Sunday, 18 February 2018

I love drama for learning! A glimpse into today....

Today we learned the space game.  The idea of this game is that children move into a space.  They are simply finding space.   This leads to them being aware of themselves and their movements. 

When we get accustomed to finding space in our normal persona, we go into role.  Today we went into role as a snail finding space, a grumpy giant and a busy robot.

It is always such fun to watch children grow in confidence as they realise that any effort they make in drama is appreciated and accepted.  The establishment of this culture of acceptance is vital to Number Agents working effectively.

Because they did so well with this I took it a little further today.  They got into partners, one in role as the giant, one as the robot.  The idea was they were angry, someone was in their space and they had to get this across using the same message and their body language.  They also had to maintain eye contact. 

Initially this was difficult, but with a little modelling and watching of others they were eventually all able to go into role and showed real confidence.

A fun drama activity that took about fifteen minutes, but that was full of a huge amount of learning!

A giant and a robot :)

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Why I Believe Growth Mindset Has So Much To Offer Us...

I have been giving a lot of though lately to maths anxiety.  Not in terms of children, but actually in terms of maths anxiety in teachers.  You don't have to go far to have a conversation with a teacher about their experiences in maths and how they now have quite extreme maths anxiety.  In fact some, like myself have quite a strong reaction to even the thought of being tested on their maths ability. 

This level of anxiety has been caused largely by an approach to maths that was very much drill and skill.  You learned the rules, but you never learned the why.  Tests were timed and children had a very clear picture of their ability in maths, based on the group they were put in.  Sadly many of these practices still persist, and it has been many many years since I was in a maths classroom.

What is more worrying is that now as teachers with a high level of maths anxiety we are given the huge responsibility of teaching maths to children.  While this statement may be confronting for many, I believe some teachers will avoid teaching maths if they possibly can, or be unconsciously passing their dislike of maths onto their students.

Having an anxiety of maths is not conducive to encouraging growth mindset in children, however I believe that it is the concept of growth mindset that could really help. 

Have I overcome my anxiety to not completely.  If faced with a question that requires a quick response, I still get that good old panicked response.  But I have learned that maths is not about speed, and my inability to answer at speed does not mean I am 'bad' at maths.  Teaching and learning about growth mindset has also helped me hugely.

If someone had told me in primary school about growth mindset it would have all begun to make sense to me.  If someone had stopped with the timed tests, given me time to answer and uncovered the wonderful secret that maths was not about speed, but about patterns and connections, they would have pulled away the veil of anxiety for me...this anxiety totally cannonballed my high school experience and I took to becoming the class clown, rather than admitting it was hard for me. 

I want to share with you two experiences from my maths learning that I remember vividly, one is from the time I was maybe 7 or 8 and the other is from high school when I was 15.  They were the two best experiences I can remember from maths (actually amongst only a handful of maths memories) and they have something in common.

The first experience was when I was about 7 or 8.  I am not sure what the question was (but very typically from teaching of that time, there was one right answer.)  We were seated in a circle, and very luckily for me I was in last position in the circle (this story wouldn't be a positive one if I was first or even second but last position gave me think time and it also allowed me to hear the answers and thinking of others.)  The teacher asked the question and one by one each child had a go at answering it.  One by one they got it wrong.  About halfway round I twigged to the answer.  She was being tricky, the answer was 0, but no one had clicked.  It got to me, I answered 0 and I was right.  Now this never happened, ever, never did Leslee ever have the right answer, or ever be brave enough to answer.  The elation I felt at being right was overwhelming.  The sense of pride and belonging I felt at the warm smile and praise the teacher offered seems silly now, but it was very real.  I loved her, she was an amazing teacher, she had just never been proud of me for my maths skill and boy it felt great!

The second scenario was in my high school class...the old 5th form, the new year 11.  Usually we would sit in rows at desks working away from books, but on this day we went out with the javelin to explore angles.  I think we may have had athletics coming up and we were looking at the perfect angle to throw it out for the maximum distance.  I didn't learn a lot, however it made angles very real for me...if we had gone out a few more times, or followed up with similar authentic sessions that assisted me to make connections, I am sure I would have 'got it' in a deeper way.  Unfortunately my anxiety about maths was so far entrenched by then, I didn't really make the most of it. 

