Building Blocks to Literacy: where does it fit with Play Based Learning?

Building blocks to literacy was introduced to me in 2015. It focuses on identifying foundational literacy skill and teaching these rather than diving head first into the things kids ‘ought’ to be doing. Presented as a framework rather than as a programme, it is a useful tool for ensuring that the bucket is ready to hold water, or spotting the leaks (so to speak). To this end I mean that it is very well and good making a child learn to read because they have turned five, but matters such as oral language, reasoning, pattern recognition and visual discrimination also need to be considered. If these are lacking how much harder will it be for the child learning print literacy? Is it not wiser to teach foundational skills that will ‘plug the holes’ so to speak rather than pouring water in and wondering why the learning doesn’t stay? Such a statement of course, connects with the readiness, age and stage debate. The trick is letting go of ego and recognising that you might not be the one to get the credit in the academic year…it might take time for those results to happen. This also requires trust and support from those in management and your parent community. In the interim however, strong foundations are built which will support students’ life long learning and sense of self.

As we reach the end of this decade we are becoming more informed about the neuroscience of learning. This has been particularly highlighted in a resurgence of interest in play based learning.

Like Barbara Brann’s building block, play based learning addresses the underpinning structures of learning…the soft skills or key competencies as they are known in the NZ curriculum. A skilled teacher can notice and utilise these opportunities to access the breadth and width of the curriculum…or the academic curriculum within this context.

In short I believe that the two can work together, with Branns work providing access to a wealth of knowledge which will support the enactment of play based learning. It is not an easy balance to find and will be affected by teacher knowledge, where you are in your experience, your school and community ethos and by sheer adult to child ratios. It is well worth it!

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