A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for September, 2011

Wordless Wednesday

28th September 2011

Warm and Cool Colours

One of our favourite books is One by Kathryn Otoshi and it explores the connection between colours and feelings. This provoked a conversation about colours being warm and cool and we decided to explore this further.










First we looked at cool colours because blue was the first colour we met in the book, One. We looked at and discussed art images using blues and  greens. We talked about the difference in shades and how they effected the feeling of the images. We also talked about the lines that could represent ice breaking and what these might look like.

One of the pictures we observed carefully was this one by Picasso.






We explored his inclusion of yellow and red/brown in the painting and how it effected the feel of the painting and compared it with this very different picture that exclusively used blues and purples.







When it came time to create our own cool colour drawing, we used our observations for ideas. The children decided that “sharp”, “pointy” and “zigzag” lines would be best and drew 3 of each from the top to the bottom of the page. Next they turned their page around by 1/4 and drew another 3 lines from 1 side to another. The children then filled in the shapes they had created on the page using various shades of blue and green.










Once all the shapes were filled with colour, a white oil pastel was used to outline them with some children drawing zigzag lines in white over the top as well.









We used the same process when exploring warm colours. Here is one of the images we observed.










We also discussed what a fire looks like and the kind of lines that are created by flames and heat. The children decided that they would like to represent warm colours using “wavy” lines and this is the kind of lines they drew across their page from 1 side to the other. Just like with the cool colour drawing except “wavy not spikey”.









Once again the children chose the colours, selecting shades of red, yellow, orange and brown “just like in a fire”.










When complete some children chose to outline their warm shapes in a warm colour and highlight them using wavy lines.









Unfortunately I don’t have a photo to show you but when placed together the cool and warm effects were quite spectacular, with every image different yet belonging, a bit like the individual colours in the book. 









Our warm and cool colour investigation was an interesting part of a larger one on colour and light. Whilst these activities seem prescriptive, their purpose was about the process of representing their observations and thinking. The knowledge and understandings they gained through these particular activities have been demonstrated over and over again as the children comment on the colours used in other media including book illustrations and videos. They have also transferred these understandings into their own art, using them imgainatively and creatively.

I Spy Sight Word Bottles

By the end of the year my preppies need to know 50 sight words. Here is one of the fun ways we revise the words that have already been taught……. I Spy Sight Word bottles.










I printed off and laminated the words according to what colour list they are from and put them in a plastic bottle filled to approx. 1/3 with rice. After the words are inside I topped off the bottle to approx.2/3 with more rice. This leaves enough room for the children to shake the bottles to find their words.










Some of the games we have played with them include I Spy where 1 child finds and names a word and the others find the word in their bottle and Bingo. In this game they have a bingo type card and need to write down the words they see . The first child to fill all the spaces on their card is the winner.

I first saw this idea on  Tunstalls Teaching Tidbits where she has lots of fabulous ideas for uses for discovery bottles. Here is the link.


When I make the next set of bottles with words inside, I will make sure I print the word on both sides of the paper as this will make it easier for the children as they shake, turn and  the move the rice around inside the bottle.

Arrrrrrrgh …….there be pirate stories to be told!

There’s been a lot of buzz about story stones on the blogosphere over the last few months and now that it is school holidays, I have finally been able to make some of my own.

It was recently Talk Like a Pirate Day and in honour of that day I thought I would make some story stones around the pirate theme.










Last school holidays I had made some alphabet, counting and sight word stones and still had plenty of left over rocks.I purchased some acid free stickers with pirate images on them and stuck them on the rocks. I painted 2 coats of PVA glue over the top. This glue dries clear and seals the stickers onto the stones.










The sticker pictures came in different sizes, adding mathematical language to the stories as well.










To store the stones I cut a square of red ticking fabric which can also act as a mat for telling the stories.













When finished, the children can bundle up the stones inside the fabric and using some thick cord, made into a loop, secure them inside ready for next time.













On the other side of the fabric, a treasure map could be drawn to add to the story telling. To stimulate dramatic play I have added some golden beads to the pirate bundle.

I’m now going to make some more generic story stones using other stickers I’ve collected.

Here are the links to my other posts about the sight word and alphabet stones.



The Gentle Sound of Colour

Whilst investigating colour and light I placed some glass bottles filled with coloured water near one of our large bright windows. These bottles caught the children’s eye and invited them to explore the way the light shines through them and the effect of different coloured bottles being put together to reveal a new colour through the light.











