This study aims to discuss a number of observations I made of a four year old pupil over a week, concentrating on her learning through specific areas of Mathematics, English and Science. The school that I visited is a larger than the average-sized primary school. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is well above average (Ofsted 2012). The school’s main ethos is inclusion and prides itself on good relationships with the pupil’s parents.
The child that I observed will be called ‘Grace’ for the purpose of this study. Grace is a White British child who comes from a single parent family; she is an average achiever and comes across as quite shy with a lack in confidence. She often wants to work alone or in small groups of other girls. For the group sessions the class was divided into four groups of ability; Grace was in the second to highest group. These groups were used to teach phonics and mathematics.
The structure to the school day was similar throughout the week, starting with 10 minute ‘carpet’ time in the morning, followed by 20 minutes of mathematics then 40 minutes of ‘learning time’. Learning time was when the children could choose their activity, I found that if left completely to choose an activity Grace would decide to draw a picture or play with the water tray. Learning time was followed by 20 minutes of Phonics. The afternoons were taken up by ‘Group Learning’ where the class would follow the teachers lead and during the week I visited the class this consisted of Christmas activities such as Christmas cards and decorations.
I will aim to ‘un-pick’ Grace’s learning and explain how she learns using theory and literature, then suggest ways to move her forward. By using the DFE (2012) Development Matters article I will comment on how or if she is reaching the Early Learning Goals.
For this study, I will concentrate on a specific area of each subject. For English I will comment on Grace’s learning through speech and language, for Mathematics I will concentrate on learning to count and for Science I have decided to concentrate on learning through playing with water and drawing pictures.
Grace’s Learning in Mathematics, learning to count.
The environment which Grace was surrounded by was fairly rich with numbers and opportunities to talk about numbers, as Ginsberg and Baron (1993) state this is evident in all settings. It was clear that Grace enjoyed talking about numbers, even though she would often get confused when counting a small number of objects. One day Grace was drawing a picture of a flower, (see appendix 1). She could correctly count from one to twenty when counting the petals. It appeared that Grace was ‘on track’ to reaching the Early Learning Goal: ‘Children count reliably with numbers from one to 20’. However when I asked her how many leaves there were, she counted ten when there were only eight. Gelman and Gallistel’s (1978) ‘1-1 principle’ can explain where Grace has gaps in her number understanding, maybe she did not realise that each object could be counted only once. Perhaps Grace could practice her counting by having the objects that she counts taken away each time they are counted, this could show her that each object has been counted for. From observing Grace’s learning in Mathematics, I became concerned that Grace seemed to know how to count but actually was just memorising the sequence of numbers Munn (2008). Far too often do you hear children reciting number sequences in class but it can be questioned as to whether they understand what they are saying. As stated in the DFE (2009) document Children thinking mathematically: PSRN essential knowledge for Early Years practitioners (page 5) ‘Children’s learning of numbers is holistic, and they do not learn numbers in the traditional order.’ I agree that Grace could be learning in this holistic way as she knew the symbol for ten