Friday, 25 November 2016

Play Based Learning - Why do it? How does Number Agents fit?

This year has been a major year of discovery in me.  Play based learning has completely changed the way I think about learning and new entrants.  Learning has become flexible, individualised, fluid and firmly student driven.  Devices as something to consume have disappeared, they are only used if used to share or transform our learning.  I feel myself more relaxed, less burdened by a timetable and less bothered by the mess that play based brings.

Number agents was an approach that I developed before play based learning, however it has strong correlations and similarities.  Number agents is an imaginative and playful approach that places the child in role, there is negotiation and defining of roles just as the children would do themselves.   The teacher is also in role, is an equal in the play and while the roles are strongly defined, they are also negotiated within the play.  Basically when children step back into agency, they step back into the play and continue the narrative, every day they build on this narrative and create a story around the play.

This is why I love Mantle of the Expert.  It is a playful approach, that allows children to define and negotiate roles.  It elevates them to expert and takes away any perceived barriers of being a child.

And so these approaches have come together to form something I am very proud of in my classroom...we can teach maths without stepping out of the play, but actually stepping further into the play, into our own little narrative, and the results have been real.  Children are confident, elevated to experts they feel capable of solving the problems that the 'villains' present us with.  This playful approach feeds into a world that children love, where goodies defeat baddies.  The children who experience most success are those who are often disengaged in the normal way of 'teaching' maths, dare I say it, they are usually our low level boys.  Those children who love storytelling are engaged in this process...everyday our story has a beginning, middle and end.  In essence each day of agency could be a different chapter in a story book, with the children taking the role as the main characters.  I see Number Agents has a real potential for transforming maths for all of our children.  Maths becomes 'real' for them in this 'imagined' world.

Obviously, as in any school our timetable often gets thrown out the window...however in a perfect world with no interruptions where we can do what we want each day...this is what our day looks like and how number agents fits.

The fluid nature of play, means there is a lot of just in time teaching that goes on...learning is authentic and often is guided by the children.  For example the children found a huhu moth the other day.  They were intrigued and so much learning came out of it, we ended up learning about insects, drawing the moth...this spun off into learning about butterflies, observing our butterfly garden, drawing life cycles and because insects have six legs, learning all about the number six and posing problems around this.  Wow, heaps of learning.  This was all shared on our blog so children can go home and share all of the wonderful authentic learning they have been part of.

Play based learning...why do it?  Put simply, because this is how children learn best and while it may not look it on the timetable, every day is different, all learning is valued, and children become equals in the learning process.

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