Can Children Teach Themselves Through Their Early Years? At Bromsgrove They Do
At the Bromsgrove Early Years campus, in classrooms covering Pre-Nursery to Year One, there is a certain magic happening. The children want to learn, and the teachers are following their lead.
Small classes, taught by British expats, include children from across the globe, which has created a multi-cultural family feeling where the children respond to their need to interact and communicate. The children want to talk to each other. They have broken through the language barrier and now choose to converse in their common language, English. Their fluency level is impressive, and the students even choose to English over their mother tongue in the playground.
‘Two Thai boys were sitting in the corner playing video games, happily chatting in English about the game, yet they both speak Thai as their native language. The teacher wasn’t within earshot, and there was no pressure to speak English, but it seemed to come naturally. As if they walk into school in the morning and switch to English for the day.’
‘What would you like to learn about next term?’ The class is asked, while sitting cross legged on colourful mats. One boy suggests Fireman Sam.
His teacher doesn’t laugh. She doesn’t ask for a better suggestion. She takes his idea seriously, and the class goes on to discuss Fireman Sam at length, his job, his purpose, his position in the community, the other people that do similar jobs. Other students add doctors, then nurses, and policemen, to the mix. They agree on a theme that will focus on the emergency services.
The children are in control of their own learning, and the teaching staff facilitate their ideas. The Early Years teachers at Bromsgrove have taken the time to ask the children for their input, working with them to create a scheme of work that everyone will enjoy. They are not running some kind of crèche, or standing at the front talking at the children. These adults talk with them.
One of the reception classes has chosen buildings as their theme. The children have become architects for the morning; drawing and designing towers and castles, hand writing the type of building they have designed, before choosing materials to construct their ideas. The children are in consistent dialogue with staff, and each other, talking about colours, shapes, numbers, and the pros and cons of different materials.
Because these are highly skilled practitioners, they are able to integrate key skills into everything the children do. The teachers focus on play-based learning while keeping the students in conversation to find gaps in their knowledge. They challenge their thinking, maintaining a proactive approach by reacting to responses and attention span. Children are encouraged to go at their own speed, exploring further activities and developing skills as long as their interest is sustained. Once attention is lost, the teacher is ready with more options to keep the children learning as they play.