Monthly Archives: June 2018

7 Tricks to Write an A+ Discussion Posting in the Online Learning

Online learning is an exceptional experience for candidates who wish to maintain balance between studies and work. Flexible learning environment is provided here. The learning pattern is innovative and encouraging. Discussion is a required part of E education because it helps to get a good grade. Every discussion takes place on a particular topic. It is online discussion that connects you with your e-learning classmates. One topic and several points of views in form of answers seem thought provoking. Candidates are required to give an answer showing their understanding and critical thinking.

Here are some important tips to make your discussion posting worthy of an A+.

Identify the Purpose of Discussion

The virtual classroom discussion is far different than the regular classroom discussion. Here you use keyword to share your thought instead of your voice. Each discussion has a purpose which is important to understand. So, read the discussion posting carefully or more than twice to provide an accurate answer.

Read the Direction of Discussion Posting Carefully

Whether you a seasoned e-learner or a new candidate, it is must for you to know the direction of posting. Sometimes, it is required to give personal response and sometimes a formal response with full of ideas is required to provide.  It is better to read other related discussion questions before you provide answer.

Point to Point Discussion

Make your answer well focused. Don’t move from the topic. Relevant and point to point solution to a question is essential. If you are off-topic, it is hard to score well.

Collect References

Online discussion doesn’t require candidates to give answer instantly. A time is set to provide an answer to a question. You can get enough time to gather references to provide the best answer. Collect relevant and accurate references. Make sure that your answer is a mixture of your thoughts and references so that uniqueness can be seen. Otherwise your answer could be count as plagiarism or copied. Try to provide the answer in your own words.

Follow the Posting Rules

It is necessary to follow the posting rules that your e-learning centre has instructed for discussion forum. Usually, the rules carry on time posting, unique posting, on topic respond, structure of respond and word limits. Read the instruction before posting. If your answer is right but it is not according to rules, you will not get grading for this. Your effort can go vain.

Provide Satisfactory Answer

According to online distance education rules, your discussion posting should satisfy the professor and classmates. Don’t leave your answer in mid way. Try to include every major point that gives worth to your answer and makes it meaningful.

Writing Your Post

Type your post initially in a word processing program to avoid mistakes. Online discussions are usually informal, but candidates should give the best answer with no spelling and grammatical mistakes. Write your answer in MS Word first to avoid such mistakes and copy it to the forum.

Regularly participate in discussion to get good grades.

A reflection on Rudolf Steiner-inspired early childhood education

Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925) believed that there are three stages of development from infancy to adulthood.

The first stage is up to seven years of age when the child is sensitive to the surrounding environment and responds through the ‘will’. This implies that learning takes place through doing, which is from movement and activity. The child is driven by what he is exposed to in the environment, as well as through the imitation and example of others around him. The second stage from seven to fourteen years is when children live in the emotional realm and develop an understanding of the feelings for life. The third stage from fourteen to twenty one years is when the individual is in the realm of ideas. These three stages constitute an education where the will (doing), the heart (feeling), and the head (thinking) are at the forefront during the developmental stages to adulthood (Bruce, 2011).

During the stage of the ‘will’, Steiner kindergartens foster a child’s imagination and sense of wonder. This is done through story telling, pentatonic songs, imaginative play, everyday home activities, and nature play. Physical and social skills are developed in an environment where children are not cognitively challenged. The emphasis for developing a strong foundation for intellectual learning takes place only after the first seven years. Numeracy and literacy skills are built during this period in the early years through oral language interaction and practical learning experiences, and not by any instructional educational practices. Play based learning involves the habit of children taking action on their own from the opportunities provided by the early childhood teachers. Through this love of action, “The children will have a further habit, the habit of self-direction, and through creative play will have discovered the joy of creativity, the habit of seeking creative solutions to the challenges they meet, to be able to imagine alternatives” (Oldfield, 2009, p. 58).

Steiner-inspired education is based on offering a child learning through activity and personal experiences as opposed to an instructional based system. Oldfield (2009) states that it is, “crucial that abstract learning and accelerated adult centric direction do not begin before the child has passed naturally through the transition from play to idea based activity” (p. 53). There remains concern amongst Steiner early childhood practitioners that the importance of play is being undermined. This play time is being taken over by instructional numeracy, literacy, and IT driven substitutes. Their belief is that a strong foundation has to be established first, through the ‘will’, or the child ‘doing’ for himself, before he is ready for instruction based learning.

