Jump to content

What are first year (s) of school classroom activities like?


  • Please log in to reply
22 replies to this topic

#1 Deep thought

Posted 30 June 2019 - 03:54 PM

My first is going to school next year and we have some choice about where to send them. I find it very hard to observe whether the schools or classrooms have the values I want.
How are kindy/prep classes run these days? How unique is it to have play prioritised, or should we expect this to varying degrees across most somewhat above average schools? I'm asking because it's important to me, but our nearest school (super close - so I'd love to be happy there) wasn't extremely convincing about their values but maybe I just lack a point of comparison. They have a developmental play area (toy kitchen, dress ups, train tracks stuff like that) adjoining the classrooms but when I asked how they use it, it was one single session a week, which is maybe half an hour.
The school grounds are tired- there is very little play equipment to facilitate active play at lunchtime.

The alternative school we're looking at is not walking distance, though only 2km away, but it's very clear the school values play based learning in infants school and has an amazing playground. It's undoubtedly a terrific school but is it really worth it if we have to travel there? Has anyone gone further afield for primary school and ultimately regretted not being a stones throw from the school and many of the other people at the school?

I really just want to know what's a reasonable expectation to have of the teaching staff. For example, the classrooms of the nearby school did not have a lot of art on walls or look as colourful/ warm inviting/thoughtful kindy rooms as what I imagined/recalled- seemed a bit higgledy-piggledy with storage units lining walls all around the room, but I haven't seen the room in action, maybe those drawers are hiding heaps of great learning props. I don't want to be harsh to the teachers, but (in absence of other stuff) is classroom layout something to judge the learning experience on?

Both schools have reputation for great community but we live (renting and may move next year anyway- an uncertainty that complicates how much to value distance to school) right in middle of first school area so we're arguably more naturally part of that community. Both schools have good music programs and I don't see there is much between them in extra curricular opportunities.

#2 José

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:03 PM

View PostDeep thought, on 30 June 2019 - 03:54 PM, said:


How unique is it to have play prioritised,


The alternative school we're looking at is not walking distance, though only 2km away,
Has anyone gone further afield for primary school

I don't want to be harsh to the teachers, but (in absence of other stuff) is classroom layout something to judge the learning experience on?



ive edited your post to respond to parts of it, hope thats ok.

firstly IME play will not be prioritised over more academic pursuits like reading, writing and working with numbers.

2km is hardly further afield. 2km wouldnt even be a factor for me.

it sounds like you are judging learning experience on the newness of the buildings and structures. is that what youre doing? assuming the school with the newer stuff must have better teachers and better learning experiences?

#3 Deep thought

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:19 PM

Yeah I admit I am a little bit judging on newness of stuff. One school is ahead with the demographics to fundraise for a new playground which implements great ideas. The other school would definitely want an enriched learning environment like that, I'm sure, so it's not to say they don't value that stuff but they don't have it yet- so how can I tell if they prioritize play? From the perspective of a parent though, it's so tempting to want the already established great physical environment for learning,( that is by accounts accompanied by great teachers who must love to teach in that environment). I couldn't give a stuff about the quality of the carpet or shineyness of "stuff", but the newness of stuff is more than that, as it means they've got more thoughtful and best practise designs.

(I don't want to derail into the public vs private debate but I can't help but exclaim that I simply can't believe that it's the PnC job to fundraise for playground maintenance or upgrades whilst some schools put in stadiums and pools on the public purse! )

#4 Mmmcheese

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:29 PM

All schools are different, but from what I've seen, play generally isn't prioritised. (I'm a kinder (year before school) teacher in Vic. So I do prioritise play in my work)

Edited by Mmmcheese, 30 June 2019 - 04:29 PM.


#5 kimasa

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:32 PM

On the topic of the playgrounds, my daughter's school has a number of play structures, but when I hang around before school and watch her play with her friends, what I see is a lot of "QUICK, THE GIANT IS COMING, RUN TO THAT TREE" *they all run* "LOOK, THIS LEAF IS MAGIC, I WILL MAGIC THE GIANT AWAY WITH MY MAGIC LEAF!" "LET'S ALL FIND MAGIC LEAVES" "AND LET'S PRETEND THE STAIRS OVER THERE ARE WHERE THE GIANT SLEEPS" "OH NO LET'S RUN FAR AWAY FROM THE STAIRS!“ *they're running again* *now they're running around in a big circle for no apparent reason* *now they're running backwards again, who knows why*. With "I'M BATMAN AND YOU'RE SPIDERMAN GGGGOOOOOOOO!" and a bunch of skipping ropes from the sports cupboard happening around them.

