Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Literacy in a play program- Part 1

Enclosed is the first part of my Research Project in 2006. This research work is the outcome of 20 days practicum in a childcare centre and thereafter about 10 days of analysis & consolidation of data.

You may use the information here provided that you link it back to here, or quote this site. Just remember, the work of this website falls under the Creative Commons author rights if you plan to take any ideas from here.

1. Project Title:
Literacy in an integrated play-based program

2. Definition of the question:

  • How does the Centre plan for an integrated play-based program to develop young children’s literacy?

3. Significance of this study:

  • This project will help contribute understanding on how literacy can be fostered through the different learning areas in the preschool program
  • On a personal level, it allows the researcher to foster a deeper understanding of the utilization of both a play-generated and curriculum-generated play program.
  • This study will link theory and practice through the application of contemporary and current perspectives of literacy practices. In a context which is becoming more multi-cultural, findings on multiple intelligences state that there are different multi-modal approaches to a person becoming literate.
  • Literacy is not the matter of just learning to read and write, but being “literate”

As to be able to use the technologies and skills acquired to communicate affectively and effectively and contribute to their own personal growth as a member of society. (Diaz & Makin, 2002)

  • The results of this study could advance the work already reported in the literature through the use of the observations and data given to reinforce and substantiate the theoretical and hypotheses given, or to give a different analyses and interpretation to the information that a different slant could be taken.
  • The results could have potential benefit both theoretically and practically for

Childcare workers in this field of work through the interpretation and explanation for a student researcher who comes from a different culture and upbringing from the host culture in the current context.

  • The results will enlighten and bring to understanding as well to other child care workers of the Western counterpart, the different learning styles, especially Asian cultures that value learning by rote and worksheets, and how they as workers, in a context that values learning through play, to prepare emotionally and adapt and adjust their interaction styles when working and interacting with families and children of diverse learning styles and cultural backgrounds.

On a personal level, this investigation:

§ could clarify appropriate courses of action on my part through allowing the development of understanding the preparation of activities that value literacy through play if working in a context that values learning through rote.

§ could produce a product for future use by allowing me to share my knowledge either through verbal interaction and presenting my knowledge with similar staff in the same field of work in education settings, or to work with other staff who may be experiencing conflict whilst working with children who come from a background that values a different learning style than held predominantly by the host culture of Australia.

§ could clarify a process for the improvement of learning though facilitating and providing a supportive environment for staff who may have difficulty understanding and following a program that values the learning of more hands-on literacy activities through play and the value of play itself. This is especially so in Australian schools where Campbell & Green (2000, p93) states that “it is a challenge for schools in today’s diverse society to understand how to cater for the needs of all students within traditional school structures”.

4. Literature review and conceptual framework

What is Literacy?
An environment that only fosters learning by rote and memory, and worksheets, may deprive young children of the opportunity and skills that they need to develop and learn when they develop into adulthood.

Diaz & Makin (2002) states that the traditional view of literacy, that is just only learning how to read and write, has been unable to account for the different ways that people read and interpret situations. They continue to state that literacy is a “social tool”, and far from just knowing how to read and write, but “making meaning out of it” and using this knowledge of literacy in a wide variety of contexts and using the different technologies and popular culture to communicate out their ideas.

The implications, Diaz & Makin (2002, p.12) continues to say that as such, it is important that among the steps that early childhood educators need to take are to “plan to develop children’s ability to think critically, to compare, contrast, evaluate, make judgements, and to relate what they hear, read and view to them”.

Multiliteracies is a word coined by Kalantzis & Cope (1997, p. 28) to describe the “awareness and growing significance of cultural and linguistic diversity” in many nations. They attest that what was thought to be adequate by learning the lingua franca, the main language which is colonial version of the British English in the past, is no longer sufficient and does not work as well in different contexts as it was previously thought to be. (Kalantzis & Cope, 1997).

Kalantzis & Cope (1997, p.32) state that in order to move on with the times, it is important that schools have to “service linguistic and cultural diversity”. They continue to attest that as the world becomes more networked and interconnected, through use of modern technologies and new developments that are being discovered each day, it is or importance that students have to develop skills in “negotiating dialect, register and semiotic differences, code switching, interlanguages and hybrid cross-cultural discourses, …for the hope of averting the catastrophic conflicts about identities and spaces” (Kalantzis & Cope, 1997, p.32).

Why is Play so important?

Play is important in facilitating general cognitive development and consolidating learning that has already taken place while allowing for the possibility of new learning in a relaxed atmosphere (Hughes, 1995, p. 19).

The availability of play materials (Barnard, Bee & Hammond, 1984, as cited in Hughes, 1995) is among the many factors in stimulating children’s intellectual development. Bradley (1986, as cited in Hughes, 1995) states that young children spend much time and have a huge interest in playing with toys. Hence, it is important that good quality play materials are available for the children to work and explore with as this is among the factors in intellectual development.

What are the benefits of literacy learning through play?

  • A play based programme could employ either a play generated curriculum

“that emerges directly from the interests of the children” (Hoorn, Nourot, Scales & Alward, 1993, p.59) or Curriculum- generated play where “the adult’s observation includes materials/ technique the adult suspects will create a match with children’s spontaneous interests” (Hoorn, Nourot, Scales & Alward, 1993, p.59).

  • Play facilitates children’s language development:

Ø In a centre that employs a play based programme, the adult attempts to

plan activities which cater to the needs of the child such as their interests and matches the child’s developmental stages. The adult understands the child’s individuality through a variety of different ways such as undertaking observations of the child, making note during interactions with the child, as well as when the child asks for it.

