Resources or learning and teaching support material (LTSM) are what teachers use to enhance the teaching and learning opportunities presented in the classroom. Whether it be homemade or shop-bought, all resources brought into the classroom need to serve a purpose, or better yet, purposes! And in the context of South Africa, having resources which are multi-functional is the way to go. So before you go out and buy that very expensive resource or take the time to make your own – consider the following:
1. Is the resource flexible?
The first step before making or buying a resource is to consider how it can be used in the classroom. Try and think of as many uses for the resource you wish to acquire, to evaluate whether it will be worth getting. Do not be afraid to use search engines such as Google or platforms like Pinterest to give you ideas and inspiration for activities. Say for example you would like to purchase a bag of beads, think of as many activities that can be presented in a Foundation Phase classroom using beads to support teaching and learning.
To support Mathematics teaching and learning, learners could count the beads, sort different coloured beads, create patterns, create number symbols and shapes, numbers could be written onto the beads and learners could sort them into ascending or descending order, learners could weigh and compare bottles filled with different amounts of beads, and use them for beginning problem solving (such as estimating how many beads in the bottle), addition and subtraction activities. To support Language teaching and learning, learners could create letters using the beads, describe their colour, shape and textures, find hidden letters/words within a sensory table filled with beads, letters could be written on the beads for learners to build words by threading them onto string or pipe cleaners. To support Life Skills teaching and learning, learners could thread the beads onto pipe cleaners, string or wire and create their own 3D art, they could pour, scoop or spoon the beads from one container to another or use tweezers to pick them from one bowl to another, sort them into colours and use them to create images on a tray as a loose part activity. A jar of large beads could be used as a reward system with the learners adding or subtracting beads from one jar to another depending on reinforcing positive behaviour.
As you can see, with just beads as a resource in your classroom, many teaching and learning opportunities can be created whereby learning is enhanced and supported. To widen your scope of ideas, think of how the resource can be used for teacher-directed activities and how it can be presented for learners to use for independent play and learner-centred activities.
2. Is the resource appropriate?
The second question you need to answer is, is the resource developmentally and culturally appropriate for your learners? Think about the developmental stage of your learners and consider whether they would be physically and mentally able to engage in the activities using the resource. Secondly, consider if the resource is safe for them to use and manipulate. And lastly, does the resource represent the diverse backgrounds of your learners and relate to their interests? If any of your answers are no, the resource may be impractical for your classroom context, and it would be advised to think of an alternative one which meets your and your learners’ needs more. For example, small beads that a three-year-old could put up their nose, would not be advisable!
3. Is the resource durable and does it lend itself to continuous use?
The third question to consider is if the resource is long-lasting and will withstand being handled by all the learners for all the activities you have planned; think about how strong it is, does it tear, bend or break easily? Then if it is hardy and durable, can it be used more than once for more than one activity? Therefore, if you buy beads and use them for a counting activity, can they be used for the activity of a loose part the next day? If no, weigh up the options of whether it is worth getting.
4. What other resources could do the same job?
The last question to consider is if any alternative but similar resources can be used which would do the same job. Think of what recyclable materials you could collect or use to make the resource yourself. If we reflect on beads as a resource and the activities we have planned to use them in, what other resource could be used instead? Rocks, cotton balls, bottle tops, homemade rolled magazine strip beads and salt dough balls. Decide upon which aspect (money, time and effort) you are willing to spend more of and choose your resource. If you chose a new one, answer questions 1 to 3 again to ensure you make the most out of it.
I hope that the above questions have given you confidence in choosing and selecting the right resources for your classroom. I have found that it is always worthwhile to accumulate open-ended LTSM as they have a variety of uses which allow you to use them for differentiated teaching and learning opportunities and can be integrated with other LTSM. Thus, you get value for money, if shop-bought, and it is worth your time and effort, if home-made.
Author: Lauren Engelbrecht