What is Play-based Pedagogy?
Play-based pedagogy describes an approach where the teacher recognizes that children learn through an active, hands-on, playful environment. In a play-based classroom, the teacher makes decisions about, and adjusts, the daily schedule, environment, materials, interactions and activities based upon the strengths, needs, interests, and input of the students to enhance learning opportunities. (Common Understandings – Play-based Pedagogy, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, page 35).
As active children, Grade 1 students enthusiastically explore the world around them through play-based learning. For the young students playing is an effective provocation, one which stimulates their thinking skills in connection to their unit of inquiry.
Under the theme ‘How the World Works’, Grade 1 students had the opportunity to play several games to engage their knowledge about the impact of forces on everyday life. We joined two classes to play frisbee, bowling, javelin, soccer and tug of war. During the games, the students observed important information. We found out that the games had different rules and procedures. We also observed how the objects that we used moved, and identified differences between the weight and size of the objects. Through the games we found out that the more power we use, the faster things move. We also practised our social skills and communication skills by showing our respect for each other.
After we played the games, we held a discussion and some of the students recognized the similarities between the games. The games required us to perform certain actions (throw, push and pull) to make the objects move from one place to another. To engage our knowledge, we read a variety of books, including ‘The Enormous Turnip’, ‘I Can’t Open It’ and ‘Motion’. We also had the opportunity to role play ‘The Enormous Turnip’ book in front of our friends. This story helped us to understand that we need forces to make things speed up or slow down.
One of our formative assessments required students to differentiate between pictures using a Venn Diagram. Students categorized which pictures showed pushing activities, pulling activities or both. After finishing, the students did a bus stop activity to observe other groups’ ideas. From the observation, students found out that other groups had different ideas so we held a discussion to enrich our understanding.
Here are some examples of the students’ comments.
Group A: “Bu, we observed that other groups put the fishing picture as an example of a pulling activity. We think it’s supposed to be a pushing and pulling activity because we have to cast the fishing line out first and after we get the fish, we have to pull it.”
Group B: “We put the fishing picture as an example of pulling activity because we saw the girl in the picture already got her fish, so she only needed to pull the fishing line in.”
When discussing the other pictures, the students sometimes had the same opinions and sometimes their opinions were different. We learnt that it is important to listen to others’ opinions, because every point of view has its own angle and every angle has merit.
We also conducted some experiments about how forces affect movement. Students explored the three stations provided, each representing different types of force. After doing the activities at the three stations, students explained their experiences in one particular station through drawing and writing.
We believe that through play students are able to explore things more enthusiastically and also learn how to negotiate with one another and solve problems, be more of a risk-taker, and develop self-confidence.
Grade 1 Teachers
Sekolah Pilar Indonesia
The Early Childhood Centre (ECC) of Sekolah Pilar Indonesia celebrated the learning journey under the transdisciplinary theme, Sharing the Planet. Kindergarten and Reception classes had different central ideas. In Kindergarten we had ‘Living things need the sea to survive’, while in Reception, ‘When interacting with natural habitats, humans make choices that have an impact on other living things’. We collaborated on these central ideas by considering the lines of inquiries through the form of a simple drama. The drama persuaded everyone to work hand in hand to take care of the sea and maintain the habitat. We also involved our mums in the performance. We were very confident and were risk-takers to share what we have learned. Everybody shared positive responses on our learning.
Furthermore, to deepen our understanding of sea animals and habitats, ECC students and teachers went on an excursion to Ancol Beach and Seaworld. During the tour we showed our curiosity by asking many questions to our tour guide. We also watched a short movie about the life cycle of sea turtles. From that movie we discovered how living things respond to changing environments. After that, we headed to Ancol Beach to clean up the beach. We collected the rubbish and put it in the trash bin.
Through these activities we learnt many things. We understand that the sea habitat is very important to sustain life on Earth. Every little thing that we do to the sea has an impact to our life and other living things.
Sekolah Pilar Indonesia
On November 18, 2016, early years classroom teachers facilitated an information session on play-based learning for parents at BINUS School Simprug in Jakarta. It was an informative and engaging session. The teachers shared their knowledge and experience in teaching children using the play-based approach.