The Steiner early childhood teacher’s focus revolves around exposing children in their care to imitation and example, as well as rhythm and repetition during the day. From my own experience in Steiner kindergarten settings, a teacher has his own room with about fifteen to twenty children. The teacher is the centre point in the room and is confident that the children will learn through an approach of imitation and example. The teacher doea not restrain movement but attempts to work with it. Oldfield (2011) cites Harwood from a book titled ‘The Way of the Child’ that states, “It is useless to tell them not to touch, not to taste, not to move, not to meddle. They do what they will. But in the heart of this apparent lawless age, nature has inserted a law of authority. Young children are bound by an absolute necessity to imitate” (p. 62). When children go outdoors to play they interact with others from different rooms in a common outdoor area that is generally large with trees to climb, and ample things to discover and play with in a natural setting. There is no free flow to go outdoors or stay indoors. These times are a part of the rhythm to the day that children get settled into.

I have always enjoyed working in a Steiner kindergarten room and my impressions are that they are welcoming and quite visual. The setup is simple with wooden objects, coloured fabrics, pastel walls without any posters, charts, or photographs. The enviroment is actually quite aesthetically warm and pleasant. This leaves the child to develop their own imagination in a setting that is not confusing and overstimulating. It leaves him to discover and imagine for himself, in an environment conducive to open ended imaginative play. Activities in the room can include water colours, crayons, wool to weave with, cutting fruit and vegetables, kneading dough to bake home made bread, and opportunities for a lot of imaginative play in different areas of the room. The same goes for play when children venture outside. It is their play in a relatively natural environment without monkey bars and plastic toys. Along with a sandpit, Papatūānuku or Mother Nature offer children the oppoertunity to climb trees, explore, and learn through their own willingness. Everything in a Steiner kindergarten is in some way connected to offering quality sensory experiences.

Circle time is an important part of the day when children are seated in a circle with the teacher at the helm engaging the children through movement and song. The children imitate the teacher and the theme could evolve around the seasons or song and movement that is repeated every day for a few weeks. Fine motor skills are developed through finger play and gesture. Gross motor skills are developed through  balancing, jumping, dancing, clapping, etc. The repetitive nature of circle times also help children to grasp phonics as a build up towards literacy skills. Story times take place just before the children leave the kindergarten to go home. This time does not involve movement, but children listen to stories being told, often with natural materials or puppets made of wool by the teachers themselves. Again, a lot of the child’s learning is left to his own imagination.

Festivals based on seasons form an important part of a Steiner curriculum. This is an annual rhythm of events that involve preparation and taking part in these seasonal festivals. The religious undertone of these festivals and traditions was always an area I grappled with. In my mind, Steiner educational beliefs revolved around the whole being which included the spiritual element. I could never connect with festivals of a religious nature like Advent, Lent, and Michaelmas that play such an important part of the year in kindergartens. For me they represented a Christian belief and not a universal spirituality. That was always my dilemma in a Steiner early childhood setting in New Zealand.

In conclusion, I do feel that Steiner kindergartens have a lot to offer from the context of letting the child be ready when he is ready. Steiner kindergartens are usually in school compounds and children do not rush to go to school when they are five years of age. The kindergarten teacher, along with others, determines the readiness of a child before that transition takes place. The foundation to develop into lifelong competent learners has to be slowly built. I strongly believe in the power of imaginative play with no cognitive pressure in the early years to be the key for the strong development of this foundation before going to school.

“There is only one difference between the play of the child and the work of the adult. It is that the adult adapts himself to the outer utility which the world demands: his work is determined from without. Play is determined from within, through the being of the child, which wants to unfold.” – Rudolf Steiner, Dornach lecture, 1923. (Oldfield, 2009, p. 83).

Is Homework Outdated in Today’s Educational System?

Gone are the days when school children across America had to trudge through several inches of snow to make their way to one-room school-houses.  Likewise, fallen by the wayside is the use of the three R’s as the primary curriculum for this nation’s schools.  A rap across the hand with a ruler is no longer used as a method of classroom discipline. Many of the traditions and standards of education have become antiquated and outdated. Perhaps the next casualty of societal change should be the widespread use of homework as a learning tool for today’s children.

