeat to form a predictable pattern.

Pure listening skills can sometimes be overlooked in our world that is now so jam packed with multi-media. We are surrounded by so many, often overwhelming, sights that just listening to auditory information is a skill that many children are not exposed to often enough. Being able to listen and attend to auditory information at ease frees up your child's attention so that they can concentrate on other tasks, such as problem solving, obviously a huge advantage for school age children. Also, being able to attend to particular sounds means that children can filter the auditory information that is all around them and allows them to process the sound that they need to attend to, imagine how important this skill is in a busy, noisy classroom! Just like any skill, listening is something that must be practiced regularly to see improvement. Introducing auditory patterns is a fun way to help your child learn to attend to sound and to recognise repetitive and repeating patterns.

This week at Head Start we went crazy with the musical instruments! The littlies got busy creating their own patterns for Mum/Dad/Nana to copy - resulting in some loud and wonderfully creative patterns. Handsome Josh is pictured getting busy with the instruments. It didn't take long for our littlest Head Starters to realise that if they clanged on a drum three times that this pattern was immediately repeated back to them...this created a few smiles! Our Steady kids got busy listening to and then repeating patterns back; there was some awesome foot stomping, hand clapping, rattle shaking and drum crashing going on. The patterns got progressively more complex and imaginative with auditory cue cards to guide the way for our Go kids.
So how can you continue with the good work at home? Get busy creating patterns, who needs instruments when you have pots and pans?! See if you can keep the beat to your favourite songs or play some patty-cake with your wee one. How about making some rhythm sticks out of wooden spoons and see how long you can keep the pattern going for. Practice your listening skills when you are out and about, head to the park or playground and take some time to see how many different sounds you can hear, different birds, cars or buses passing by, kids on their bikes, footsteps in the gravel - you get the idea. Take note of all the times you have loads of auditory stimulation going on at home and try to spend some time every day with just one quiet noise on to attend to (not the tv!)...you will be amazed at how relaxing this can be after all the hustle and bustle of the day!

Next week we are back onto a visual skill, so remember to swing back to check out how our week of Visual Completion pans out. Have a great week everyone!
x Lizz & the Head Start Team

ps. Aiofe is our other star of the week showing off some pretty impressive multitasking on the beam...don't worry, there is always plenty of time for our obstacle course amongst all the foundation skills!

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Becoming Aware of Body Awareness

Week three already?! Where do the hours/days/months go? As all of you with littlies know there are never enough hours in every day!

So this week in our seemingly lightening-quick Head Start sessions we were focusing on Body Awareness. As a physiotherapist, this topic is dear to my heart as being aware of our bodies is just so important for so many facets of life! In a nutshell Body Awareness is the internal awareness (in technical jargon: proprioception) of where your body parts are without having to look at them. In other words the understanding of where your arms, legs, head etc are in relation to each other. This understanding is the first step towards greater spatial awareness, which is all about knowing where your body is in space and in relation to your environment. This is how we are able to duck thru small doorways and squeeze between pieces of furniture - as an interesting aside, your spatial awareness sometimes gets a bit confused as you grow a big preggie belly as your brain doesn't register the change in your shape as fast as your belly grows...which is why suddenly you can find yourself wedged between objects and accidently rubbing your belly on that stranger in the supermarket! Anyhoo, back to the point...as kids learn about where their body parts are and develop a greater understanding of where their body is in space they are better equipped to move in a coordinated way, such as running, turning, leaping and generally just being active.
When they get to school this can help them to navigate their way in a busy classroom environment and also helps to stabilise their trunk while moving their arm in an isolated and coordinated way while handwriting. Who knew that all those songs and games like Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes and the Simon Says could be the gateway to so many other skills?!

So what did we do this week at Head Start? For our OYM kids we played with tactile objects out of our heuristic treasure box (google that if you find some more hours in your day ;-) ) to introduce different sensations to different parts of the body (feathers on the toes was a big favourite). Our Ready kids had a ball copying Mum/Dad/Nana by popping a beanie baby on different parts of their body (as our lovely Stasa is demonstrating beautifully in the photo!) whilst the Steady bunch took this one step further by seeing how far they could walk while balancing the beanie (elbow beanies were super tricky!). The Go team got super inventive with their Body Twister moves managing to get elbows, knees, hands and feet into positions that are not recommended for the older members of the class ;-) (remember when you used to be able to do the splits...oh the days!). Our gorgeous Darcia is pictured doing her very best Twister moves!

So all in all, another great week for the Head Starters of Term 2. Try to get creative this week and use your newly practiced Body Awareness skills at home too - What a great excuse to get out your newborn clothes out of storage and dress up all the teddies...see how many parts of the body you can throw into the conversation! Try looking thru your books and see how many noses/ears/toes etc you can find on each page. For the older ones get creative with your Simon Says instructions. Lastly, see if you can make up actions to all your favourite songs, Hokey Tokey, Knees Up Mother Brown and If You're Happy and You Know It are great places to start but I am sure you can think of loads more!

Have fun and keep warm - I am looking forward to exploring Auditory Patterning with you all next week!
Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Conquering Visual Consistency

Week Two and it already seems like our newest Head Starters have settled in beautifully. This week we tackled the Foundation Skill of Visual Consistency. In a nutshell this is the understanding that despite differences such as size, colour and orientation an object remains the same. For example, a duck is still a duck even though it may be brown, white or speckled, may be big or small, and may have its head underwater. It is the ability to mentally turn and rotate objects in the mind and to picture what they would look like which in turn helps to distinguish differences between objects. In terms of formal learning this is an important skills to have mastered when learning handwriting and reading as it helps kids understand that letters stay the same despite changes in size or shape (font size, font type, upper and lower cases).

As Lucy and I were reading our Cats book at home this week for the six-millionth time it dawned on me that this series of books is quite handy for practicing visual consistency. I can highly recommend the books; Cats, Dogs, Head & Tails by Matthew van Fleet as being total favourites for toddlers as well as having the added bonus of illustrating great examples of visual consistency! Our personal favourite is the Tails page containing the scratch and sniff Skunk ('Tails Stinky!').

Till next week have fun finding examples of visual consistency at your place too!
Lizz & the Head Start Team

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Term 2 kicks off!

We have had a great start to Term 2 here at Head Start. It has been fantastic catching up with lots of our friends from Term 1, isn't it crazy how our littlies can change SO much over just a few short weeks, it is such a privilege to watch these little people grow up! Also, it has been exciting to meet many of our new Head Start kids with their Mums & Dads & Grandparents - you all will be seasoned experts before you know it.

This week at Head Start was focused on FUN - we pulled out lots of our favourite activities from Term 1 and spent the time introducing and getting reacquainted with the Head Start environment. Firm favourites for this week in my classes were the treasure box, parachute song and of course the new bubble machine (great to get little feet jumping and little hands reaching!).

We have all new foundational skills lined up for Term 2, as always focusing on visual, motor and auditory skills known to be important pre-cursers for formal learning. We are going to have a great time working thru all of these together over the next 10 weeks... stay tuned for information on Week 2's foundation skill!

Have a great week! - The Head Start Team