While these experiences are quite different they do have a couple of commonalities.  First of all, time, I had time to think.  In both instances, there was no pressure on me to answer quickly.  Secondly, talk, I had the opportunity to listen and learn from the talk of others, not just the teacher.

The second scenario is a lovely one because it really shows how an authentic situation can add real meaning to was also enjoyable and this was not something I could regularly say about maths.

I think we can use the concept of growth mindset to help ourselves.  Ok, we may be the teacher, but appreciating that we can increase our own mathematical understandings is important for us.  I absolutely believe for us to pass on a love of mathematics, we must first come to terms with our anxiety and teach ourselves again to love maths.  The best way to do this, is to embrace growth mindset, to pass this on to our students and begin to teach maths in an open, visual and connected way.  When teaching maths is fun, we will soon come to terms with our own anxiety. 

Our ultimate aim should be to get rid of maths anxiety altogether, and I absolutely believe that if we can embrace approaches that truly show the beauty and authenticity of maths and give this gift to children as soon as they start engaging with maths in a more formal way, we can save them from that angst that was maths for us.

I believe there are specific ways we can start to do this:

1) Get rid of timed tests altogether.  Speed is not a marker of ability.
2) Provide authentic situations for mathematical learning.
3) Use talk moves and mixed groups.
4) Get rid of streaming altogether.
5) Incorporate problem solving daily and allow children to develop knowledge as they solve these problems.  Set open ended problems that have a high ceiling and low floor that children can access no matter what their knowledge.
6) Encourage the use of mathematical language.  This will help to demystify some concepts and establish a common means of communicating ideas.
7)Use visual problems and material based problems where possible.  Give children time to learn from each other.
8) Revisit concepts over and over again in different ways and allow time for exploration.
9)Maths is not just number, where possible present problems that show the connectedness of maths.  Embrace the importance of Strand and integrate areas wherever possible.
10) Consider the way you assess children.  Give them time.  There is no problem with giving children a problem and allowing then to go away and think about it.  Sitting beside them, looking over their shoulder is not conducive to encouraging the calm that they need to allow those neurons to fire.

These are just a few of my ideas, I think implementing these things will go a long way to eliminating maths anxiety in our students and ourselves. 

Saturday, 10 February 2018

My journey into learning stories and the first few days of play...

We started back on the 7th.  Cohort entry means that we had 13 new little learners all at once, mixed in with our 13 learners that had been with us for several weeks or several months. 

This year we pick up from where we left off, with practices based on developmental stages rather than age or length of time at school. 

Without knowing the ages of the 13 in the cohort it was not clear who was still yet to turn five, what was quite clear from day one through observation and interaction was the developmental differences in the 26 children we are to work with this term.  This affirmed the absolute need to establish practices that are able to cater for each one of these individuals, not to establish a one size fits all approach.  I am looking forward to further developing my practice around this.

It has only been three days, but what I have noticed already is the happiness. 

This year rather than doing a sit down roll as we were last year, we are allowing children just to play as they come in and say goodbye to their caregivers as and when they are ready to.  We are then free to roam and tick the roll, while greeting and talking to children individually.  By 9.15am we are ready to come to the mat for our songs that will become part of our morning ritual this year. 

In these first few weeks, we will establish little rituals and routines, introducing children to moments of teacher direction, using drama for learning, singing songs and finding out emotions, kindness and our learning mindset.  We will not leap in with any developmental or cognitive based goals for the first month, even with the children that were with us prior to the end of the year.  Our aim is for them to just settle, to just be and find absolute joy in learning through play. 

My goal this year is to develop my ability to write learning stories and create provocations from the interests and urges that I notice. 

