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Research in new entrant classrooms

Started by Keryn Davis 19 Nov 2015 7:39am () Replies (16)

Hi all, 

Here is the link to a report on my research in the new entrant/Y1 classes at Mairehau Primary in Christchurch. 


Any feedback on the ideas generated by this project would be appreciated! 






  • Annette van Brakel (View all users posts) 18 May 2016 5:51pm ()

    Hi, I have read your research several times over the past year and have reflected on how it would work in one of my new entrant rooms. I have a couple of questions. What was the classroom programme like after 10.15 am? How long did the children stay in the reception room? Was the reception room programme different to the Y1 classes? I think the block building projects (labelled and left alone for working on the next day) sound interesting, but how did this fit in with traditional rules in schools for having floors cleared of small items at the end of the day for the cleaners to vacuum and mop? Sounds nit-picky I know, but I am serious about the practicalities of this project.

  • Keryn Davis (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 8:37pm ()

    Kia ora Annette, 

    Thanks for your questions. 

    Each of the 3 classrooms were slightly different and changed over time. Once 10.15 came 'Relating to Others Time' was over, but play was still woven across the day. The two connected NE rooms were set up so that one was more literacy orientated and the other more maths orientated. Each teacher worked with their own class for shared reading, writing and handwriting. Once a child completed their work, they could go back to what they were doing at Relating to Others Time or find something new to play with in the room until they were all called to the next task. It was remarkable how well this worked and how quickly children 'got on' with their handwriting etc as they knew if they put in a good effort they could get back to their project/play. Transitions went really smoothly too, I believe because the children knew they would be able to continue their projects/play later. The children also had plenty to write about from Relating to Others time too and the teachers had plenty of material to facilitate discussions. 

    When it came to reading and maths groups the two primary teachers led these while the ECE qualified teacher (employed as a TA) worked with the remaining children in the opposite room (i.e. the reading groups were in the 'maths room' while the rest of the children played in the 'literacy' room). You may be interested to know that Maths was the last thing to be done each day in the Reception Room. Yes, traditionally a big no-no! BUT I observed a small number of children at 5-minute intervals for two whole days at different points in the year using a observation tool called the Leuven Involvement and Well Being Scales. I found the children were highly engaged and content right to the end of the day once play was well established across the day. That data, while only a snapshot, is really interesting. The times the children were least engaged (showing signs of low or very low involvement) were when they were on the mat and/or when the teacher was in 'instructing' mode i.e. when everyone was on the mat and the teacher was leading the content. 

    In the Y1 room, Jenny incorporated a more sophisticated reflection/group discussion after Relating to Others Time as you might expect with a Y1 group. She often used this time as a opportunity to set up projects or encourage children to think about the next problem to solve, or to set a challenge. Like the NE rooms, the Y1s were able to return to their projects/play once reading, writing and maths had been completed.  

    The reception room was different only in that there was a more simple play programme in place than the other two rooms and a lot more focus on learning what school is all about. Each room had a progressively higher level of challenge in all areas. Keeping things a bit more low key in the reception room was intentional as the focus was on the transition children were making, settling, finding a sense of belonging, building relationships, the key competencies, and literacy and numeracy. Fewer child-led projects developed in this room. There were still projects, but I think it's fair to say most of these were less intense and more short-term than in the Y1 room. 

    The block constructions were incredible. I understand how this is a bit challenging. Plenty of people I have talked to have felt challenged by the idea of not cleaning up because they like the classroom to be tidy. Not packing up the block constructions took negotiation with the cleaners but I don't think it caused any real problems. The children did pack up any blocks not being used. When these constructions took up too much floor space (they were taking over the mat area), Jenny raised this problem with the children and the children quickly solved the problem by deciding to also construct vertically rather than just horizontally.  

    I hope this helps! 

    Ngā mihi


  • Catherine Lynagh (View all users posts) 18 May 2016 7:37pm ()

    I would also be interested in hearing about the class programme after 10.15 a.m.  Did the teachers try to read with all the children every day, as many new entrant teachers do?  

