The moment we stand still in our practice is the moment that we stop seeing it as a journey. I'm a firm believer in continually trying to improve what my team and I do within our setting, Certain principles remain steadfast at the heart of what we do: our image of the child as someone who is full of magic and language, the necessity for adult-led learning to be engaging and skill-driven and underpinning all of this the 3Ms which seek to enable children to meet the demands of the adult world whilst retaining play and playfulness across each day. These root ideas give us the platform to put layers over the top so that we can explore new paths with our children. In the future I'm going to investigate how we can implement Trisha Lee's Helicopter Story model to bring stories and children's inner stories to life. I can do this in the knowledge that the approach embraces play and puts children at the centre of their learning, valuing their dialogues and imaginations.
Currently, as I have begun to lay out in previous blogs, I'm exploring the potential of 'projects' - mini inputs that expand the fascinations that I see around me within the children's play and enable me to offer additional signposts for children to run with if they so wish. The content of the project input is always skills-based so that even if certain children don't choose to explore the project they at least come into contact with modelled writing, shared thinking and an experience where children's thoughts are valued and heard.
Whenever we put children at the centre of their own learning, the potential for exciting things to happen grows exponentially...
And so to paper aeroplane making. One of our children took some paper and attempted to make an aeroplane. Without the necessary skills to truly see where the folds should go and in spite of great resilience for at least 15 minutes they eventually gave up and asked an adult to show them. An opportunity for a 'project' presented itself when other children began to gather round to try to discover the 'how' for themselves. Using the 3M model the first step was to capitalise on the interest in paper aeroplanes to use it as an opportunity for a blend of reading, writing, mathematics and language extension.
Telling the children that each plane has a code on it so that air traffic control knew which plane was flying and where, led to a multitude of number sequences, numeral writing and shape work, all differentiated in the moment depending on the child's next steps. Next came a 'secret sentence' on each so that if read the adult could then have the magic to fold the paper in the right places so the plane could fly. More desperate readers you could not hope to find and again, each sentence was written based on each child's next step. What followed was then a moment of magic - thirty or so paper planes flying through the Spring air, mathematics and talk in abundance as children naturally engaged in measuring distance, comparing flight paths, describing one another's skills.
Later that day, an adult input explored how to make a plane in which we did some shared writing to air traffic control, role played being on a plane (I do a mean air hostess impession!) and then discussed where children had been on a plane and what types of transport they would like to come to school on. All very pacy, all very skills-centric. The extra layer of the 'project' was that I told the children that paper aeroplanes are great ways to send messages to one another which then led to an afternoon of independent message writing. Which brings me back to the 3Ms - writing can happen anywhere, on anything. It's not the domain of books. It's not the domain of adult expectation. It should be the domain of joy, engagement and will. Paper aeroplanes provide this in abundance. And the children who didn't get involved? Well they were busy with their own play, their own interests which will in turn become the focus of the next project - boxes - but more of that in the next blog!
Challenge: what have you seen in your setting that you could consider as a project? How might you shape your input so that children can experience the project to whatever depth they feel? What might the benefit of a project be over that of a topic? Lots to think about I hope!!
Can I Go Play Now..? is committed to widening the understanding of the magic of children's play as an educational tool. Child-centred, play-based learning is where it's truly at....