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Problem Solving Through Play
Problem SolvingThrough Play Any narrow conceptualisation of play fails to do justice to the powerful contribution play makes, and ensures that play continues to be 'probably one of the least understood aspects of an early educator's work'. (Tina Bruce, Developing Learning in Early Childhood, 0-8 years, Paul Chapman, 2004)
The value of a problem-solving approach It uses multiple brain pathways which integrate information, using different sensory stimulation and builds new knowledge and understanding. • It provides opportunities for lifelong learning: • communication • working with others • improving own learning and performance • problem solving • information-processing skills • reasoning skills • enquiry skills • creative thinking skills
Key Principles of Problem Solving Activities • Introduction of questioning techniques which improve thinking skills • Giving pupils choice • Developing independent learners • Developing behaviours of Effective Learners: motivation creativity enjoyment of learning ability to concentrate organisation persistence
Where does the problem solving approach fit into today’s curriculum? A CURRICULUM FOR EXCELLENCE • Successful learners enthusiasm and motivation for learning • Confident individuals achieve success in different areas of activity • Responsible citizens respect for others • Effective contributors apply critical thinking, create and develop, solve problems
Background: Our project this year was to address continuity and progression from nursery to primary 1, looking at methodology, principles and practices. We introduced children to problem solving through play experiences, building on their prior learning. We have worked with two primary schools, Kildrum Primary and Rochsolloch Primary and their associated nurseries, Kildrum Nursery Centre and Rochsolloch Nursery Class. • Intended Project Outcomes: • Raising and developing awareness amongst school staff as to the benefits of children approaching • problem solving through play. • Delivering 5-14 targets through a problem solving approach. • Developing and extending children's knowledge of problem solving activities through play. • Strengthening liaison between nursery and school settings. Development of the Project: These two schools approached the challenge of addressing problem solving through play in different ways. Kildrum Primary set up active learning problem solving sessions, lasting one hour four days a week. At most of the activities an adult was present, with key questions that had been previously planned by the class teacher. The Leuven Involvement Scale was introduced as an evaluation tool. Rochsolloch Primary set learning areas similar to the nursery environment and provided challenges which encouraged cross curricular problem solving for one hour, four days a week. During these sessions the teacher and one other adult helper was in the class. Monitoring and evaluation was carried out by the class teacher on a rotational basis.
Planning: • Resource requirements • Time • When • Who • Determine success criteria • Implementation: • Launch and audit • Analysis of audit and identification of staff involved • Involving pupils and generating evidence • Practice in Action: • Review of current practice • Identification of milestones for the project • Inclusion of practical and classroom based activities • Attention to the needs and inclusion of pupils with special needs • .
Benefits of the programme: • Increased liaison between early years establishments and primary • schools • Promoting thinking skills within the classroom environment. • Collaborative group activities in which children can communicate • in a variety of ways • Problem-solving activities that encourage reasoning and enquiry. • Open-ended activities with more than one ‘right’ answer. • Activities which accommodate multiple intelligences. • Activities in which both genders participate freely
Teachers visited associated nursery settings and discussed how resources and language in problem solving activities were used and developed within the nursery. Information about the children’s prior learning was then built upon. The use of problem solving language, reflective investigating, thinking, reasoning and justifying skills was extended and encouraged Examples of problem solving language being developed: • I think….. • I could try….. • I wonder what would happen if……. • Maybe we could……..
Progression & Continuity from Nursery to Primary • Evidence of best practice from across the authority was collated and will • be shared by way of guidelines being distributed to all establishments. • Issues addressed were as follows: • Continuity and progression of learning and teaching environments, • methods and styles. • Continuity and progression of problem solving language. • Methods used to share information about children’s prior learning. • Resources available and how they are used within establishments. • Transition practices throughout the year.
Problem Solving through play encouraged children to: Learn something new Shareideas Work together Concentrate on a task Tidy up carefully Report back and question confidently
Prompts can be used to encourage children to reflect and report back Did you listen to your groups ideas? Did you talk to your group about your ideas? Did you try out some ideas to solve the problem?
Kildrum Primary • Cumbernauld • Strengths: • More active learning is taking place. • Children are encouraged to use a wider variety of resources. • Signing up for activities allow children to make independent choices & allow the teacher to track and monitor which areas the children were involved in. • Children enjoy the experience that active learning is providing. • Children are becoming more confident particularly with other adults. • The use of problem solving language is being developed.