This goal will be challenging for me, but I have already had a go at a few over the last week with a basic template I have made that includes Key Competencies, Dispositions, Curriculum Area, Urge or type of play/stage seen, with comments around what was noticed, what this means and what next.  The challenge for us is to write learnings stories based on the developmental stage of the child so that we can really be reflecting their learning journey.  We want to show that connection from ECE to school in the child's journey, but are also conscious that it needs to reflect a progression as time goes on.

As an example of this, I observed the play of two children this week, cooperating in their play, negotiating and establishing rules together.  Quite a high level of play, which was awesome.  They were making food for a restaurant, one of them making the ingredients and the other preparing the dish for their customers.  Although the play was similar for both, when observed closely, they were actually doing quite different things.  The first child preparing the ingredients was creating shapes, sorting and counting out the ingredients.  The second child was much more interested in the social side of the play, interacting with her customers and was less concerned with the product.  The learning stories that I wrote for them reflected this.  For the first child I captured the maths I had seen as she was making groups up to ten " 4 here and 4 there is 8, 2 over there, together that is 10"  I was able to look to the curriculum for the learning here.  For the second child it was more a case of focusing in on the dispositions that she was learning and exploring.

We managed to write five learning stories this week between us and noticed a huge interest in fish through the play.  From this we were able to develop a provocation.  This is my goal, to really focus in on urges and interests so that I can further extend on this through snippets of teaching and the development of provocations.

I'm really looking forward to this journey and am already feeling like these learning stories are going to be a great way of capturing not only curriculum, but developmental stages. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

A personal story....maths anxiety

I wanted to take the time in this blog post to share something personal with you.  Something very real and often completely misunderstood.  

Maths anxiety. 

 I want us to all be aware of the role we play in making maths anxiety a real barrier for students, or the role we can play in removing this barrier for our students.

Maths anxiety starts young and is a huge reason that I started my Number Agents approach, I want children to have positive experiences with mathematics that give them a sense of competence and success.

Why is this personal? Because I myself suffer from maths anxiety, an anxiety that was created by an overwhelming focus on the endless retention of facts, measured by the speed that we could remember them at.  I will never forget sitting for lengths of time with headphones on being 'tested' on my basic facts.  

The fact is that I'm just not that type of learner, still to this day, I am reflective and take my time, I like to think, apply understandings and explore things in different ways and from various angles.  I am not good when rushed.  I have since learned that this is perfectly acceptable and is in fact how mathematicians work...too late for me because although I now appreciate the absolutely beauty of mathematics, I still get the willies when put under any type of pressure to come up with an answer.  

However that is not why this message is truly personal, this message is much more personal because it is about my daughter.

She also suffers from maths anxiety (coupled with very real social anxiety it is not a great mix for high school.)  What makes it even more personal is that she went through my school and very sadly she went through our school when we valued speed of recall.  Although other aspects of maths were taught very well, this emphasis on speed of recall, especially through a certain speed test administered twice a year (so we could prove progress)  has had long lasting effects on her.  The fact that she was not fast (even though she never did badly on the tests) has left her with a lasting fear of any timed based testing and a feeling of failure when it comes to maths.  

Since I have been lucky enough to open my eyes and mind to the work of Jo Boaler I have come to realise that we have been making some key mistakes as teachers.
1) Focus on speed and one right answer (doing this can quickly give children a sense of failure.)
2)Narrow problems that are not authentic and do not allow children to see mathematics as a 'real' part of their world.
3) Not enough focus on visual problem solving or the use of materials.

Since we have made adjustments to our programmes we have been seeing some remarkable changes in mindset.

So I have been working on these with my daughter, who is now 15.  Reminding her of the word yet, constantly reminding her that mathematicians are slow and take their time to problem solve.  Teaching her to remind her brain that when she feels anxious about being fast, to remind herself that she does not need to be fast.  This trick will help her to actually be quick because she does have the fact there, her anxiety creates the barrier that leaves her unable to access this quickly.  Telling her brain she does not require speed, will help to bring down this barrier.  I have also taught her that she is strong visually and spend time encouraging her to ask to see problems in a visual way.

