Following children’s interests
Schools are under growing pressure to formalise early years in order to make children school ready. As a result, there is an over-focus in many schools on reading, writing and maths, along with a perception that teaching the above can only take place inside.
Many learning opportunities are missed by working in this way, as playing outdoors is cross-curricular, supports higher levels of involvement and develops the characteristics of effective learning. A good example of this happened during a trip to the common recently with two of my grandchildren…one in reception and one in year 5. Both love being outdoors and are more than happy to find resources to enhance their play when they are out and about.
We headed off up to the common, taking nothing with us but lunch, and went to a small playground where they found a patch of sand, leftover after the removal of the sandpit. They spent most of the visit, not using the play equipment as per the rest of the children but using what they found in the environment to develop their own activities. They had great fun drawing pictures in the sand before creating a pond. After they found a worm and B decided to create a worm prison.
She said ‘I want to make a prison for the worm so he can’t escape.’ She used what she could find to do this – my takeaway coffee cup and lid, sticks and a plastic mould found buried deep in the sand. B buried the cup containing the worm, in the sand, then poked holes around the cup before placing a stick in each hole.
When she was satisfied that the sticks were all in the right place B said ‘I want to make a sign but I don’t have any paper.’ I jumped in too quickly with my suggestion that she wrote the sign in the sand and she said dismissively, ‘I know……I’m just getting a stick!’ It just goes to show how, when given some thinking time, children can usually find the solution to a problem themselves. B then used her developing phonic knowledge to independently write her sign – ‘Doo not tuch’.
B was engaged in the writing process because it was fit for purpose and meaningful. She needed a sign to inform people not to disturb the worm and so chose to write independently. Motivation is key! The more we tap into children’s interests and let them lead the learning the more they will fully engage in the process.
During the afternoon both children displayed high levels of involvement, creativity, collaboration and problem-solving. Skills that are required across the curriculum and which, more importantly, will stand them in good stead for life!