During our early timetabled Aistear play sessions, the differences between ‘old-fashioned’ play and our new Structured Play were subtle – our efforts at Planning our play were vague and very much teacher-led, and our idea of Reviewing play amounted to wholesale nods of approval that yes, we had had fun. Over time we managed to hone our skills in these departments and others. As a teacher, this was as much a learning experience for me as it was for the children. My initial enthusiasm for the framework was challenged in the first few weeks of our Structured Playtimes, as the children had not yet learned the skills of plan and review, and I found it difficult to teach these skills without being didactic and prescriptive.
I soon learned that Oral Play Planning was not enough for the children – they did not yet have a clear enough idea of what was expected of them and this meant that our plans were vague and uncertain. The introduction of a planning chart on the Interactive White Board gave us a more tangible way to express and record our plans, and the children a clear sense of what was expected of them. I tried to incorporate as much imagery as possible into these plans in order that they would be understandable and accessible to all.
The on-board planning also gave us an opportunity at a Whole Class level to discuss any challenges we thought might be faced by a particular group, at a particular play station. The children began to foresee problems and talk through some possible solutions, and through this, I believe they began to appreciate the value of planning.
In time, I was able to use the Planning period to address issues of particular concern to me – I noticed that while all of the children were enjoying play at the Junk Art table, some of them were having difficulties in visualising how they could use the junk available to them to make the piece of art they wanted to make. There was a tendency to draw an object in their plan without any forethought as to how this would be created. By breaking down some individual projects; on the board and using Think Aloud; I was able to demonstrate to the children the types of thought processes required in order to effectively plan the assembly of a Junk Art piece.
Later, we used the Planning period to hone in on our practices at the Role Play area, highlighting the importance of staying in role, and of investing in the characters and actions portrayed by others. We planned extensively, for one whole week, the exact character that each child would portray and how that character would interact with the others. Each day we built on the experience of the day before, using the previous groups’ notes to inform that day’s planning.
It was during this week, and specifically in relation to our Role Play, that we began to take a more critical approach to our Play Review, which had been slowly evolving over a the course of several weeks. We will look at this progression in the next blog post.