I don't believe kids need structured equipment to encourage active play, most kids are drawn to it naturally. If there is enough space to run little ones will run.

#6 Octopodes

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:33 PM

2km is nothing in terms of distance. Our zoned school is 2km away. DS goes to school 12km from home. Yes, it can be a hassle at times, but the school has made the commute worth it.

It depends on what you mean by valuing play. Do you mean physical, run around outside play? Or learning through play in the classroom? I wouldn't expect many schools to spend a lot of class time having free play, they struggle to fit all of the curriculum requirements in as it is.

edit: I wouldn't let an absence of outdoor play equipment impact on my choice of school. Our school has very little structured play areas, but they do have a huge field for the kids to play footy, cricket, soccer, whatever they like on. Well, they do when it's not plover breeding season, then it's "quick run away from the evil super villain ploverman"

Edited by Octopodes, 30 June 2019 - 04:39 PM.


#7 becstar101

Posted 30 June 2019 - 04:35 PM

Many of the public Primary schools in our area have play based learning curriculum in the early years. For my children’s school, prep days would start with what they called ‘developmental play’, which would often then be parlayed into a lesson - writing about what they had done in play, reporting on what they had observed others doing etc.

To know if they prioritise play, you just had to ask. A school who does will make it a feature of discussion on early years curriculum, and will have play areas incorporated into the classroom, or indoor/outdoor play spaces (ours had a courtyard used exclusively by the preps).

ETA I wouldn’t be too fussed about a 2km journey. For my kids that was an easy scoot/bike ride from 5 years old.

Edited by becstar101, 30 June 2019 - 04:37 PM.


#8 Expelliarmus

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:22 PM

View PostDeep thought, on 30 June 2019 - 04:19 PM, said:

Yeah I admit I am a little bit judging on newness of stuff. One school is ahead with the demographics to fundraise for a new playground which implements great ideas. The other school would definitely want an enriched learning environment like that, I'm sure, so it's not to say they don't value that stuff but they don't have it yet- so how can I tell if they prioritize play? From the perspective of a parent though, it's so tempting to want the already established great physical environment for learning,( that is by accounts accompanied by great teachers who must love to teach in that environment). I couldn't give a stuff about the quality of the carpet or shineyness of "stuff", but the newness of stuff is more than that, as it means they've got more thoughtful and best practise designs.
Not necessarily. It means they've got better fundraising. And doesn't always come with teachers who love teaching in that environment.

In any case, playgrounds are used for break times and rarely used for teaching and learning activities. If you are looking for something that indicates play-based learning as a priority you are more likely to find that if they have a nature play area which is a better outdoor area for teaching and learning.

Another indicator would be how the classrooms are set up. Are they set up with provocations or not? If they have provocations then yes, play-based learning is valued. It won't matter about art on display etc.

Provocation like this:

Posted Image
Posted Image

#9 robhat

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:24 PM

From what I know of NSW schools, in the first year of school it's reasonably common for the kids to have some form of free play, usually on Friday afternoons after lunch. They are also free to play more or less however they like in the playground during recess and lunch. Many schools have outdoor equipment that is stored away when not in use.

As for the rest of the time, it will be subject based and academic, but depending on the school can still be playful. It's not unusual that things like board games would be used for Maths and literacy and science and technology lessons are often hands on. Definitely not free play like you'd see in preschools and daycare, but not necessarily sitting at desks and copying from the board. Most schools will also have lessons for music, library and PE during the week and sometimes schools may have other activities. Ours has a veggie garden and social skills classes.

All this may vary a bit from state to state, but where I am in Sydney you're not likely to find much different to the above unless you want to pay for a private school with a special program.

And we went out of zone for our school. We're about 3km from the school we go to and it's no problem at all. Don't regret it one bit. I'd love for us to be able to walk and not have to deal with the parking issues, but given how much we love the school, I'm willing to forgo it. A good school is worth a little trouble.

