Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Independent Play in Year 2

As teachers we want nothing more than to have children who keep themselves clean and tidy and never make a mess right? WRONG! What I think a lot of people presume is that if children are sat listening attentively and then carrying out instructions to do exactly what you have just told them to do then they are 'learning' WRONG (please feel free to read any political angle you like into this post!)!!!

Anyone who spends time with children knows full well that messy and chatty usually means investigating, enquiring, collaborating and learning is taking place.
However, I am often surprised by the amount of people (I sadly include some teachers here too) who once the children are past Foundation Stage, totally expect them to have 'grown-up'- I'd like to hop in a time machine and see how 'grown-up' they were at 6 and 7!

Yes, I totally accept that quiet time where children get on with the task at hand is, by Year 2 anyway, a common and necessary part of the day- hey, I am not judging, certainly if you walk into my classroom this will also be the case- particularly every Friday morning as we engage in our BIGwrite, but this is definitely not the norm!

It's lucky then that I get to work in a school which believes that learning through play is not something to be left behind in the Foundation Stage but which should be embraced throughout out the children's time in school. My classroom is rarely at voice level 0 (no matter how hard I try during 'Reading to Self') but I can honestly say it is worthwhile, task focused chatter which fills the air, especially during independent time.
Polar themed Small World and Reading Den
I only get 2 uninterrupted afternoons with my children (by this I mean where I am actually in class and we don't have to go out for P.E.) and half of one of these is Golden Time so it's vital I squeeze every opportunity for learning in that I can.  The obvious joy of independent play is that they are learning without really realising it- they think it's all their own idea and often it is!

Here is an overview of how our only 'whole' afternoon session runs-
We discover our new Learning Challenge question (we follow the Focus Curriculum) and usually spend 15-20 mins discussing, thought showering, exploring a stimulus and planning our next steps in learning. I then work with a small group at a time on an activity relating directly to the LC question whilst the rest of the children explore the independent areas.

Opportunities for independent play on offer on any given afternoon include a range of continuous provision activities (CPA) including-
Role Play Area, Small World, Dressing Up
Space themed Small World
           Interest Table, Research Table, Computers,

Independent Research
Listening Area, Reading Den, Writing Table,
Puppet Theatre, Craft Area, Maths Area,
Space Dough in the Creative Area
Creative Area- Messy Play
Independent Maths

Construction Area
Rockets in the Construction Area
These are always enhanced with new elements each week or half-term to reflect our Learning Challenge.

My children rotate around these areas and activities in a very free and relaxed manner- they know the rules and are not allowed to leave an area until I call for the next group and can only then join an area if there is space- they cannot demand that someone leaves. I know that at first glance you might think that the same children will gravitate towards the same areas every time but I always start the session off by offering each area at a time and we have a number limit so I simply 'fill' each area with the children I want in it so that those who would normally stick in a particular area are forced to choose somewhere else by default, plus this is only how 1 and 1/2 of my afternoons run so its not like 'Little Jessie' is in the Construction Area EVERY afternoon!

One of the things I try hard to do is ensure that each area offers the children the chance to either write, mark make or develop their motor skills and if I can squidge a little maths in there too…mores the better!

I am blessed with a class who are very self motivated but this is due to the fact that they have worked this way for all of their school life and have received nothing but positive praise and rewards for their learning and development during independent time- whether that be for the learning of a new fact, solving how to get the pompoms down the tube run, persevering with a jigsaw, writing a story or simply (hey lets be real) collaborating in a kind and productive manner with others. They have learnt that independent play is truly learning for learning sake and not mine!

Do you embrace Independent Play?
Any and all ideas are welcome so please feel free to comment or contact me

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