Setting up Aistear and getting the children used to the Aistear routine is the hardest part of the programme. However, once it is in place it generally runs smoothly and is of such benefit to the children. Make no mistake, learning through play really is the best way!
Training & Individual Aistear
If you have not had any Aistear training I would strongly recommend taking part in some. Contact your local education centre who will be able to give you details of training which will be coming up in your area. There are also summer courses available each year.
I have done Aistear training, but I was also doing Aistear prior to training for years. You can too! I am not an Aistear tutor; I am just an ordinary teacher. I have found some of the ideas and suggestions by Aistear tutors a bit ‘out there’ and not really practical within an everyday classroom setting with a large number of infants and 1 adult, the typical scenario found in most infant classrooms around the country. If you have taken part in training and have been turned off Aistear because of this I would recommend for you to take from the training what is practical for you and your class and to work with what you can in your classroom. One Aistear tutor told me to get rid of handwriting books and have children practice their handwriting in flour or shaving foam on their tables. Other suggestions just don’t work for me, such as the suggestion to do Aistear first thing in the morning. So do I do Aistear ‘by the book’ per se? No, I certainly don’t. But the children love what I do and they seem to get a lot of learning out of it.
How I do Aistear
I group my children into four groups (if you have a big class you may need 5 groups) and do Aistear after lunch (until home time) every day. I have 6 children in each group and I set the groups randomly. The children stay in these groups for a month (I do a new topic each month). Some teachers let the children choose their own groups. Others change groups each day. It’s the latter that works best for me. Sometimes I group the children by colour and other months I group them in accordance with our topic (for example, for our construction topic we had a hard hat group, a digger group etc.)
Each day, each group gets a new activity. The pictures on the chart above are just stuck on with blu-tac so I simply take the bottom one off, move the others down a spot and stick the last one on the top. This way, each group gets to explore one activity each day. On Friday we have so-called Golden Time Aistear where every child can choose to do whichever activity they like. I save the pictures from the chart and can reuse them with each topic.