When #EYshare discussed Play

Last week’s #EYshare was all about Play (20/02/2019). It was a fantastic chat with lots of thought-provoking discussion, and I’m going to summarise some of the key ideas here.

N.B. I would usually collate the tweets BUT my trusty storify is no more and twitter moments decided not to work for me at all! If anyone can recommend a good way to collect a large number of tweets together, I’d love to hear about it!

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Q1. We all agreed that play and learning are inextricably linked. There can, however, be a wide variety of terms and synonyms which can cause confusion – such as playful learning, play based learning, pure play, free play etc. For some people, playful learning could be play which is more controlled by the adult, whereas play is perhaps more organic. In whatever way that play occurs, it is essential that teachers/practitioners are flexible and are able to follow children’s interests and needs. They must also take relevant observations and scaffold learning where appropriate. Adults may also be responsible for creating play environments which are conducive to learning.

There was also some talk about various terminology being perhaps used to try to justify play when it occurs in our educational settings. Many people agreed that we still feel that we need to justify play, particularly perhaps to parents and families.

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Q2. One of the major problems when it comes to play in schools is time. Time is a huge issue for many reasons, but with teachers already having a crowded curriculum and short school days, play can often be pushed to the bottom of the priority pile. It is often squeezed in to ‘golden time’ or used as a reward after other work has been completed, rather than being embraced for its own sake. It was suggested that there is a place for play in schools, as long as it is planned and purposeful, and note used as an excuse for teachers to take a bit of time off.

Q3 and 4. These 2 questions are linked, as were the answers and discussions. Some people felt that written logs and annotations are a great way to observe play. Other suggestions were using photos or a sequence of photos and annotating the learning. I loved the phrase “Listen, Note, Quote” as it emphasises the importance of listening first, taking down your notes, and then including the children’s voice. One tweeter commented that they keep their observations and next steps in their head, and that this is great for being able to plan responsively and in the moment. It was also recognised that pupils should be involved, as much as possible, in the planning and next steps for their learning.

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Q5. Whilst it may be slightly frustrating for an adult to set up lovely activities, and have some children ignore them in favour of playing the same game day-in and day-out, many tweeters argued that we should recognise the value of what these children are doing and what they are getting from it. The child may be learning new and different things through playing in a way that is familiar and comfortable to them. They will likely move on from this when they are ready to do so. It was suggested that a teacher/ practitioner could use the interest to cover many different aspects of learning. It may also be possible to introduce new resources into that play, or to bring the favoured toys into new areas to try to encourage the child. It was also suggested that the particular toy/ activity might not be on offer for a while to allow the child to explore other options.

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Q6. Many of us used to feel that it was right for children to share, but on reflection many of us now feel that sharing depends on context. Turn taking and social skills are important but children need to know that they don’t necessarily need to hand over the toy that they’re playing with, or equally they might not get a toy right away. Adults should also be helping the children to understand rather than just being told to share.

This is a very brief round up of some of the wonderful ideas and points that were shared during the chat. I really enjoyed the discussion and it reminded me yet again of the importance of play in our children’s lives. Working with my EYP hat on, I know and live this, but with my teacher hat I need to work a bit harder to see how play can be utilised and embraced.

I’d like to give a huge thank you to:

@JamesEYFS @early_miss @edublether @LyndseyJF @StacyBenge @earlyyearsMrs_R @Eyfs4M @SuzanneAxelsson @Primaryteachks @signoramac @DavidN_Cahn @foresta54 @kenadams777 @sarahmay_90 @MisterTeachYT @blueybaloo @CiarnaC @airasams @AndreaDPowe @TeresaAslanian @MsNursery

(apologies if I missed anyone!)

If this post has peaked your interest and you have anything to add to the discussion about play, please tweet using the hashtag #EYshare. Alternatively, you could add a comment below.

#EYshare takes place every Wednesday at 8pm. This week we will be chatting about literacy in the early years and I’m sure it will be another great chat with lots of ideas being shared. We’re a friendly group and always welcome new-comers, so please do come and join in!

Finally, I’m looking for guest hosts to cover #EYshare sessions while I am on teaching placement. If you are interested, please pop me a message @EarlyYearsIdeas.

Boy/Girl…Neutral?

Following a really interesting and informative chat last night on #EYshare (Read the tweets HERE), I’ve been thinking a lot about gender stereotypes and gender issues that need to be considered when working with children.

Firstly, I have to admit, this topic made me feel a little uncomfortable!  It’s an important topic and I’m glad that it was suggested (and so competently led by my wonderful guest hosts), but there was something inside me that made me doubt myself and double check anything that I wrote! However, this awareness of my own feelings has alerted me to the fact that, perhaps I need to do a bit more reading and research about this topic. In today’s world, we can’t bury our heads in the sand and avoid these kinds of issues!