Whilst playing with the bottles the children enjoyed the sound they made when knocked together. The next day I placed some glass jars with coloured water near another window along with a small silver fork.











The children seemed to be drawn to these as well and enjoyed making their own music, exploring and experimenting with the different sounds and ways to tap the jars with the fork.

In another area of the room they were provided with more glass jars and jugs of coloured water which they poured and filled and emptied to varying levels observing the differences in sounds and tones. They explored this simple music making experience for a long time and when they moved on and began to play and explore new ideas and interests I chose to leave the original bottles and jars in the classroom.











Even now, after several weeks have passed and the classroom is busy and loud, I often hear the gentle tinkling sounds of the coloured water and look over to see a child enjoying the process of making music.

Egg Cups and Beads

Here is a simple and inexpensive fine motor activity that can be revisited over and over again. It is quite sculptural and very colourful. To enhance the process further you can encourage the children to make patterns using the beads.













The base for these are the wire egg cups that can be purchased at most “cheap shops.” I bought a set of four egg cups for $2.95.







I stretch the egg cups out so that there is more space between the spirals and the children thread pony beads onto the wire.










Easy and attractive!

The Wedding Castle Part 3 – Playing in Prep and the National Curriculum

Following on from where we left off, this is the nuts and bolts part of the lecture where we finally get to discuss the practical side of implementing the National Curriculum using a play pedagogy.

Here are the links to Parts 1 and 2 of my lecture –



Along with group planned ideas, some children initiated individual ideas and worked on these independently, seeking help when necessary. This sometimes hidden learning, demonstrates the richness of a child negotiated, play based  pedagogy. I say hidden because in the following example I did not know what had been created until I found it inside the horse I brought in to show you.

Inside the saddle bag of this particular horse which belonged to the “Chief Knight” I found some green paper and written on it was “The Inspecchin”.













When I opened it up I found a carefully drawn map of the classroom castle and the route the knights need to take when guarding the castle against the foes. The knight has identified the windows with a w and the door with a d. The route that needs to be followed on horse back is marked with an h.










Another child was observed looking at a book about organising a party and he explained that he was finding out how to write an invitation.










Invitations were on our list of things to do and I decided to use this as an opportunity to explore the genre and revisit learning from a prior investigation. Once again, using the IWB, we looked at different kinds of wedding invitations and the children decided through a democratic vote that they wanted to use a border (n0 flowers, wedding bells etc.). We “googled” borders and quickly chose the one on the slide. We then created the text for the invitation, problem solving and discussing what information was needed by the guests. Once the invitations were composed, they were printed on paper, again chosen by the children through a vote (lots of counting and recording was practiced). Every child chose a friend (by Lucky Dipping a name out of a box) and wrote their friends name on an invitation.










Earlier in the year we had learnt our addresses whilst investigating the postal system and I decided that this was a good opportunity to revisit this learning by posting the invitations to the children. All the children were given “homework” and needed to write down their address at home that night and bring it to prep the next day so we could address the envelopes. I could have gotten the children to write on the envelopes but I knew that some of their hand writing would be difficult to read by the post office and decided to scribe the addresses, with the children recalling or reading it from their “homework”.










The day after the invitations arrived, the children bounced in the door very excited about receiving them in their letterboxes at home. I asked them if they were attending the wedding so we could count/record the number of guests. One of the children came in and gave me a note which I opened………










It was an RSVP which her mother had helped her write. She was very excited because “we found the same border on the computer.” This letter provoked a whole new discussion involving literacy as we shared the text together as a class.

In order to ensure my children are exposed to, and given lots of opportunities to learn and practice the necessary literacy skills and knowledge I need to ensure we have a very text rich environment. One of the ways I do this is through our Word Walls. These walls are close to the writing and drawing areas and feature Sight Words and other commonly used/needed words such as ticket, open, closed, Happy Birthday and love, as well as vocabulary words relevent to our current learning, investigations and play.










As our play progresses we add words to the wall. Often, if you search the internet, these vocabulary/word cards can be found already made up, ready to print but sometimes we make them ourselves, which was the case with the wedding words.










These Word Walls are another place for the children to look for assistance when they make signs etc. and when we “Have a Go” write.










