In Early Years Foundation Stage we started our new topic about Big Animals, Water and Habitats with asking the children to make a list of which animals they thought lived in the Zoo and which didn’t. This is an example of good practice in Early Years and what we would strongly advocate in general, is to always base learning around stories. We did this in conjunction with a well-known book called ‘Dear Zoo’ by Rod Campbell.

This was very helpful for the children, especially when they have English as a Foreign Language, as stories are always enjoyable, visual and easily transferable for young learners. It was a great activity that the children excelled at; we only had a few ‘non zoo animals’ in the zoo, and vice versa. And who’s to say they don’t sneak in/sneak out, once in a while!

We surprised the children by turning the home corner into a Zoo, building cages with wild animals inside them, providing appropriate food for them to be fed with and read about the role of a zookeeper so that they would know what their responsibilities entailed. None of them were too keen on being sent to the actual zoo to help out for the day when it was mentioned what a great job they were doing. Our class zoo was perfect enough for them.

We followed on from there, spending a lot of time reading many interesting stories about both zoos and animals in the wild. The children thought very hard about where animals should really live. Some thought the zoo was a good place for them, but after a few discussions with their friends and some choice stories, I’m happy to say everyone decided they should really be in the wild.

We prepared a beautiful display of Wild Africa and did some observational drawings of small world toys, looking very closely at the patterns on their skin. But we didn’t stop there. We went back to our story of Dear Zoo and incorporated some cross-curricular Maths. Making a pictogram so that the children could choose a favourite animal for the zoo to send us.

Our favourite was the mighty Elephant. As we had discussed previously, the best place for wild animals was in the wild, the children agreed that he should be a wild elephant that would be part of our Wild Africa display.

It was quite a challenging task building a 3D elephant but the children were involved at every stage, from choosing the materials, to ideas of how to put him together, taping him, papier mashing, painting and adding features. As always, we read many books about elephants during the process, to make sure we didn’t miss any vital necessary parts, learning new vocabulary along the way like ‘tusks’. The usual favorites’ came up like ‘Elmer’. We even thought about painting him patchwork, but the children said he had to be grey as this is what wild elephant’s look like. And in case anyone is wondering, he’s a boy, as we have fewer of them in our class, so this was only fair.

We have continued our theme about Big animals, using the many cross curricular aspects of it to engage the children and make learning as fun and exciting as possible. We made our own plasticine Hippos and used them to learn about weight, finding things heavier and lighter than our Hippo.

We also made our own books, both big and individual based on storied about animals, with lots of repetition that is very helpful to children who are just starting on their journey of reading. Using small world story packs to help support them in retelling. We’re happy to say that our students are going around chanting many key parts of the text even at playtime. This is how reading begins. We can’t wait to show you when you come to visit. That’s if we don’t get stage fright! But the fantastic news is, we have learnt A LOT.