At the beginning of the session, parents were asked to recall and share an early memory about learning through play. It was interesting to know that some of the parents who are from different countries played similar activities such as hopscotch, jumping with rubber-band rope, hide and seek, role playing and jackstones. They also used native materials or instruments due to limited resources or creativity. Parents came up on inventing games without the need for anything but themselves. Many of the traditional games shared by parents appeal to a broad age and don’t require much equipment.
In this session, the definition of play was emphasized as any activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially for children. It was pointed out that play without enjoyment is not play. Children do not necessarily need expensive toys to enjoy playing. It is even encouraged for the children to explore their surroundings and materials when playing. In that way, they will be more creative and spontaneous.
As adults, it is important to interact and observe the children when they play so that we will be more aware of their interest and to have a better understanding of our children, including how they think and behave. It is through play that children learn or acquire information, develop physically and socially and express themselves confidently. German educator Friedrich Froebel stressed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”
The poem, “The Hundred Languages of Children” by Loris Malaguzzi beautifully conveys the important roles imagination and discovery play in early childhood learning. The poem points out that “the child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, playing, of speaking. A hundred always a hundred…”
The hundred languages are the endless number of children’s potentials, their ability to wonder and inspire. The poem reminds us that there are multiple ways of seeing and multiple ways of being. As adults (parents and teachers), we should not hinder them but support them instead.
The “Not a Box” story also captures children’s imaginations at play and how boxes or other objects can become anything. It brought back a particular memory of the box I took from my mother’s kitchen. I used it to become the flooring of our toy house, which was made of banana and coconut leaves. I had fun playing in my house with my siblings and friends and until now I still recall how we helped each other in building it.
According to Sir Ken Robinson, who is an expert on learning and children’s education, “imagination is the source of all human achievement.” Imagination is essential in the learning process and can advance cognitive development. Young children often learn about events, cultures or people that they will never meet, and imaginative play is a way for them to discover the world that surrounds them and collect experiences. Through imaginative play, children are more likely to adapt learning habits and to develop their communication skills.
Children learn important skills through play such as solving problems, thinking creatively and critically, and interacting with others. There is also a link between PLAY and foundational skills and complex cognitive activities.
After the sharing session, our Early Years parents realized the importance of play in their children’s development and their roles as parents in supporting them as they play.
By: Lea S. Carbonell
Early Years Class Teacher and Level Head
BINUS SCHOOL Simprug
Early years education works best when children have opportunities to explore their environment and experience learning in more meaningful and engaging ways. Children will develop better motoric, cognitive, social and emotional abilities based on their age development. In order to support children’s learning, teachers should be aware of their students’ needs and engage with the learning itself.
One essential framework that helps teachers to develop deeper understanding about their students’ learning needs is ‘Notice-Recognize-Respond’. It provides detailed information about students as individuals for teachers to plan, assess their students’ learning and develop further teaching-learning process.
How ‘Notice-Recognize-Respond’ Works in My Class?
I use a ‘Notice-Recognize-Respond’ framework to promote successful whole-child education and develop appropriate approaches to each student.
- Notice the interest of students.
- Observe the children during their play either in groups or a solitary play.
- Involve with them and discuss about the activities.
- Record the information through photos, interviews, and notes.
- Understand what they are trying to learn.
- Discuss the possible learning with them.
- Change the environment to deepen the students’ learning.
- Provide the continuation of students’ exploration.
I conduct ‘Notice-Recognize-Respond’ in my class as follows.
Trevor’s Learning Story:
Trevor explored his school playground and stopped in front of one plant. He was interested in a part of the plant. He observed there were some green, round shapes. He showed his finding to his teacher and asked what they were. His teacher asked him to guess what they were and he guessed those were fruits. His teacher didn’t tell Trevor what they were and suggested that he observe them for a few weeks. Trevor agreed to the idea. The next day, his teacher shared Trevor’s experience with the class and played a video about the parts of a plant. She provided a chart for Trevor so he could draw the changes as they happened to the mysterious green round shapes. He observed them the following day and drew what he saw on the chart. He tried to be consistent in observing the plant. A few weeks after, he saw that they had turned into small white things. He showed his teacher the change. His teacher asked him what they were and he answered they were tiny flowers. His teacher told him those green round shapes are called buds. Trevor told his teacher that it took some time for the buds to turn into flowers.