Unfortunately in her first two years no amount of me telling her this would help when the teaching that was going on consisted of fast facts and copying from the board, along with abstract problems she could not see the relevance of.

Her view of maths got worse and worse, and this intelligent, thoughtful, reflective child became increasingly convinced she was absolutely dumb.  In fact by the end of last year her strategy was avoidance, disconnecting and showing disinterested behaviour so the teacher would not know she was really actually feeling very vulnerable and lost.  

Now to the point of this story....because there is hope.  

This year she has a teacher that has already taken an interest, slowed down, introduced problems she can see relevance in.  This teacher has also taken the time to talk and explain concepts, to show how concepts are connected.  Yes she does warm ups, but with no emphasis on speed.  She also asks them to write down how they felt about the session and anything they felt they needed to know more about.  In three days this teacher has managed to turn a light on for my daughter.  She is starting to use the strategies I have talked to her about, to tell her brain it does not need to be fast, to solve problems visually.  Best of all she feels confident to ask.  She has started to see herself as competent.  Today she even spoke of feeling proud because she managed to finish all the problems set in front of her.  Maths was cut short and she was disappointed.

Now I am not saying her anxiety is gone...but in three short days this teacher, through her learner centred approach, and focus on problem solving that requires slowing down, has been able to transform the kind of language my daughter uses about herself as a mathematician.  She is even accepting the power of yet.  

We have incredible power, and with incredible power comes great responsibility.  We need to understand the effect we can have, often unintentionally on students.  

Maths anxiety knows no barriers, all levels of children can have child should be made to feel dumb at maths because they are not fast, need to see things visually or to have something explained a few times in different ways.

Please take the time to read the work of Jo Boaler if you have not done so already, you won't regret it!

Go forward this year and make a difference for all the mathematicians in your closely for those that appear switched off and disinterested, they are often your most vulnerable.

Never, ever doubt your power to make a difference.

Saturday, 27 January 2018

My request to begin the year...

Now let me start this post by saying this, we are all different, we all teach differently and have different strengths.  I have no desire to make you like me, I absolutely do not believe that what I do is the only way to do things.  However there is one thing we have in common, and that is the children we teach.

Although they may be different and unique in many ways, developmentally they all go through the same stages (however at various speeds) and they all have brains developing that need to be catered for in developmentally appropriate ways.  Wow, what a challenge that is, and a challenge I have decided to take on over the last couple of years.  What a journey so far!

A closer look at development brings us back to Piaget's model for cognitive development.  I am absolutely sure anyone that has done child development is familiar with Vygotsky and Piaget.  Their research remains incredibly relevant for us today and is also backed up by research into brain development.  Obviously there is more to early development than this diagram represents, but it is certainly a good starting point for anyone wanting to explore this further.

More info can be found with a quick google, but here is a good article to read.

Also this one on the work of Vygotsky, who offers a much more social point of view of learning that Piaget, which I feel is more relevant to play-based learning.  To me and a very obvious reason that a play-based approach works, is the amount of quality social interaction that goes on.  However, I am not a researcher, and am much more interested in the practical application of an approach based on play, rather than having to justify why it works.  The work of John Holt is also worth a read if you are interested in exploring more.

This along with the research of Nathan Wallis points strongly to the fact that what we are expecting of our children in their first few years at primary school (at least) is not cognitively appropriate.  It is this cognitive development that I am really focusing on in this post, however I am very aware that this development does not happen in isolation from emotional, social and physical development.

Although much of this research has been around for a very long time, and at some stage we have all studied it, it seems to be largely ignored in our classrooms.

Why do we feel the need to test children from day one, why do we rush them into learning like reading before they are ready or interested, why are we forcing them to sit and concentrate for extended periods of time, why are we expecting children to hold information in their head when their brain is absolutely not yet able to? Why are we labelling children as struggling, when they are not even up to the point in their development where they are ready to learn in this way?  Why do we think that for children to learn, we need to be right there like the fountain of all knowledge?

