Learning through play is a recurring theme in the IB primary years. Parents of children in the early years programme at MIS were invited recently for a workshop with Ms. Helen and Ms. Carla, to help understand how the philosophy works.
In what was a very well-planned session, the first few minutes were spent on a presentation about the concept of learning through play and why it is important. Then, armed with notepads and pens, the participants went in groups to each of the three early years classes to witness first-hand how this principle is implemented in the classrooms everyday. Each of us had to observe with specific emphasis on two learner profile attributes and one approach to learning. Mums of EY1 kids visited the EY3 class, EY2 mums went to the EY1 class and the EY3 mums spent time in the EY2 class.
After about 20 minutes, we returned to the auditorium to share our observations. This was done via two group discussions – first with mums of our own grade and then in mixed groups, with participants from all three grades.
Both segments saw lively conversations about what we had seen. All three classrooms have fluid physical spaces, with three to four activity stations. Children are free to move around, spending as much time as they please at each one. Some of the activities we saw included painting outdoors, craftwork and phonics. All the mums agreed that the open spaces with different activities is a great way to draw kids in and maintain interest. This is especially true for the EY1s, who do need to be prodded along a bit. For EY2 kids, the arrangement is more familiar and they are comfortable moving between tables. The EY3 students are able to follow the teacher’s instruction to make sure they visit each station or complete at least one of the tasks.
Most of us also noted how kids interacted politely with each other and with the teachers. We witnessed more than one instance of peaceful conflict resolution, one even without teacher intervention. Another common comment was the great patience displayed by the teachers while gently facilitating the kids’ progress, but never pushing them – it was a balance mums confessed they struggle to maintain at home!
After this, Ms. Helen and Ms. Carla explained the research and logic behind the way the classes are set up and run, and also offered some ideas on how parents can support such learning in their homes. Finally, we had an opportunity to interact with the homeroom teachers of all three grades. It was great to ask them questions about the workings of the class based on what we all had just seen.
All in all, it turned out to be a fun and informative experience for the dozen mums who attended.
Ms Meenakshi Viswanathan – EY1 class representative.