On Thursday, 29th of September 2016, St Margaret College in collaboration with Ms Mariangela Schembri Meli, former E.O., Early Childhood Education and Care, organised a seminar for Kindergarten Assistants. The aim behind this seminar was to celebrate the good practices of Kindergarten Assistants working at St Margaret College.
This seminar which was entitled – Nilagħbu u Nitgħallmu focussed on play as a context for early learning and development. Since ancient times, play has been considered as the distinctive mode of behaviour of the young child, an expression of the natural spirit of childhood and thus a fundamental feature of childhood (Fromberg and Bergen, 2006; Mayall, 2002). Research shows that 75 percent of brain development occurs after birth and play helps with that development by stimulating the brain through the formation of connections between nerve cells. Play helps with the development of fine and gross motor skills and with the development of language and socialisation skills. Through play, children learn to communicate emotions, to think, to be creative and to solve problems.
The seminar commenced with a welcome address delivered by the College Principal, Ms Maria Mc Namara. Then, Kindergarten Assistants from Kalkara Primary, Xgħajra Primary, Senglea Primary and Zabbar Primary A talked about initiatives held in their classrooms during the last scholastic year 2015-2016.
* Ms Joanne Micallef talked about her experience in Norway. Through eTwinning and eLearning, Ms Micallef and her class were able to communicate, collaborate and develop projects with another school in Norway.
* Ms Claire Custo explained how she introduced the children to dinosaurs by making use of a multi-sensory approach.
* Ms Tania Muscat demonstrated how she made use of recycled materials to create educational resources.
* Ms Charlene Grange spoke about the ways in which she connected music and movement to numeracy.
* Ms Marisa Caruana talked about activities that enhanced the children’s gross motor skills.
* Ms Emma Vella explained how she integrated literacy with cooking.
* Ms Rita Portelli illustrated how through Dinja Waħda activities the children in her class were made aware of the impact people have on their environment.
* Ms Camille Camilleri showed how she generated interest and excitement in her classroom by encouraging pupils to make use of their five senses to explore the world around them.
* Ms Samantha Caruana and Ms Romina Darmanin talked about The Onġi Onġella Family Literacy Programme and the effects that such programmes have in establishing home-school connections.
* Ms Charmaine Shires demonstrated how hands-on Science activities encouraged the children in her class to – observe, ask questions, touch, smell and experiment.
* Ms Rodianne Spiteri Mercieca explained how she made use of sociodramatic play to provide the children in her class with opportunities to write.
During the mid-morning session, Ms Audrey Carter, Assistant Head at Cospicua Primary talked about the possible benefits of using social stories with Kindergarten children during circle time. Ms Carter explained that social stories are written and designed to promote positive behaviour and social growth in children who have limited oral and social skills.
The third and final part of the seminar was devoted to parallel workshops. These workshops were led by the Assistant Heads/ Heads of School responsible for the Kindergarten sections:
Cospicua Primary C – Ms Audrey Carter, Asst. Head
Kalkara Primary C – Ms Tania Saliba Asst. Head
Vittoriosa Primary C – Ms Michelle Spiteri, Head of School
Xgħajra Primary C – Ms Irene Briffa, Asst. Head
Żabbar Primary A – Ms Elizabeth Jones, Asst. Head
During these workshops the Kindergarten Assistants were encouraged to go through their school’s Development Plan and discuss how the action plans aimed at the Kindergarten classrooms could be put into practice during this scholastic year.
Bailey, C. M. (2006). Learning through play and fantasy, EC 1297E, Corvallis, OR Oregon State University.
Bodrova, E. & Leong D. (2005). The importance of play, why children need to play. Early Childhood Today, 20 (3), 6-7.
Bruce, T. (1996). Helping young children to play (London, Hodder and Stoughton)
Fromberg, D.P. and Bergen, D. (2006). Introduction in, D.P. Fromberg and D. Bergen (Eds) Play from birth to twelve: contexts, perspectives and meanings (New York, Routledge)
Mayall, B. (2002). Towards a sociology for childhood. Thinking from children’s lives. Maidenhead: Open University Press
Article written by Ms Elizabeth Jones, Asst. Head at Zabbar Primary A and Co-ordinator for this seminar.