  • Keryn Davis (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 8:48pm ()

    Kia ora Catherine,

    Hopefully you'll find my response above helpful. The short answer is yes. 

    I'd love to hear what you are trying out.

    Ngā mihi


  • Jacqui Pennington (View all users posts) 26 May 2016 8:31pm ()

    I've just been to observe Silverstream who start their day with play. Fantastic 2 teachers working collaboratively together. They answered many of the questions asked. I was inspired & excited after visit.

    I am about to start in my single cell classroom which will be harder. To start my timetable will look like this

    8.30 to 9.45 - Play & 1 maths group withdrawn

    9.45- 10.30 Mat time, class maths & 2nd group

    10.50- 12.50 Same as before literacy

    My literacy programme will remain same, roll call will change & fitness will be part of play. I will swap phonics from before break to in between reading & writing slots.

    Will let you know how its going.


  • Keryn Davis (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 9:01pm ()

    Kia ora Jacqui, 

    That's wonderful that you visited the Silverstream team. I know they are doing some great work there. Good for you giving it a go! All the best. Let us know how you get on and what you notice about the impact on your children. 

    Your reference to fitness being part of play reminded me that Relating to Others time at Mairehau included the choice to play outside, ride scooters, bikes, play ball games, climbing etc. There was the question about how to ensure children didn't spend all their time doing one thing, but what was interesting is that over the course of the year children participated across the programme. Simone believed the children were accessing far more of the curriculum that they would have in the past. 

    All the best


  • cathie zelas (View all users posts) 29 May 2016 12:54pm ()

    Hi Keryn

    Thanks so much for your report! It is just perfect to share with our NE team who are currently wondering about how to organise their programme to better support children transitioning to school. Many of their questions and concerns are exactly the same as those of the Mairehau teachers and I know they will be really interested to read about how another school approached the issue.

    It would be impossible to find a reading for them that more closely match their current needs so thank you again and I'll let you know how we get on.



  • Keryn Davis (View all users posts) 30 May 2016 9:08pm ()

    This is wonderful to hear Cathie! Thanks so much. 

    Your team might be interested in joining this Facebook group - Learning Through Play https://www.facebook.com/groups/505280046303113/

    Or this blogpost if they haven't read it already http://www.core-ed.org/thought-leadership/blog/powerful-play-continuity-and-inquiry-children-starting-school

    Everyone should take notice of this report from the MoE Early Years Advisory Group http://www.education.govt.nz/assets/Documents/Ministry/consultations/Report-of-the-Advisory-Group-on-Early-Learning.pdf Recommendation 14 is the big one for primary. It recommends primary schools consider establishing reception classes for five-year-olds, with curriculum planning, assessment and evaluation based on Te Whāriki. This recommendation reads:

    • Recommendation 14 Primary schools consider establishing reception classes for five-year-olds, with curriculum planning, assessment and evaluation based on Te Whāriki Under the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa, New Zealand schools already have the flexibility to design a curriculum based on local needs and schools can use Te Whāriki with children up to six years old. Another benefit of moving to cohort-based school entry is that it would allow schools to systematically establish 'reception' or 'transition' classes. In settings where, for example, Pasifika early childhood education services have strong connections with local schools, a Pasifika teacher or allied staff member (see Recommendation 19) should be employed to continue language learning into primary school, supported by appropriate literacy materials. In making Recommendations 13 and 14, the Advisory Group is adamant that any downward ‘push’ on the school-starting age or from school curriculum frameworks is undesirable. New Zealand children are already in one of the youngest international age brackets for starting school. 26 Tensions remain between the approaches Te Whāriki and the New Zealand Curriculum advocate to learning, but policy frameworks have consistently recognised that a play-based curriculum offers the best learning experiences for the early years. This is why we believe primary schools should consider using Te Whāriki, rather than the New Zealand Curriculum, as a framework for planning, assessing and evaluating in the first year of school. This advice is particularly relevant for children who have had no formal early childhood education before coming to school, and so may not have developed the knowledge and dispositions needed for a smooth transition.