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Anyway (back to the point), the overall consensus of the chat was that ALL children should have the opportunity to experience ALL activities and ALL toys. In other words; there is no such thing as a boy’s toy or a girl’s toy, there are just toys. This is something that I strongly believe and hope to continue to actively promote in all of my work, whether in pre-school or primary. We need to provide opportunities for children to make their own choices and decisions, without putting any of our own judgements or pre-conceived ideas onto them – for example, we shouldn’t giggle at that wee lad who has decided to wear the pink gown and the high heels. And we should reassure the girl who wants to play racing cars instead of baby dolls. The bottom line is, we need to respect each child as an individual. It is our job to open those doors!

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Another point that came up was that it is vital that we are introducing our children to role models which challenge unhelpful stereotypes. It is clear that film and TV are attempting to bring more women into strong, leading roles, however there are far less examples of caring and gentle male characters. As it was pointed out last night – this is YET ANOTHER reason why we need more men in childcare!

 

 

One of the big issues discussed was challenging parents/ families gender opinions. For example,

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if a parent doesn’t want their girl to be playing football/ their boy to be playing with barbies. I feel that it is important that EY practitioners and teachers attempt to talk to these parents and explain to them the value of these different types of play. However, it is also important that we do not disrespect parents and families. Children often have the firm belief that their parent is RIGHT and we need to be sensitive to this.

Finally, the chat got me thinking about my future practice as a primary teacher. Currently I have a pinterest board full of displays and ideas for ways that I would love to decorate my classroom. On second inspection, I realised that much of what I have pinned, and what I might choose could be seen as rather ‘girly’ and may not be appropriate for my entire class. I think that there is a simple way to address this – I will involve the children! Rather than making all of the decisions myself, I will ask the children’s opinions (where appropriate). Not only will this avoid suiting the environment more to one gender/ preference, it will also give the children a sense of ownership over their classroom.

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Fat Letters

This post is taken from my professional ePortfolio blog. To see this and many other posts, click HERE.

I was shocked to stumble across this article on the TES website. It applies to English Primary Schools but I feel that it is typical of the blame and shame attitude of today’s society.

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The article describes how some teachers have been sending home ‘fat letters’ to inform the parents that their child is overweight. However (surprise surprise) this has not been found to be effective and health officials are now calling for it to be stopped.

Now, I’m not arguing that obesity is not an issue within the UK, the statistics clearly show that a large percentage of our children are overweight and this is a real concern for their health. My issue is that, of all the letters that were sent out;

Half (51 per cent) understood its purpose, while 20 per cent had received information as a result of the programme that had been useful in helping their child lose weight. (TES reporter, ‘Fat Letters’, Nov 2015)

This means that half of the families who received this letter did not even know why they were being contacted and even less were prompted to take action from it. In a way, this relates to my earlier post about feedback. It seems to me that these letters are likely to cause feelings of embarrassment, shame and guilt however, the statistics above suggest that they fail to provide the necessary information or guidance to allow the parents and child to tackle the problem.

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The article also makes suggestions about more effective ways to approach the obesity issue, including healthy food vouchers and more access to after school clubs.

I feel that although steps have been taken including a focus on ‘Health and Wellbeing’ in Scotland, it is still vital that we as educators place higher importance on teaching children and families about healthy lifestyles and providing opportunities for children to be involved in healthy, active activities. In my opinion, the development out outdoor learning experiences is an extremely valuable tool in fostering a love and enjoyment out exercise. This is embraced within many early years settings however opportunities are less within primary schools. This may be due to time restraints of lack of outdoor environments that are considered suitable.

I hope to be able to encourage and promote this style of learning as I begin my teaching. I have been reading a wonderful book entitled ‘Dirty Teaching’ which is a practical guide to taking your school lessons outside – packed full of really useful advice as well as ways to approach challenges that may arise. I hope that my passion and enthusiasm for outdoor learning will be a positive influence to the children as well as with the teachers and staff that I will be working with.

Get the children outdoors!

While driving home today, I heard a news story about children failing to get enough exercise and the potential dangers of this including cardio-vascular disease and even diabetes.

This got me thinking about the responsibility of schools and teachers with regard to the health and wellbeing of young children. How can children be expected to achieve high academic grades if their health is poor? Some children may not have gardens or outdoor spaces, or have opportunities to join sporting clubs due to money or family situations and therefore it is essential for teachers to plan energetic and outdoor opportunities into school time.

I also started thinking about the types of exercise and energetic learning that is offered to children during school. In my experience, it is fairly limited within PE, sports days and ‘play times’ or breaks.

During my own childhood I was not very sporty and I found organised, competitive games very off putting. As an adult I continue to avoid competitive sport and I am useless at the gym, however I have discovered a love for walking and exploring natural areas such as hills, beaches and forests. As a teacher I hope that I can bring a variety of experiences to the children that will allow them to be active in ways that they all can enjoy. I am very passionate about outdoor learning and feel that, if planned and implemented carefully, this could be used as a helpful tool for instilling a healthy lifestyle from an early age.

Read article “77% of children not getting enough exercise” here