Leading up to our Unity in Diversity Day and as a part of our yearlong Who we are unit of inquiry; our current inquiry into How we organize ourselves; and our language focus Writing to Instruct/Explain, we read Jon J Muth’s version of Stone Soup. This is a story about three monks who try to understand what makes one happy. During their journey, they visit a village with frightened villagers, who keep their doors and windows locked. When they cleverly entice the villagers with making soup from stones, the villagers discover how much they each have to share and what they can gain in return. The story ends with a big feast and offering the strangers a place to sleep.
Our initial reading session focused on creating curiosity about the story (and print in general); using illustrations to predict and respond to the story; making links to the students’ own experiences; the structure of the story (how information is presented); the information shared (e.g. how to make Stone Soup); and the big question ‘What makes one happy?’
In order to address our inquiry into how information can be gathered and sorted and how it can be documented, we introduced a new graphic organizer. We explained that T-charts can help us to examine two facets of the monks’ inquiry into what happiness is? The students were invited to use Post-it notes to brainstorm about happiness. They made ‘draft’ drawings and in a quick personal teacher-student interview, comments to these drawings were documented, before the students sorted them using the T-chart. The students had a lot of ideas about what makes them happy, e.g. “Thinking about school”; “Playing together” and “She is at the playground. She is so happy”. Although they concluded that there were less ideas posted about what doesn’t make them happy, they thought that these few thoughts matched their personal experiences very well, e.g. “She pushed the boy” and “Somebody doesn’t want to share”.
With the older students of this combined Early Childhood class (4-6 yr.), who stay after lunch, we read a much older version of Stone Soup by Ann McGovern. After revisiting the Chinese version we read in the morning, we compared the content of the story, the message and the symbols used by the illustrators. The students noticed the bright yellow color of the little girl’s dress versus the poor clothes of the young man. They compared the black cat with the black bird. And they thought that the young man had taken advantage of the old lady (old version), but that the monks had brought happiness by teaching how to share.
After reading these stories, the students initiated to use elements of the Chinese version of Stone Soup for their play. They collected stones from our Sensory Path and started a lovely cooperative play elaborating on the books’ ideas. Their play expressed the desire to make real Stone Soup.
Our upcoming Unity in Diversity Day, with a focus on Food Sustainability, offered an excellent opportunity to make this cooking activity a more meaningful experience while including all the Early Childhood students. As a provocation, we took all the food items from the home corner and asked the students to think of criteria to sort them. Two sorting circles were formed one for possible Stone Soup ingredients and one for ‘others’. The students were invited to think about ingredients they might be able to find at home and using this sorted ‘data’, the students created a visual reminder to take home. We discussed and compared the pros and cons of each student bringing something from home, which helped the students to understand sustainability. It was fantastic to observe how the students’ thinking evolved into thinking about “pollution if you go shopping by car” and comparing it with more sustainable ideas like “you have to take your bicycle” (Dutch student) to “using an electric car”.
We invited the parents to collaborate by respecting the children’s thoughts re. shopping and our intention to focus on foodstuffs that do least harm to the planet. The children concluded that they should all “bring just a little bit” so there “we don’t waste food” and that “we need to share if a friend brings no food to wash and cut”.
The morning of the Unity in Diversity Day, the students proudly presented their ingredients. After the flag parade, assembly and photo shoot, we started with addressing the expected learning outcomes for the actual cooking activity:
- personal hygiene
- fine motor skills
- food choices can affect our health
- cooperate with others (share and take turns)
- celebrate the accomplishment of the group
- understand the impact of their actions on the environment
We labeled the ingredients and discussed how to wash and cut them. We revisited the instructions on how to cook Stone Soup and explained which areas to use for their cooking activities. We included the youngest Early Childhood students and together they created a very rich, sustainable Stone Soup which they ate together with their teachers.