    Ngā mihi


  • Deirdre Harris (View all users posts) 22 Sep 2016 9:13pm ()

    Hi Keryn and others,

    I'm a NE teacher and have a single cell classroom with no additional teacher support. I currently have 15 NEs with another 5 starting in my class Term 4. We are a small country school with only the one NE classroom.

    I have been an EC teacher and understand the value of play based learning. I have read you research Keryn and agree with this philosophy. 

    However, I am trying to get my head around how do I  teach the core subjects, ensuring everything is being covered through the play base system? 

    How would a writing programme look to ensure all needs are meet? How does the phonics programme look? Or shared reading lesson for example? 

    Apologies if I am asking what has already been explained.


  • Annie Christie (View all users posts) 24 Sep 2016 8:20pm ()

    Hi Deidre

    One way that I get around teaching the core subjects at the same time as providing children with play is to have play activities available to children and allow them to choose, invent and carry through their own ideas. I withdraw groups of children to work with in reading while the others are involved in play activities. I do not attempt to rush through every group each day because the teaching is better if its a 15-20 minute slot which gets a bit deeper with discussion and addresses needs within the group. For writing I work with half the class i.e. ten students while the others work more independently on writing activities within the play-based programme. We do some phonological awareness all together as a class; and a lot of it is done in the reading group setting because it is more targeted that way.

    In a perfect world I would be also spending time roving around the play based learning activities and feeding in comments and thoughts about what they are doing and learning, rather than questioning because children do not want to be answering a lot of questions when they are absorbed in play.


  • Annat (View all users posts) 20 May 2017 3:12pm ()

    Hi we are a year 1/2 class with 42 children 3 teachers and 1 teacher aide. Last term we went full Play based learning as we fully embrace the research and ideas behind children needing to play as they need to explore their own interests and explore learning this way. Our initial idea was to withdraw groups to take reading, writing and maths however we found with some high level behavioural needs thrown in our extra roaming teacher was always swallowed up putting out fires. So we have moved our play to just one session but it means all three teachers are free to get involved with their play. We can use teachable moments help children follow ideas and extend them, everything we believe our role as the teacher in play is. We are hoping with some more learning and ideas sharing we will continue to evolve our programme to have more and more play based learning.





  • Mary Allen (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2017 10:36am ()

    Hi Keryn

    I LOVE your ideas about integrating play into the core learning programme. I Too teach New Entrants and when I have 'allowed' myself the luxury of starting the day with play based activities there is a definite settledness for the rest of the day; which feeds in positively to 'formal' learning. I am also interested in any Writing ideas you may have found that work well, as I am doing a Writing inquiry in my class. Thanks for sharing:)


  • Mary Allen (View all users posts) 09 Sep 2017 11:15am ()



  • Sharon (View all users posts) 10 Sep 2017 3:50pm ()

    Totally agree! Our new entrant classes have brought more play in to start our days using our Key Competencies and Te Whariki as guiding lights. Our team leader created a wonderfully easy and practical plan for us all to use so that the children weren't just "playing" and using being creative but also had a focus for the day/week such as giving feedback, sharing with others, tidying up quickly etc. The focus was discussed at the beginning then revisited to get examples from the children often using photos we took during the sessions as prompts. We are all building up big books filled with photos, captions, child-speak and ideas which the children love to look at and talk about. Blogs for this sharing our morning sessions of "Mana Aoturoa" are starting up too. Lots of talking, vocab growth and writing ideas are also emerging from our play!

  • Carolyn Smith (View all users posts) 18 Sep 2017 11:59am ()

    I love the idea of documenting learning in a large class book using photos for the children to revisit. I can really see this supporting sustained interests over time. It would also be a great tool for reflection sessions with the children.

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