Education and society as a whole have grown increasingly more complex. Society bears little resemblance to what it was just a few short years ago. Children today face an entirely different school day than that of their parents and grandparents and the children of decades ago. National and state standards require a much more rigorous program of study for today’s student. As a result, the curriculum is greatly expanded with many concepts being introduced at a much earlier grade level. In order to accommodate the expanded curriculum and mandated standards of accountability there has been a major decrease in the amount of recess, play and non-structured time for the average school-child.

The average student now participates in a variety of after-school activities. Football, basketball, choir, band, and cheer have been joined by soccer, dance, volleyball, softball, baseball, golf, quiz bowl, cross-country, academic decathlon, and a variety of other activities that place tremendous demands on the student’s time. Activities not related to school but also demands student time include little league baseball, softball, football, and basketball as well as dance, cheer, motorcross, and church activities. Factor in students who also work part time and you have a group of children who usually have their evenings filled with extracurricular activities. In today’s society we have students who spend their day in school and their evenings occupied with extra-curricular activities. Often the student doesn’t even arrive at home until nine or ten o’clock in the evening.

The student that arrives home late after a long day at school, followed by an evening spent in an extra-curricular activity is faced with few options in regards to homework. He/she could spend a considerable amount of time completing the homework assignments and end up going to bed exhausted in the early morning hours.  The end result is an exhausted student who is not likely to be in the best condition for learning in class. The child may or may not do the assignment or at best only give a half-hearted effort to do the work. This student would likely suffer the consequences in the form of a lower grade or in some cases, punishment in the form of detention, added assignments, or other similar negative consequences.

Even very young children are not immune from the effects of homework. It is not uncommon for first and second grade students to have a large amount of homework. The drive for accountability has created a school environment that places a premium on instructional time. Recess has been gradually eroded to the point the average elementary child has only ten to fifteen minutes of unstructured play time per day. In many school districts recess has been eliminated altogether.  Add a large homework assignment each evening and it raises a significant question; when do kids get the chance to be kids?

Another significant question is what do kids do when they reach a point that they don’t understand how to do an assignment? Politicians, school administrators, and teachers say that parents need to get involved and help the child. That answer assumes the parent knows how to do the math problems, algebra, etc. How many parents have worked through a math problem with their child, found the right answer only to have the problem counted wrong because it was not worked in the process the teacher and the text required?   Parents may not have been exposed to certain scientific principles or even have a background in how to diagram a sentence, among other current classroom skills. Too often, parents helping their child results in a process where they are using information and skills they learned over a quarter of a century ago.

An example of how homework has lost it’s usefulness in today’s schools is a recent orientation at a junior high school during the first week of school. The Principal, who had more than twenty years of experience, was beginning his first year as Principal of that particular school. He spoke to an over-flow crowd of parents and children who had filled the gymnasium to hear what the new Principal had to say.  He spoke of the high goals he had set for the school and was greeted with applause for his ideas. He then spoke of homework as a great learning tool and said that his teachers had been instructed to make sure every child in the school had two to three hours of homework every night since this was an outstanding way to build character. There was no applause on this point, only loud murmurs of disbelief and anger. This illustrates the clash of an outdated approach coming face-to-face with the reality of today’s life style.

Other options should be available to allow the students to rehearse their skills rather than continuing on with this dinosaur of the past. Since the great majority of the school day is now devoted to instructional activities this is where the great majority of rehearsal activities should take place. Having this work done at school rather than at home provides a great many benefits.  First, it allows the child who has spent the entire day engaged in academics to have time to be a kid, to explore other interests such as extracurricular activities, interests and hobbies which have an educational effect in that it broadens the child’s horizons. Another benefit of having the homework done in class is that it allows the teacher to be the person that shows the child how to solve the math problem, or discuss the real meaning of the history or literature question. This allows the person trained to teach these concepts to do the actual teaching; not a parent who may not know the exact process the teacher is looking for. Additionally, this approach should greatly reduce the stress the child suffers from spending the great majority of their time after school on homework. If the child goes to school more rested and relaxed the next day the more likely he/she will be able to grasp the concepts being taught much more quickly.

