Friday, 8 June 2018

Steps into play in a senior room

I am frequently asked what play looks like in our senior rooms.   In our school from year 4-6 we use mantle of the expert.  (Junior rooms may or may not use it also but focus on drama for learning)  Mantle is playful and as you will read in the second excerpt below, very dynamic, often fluid and seriously amazing.  Certainly something I would have loved when I was at school.

The way our school is set up, all children get access to free self-directed play in a very student centred environment.  Middle and senior rooms have been experimenting with other types of play and the first except demonstrates a first step into this.  

In our school we very much see development being a 3-4 year process when introducing new ideas...1st year is around having a go, dipping toes, 2nd year is around doing more, developing programmes based on the research, 3rd year is around consolidation and 4th year is around sharing with others.

In terms of our school environment and culture, that has and still continues to be a journey.  We've worked incredibly hard to get to where we are and continue to work on creating a culture and environment that our children can thrive in.  We are about 12 years down the track with this, it is not a quick process, but it certainly is worth it.

The words below are not my own, they are taken from the blog of a Year 5/6 teacher, our teacher inquiry is very broad, but is around the topic of engagement and motivation.  I wanted to share them with you, because the first one shows how the first step may be taken and the second one shows the brilliance of Mantle of the Expert.

An Invitation Into Play Through Art - Year 5 and 6

Today, for the first time ever, I created "an invitation to play" with a "provocation" set up on a table.

So after researching Leslee's comments about setting up invitations to play, and thinking about how such things could be used in a senior class, I decided that since I was devoting our day to calendar art, I would set up an invitation to play for early finishers if they so desired.

I chose art because that's what we were all doing anyway. I printed off a picture of Paul Klee, with birth and death date underneath, which I stuck in a frame. I printed off facts about him, and pictures of some of his artworks, including Once Emerged from the Grey of Night (1918). I placed a jar of water, sketch wash pencils, vivid markers, HB pencils, rulers, watercolours, brushes and several different types of paper, as well as textured wallpaper, on the table. I took a photo.

And as an afterthought, added a tin of watercolour crayons as well.
Isla finished her calendar art and asked what the table was set up for. I bit my tongue. I said she could play with whatever she liked there, if she wanted to. After quite some time she started to paint pictures of pineapples (her favourite, she always put pineapples in her artwork when she can!) and other fruit. She then painted a background inspired by In the Style of Kairouan which actually looked pretty cool on the wallpaper sample. She cut out her fruit pictures and glued them on, then moved on to another piece inspired by Once Emerged from the Grey of Night. Meanwhile, a group of three boys joined her at the table. They were keen to paint too. I was interested to see what they would choose to do.

They each took a sheet of cartridge, and proceeded to draw, then paint in watercolour, not something inspired by a Paul Klee piece, but the image on the tin of watercolour crayons! They didn't even open the tin.
So there you go, they did play! Just not how I expected they would.
I will do this again, next time I will add more variety and choice of media, and maybe several artists but choose 1 theme. I'll have a think. It was pretty easy to set up and they were totally engaged in what they were doing which was nice. But then it is probably just this group of kids, they enjoy and are interested in everything!

Mantle Off Track but Terribly Fun

Mantle has kind of morphed into a huge problem solving almost escape room type thing which the children are loving and I'm having heaps of fun putting together.
My initial plan has gone way off track but that's ok because the learning that's happening is amazing, everyone is fully engaged, and the other curriculum areas are being implemented as well.
While trying to figure out how I could bring in a few pre planned "tensions" I had a moment that went like this...
I was intending to give the "company" a cloze reading activity using a newspaper article about sneakers made from ocean plastic, but it just didn't fit with who they (the company) are, why on earth would they be doing cloze reading activities? The phone went ring ring (that was me saying "ring ring, ring ring") I picked up the phone (which is just two pieces of pvc pipe stuck together) and had a conversation with ... Great Aunt Myrtle! I made it up as I went along and the children were all so excited, like it was real, and Great Aunt Myrtle has evolved into a crazy but helpful old dear who has a liking for puzzles and mysteries.
It turned out she had spilt her cup of tea on the article, so the company had to figure out the words from a code and put them in the right places. The clues started off simple enough, but whenever anyone looked like they were almost there, I found I could draw it out a little further by adding in extra problems to solve along the way. The class loved it so much, they wanted to do more of the same the next day. So I invented Polly Ethylene, the evil, devious owner of a plastic bag manufacturing factory. We had to hack her "acebook" account and shut her down as she had a large group of followers who were opposed to not having the option of plastic shopping bags at the supermarket (for various ridiculous reasons, some of them real) but it turns out she also has an evil plot to do more environmental damage, and unethical plans for the future, so our company have been working through a whole bunch of clues and riddles to discover the evidence that will lead to her arrest.  The clues have involved so much awesome maths and literacy, and the children are so into it! They managed to find the box with the plan, which had a combination lock on it. They succeeded in opening the lock, only to find the evidence in a jar with another lock! The evidence once they crack that lock is in code too, and the clue for the code was in the box but they can't figure out what that clue is for... yet! It's been so much fun, and they've discovered morse code, braille, binary and semaphore, worked with fractions, time and measurement problems, grids and coordinates, place value, plus had to solve lots of riddles. And I'm having so much fun watching them problem solve and work together!
It's funny, Murgatroyd, the original pretend person we were dealing with who started us off with our first commission, has kind of faded into oblivion. I had to send a pretend email from him to the company the other day just to remind them of his existence and that he does actually have expectations that we have agreed to meet! But there is nothing like an evil villain to make things more exciting!

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