Self Directed Learning and Role Play

Two blog posts (here and here) and a local authority exhibition that I attended tonight have inspired me to think about the use of role play in the classroom (and out) to develop language and literacy skills. What I noticed most about the areas on display today, which on the whole were excellent, was the amount of teacher input given to each one. Each one was perfectly crafted and resourced with its sparklebox signage (or the like) and seemed to have been created with very little input in terms of art and creativity from the children. It’s interesting to read in the first blog above how Marc Faulder’s reception children actually started making their own signs when they were given more freedom to create their own role play spaces. I know that our reception teacher takes lots of input on the initial set up of her role play areas but has also found the same as Marc; the children do not necessarily use it in the way designed.

Recently we have been chatting at school about extending role play upwards from KS1 so that every classroom has a role play area for the children to use. I really like the idea of this although with the tightly packed curriculum don’t want to spend ages building a magnificent area for the children to only use it once or twice per term. This also got me thinking about how to extend its purpose from free play so that it has more depth in KS2. This leads me to the second blog post, by Nikki Davies, a Year 5 teacher in Norwich. She has recently started using the idea of self-directed learning time, based on the Google 20% time model, with her class. What I want to do next year is mesh these two ideas together and create an area that the children are able to use for role play and self directed learning, through the guide that they will be in role to find out about a topic of their choice. I intend to set up the area with a display along the lines of ‘What do you want to become today?’ Become an explorer, become a reporter etc; a range of books related to the topic we are currently learning about (although I will not limit them exclusively to using these); nice paper and pens, a laptop, a range of activities for children to do linked to our topic and ideas for research/role play if the children are not sure what to do.

I really hope this will help them focus their learning; one of the problems I’ve had with my class this year is that they are not good at directing themselves. They are better than they were at the start of the year but we’re still not quite there and there’s now a touch of laziness and complacency creeping in as they approach the end of their time at Primary and get ready to move on to middle school. I hope this is one way that I can get on top of the problem early; I intend for children to be able to use the space when they’ve finished their work and will do lots of modelling early on to ensure they understand how to use it as it will be new to them.

I would love to hear how you use role play areas to stimulate learning.

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