#10 atthebeach

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:27 PM

how did the school 2 kms away fund the playground - was it through p.f.a fundraising or did the school get a govt grant? my kids are at a school that rarely displays student work, the p.f.a doesn't say what it fundraises for. my kids go to another public primary school for an after-school activity and the difference is enormous - the student displays, the artwork, the parent input. it is distinctly obvious that there is way more care at the other school.
i would investigate further and not hesitate about a 2km distance - if it turns out the school is not so great afterall, you could easily transfer to the school nearest you.

#11 hoohoobump

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:35 PM

Prep classrooms at our local are 2/3 play area, and 1/3 carpet. Tables are scatted around the space for different learning activities. Lots of focus in the first year on craft and phonics and the natural environment. There is a home corner, dress ups and loads of building and books etc.

I’d say the classroom is two d style classrooms with the wall knocked out in between. Always a teacher and a teacher aide or two floating around the space.

It does seem to vary a lot. Sounds like our neighbouring school is not like this and is much more desk based from earlier on.

#12 Lime-Polka-Dot

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:36 PM

A lack of artwork / posters / general clutter and over load of clutter isn't a bad thing at all. Some class rooms are very 'busy' and create an overwhelming sensory overload for some children. Some primary school class rooms I've visited are almost enough to give me a headache with the amount of stuff everywhere.

It's definitely something we are aware of when setting up our rooms in Preschool/ Kindergarten (year before school in Vic.)

Edited by Lime-Polka-Dot, 30 June 2019 - 05:40 PM.


#13 22Fruitmincepies

Posted 30 June 2019 - 05:51 PM

I’m in WA, so the kids are often a bit younger (DD started FYOS this year aged 4.5yo). In her classroom at the moment is a supermarket set up for kids to play together, a table with catalogues where kids can look through and write or draw a shopping list. They have box building area, a puzzle area, and a block corner. They start with a session sitting on the mat, then break up and small groups will do a supervised activity and the rest will be able to play in the areas they want.

#14 blimkybill

Posted 30 June 2019 - 06:01 PM

View Post22Fruitmincepies, on 30 June 2019 - 05:51 PM, said:

I’m in WA, so the kids are often a bit younger (DD started FYOS this year aged 4.5yo). In her classroom at the moment is a supermarket set up for kids to play together, a table with catalogues where kids can look through and write or draw a shopping list. They have box building area, a puzzle area, and a block corner. They start with a session sitting on the mat, then break up and small groups will do a supervised activity and the rest will be able to play in the areas they want.
By contrast, I am in the ACT and I visit quite a few first year of school classes. The majority have the room taken up with desks in groups, plus a sitting area on the floor for whole class teaching. The majority of the day is teacher led rather than child led. Eg a 2 hour literacy block incorporated explicit whole class teaching of reading skills, reading groups or rotations, story time during fruit break, whole class explicit writing teaching, individual desk work. There may be play materials in the room but they are brought out at specific times and are not left set up. No home corners, maybe just a reading corner if there is space. Activities involving child led, open ended learning (ie play-like activities) are used at times and may be called investigations (similar to previously mentioned provocations). But the majority of time is quite curriculum focused and teacher directed.

#15 smilinggirl

Posted 30 June 2019 - 06:26 PM

VIC here. Our school follows the Kathy Walker way of teaching, so play based learning which is child led but obviously with teacher input so that what needs to be taught, is taught! No desks in the classroom. Start of the day is Investigations where the children spend time working on what they are interested in while at the same time linking it back to the curriculum with the assistance of the teacher. Each week each child is given the role of photographer, reporter or focus child (the teacher spends one-on-one time with the focus child working on areas of need, their interests, expanding on what is already learnt etc.). When students come together it is sitting on the carpet in front of the teacher.

A lot of team teaching occurs. So there are four classes this year in the combined Grade 1/2 level and sometimes my daughter goes into one room for Maths and another room for reading etc., depending on who is doing what or she stays in her own room (they are all open - there are walls, but not doors. So her actual teacher knows her really well, but the other three teachers also have a lot of knowledge as well. It is a bit hard to explain!

We are within walking distance (in the same street), but most families drive to school so I don't think being within walking distance or not should really be a deciding factor.

Whilst outdoor play equipment is popular, the children mainly play using their imaginations (which is similar to how they learn under Kathy Walker's teachings) or playing sport.

