Play-Based Learning

Explorative (Play-based) Learning

Explorative or play based learning has been introduced here at TPPS after examining research and evidence along with community (parent/ teacher / student) consultation at the end of last year. The findings, along with significant Professional Learning for staff has taken place and we have set up a professional network with other schools in New Zealand and Australia.


Why are they playing?

Research shows our tamariki learn best through explorative play.


They want to; imagine, construct, roll, order, rotate, climb, build, gather, transport, roleplay, transform, dig and bury, investigate, envelope, and throw.


Through play, we want our tamariki to develop the ability to...

  • Think creatively

  • Problem solve

  • Self manage and regulate

  • Make decisions that support theirs and others learning

  • Follow their passions/interests

  • Take responsibility for their learning

  • Explore and try new things

  • Communicate thoughts and feelings effectively

  • Reflect

  • Develop motor skills


What will this look like in the classroom?
Here at TPPS we believe in allowing tamariki to guide their own play and follow their developmental urges. Therefore play can take many different forms depending on the developmental stage of each student. Each whānau, both junior and senior, will provide a variety of provocations. Put simply, provocations provoke! They will provoke thoughts, discussions, questions, interests, creativity and ideas. They can expand on a thought, project, idea and interest.


What is the role of the kaiako (teacher) during play?  
We are responsible for setting up an environment that allows the exploration of individual interests. While one teacher may be taking a literacy or numeracy workshop, the others will be facilitating the play and extending the learning when appropriate. Through effective questioning, we will encourage students to explore, problem solve, predict, make connections and reflect. We will provide choice and variety to enable tamariki to engage in areas of interest to them.


Baseline assessment information is currently being collected using a developmental progression, oral language development and urges which are all being used to track the progress of our Achievers, through explorative play. Our Achievers will also be using Seesaw to reflect on their learning, critical thinking, vocabulary construction and self and peer assessment against our Achiever values.


What does the research say?

Play creates the building blocks for living - it is at the root of everything it is to be human - from building relationships, feeling good about yourself and about life, to having the literacy and numeracy skills to live a full and rewarding life. Humans have always played. It is how evolution makes sure we learn the things we need to survive as a species - we play to practice the things we do when we are older, we play in pretend worlds that help us imagine the future, we play to develop motor skills, thinking skills and habits of mind (dispositions) that enable our species to survive and to thrive. Time to play is important at home and school. More and more schools today understand, from a neuroscience perspective, the power of play to engage children in learning and develop a strong sense of wellbeing.


Interestingly enough, this neuroscience or brain science perspective has been driven across the world, by a kiwi called Nathan Makaere-Wallis from a human and educational developmental perspective. Wallis (2017) states that "the more play you have under the age of 7, the more intelligent you will be."  There is nowhere in research that shows that trying to teach a five-year-old like a seven-year-old works. A fundamental flaw is to think that a child that can do something early is an advantage; if anything, it is the opposite. The following is a National Radio interview on the 8th of May, 2014, where Wallis speaks about what 3 to 7-year-old children need. Radio Clip Please check our updated website over the next three weeks for more evidence and research in this area.


What are our goals?

Education has more than one goal - we are holistically concerned about the WHOLE CHILD and as a result, our teachers plan for:


Intellectual goals - the types of thinking that help to learn and live successfully such as problem solving, predicting, questioning, wondering, making connections, evaluating, planning, imagining, remembering and reflecting.

Dispositional goals - the kinds of ‘habits’ that help drive deep learning such as curiosity, persistence, openness, communication, confidence, self control and cooperation.

Social and emotional goals - the wellbeing and sense of self and others that promote full participation and positive relationships such as conflict resolution, social negotiations, oral language, sense of satisfaction and achievement, resilience.

Physical goals - the kinds of skills and development that support living and learning such as balance, core strength, fine motor control (cutting, drawing, threading) and gross motor (jumping, climbing, throwing).

Academic goals - the kinds of knowledge and skills that traditionally help students learn in school such as language development, using numeracy in real life (weighing, measuring), and literacy (drawing, writing, reading and using symbols in pretend play).


Academic learning depends on a foundation of intellectual, dispositional, social/emotional and physical learning. Academic goals are learnt and remembered for the long term are hard to achieve without the other kinds of learning first being strong.


For the love of learning… let them play


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