Play versus Work

What constitutes the difference between play and work for children? Georgeson & Payler (2015) posit that it is all about perception. At the heart of the matter, they say, is the perception of freedom versus constraint. Also of note is the impact of teacher discourse on signalling which is which.

Georgeson and Payler continue by listing some of the objects that children tend to associate with play such as blocks, paint, construction materials, computer/board games etc. This begs the question – if one of these were used in a constrained activity would it then become work?

I am reminded of a student who was an incredibly talented (and young) artist. Normally engrossed for significant lengths of time in an art project of their design, this student was taken into an art extension class. The student’s behaviour was reported back as being ‘disruptive’ and ‘just mucking around’. Now in this context students were being taught a particular art technique. Had this student’s ‘play’ become ‘work’?


Georgeson, J., & Payler, J. (2015). Work or play: How children learn to read the signals. In J. Moyles (Ed.), The excellence of play (4th ed., pp. 159–172). New York, NY: Open University Press.


Interaction is key to good pedagogy

How much do you interact with your students?

It seems a bit of a redundant question when interaction is key to teaching. Perhaps though, it is worth reflecting on what that interaction actually looks like and whether it is interaction at all.

One thing I have found (and it may just be me although I doubt it) is that I often end up spending the wrong proportion of time instructing or talking rather than interacting. This happens particularly when I feel under pressure and is something I have actively been trying to address. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines interaction as:  “mutual or reciprocal action or influence”. This indicates a two way street rather than passive agreement or compliance. How could I increase the proportion of time spent interacting with students and decrease the time spent talking at them? Why does this even matter?

“One of the key components of good pedagogy, regardless of whether technology is involved, is interaction. Interaction is an essential ingredient of any learning environment (face-to-face classroom-based, synchronous/asynchronous online education, or blended models). Interaction in learning is a necessary and  fundamental process for knowledge acquisition and the development of both cognitive and physical skills (Barker, 1994 ),” (Woo & Reeves, 2007 p.15).

One could argue that the goal of instructions is not knowledge acquisition, that it is just not manageable to make instruction giving wildly interactive and that there are times it is appropriate to speak to learners and they actually just need to listen. To this I would say giving instructions is a degree of short term knowledge acquisition: the knowledge is what to do. I also thoroughly agree with the manageability issue however I would argue that it is the proportion of time spent on talking at or to that minimises interaction opportunities. And if interaction is so essential, shouldn’t this be what is maximised.

So how can this actually be achieved in the context of instructions?

  • Remember that you have a whole classroom of potential teachers: your students. Give your instruction briefly. Take a ‘think-pair-share’ moment (when one turns to a partner and talk with them) and get students to explain the instruction in their own words. They could also ask their partner any questions they have about the instruction. Be actively listening for questions and watching for pairs who are sitting there in silence. Address any major themes, grab hold of any students who are confused and send the others to get started.
  • Another way I do it (especially at pack up time when there is a long list of jobs for my young students) is to give the instruction then summarise it in four key words – one prompt for each instruction. Get students using fingers or tapping body parts to serve as reminders. I wouldn’t rate this one particularly high on the interaction scale but it does work.

What about content delivery?

  • Rather than just giving a talk, get students to take notes. If they are not fluent writers get them to draw a quick picture. Post it notes work really well for this – but you could use some other method.
  • Have an easel/whiteboard on hand which spellings of asked for words can be jotted down on.
  • Pause at times and get students to pair-share their learning.
  • If you are working digitally, have students contribute to an online set of notes – perhaps one between two or three could work. Each child in a group could have a different focus they are listening for.

To be fair I am sure there are many of you out there who have a much wider range of ideas than these. Feel free to share them!

A final point I would like to make is that teaching can be really hard work and I am sure that you are doing the best you can (and that includes maintaining your sanity as well as the students’ academic learning). So take heart and know that there are plenty of us out there who say you are amazing!

Perhaps the question to ask is not how much you interact, but how do you interact with your students?


Interaction. (n.d.). Retrieved June 15, 2017, from

Woo, Y., & Reeves, T. C. (2007). Meaningful interaction in web-based learning: A social constructivist interpretation. The Internet and Higher Education, 10(1), 15–25.

New learning = blogging explosion

Yet more just in time learning! I wanted to create some QR code stickers for our school Ready to Read texts so I don’t have to keep fluffing searching for the audio file during the lesson, or going and putting a bookmark on each device to the text. I was going to use for short links & creating QR codes. A quick Google search & some experimenting = success!

How to create QR codes on mass  – use this. It does work. I was really suprised – but excited.

“Getting Ready:
  1. Go to:
  2. Create a new spreadsheet.
  3. Label Column A “Text or URL.”
  4. Label Column B “QR Code.”
  5. Resize the columns and rows so they look like the screenshot below.
  6. Enter some text or URLs in column A.” Quoted from Google Search”

I then wanted to resize the cells so that QR codes were larger. I figured out how to do one – a bit painful, but achievable – on mass though? No. There is a shorter way.

Resize cells in Google Sheets – “Locate and click the Select All button just below the formula bar to select every cell in the spreadsheet. Hover the mouse over the line between two rows. The cursor will turn into a double arrow . Click, hold, and drag the row border to modify the height.” Quoted from Google Search. 

Summary – Singaporean teachers’ views of classroom assessment

Assessment matters 6: 2014 p.34-64.

  • Singaporean teachers’ views of classroom assessment.
  • Assessment is cultural and not easily transferable.
  • Teachers first need to know their views of classroom assessment.
  • Should be holistic.
  • Q: viewpoints can be subjective and can be communicative. Designed to explore “Subjective perceptions of groups of individuals.Easy Blog Photo

Formative Assessment in Action: summary notes

Information taken from “Formative assessment in action: weaving the elements together” by Shirley Clarke.

p.6 Authority for the knowledge cannot be left in the hands of the teachers alone. All have a contribution to make. Making sense of new knowledge comes by connecting these to their prior knowledge and their expectations construed from this.


Assessments themselves do not result in learning. It needs to be deliberate. Formative assessment is defined Continue reading

A question about retention…

Throughout the world there are students who struggle with their school-based learning, despite multiple interventions in place. Yes there are always elements of poverty, genetics,  home-life, social interaction and what habitus they bring with them to school. However to simply put the struggle down to any one of these things is irresponsible and deficit theorizing. The best place a teacher can start from is examining their own practice.

After discussion with a colleague I have begun to wonder whether a part of this issue stems from a lack of ‘memory fitness’ of sorts. Is the underlying issue in the context of school that the students are getting the results into their short term memory but something blocks it from moving into the long term memory? Are  there exercises that can be used to develop the ability to shift short term memory to long term?

My question therefore is: how can memory exercises be used to improve long term retention of strategy and number knowledge and what evidence can support this?