Our school values giving the children responsibilities ie. they help out in the office answering phones, run the weekly assembly etc.

It is very hard to explain, but my daughter thrives in it. She knows that she can go to any of the teachers in her level and they all know her. I was initially worried before I sent her there, that she wouldn't learn how to read but she has, so it seems to be working for us!

#16 ERipley

Posted 30 June 2019 - 06:37 PM

OP, I think you have made your mind up and you’re worried about the distance. I agree that 2km is fine. We chose a slightly out of zone school and it’s about the same distance. On nice, sunny days I think how nice it would be to just walk my twins to the local school to pick up their older sibling, but rainy days I know I would have to strap them into the car anyway then fight for parking spaces just to get around the corner. The school we chose has amazing parking available and you should take this into account if you will be driving.

The play-based thing. Actually the reason we didn’t choose our local school is that it was too play-based. They spend 3 hours, 3 days per week in free play - that’s just in the class room, lunch and recess are extra. It was like an extension of preschool. Some people love that but it would have been awful for my son who thrives on structure. Point is though, schools like that certainly do exist.

Go for the better playground and environment. I think when it comes to children we underrate the effect a beautiful space can have on their emotional experience. My son’s school and classroom are lovely, whereas the other was dark and overcrowded. And don’t forget they are still building vital gross motor skills so a good playground is really important.

#17 ERipley

Posted 30 June 2019 - 06:56 PM

Oh and our school are very clear about their values.

#18 Future-self

Posted 30 June 2019 - 08:11 PM

QLD here. FYOS classroom had a home corner and dolls and kitchen and 'office', dress ups and props, blocks and marble runs, craft, boxes for building. A sandpit just outside. Every day had one learning block (45 mins I think?) dedicated to 'VIP" time - Very Important Playtime which was free play in these areas. QLD kids start usually between 4.5 and 5.5 years of age so this is important. Still Structured - a set time limit in set spaces (sandpit only, not allowed to roam in the playground etc) so suited kids that need structure but developmentally appropriate.
The curriculum was then taught in a 'play based way' - using their bodies for learning measurements for example but that would not be considered play.

2km is fine - we're that far from out catchment school. When the kiddos are older and we have a dog that needs walking we'll  start walking to and from at least once a week.

#19 Jennifaraway

Posted 30 June 2019 - 08:59 PM

I drive 15km each way to take my son to school - he started last year. But out local zoned school wasn't suitable for him for a variety of reasons (and it's probably less than 1km walk away!). His current school is private, but not a super-expensive one (I went to one of those from year 3 - well it is NOW but wasn't quite so bad in the 1980s-90s). We had limited choices in what we wanted for school and it was either that or try to get into out-of-area.

We're in NSW. FYOS (kindy in NSW) is heaps more academic than it was when I was a kid - but I started school in 1983. But his school has play things set up in the kindy and year 1 classrooms (and for all I know, year 2 as well). Eg train tracks, kitchen, dressups, etc. There are artworks etc all over (they have strings set up across the ceiling to hang them from). When we did a tour before booking DS in, we dropped by a kindy class and they were having free play - there was quiet music, some kids were in dressups, some were on iPads, some were drawing, etc. It looked chaotic, but in a good way. My mum was a early-years teacher and her classrooms were always a bit like that. They also had a play set with monkey bars for kindy, and a separate grassed play area. We really loved the atmosphere.

I think that's the important thing - what kind of vibe did you get? From the kids and teachers, not just the physical infrastructure. Of course, that's if you have a choice of schools - in a lot of Sydney they're so full that getting out of zone is difficult.

#20 Grrrumbles

Posted 30 June 2019 - 09:24 PM

My experience of FYOS in a play based environment is very much like Smiling Girl described but without open plan and team teaching as it is a small school.

So it is enquiry based learning rather than ‘free play’ as such. No desks, just tables for activities. They could often choose to be outside or inside (or under the balcony) and spent a fair bit of the day outside usually but often working with a clip board or doing construction.

There is structure to the day but not a lot of sitting quietly listening the teacher up the front. The teacher moves between the children, bringing them on the floor in front of the whiteboard and electroboard when they need to.

They still used iPads, Chromebooks (later infant years) and watched things on the board but they also spent time jumping in puddles and collecting bugs.

