The first learning experience is set outside at the water table. The children are working in pairs, with the practitioner overseeing them to provide assistance if necessary. For the purpose of this report, a boy aged four years and nine months is being observed. This activity aims to cover two areas of the foundation stage; personal, social and emotional development and mathematical development. Within these areas the aspects being covered are dispositions and attitudes and shape, space and measures.
The work of Montessori is the influencing factor of this activity. She noted that in providing children with a relaxed, natural environment, they flourished socially, emotionally and cognitively (Boushel, 2000). McMillan also agreed that healthy children, who receive plenty of fresh air, learn and progress better than those who don’t experience open air activities (Curtis, 2002). Piaget suggested that children learn well not only as individuals, but also when they work in groups. The children’s learning should be autonomous (Palmer, 2001). The children are not only interacting with themselves, but also with the practitioner.
As the children are engaged in water play, the opportunity for many different cross curricula aspects to be covered is available. They communicate with one another whilst engaged in their activity and so the communication, language and literacy area will be covered. As the children become familiar with the equipment, their self-confidence and self-esteem will be nurtured, therefore covering the personal, social and emotional development area. This can also be linked to Vygotsky’s scaffolding theory. He advocates that children learn through interacting with others. They mimic the behaviour of others, try it on their own and then build on it for their own development (Palmer, 2001).
This activity has a great scope for differentiation. The less able children will be able to enjoy the experience of watching the water transfer from container to container, whilst the more able children may be able to record their findings. The practitioner here is structuring the child’s learning encounter, to lead the child through the processes. Bruner described this as his scaffolding theory (Bee, 2004). If there is a child who is more demanding in the amount of attention they receive, the practitioner may accompany them throughout the activity. Kohlberg theorised that children learn to act in ways in which to gain adults approval (Lerner, 2002). In order for the children to gain recognition for their work, recording their findings on paper can provide them with a means of sharing their results with the practitioners and their own peers.
This activity was successful with the child it was carried out with, but if performed with other children, problems could arise. The unstructured movement of the water can be both lively and relaxing and the practitioner must be aware of the effects the water may have upon the individual children involved. Applying Bruner’s scaffolding theory meant that the practitioner watched from a distance whilst the children were playing and then stepped in to discuss what they were doing and to encourage the use of other containers. Pairing the children up according to abilities could offer a means of further developing their communication and giving them the opportunity to form relationships within planned groups.
This learning experience was successful because it was an epistemic activity, which also brought in ludic play with the measuring of the water. The classroom assistant had the balance of free play and guided play just right and the children progressed well and interacted admirably with each other. The children were interested throughout the activity and as suggested by McMillan, as they were outside the classroom environment, the mood stayed calm the whole time.
Learning Experience Two
The second learning experience is carried out in the role play area. It is one of the continuous provisions within the classroom and it has been utilised for the purpose of this lesson. For this activity, the role play area is set up as an Italian take-away. It has been equipped with a small world cooker and microwave, stationary, telephones and some pizzas. The pizzas had been made by the children in a previous activity and they had also made toppings to be added. The children have the opportunity to place orders, take orders and prepare orders for either collection, or delivery. Two girls are participating in this activity. One is aged four years and two months and the other is aged four years and six months. Communication, language and literacy and knowledge and understanding of the world are the areas of learning this activity is testing.
The objectives are to provide children with the opportunity to communicate effectively on a given topic and to stay focused on this subject. Steiner believes that giving children of mixed abilities the opportunity to create self-expression through imaginative play, allows them to develop to their full potential (Palmer, 2001). By participating in this way, the children are learning to use the equipment in a way that enables this interaction and feed their imagination.
The practitioner involved with this activity plays an important role in the children’s development. They will interact with the children and give appropriate guidance to them where and when it is required. Bruner theorised that children principally learn through play and that with adult intervention a spiral curriculum comes into force (Mills, 2002). When the children place their orders, the practitioner can build on this to extend the activity, to allow for extension of vocabulary within the topic.
Bruner’s spiral theory provides the inspiration for this second activity (Olson, 1998). He suggests that children learn well when with either other children, or adults. An excellent way of giving children the opportunity to experience this is to provide an activity where they can play with each other, whilst being guided in their play. Free play in the role play area allows the children to sustain a degree of mastery. They can experiment with the telephones and other equipment and there is the opportunity for at least one child to add some new learning. Each child may develop the various skills required for this activity at his own pace and, therefore, allowing them this free play, enables the practitioner to observe the various stages the children are currently attaining.
Once the children have been given the time to experience some free play, the practitioner may then step in to direct the play, by encouraging the children to place and take orders. The children can be encouraged to produce these orders using the small world cooker and microwave. Some of the children may need a greater degree of prompting than others and the practitioner, through her familiarity of the children, can judge this directed play according to their needs and requirements. This directed play channels the exploration and learning of the children and takes them on to the next stage of understanding. Bruner likens this to a pebble on a pond, stating that the ripples from exploratory free play, through guided play and back to enhanced play, allows the spiral to spread outwards into other experiences and so gaining knowledge and skills (Moyles, 1989).
The variety of equipment made available to the children in this activity enables the practitioner to shape this learning experience to their own specific developmental requirements. It is imperative to their learning, that for the children to reap the full benefit of this equipment, they need the opportunity to talk about their choices with an adult. They need to be able to link their play to ‘real life’, to begin to make comparisons between Information and Communication Technology (ICT) and non-ICT methods and to begin to justify their thinking (Using ICT to enhance role play, 12/10/2006). This activity will allow for this and mean that the children’s learning will be enriched through the use of ICT.
Some children may already have some degree of familiarity with the equipment used within this activity. This learning experience enabled differentiation between the abilities of the children by judging the amount of support they may require from the practitioner. The stepping stones are used as a guide and as the practitioner already has knowledge of each child’s capabilities, she can adapt the situation to personally meet the needs of all the children, on an individual basis. The personal, social and emotional development area of the curriculum also plays a large part in this activity, as the children are developing their conversational and interaction skills. Taking this into consideration, it may be that the expectations of the less able children are to have a positive approach and show confidence, whilst the more able children could be encouraged to display a higher level of involvement and to continue to be interested and motivated.
This activity offers many opportunities for learning and knowledge to be achieved, across both the taught and the hidden curriculum. The children will not only experience the communication goals outlined in the plans, but will also develop skills across other areas of learning. The practitioner could incorporate the use of money into the activity, or perhaps encourage the children to work in a group to produce a simple menu on the computer.
Learning Experience Three
The third learning experience is a music and movement activity. The areas of learning are personal development and creative development. The aspects to be covered within these areas are a sense of space and music. The activity aims to encourage children to show respect for other children’s personal space when playing among them and to respond to sound with the body. The children are all in the school hall and have a warm up section where the teacher explains to the children how music can make different people respond to music in many varieties of ways. It is giving children the opportunity to express themselves in a way they may not have experienced before and provides them with the exercise their bodies require.