Why “Teachers, Tots and Tools”
Crayons Count held its first “Teachers, Tots and Tools” Interactive Learning Workshop on March 26, 2013 with basic school teachers and students at the Caenwood Early Childhood Resource Center. Ten bright young minds from Jones Town Basic School smiled, clapped and kicked their way into a better future with the Crayons Count learning tools. 12 teachers participated from 11 schools: Emmanuel ECDC, Rema Basic, St. Simon Basic, St. Stephen’s ECDC, Lyndhurst Methodist Basic, Jones Town Basic, Holy Trinity Basic, National Baptist Basic, Ferdinand Mahfood Basic, Church of God of Prophecy Basic and Mulvenia White ECC.
This very first session in a pilot project was an absolute success!
Inspired by the US Embassy sponsored Crayons Count workshops for 70 teachers held in July 2012, Crayons Count has been exploring different ways to get involved with teacher training. Having distributed standard learning materials to basic schools across Jamaica, Crayons Count follow up visits and discussions with teachers unearthed a need to provide sensitization sessions that would inspire teachers to find fun, different and creative ways to use the learning tools to engage children while meeting curriculum objectives. Deika Morrison, founder of Crayons Count worked with Shaanii-Grace Robinson, ECC Development Officer of the Caenwood Resource Centre to create this workshop to do just that.
Teachers, Tots and Tools by Crayons Count is the first of its kind. Its aim was to show how the tools in the Crayons Count learning kit could be integrated into everyday classrooms in a fun and educational way. What made it even more special was the fact that this was the first time the tools from the Crayons Count learning kit were being used with children in a workshop for teachers, and that instead of just having teachers from one school, the workshop brought together teachers from different schools to build camaraderie and encourage sharing of experiences. Teachers got the opportunity to see learning at its best as Shaanii-Grace Robinson went through each tool in the kit and created a lesson that was so fun, interactive and enriching for the children.
How The Workshop Works – Tots and Tools
The session was from 9:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. with registration, a demonstration lesson with the Crayons Count learning kit, a Power Point presentation on the use of the kit in classrooms and a discussion session with early childhood educators. Workshop presenter, Shaanii-Grace Robinson (‘Auntie Grace’ to the children) used the theme of “Football” to take the children through various activities using the learning tools – all being observed by the teachers.
Crayons Count learning tools donated to schools appear in blue
The children started with a warm-up activity – lacing cardboard animal shapes using the lacing tools. There were plenty of ‘bright sparks’ who could easily identify their animal.
The lesson started with ‘Auntie Grace’ reading the story of ‘Michael, the Great Footballer’. The story came alive for the children when they did whatever Michael did in the story – clapping 2, 3 or 11 times for the number of goals scored and even pretending to kicking the ball just like Michael. For the second reading, ‘Auntie Grace’ asked for a volunteer to pretend to be Michael. The boys were shy but one little girl was eager. ‘Auntie Grace’ told the story again changing the main character into a brave girl. The children enjoyed the story even more the second time and the teachers saw how easy it was to alter a story to fit a situation in the classroom. The children also used the puppets to imitate the characters in the story.
Next came the letter blocks which the children used to spell the word ‘football’. Everyone wanted to find the ‘F’. They also used the blocks to count and one little girl – on her own – divided the blocks into half, said the two words “foot’ and ‘ball’ and counted ‘4’. The Crayons Count team beamed as that is exactly what we want to see – children learning and engaging with initiative! Children laughed heartily when they made up new words – encouraged by ‘Auntie Grace’ to keep the ‘o-o-t’ blocks but change the ‘f’ block to other letter blocks and keep the ‘a-l-l’ blocks and change the ‘b’ to other letter blocks. “Zoot” was a hoot!