What is the need to use a test to 'assess' a starting point, when by simply observing and listening to a child we would have a pretty good idea of their stage of development.  Why do we not trust ourselves more than a standardised test?

Why are we wasting our teaching time with strategies that are not working or creating anxiety?  Why are we even employing strategies that cause stress for us and the child?

My plea to you is to have a really close look at the practices you are currently using.  Honestly think about the developmentally appropriateness of what you are doing or expected to be doing.  Is it appropriate to rush a child in their first week or two at school into magenta reading when they do not yet have the oral language or working memory (amongst other things) to make this learning relevant and useful to them.  What would be the harm in just letting them settle in, and taking some time to get to know them developmentally.

Is it appropriate to expect a child to write when their fine and gross motor skills and oral language abilities are still developing.  I liken this to me walking into a classroom and being asked to sit down and write a story in Chinese.  Wow how stressful would this be?  Hugely?  Would I succeed?  No...I wonder how I would feel about myself after a few weeks of this activity?  Particularly if cognitively I was not even ready of this activity and the ability to hold symbols in my head was not yet something I could do.

What harm would it do for us to wait?  None.  What benefits would there be from waiting till interest was shown and readiness was seen...huge benefits, believe me, I have seen them first hand.

From my experience pushing children into learning early has no positive long term impact, but I am absolutely sure it has a negative one.

To put this in perspective, our children still made progress last year, none of them were 'held back' many of them excelled academically because they were ready, others developed in their own time and at their own pace, and developed a love of learning.  The one thing they had in common were the development of fantastic social and emotional skills that will serve them well this year.  They learned through their urges and were exposed to learning that I would never have normally introduced to new entrants.

If you are teaching in the first three years, or even beyond, consider the benefits play will bring to your children.

Just because you have always done it, you don't have to keep doing it.  Current research and past research clearly points out that traditional approaches are not appropriate and we need to do something about it.

If you are interested my store has my 1st and 2nd 'book' about my journey so far.  (this is very much a journey)

This is the developmental checklist we use at the moment, it is a great form of assessment and a superb record of progress.

And these are the dispositions and habits we are working towards in the first six years.

This is the framework diagram I created to guide my practice.

If you feel a need to demonstrate progress, oral language is a fantastic way to do this as it is developmentally appropriate. The JOST tool is a good one that I have used before, it is quite easy to deliver and gives us an interesting insight into where a child is up to and the progress that is being made.

Let us all take a good look at what we are doing, discard the things that do not be serve children and amplify the practice that does.  Together we can make a huge difference.

Still in this...

Unsure who wrote this, but absolutely agree!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

What is the aim of education today?

Something I have been contemplating lately is the aim of education.  What is it we are trying to achieve?  Many of the skills still being fostered in classrooms today, are not relevant to the workplaces they will find themselves in,  so what direction should we be taking?

What is our aim?

 You only have to read articles about workplaces like google to know that times have changed, test scores do not matter, intelligence has been redefined and somewhere along the way education has missed the memo.  We live in a world today, where the most successful are forging their own path, often despite the education they have had, not because of it.  So many people are self made now, they have created viable businesses out of their passions...not because of the success they had in school, but because for some reason they were strong enough to follow their passion, they had a strong sense of self.

I think this could be the ultimate aim we should have in mind for education, allowing children to create a strong sense of self and an awareness of how they are connected to their environment and to others.  Understanding their place, their passion, and having the belief to forge ahead.

Workplaces still value intelligence, but not as measured by tests scores.  Overwhelmingly workplaces demand a different intelligence, one that displays the ability to think in different ways, to pose problems, to be creative, to be a team player, to know and use your strengths, to have an absolute passion for learning, to have resilience and grit.  To not expect there is one answer, or to even just look for one, to have initiative, humour and humility.  To have emotional intelligence.

In fact many workplaces don't really care for qualifications, they care about the person standing in front of them, not the marks on a piece of paper.  Does this person have a strong sense of self, do they know their passions, abilities and shortcomings.  Do they know where they need to improve and are they willing to do so. Can they work with others, can they cope with being wrong, do they know how to think, will they stick with it, can they bounce back from difficulty, do they have initiative and can they appreciate the points of view of others?