I try to timetable “Have a Go” writing into the program at least 3 times a week. Sometimes the children are given a topic to write about, usually involving our current interests, which is what these samples are taken from, they have free choice or it can be, for example, a recount such as a diary entry of something that they have done that day or of a story.

Here is a link to a previous post about these sessions.


The National Curriculum elaborations for English under Creating Texts state children should be –

  •  creating short spoken, written and multimodal observations, recounts and

    descriptions, extending vocabulary and including some content-specific words in

    spoken and written texts

  • using beginning concepts about print, sound–letter and word knowledge and

    punctuation to create short texts


and the Achievement Standard states

Students write one or more simple sentences to retell events and experiences for a known audience. Their writing is connected appropriately to illustrations and images produced as part of the text. They link two or more ideas or events in written and spoken texts. They use and understand familiar vocabulary, predictable text structures and common visual patterns. The short texts they produce show understanding of concepts about print including letters, words and sentences. They use left to right directionality, return sweep and spaces between words. They handwrite most lower case and some upper case letters, and use some capital letters and full stops. Their writing shows some evidence of the use of sound–letter knowledge.

As well as the example slide above, here is another example of my children’s writing.










The above example was written by one of my most immature children. You can see where he is applying letter sound knowledge when he writes protect as protekt, and where he is using environmental clues for words such as castle. He is also applying his knowledge of sight words such as “the” and puntuation. He was able to share his text with me. It was I am a castle knight. Knights protect the wedding castle.

These examples demonstrate the range of abilities of the children in my class. although the first example is not my “best writer”. They also demonstrate the range of developmental stages in terms of drawing body images and drawing representation in general. With a whole term still to go, I feel confident that all the children in my class will achieve the English Standard stated above for Text Creation.










The children’s ability to symbolise their experiences through writing is clearly demonstrated when you look at these examples and all of it has been achieved through the implementation of a play based pedagogy.











Knowing that play is the way children learn best and trying to address all the issues that a National Curriculum imposes upon our young children and their education has caused me to think long and hard about my philosophy and pedagogy. When the initial draft of the National Curriculum was first released I wondered how I was going to assist my children to achieve the higher expectations and standards especially when I took into consideration the developmental readiness of children to be able to read and write.  I still believe that you can’t teach children to read until they are developmentally ready but I also believe that if you immerse them in lots of literacy opportunities and experiences, when they are develomentally ready, they will soar.

I was very concerned about the initial standards and also if we were going to be told how to teach them. To address these concerns about the Draft Standards my colleagues and I took the opportunity to leave feedback on the ACARA site, as did many other teachers across the country. I am very happy to say that the current standards have addressed many of the concerns raised and the curriculum is all content, not pedagogy.










 Knowing that the literacy and numeracy outcomes were higher than those our children were achieving, our principal decided to send all 4 Prep teachers to Melbourne last year, to observe their methods and discuss pedagogy, resources etc with our Victorian colleagues.










Why Melbourne? Because Victoria is currently the leading state in Literacy and Numeracy standards in the country.

We were very excited about this Professional Development opportunity and spent 2 days in Melbourne visiting 4 schools, 2 state and 2 private, in socio-economic areas similar to our own. The 2 private schools visited were of special interest to us as 1 was a Reggio Emilia school and the other was an International Baccalaureate (IB) school. The IB school was chosen because the previous year another Prep teacher and I had attended an IB conference in Sydney where we were inserviced on the IB philosophy in the Early Years. The IB philosophy was one that the school was interested in implementing at the time.

What did we see? In all 4 schools we observed Literacy Rotations in the morning session and Numeracy sessions in the middle session. After lunch the sessions were varied. In 2 schools the children played with resources in the classroom and in the other schools they were involved in inquiry/investigation/project work.

What did we think? Whilst we could understand why the teachers in the schools visited were teaching using rotations we thought we would like to try and continue with our play pedagogy and attempt to meet the English standards over the rest of the year. Our mutual decision to do this provoked some interesting, reflective professional discussions about pedagogy and the practicalities of our decision. We were accompanied on this trip by our Deputy Principal who, I think. thought that we would decide to use the Victorial model, but after listening to and participating in our discussions over breakfast, lunch and dinner was supportive of our decision and helped us to clarify some of our thinking and solve some of the problems we needed to resolve.

