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Collaboration; working with others, is one of the skills children need to develop in order to thrive in the 21st Century. Whilst reading the text The Sandcastle Competition, Rachel asked our Foundation Phase (6 to 9 year olds), ‘What surprised you in the story and why?’ The following conversation (21.02.22) emerged:
KR What surprised me is they were fighting, because when building a sandcastle you don’t fight.
IS Can I add to KR? I don’t think they should be fighting.
LM Why would they fight because there is an orange triangle they can use.
JN If they are still fighting, they will destroy the sandcastle, and fighting is not good.
AM, BS and KN made comments about fighting not being good.
IS The red team worked slowly and carefully, because if you rush you won’t succeed.
AM What does succeed mean?
JN When you do something and finish it well.
AM Applied to math.
The following day, in order to recall what had happened in the story, before continuing to read, Rachel asked, ‘What has already happened?’ The children shared further observations (22.02.22):
KR The children showed us what shapes they were using.
AN and MC added on.
NJ The blue team made a round shape for the dog.
SI They put people in to teams.
Rachel Why did they put the people in teams?
LZ So they can work together.
DN So they see how clever they are.
AM They might not be able to work by themselves.
JA Can I add to AM? It might be unfair to work by themselves.
IM Can I add to AM and JA? Sometimes people like working on their own.
Rachel I wonder what the difference is between working on your own and working with other people. When is it good to work with others? When is it good to work on your own? Perhaps we should think further about this at another time.
JL The two kids keep fighting.
LM Can I add to JL? I think on the first page they were fighting, and on the other page they were fighting, and still now they are fighting.
AN I notice mom and dad are watching.
JN The green team is being selfish because they are fighting.
From the documentation of the children’s conversations, it was evident that they recognised how unhelpful fighting is when trying to work collaboratively to create a sandcastle. As staff, being led by the children, we decided it was an area to explore further. During life skills (07.03.22) we continued the conversation by asking the question, ‘Why do you think it is good to work with other people?’
JN ..because if you need help with something you can get help from the team.
CS Maybe you will like the same things.
SJ It’s when we feel happy.
IS If something is hard and you can’t do it on your own.
KN When we did shapes outside, we made lots of shapes because we were working together.
Rachel How does a team work well together?
AN They help each other.
LZ They listen to each other.
LM We can respect one another.
IM We talk to each other, we co-operate.
A child asked what does co-operate mean. This led into a discussion.
JN If we don’t talk, we won’t be able to communicate.
IM Teams don’t just leave they re-try.
BS They care.
KW They share.
KN They think before they speak.
AM What matters is you re-try.
Our Foundation Phase have a good understanding of what it takes to work collaboratively. On a daily basis we see them applying this understanding when they work alongside and with others in pairs or a small group.
Collaboration provides the context for learning from and with others. Children observe what their peers do, imitate and go further. Paola Strozzi (2018) explains:
“Since the very beginning, we are very attentive to others. We are born in order to stay together, in order to imitate. I learn just by looking. We learn by imitating. So often we’re told not to copy, or we don’t want others to copy us. This is against our biological nature. We are made to do something together, to think together. And if our brain is made by learning together, we think it’s very important to create in a school a place where children can stay and relate together. We are constitutionally social. It’s the idea of ubuntu, or umuntu ngumuntu nganantu – I am what I am because of what we all are.”
Over the last couple of weeks, from observing and listening to the children, as they have worked collaboratively, we have developed a fuller understanding of the value of looking and imitation in the learning process. During math the children, in pairs, used loose parts (twigs, leaves, soil, flowers) to create 2D shapes, patterns and symmetrical pictures or patterns. Children shared their ideas and thinking with their partner, they worked together, re-fined their ideas, learnt from one another and persevered. In working with loose parts, children create pieces of art, and we try to create space for the children to view others’ creations.
Through this we have witnessed learning take place as children take note of what others’ have created. In viewing and sharing what they notice about another pair’s creation, children share how they appreciate others’ ideas and want to try them out for themselves. We see children taking ideas, incorporating them into their own work, and going further. We see children being celebrated for their thinking, and loving the fact that others want to use their ideas. We see the children creating a space where they value each other, where each individual brings their unique perspectives so a better solution can be found, a space where the children are better together.