This article is worth a read

Within this article you can find the following paragraph...

"While in school, people are trained to give specific answers. “It’s much more interesting to solve problems where there isn’t an obvious answer,” Bock says. “You want people who like figuring out stuff where there is no obvious answer.”

The article goes through many of the skills or dispositions wanted by google, but try as hard as you might nowhere do they list the ability to follow, comply, complete tasks even if they have no value, work from a task board, produce a piece of work exactly like the person next to me etc...

So why are many classrooms still focusing on creating such a different definition of success, than that of the workplaces many of our children will go into.  

I advocate for planning for dispositions and habits, but while out walking in the rain yesterday I reflected on what it was I was actually trying to give to children here.    If I create an environment that is rich in these dispositions and habits, what is it I am exactly trying to do, what is my end game?

After 6km in the rain I came to a diagram in my head that I have tried, probably very poorly, to show below. Ultimately I think the end game is that I want children to have a strong sense of self, to understand how all of those dispositions and habits serve them.  To start to understand their passions and interests.  To have connection and understand their connection to others.  While contemplating this, I reflected on what the key aspects of an educational environment needed to be to enable a child to develop this sense of self.

We all hear the old nugget, you need to believe in yourself....and yes that is true, but I believe that for this to be possible, first you need to have key adults, or peers that believe in you...that validate you as an individual, that give you a sense of belonging, because everyone needs validation and belonging.  

I believe they also need the capacity to believe in others.  This comes back to be effective in a working environment I am going to need to have empathy and emotional intelligence, and this allows me to believe in others around me.  To trust them.  To sometimes even change my point of view because of what they teach me.  

 Lastly I do need to believe in myself, which can be incredibly hard...and is a process that needs to be supported in the classroom environment.  A key adult highlighting and validating the disposition and habits that I have used, not praising the final product is crucial in my opinion.  

Self-belief to me is not believing I can do absolutely anything, it is believing that I can improve and do well if I work hard.  It is understanding what makes me unique.  It is appreciating the integral role I have to play in my success.

I think these three prongs of belief, are something we need to be taking the time to embed in our classroom environments, thus in turn will promote and develop as strong sense of self.  Once again it all comes down to relationships.

Anyone that has read my posts before knows that I advocate for play.  I do so, because I believe this environment is one, that created well, can deliver all the dispositions and habits that are absolutely valued by the workplaces children will eventually go into.  In these environments children are given the ultimate gift, to see how their passions and interests have an absolute place in their education.  Best of all, they get to share this with others.

I also advocate for approaches like Mantle of the Expert that encourage creativity and all the wonderful dispositions that will allow children to work as a purposeful team

However I believe absolutely that whatever the approach that is taken, children's interests and needs must be at the centre of it.  Planning should not be something we do at the start of the term and then deliver to children.  For them to develop a true sense of self the curriculum that is presented in a classroom needs to be living, breathing and evolving, not governed by timetables and intentions, or the big topic I have to cover, but by the passions and interests of children and the relationship they have with each other and their teacher/s.

Sadly I believe that our current system advocates 'sameness.'  Even sadder is that Teacher Education seems to be also based on this sameness.  How is it possible that in a world that values and desperately needs people with passions and interests, and a strong sense of self, is it that education still promotes this blanket approach.  

You only have to watch Dragons Den or Shark Tank to know that age is no barrier to inventing or creating, and certainly not a barrier to success.  The children, I've seen as young as 15 in there, have one thing in common, someone has believed in them, they have belief in others (to take the risk they are taking) and the belief in themselves and their passion.  

Now, not every child is going to be an entrepreneur, but I believe that once we find our passion, the world is our oyster.  Learning through passion is then no longer just learning, it is a vocation that we are driven to explore and develop.  It is very hard to learn through passion, or to develop a sense of self, if someone else is in the driver's seat.

Or this girl, incredible at 15.  