 A Philosophical Challenge – Whilst we had made a decision to continue with our play pedagogy our other challenge was in considering if an Emergent Curriculum could be melded with the content of the National Curriculum.











 An Emergent curriculum is one that is derived from the children’s interests and the National Curriculum is content driven. I believe that the 2 can coexist due to the open ended nature of the National Curriculums elaborations. Whilst the elaborations are very explicit they also allow for freedom in terms of the how they are taught. “It’s really easier to teach emergently. It’s more playful and more fun…What we learn is what we care about.” —Dr. Betty Jones, Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena


For example in the Biological Science section of the Science curriculum the children need to learn that

Living things have basic needs, including food and water (ACSSU002).

In an emergent curriculum the children may have developed an interest in space. This is an interesting and valid way to incorporate this understanding through the children’s play as they problem solve what astronauts need to survive in outer space. In fact they will probably develop a more indepth knowledge through this kind of play than if they just talked about what was needed on Earth. This concept could also be explored for example through a pet or plant shop with the children creating information notes to share with potential customers.











But in doing so we realised that there are factors that need to be considered-










The first of these and perhaps the most important one is……..










I think in the past we have underestimated just how competent and capable our young children are. If we truely believe……










and that our young children are……….










then with teaching, suitable to their learning styles, these children can rise to, achieve and even excel in meeting the higher expectations/standards mandated by the National Curriculum.

Another item of critical importance to consider when wanting to play and meet the mandated outcomes was timetabling.










 The kind of play you saw earlier in the Wedding Castle occurred over a 5 week period and required long periods of time almost everday to provide the children with opportunities to participate in and sustain their play, think, problem solve and make what they required to extend their interests and ideas. Time also needs to be allocated to provide opportunities to share, record, reflect and plan ahead about what is happening in their play and what needs to be extended, researched and implemented next.

Here is a sample of my Weekly Timetable where you can see that for 4 days a week my children play in the entire middle session.










The rest of our time involves the children in carefully planned “hands on” experiences that provide opportunities to explicitly teach, practice and master concepts and skills in all curriculum areas. You will also notice that there are blank time spaces. These areas allow for flexibility in planning experiences that often extend their play through more explicit teaching eg. creating the wedding invitation or “Have a Go” writing. This timetable is also just a sample of what our week can look like and again is flexible in terms of meeting the children’s and curriculum needs. Buddies and Messy Mondays occur every fortnight and are enthusiastically awaited. Messy Mondays are the days we play outside for the whole play session and incorporate as much “messy” play as we can manage and supervise. These experiences are again carefully planned to ensure maximum learning is achieved through these fun and usually very kinaesthetic and motor focussed activities. Just like in an indoor play session the children are free to move, explore and select where they want to play.










I have talked a lot about planning and the need to carefully consider how explicit teaching of the curriculum needs to be woven into the play.










When implementing a play pedagogy the teacher needs to be constantly observing and listening for opportunities to enhance the children’s learning and looking for teachable moments. Sometimes the best teaching and learning is through these special moments.

For Example. Last term the children constructed a zoo and whilst we were researching the animals in the zoo we came across an interesting fact in a powerpoint I had found on the internet about animals from the different continents. The facts was – Snow Leopards can leap 25 metres. Wow! We discussed how far the children thought it was and I told them it was the same as the length of the school pool. I could see that they were still unsure of this and so we grabbed our 1 metre ruler, went outside, and measured it out in the playground with 1 child at the start and another child standing at the end of each length of the ruler. Fortunately I had extra help that day to make up the extra numbers to 25. Once we had done this I asked the children to step out of the line and look at how far it was from the first person to the last person. They were amazed at how far this leopard could leap when they saw the distance in real life and had participated in the measuring process. To further enhance their understanding we ran, jumped, skipped and moved in lots of different ways across the distance. These children now have a very real understanding of just how long 25 metres really is and the ability of snow leopards to leap long distances. By participating in the measuring process lots of Maths understandings and numeracy skills were explored as well. 

Another important key to implementing a play pedagogy is reflection, not just reflecting with the children but also self reflection about the school day. It is during this daily teaching reflection that I often gain further insights into how to weave curriculum needs into the play.










 The children plan play time collaboratively every day and I record this on the IWB.










We reflect on the play at Meeting Time and using a different colour, record our thoughts, ideas and future plans.










