This excerpt shows a PE lesson in a school gym with the teacher and TA at the front of the class. The children are arranged into groups of three on exercise mats. We are told that these children are arranged into groups of mixed ability.
The teacher holds up a red sign and says “Stop” and congratulates a child for doing the right thing. All of the children sit down on the mats. She then asks the class what they think a green sign would mean. Standing next to her is a TA who is signing to a small group of children at the front.
A girl then explains that the TA has to sign as they have children that are hearing impaired within their class. This girl is also signing. The TA explains that she is responsible for the hearing impaired children encouraging them to watch the other children yet feel reassured that they are safe.
Within this excerpt, the children are learning about working together as a team with other children. It also shows them working together with the TA. As well as the TA, the hearing children were helping the hearing impaired children by signing to them and ensuring they understood the instructions. They are also learning about the communities of practice within their school as discussed in ST3.3. An example is that the children are all barefooted, and this could be part of the school’s Health & Safety policy. It is also a part of the Gym procedures used. By asking the children what they think the green sign is for, the teacher is encouraging them to use their previous experience of red and green signs (e.g. traffic controls) to find the answer. This is called constructivism and is a theory developed by Jean Piaget who believed in “the importance of children’s direct experience with their environment” (ST3.1 page 20).
The children are learning the ground rules of being in a PE lesson, for example, being barefoot, stopping when the red sign is shown. These skills can be transferred to other environments, such as home, out and about etc. and are in line with the schools policies. By praising the child for doing well, the teacher is increasing his sense of self-worth as discussed in ST4 p11. Also, the TA is encouraging “inclusive development” (Hancock 2005 p25) for the hearing impaired children both of which are exceptionally important for good learning.
By observing the children, the adults could see how the children interact with each other and pool their knowledge to achieve results. They may then be able to integrate any learned knowledge into future lessons to help expand these results.
Piaget’s constructivism influence (ST3 p26) can be clearly seen in this excerpt. By providing a stimulating environment with practical apparatus, the teacher has encouraged the children’s natural curiosity. She has also incorporated Vgotsky’s theory of socio-constructivism (ST3 p20) by encouraging the children to interact with each other. By structuring the lesson, she has acknowledged Vgotsky’s zone of proximal development (ZPD) of the children. This is the distance between ACTUAL development level (where the child can solve the problem with no assistance at all) and their POTENTIAL development level (what they should be able to solve after receiving guidance from a ‘more knowledgeable other’). The route to achieving the potential development level is called ‘scaffolding’ and was developed by Barbara Rogoff.
As discussed in ST4, curriculum guidance documents in the UK emphasise the importance of establishing relationships with pupils and promoting their social and emotional development. This is shown in the excerpt, as the TA clearly has a good relationship with the hearing impaired children, and she says they often look to her for reassurance that they are going to be safe. ST5 (p25) says that positive learning relationships between TAs and children should involve, among other things, empathy, acceptance, trust, approachability and a...