Aistear: How to!

Hello everyone!
So, one of the most frequent things I get messages about is Aistear. How do I manage it? How do it plan it? What is it?

So here's a little run down & answers to some of your questions!

What is Aistear?

Aistear is a framework for learning.  It's a framework for early childhood education but something which can enhance your practice with teaching all age groups. It is not "just" playing. I resent that statement SO much! It is something that takes a lot of planning, a lot of prep and a lot of love, but the results are incredible.
For more on the Aistear framework check out the NCCA.

Is it extra work?

Yes and no. You should be incorporating Aistear into your planning and you should find that you can incorporate the majority of your Drama, Visual Arts, SESE and SPHE teaching into Aistear. Also, you can get so much out of your Maths, Oral Language, Phonics and Writing instruction through Aistear too. Even Gaeilge can find a place in Aistear. Look at it simply as another teaching methodology!

Do I need a lot of resources?

Yes, but what classroom doesn't need resources? Once you have them and look after them, you'll have them for years. I collect the boxes that A4 paper reams come in and have one for each role play pack! They stack and are easily stored. 
Your school should be implementing Aistear so therefore should be investing in it also.
For example, last year, my school invested in Jaggo blocks. These are the dream for a construction station. Maybe though you might know a carpenter? Or a parent with an interest in this area? I've heard of several schools getting these made for much cheaper!
Construction Station - Jaggo Blocks - wooden blocks for independent play.

http://www.jaggo.ie/

A storage box is always a handy investment too...especially one on wheels!!

Bring small world play to life with the addition of wooden building blocks.
How do you plan for it?

Like anything else! Find themes, integrate your learning, differentiate, find your key language...what do you want the children to do and learn at each station?? Plan for your class. Their abilities. Their needs. But remember, you can have the most wonderful plans in the world but they're a total waste of time unless you model the play. One mistake that can be made with Aistear is assuming that the children will automatically know what to do. We live in a world now where many children don't actually know how to play. Many don't know how to use their imaginations. More and more children are coming to school used to being entertained with ipads, games consoles etc..... not familiar with getting down on the floor and actually physically playing. Explain your stations, let the children experiment and don't dictate too much...sometimes they'll bring even better ideas to a station than you could have even imagined!!

My tips for Aistear success:

  • Prepare.  I do aistear first thing in the morning. The stations are set up and ready to go. Less stress more success. I operate a station system. Depending on the class you can rotate every 15mins or every day. Here's mine:
  • Document. Record the children playing! Take pictures, little videos. Put them up on the screen at the end of play. The children LOVE seeing themselves on the screen and it leads to great discussions and pride. I's a great prompt for self assessment.
  • Collect. I collect everything. Lids, tubs, egg cartons, tubes, boxes, bubble wrap, paper, coffee cups....anything which I think can be used at the junk art, small world or role play stations. You'll find a use for them. Put labelled boxes outside your classroom, let the rest of the school / parents help. You'll use it all. Our school joined Recreate in Ballymount this year. Their resources are incredible. They have every recycled material that you could possible need and more!! 
A rocket for the Space station made out of recycled Junk Art Materials!

Junk Art Jellyfish!


  • Vary. Change your materials. Incorporate a variety of materials into different stations. Coloured pasta, rainbow rice, sand, clay, leaves, twigs, pebbles, shells...anything really!
Small World Play - Hens & chicks in the rainbow rice - Little Miss Teacher.
Farm Animals in the coloured pasta.


Shells in the water tank - Little Miss Teacher.
 

 

  • Subscribe. Personally, I think Twinkl is a life saver for Aistear. They literally have everything you can possibly imagine for role play, as well as everything else! They always have brilliant free downloads but a  membership won't go to waste!!
Here are our hairstyles from this year's hairdressers which can be found here: http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-t-1733-hairstyle-posters

Equipment labels from Twinkl - http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-t-1712-hairdresserssalon-role-play-pack

Our sink station (our home corner kitchen was transformed for the Hairdressers!!) http://www.twinkl.co.uk/resource/t-t-1712-hairdresserssalon-role-play-pack


  • Label. Aistear needs to be print rich. Label your boxes, have words everywhere for subtle learning opportunities. Even tidy up time can be a change for discrete reading opportunities. Prompts to boost each station area are always a help. 
     

     

  • Trust. Trust the children! Let them use scissors, let them use glues, let them use glitter....let them make a mess!! Let them scribble, let them write. Provide lots of scrap paper and writing materials at each station. It is the best feeling in the world to watch little words and sentences take shape throughout the year!
 

 

 


Teach them to be responsible through experience and trust them to tidy up! Play a song like the Tidy Up Rhumba during tidy up time and see if they can have the room back in order by the end of the song. It's fun and a challenge.




    •   Collaborate. Work with other staff. Where possible, I have my EAL / Resource teachers timetabled to join my class for Aistear time. I'm not a great believer of children being extracted from the classroom for support. Yes, in some cases it's needed but for the many, it's not beneficial. Aistear allows for such wonderful learning opportunities, having the support of another teacher in the room is invaluable, be it for numeracy, oral language or simply management! Maybe you have an SNA shadowing a child in your room? Their support during Aistear will be immense!


    • Enjoy. One of the most important things to do is to promote a love of learning and a love of playing. Aistear is brilliant. It provides you with so many special teaching and learning moments and can bring confidence to the shyest of pupils.
    Lastly!
    • Keep your receipts!
    • Laminate your labels / posters ....make them last!
    • If something's going well....don't cut it short...let that little learning moment flow!
    • Why not make your own playdough? It will save you a fortune, it's non toxic (someone is guaranteed to try to eat it at some point) and you can make so many different varieties so easily!
    • Inform the parents. Invite them in. Involve them.Send pictures home. Foster that link and promote Aistear in the home.
    • Break beyond the "hour" of Aistear. Just because the hour is over doesn't mean Aistear has to end and the text books have to come out! Try to use the framework across your day.
    • Don't let anyone tell you that you are "just playing"!!!!




    3 comments

    1. Brilliant!! Thanks for sharing!!

      ReplyDelete
    2. I went to this place with local friends and we had a blast here. The long happy hour at venues in Chicago definitely ensures a full upstairs, but I'd recommend the quieter downstairs to enjoy your stuffed burger and fries!

      ReplyDelete

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