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“ In viewing play as the source of the zone of proximal development, we focus on the collaborative construction of a pretend reality that is invented by the players and sustained by the rules they negotiate”
L.S Vygotsky (1967)
Play based curriculum makes investments in student development. The value of cooperation, initiative and intellectual challenges throughout this learning journey will be covered through a chronological timeframe of the process.
The Development Phase Rebecca O’Grady, Sproose Joose Director (and sometimes teacher) ponders her future with 11 English Communication… How could I create an exciting , student-centered learning experience which would enable my Year 11 English Communication students to develop spoken, written and visual literacy skills which would pave the pathway for success in the `workplace’ of the future?
The ability for students to develop the necessary language skills to work collaboratively with others was one of my main objectives. But how? My class consisted of students who generally are considered to be `at risk’ of disengagement or failure in the English classroom.
My class consists mostly of boys. For some of my students, English is their second language. For others, success so far had been unattainable, hindered by various learning, intellectual or social impairments.
Having experienced the power of play based education for literacy and language learning in Early Childhood Education settings, I was curious to see if I could scaffold the development of workplace literacies through the use of socio-dramatic play with my 16 year olds.
According to Van Hoorn et al (1999) Play supports a classroom atmosphere of cooperation, initiative and intellectual challenge.
All efforts were made on my behalf to create a classroom environment which would allow us to pretend that this was actually happening. We, Year 11 English Communication, were going to create a juice bar franchise. It had to be authentic. I moved the students out of our conventional classroom and into our Independent Learning Centre.
The physical setting of this centre fosters creativity. Students have space to move, to work and to build. They also have technology and resources at their fingertips.
For my socio-dramatic play theory to work, we needed to create a space that really resembled a workplace and could be adapted as our workplace changed. We had eliminated the traditional classroom context and moved to the make believe world of entrepreneurship.
Falling into character immediately, the students negotiated how the business would be built. Openly discussing each other’s strengths and weaknesses, students were appointed varying roles by their peers.
It was negotiated that these groups (branding and marketing, juice development, building and industrial design, graphics, administration, etc) would all work separately.
Student Examples Students designed plans and layouts for our store which were approved at staff meetings.
Student Examples Our branding team used Paint Shop programs to design their franchise’s packaging and logos. All of the branding and logos were designed by the students
I sat back and observed. We were getting there. The students were working collaboratively to an extent but we weren’t yet working together the way successful businesses operate. I realised that many of our workplaces (schools included) are networked.
If the students had the opportunity to play and pretend that they were communicating through an office intranet, the collaborative skills would come through their experimentation and increased confidence.
The WIKI was the missing piece of the puzzle and the key to our project’s success.
I set up a business WIKI which would facilitate and best resemble workplace communication mediums.
It was my intention for students to have ownership of our WIKI page and to understand that it was an important part of our business - the glue that would hold the entire operation together, so to speak.
We used the monitor to plan how we could use the WIKI to our benefit
At first our whole class spent a number of lessons exploring the WIKI. Each of the students created their own folders and stored them on the WIKI. The recent WIKI activity is available for all to see at a glance. Students store and upload their ideas and creative designs.
At first our whole class spent a number of lessons exploring the WIKI. As the sole administrator of the page, I was able to monitor the WIKI to ensure the safety of my students.
Utilising Other Teachers I invited other teachers to become involved in the WIKI and visit our business.
Drawing on Prior Knowledge and taking ownership. Eventually students were familiar enough with the WIKI to decide how they would use this forum to help their business grow. Notice how the language and intent has changed. They have taken ownership and are rising to the challenge. They have become the business enterprise.
I scaffolded the introduction to this technology by leaving posts and creating threads. This generated discussions and enabled me to exercise control when online conversations needed to be redirected.
As we continued to access the WIKI during lessons, students became more and more engrossed in our play. They used professional language and demonstrated workplace discourses. They started to discern whether content posted was appropriate or inappropriate for a workplace.
After we had finished exploring the WIKI, we no longer needed to devote entire lessons to being online. The WIKI was now merely our means of communication, a point of reference for our business plans.
There aren’t many businesses which only operate during one or two periods a day and thanks to the WIKI, our business was online and growing 27/7!
Let’s Play at “Working From Home” A student uploaded his graphic artwork onto the WIKI over the weekend for others to comment on. The WIKI helped students make the most of out of school study time. The students no longer viewed it as homework, rather their business empire!
One of the challenges of involving students in group work is that there are always situations where a group can’t meet or one student is absent. Collaborative group work is much more effective with the WIKI.
I watched students learn to work together as they would upload store designs on our page and ask for comments.
Even when students were away sick they still could “play” by accessing the WIKI.
The Sproose Joose business has grown and we have made a decision to offer our business as a franchise.
The Sproose Joose business has grown and we have made a decision to offer our business as a franchise.
Successful franchises produce information booklets which are distributed to potential franchisees in order to inform and persuade them to enter into a franchising agreement with us.
You are part of a staff team who have been assigned the task of writing, formatting and designing the Sproose Joose Franchise booklet .
Your role in this process involves:
Deliberately constructing a section of the franchise book . It is important that you consider appropriate text, images and design. You will need to consult with other employees to ensure that the book contains the same themes, graphics and ideas. It is important that your section is thoroughly edited, informative and persuasive.
Presenting your section and discussing at a staff meeting. You and your business partner will discuss the decisions that you made with regard to the design, content and layout of the page during the meeting. You will have to seek feedback from other staff members and ask questions. It is important that you justify to other staff why you feel the content of your page must be included in order to reach our desired goal.
Standards associated with exit criteria – English Communication (2004)
Table 3: Very High Achievement
Knowledge of contextual factors
The student has demonstrated knowledge of the
ways that meanings in texts are shaped by purpose, cultural context and social situation by:
Knowledge of textual features
The student has demonstrated knowledge of the appropriateness of textual features for purposes and audiences by:
Knowledge and understanding of texts
The student has demonstrated knowledge of
how texts are interpreted and constructed by:
consistently using patterns and conventions of genres to achieve particular purposes
selecting and synthesising relevant subject matter
explaining information ideas and arguments with analysis and evaluation
substantiating opinions with relevant evidence
controlling appropriate roles and relationships
selecting and integrating modes and media, where appropriate.
consistently sequencing and organising subject matter
consistently using cohesive ties to link ideas
using a range of suitable vocabulary
controlling most clause and sentence structures
maintaining control of paragraphing and most punctuation
controlling conventional spelling
controlling visual (graphic still and moving images), auditory (music, silence and sound effects) and / or digital (graphic design elements) features to make meaning in layout or presentation of texts
controlling spoken / signed and nonverbal features that contribute to meaning :
pronunciation, audibility and clarity, pace , volume, phrasing and pausing for emphasis
The WIKI had worked wonders. It’s purpose and design was flexible enough that our students were able to use it as a tool maximize the benefits of working collaboratively with others.
There seemed to be greater sense of unity within the groups - they were having fun together, playing together, using electronic texts which their generation know and love. In their eyes, they weren’t learning how to work together in a business, they were just simply working together in their business.
The great thing to realize is that your WIKI can be adapted to your learning environment. Last semester it served as a communication tool for building a business…….
This semester, students will again login in the roles of film and TV industry executives, using our WIKI as a communication tool as they plan, write, film, produce and edit a documentary about a Year 11 class who built a Juice Empire…..
Director of Sproose Joose. Miss Rebecca O’Grady (B.Ed Primary/Middle School USQ) Concordia Lutheran College Australia