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Why we need to play more…

Being in a small school has its own particularities compared to my old setting.  Combining classes for things (all staff had a meeting with the HT, after an observation, last week) is fairly normal so we have to take a flexible approach to things.

However this can be done without compromising educational outcomes in anyway and can be used to the advantage of the pupils.

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On Thursday night it had snowed.  Not lots, but enough to give our school field a blanket-like covering.  Friday morning we did our usual whole school GoNoodle session then decided we would take the children outside in the snow to play.  Watching children interact like this always fascinates me; the children who had never seen snow ranged from over-the-top excitement to reflective curiosity.  Children who remembered playing in the snow instinctively knew what to do and set about making the biggest snowballs they could.  The problem solving was immense; children could work out how to make the ball bigger (rolling) but then didn’t quite understand that our field is on a slope to the mounds had to pe pushed back up the hill to make our caterpillar (linked to the Reception book of the week…)

Children worked in teams of their own choosing – more confident/competent children could be seen moving around groups to offer advice and cajole the less confident.  Age became irrelevant as everyone had a job to do.  Faces were getting redder, hands and feet getting colder but nobody was bothered (except another member of staff that I had to lend my gloves to!)

The key to this kind of learning is to take the opportunities we are presented with.  It would have been easier to sit inside and look at the snow out of the window but it was far more challenging to go out and play with it.  Children’s vocabulary increased whilst they were working in their mixed groups and, even after an hour, they didn’t want to come back inside.

Occasionally, just occasionally, we have to put the curriculum aside.  Children can learn in any circumstance and giving them this real-world playing time did have a positive effect on the work produced in the whole school that day.  Harnessing their excitement and directing it is a powerful tool for any teacher to have; having the faith as a school leader to allow this to happen as a whole school activity shows that there is a high degree of trust between HT and staff.

[image from torange.biz – tagged for reuse without modification]

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