Canterbury Christ Church University, UK Exploring ‘playful writing’ opportunities with reception teachers: expanding understandings of young children’s mark-making, drawing and writing within self-initiated play.

This application seeks funds to support a longitudinal study to explore how Froebelian ideas of play, as ‘creative self-activity and spontaneous self-instruction’ (Lilley, 1967 p.92), can support children’s engagement with mark-making, drawing and writing. There are two main research questions posed. First, how do playful pedagogical practices based upon Froebelian principles support children’s mark-making, drawing and writing? Second, how are teachers able to listen with care to children’s ‘playful writing’ activities in reception classrooms? The intention is to provide empirical evidence that shows how the application of Froebelian principles within playful pedagogical practices may help develop opportunities for children’s mark-making, drawing and writing in school.

The research participants will be a group of 12-15 reception teachers and teaching assistants, who will meet monthly and engage in an online community of practice during one academic year. The group’s activities will provide a ‘space’ for participants to engage in reflective dialogue with others about their pedagogical practice, and critically explore ways in which they are able to listen to children in co-constructing a deeper understanding of children’s multiple meaning-making, creativity, imagination and connection to the world within playful writing activity. This proposes a way of researching with teachers where knowledge is formed from within, a fundamental Froebelian principle (Hargreaves et al., 2014, p.309), and also recognises the importance of teachers’ empowerment through collaboration within professional learning communities (PLC) which have the potential to influence school cultures and policies (Caena, 2011 p.5). 

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