The different “learning centres” in a play based programme include:

  • The physical environment: the sand play areas, home dress area, the book corner, art construction areas and the outdoor play areas.
  • The temporal environment: the interaction and activities planned out by the adult in the classroom, the interaction between teacher and child.

A play based programme accords the child ample time in working at the “learning centres” without being pressured to complete the product within a specific period of time, and children are encouraged to work on the activity they do over a period of time.

The “learning areas” in the classroom such as the home corner, or sand play corner, allows the child the opportunity to develop skills in the language areas as Hughes (1995) states, by the child socialising and taking part in play themes that could be teacher initiated, or child initiated, and extended over a period of time.

During play, the child will be able to put into practice the literacy skills they have learn and acquired. For example, when the child is working at the collage table, the child may want to create a card for a loved one, or at the writing centre, the child decides to make a shopping list for their dramatic play.

This requires the child to draw on their repertoire and own knowledge of numbers, letters of the alphabet and social knowledge of context. This is all just to create a card, or a shopping list relevant and acceptable to the rest of the members that the children are playing within their context.

The values the researcher assumes in undertaking the current research:

The values that the researcher is assuming when tackling this current research is that the play based program is a program that highly values early childhood as a right by itself. Children in this program are given ample time and are allocated a time period for both outdoor physical play as well as indoor play with activities.The researcher has to keep in mind that the play based program is written and based in Australia, where the values are completely different from that of the researcher’s, who comes from an Asian- Malaysian background, which values learning by rote, and not through exploration or “play”.

There are the limitations that the researcher acknowledges in analyzing the topic is that the researcher may have difficulty in reconciling the freedom and learning opportunities that may be accorded in a play-based programme as opposed to children who learn through working with worksheets and learning by rote.

5. Methodology

The questions to ask in regard to the topic itself:

  • How each learning centre contributes to the literacy learning in the classroom?
  • How does the adult use the information/observation to plan and scaffold the learning to the next stage?
  • How does the adult in the classroom plan for the child to learn what is considered “literacy skills” from the different learning centres through the play based program employed in the centre?

The description of the research approach that will be undertaken:

The researcher will undertake research for this topic through the use of case study as the research approach. The data that is collected will be made done through observations of one childcare centre.

The location of the childcare centre where the researcher will undertake is in a small town in the state of Queensland, Australia. The centre is a community funded childcare centre which is located near a tertiary institution and is provided as part of the services rendered to the staff who are employed by the tertiary institution.

This centre has been utilised as a training centre for both local and international undergraduate and post-graduate students who are undertaking professional teacher training courses with tertiary institutions in the particular province in that specific area itself.

The method used by the researcher in context of this research is that of the Case Study. Case study is defined as observing the properties and characteristics of a particular unit “with the intention to probe deeply and to analyse intensively the workings and life-cycle of the unit with a view to establishing the generalizations about the wider population to which that unit belongs” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 107).

This case study method will be used in the manner of participant observation as this particular method utilised in terms of data collection in regard to non-verbal behaviour, is more “superior to experiments and surveys” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110) as it allows researchers the ability to be able to discern “ongoing behaviour as it occurs and make appropriate notes, and are less reactive than other types of data-gathering methods” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110).

Case study methods allow observations made “over an extended period of time that the researchers to develop a more intimate and informal relationships” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 110) with their subjects. This is possible as the current observation to take place will be over the course of 6 weeks and the researcher will have close contact in the classroom with both the adult and the children under their care. This would allow the researcher the opportunity to understand the “contextual influences” that play a major role in the planning of the programme outlines for the classroom.

Type of Data Collection tools used:

  • Interviews: Interviews to be conducted with the

Ø main teacher,

Ø assistant teacher in the classroom.

The other staff that could be interviewed would be:

Ø a particular childcare centre’s principal.

  • Document review – curriculum planning:

Ø This includes asking for consent from the centre to access the classroom’s lesson plans made over the period of the year,

Ø The observations of the children made and how they have developed their literacy skills throughout the year.

Ø Observation of the children’s written work.

The research interview has been defined as “a two-person conversation initiated by the interviewer for the specific purpose of obtaining research –relevant information, and focused by him on content specified by research objectives of systematic description, prediction, or explanation” (Cannell, and Kahn, 1968, as cited in Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 271).

Data Analysis – how to make sense from the data collected:

Ways of making sense of the data collected include:

  • Direct Interpretation: whereby, aggregating and testing the researcher’s unrealised hypotheses that they may have of the subjects or the findings (Stake, 1995).
  • Naturalistic Generalisations: conclusions that arrive as a result of personal engagements in life’s affairs so well planned it may have happened to themselves (Stake, 1995).

Another strategy would be the utilisation of triangulation, which is the use of “two or more methods of data collection in the study of some aspect of human behaviour” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p. 233) as it would produce a more “holistic view of educational outcome” (Cohen & Manion, 1994, p 239).

As the researcher, I shall make use of the information gathered, and look through the observations and findings on the play-based curriculum as well as the literacy experiences in the centre. Out of which, this information shall be evaluated, analysed and interpreted in order to summarise and present the final results in my final paper.

Cohen & Manion (1994, p.348) state that it is possible that in the course of research undertaking, “ethical issues will stem from the kinds of problems investigated by social scientists and the methods they use to obtain valid and reliable data”.

In the course of the undertaking of this research, informed consent through the tertiary institution has been made and given to the said Centre before any prior observations have been made. This is made through the utilisation of an official letter requesting access to the centre on the student researcher’s behalf.

(to be continued.... !)

1 comment:

Nicholas said...

Hi Chea Yee, I'm currently in charge of a pre-school doing a Literacy Play Program and am interested in your research as well as your view/opinion on ECE. Do drop me a line. Thanks!

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