Throughout the year we have been reading, researching and investigating the benefits of a play based learning approach for our pupils. We put into practice and made a special effort to provoke the children`s curiosity providing different scenarios that could inspire their creativity, imagination and the inner need for learning that each child has within.
Each child learnt through hands-on activities that they were interested in, and the teachers were there to provide creative outlets, guidance, and ideas for new learning opportunities. The children moved from one activity to the next with purpose and intentionality. We let the children explore. Learning activities were designed for children to engage in independently, respecting that all children are natural learners.
The journey has been a wonderful experience for us all. We realized that by providing the children with opportunities for making independent choices, in a prepared environment, they became responsible for their own learning process.
What was the atmosphere during our “Child-directed Centres”?
A good way to describe our class during “Centres” every morning was that our children were FOCUSED. They were fully engaged in different activities, like exploring the “Sensory table” and pouring water using different containers, or dressing up and cooking in the “Drama Centre”. Others were systematically playing the same game for many weeks, making a tall “Eiffel” tower in the “Construction Centre” and adding new accessories every day, to enhance their pretend play. We teachers, spent time in each area, listening and intervening when appropriate, taking an interest in their play, asking questions, offering suggestions, and engaging eagerly as co-players when invited. Because the children were all busy and engaged we could also spend time in small groups playing a game or reinforcing a Maths or Literacy activity planned for that specific week.
What were the children learning?
One of the aspects that we want to point out was that the fact that all the activities proposed during “Centre time “ were child –centered, made the children grow in independence, they were responsible for the decisions they made and had a sense of ownership.
Another positive aspect was the lack of conflict or misbehaviour as the children were deeply engaged.
Regarding more specific academic learning like literacy and numeracy, the children were able to learn concepts in a more meaningful way, they were learning to understand.
One example that really explains this was the case of Cata who found it very hard to learn to write her name. She played with many different activities during the first term, recognizing the letters of her name, practising writing with paint etc. About a month ago we went to the field for an outdoors activity and when we were going back to the classroom, I noticed she was playing with some sticks. When I took a closer look I realized she had written her name with them. (see post “taking learning outside”)
Needless to say she is now so proud of being able to write her name on her own that she never forgets to do it in all her productions!!
This is what we considered the essence of “Play based learning”.
This year has been a starting point. We feel we are on the right path but we are also aware that we, as teachers, still have a lot to learn and improve.We shall carry on learning together with our pupils, keeping in mind that we are walking side by side in their learning process. Our next objective is to continue creating high quality learning opportunities to best support our pupils’ development, at this early age that is so crucial.
Romina Porcelli Silvina Dietsch