We started by having a look at The Role of the Teacher in a Play-Based Classroom. Here we had to place ourselves on a continuum and think about our own individual journey rather than the collective intent. It was important to note that each person in your team may be on a different path but that is ok as long as we are respectful and supportive of each other.
Sarah discussed the importance of having a slow, measured, considered and centred approach to play based learning. There still needs to be explicit teaching of reading, writing and maths.
With this student centred approach we began to look at how play can help with higher order thinking, executive functioning and 'soft skills.'
Here are some of the key elements of play based learning:
1. It is self directed and self chosen. They can work harder to stay in and/or walk away. These are both valuable in the play based environment.
2. It is process rather than product driven.
3. It contains structures of rules eg a softball game. But the rules, time frame and equipment are altered to make a 'home made' and authentic version.
4. It is imaginative, non-literal and removed from reality. ( We want to keep them here for as long as possible and not grow up too fast.) This is where KCs come into play.
5. It occurs between those who are ACTIVE, ALERT and NON STRESSED. If there is trauma it is hard to access and you need to calm and rewire the brain.
So what does the research tell us?
That Constructivist and Social learning ( Piaget, Brunner, Bandura and Vygotsky) are the foundations for research that informs the validity and importance of play based learning.
We need to change our lenses from a chronological perspective to a developmental perspective. For example some students may not have the necessary cognitive skills for maths and language learning yet.
Piaget's Cognitive stages are roughly aged 3-7 years in Pre-Operational Cognitive Stage and around 7 years to 12 years old are Concrete operational stage.
Some important aspects to note: Kids who 'flit' between activities are Pre Operational. Those who plan and have deeper, richer learning over an extended period are Concrete Operational.
Play is beneficial for mental health. The can build resilience through play and parents are happy if there children are happy and resilient.
Next we looked at the stages of play and how to plan, respond to and connect them with the NZC.
First we looked at urges:
Sarah suggested we start with the student urges, resource them and then get the curriculum links to fit with planning.
A really interesting point was something our Pod had noted as a concern.
Repetition vs Low Level Play.
1. Repetition is good to grow neuro pathways and investigate at test things. So, don't redirect students engaging in this play.
2. This could also be low level play which is safe with low risk and low level learning. In this case put the things away that enable this play. Redirect by having these things not available. Then monitor and watch.
We always need to be asking- What rich learning is coming from this play?
Looking at large loose parts and how they tap into students urges to construct, climbing, to be enclosed etc vs a playground with limited scope.
We also had a really in depth discussion about loose parts and their role in play based learning
Some key take aways for management of these were:
1. You need to be well resourced with loose parts both large "tradies treasures" and small loose parts too. (You could use part of a team meeting to gather resources. Or hopefully start to make connections where tradies can drop of to you.) * Some tradies may not think what they have is valuable. But it is for our kids!
2. Dress ups should be 'non themed' eg make capes and masks from plain colourful material so they can be who they want and it can be multi- functional.
3. Don't buy or have things that others have 'come up with' eg a butterfly play dough cutter. Otherwise it has no other use and no imagination or creativity goes into making what students want.
4. Don't focus on making things. They should use what they've made in their play.
5. Open ended resources are the best.
6. There are consumables that can be used and non consumables that can be photographed and then put back to be re used. ( This is a key understanding for kids to respect and use things appropriately.)
7. Small loose parts can go into a couple of Systema boxes together. Although it will be challenging for most teachers don't stress about this! The kids can use a brush and shovel to do this. They need to be taught to be respectful of their space and be "reseting" and tidying too.
8. There is a difference between productive mess and disrespectful mess. If the students 'don't care' then it goes away until they can.
9. Instead of clean up through out he day teach "reset" and this helps students to do this more quickly and efficiently.
10. Teaching resources are OFF LIMITS for kids.
Another point we have noted as a Pod is noise level. This is something that needs to be managed so students have respect in sharing a space. If the noise level is disrespectful we need to stop, gather all students 'on the floor' reinforce expectations and consequences. Also we need to start to help students to self manage this. For example putting a finger to their lips ( Or another sign language message we could learn from Pou Sheila.)
Next we looked at The Role of the Teacher: Intentional Teaching:
This falls into what Sir Ken Robinson calls the "art of teaching." Where we have the appropriate balance of adult guided experiences and child guided experiences to have overall balanced teaching and learning experiences. Sometimes we need to recognise when to "butt out" and let students work things out. Other times we need to teach new strategies e.g how to manage conflict. This essentially falls into Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD.) This is where the teacher or another knowledgeable peer is needed for commentary and coaching NOT questions. This is where a student is in the zone between what is known and what is unknown. They need knowledge to help them at that time. This is when we learn through each other.
Learning Through Play All Day, Every Day
This is a stage that Sarah said takes around 5 years to reach. Where there is a rhythm to the day. With morning instruction and play afternoons based on urges. You may come together as a whanau and have shared reading, writing and group work. Then the teacher is out in the play 'on the floor' then calls a group eg reading. This rhythm of play/come together for groups/play is through out the day. You may see reading groups every second day. ( Less but done better.)
Planning should be done in anticipation of learning with a high degree of flexibility. There should be invitations to play and planning should be evidence of your response to document observations of learning through play occurring.
Invitations may be: "I wonder what we'd use this for?"
If they are hooked then it can become a provocation. Sharing learning with parents and in class visibly is really important.
Plan for coverage using the KCs and student urges. You need to stretch knowledge not have pretty templates!
This diagram shared by Sarah shows the cyclical process of responding to your learners and teaching through play.
One of the final areas we touched on was Learning Stories. These are essentially what are done in some kindergartens but ours would have a KC focus.
Here are the key elements to a quality Learning Story:
1. There is a description of the process not the product.
2. It documents the active learner.
3. It works as the "eyes" to focus on KCs, learning dispositions and teachers support urges.
4. The story and analysis is talking to the child e.g Luke you thought...
5. You can have one to two stories per child a term.
6. Some may be group stories which are personalised as necessary.
7. You can use templates if that is easier and more time efficient.
8. Take a look at ipsative assessment ( measure against myself) to look at growth mindset and personal best (PB.)
Data for play based learning comes through observations of KCs , oral language and an OTJ approach.
Sarah also mentioned adding quotes from notable people into learning stories and your learning space helps as a subliminal message for parents and whanau too!
So, a very busy day with a lot of information! The next step is meeting with the team to see which areas we can incorporate into our best practice for Play based learning.