A place to share ideas about play in a Prep classroom

Archive for the ‘Constructions’ Category

Wordless Wednesday 5th September 2011

An invitation to explore and create.

Wordless Wednesday

28th September 2011

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.


The Racing Track

Block construction is a popular everyday activity in our classroom and, whilst there are documented stages of development that children go through as they construct with blocks, sometimes I think they can get a bit “stuck”  and need some support to move on in their thinking.  An example of this occured when I had a group of children in my class who pushed blocks around the floor pretending they were cars, occassionally constructing a simple straight road for them to drive on.

Over several days I listened to and observed their play, noticing a strong interest in racing cars. Using this information, I added some numbers and stripes to a car and asked if I could join them in their game. They immediately noticed the numbers on my car and this provoked an interesting conversation about racing cars and tracks. From this discussion the children decided to construct their own racing track and using the Interactive Whiteboard we searched for information to support their ideas. The IWB is a really useful tool in these situations as it provides the children with opportunities to closely observe and discuss the images they find interesting. From the information found, they can synthesise, select, and print out the ideas that are the most useful to their play.








Using Higher Order Thinking and Critical Literacy skills to make decisions and enhance learning.









Armed with the information they needed, the children began their construction. Some of the children drew plans and built the racing track. As they built the track they also constructed the safety fence after noticing one in some of the images they found.











One of the children was very eager to construct the Pit Stop area – with  little fuel tanks and hoses “for the mechanics to fill up the cars when they run out of petrol”.








He even built the opening from the track “so the cars can zoom in and get fixed.”








Other children were interested in the signs and flags they observed around the tracks and took on the role of making them.

The speed limit sign –














































It was tricky getting the Finish Line banner to stay up.







All the children spent a lot of time making number signs for their cars. At first the signs fitted on the cars………










but then they equated the bigger the number with the faster the car and this is what happened………

  Lots of numeral writing. There is a car hiding under all the signs but they didn’t last long because the cars didn’t fit on the track with them on.





The fire coming out of the exhaust.










An experimental car made out of collage and boxes.










The children were engaged in long periods of rich sustained play not just when constructing the racing track, but also when it was completed.
















The purpose of this experience was to “move on” some of the children’s thinking when constructing with blocks. This project demonstrated they were ready and able to operate at a “higher” stage of construction development. It was only in later construction opportunities that their ability to apply their understandings independently would be known. Here is an example of another racing track built after this project. This was was built without support or scaffolding from an adult.










and the start of a road with an interesting bridge.










After this project the children’s block constructions continued to develop and evolve as they explored other ideas and structures.

Sometimes they just need a little help and support to “move on” .

As a Follow Up to this project we used stop watches to time cars as they raced down luge ramps (long pieces of PVC pipe sliced in half). The whole class had lots of fun experimenting with the angles to discover which was the fastest.