Children are capable of so much more than we are currently expecting, we are just expecting the wrong things.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Through the eyes of a five year old

This post has been brewing a while, but while I have been occupied writing my next play-based book it has taken a back seat.  That book is now finished, has been proofed and I am just in the middle of reading it through one last time. 

The further I get into play-based learning, the further away I obviously get from who I was as a 'traditional' classroom teacher.  The more research I have read in the process of writing my book, the happier I become about my choice.  The flip side of this is the sense of frustration I now get when I look at some of the developmentally inappropriate things taking place in the classrooms of our youngest children. The practices that are causing our children great stress and slowly stripping away the strong sense of self that they often walk into our classrooms with.  I had no idea how I was making children feel, that I wasn't adding value by accelerating them into learning that they were not ready for.  I was kind and caring, gentle even.  I really couldn't see that what I was doing was causing them anxiety. 

I understand why these practices are still going on, after all it is how we have been taught to teach, we think we are doing the right thing, believe me, I thought I was too.

From the front of my book....

Just a Thought…

We are so busy preparing children to be successful adults that we forget to embrace the brilliance of a child.  Their honesty, often to the point of bluntness; their openness to new learning; their inquisitiveness; their quirky senses of humour and the way they can belly laugh at just about anything. Their ability to freely use their imaginations without the constraints of reality; their intelligence to be able to turn the tiniest, most obscure thing into a wonderful world of play; their inventiveness and their ability to truly be absorbed in the moment. Their innate ability to embrace difference; and their dispositions of wonder and joy. Not to mention their overwhelming ability to forgive.  Children gradually learn to modify these behaviours to become what they think we need them to be, but maybe it is us that should be modifying ourselves.  The world needs the qualities of a child, now more than ever.  Bringing play back to classrooms could be just the answer we are looking for.

So back onto the point of this blog post.  I wanted to write it from the perspective of a five year old and their adventure into  school.

Traditional Classroom(these are things that have happened in my class, that I was completely oblivious to)

I am so excited about starting school.  Everyone has been telling me how amazing it will be.  I enjoyed the visits, but I am a bit worried because everyone seems to know a lot more than me.  
I started today, it wasn't too bad, but we had to sit still for a long time.  I found it difficult because I'd just start to play with something and then I'd have to pack up and come to the mat.  I wanted to go back to this play, but the teacher told me I had to do other things.  We sat for AGES! I feel a bit stupid because the teacher is talking about things that I have no idea about.  We had to colour a picture, the other kids told me I was scribbling and that I needed to strive for accuracy, but I was doing my best.  I won't try next time.

Today is my second day, I didn't really want to come.  We did writing today.  I couldn't find my book, I felt stupid.  I've never really learned to use a pencil.  I prefer to play outside.  We had to write.  We had to write in silence.  I had no idea so I copied the teachers story, hers is perfect so if I copy hers, I can't be wrong.  She didn't seem very happy that I did this.  I even copied her name, she told me that was her name and I needed to do my own.  I don't know what my name looks like yet.  

Today is my third day, I cried, I feel worried.  I didn't want mum to go.  The teacher told her I have settled in well.  That is what she thinks.  I saw some toys in the corner today that I really wanted to play with.  I got them out, but got in trouble because I was supposed to be using the puzzles and books at the front of the room, it was reading time apparently.  I don't really like puzzles and I'm not really interested in books yet.  Reading time is boring.

Today is my fourth day, the teacher sat next to me and asked me about the alphabet and numbers.  I had no idea and she kept putting dots next to the letters.  I think that means I got it wrong.  I felt yucky in my tummy when this was going on.  I don't want to try, I might be wrong, so I just gave up.  I just want to play with the trains and trucks, but that is for choosing time and that is after lunch.    Are letters and numbers different?  I have no idea.  The teachers seemed frustrated that I didn't know anything.  We did maths.  Oh dear.  We had to make a group of ten.  I don't know what ten looks like.  The other kids tried to help me.  I just felt like a dummy.  I hate maths too.

