Over the Spring Term I began researching classroom organisation and looking for other ways to use the areas in my classroom. I had observed children’s activities during their choosing time and found that the library was one of the places few children visited during a session. I also noticed that the children would role play whatever their imagination wanted, rather than stick to the theme we had set in there that week or term; post office, kitchen, DIY store, construction site…
What could I do to enhance play? What could I do make sure children access the spaces with more energy?
Communication Friendly Space.
Before – I had already tried to ‘soften’ this space with a large cushion.
After – Children can collect interesting objects from home in the red pockets to share in this space too.
Following ‘Every Child a Talker’ (ECAT) advice and research by Elizabeth Jarman, this space was created with the help of Jane Ledger (Derbyshire LA). There are treasure boxes in here now too, where children explore objects that are connected by a theme; colour, texture, spring, farm… The space is available for two children at a time.
The low hanging canopy is just a large piece of net curtain that is tied onto bulldog clips attached to the green shelving unit. The other side is tied onto the book trolley. It does come unclipped several times a day, and at first adults had to put it back for them. Now children are using the bulldog clips and attaching it themselves. Therefore, the height and width of this space differs by child which is great. They are controlling the space themselves.
Floppy the Dog lives in here now. He is a soft puppy that children take home at the weekend and write in his diary. It’s a great place for children to share photographs of his weekend and talk about what they did with him at home.
This was an exciting new space created with the help of my Teaching Assistant who passionately lead the project forward. We removed an old desktop computer and used draws, tool boxes, containers to house exciting and unusual writing tools. The children also named this area themselves, calling it ‘The Den’. Every other week children vote on which new tools to put in The Den.
I feel that this area is an alternative to what Elizabeth Jarman tries to create with Communication Friendly Spaces. As this space is an area for two children and the space is enclosed, it becomes an intimate place for some quiet talk. The children call this kind of talk ‘sharing secrets’ which is very sweet. One of the quietest members of our class spent a lot of time in here at first and her willingness to talk in a group has improved massively. So has her writing. This provides an area for children to talk who might not choose to go to the Library space to talk.
Deconstructed Role Play.
Before – Organisted role play based on a Recycling Centre. This is when I first realised children will create their own imaginary worlds as they junk modelled with the ‘litter’ I encouraged them to sort.
After – Deconstructed Role Play: boxes, tubes, materials, pegs and space to play!
This is an exciting adventure for me. It’s had a bumpy start because it isn’t ‘pretty’. Instead of having a themed role play area, I’ve followed advice from ABCDoes a blog and offered a few plastic toys such as babies and food on the shelves. The rest of the area is filled with empty boxes, cardboard tubes and material.
We are getting better at playing in here now. Children are starting to build bigger dens and are spending longer extending their play. They are also getting good at tidying up afterwards. I’m looking forward to adding Velcro to the walls for children to add their own signs, but they’ve started doing this themselves with masking tape already!
There is also a ‘Gallery’ display in this area where children can come and peg up the work they’ve done during that session. Underneath the Gallery is large sheets of paper that hang to the floor for children to mark make on.
The Great Outdoors.
We have extended our playground to the grass area. We are busy building dens under the trees just like indoors. I have also built a communication friendly space outdoors too using a camping ground sheet from Wilkinson for less than £5. The children ran straight into this space, they loved it. After half an or so I went in and lay down. Very quickly we began role playing a camping adventure, talking about to cook food outside. “We’ll just build a plug for a microwave”. Eventually they concluded that we would need to make a fire to cook sausages. Off I went to find plastic sausages, masking tape and sticks for their play.
What I like about this space, which I didn’t anticipate, was the how the rest of the school uses it. As this tent has been built alongside the school field, during playtimes other classes are using it. It’s great to see older children role playing with the young ones too. When the pegs come loose the older children help fix it down by finding sticks and rocks to hold it down. It’s brilliant to see real team work and problem solving at playtime!
I was a little frightened about taking away an organised role play area at first. What I’ve done though, is used a large table top space that can easily extend onto the carpet surrounding it, to set-up role play related to our topic. Therefore children still have that teacher initiated role play as well as their own child initiated role play that they craved before.
What I like about the den building is that the children have an enclosed space that has been created by an adult but they also have the deconstructed option to create their own little space as well.
Creating new spaces is time consuming. It takes a lot of planning, resourcing and trialling. I have had to observe children in these spaces and adapt them several times. It’s working well now though. Give it a go…. It’s VERY cheap too!!