Here are some comments the EC3 students shared about our ‘sustainable’ community vegetable soup:
JA: “We made our own ‘to do’ list.”
All: “We made the soup together … EC1, EC2, EC3.” LE: “Eating together!”
CH: “Everybody (brought the ingredients).” LE: “We don’t get pollution!”
JO: “It was fun, we could cut our own food.”
JA: “It makes us happy, because it is so yummy when you make it together.” LE: “Happy, because your heart is GOOD!”
LE: “IF you go to the shopping (mall), the smoke (of the care) is not good for your heart or your body.”
JA: “Or you can go on your bike.”
LE: “If you want to go shopping, you need an electric car … no pollution!”
Nicolette Brata-Coolen MA Childhood Studies & Early Years
SENCO & PYP Early Childhood Teacher
Bandung Independent School
During this first UOI about “My Body”, the Kindergarten classes have been engaged in lots of activities. Once a week, we join the two classes together and have rotation-based activities to help deepen the children’s understanding about body parts and their functions. The children also explore through games, songs, body movements, hands-on materials, books, role play and other physical tasks.
In one activity, the children were asked to assemble cut outs of body parts and make them whole again. Then they were asked to explain what they had assembled.
We have been enjoying our learning so far and we look forward to more great times ahead.
Kindergarten Team GJS
In a day’s work as a preschool teacher, I hear many sounds. Starting from the moment they enter the classroom, I hear their clambering footsteps and their high-pitched enthusiastic voices. Halfway into the day, I could discern the scratching of colored pencils against paper, the flapping pages of paperback books and the clicking sounds of legos being stacked in what might seem as a perpetuating symphony of creative energies. Then, the clock signals 12: 40 and the children leave for home, yet the room never stays quiet. Even in the midst of the busy morning commotion, there is one voice that strikes true in my ears, the classroom. Yes, the classroom does in fact speak and you need only to listen carefully.
While as teachers we are the primary source of knowledge and information for our
students, we are not their only mentors. The classroom can serve as their secondary teacher and can provide the children with an endless boundary of learning opportunities even more than we could offer in 5 lessons. IB PYP has emphasized the importance of learning centers in the classroom. However, what does it truly mean to have different learning areas in classroom? Isn’t there only one learning space? I came across this challenge in the beginning of the school year when setting up my new KG classroom. I remembered asking myself, “What could we possibly do in a 4 meter by 8 meter rectangular space?” I was inspired to transform my classroom.
In any preschool classroom setting, there is always bound to be a play area. This should not simply be a space filled with random knick-knacks and toys. This should be an area where children can openly express their imagination, engage in meaningful play collaborations with their peers and practice their critical thinking or problem-solving skills. Thus, we set on the idea of the home and construction learning center. As it is called, the children may feel right at home in the “home corner” where they may take part in enriching imaginative play (e.g. cooking, family role-playing, etc.). Simultaneously, they have the option to engage in solitary play in the construction area interacting with the blocks, legos, and puzzles.
Moreover because creativity is such a critical component of the PYP attitudes, I decided the children need a venue to display their creative perspectives of the world. Hence, we’ve created an art gallery in which they are free to explore and manipulate different materials and resources for their unique masterpieces. In these creative pursuits, it is not unlikely that the children also are exposed to an emergent literacy experience. Aside from the occasional messes, it is a win-win situation in both cases.
Of course, the classroom would not be complete without a mini-library. Designating a space where the children may participate in a quiet reading activity (whether independent or guided) offers a balanced classroom atmosphere. While a vibrant learning space is essential, a quieter area in the room helps promote balanced and healthy emotional regulation in children.
From this classroom set-up experience, I realized that renovation is never a simple and single event. It requires continuous revisions and modifications. However, once the classroom finally obtains its “’voice of learning,” learning will never be silent.
By Daisy Novianty Homeroom Teacher Grade KG GMIS-Bali