Friday, 24 October 2014

Camp Learn A Lot

As a Key Stage we had been teaching thematically long before the new curriculum came in but to help embed this approach across the school we have taken on the Focus Challenge Curriculum as an anchor for our planning. I love the way it is enquiry led and the children have so much input into shaping their own learning. This half term our 'BIG question' has been 'What's at the bottom of the garden?' and each week we have been giving the children a Learning Challenge question to explore. My wonderful KS teaching partner (she has year 1 but we teach the same themes on a 2 year rolling programme) and myself phrased the questions so the children could make links between their Literacy text and the other areas of the curriculum. Our gorgeous focus text for this half term has been the fantastic 'King of Tiny Things' by Jeanne Willis- it has had my children spell bound and they have produced some of their best writing so far. In the book (spoiler!) the children camp out in the garden and, as the weather had taken a down turn compared to earlier in the term, I thought it would be fun to camp out in class!
Bring on Camp Learn A Lot!

The key elements to Camp Learn A Lot were the fire in the den (made from twigs, tissue, crape paper and stones!), tent in the Imaginarium and sleeping bags and torches at the desks. They came into class on Monday to a darkened room lit by electronic candles and camping lamps- it was simple to set the scene and the children totally bought into it! 

Every child in my class was desperate to read by torch light, snuggled in sleeping bags or huddled in the tent. If you have a class of reluctant readers then I strongly suggest trying this out to engage and enthuse them, particularly the boys!

I decided that I would keep the momentum going and spiral our theme out into Numeracy too. I don't like to give the children more than 1 work sheet per week and  prefer them to play games, use whiteboards or explore using concrete and real life situations as much as possible. Camp Learn A Lot lent it's self perfectly to my approach and gave me plenty of fun and cheep resources to use. We used conkers, leaves and sticks we collected as maths manipulatives to aid working out.

We have spent the first 5 full weeks of term focused on 'Knowing and Understanding Number' so I was confident that the children had a solid understanding of place value and were ready to move onto 'Calculation'. 
My main aims were that children-
MUST be able to add 2 1 digit number together
SHOULD be able to add 1 digit and a 2 digit numbers together (not crossing a 10 initially but extending into this)
COULD be able to add 2 2 digit numbers together (extending into totals over 100)

As I wanted the activities to continue to be engaging and themed I prepared 1 and 2 digit pebbles  for my Must (pushing them into the Should) to use to generate addition calculations totalling below 30. My Should activity took place in our Den huddled around the Camp Fire. I made marshmallows out of craft foam and the children placed a white (1 digit) and pink (2 digit) along with operation symbols on a twig  covered in velcro. 

My top ability children were on 'leaf collecting duty' and loved collecting the leaves from the 'Camp Site' and adding them together- I introduced them to partitioning as an addition method. The time investment in Place Value paid off and they grasped the method easily! 
In their afternoon choosing time they were even teaching it to their friends! 
I gave each child a colour leaf to 'collect' and I ensured that no matter which 2 leaves they put together they would not total more than 100. Once they were mega confident (which took all of 5 minutes input and a few independent practises) I introduced the brown leaves and asked them to 'collect' one of their leaves and a brown leaf so that they could explore what to do when a calculation would take them into 3 digit numbers.

At the end of the week we took our kiddies on a 4 mile round walk to the local park- it has huge oak trees, sycamores, horse- chestnuts and even a few maples! It was perfect to introduce our final LC question 'Why are there so many leaves on the floor?'.
In groups we explored the ground and collected our findings! It was amazing seeing the children just being children and learning along the way. They made links in their learning at lightning speed, bounced ideas off each other and came up with some fantastic observations!
When we got back to school we emptied our findings out on the carpet and explored! The children sorted the leaves in a variety of ways and made repeating patterns- all without prompting! 
It was such a practical and relatable task for them to apply their mathematical learning in that they couldn't resist!

Once the children had independently explored the leaves and seeds we once again looked at our LC question 'Why are there so many leaves on the ground?'. We discussed the weather and how it was dark in the morning and the children began to think about the changing seasons. After our discussion I left them to discuss the question and allowed them to explore the leaves further, encouraging them to look closely.
With minimal teacher input, their little minds made the links and decided that the seasons had a hand to play because it was getting colder and the leaves looked old and dead where as in spring they were green and growing. They also noticed that not all trees (linked with Christmas Trees) lost their leaves so decided that there must be more than 1 type of tree (quite advanced thinking I thought!). It was amazing to listen to!

So what to do with an abundance of leaves?
I demonstrated how to take a leaf print and based on their reaction I am wasted as a teacher- clearly I should be a magician! They couldn't wait to get started and one of them said 'You asked us last week who had captured the beauty of plants and now the answer is us!'- don't you just love that?!
We have absolutely loved our  week at Camp Learn A Lot and I hope you have maybe read a few things that have sparked an idea.
If you have a go at your very own Camp Learn A Lot then please let me know how you get on.
If you only take on thing from this post then I would love it be to that you will check out the books  of Jeanne Willis! They are awesome!

Catch you soon


  1. It was so much fun Sheri and not half as much work as I thought it would be Xx


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