There has been quite a bit of monkey business going on in my class recently!

Over the past few weeks the children have been going crazy over Alvin, Oscar and Pipin our ‘family’ of sock monkey’s.

Our Sock Monkey’s are all fed up with ‘monkey school’ and want to come to see what fun things children learn in human schools.  Alvin is a particular fan of Maths (our maths monkey) and Oscar is in love with English (our English Monkey- although in retrospect we ought to have gone for a English Elephant or Eel ;-) )

Alvin/Oscar go home with a different child, and they ‘change hands’ 3 times a week (Monday, Weds and Friday).  Alvin and Oscar have their very own notebook, in which they introduce themselves to the children, and in which the children do their ‘work’. The children’s task is similar for each monkey:-

  • Alvin asks to be shown how fun and creative maths can be- the children’s task is to simply do something that involves maths in some way with Alvin.  They are encouraged to be as creative as possible (which links into my thoughts about encouraging creativity in Maths) and to show how maths ‘appears’ in every day life.  Their maths doesn’t have to be related to what we are doing in class, and the children can’t simply do their normal maths homework in the book.
  • Oscar wants to learn some great English skills- the children’s task is to simply do something that involves English is some way- whether that be Writing, Speaking and Listening or Reading.  Again they are encouraged to be as creative as possible and they need to put something in the book (writing, photos etc) to indicate what they have done with Oscar.  If a child is going somewhere special over the weekend etc they can especially request to take Oscar with them (for instance one boy was going to the mighty Nottingham this weekend to the Robin Hood Festival and has taken Oscar along-  a very convincing case was put  forward that since I was from Nottingham Oscar should visit too- and I couldn’t really refuse that… ;-) )

Much to the children’s dismay (and despite their near constant begging to take her home!)  Pipin is ‘too young’ to go home with someone, but keeps an eagle eye on us in class, and I’ve recently began using the immense honour of having Pipin sit on your desk as one of the ‘rewards’ in class.

I’m with a year 5 class on this placement, and they have responded to the Monkey’s really well (almost too well…!! ;-) ) – I have to admit when I first decided I was going to introduce the monkeys to the class  I was slightly worried that they’d think they were too ‘old’ for the monkey’s and/or that only certain children would be interested- but every child in the class has responded really positively and they all are super keen to take Oscar/Alvin home.

The idea for the monkey’s is based on an idea from one of the Norfolk Maths advisors- and those who teach younger children will also recognise the approach from Barnaby Bear etc…  I initially introduced Alvin only to the class as our Maths Monkey and within a day they were begging to use Oscar as a English Monkey (and they want me to add other Monkey’s to our collection- I’ve had Science Monkey, PE Monkey, Music Monkey etc suggested numerous times!) and I’m toying with the idea of getting a ‘blog monkey’ and setting up a ‘monkey blog’ for the children to write entries in.

I have to admit I cheated and brought my Monkey’s online from Monkeygang (and they are really well made)- but if you are good with a needle and thread  and have some time to spare you can make your own- just search sock monkey instructions on google!

On the subject of making sock monkeys- I was really impressed and ‘chuffed’ when one of the girls in the class made me a sock monkey (called Mango- sadly I don’t have a photo yet!)- and even more impressed that she managed it in a few nights and without instructions (by just looking at Oscar!)- this is certainly one of the ‘best’ presents I’ve got so far… :-)

We’ve only had the Monkeys for 2 weeks, but here is a brief flavour of the type of work that has been done with the Monkeys:-

With Alvin (maths) we’ve had:-

  • Some wonderful multiplication and shape work and drawing (by co-ordinates) all relating to fruit
  • Some fantastic designs using tessellating shapes and reflective symmetry
  • Some crazy addition checking that Sainsburys had charged their parents right for their mammoth shop!
  • Some brilliant graph work and data classification relating to the contents of a washing basket!

With Oscar (English) we’ve had:-

  • Diary entries- explaining what Oscar has been up to- every child has done a diary entry so far alongside other things- and we’ve seen some truly  awesome writing.
  • Poetry- some cracking poems about Banana’s!
  • Some super song writing
  • Evidence of a (what looks like full scale!) drama production!

Most of the children have included photographs to show Alvin/Oscar at home!

I’m really impressed with the impact that the monkeys have made so far on the class, and the creativity the children have demonstrated in their work with the Monkey’s.

As a teacher it is fascinating to see what each child chooses to do with Alvin/Oscar- it really shows what they enjoy and feel confident at and enjoy.  It also gives the children the opportunity to use the skills/knowledge they’ve learnt in a context of their choosing and so far we have always had work done on areas of English/Maths that we haven’t covered recently.   They also  don’t have to worry about getting it ‘right’ as they choose what they do themselves.   [I have of course provided a letter in each of the monkey's books reminding the children of the areas of Maths/English they have covered and giving a few, limited examples- but what they do is totally up to them!]

The children can also see how Maths/English is used in every day life and have the opportunity to apply what we teach to everyday situations.   I’m also of course delighted that the children are keen to do what is, ultimately, ‘extra’ work(!).  I think they really shows the power of the ‘monkey’- as I’m sure if I asked the children who wants to take a notebook home by itself and do Maths/English that I wouldn’t have many takers!

Of course, the last word has to go to the children and my class  talk enthusiastically about the sock monkeys on our class blog- they introduce them in this post, but you’ll find copious mentions to them in most of the blog posts!  {If you feel kind, I’m sure they’d appreciate a comment on the blog to share with Alvin/Oscar!]

And I’ll leave you with my classes favourite saying at the moment….

GO BANANA’S! :-)

TH

Apologies, yet again for the lack of posting this week- I’ve had a good week but it’s been a bit crazy on both the teaching and non-teaching front!

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