Animating Discussions in the Foundation Stage

Much early language work in the primary school is emergent, using negotiation to build on existing day to day experience and vocabulary from home to extend and develop language use through student/teacher talk. As KS 1 and 2 teachers we have much to learn from our colleagues in the foundation stage around this issue. I was working in with a Reception class the other day, quite an experience for me, and one from which I took a great deal. Previous experiences had involved using BeeBots, to talk about numbers and counting through numberline games, but today I felt adventurous and took along my laptop and a digi blue. I had decided to make a short animated movie to be called, "The House that Moth Class Built." I had decided early that the technology would not be the focus of the activity, but rather small group social activity, and language development around prepositions.

I set up the camera and laptop on a group table, with a duplo base and asked the children to help me find the construction kit I needed to work with. We began by my modelling how we were going to build a magical house, that would look like it had built itself, using the digi blue and placing bricks before shooting 5 frames at a time, inbetween each brick. We talked about how we would need to take turns, and after making one short film we watched it together. They seemed fairly impressed. One chap who had been watching me shoot the frames asked if he could do that bit, and was asked if he could count to 5, he assured me he could and so he bought himself a job. The other children became instruction followers, going off to find bricks of described colours, and then placing them on the board, beside, next to, ontop of, behind, inside the shapes and bricks as we went, and when we had placed our bricks, my new colleague the cameraman clicked and counted his 5 clicks. When we had finished, I exported the animation clip, and we watched it together. As you can probably imagine they were very excited, and wanted to share straight away what they had done. Unfortunately it was now playtime, and we had to tidy away... There is another problem, taking apart and putting away something you have just made.. We were Ok though because we had a picture not only of the final model on the laptop, but actually how it had been made step by step.

Over playtime, I imported the film into Movie Maker, and saved it as a wmv file, and after break we watched the film together. The House that Moths Built, went down a storm, but what was most important for me from this experience, was not that the children were learning how to make an animated film, it was the discussion and potential for language development and social play which evolved as we made it. I was very much in the drivers seat (well for most of the time), directing and supporting student actions as they identified bricks of a particular colour, and as they followed simple instructions using everyday prepositions to guide the placement of bricks, but as the activity developed I began to realise also the emergent mathematical development possibilities that were arising from one to one corresponding mouse clicks, and patterns of turn taking, the possibility for perhaps encouraging through structured play, the students to develop repeating patterns, of colour and shape, using pegboards and coloured pegs, or perhaps how these might be used in video mode to tell stories during imaginary play, or timelapse scenes with growing seeds, or during sequencing activities such as dressing a teddy bear or doll. Could we use this with younger students to make and tell simple stories using toys such as playmobile, or duplo. What if the class had its own digi blue, and children were able to use it to capture images of their completed projects, to be used perhaps in a class blog, devoloped by their teacher or nursery nurse acting as scribe, with children using talk to tell the story behind the image, while in the process seeing their words appear in print. Making this connection surely is a key to helping students understand why we write. This type of activity seems to me to have alsorts of possibilities that might be used to support emergent discussion and enable children to see the link between these three semiotic modes, graphics, words as symbols and talk. I have no early years or foundation stage experience to speak of beyond 3 or 4 years teaching in Year 1, so maybe my imagination is just running away with me again, I realise also that variety is the spice of life, and we would not want to be using these tools all the time, but I would love to hear what early years colleagues think, or are doing with video and digital photography, and how practical they feel they are. Unfortunately some of the students involved in this activity do not have digital permissions and appeared in shot, so I have not been able to upload and share this video, or any of the photographs taken during the session. Hopefully we will have a chance to share these in a school assembly though, before I have to delete them in line with our school policy.

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