Without a doubt, it is time to rescue today’s children from yesterday’s educational practices.  Let’s take schoolwork from the home and put it back into the school so that trained professionals can fine tune these skills in an educational setting.  Let’s give the students in today’s schools the opportunity to be children. It’s time to put homework to rest with the other educational dinosaurs of the past.

Classroom Power Minutes

Classroom Power Minutes

By Reed Markham

World Languages and Speech Department

Daytona State College

Goal: To offer suggestions for using remaining time at the end of the public speaking class

I recently visited Washington, D.C. and believe that we live in a day of power ties, power meetings, power clothing and power conversations.  I would like to introduce a new concept for speech teachers- the classroom power minute.  One of the difficult challenges facing teachers of public speaking courses is what to do with the last 5-10 minutes remaining at the end of a class period.  What alternatives are available when your lecture or classroom presentation is finished before the end of the class period?

In discussing the subject with my students, I noted a number of undesirable alternatives; stretching out a lecture to fit the time limit; excusing the class early; allowing time for students to work on class homework , or study for other classes; and wasting the remaining time on idle conversation.  These alternatives waste valuable teaching time, lessen instructor control and give the student the impression the teacher is unprepared.

Another alternative to using classroom time involves using power minute presentations.  This strategy consists of a brief but significant experience that develops public speaking and critical thinking skills.  Power minute presentations are ungraded, spontaneous activities that allow a few students (or the entire class) to perform a communication task.  You may want to consider the following three power minute presentations:

Power Panel:  This activity begins with selecting four or more students to stand in the front of the room for an impromptu panel discussion.  You should compile a list of discussion questions dealing with local, state, national, or international issues.  For example, you want the students to discuss the rising cost of tuition, pollution of beaches, the homeless, or technology addictions.  You should provide some brief facts and contextual information and a few discussion questions.  You should encourage the class to present questions and challenges to the power panel.  At the conclusion of the power panel discussion, you should provide a brief summary of questions discussed.  This activity encourages critical thinking and an opportunity to assist students in dealing with speech anxiety.

Power Statements: This activity involves participation by every member of the class. You begin the activity by asking each class member to write a paragraph on a specified discussion question or concept.  For example, you may ask the class to write a paragraph summarizing the most important points to remember in organizing an informative or persuasive speech—or you could present a problem situation for the students to solve. For example, you could request a paragraph on how to solve our nation’s increasing college tuition rates.  Remember to encourage students to organize their thoughts quickly and to complete the paragraph by the end of the class period.  Students’ power statement is one way to provide students with critical writing opportunities.

Power Impromptu:  This activity gives students an opportunity to overcome speech anxiety and to think on their feet.  The student draws three topics and has a moment to gather his/her thoughts before presenting an impromptu speech based on one of the topics selected.  For example, a student may be given a quotation to review by the teacher.  The student is instructed to prepare a brief impromptu speech, describing what the quotation means to them.  For example, a teacher could distribute the following quotations to class members:

It is generally better to deal by speech than by letter. –Francis Bacon

Speak properly, and in as few words as you can, but always plainly, for the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood. –William Penn

Speaking requires even more simplification than writing- a reader can ‘reread’ a sentence, but listeners get easily distracted. Express yourself simply, then repeat the message.-Jack Anderson

Be prepared.  If you are prepared 95/5 of the fear of speaking will leave you.  You need the other 5% to keep you humble. –Don Aslett

Know the facts– hug the facts.  For the essential thing is heat, and heat comes from sincerity.         –Ralph Waldo Emerson

The teacher would give the student a couple of minutes to prepare a brief speech on the meaning of the quotation. After the two minutes of preparation is over, students share their thoughts to the class. The power impromptu gives students an opportunity to focus more on ideas than delivery.  It also provides students with an ungraded, relaxed speaking situation.

The power minute presentation is one solution to every speech teacher frustration about what to do with the last few minutes of class. I found that my students begin to look forward to the end-of-class power minute presentations.  Some students would come to class with suggested topics and ideas.  Power minute presentation encourage critical thinking, creative thought, and enhance public speaking and writing skills.

Benjamin Franklin said: “Do not squander time, for that is the stuff life is made of.”  Franklin had a way with words and I imagine that he would enjoy an activity like this.

Multiple Intelligences Theory – An ECE perspective

In his book, Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences, Howard Gardner claims that all human beings do not have a single intelligence but actually possess a set of multiple autonomous intelligences. How does this relate to the young child, and how can we as early childhood teachers use the MI theory to assess children?

