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From caterpillars into free-thinking butterflies

The Key to Learning early years programme comprises 12 modules.

North Ayrshire Council chose to pilot the developmental games module for six months last year and offered an in-service training day for nursery and primary teachers led by Galina Dolya, one of the authors of the programme.

The games module has two parts - Caterpillars and Butterflies - for the youngest and slightly older youngsters. They each consist of 30 scripted lessons lasting about 15-20 minutes.

Nine nursery classes (including two private ones) and eight P1 classes took part in the pilot. Three were used as controls.

While the quantitative data from the study provided little evidence of gain (measures included the production and variety of drawings), the qualitative data was generally positive, with staff reporting improvements in language and communication, concentration, symbol recognition, interaction and co-operation in small groups, and more imaginative ideas.

A clear connection was found between the objectives of the games module and the existing 3-5 and 5-14 curriculums. Teachers felt the materials were appropriate for the 4-7 age range.

Informal piloting with pupils who have additional support needs indicated that they might benefit from the materials too, provided they are within that developmental age range.

Staff found it time-consuming to produce the materials from the module's resources CD-Rom and took issue with the quality of some of the graphics.

They also said the pack provided only the basics and that more resources, such as the various prompts suggested by Ms Dolya on the training day, had to be sourced from elsewhere.

The study raised issues regarding pedagogical style and practice, the role of mediation and the nature of free versus directed play. However, staff found the activities very useful in terms of formative assessment.

Because of the focus on small group activity, teachers said another adult had to be present in the room.

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