Hello, I’m Elliot. My nan is always saying I’m day-dreaming and ‘away with the fairies’. I like to think about lots of things. Sometimes I even watch films in my head…

Communication friendly environments are often talked about in relation to establishing classrooms and other educational spaces in ways that don’t distract or over-stimulate learners, particularly children with additional needs. Although an environment that has too many brightly coloured displays and puts up children’s work ‘for display’s sake’ is not ideal, an environment that challenges and fascinates is important if we view our classroom as an additional teacher.

“Adults admire their environment: they can remember it and think about it – but a child absorbs it. The things he sees are not just remembered; they form part of his soul.”  Maria Montessori Numerals (among other things) are often strung across a classroom and the question to ask is: Why? Who has created them to put them there? What purpose do they serve? Do they challenge or fascinate? In our experience, if the children have been part of the process of creating a resource or display then they will develop a sense of ownership over it. It will have meaning for them, as opposed to something adult-conceived and created. If the resource is utilised for a sustained period, prior to being displayed or after display (and preferably both), then it is a resource that is worthy of being there especially if the children can use or access it independently. Lastly, is the resource one that the child might “absorb” as Maria Montessori puts it? If it creates opportunities for children to think critically and deeply, to think big about the small, and to want to know more – then the floating resource is indeed promoting learning.
Recently, we discovered the power of old golf balls. They’re made from plastic and rubber and unfortunately they are unrecyclable. However, they’re a brilliant resource to feel, throw and thread. And of course count. Not just counting horizontally, which is what we tend to promote to young learners, but vertically too. Learning in the air. Across the classroom, after experimenting with threading and ordering. What are they? How do they feel to touch? Are they heavy or light? What makes them bounce? How far can they roll? What’s inside them? Why are they hanging in the air? How did they get up there? How many are there altogether? How many are yellow or white? What are the missing numbers when you look at them from different points in the classroom?“Really interesting learning environments are not homogeneous, they are diverse – they adapt and change…”
          Sir Ken Robinson, British author, speaker and international advisor on education in the arts.

“I’m really glad you put those there. When I’m sitting on the carpet, I like to look at them and count them.”   Cayden, Age 5.

Communication friendly environments must still be highly engaging ones.

Learning in the air

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