In 2013 the American Academy of Pediatrics released research results indicating the average child spends 8 hours a day in front of a screen (TV, smart phones, video games, computers etc). In the UK 75% of children spend less time outdoors than prison inmates. What are the effects of this sedentary childhood life style, need we be concerned?
Balanced and Barefoot, by Angela Hanscom (founder of Timbernook) highlights how child play has changed over recent decades from playing outside freely with other children in nature or within man made play structures that would be deemed a health and safety (or lawsuit) risk to the sedentary lifestyles of immediate entertainment in a swipe culture of tablets, tvs and video games. Hanscom highlights the effects that we are currently seeing in children with health and cognitive difficulties.
Hanscom references a lot of research highlighting the increase of children having difficulty with poor attention skills, controlling emotions, balance, decreased strength and endurance and weakened immune system. Hanscom believes their is a correlation between these and and changes in play among children. To counter act this change in culture Hanscom is not just advocating a more active lifestyle, but more free play (play which is not led by an adult, so football training for a local team does not count).
When initiating free play children need to come up with play schemes, present their ideas to others in a way that makes them want to play and once a few children are involved they start to negotiate their play and create a more elaborate form of pretend play. This process of play helps to develop creativity, independence and social skills which help them relate to and understand others. Through regular free play children are able to learn their abilities, likes (and dislikes) how to regulate their emotions and become flexible, resilient and capable. Whilst these skills could be be developed in an adult led activity, the child has a greater sense of ownership and sees that they have been able to cope with these situations helping children become successful wit relationships, school and work experiences in later life.
Balanced and Barefoot reads like a manifesto and a manual, using scientific research to highlight issues with child play, whilst also providing a framework for how much play children should have and how to support this.
In preparation for the Early Childhood moving into a multi-million euro Reggio Emilia inspired building we were joined by Elena Giacopini and Matteo Bini from Reggio Emilia to further our understanding of the Reggio approach.
I was coming into this training with little of what Reggio Emilia looks like and how it would affect my practice. Reggio is an approach and not a method and therefore it is a philosophical framework and does not provide any standards or outcomes. Reggio is an inquiry based approach that recognizes that learning is transdisciplinary, based on the theories of social constructivism, and should be student centered, whilst placing a great importance on the environment.
Elena and Matteo constantly provoked and made me question a variety of aspects of how I approach my role in student learning. I do believe that students learn from one another and that they are more engaged when they are not being ‘taught’ at. Upon reflection, there are times when instead of focusing on the students experiences and letting this shape the learning. I sometimes impart my knowledge or funnel students into my way of thinking. Are there times when this is ok? How could some specific skills be taught otherwise?
Documentation of students learning is key at Reggio Emilia, this can be seen through the portfolios which are made and follow the students through the school, to how the day is organized and through teacher meetings and discussions. The challenge that I have been contemplating recently is how do we document the process of learning within PE, I have previously recorded a dance routine that students have done at the end of the unit, placed this within student portfolios, but how did they move through the creative process to this end point. Whilst ‘doing’ is a fundamental part of learning, is it enough? Students and teachers must document and reflect throughout the process.
One of the key focal points of Reggio Emilia is the 100 languages, which Loris Malguzzi, founder of Reggio Emilia, described as the ‘Infinite ways in which children can express, explore and connect their thoughts, feelings and imaginings.’ The Reggio Emilia approach recognizes and appreciates children as competent and naturally curious learners who can express themselves, and we as teachers need to recognize and document how their learning is developing. Jay McTighe highlights the multi-faceted aspects to learning and how we should consider this when assessing ‘An important concept in assessment lies in our understanding of learning and the learning process and a recognition that learning involves much more than just taking in conversation and giving it back. It involves constructing meaning and making sense of things, seeing things from a different perspective and truly developing an understanding of what students are learning’ so if as an inquiry teacher we are hoping to develop students understanding of key concepts we need to design tasks and ask questions which takes students learning from knowledge to understanding.
Here KG students are drawing themselves after climbing a tree, self and peer assessing work. Students talk about body positions/movements/key features whilst considering point of view and use of different materials.
Whilst I regularly observe, question and provoke during PE lessons, how do I document this with each child? Making thinking visible routines having proved extremely useful, but this is only one ‘language’. How often should I conference with students? How is this information stored and shared with other teachers and can other teachers comment on what they have seen? How do I document children reflecting on the process, as this constitutes learning. These will be the questions I will be taking forward, documentation should show the process of student learning, showing both the student and the teacher how their learning developed.