TEACHER PROFESSIONAL LEAVE: TEAM OF TEACHERS
Sherrill McKinnon, Bungaree Primary School Rhonda Stephens, Black Hill Primary School Chris Rossiter, Black Hill Primary School
KNOWLEDGE BANK http://www.sofweb.vic.edu.au/knowledgebank October 2005 Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum
Sherrill McKinnon, Rhonda Stephens and Chris Rossiter investigated pedagogy for teaching junior children in a developmentally appropriate manner. This consisted of visits to schools embracing a variety of philosophies including Steiner, Reggio Emilia and Play Based Curriculum. As their knowledge increased they have put many of the strategies into place and evaluated the effects on their students.
Knowledge Bank Template for Teacher Professional Leave Team 1. Title Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum 2. Type of activity undertaken through Teacher Professional Leave Our project based learning has involved some action research; investigative study; literature reviews; visits to schools using a variety of approaches to learning, including play based curriculum and cocoaching of the other members of our teams. 3. Context of schools Our schools are in the Grampians Region. Bungaree Primary School is a small rural school situated approximately 12 kilometres from Ballarat. There are 35 students from Prep to Grade 6, with 2 full time teaching staff, 2 part-time teaching staff and 1 part-time aide. The community consists of a mixture of farming and Ballarat commuters with quite a high rental population. Sherrill’s class of Prep/1/2 has eight children in Prep, three children in Grade 1 and two children in Grade 2 (with a total of six girls and seven boys). Sherrill has taught at Bungaree for over eleven years in the infant area and has taught entire families including their extended families. The classroom is an old portable building which also needs to house the children’s computers as there is no computer lab in the school. The children go to another room for Art. Bungaree is in the like school group number 7. Black Hill Primary School is a large school of 480 students situated in the city of Ballarat. Most of the children live locally and their parents work in the area. There are about 38 members of staff including the administration staff, 21 class teachers, specialist teachers in Music/Drama, Physical Education and Art/LOTE and seven integration aides. There are five Prep classes at Black Hill. Chris and Rhonda teach *Pathways/Prep classes of 18 children each (8 girls and 10 boys in Chris’ class; 10 girls and 8 boys in Rhonda’s class), sharing a large double room. We sometimes combine the classes for activities but usually work with our own groups. We hope to do more team teaching in term 4. Black Hill is in like school group 4. *Pathways is a pre-prep year established at Black Hill in 2004. 4. Area that TPL addresses We have investigated pedagogy for teaching junior children in a developmentally appropriate manner. This has consisted of visits to schools embracing a variety of philosophies including Steiner, Reggio Emilia and Play Based Curriculum. We have also embarked on wide reading, discussion and co-coaching within our school teams. Readings have included brain development research as well as recent investigations into the way children learn. As our knowledge has
increased we have put many of the strategies into place and evaluated the effects on our students. 5. What you are trying to do or improve? How was the problem identified? This focus was initially chosen as we observed the readiness of children to learn in a school environment and their subsequent engagement (or lack of) in classroom activities. We have felt that we were pushing some children into more formal literacy and numeracy work before they were ready. As the project proceeded we became very interested in child centred philosophies which use play and projects to engage children and give them purpose for their learning. 6. What has been achieved? We have vastly improved our understandings of child development and the way young children learn. Of special interest is the way children scaffold their learning and the role teachers can play in this. Our pedagogy has been modified to allow for children’s interests and purposeful play. This has led to increased engagement in ALL class activities. 7. What has been learnt? We had underestimated the value of play in the curriculum. Children know a LOT more than we think they do and can demonstrate this in a play situation. Children can learn from each other as much as their teachers. We need to listen more, observe more and give the children opportunities to direct their own learning. 8. How this learning has been applied (or intended to apply) to practice? We have instigated daily play sessions in our classrooms. We have observed children at play, documented and acted upon our observations which has led to the development of topics of interest for study. 9. How the application of the new knowledge/skills has impacted on student learning outcomes? NOTE: We envisage this to be a long term project and will continue evaluation throughout the year. The end of year data will be an excellent indication of the long term success of this approach. Impact Increased engagement and enthusiasm for learning and school in general – especially in boys. Improved oral language skills, cooperative interactions, turn taking, sharing and negotiation of roles. Children choose to undertake Measures used Observation, anecdotal notes, recording and transcripts of conversations, checklists.
literacy and numeracy activities of their own volition. Classroom activities have become more open ended and allow for a greater degree of problem solving.
What you hope to achieve in the next six months? We would like to refine our planning structures and continue with the concept of developmentally appropriate curriculum including free and directed play. We will improve our observation techniques and use those observations to further inform our teaching.
Further information on Leave We are currently developing a mini thesis on this project, including research, reflections, practical applications, photographs, observation checklists and a large bibliography.
