Sunday, 18 March 2018

From play to learning...

So today here in Palestine, the advanced group has been reflecting on the play we have been doing all week with light and shadows and analysing it to discover what we have been learning... and with this knowledge we have written plans...

pointing out that these plans are not about how to make learning fun, but about allowing the educators to better understand the learning that occurs in play... so that when they offer play situations, or offer certain materials they have an understanding of the learning potential.
This means that the educator can better observe the children with an open mind... knowing that there can be many avenues of learning that the children might focus on, instead of having an agenda and steering the children into a specific form of learning.

Understanding the play... and combining this with their knowledge of the children - as individuals and as a group (through their observations over time) they can then make decisions that might allow certain learning areas a better chance than others...
for example
The light and shadow play might be used as a tool for helping children overcome their fear of the dark... then it might be a good idea to have small groups in order to adequately support the children to self regulate and learn to enjoy the joy of play even in the dark... OR it might be that there is a desire for the children to use their collaboration skills and negotiation skills... and therefore a larger group is used to expose the children to a possible social chaos - the educator supporting the children... the educator will also know how large this group should be to create a manageable chaos for the children to negotiate... learning will not happen if it becomes overwhelming.
Also what combination of materials are put out will affect what potential learning naturally occurs in the play... setting up things for shadow theatre is more likely to support language and literacy on a higher level than math... I say more likely, because children can often surprise us with what they learning.

We also took the time to explore how the play/learning could be extended - what extra materials could be added, how would different locations impact - introducing new facts, how would that impact the play... asking specific questions such as "Does light travel? How does it travel?" to get the children thinking on a more abstract level... and also to fuel the imagination... allowing the children to come up with their own theories and these theories being the basis of future learning, future experiments and future play possibilities...
it is important that we do not just have a series of amazing events that look cool online when shared, or that the parents will be impressed by... there needs to be time to reflect and to return to the same play in new ways... and also in the same way sometimes.  A series of cool events means the children just get to see the tip of the ice-berg all the time and not discover all that is hidden beneath the sea...
By thinking up a long list of possible extensions it allows the educator to be open to the possibility of any direction the children might take them. If during the introduction play of shadow and light the children show most fascination for making stories... then maybe a shadow theatre is the next step... if the children are more interested in how light works, then maybe reflections and sorting materials into opaque, translucent and transparent... if more interested in making the shadows large and small then maybe the opportunity to take in pens and start drawing around the shadows and measuring them... or checking how the sun creates larger shadows in the morning than at midday... this in turn will lead to new discoveries and new possible extensions...
And the time being open to the possibility of discovery new extensions, new materials and new possibilities to add to that list, so that in the future your planning resource becomes a better and richer support.

extending the learning... session 1 - light and shadow with torches and blocks and loose parts, free play. Session 2... with the instruction of creating scenes for a story - linking the shadow play to story telling, art and language. Session 3 introducing coloured light, mirrors and on a larger scale. Session 4 outside using natural light.
If I had more time I would allowed hands-on learning for some of the extensions they thought of... to see how they work in action.

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