After that, it was time for the balls. First, the children stood in a circle with ‘Auntie Grace’ singing “Goooooooool, Gooooooool, Football!” complete with dancing moves involving kicking the left and right feet. Even the teachers were singing too. Next, ‘Auntie Grace’ used the surface of the balls to explain to children the difference between rough and smooth. Then the children took turns kicking balls into a box. This activity was not just fun; balls help with the development of large motor skills, muscle control and social interaction skills. We saw some prize footballers being made that day and a little girl’s face beamed with pride when she got the ball straight into the box. And in that example the teachers noticed how a Crayons Count learning tool could build self-esteem and give children a feeling of accomplishment.
The next activity used one of the most popular Crayons Count learning tools – the peg and pegboard set. Each child wanted to be the one who made the letter ‘F” using the pegs. However, they learned how to cooperate and did it together. “Auntie Grace’ also made sure that the children identified the colours for each peg.
Next the children used paper and crayons to practice making the letter ‘F’. Then 3 groups of children engaged in different activities : one group used Play Doh to make feet and balls, another group used blocks to build structures on a cardboard football field and yet another group filled in a bar chart drawing footballs with crayons to represent the number of goals in each bar (note that the bar chart represented how many goals Michael scored on each day as they heard in the book)
With the puzzles, the children identified the number of footballs and also that other countries call football ‘soccer’. And the shape sorting sequence set was used to help children identify different shapes they find on a football field.
The Crayons Count team was struck by how easily the children were able to use the tools and how engaged they were in learning. In a short 40 minute session, the majority of the 13 donated tools were utilized in a single lesson. Although the children didn’t want to stop learning, it was time for a break and they were thrilled to be treated to National Bakery Company Limited cookies and Supligen meal drinks.
How The Workshop Works – Teachers
The workshop was not over as workshop presenter, Shaanii-Grace Robinson had something more for the teachers.
First, the teachers were asked for feedback on what they observed. One teacher remarked “the children are having so much fun, they don’t even realize they are learning”. They said that they loved how the core concepts – literacy, numeracy, math, science, fine motor skill development, gross motor skill development, problem-solving and more – came together in this very short session. They loved that Crayons Count learning tools were durable, multi-purpose and colourful. They also said that Crayons Count learning tools makes it easier to handle children and can be incorporated into lessons everyday. And they even commended ‘Auntie Grace’ on her tone of voice when dealing with the children.
Next, Ms. Robinson took the teachers through a PowerPoint presentation with each slide focused on a specific Crayons Count tool and its development objectives. It was an open-ended discussion with questions and comments from the teachers. To see the presentation and the learning tools, visit our Learning Kits tab. Teachers shared experiences and took copious notes. Much laughter was heard.
When the session was ended, a teacher – on behalf of all the teachers there – thanked Deika Morrison, Crayons Count, Do Good Jamaica and the donors for their kind consideration for the gifts of learning tools and training that have made and will make a big difference to their classrooms.
In closing, Deika Morrison assured teachers that Crayons Count was here to support them. Deika had this to say, “We in Jamaica often try to ‘fix’ our children at a primary school or high school level when all we needed to do was given children a proper solid foundation at the early childhood level. Give children and teachers the tools to succeed and show them how to use them.”
Participating schools received a box each of supplementary learning tools from Crayons Count with extra supplies of crayons, paper, books, play dough and more consumable items. The teachers were elated with the donation. The teachers also benefited from sample copies of the National Bakery Company’s sponsored ‘Crayons Count Gleaner page’ – which provides curriculum appropriate material every Saturday in The Gleaner – which went like ‘hot bread’ at the end of the workshop. At the end, there was a definite positive vibe among the teachers who voiced their need to have more Teachers, Tots and Tools workshops that would stimulate ideas for different age groups.
With plans afoot to make this workshop a fixture in the Crayons Count arsenal, Crayons Count is keen to help teachers develop the skills to use the recommended tools to give our basic school children that solid foundation. Learning is fun!
To see more photos from the workshop, visit our Facebook photo album Teachers, Tots and Tools- Five Year Olds
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