I like to plan fortnightly but review and reflect on the outcomes and intentions weekly. This document is divided into the 15 Learning Statements with room for individual and small group outcomes as well. At the start of each fortnight I decide what needs to be taught based on curriculum documents, observations, reflections and the children’s interests and needs. I plan “hands on” experiences for the focussed learning and teaching times and look for opportunities to further incorporate these Learning Intention into play time.










To show you how this is done I have put together some examples from the last few weeks in my classroom. Here are the Reading and Viewing intentions for last week.











After observing our castle guards asking for passwords to let people in and out of the castle, I used this play idea to incorporate the above learning.











After Morning Tea the guards would ask the children if they were a friend or foe and, if and when, they said “friend” they were asked to say a word beginning with the sound /w/.










After Lunch the guards asked the children to decode the Magic Stones which had our sight words on them.










The children asked to do this every day for several weeks. We rotated the guards daily, which provided opportunities for all the children to ask the questions and to broaden their knowledge of words beginning with the sound and to read all the words. Whilst some children cannot read all the sight words, they were exposed to them daily and given assistance when needed. Every child in the class very eager to participate in this (unbeknowns to them) literacy experience.










To weave these outcomes into the play required a bit more thinking on my part. The counting was fairly simple to achieve as we had many, many valid reasons to count not just to 20 but to 25.










The ordinal numbers and vocabulary was a bit more tricky. We were able to practice these when we decided on the sequence/order of events at the wedding. These were on a Powerpoint slide and we manipulated the images into the desired sequence on the IWB.











We had a wedding rehearsal to check that our sequence was appropriate and made adjustments where necessary.










After carefully reading all the English, Mathematics and Science elaborations and comparing them with the Early Years Curriculum Guidelines I don’t think there is. What I do think though is that the National Curriculum is much more explicit and will enable us as teachers to really focus on the content.












Better meaning – with more clarity of content and more explicit teaching of skills as well. Another feature of the National Curriculum is the way ICT is embedded into it.










Again, the elaborations are very explicit about the ICT skills the children will need to learn. Digital and multimodal texts are also explored and created within the content ensuring that the children develop the critical and higher order thinking essential for 21st century learning and living.










Construct texts using software including word processing programs (ACELY1654)












Retell familiar literary texts through performance, use of illustrations and images (ACELT1580)











A play pedagogy often needs advocacy within the school context because the learning is often hidden to those who don’t know what to look for, especially school administrators. This is why it is important to make the learning evident within the classroom.










My response to this is……..










 Schools today are often driven by data. In our school, our administrators have always had high expectations in terms of academic achievement especially after the introduction of Prep. There was pressure on us to ensure that these expectations were met because of our strong belief in our play pedagogy. Our first cohort of prep children sat the Year 3 NAPLAN tests last year. These results were going to be the test as to whether our play pedagogy could achieve good results on a national scale.

Here are our NAPLAN results from that year.  











Here are are mean test scores when compared to like schools across the country.










Last year as part of our experiment in trying to achieve the National Curriculum literacy outcomes through a play pedagogy we decided to Benchmark our children’s reading to see what reading level they were at. Here are my class results.










These levels were achieved without Guided Reading. In March/April of this year, the children who were reading at Level 1 had progressed to Levels 5 and 8.










We believe it can and the data above is proof.






























 I think we would all agree that play is the way young children learn best but believing that and implementing a play pedagogy raises some questions………..










I think that play is perhaps not harder but more complex to implement because, as stated in the research, it needs to be carefully planned and challenging. Children’s thinking is an area of interest to me and I spend a lot of time planning ways to challenge their thinking and problem solving skills whilst weaving in the necessary curriculum outcomes. A play pedagogy involves placing your trust in the children’s imagination and curiosity. Some teachers like to have more control than this over the classroom and curriculum and that is understandable, particularly in this time of change in Australian education but that doesn’t mean that you can’t play. Dipping your toes into the water and taking little steps where play is concerned is how I started and slowly, as I gained more confidence the play became more complex. I also believe that the National Curriculum with it’s explicit elaborations will make playing easier because you know exactly what needs to be taught and can mark it off when covered.










This is something I think about a lot.




















Why is how they are taught so important?



















Which is why we play in our Prep classroom.

