Play and Language

This week, as we complete current inquiries for our new UOI, I posed a challenge to a group of girls working in the play corner. All girls spoke Chinese and English. I suggested they make a video record of the appliances in the home corner in English and Chinese. They could choose items to photograph and then apply these images to a recording using StoryRobe. I modelled the task and then let them go for it.

This task incorporated team work. Supported the understanding that they needed to document and share their learning and made authentic connections between their mother tongue and learning their second language. Most importantly it was connected to the inquiry they were engaged in.

Would this have been as satisfying for the students and myself if I had given them a worksheet with the appliances pictured and a line for them to write the English and or Chinese? Would that have helped them to work collaboratively? Would they have had the opportunity to make choices about their learning?

Children’s Inquiry


Currently in Grade 1 we are learning about ourselves, each other and how we all connect. This is a part of creating a positive learning environment for Grade 1 as well as being directly linked to our Unit of Inquiry and the Transdiciplinary Theme “Who we are”.

In learning about ourselves we are exploring the way we make good choices and living a balanced life.  We are exploring our learning environment and by doing this, the children are being creative, curious and engaged.

During one of our inquiry sessions a group of children wanted to build with the blocks, lego and connectors. They were given the challenge of…

“Build your structures BUT, as a group you must make sure each structure is connected in some way to the other structures.”

So, off they went….building, planning, creating, talking and learning.

When they were finished they explained the connection….water, a harbor, bay or river.  They could name each structure and they were clear on how they were connected.  They then took a photo of their “harbor” and they were asked to label each item using the app, Doodlebuddy. As a group they did this….but, due to the complexity of words they had chosen (lighthouse, crocodile) and space on the iPad screen,  they showed initiative and wrote the first sound of each word instead; b for boat, c for crocodile etc. Once they were finished we printed this image with the addition of some vocabulary and the children wrote their own story or sentences.

They had an authentic and engaging reason to write, they had their own personal ideas and it was exciting to see children use the vocabulary collected and shared , to sound out words and to have a clear message to write.  This experience further developed their phonics knowledge and allowed them to practice these skills.

These writing pieces have led to specific conferencing and small group target sessions in specific areas. The children have been able to begin editing their writing and developing skills in grammar and punctuation.

This particular task was an example of student interests leading to more…the children involved had great ideas for expanding their drawings and doing further research.  If it was connected to our unit of study I would have offered the children the opportunity to research harbor/water life by presenting books and media information to them. But on this occasion they were easily motivated to explore some tasks more closely linked to the current unit of study.

Natural Resources and PLAY

This is an inquiry that Grade 1 students led from a Unit of Inquiry based on the central idea of: We have a responsibility to conserve the earth’s resources.

In integrating Mathematics into the unit we looked at capacity and creating ‘an island’.

The children stood in a huddled group, we drew a line around the group. When they stepped away, the shape became an island. “How many children did the island hold?”, then “How many chairs, books, toys” etc. This was documented and explored and linked to other examples of capacity.

But we still had the Island. The children were posed the question of what natural resources could this island have? It was suggested they could draw an aerial map….now this is where the fun began as one child suggested we make a 3 D map….so the play began at an individual level for each child. They could make to their choice and interest a natural resource to be added to the island. Every individual creation, idea was added and they all learned while making or recording at their individual interest and sense of expression.

The integrated subject opportunities were endless; writing, filming, counting, measuring, renaming in the local language, and more….students were exposed, committed and involved.

One family took action and arranged for their birthday cake to be made around natural resources!

To further explore the depth of their understanding in protecting the natural resources on their island we began a lesson with a big pile of pretend money and asked if the children would give a corner of the island away for all the money. They said yes, the money was shared. The next day when they arrived at school the island had a big mine in the corner and the natural resources were taken away or had black “oil” all over it.

The class returned with their money saying they wanted the island back!

Did they come to understand the need to protect natural resources? In this context yes. This became the springboard for more factual and broader learning as they had a meaningful and emotional learning experience in which, as individuals, they could connect to.

Play allowed students to connect to the unit at their level.

Granted this was a tighter more directed play experience but as teachers we can value this and use these small play based learning experiences to lead to broader experiences.


Box City

This is a photo of the ‘box city’ Grade 1 created as a part of a unit of inquiry based on homes, culture and the environment. The children designed, planned and created their own home. as we were creating a city the class considered where the country homes would be and how the city should be planned.