Play Based Learning in a remote community
As a teacher in a remote Indigenous Community in Australia I work with children who typically are in the 'hard to teach' category. Our kids don't speak English at home, live in poverty, experience little or no positive discipline at home and generally experience a high rate of trauma and abuse. These are the kids who are known for classroom behaviours such as hitting, biting, swearing at teachers and each other, running around, destroying classrooms, not focussing, not learning, being years behind their mainstream peers and generally providing a nightmare environment for teachers to work in. This is not an unusual picture of remote teaching.
I'd like to present a different picture for you, however. Each morning my class lines up outside our room, they enter the room and sit down waiting for the day to start. We mark the roll, put on our uniforms (which are not sent home as we'd never see them again) talk about the date, construct our daily sentences, have a mini-lesson on the learning intentions for the day and then we start to play.
You see, we use a play based pedagogy in our early years classroom. 3 year levels work in the same room each day. They write, they read, they interact positively and they learn. We use a pedagogy devised by Kathy Walker which involves students having free access to around 8 learning centres designed to engage children in creating, role playing, tinkering, painting, building and problem solving. Each centre has relevant books, environmental print and writing materials and children are encouraged to record the results of their play. The role of the teacher during these sessions is to facilitate. I do not lead children too much in their endeavours, but rather tap into their interests and engage with them at the point in the learning that they are working at. It is a lovely, organic way of teaching and learning and one that brings me great joy. My students have learnt self regulation, concentration, positive interactions and sharing and that their risk taking can lead to positive outcomes.
Of course, we engage in explicit teaching throughout the rest of the day but this free and calming start to our school days helps to set us up for great success. I have watched this group of little people go from totally crazy, unskilled creatures to engaged, happy and contributing students.
See pictures of my classroom in my blog post http://www.multisenselearning.com/home_school_blog/2013/6/Just-back-off-
I feel lucky to have a found a way of classroom teaching that speaks to my most authentic self and get up every day knowing that I am making a positive difference in the life of my students.