One of our most important roles as practitioners is to critically reflect upon our own practice, provision and pedagogy in order to extend, develop and support the children’s learning and development opportunities.
It is just as important for us to notice what the children ‘aren’t’ doing just as it is for us to observe what they are doing and understanding how and why their individual learning styles, interests and age and stage of development impacts upon how and why the access the provision in the way that they do.
A perfect example of this is our recent ‘Drawing Wall’, we had noticed that we had a significant number of children that were reluctant mark-makers, in any form, and so we decided to look deeper into why this could be and we evaluated that quite simply, the way in which we offered mark-making simply did not appeal to these children’s learning styles and interests.
Some of our children enjoy the individual ownership of their own ‘writing book’ which are freely accessible within the provision, whilst some prefer larger mark-making activities using a range of different media and so we realised we needed to be more creative in our approach to mark-making and find an opportunity that would appeal to everybody and hopefully engage even the most reluctant of mark-makers.
After discovering the book ‘Matisse’s Magical Trail’ on a recent trip to the library, we decided to incorporate the freedom of colour, large-scale mark-making and the children’s ownership into the playroom and our provision by turning our raised display board into ‘drawing wall’.
Adding furniture, chairs and stools to not only allow children to reach across the board, so they could fill the entire space with their marks, but to also to add an element of risk/challenge too in the hope it would entice those less likely to approach mark-making if we were to change the parameters in which they could access it in a more relaxed, child-centred way.
The response to what is essentially a very simple concept in essence, has quite simply been phenomenal and totally revolutionised mark-making for our children. Both the older and younger children have embraced this whole-heartedly, not only mark-making, talking about their marks, working together to create bigger pieces and without any input from us, the children have independently begun to introduce letters and sounds as they write letters of personal significance as well as beginning to show an interest in writing numerals too.
It didn’t take the children long at all to fully embrace the freedom to create so fluidly within the provision; once they understood they were free to climb and create as they pleased, they quickly adapted and took themselves off to the wall and created freely and independently, spending extended periods of time mark-making and paying incredible attention to detail on the marks they create.
For a cohort of children a week ago, whereby only half of them showed any interest in mark-making at all, the transformation in them has been an absolute privilege to witness and has re-affirmed to us that stripping our play, provision and pedagogy right back to basics has the most beneficial and incredible effect on our children and their play, learning and development.
Critical reflection, using your initiative and taking play and provision back to basics truly are the characteristics of confident, knowledgeable and pro-active practitioners; and we can’t stress enough how monumental it is to give children the freedom and ownership to access and use an area of the provision they normally shy away from, in their own way, their own time and within their own space.
If there is an area of your provision that children are consistently not accessing or seem to be avoiding or showing little interest in, then critically reflect on why that could be and flip it on its head in order to fully hand over that area to Its most important users; the children.