Enabling Environments: Enhanced Provision - Two by two?

Rebecca Fisk
Friday, September 20, 2013

An activity based on the Noah's Ark story has provided a focused learning opportunity for girls and quieter children, reports Rebecca Fisk.

Children in my last reception class loved to build, and often chose to use the large wooden bricks from Community Playthings. However, I noticed that the boys tended to monopolise this resource, and with 20 boys in the class and only 10 girls, it was difficult for the girls to find a way into the activity. In addition, the class had several very quiet children, both girls and boys. So the teaching assistant and I felt it was time to plan a co-operative activity, and decided that building Noah's Ark would be a good challenge. We designed the activity with girls and quiet children in mind.

Noah's Ark is a story well known and loved by many children. It mirrors traditional flood stories from around the world, so has a universal appeal, and after reading several versions of the story and discussing it in detail we were ready to begin.

We grouped the children into personality types, allowing the quieter and shyer children to work together. This approach is recommended by Michael Jones (www.talk4meaning.co.uk/supporting-quiet-children-training), as it avoids quiet children being dominated by louder ones and allows their voices to be heard.

It proved to be a highly successful strategy and enabled each child to share their ideas about how to build the ark. We asked each child to contribute one suggestion to the group's ark design before constructing it. Each group then spent about an hour building and playing with their version of the ark, before a different group had a turn.

We recorded the children's language and took photographs during the process. The approach ensured that each child was heard by the others in their group and had equal input in this problem-solving task. An adult facilitated each child's learning by encouraging them to articulate it, and enabling them to be heard by the other children in the group.


DIFFERENT APPROACHES TO LEARNING

Some children spoke in mathematical terms about the shapes of the blocks and ark:

  • 'We can use shapes like triangles and squares and rectangles to build it.'
  • We can use pointed bricks for the roof sides.'
  • 'Let's use the big bricks because I think it will be easier.'
  • 'It's a triangle shape boat. The boats are for standing in.'(Quiet child.)

Some related to an event or characters in the story of Noah:

  • 'We need something curvy to make the rainbow.'
  • 'We could use the little people for Noah's people.'
  • 'We need somewhere for the animals to sit.'

Others showed their thinking about structural engineering:

  • 'We can use this pole for the flag to go on.'
  • 'We could have windows.' (Quiet child.)
  • 'We could use the tube for a flagpole. This box could be a window.' (Quiet child.)
  • 'We need to make windows but we will sink if there are holes.'
  • 'If we put the tunnels at the end, then the water might go up it and make it move.'


EVALUATION

The planned adult-suggested task met the two-fold objective: engaging quiet children and allowing the girls uninterrupted time with a resource. However, it became so much more. Not only did all the groups show a mature approach to collaboration and co-operative learning, each child's thoughts had been articulated and acknowledged within the activity.

We were able to observe how individuals approached the task, demonstrating their characteristics of learning. It reminded us that by facilitating open-ended problem-solving activities the children will develop their own learning in a deeper and more profound way.

The ultimate benefit of this co-operative task was the increased collaboration among the children, which transferred to their behaviour and learning approach within the classroom. In particular, the quietest children started to find their voices within class.

We continued to listen carefully to each child's ideas for extending this learning. The classroom went on to have a photographic display of all the different arks, musical instruments that sounded like flood waters, and a sea and beach interest collection.

The universal story of Noah's Ark allowed us to see the true colours of each child's learning. Look for their rainbow!

 

STORYTIME: NOAH'S ARK

Versions of the ark story range from the simple to the hilarious to the beautiful to the challenging, and include:

  • Noah's Ark by Jerry Pinkney - in this gorgeous retelling of the story, Caldecott prizewinner Pinkney captures the drama and beauty of the story through rich paintings.
  • Noah's Ark by Jane Ray - this version, shortlisted for the Kate Greenaway Award, combines wonderful illustrations with text taken from selected verses of the King James Bible.
  • Noah's Ark by Lucy Cousins - a simple retelling with bold and eye-catching illustrations.
  • Noah's Ark by Lois Rock and Sophie Allsopp - this book is faithful to biblical accounts.
  • Noah's Ark by Peter Spier - winner of the prestigious Caldecott Medal, this picture book starts with a poem of the flood but leaves the rest of the story to be told through the power of illustration until the last page.
  • Noah's Ark by Rien Poortvliet - the renowned artist and author uses more than 200 full-colour paintings is his lively story.
  • Noah's Ark by Rod Campbell - this board book edition comes in a handy fold-up carry case that doubles up as an ark play set, with pairs of animal figures and a colourful wall frieze.
  • All Afloat on Noah's Boat by Tony Mitton and Guy Parker-Rees - life aboard the ark has left the animals grumpy, so Noah plans a creature cabaret.
  • A Lark in the Ark by Peter Bently and Lynne Chapman - in this lift-the-flap edition, Noah and the animals are bored so they play hide and seek. Lift over 25 flaps to find them.

Rebecca Fisk was EYFS leader at Bishop Henderson Church of England Primary School, Taunton, and is now an early years consultant for North Somerset Council.

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