Contact details of the lead teacher Chris Rossiter Black Hill Primary School Tel: 5332 4544 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Individual Team Member Response: Sherrill McKinnon, Bungaree PS 1. The specific area you have addressed within the team TPL focus. My specific area has been to allow the children, especially the boys, the freedom to explore activities thereby giving me the opportunity to observe: social interactions, their interests and their existing knowledge. Using the observations gained, I hoped to develop an area of study for the whole class and by exploiting their interests raise the level of enthusiasm for learning. 2. Your role within the team My role was to meet with the other members, contribute thoughts and ideas to implementing the classroom focus; participate in school visits, contribute to theoretical findings through reading and précis work, contributing to the Cluster website through reflections and mentoring other teachers from my own school and from Black Hill. 3. What you have achieved? School visits to Collingwood College, Spensely St Primary School and Bialik College and a future visit to Findon College, to view varying approaches to teaching in the early years. Regular discussions with colleagues, during and after school visits, reading and research. Peer coaching involving a fellow teacher at Bungaree and a visiting teacher from Black Hill. The planning and preparation of the classroom prior to instigating the program. The collecting of resources and equipment needed. The development, and the use of checklists as a focus point for our observations. 4. What you have learnt Key Learning Revised the stages of physical and emotional development of young children and how they learn. Looked at the organizational set up of classrooms and the planning needed. Learned about the philosophy behind Steiner and Reggio Emilia. Learned about the need for good documentation and the need to accurately record children’s interactions/conversations. Learning activities that most promoted learning Kathy Walker, Consultant, Developmental Programming Maureen Douglas, Principal, Spensely Street, Clifton Hill. Collingwood Consolidated, Spensely Street and Bialik. Daphne Gaddie, Head of Early Learning Centre, Bialik
How children’s learning is scaffolded and how they learn new concepts.
Extensive reading through many publications, including the resources of the Resource Centre at the Lady Gowrie Centre.
How this learning has been applied (or intended to apply) to practice? Daily time has been allocated to allow children to explore activities in which they are interested. The room has been changed in order to allow areas for exploration and resources have been added that try to encourage a creative flow of ideas. I have learned to use the time to observe and listen to children’s interactions and I have refined many times my ability to note down my observations and act on them. I have planned a unit of work for the whole class in our General Studies time, which was based on interest shown by two boys during Developmental Play.
Individual Team Member Response: Rhonda Stephens, Black Hill PS 1. The specific area you have addressed within the team TPL focus. I have focussed on the practical area of Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. This has included what it looks like in the classroom; finding out the learning needs of the children and matching ‘play’ activities to these needs. 2. Your role within the team. My role in this project included: being involved in a number of visits to schools in the metropolitan area discussion with colleagues in relation to school visits professional reading in regard to Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum undertaking practical activities in the classroom to determine the effectiveness of play to enhance student learning this included the development and trialling of a checklist devised to monitor children’s skills and behaviours contributing to the Cluster website through reflections. 3. What you have achieved. school visits to Collingwood College, Spensely St PS and Bialik College to view varying approaches to teaching in the early years. discussion with colleagues during and after school visits, reading and research. peer coaching involving play sessions and ongoing discussions with colleagues in regard to the benefits, disadvantages and ways we can improve what we are doing in our classrooms the introduction of directed ‘play’ sessions in the classroom rather than worksheet type activities to introduce and reinforce understandings the use of checklists to determine the needs of the children I am envisaging that my method of planning will now change to allow for a greater input from the children so that while I will have a general structure of what needs to be covered, many of the ideas will be child generated. 4. What you have learnt. Key Learning I now have a greater understanding of the developmental stages of children and activities which promote learning at different stages Learning activities that most promoted learning Professional Development with Kathy Walker Professional reading e.g. Developmentally Appropriate Practice (NYEYC)
That learning through ‘play’ can be purposeful, powerful and rigorous
Practical activities in the classroom; learning through hands-on tasks including games, manipulative toys, construction sets, role play activities As above
That students are more engaged when learning is tailored to their particular needs and styles 5.
How this learning has been applied (or intended to apply) to practice? As a result of my school visits, readings and research I have a greater understanding of the importance and relevance of play activities to promote learning in the early years. My program now allows for both free and directed play sessions with clear objectives in mind for student learning. I use checklists and an assessment grid to note the competencies and needs of particular children and this guides the activities I offer in following sessions. I am aware that developmentally appropriate curriculum varies depending on the children’s interests and abilities and does not exclude pencil and paper activities. In fact while children have enjoyed the use of manipulative materials they have also been eager to make their own books, write lists for the supermarket etc. Learning through play can as rigorous and thorough as a more formal approach.
Individual Team Member Response: Chris Rossiter, Black Hill PS 1. The specific area you have addressed within the team TPL focus During term 1 and again in term 3 I have been out of the classroom acting as Assistant Principal at Black Hill. As a result I have focussed more on theories of brain development, readings on various approaches to teaching young children and research on Developmentally Appropriate Curriculum. 2. Your role within the team My role was to be the contact person for our group and regional staff, to arrange visits to various schools and organise the CRT replacements. We met to discuss our experiences and share knowledge from our readings. We exchanged books we had accessed and web addresses we found useful. At Black Hill we had coaching sessions within our professional learning team. I have contributed to the Cluster website through reflections on my learning. 3. What you have achieved I have achieved a deeper understanding of the way children learn through play and the ability to harness that play to scaffold the learning process. Engagement and enthusiasm have been enhanced by the relaxed yet active learning. 4. What you have learnt Key Learning Understanding of the physical, creative, social, emotional and brain development of young children. Learning activities that most promoted learning. Reading various child development and psychology books and latest research on the internet. Observing behaviour of children at different stages.
I am more informed about educational approaches such as Steiner, Reggio Emilia and Play Based Curriculum. (Viagetti approach next)
I have gained a profound appreciation of the value of play for young children.
Visits to Collingwood College, Spensely Street, Lady Gowrie Centre and Bialik College, plus research. (Findon Primary School to come)
Initial professional development with Kathy Walker, focussed observation during play sessions and the sharing of understandings with colleagues.
How this learning has been applied to practice? Daily play sessions have been incorporated into the curriculum. The children’s play is valued as a vehicle to promote learning. The use of worksheets has been enormously reduced and the program is much more ‘hands on’. I believe that children’s various learning styles are better catered for as they choose their learning approaches. Literacy and numeracy progress is strong and the children are highly engaged. As the year progresses I hope to move even more towards a project based approach such as Reggio Emilia.