Saturday, 18 February 2017

Play-Based Learning - Re-defining learning and learners

Wow, it has only been two weeks, but starting the year with play-based learning has totally confirmed my belief in this approach.

Of most interest to me this week has been how this approach has completely re-defined what I see as a 'good learner.'

If I think back to past years my definition of a 'good learner' was often summed up by children that followed instructions well, followed routines, chose to read and write frequently...basically they were compliant.

Now it does not sit well with me to admit that I valued this compliance....I have always believed myself to be so embracing of difference, to unique learners, to the quirky...and yes I guess to a degree I was.  But it was those children that really complied, that sat up, that listened intently, that could focus for greater amounts of time, that would have largely got my praise....and these were the children that flourished in my routine based classroom.

Play-based learning has completely changed my lens when I look at learning and learners.  I have known for a while that those children that flourished in Number Agents and were motivated and engaged by it were those children that found traditional maths sessions difficult...but I had not quite made the link between the success of these learners in Number Agents to the success they could have in a play-based room.

This year I can look around and truly see those children in my class.  My definition of what a 'good learner' has changed.  Now I can see those children who are able to innovate, create, use initiative, relate to others, make new friends, take risks and try new activities, notice connections, verbalise learning are the learners who would have previously driven me round the bend in a routine based classroom.  It is my 'traditional' learners, those children who have been rewarded for compliance, who have perhaps been told my their mothers and fathers what school will look and feel like and how they can be 'good' in this environment that are actually struggling.  These children who just want me to tell them what to do are struggling in my play-based room, where they would have shone in a traditional environment.  They want to be told what to do, they prefer to play with the same children, they often spend some time wandering, looking to the adults in the room to tell them what to do.

It has only been a short time, and I am happy to say that these children (incidentally did you guess?)  are beginning to realise that they can lead their own learning....I am starting to see them embrace the opportunity to innovate and beginning to see their lovely imaginations shining through.  Their next challenge is to work with a range of children in the class and to begin to take more risks in their learning choices.

Incidentally behaviour is no longer really an issue....what a relief.

My hope is that more people can re-define what they believe epitomises a 'good learner' and hopefully we can start to re-look at the traditional approach to teaching and learning we have taken in the past.  Maybe we can even see this spread past ECE and wouldn't that be amazing!

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