Cedar Elementary School SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

By September 4, 20202019-2020 Case Study

School Name: Cedar Elementary School

School District: SD#68 Nanaimo-Ladysmith

Inquiry Team Members: Joanne Allair Kindergarten: joanne.allair@sd68.bc.ca, Aimee Blow Kindergarten: aimee.blow@sd68.bc.ca, Desiree Hatt Kindergarten Grade 1: Desiree.Hatt@sd68.bc.ca, Katie Loos Grade 1: Kloos01@sd68.bc.ca, Tara Hicks Grade Three Four: Tara.Hicks@sd68.bc.ca, Shona Sneddon Principal: ssneddon@sd68.bc.ca

Inquiry Team Contact Email: joanne.allair@sd68.bc.ca

Type of Inquiry: NOIIE

Grade Levels: Primary (K-3)

Curricular Area(s): Arts Education, Career Education, Language Arts – Literacy, Mathematics / Numeracy, Science, Social Studies, Other: Early Learning Framework

Focus Addressed: Core competencies (for example, critical thinking, communication, problem solving), Experiential learning, First Peoples Principles of Learning, Flexible learning, Formative assessment, Growth mindset, Inclusion and inclusive instructional strategies, Inquiry-based learning, Self-regulation, Social and emotional learning, Universal design for learning, Other: Early Learning Framework Principle: Play is integral to well-being and learning

In one sentence, what was your focus for the year? Our focus was examining the meaning, and our understanding, of the Early Learning Framework principle that “Play is integral to well-being and learning.”

Scanning: To see ‘what is going on for our learners’ we gathered observations, artifacts/photos, talked with and listened to children, our class review information for the 2019-2020 school year, educator reflections, and classroom assessments to date. We used the second and third of the four key questions, specifically, to inquire with children about their understanding of learning at school. We determined that:

• Our students have diverse backgrounds, families, life experiences
• Our classes have wide ranges of strengths and academic levels
• Classes, as a group and as individual children, are benefitting from significant support in self-regulation, interpersonal relationships, and problem solving and play skills
• Play is joyful and feels good and important to our learners
• We see their interests and curiosities emerging through play
• Behaviour and expressed preferences indicate students crave movement, choice, participation, play, and social interactions
• Early primary students are constructing their ideas of what learning happens at school through their lived experiences of school
• Our actions and pedagogical decisions affect children’s experience of school and their sense of joy, well-being, and belonging

Our curiosity was awakened as we considered what we know about our learners and read the principles and living inquiries of the revised Early Learning Framework. How does play contribute to children’s sense of well-being and learning? What is our role?

Focus: We chose the principle “Play is integral to well-being and learning” from the Early Learning Framework, to focus our inquiry. This came about as we brought together our common interest in the importance of play in our learners’ learning and our own curiosity to explore how play contributes to their well-being, as we begin to experiment with the Early Learning Framework. We hope this helps children feel valued and validated, and contributes to our capacity to see and support learning as a holistic process, even when it requires us to disrupt some common practices or views.

Hunch: Our hunch is that paying attention to the role of play in children’s developing sense of well-being and learning, will help us teach and respond to children holistically – to see their gifts – to help children develop positive relationships, personal identity, and for them to see their strengths and the strengths of others.

Our second hunch is that this will require us to reflect on and explore our views of children, learning, school, play, and relationships. We believe we can experiment with ways in which educators can listen, notice, name, and nurture learning. We think this will also cause us to reflect on and explore assessment/reporting practices, as the curriculum is brought to life through our learners’ play.

One assumption we hold is that pedagogical narration, as described by the Early Learning Framework, will further support growth in understanding about well-being and learning for our learners and other educators. How does the practice of listening and observing in the process of pedagogical narration, become assessment practices that are meaningful to all: our learners, families, educators, and administrators?

New Professional Learning:
• Collaborating to develop our process and product of pedagogical narration
• Listening and observing, to understand how we can scaffold and extend children’s play-based learning with intentionally chosen rich materials
• Engaging in conversations together about these actions and reflections
• Reflecting and collaborating about how to share this type of learning with parents and the wider community

BC’s Early Learning Framework was our main common resource. Some team members explored some of Dr. Gordon Neufeld’s work around play.

This part of our work was interrupted due to the COVID-19 suspension of in-class instruction. Our initial plan was to create a large printed pedagogical narration with visual images of our journey together, to share with school staff colleagues and at our district showcase. As part of our plan, we began working on a bulletin board display to share our classroom practice and reflections about the continuum of pedagogical strategies for play-based learning, as outlined in the Early Learning Framework. We hoped to spark wonder and dialogue with colleagues, and make visible the types of play and effects of play for our school community.

Taking Action: The action that we were able to accomplish prior to the pandemic and during our at-home remote collaboration, was to engage in deep and reflective professional conversations about:

• What is play – for all ages; what do families and broader community think play is; are all kinds of play equal (do all kinds of play contribute to well-being and learning)
• The value of play and how play is valued – in school and out of school
• The role of play in general, but also during the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic response and in the kinds of educational plans and supports teachers offered; what and how we were communicating with parents and families
• The role of play in learning – is it different than learning; the language we use when we talk about play and learning; how the expectations we have impact children’s play and our actions
• Beginning to define play for our team in our context, to be able to share and build on this understanding in our work and our community

These discussions were both theoretical and practical, and even though this action was at distance from children in classrooms, we feel a great benefit to our practice from having had them and carry these thoughts, beliefs, and ideas forward with us.

Our experience of thinking about play during the stay-at-home phase of the pandemic response, gave rise to the unexpected but welcome opportunity to engage in dialogue and information sharing with families about these ideas as well, as we tried to support play at home as learning opportunities. We are interested in thinking more together with families about play – sharing information, listening to home play experiences, creating holistic connection between home and school, and inviting families more to be a part of this work.

Checking: Due to the interruption of the pandemic, we feel like we are on a path to making a significant difference in our practice and in the experiences of the children we teach. We would certainly seek opportunity to continue to collaborate together, and with students, to further enact and observe play in the learning lives of children.

We know from mid-point conversations with students that opportunities to play, opportunities to play their own ideas, and opportunities to play for extended periods of time, makes a significant impact on children’s experience of school and a significantly positive impact. They specifically name play as their most cherished part of the school day and most impactful situation of learning and relationship building.

Reflections/Advice: It is clear to us that play is integral and critical to the well-being and learning of children. We plan to continue to explore this understanding and the role of teachers, school, families, and children themselves.

– We suggest professional learning and reading about play and how learning happens.
– We suggest creating and protecting time in program for child-led play (rather than fitting it around what is usually perceived as “academics”).
– We suggest being reflective about pedagogical choices related to play; paying attention to the kinds of play available to children; the frequency and duration of play; and paying attention to the affordances of play, by being present and available to listen, observe, and reflect on the moments and movements of play.
– We suggest that forms of pedagogical narration will be critical to supporting the kind of play that is integral to well-being and learning, which will then impact the methods of assessment and reporting to be able to reflect an authentic image of the child, their relational learning experiences, and progress.

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