St Gertrude’s Catholic Primary Smithfield has embraced the early learning model that puts play at the centre of learning. Classrooms with long, fixed rows of desks and chairs with students being directed by a single teacher are no longer. Welcome to the world of developmental play!
St Gertrude’s Learning Support Teacher, Francine Guarjardo, said learning had come alive in the Kindergarten and Year 1 classrooms since the school implemented the approach.
“The children become engaged right from the very start,” Ms Guarjardo said. “The classroom is their playground, regardless of what they are doing.
“They walk into the classroom excited to be there and ready to learn.”
The teachers no longer refer to their redesigned teaching areas as classrooms, but to ‘flexible learning spaces’, where the walls and furniture are moveable.
Kindergarten teacher Katrina Lisco said that the ability to change the learning environment made a difference. “We can open or shut the doors between rooms and we also have pods where the children can engage with technology like iPads and laptops,” she said. “We have some tables, but not every child has to sit at a table all the time.”
The students rotate through activities and have opportunities to choose their own tasks. At times, they are closely directed by their teacher or learning support person. At other times they work by themselves or in a group.
“We have a grid of what they need to do during the week,” Ms Lisco said. “They tick off each activity as they go. We cover the whole curriculum but for the students, it all seems like play.
“We usually do 15-20 minute rotations, refocus and move on to the next activity. It took a few weeks for the students to get used to the routine when we first started. Now, it is just second nature to them.”