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Aistear in Kilbehenny National School

By: MARK O CONNELL

Monday 12 April 2021

 

In 2019, we introduced Aistear to Kilbehenny National School for the very first time. Kilbehenny NS is a mixed rural school in south County Limerick, at the foot of the Galtee mountains and also very close to the Cork and Tipperary boundary. In our school, we promote a caring, happy, hands on and safe learning environment for our 84 pupils. We enable all children in our school develop their various talents, reach their potential and grow into confident and caring members of the community. In the Infant classroom we are convinced that our aims are met though the Aistear Framework which celebrates childhood as a time of being, and of enjoying and learning from experiences as they unfold.

 

From our experience, the pupils at Kilbehenny NS love Aistear, as it is carried out in a safe, secure and positive manner. As active agents in their learning, it is the children that lead each station and it is their idea at the beginning of the lesson that allows them to enjoy Aistear to its fullest. Play is extremely important in the development of intellect in children and from our engagement in the Aistear framework here in Kilbehenny NS we understand this importance.

 

Past experiences and knowledge learned to date, help to build the children’s learning through play. As Infant class teacher, I interact with the children to ensure they are engaged during their play. All resources for each theme are provided for the children in advance of the commencement of each theme. Often, students supply resources to the classroom for Aistear also. 

I love to engage children in learning through play and especially in an active and fun manner. Some examples include - Maths - building numbers, making shapes with body parts, throwing bean bags into hula hoops to collect data etc. In English for phonics, I have a water station with boats and letters where the boats have different pictures on them e.g. snake - therefore the children find the letter 's' in the water, sound the letter and put it into the snake boat. The more phonics letters taught the more boats and letters get put into the water. Similarly, with Gaeilge, I love to play lots of games and have my pupils up and active a lot of the time. 

 

The play stations that we utilise in Kilbehenny NS are: Creative Play (Junk-Art), Small World, Sensory Play, Language Station, Construction Station, Reading Station, Pretend Play. Stations vary on a weekly basis. Children are fully engaged at each station and they are afforded the freedom to move around in their group and create an atmosphere that depicts the particular theme for the month. Children use language appropriate to the theme and in the final week of the theme children have accumulated a great knowledge of the subject matter.

A theme lasts around a month. Some of these themes include: Holidays, The Farm, Pirates, The Vet, Halloween, Elves in Lapland to mention but a few. For certain themes the children make use of our school kitchen where they mix ingredients to make buns, bread and cakes - carrying out the real life duties of a baker! We aim to pick themes that are topical and relevant to the time of the year e.g. the theme of holidays for June. Children have input in the themes that are chosen, and the themes reflect the children’s lives such as in February when the cows start to calve.

 

One example of a theme and the stations that associate with the theme;

 

Theme:  The Vet

 

Station 1: Creative Play (Junk-Art) – We recycle all materials that otherwise may be thrown out. Students create animals, veterinary supplies, X-rays and much more at this station with empty toilet roll tubes, boxes, waste paper etc. Students get the opportunity to develop their fine motor skills while cutting and sticking and they thoroughly enjoy this station (including all the tidy up after it!).

 

Station 2: Pretend Play (Role Play) – Children role play the veterinarian waiting room and surgery clinic. Animals are brought into the vet, conversations take place between the vet and the pet/animal owner, data is collected, X-rays are carried out, temperatures are taken, injections take place and bandages are applied. I, the teacher, will also get into character during the role play.

 

Station 3: Small World – Children work collaboratively together to create a veterinarian room/reception room/farm related shed. Children improve their fine motor skills and use lego, lego men/women, small icons etc. to depict the daily duties that a vet may carry out.

 

Station 4: Language station (Games with rules) – vocabulary cards are created from associated words to do with the vet e.g. surgery, microscope, X-ray, operation, medicine etc. Children learn through turn-taking as they play games such as fish in the pond, fastest finger and snap. It develops their knowledge further on the theme and develops their language that they will use at the following station throughout the month.

 

Station 5: Construction Station – children use jenga blocks, click in brick blocks, magnetic tiles and much more to create the veterinarian surgery, the waiting room, a farm shed where the vet will carry out his/her duties. This station is extremely hands on and children love working collaboratively together.

 

 

The philosopher Dewey’s theory of “learning through doing” and the psychologist Piaget’s theory that “children learn best through doing and actively exploring” are theories that underpin Aistear, and that we in Kilbehenny NS, have wholeheartedly embraced.

 

 

Bio:

I completed an Arts Degree in Mary Immaculate College (2009-2013) where I majored in the subjects of Gaeilge and Maths. Following on from this I completed the Higher Diploma in Primary Education with Hibernia College where I received a First-Class Honours Degree (2014-2016). I was made permanent in Kilbehenny National School in 2016 and I am currently Deputy Principal. In Kilbehenny NS we endeavour to provide a structured, caring, happy, secure, positive and active learning environment where the intellectual, spiritual, physical, moral and cultural needs of all pupils are identified and addressed. We aim to make sure that every child is happy in school, that every child achieves their best, strives to reach their maximum potential and that everyone learns to work as part of a team in our school but also in their own community. We engage in all methodologies of the Primary School Curriculum through our teaching and it is evident the advantages and the benefits of this approach in Kilbehenny NS for all our pupils. 

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