Creating a synthesis between play and learning in a woodland space is our craft as outdoor educators at The Wood School. Play allows children and adults to cut corners in the learning process:
“Scientists have recently determined that it takes approximately 400 repetitions to create a new synapse in the brain- unless it is done with play, in which case, it takes between 10-20 repetitions” – Dr Karyn Purvis
Recently we’ve been playfully exploring reading and writing skills with both Owls and Robins, using our creativity to inspire and motivate the children we work with. What does learning to read look like in our setting?
Stories are the cornerstone of our work. We use stories to inspire children’s play and to bring the group together. From tales that are told aloud orally to chapter books which develop over time- we have found stories to be key to engaging children with the activities we bring and opening up important discussions. However, generating a love of stories and books right from the start is deemed by many modern educational theorists to be the most essential part of a child’s reading education and this will give them the motivation they need to learn. In the Owls over the past term, children have been working together to invent their own stories, which unfold over time and the children illustrate.
Learning to read can also be treated much more subtly – for many children in the early stages of reading, understanding the sound patterns of the language and differentiating between different sounds and making them rhyme can be fundamental to the learning process. If we are able to recognize sound patterns we will eventually see those patterns in written words too. Using the “Silly Soup” rhyme we can find ridiculous objects that rhyme to put into a silly soup. Objects and words that rhyme can also be hidden throughout the wood to get children moving around as they learn, satisfying their need for physical activity.
Reading isn’t just about words. Helping children to understand that the marks that we make can have meaning and to decipher that meaning also underpins the learning to read process. It doesn’t get more fun than reading a map to find a pretend archaeological site for the children to uncover.
And why limit writing to pen and paper when we can write with play dough or wood cookies with letters on? Climbing trees and whittling swords is our forte at The Wood School but it’s up those trees and through those swords that stories are found and a lifelong love of reading and writing can be uncovered.