Hello, I’m Joel. I’m 4. Something’s in these socks at school today. My learning support assistant is helping me feel them. I can feel lots of different shapes and weights, and the colours on the socks are lovely to look at. I’m having fun just dropping the socks on the floor to see what sound they make…
Old socks, odd socks, long socks, happy socks – they are a fantastic, free resource with which to create intriguing learning experiences that draw in children with differing needs and can lead to individualised, differentiated learning by outcome.
Waste encompasses many different things, including old clothing. It is estimated that £140 million worth of clothing goes into landfill each year (WRAP UK). A quarter of the clothes we wear in the UK are binned rather than recycled. Whereas many of us understand what plastic is doing to the planet, lots of us have no idea of the impact of our clothes.
So to start, let’s not bin socks. They can be filled with small, waste objects – odd keys, used pens, abandoned cutlery, old golf balls…even broken tongs. Anything goes.
The socks are then sewn up so that the objects are no longer accessible or visible. And then the fun (and learning) begins…
“What’s in here….it’s long and hard. I can’t get it out. I can feel there’s 1,2,3,4,5,6.”
“I’m feeling the things and finding the numbers to go with it.”
“Here’s the matching one. I like Paw Patrol.”“This one’s heavy – it’s making the sock go down long!!”
There is a wealth of maths learning in this resource: matching pairs, doubling, adding, writing numerals to match to the amounts in the socks, feeling and describing shapes, feeling the weight of objects, sizing the socks from smallest to largest, or lightest to heaviest. The list goes on.
But the over-arching importance of this resource is that it does not insist on getting it right.
With so much debate at the moment about the impact of testing very young children in school and with discussions about long-term mental health and well-being, a resource and activity like this remains strictly open-ended and un-pressurised. The child is not presented by the teacher with visible arrays of objects that they must count or match to numerals. It is this ‘hidden’ aspect of the experience that is extremely special. It allows children to make mistakes; to make up the amounts they are counting and feeling; to explore for themselves using different senses and types of learning; to grow in confidence as they get to grips with numeracy. To learn on their own terms and in their own way. And it all can happen out of the glare of the watchful, judging, frantically assessing eye of the practitioner, who ordinarily would be able to ‘see’ immediately if the child’s grasp of maths was ‘correct’ or not.
Who would have thought that some old socks could do all that?