Friday, 30 October 2015

Learning through play

At school in the UK, one of the different learning techniques we use is role play. Many educators, myself included, believe that children learn to think through doing and talking. It helps develop their social, emotional, physical and intellectual skills as well as promoting self-confidence.

Home Corner Role Play

This view is very different to what I have so far experienced of Zambian schools, where children largely learn 'by rote' and through copying. I have worked with some of the children who attend the local primary school and are supported by Arise, and I've been shocked at their lack of understanding and thinking skills.

Learning through play is something we at Kapumpe Christian Primary School have been keen to develop in the first few years that a child joins us. Opportunities to develop language have been particularly important as most of the children who entered Grade 1 this year spoke no English at all.

Farm Shop Role Play

This new approach has been quite a learning curve for our Zambian school staff. I think they probably thought we were a bit crazy at first! However, they have seen learning through play have a positive impact on the children's language, as well as their interest and understanding of what they are learning. The staff are beginning to ask the children some good questions and maybe even think we're slightly less crazy...

Kapumpe Newsroom Role Play

One of the key features of our classrooms is our role play area. Rosie and I have spent many evenings cutting and laminating displays in preparation! With some help from Gemma, who oversees the school, we've also found some props and resources in town that we can use to bring things to life for the children. It has been important to us that we choose themes that the children have some experience of, or can relate to in some way because it makes it easier for them to imagine and play.

Hairdressers Role Play

So far the role play areas we've set up for the children include a hairdressers, a farm shop, a home, a safari, a chef's kitchen, a newsroom, a carpenter's workshop and a hospital.

Carpenter's Workshop - inside and outside!

The difference in how the children in Grade 1 use the role play area now, compared to when they started school, is quite amazing. At the beginning of the year, their role play area was set up like a simple Zambian home with a few props like a brazier (a coal stove) and a brush for sweeping. They really struggled to use imagination and play. Rosie has done a fantastic job and has persevered in teaching the children and staff in how to use them. If anyone had visited the recent Grade 1 'hospital' that she set up, they would have been welcomed by the receptionist, shown to the waiting room and questioned by the little doctors and nurses! As they got into the swing of things the children even decided they wanted a wheelchair, so they created one by adding pretend wheels to one of the plastic chairs.

Grade 1 Hospital Role Play

This has been a great example of how Rosie and I have been able to use our teaching experience from back home to help the children at Kapumpe learn in a different way. The children have thoroughly embraced all of the role plays we have set up so far. We want to establish this way of learning as early as possible and so we are now in the process of opening a brand new pre-school for 3-5 year olds at Kapumpe.

Chef's Kitchen Role Play


  1. This is amazing! I love the pictures.

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  3. Wow sounds great. Keep up the good work.

  4. Brilliant! Not only are the children developing in so many unknown aspects, but they're probably thoroughly enjoying the experiences!

  5. This is a really interesting read, & the photos of the children playing (& learning!) are gorgeous x

  6. This is a really interesting read, & the photos of the children playing (& learning!) are gorgeous x

  7. You guys are doing an awesome job!! It was such a privilege to join in with the role play and really seeing the children thrive in their creativeness. Helping make that wheelchair was awesome!! xx

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  9. This is flipping brilliant! Loving you're work guys :-)

    1. Obviously that was meant to read 'your'...I should go back into grade 1! :-(

    2. Haha! You're welcome back any time...