Monday, 18 April 2011

Sing a song of reflection

I'm slowly getting through the backlog of jobs to do brought on by having a wonderfully wildly busy six weeks. I just worked out that I've had six weeks where I was in the woods or working outdoors with children or training adults every weekday except one, some weekends too!

I'm enjoying catching up with myself and working through the reflective diaries that I keep (offline) for each project. The way I work is child centered, so this necessitates building on observations in order to plan what is going to be offered next.

This always takes more time than I allow, especially when I am busy, but I know that the most exciting and interesting observations build up over time so writing my scraps of notes and doodles from a variety of sources into something more coherent is vital.

Notebooks from a  project last year
Reflection isn't just a tool for me as a practitioner. I see the value of reflection for the children I work with, and the end of each Forest School session we try to make time to talk about our experiences in order to identify our achievements, recognise our contribution or talk about our friends and the best bits we experienced. This sort of reflection is the cornerstone of self awareness which in turn leads to better social skills.

Forest School scrap book

With lots of my ongoing projects like the fire project (in a Foundation Stage with a group of Early Years age children) and Forest School groups we use scrap books to record what has been going on: 

Our book about Fire!
These books are A2 size which means it is much easier to manage with a group of children. Not only are they useful for reflection but for reviewing, that critical step that allows the children to remember what took place and use this remembrance to plan and extend their own  learning. 

I got the idea for making these large books from a setting I was working with, based on this book  by mindstretchers (more info here). What I really like is the simplicity of making scrapbooks based on the 'five hole book stitch' method. At the simplest level this is sewing together sheets of large paper or card along the seam by making five holes and stitching through in the following pattern:

Reviewing and reflection doesn't just have to be written or drawn. I often take photo graphs and short bits of video which the children can use to remember what they have done in the past:

Ready to go to the woods, watching a video of the last session.
On the way back from the woods, a group of children sang to me about going to Forest School, this not only helped them remember what has happened but it is a great motivation as we walk up and down hills.

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