During an interim report session the following points were discussed and would be monitored during following play sessions. • Activities were found to be more adult-led. Child-initiated play would be developed allowing more exploration and investigation by the children. • Group sizing would be addressed as it was found that smaller groups gave better results. • Reporting back sessions would be developed to allow quality feedback from groups and individuals. More time would be spent on children’s questioning skills. • Learning areas, within the class setting would be looked at, in order for them to become a permanent feature within the classroom. This was felt to be a contributing factor to the sustainability of the project.
Kildrum Primary Problem Solving through active learning Inventors & Inventions Challenge Imagine teapots have not been invented yet. What could you use instead of a teapot? How many different materials can you use? What materials are good for a teapot? How many different shapes can you use? Which shapes are good for a teapot? Which shapes are good for pouring?
Children have the opportunity to investigate and experiment with a selection of resources Initial discussion takes place to establish prior learning and knowledge. Children report back to peers and teacher on their findings. After group discussion the children have the opportunity to test their theories. During this session support was given by a primary 7 pupil.
Kildrum Primary Teacher Comments “We are pleased how this initiative is developing – pupils love the “hands on” approach.” “Pupils are more focused and settled in the afternoons” “Great opportunities for pupil / pupil to pupil / adult interaction.” “Good assessment and recording of learning via oral, practical, audio video and photographic evidence.” “The pupils have enjoyed and been actively involved throughout this process, but as teachers we feel it was the process that enabled us to disengaged from the “jumping through hoops” product based curriculum. We now feel confident we are providing appropriate active learning opportunities where pupils can engage in their own and others learning.” Elaine Cliff
Rochsolloch Primary • Airdrie • Strengths: • All activities were class based. • Children had time to explore and investigate. • Good range of activities were provided. • Good links with forward planning were made. • Reporting back sessions were developing well. Children became more confident giving feedback and in their questioning skills. • Positive feed back was given from the children and teacher.
Rochsolloch Primary Airdrie During an interim report session the following points were discussed and would be monitored during following play sessions. Areas to be developed: Problem solving language to be developed Observation and assessment being used to inform future planning Child initiated play Working towards increasing children’s choice of methodology in tasks.
Developed areas within the classroom environment The teacher in Primary 1 looked at the availability of space within the classroom and reorganised areas to allow learning bays to be created; role play, cosy corner, construction area. Group tables are used during play sessions and trolleys containing resources are located nearby to allow children easy access to them. Role play Cosy corner Language area Creative area Computer Area Construction area Mathematics area Language area
Rochsolloch Primary Teacher Quotes “For at least an hour every day children are able to learn solely through play activities. We try to allow the children time, space and choice so that they can complete their tasks in a way that they want to. Mistakes and triumphs are reported back to the class so that everyone can learn from them.” “Without being able to name each problem solving strategy, the children have had experience of all of them, and are learning when and how to use each one.” “For me the best part of this year is that for at least an hour every day I get the opportunity to really talk with my pupils. I love that every child in my class gets the opportunity to shine every day and their successes are recognised and praised by all.” “The learning taking place is more valuable, more worthwhile and less stressful than ever before.” “I have thoroughly enjoyed being part of such a worthwhile project.” Julie Christie
Why we chose play as a vehicle for learning in problem solving activities: • It makes learning fun. • It helps children to develop theories and their own thinking. • It is the start of self-directed learning. • It fosters independence and self-esteem. • It recognises the different needs of individual children to • test boundaries and responds positively to that need. • It often involves open-ended outcomes. • It provides opportunities for children to develop at their own rate through • challenging progressive play. • It provides a secure, stimulating environment which will allow for the • development of the whole child. • It helps children to develop social skills e.g. co-operation, sharing, taking turns • and teamwork. • It allows children to consolidate concepts and make connections across all areas of the curriculum. • We can support children’s development and learning, directly and indirectly, • when play is used as a vehicle for learning. • It allows the children to discover the properties of materials and resources • which lead to the formation of mathematical and scientific concepts. • It organises life's experiences and involves working out and negotiating • what these mean.
Sustainability • Local Authority guidelines, for continuity and progression from early years establishments to primary school, have now been prepared and will be distributed to all establishments throughout the authority. • A DVD has been compiled for staff development, which will be distributed to every primary school. • Leaflets and a DVD have been compiled, for parents, to promote the value of play in children’s learning. • Literacy through play will be addressed next near, as a pilot within a cluster of schools, through a Learning & Teaching initiative. • The sharing of best practice will continue across the authority.