#21 Prancer is coming

Posted 30 June 2019 - 09:48 PM

Schools can change quickly too.  A new principal or opportunity and all of a sudden things can be done a lot differently.

We got a nice new playground in the kinder area.  All because one of the parents at the school is a playground designer and volunteered a stack of time, and we had many a working bee to get it built.  This saved a stack of money and otherwise our school could not have afforded it.  We also now have an outdoor class room and a garden with another outdoor classroom within that planned.

We have a part time kinder class with plenty of play based learning, but my experience with the first year of full time school is there is a lot to cover under the curriculum and whilst that is a big focus, it can be delivered in a fun, nature based way.  My kids have certainly done stuff outside identifying shapes, drawing on the courts in chalk and collecting materials to make stuff out of.

In relation to fancy displays, I think they take time to put together.  One teacher may be taking that time to do a display, whilst another may be putting in more time to plan lessons in a creative way.  Bit like when my kids did childcare and many parents liked when there was lots of reporting about the kid’s day and photos.  Whereas I would rather the time be spent with the kids than on detailed daily roundup.

#22 mayahlb

Posted 01 July 2019 - 09:55 AM

WA here also so the grouping is a bit younger (no leeway on cutoffs and you have to start if you are 5 by June 30).

If is very play based still but often teacher lead. They do some actual lessons but the prep classrooms are set up with stations, not desks assigned to kids. There is a open unstructured play section. Art is displayed but areas are kept less busy as some kids need it to be less “busy”. A lot of it is more enquiry based learning rather then sitting down and this is how you add numbers.

2km is fine. It’s not actually that far, though I’d do a through runs to see what traffic is like. My kids travel 25kms to school but we live outside town and they catch a dedicated school bus which they have caught since 5. If we lived 2km from the school mine would likely walk or bike/scooter with me every other day if the weather was fine because parking at the school sucks.

#23 Deep thought

Posted 08 July 2019 - 11:33 AM

Thanks for all your contributions. It really has been helpful to demystify what are reasonable expectations to have about schools, from someone who hasn't been in a school for a long time!

I love the concept of the Kathy walker approach Smiling Girl, another school nearby (our closest school!) has that but being out of zone, we have already been rejected. I think it was finding out what this school was doing that made me realise I wasn't completely satisfied with our zoned school. I did not notice thoughtful provocations as Expelliamus suggested.

We still may choose our local school, I know we won't regret either decision- one will have us getting to know the families that live in our immediate vicinity which is nice, and there are lots of nice things to say about the school, my son will be happy and not care either way. Lots of people say you never regret going local and I believe them.

That said, we think we can manage the commute to the other school, which is actually 2.5km we've realised. We'd probably encourage cycling to become the primary mode of travel there, we're a bike riding family. I think once we settled in, we'll love the school and tell ourselves it's worth it, for the excellence that this school radiates, and it's clear commitment to enquiry based/ investigative learning and evidence based improvement of their in classroom practices, and their thoughtful physical environments. We may curse the decision on rainy days and during grumbly commutes though.
I guess I have just never seen myself as a school snob, having always been to the closest school to my home, and now I'm having trouble reconciling my self image with the choices I'm about to make for my kids!




0 user(s) are reading this topic

0 members, 0 guests, 0 anonymous users

 
 
Advertisement
 

Top 5 Viewed Articles

 
Advertisement
 
 
 
Advertisement
 
 
Essential Baby and Essential Kids is the place to find parenting information and parenting support relating to conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids, maternity, family budgeting, family travel, nutrition and wellbeing, family entertainment, kids entertainment, tips for the family home, child-friendly recipes and parenting. Try our pregnancy due date calculator to determine your due date, or our ovulation calculator to predict ovulation and your fertile period. Our pregnancy week by week guide shows your baby's stages of development. Access our very active mum's discussion groups in the Essential Baby forums or the Essential Kids forums to talk to mums about conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, kids and parenting lifestyle. Essential Baby also offers a baby names database of more than 22,000 baby names, popular baby names, boys' names, girls' names and baby names advice in our baby names forum. Essential Kids features a range of free printable worksheets for kids from preschool years through to primary school years. For the latest baby clothes, maternity clothes, maternity accessories, toddler products, kids toys and kids clothing, breastfeeding and other parenting resources, check out Essential Baby and Essential Kids.