At Newlaithes we believe children learn best when they are intrinsically motivated. The National Curriculum is statutory and therefore there are things that the children need to be taught. To enable this learning to happen and to ensure the children are motivated to learn it and see its significance for their own lives we have developed this approach. Children in Year 1 and Year 2 develop communtities - there is one community per class so two in Year 1 and two in Year 2. These communities are imaginary. Each child invents a character which lives in this community. The children's ideas and interests shape the community. Over a period of time the communities develop - more is discovered about the characters and the place they live in. The children write their ideas in community books. The community develops through this writing but also through drama, debates and children's own play.
Below are the reasons for using this approach to teaching and learning:
- Children are intrinsically motivated - children invent the community and lead its narrative. They invest in the place, the characters and the events as they have come from their own imaginations.
- The community is a microcosm of the real world. Any issues, dilemmas, problems, ethical concerns that come up in the real world can and do come up in the community work
- The community is a platform for creativity and critical thinking. Imagination is developed and extended. The philosophical nature of the community leads to lots of problem solving and debate. Differences of opinion are regularly exposed and solutions discussed.
- The strength of this approach is in its natural propensity to enable and facilitate creativity and critical thinking. It is not merely used as a tool for storytelling.
- Active citizenship is at the heart of the approach. Children learn how to function as a group and how groups make decisions, deal with conflict, care for the less fortunate members, deal with problems fairly – politics for infants! Social responsibility is encouraged and developed.
- Debating and divergent thinking are key skills developed with this approach. Children are taught to see other’s points of view and also see endless possibilities with myriad solutions. Children expect to be wrong often and to learn from these situations and accept being wrong as a key part of learning.
Here are a few pictures of community related work. There are pictures of the characters from Sweet Land trying to find a cure to the disease in the community. They studied the plague of 1665 to see if we could learn any lessons about treating diseases with no known cure. In Secret Island the children are establishing their characters and learning about each other.
After working hard to solve a problem in Sweet Land stories evolved to explain what happened. Listen and enjoy!