Gardner (2011) has defined intelligence as, “the ability to solve problems, or to create products, that are valued within one or more cultural settings – a definition that says nothing about either the sources of these abilities or the proper means of ‘testing’ them” (p.xxviii). He proposes three different uses of the term intelligence. It is a property that all people have, it is used in different ways, and is applied to carry out tasks to achieve a goal. “These intelligences (or competencies) relate to a person’s unique aptitude, set of capabilities and ways they might prefer to demonstrate intellectual abilities” (http://www.niu.edu).

Howard Gardner has challenged the assumption that intelligence is a single entity that can be measured purely through IQ testing. He also questioned Piaget’s work on cognitive development and gives evidence to suggest that, “a child may be at very different stages for example, in number development and spatial/visual maturation. Howard Gardner has successfully undermined the idea that knowledge at any one particular developmental stage hangs together in a structured whole” (infed.org).

Howard Gardner has identified a number of intelligences based on meeting strict criteria. The theory of multiple intelligences proposes nine different pathways that teachers can include in their programme for children to connect with. With brief descriptions on how they relate to early childhood settings, these are:

  1. Linguistic intelligence (A child’s potential to express himself and understand others)
  2. Logical-mathematical intelligence (An understanding of numbers and quantities)
  3. Spatial intelligence (A child’s awareness of physical space, as well as the arts)
  4. Bodily-kinesthic intelligence (An awareness of the body and movement. This can include the sense of touch or a potential towards physical activity)
  5. Musical intelligence (A child’s sensitivity towards music and sound)
  6. Interpersonal intelligence (A child’s understanding towards interacting with others)
  7. Intrapersonal intelligence (A child’s awareness of what he can or cannot do as he feels confident with himself)
  8. Naturalist intelligence (An understanding and sensitivity towards all living things)
  9. Existentialist intelligence (A recent intelligence proposed by Howard Gardner which suggests a questioning child around what he feels and sees in the environment around him)

An early childhood teacher can work with these intelligences to identify a particular child’s strengths and offer the tools to support that learning area. For example, if a child has a competency in linguistic intelligence, a teacher could encourage him to tell stories during mat time. If one looks at all the intellegences and did a child study, a teacher could also identify an approach to learning in different areas for the child to achieve greater competency levels.

Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory offers early childhood teachers a method to account for the potential a child has in the early years. The multiple intelligences can be categorized into headings under which a child’s information can be recorded. For example, oral language skills can be noted under linguistic intelligence, and numeracy skills under logical-mathematical intelligence. “The primary advantages of this organizational system are that it reveals the child’s strengths at a glance and indicates whether a balance of activities has been offered” (Brewer, 2007). These assessments can benefit children with special needs as it can assist teachers to discover strengths in the child to work with, that they may not have otherwise found.

It is also clear that when we examine intelligence, there cannot be any separation from background and culture. In this respect, when a teacher is assessing a child’s multiple intelligences he has to take into account the child’s social influences, interests, competence, and willingness in the situation (Lefrancois, 2000). From an early childhood perspective teachers can determine strengths of a child based on the multiple intelligences, and also include a range of activities in the environment based on assessments. For example, if we highlight spatial intelligence to promote an awareness of physical space, we can set up an obstacle course activity in the outdoor area.

In conclusion, I personally believe in exposing children to an environment in an early childhood setting that offers a range of learning experiences. This exposure could be through nature walks or settings within the centre. All intelligences are interlinked, with individuals displaying particular ones to demonstrate their preferred form of expression. Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory offers teachers an assessment tool to highlight and work on a child’s strengths, as well as to build on the other capabilities towards becoming competent learners on a path of lifelong learning.

Private Schooling and the Extravagant Nation of Pakistan

Proliferation of private schools in Pakistan has harmed the state owned schools alarmingly. Education in public schools has extinct and they have turned into ghost schools. The route cause is not the administration or teachers but the mindset of public that ‘a paid item is always high in quality’, has been developed for last two decades.

If parents are alive, make a living and are not oblivious of children’s future, it is considered their parental obligation to send their children to any but at least private school. ‘any’ denotes the quality of not necessarily being qualitative but quantitative in terms of fees structure. This attitude is same as customers’ attitude towards products which have high price tags are believed to be qualitative.

