Monday 19 December 2011

Is free play a waste of time?

A quick Google search brings up many an article on whether or not free play is beneficial to children of a certain age. Those children are four or five years old, in the Foundation stage of school, yet some believe they should have a fully structured day of learning, a lesson time table. Literacy, numeracy, physical education and science lessons to name but a few.

Can children, of that age, be expected to sit and learn with pen and paper for an extended period of time. Would they benefit from such a method? Show me a classroom of "free players" and I'll show you a numeracy, literacy, science, P.E and religious education lesson taking place.

Picture a group of children, playing house. Someone is cooking dinner and someone is waiting at the table. With a little direction this game can become something more educational then a sheet of sums or handwriting guides. The opportunity to develop social skills arises, speech and language, and respect for others. "How many potatoes would you like?" - Hello numeracy, hello manners! Not to mention the development of turn taking and speaking and listening skills. Drop an adult in on the situation and the learning experience can gain more ground. "What colour are the peas?" "Have you been at work today? What job do you do?" And there you have developing imagination at its best. 

Are we currently observing a move to more play orientated learning in the older years as well? Self-directed learning? The push to make learning more hands on. A local primary school recently instigated a powerful hands on learning experience for the children in their school, by creating a "space rock" in the playground. They pulled out all the stops, involving the local PCO's and bringing in science speakers to evaluate the mysterious rock. The children were motivated to learn and actively involved in the lesson. 

Is this method beneficial to all students though? What about catering for all learning styles? Join the debate and share your experiences. 

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