Wordless Wednesday 14th September











Wordless Wednesday

The Wedding Castle Part 2 – Playing in Prep and the National Curriculum

With wedding plans well under way the children were faced with a problem when the castle builders realised that the castle was not big enough to hold the wedding. At Reflection Time the children needed to find a solution to the problem. After a lot of discussion and sharing of ideas the guards suggested turning the whole classroom into a castle. (They had been spending the last few days guarding the door to our classroom and made the connection from this activity to solving the problem.)

The children thought this was a great idea and plans were quickly drawn up the next day.










This child drew the classroom castle and included the ramp up to our front verandah.










These children used the rulers to measure and rule up  their plans.










Once the plans were finalised. Construction began. The children chose the grey colour to represent stone. We have been exploring colour and light all term and used this knowledge to make the grey paint themselves.










As you can imagine this process required lots of team work and persistence.










In the slide below you will see the painted windows which we did for Our Many Coloured Days project and were perfect for the castle as stained glass windows.










Castle construction is hard work and we wanted to make sure we had everything we needed so lots of research took place using books and the Internet.










The children observed the Coats of Arms worn by the knights and we discussed their symbolism The children were keen to create their own Coat of Arms and thought carefully about what they could paint to represent themselves. Many children used their initials as well as animals such as lions to represent their strength. It was interesting to observe the children share their ideas about each other and even me. When I asked them what they thought I would paint on my Coat of Arms they said an “L” and “a ladybird because I love ladybirds.” They demonstrated a real understanding of symbolism and of themselves and their peers.










When they were dry, the children cut out their paintings and we laminated them. These were then placed on the outside of our castle.










Another feature of castles the children were eager to make was a drawbridge. We looked at drawbridge images on the internet and selected the type they wanted to make. When I first saw this image I immediately thought about using string but the children had other ideas.










They wanted to make chains just like in the image. We had made paper chains earlier in the year and so they had the skill and prior knowledge to achieve this independently. A quick scrounge in the storeroom for “something stronger than paper” provided the children with some leather like wall paper that they quickly cut and stapled into chains. Lots of  measuring and discussion and thinking was used as the children measured the chains to determine an appropriate length and then to make sure both chains were the same length. Whilst this was occurring other children were painting a large piece of cardboard for the bridge section. This time the children chose brown “because it looks like wood.”










Whilst doing their research some of the children noticed that castles often had large paintings on their walls. Using this information and knowing that we were having our Father’s Day Pizza and Play night that week,  the children painted ancestral portraits of their fathers to hang in the castle. These portraits also had frames that were  painted/rolled/printed so that the portraits looked  just like the ones in the book.










As well as all these activities, some of the children were exploring other ideas of their own.










This child was very interested in designing a wedding cake with “lots of layers” and began a design book of cake drawings using lots of shapes. When she went home this particular day she asked her Mum to help her google design images that she brought in the next day. She incorporated some of these ideas into her book as well.











Other children saw her images and asked to google wedding cake designs as well. “Let’s Google it” is a common catch cry in our classroom and the Interactive Whiteboard makes the whole process much easier for the children.










With the wedding day approaching,the cake designer became the cake maker with some help from her friends.

Once again thinking and problem solving, along with measurement was required to cover the cakes.










The children became so involved in the process that their original design was forgotten. They particularly loved drawing the sprinkles all over the cake. Please note the circle shaped top layer. From the very beginning, our cake designer was adament that the top had to be a circle and in every design she drew this was a design feature and she followed this through to the finished cake.










The final finishing touch – some ribbon they saw a bride adding to her dress.










Here is a sign I found on the front door as I was locking the classroom/castle one afternoon. This is the kind of thing that happens when children have ownership over their learning and their play.










As I stated earlier, in our classroom if the children need something for their play, they are encouraged to make it themselves with help if needed. Some of our knights decided they needed a trusty steed and made them using boxes and cardboard. It’s a bit hard to see in the photo but the horse is the construction he is wearing around his waist and the part at the front is the head. He used a toilet roll to make the horse’s long neck.










The knights transferred their knowledge about Coats of Arms to add to their armour creations.










With the addition of more knights, our original guards needed to share the experience and teach the new recruits the ropes.










We are now approaching the end of the wedding castle journey prior to the lecture and tomorrow I will upload the next section.

The Castle Wedding – Playing in Prep and the National Curriculum

Play is one of five contexts for learning in the Early Years Curriculum.

The others being –

Routines and Transitions

Real Life Experiences

Focussed Teaching and Learning


Play can also be a pedagogy, a way of teaching that encourages learning through active participation.