After denationalization in 1990s the rapid increase of 69% in the number of private schools in 1999-2008. The private sector was catering to the educational needs of about 6 million and then 12 million children in 2000 and 2007-08 respectively, the number of teachers also doubled. But it did not keep pace with Pakistan’s literacy rate 43.9 percent in 1998, 57 percent in 2009, 58 percent in 2012, and according to UNESCO it is still 55 percent in 2015 for which it stands at 160th in the world.

It will not of course keep pace because it does not offer “education for all” but actually “education under the hammer”, and being professed the quality education, which needs to be vetted.

Curriculum is well designed but it is not well implemented. Courses are in English and as it is not first language and not spoken widely here, therefore rot learning is practiced. Extra/co-curricular activities do serve as eye candies and then just euphoria for the children and result in lavishing and sometimes lasciviousness.

The teachers’ appointment is claimed to be on merit, as opposed to government schools where teachers are recruited on the basis of what they contributed in elections to the winning party and will keep on serving in polling stations in future for the party. In private schools teachers with average 13.5 years of education are appointed who never dare to bargain with masters in private school. Why do such schools compromise on teacher’s qualification? Purpose is to exploit their ordeal which made them opt for a job with less than minimum wage rate Rs.13000 instead of continuing education.

Being too much merit conscious not only do the schools interview the candidate but parents must also prove to be well-educated & well-mannered in interview. Are we going back to Middle Ages when in Europe the only children that were able to attend school were the sons of wealthy, aristocrat families before 1852?

The merit, private schools purport does not reflect in evaluation and assessment; Taking admission in private school is not only means to end but the parents have to access the tutor who would ‘make a difference’ in children’s results as well. Tutors assist the student (whom they tutor) in the same way as a printed guide in govt. schools’ exam, I have seen my friend forging a student’s answer sheet and giving him good grades in assessing the school’s exam copies, and ‘making a difference’. In this way education is being sold.

Concept of stick fear and drill has been replaced by motivation and recapitulation, but motivational techniques actually motivate for not to be motivated in acquiring knowledge and embolden them in enjoying the “bought life” and obtain a degree.

Mostly the teacher in private school is not even allowed to scold or punish the pupil as it will discourage him (from the mischief he has been doing), you find head’s offices bulging with parents; mothers teach the teaching staff the recent vogue with teamed up dresses, shoes and accessories, grumbling about teacher’s attitude—so meticulous about the money they spend! The person at helm of affairs frowns and admonishes the teacher and with the nightmare of again standing guilty at ‘trial’ s/he makes the pupil apple of his/her eye that s/he has ever been reckless at treatment.

Having “profit making” a goal private schools’ focus is customer satisfaction and they never condone the ‘laborer’ who displease or repulse the ‘customer’.

Both, parents and students are well versed that one who is compelled to work on a meager salary should never dare turn harsh on the payers (students).

Eventually brats succeed in buying degree and being waited on – gone were the days when teachers were waited on in exchange of the knowledge they imparted; knowledge was priceless those days.

Instead of being extravagant heed could be taken in the prosperous era of government schools. If parents had scrutinized the teachers’ behavior, curriculum, evaluation and assessment, the government schools would not be devoid of teachers and education in Pakistan.

Learning through Play

All children are engrossed in exploration and play in order to comprehend and make sense of the world around them. To analyse the importance of play during the early years I offer a brief summary in this reflection of mine.

Before the development of oral language children are engrossed in sensory and physical exploration as a natural process to understand their immediate environment. There are a number of definitions to define play and one cannot deny the significance in the learning that takes place through play. Theorists like Piaget and Vygotsky considered play to be an important part of childhood as a path to the learning process.

Learning through play for Piaget was defined as a movement through practice play, imaginative play, and continuing on to play with a set of rules. On the other hand, Vygotsky thought that children could be assisted in moving from their level of performance to a level of what they could have a potential of doing. Vygotsky believed the zone of proximal development was created through play which was when children could, “operate at their highest possible cognitive level” (Smidt, 2006, p. 46). As children make sense of the world around them Vygotsky thought that those who expressed themselves through imaginary play stood a ‘head taller’. This meant that in pretend play, “children reveal more about what they know and can do than in other activities” (Smidt, 2006, p. 46). Like Piaget he acknowledged that play developed into those with rules but highlighted the importance of the social nature of learning through play.