Today is the fifth day, the worst one yet.  I was put in a reading group.  The teacher says I am going to learn to read.  I sat in the group.  She tells me to point to the words, what are they?  They other kids know what they are doing, I don't.  I feel stupid.  How come they know and I don't?  That yucky feeling is in my tummy again. I have decided that I hate reading, if this is what reading is, I don't want to read.  I did see some books about horses they looked interesting to me, but I wasn't allowed those ones, they were for the other children that can already read.  I just want to go outside.  I got brave and I asked,  The teacher said we don't go outside until playtime.  She seemed annoyed.  She's really busy trying to read with other children and I interrupted her.   Why can't we play outside?

I told mum that I felt worried at school.  That I feel nervous talking about reading, writing and maths.  She talked to the teacher and the teacher said she hadn't noticed anything.  She isn't lying, she probably hasn't, I hardly ever get to spend time with her.  She's so busy getting all the groups done.  I am going to be sick next week. I want to go back to Kindy, my teachers loved me there and I loved them.  

A Classroom Based on Play (probably a little fast forwarded, but you get the idea, once again based on a child staring in our class.)

I am so excited about starting school.  Everyone has been telling me how amazing it will be.  I enjoyed the visits, but I am a bit worried because everyone seems to know a lot more than me. That's ok though because everyone spent a lot of time playing, and I know I am good at playing.

Today was my first day. I was worried but I loved it.  We spent most of our time playing.  The teacher talked to me a lot, she already knew I like trains, she had asked me at my visits.  We talked some more about trains today.  She showed me where there were some toys I might like, and she showed me where the special train books were.  I spent a lot of time looking at these, they were really interesting, and guess what, the teacher let me take one home.  Wow.  I made a friend too, we hadn't met before, but we played and we both like trains and tomorrow we are going to make our own train track.

Today was my second day.  I made mum bring me early so I could play outside with my friend.  When the bell went, we were allowed to go back outside into the busy.  When we came inside we made our train track and the teacher loved it.  She let us keep it up, we didn't have to pack it up, she knew it was special to us.  My friend likes to draw so I decided to have a go.  It didn't matter that I hadn't drawn before, we just had fun.  We got to make our own books, I ended up turning mine into a paper plane and the teacher thought this was cool.  She took a photo.  Some other kids liked paper planes, so we made some and had a flying competition outside.  The teacher wrote a story about this and sent it home.  Mum was so happy to see how happy I am.  Now I have lots of friends.

Today was my third day.  We were pretend agents today, there was this funny puppet.  It had a funny voice and the teacher made me laugh.  If this is maths, I love it!  There wasn't a right answer, we just made stuff out of popsicle sticks, I knew a lot about triangles and I could help my friends to make them.  Some of the other kids are learning to read.  I asked the teacher if I could read with her, she said yes.  I sat beside her, I even snuggled in and she didn't mind at all.  I made the story up and she said how well she thought I had done.  Then she read the story to me because I asked.  The other kids came and listened to.  It was so much fun I love reading!

Today was my fifth day.  I played in the bush with my friends a lot today.  We had a bit of an argument and the teacher helped us to sort it out because we asked for her help.  She told me I had done well using my words.  I was really happy.  We spent some time on the mat doing writing today.  All we have to do is draw a picture.  The teacher told us a story and drew it out and then she said have a go.  We didn't have to stay long and when we had had enough we could go.  I spent some extra time drawing because I really enjoyed it.  I love writing.  

My mum came in to thank the teacher for making my start to school such a good one.  The teachers said that I had settled in well and have friends.  She is right, I am really happy.  I still like trains, but I also like lots of other things.  I feel so proud of myself.   I like school.  


Obviously this is a rushed version of events, but a very real reflection.  I really want us to be conscious of the stress of we inadvertently cause children.  Why do we think rushing children into magenta as soon as they start school is benefiting them?  That testing them early literacy and numeracy is valuable?  Why do we think that the earlier we get them onto cognitive learning the better?  Where is the research that points to the need to accelerate children beyond their developmental stage, because I certainly have not been able to find any.