So what does active participatory learning mean?

Anne Epstein from Highscope defines it as –

  • experiences based on the children’s interests
  • experiences that are hands on and linked to real life situations
  • children actively constructing their understandings
  • by making choices children are involved in problem solving and decision making both necessary skills for learning
  • adults acting as guides and facilitators of the learning
  • adults expand children’s thinking with diverse materials and nurturing interactions.

What does a play pedagogy look like in a prep classroom?

We have been involved in castle play for the last 3 week. What do you think this would look like?

My Classroom


How it all began…….. Some of the children constructed a castlein block area using the waffle blocks

 Some of the children decided they wanted to be kings and queens in the castle and made crowns.

To encourage thinking and problem solving the children are not given templates for these ideas (ie crown making) and need to work out how to make the crowns using prior knowledge and to seek help if they need it.

Through this philosophy of designing and creating what they need themselves, the children develop lots of  skills and understandings and view themselves as competant and capable. When making their crowns the children are enhancing measurement concepts and practicing lots of fine motor skills as well as using their imagination.

Several of the girls decided they wanted to get married in the castle. One of the girls made a wedding cake.

During Reflection Time, at the end of play time, the children said they were going to have a wedding. We brainstormed everything they knew about weddings.

The next day, wedding preparations began with the brides and grooms researching dress, suit and bow tie designs.

Research Learning Statements – Reading and Viewing, Writing and Shaping, Oral Language


Designs were drawn. Design Learning Statements – Imagining and Responding, Writing and Shaping

The brides also consulted with our Dress Designer who had compiled a book of suggested designs and accessories.

Consultation Learning Statements – Social and Personal Learning, Oral Language,  Thinking, Reading and Viewing

When the final design was decided upon, production of each dress began.

Production Learning Statements – Investigating Technology, Fine Motor Skills, Thinking

During production, fittings were needed.

Fitting Learning Statements – Early Maths Understandings, Thinking,  Oral Language

    Is it too big?

    Is it too small?

    Is it too long?

     Is it too short?









One of the brides wanted sleeves in her dress. This was a challenge for everyone and required lots of thinking and problem solving.

The design –

The Wedding Dress almost finished.

Some of the brides decided they wanted lace on their dresses and a new industry appeared in the classroom – lace making.

Lace Making Learning Statements – Imagining and Responding, Fine Motor skills, Thinking,  Social and Personal Learning


The designer and lace maker consulting on where the lace needs to be placed and if anymore is required.


One dress finished. It even has a designer label on it.

Only 5 more dresses to go!












Whilst the brides were busy with their dresses, the grooms were also busy making their wedding attire.


  This groom is wearing his Knight helmet and shield. As well as his designer tie.

This groom asked his father for his favourite tie because he like sailing boats.


 Weddings fit into the Understanding Cultural Diversity learning statement of our curriculum. To enhance our knowledge of

 weddings we explored wedding customs from several other cultures including –

Chinese Weddings


 New Zealand Weddings –



and Indian Weddings



This exploration of weddings in other cultures inspired one of our brides to design a one shouldered red wedding dress.

This design needed to be altered because we didn’t have any red fabric to make the dress and the bride decided to have a white

 dress with red rubies instead.


 The bride and dress designer decided a row of square rubies were needed on the bodice of the dress.


For the skirt, the bride elected to scrunch the rubies up for a 3D effect.

and place them randomly around the skirt.

Knight Helmets were a popular choice of headwear for the grooms with this groom designing a special wedding knight helmet to

 wear to his wedding.

    “It is high like a wedding hat” he told me.

Here are some of our grooms/knights guarding the classroom door in the “regular” helmets and armour.

In another area of the classroom our florists had begun making the colourful paper for the flowers that will go into the wedding

 bouquets. They used their prior knowledge of making butterflies using paper towels and eye droppers to make the paper

and with the help of our teacher aide they used pipe cleaners to fold the paper into flowers (just like we had made our

 butterflies) and joined them together for the bouquets.

With the whole class enthusiastically preparing for the wedding, our castle builders discovered a problem.

The castle was too small to fit in all of the bridal parties and the wedding guests. What were we going to do? Could we still have the

 wedding? Does anyone have any ideas?


Tomorrow I will post the solution and the rest of the lecture. Linking this learning to the National Curriculum.