Vygotsky suggested that play is the main source of development in early years. “In play a child deals with things as having meaning. Word meanings replace objects, and thus an emancipation of word from object occurs” (Vygotsky, 1933, p. 11). However, there is a transfer of meanings as a child in imaginary play can think of a stick as a horse as he or she mentally designates the object or property as the word. “Play is the source of development and creates the zone of proximal development. Action in the imaginative sphere, in an imaginary situation, the creation of voluntary intentions and the formation of real life plans and volitional motives – all appear in play and make it the highest level of preschool development” (Vygotsky, 1933, p. 16).

Bruner also showed an interest in play which he described as an approach to, “doing something and not an activity in its own right” (Smidt, 2006, p. 46). This suggests that children can learn through the process of play which is not an activity in itself but a tool to comprehend aspects of literacy, numeracy, and anything in the environment around them. Bruner also believed that through imaginative play children substituted reality in a way, and with that approach created symbols. “In essence, in pretend play, the child stimulates an action in play as if it were real, or the child tries out new combinations and consequences in a what if fashion” (Smidt, 2006, p. 46). I would like to empasise that the lack of pressure during pretend play is of significance in the learning and development of the child.

Children also build on their fine and gross motor skills during play. Suitable outdoor play areas that are set up to encourage this development are essential in early childhood settings in my opinion. If these environments are not available teachers should explore nearby outdoor parks or playgrounds to promote play. Unfortunately a number of children today spend a great deal of time indoors as they watch television and should be encouraged to explore outdoor environments to play.

In Steiner kindergartens children are exposed to experiences that generally occur at home like cooking, cleaning, sewing, gardening, and building. These activities provide a link to what happens at home and creates a sense of well-being and security for the children who can relate to those particular activities.  Children are encouraged to use their fantasy in imaginary play and are exposed to resources that stimulate this type of play. Generally these resources are natural items and materials that are quite often unfinished. The logic behind this is that, “an ‘unfinished’ toy leaves children free to exert their imaginations, a ‘finished’ toy ties the child to a certain group of activities” (Trostli, 1998, p. 95-96). For example, if a child has a yellow taxi, play is limited to activities around taxis. Whereas, if the child had a plain wooden car, imaginary play could involve a number of endless possibilities from which the child can extend and initiate their own play. This is similar in concept to what I mentioned earlier with regard to a child imagining a stick to be a horse as he or she mentally designates the object or property as the word. Trosli (1998) also states that Steiner kindergartens, “allow the children’s intellectual faculties to unfold naturally so that by the time children enter the elementary grades, they are ready and eager to experience new forms of learning” (p. 97).

Smith (1998) suggests that there is a gender segregation in play from the early years. Girls tend to express themselves emotionally and develop nurturing skills whereas boys tend to apply and operate through rules and get on better with others that they don’t like. If children are left to themselves they generally form groups of the same gender but mix together and play when adults set up roles and situations for children to play in.

Research in the developed world that is spoken of is Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP) that presents itself as the most recent knowledge about children. However, this research is only from the US and does not take into account any cultural values and perceptions of other groups of children. DAP’s outlook is ‘age and stage’ and strongly promotes play that is self directed and initiated. However, it doesn’t look at cultural and lifestyle issues as well as socio-economic factors (Smidt, 2006). DAP mentions the declining state of imaginary play as children are being led into more adult driven activities and media use and state that, “Active scaffolding of imaginative play is needed in early childhood settings if children are to develop the sustained, mature dramatic play that contributes significantly to their self-regulation and other cognitive, linguistic, social, and emotional benefits.” (p. 15). DAP also suggest that, “Rather than detracting from academic learning, play appears to support the abilities that underlie such learning and thus to promote school success” (p. 15).

In conclusion, children learn through play that they discover for themselves in their own environment. Play promotes cognitive, social, and emotional development and is essential for physical development during the early years. Te Whāriki states that, “Children learn through play – by doing, by asking questions, by interacting with others, by setting up theories or ideas about how things work and trying them out, and by the purposeful use of resources” (Ministry of Education, 1996). Play eventually leads to creative thinking, and through what they are doing children can reflect on their own play to answer questions and solve problems for themselves to develop an understanding of the world around them.