Listening to young children: supporting transition
Listening to young children: supporting transition

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Listening to young children: supporting transition

4.1 Case study: suitability and trust

Researchers Kris Kalkman and Alison Clark (2017) draw on the idea that children need to experience a sense of belonging or suitability in order to be active participants in their communities (Woodhead and Brooker, 2008). The researchers suggest that children can reflect on their own degree of suitability when negotiating their role in social play, and it is in this context that the presence of a listening adult might support children’s meaning making.

Consider the following narrative from Kalkman and Clark’s research in which they focus on the role-play experiences of Bahja, a 4 year old girl who joined a Norwegian day care setting from the Middle East. Bahja spent 3 months in the setting’s Badger Group learning about Norwegian language and culture but then joined the Fox group with other children in their final year of day care before school. As you read the extract, note how Bahja seems to reflect on her own suitability to play within the group, and how she approaches a listening adult (Kris Kalkman, researcher author who has spent considerable time listening to children in the setting) to support her play on the periphery, and share in her meaning making about her cross-cultural experiences.

Princesses and Dragons

… As the girls put on their pointy princess hats and silky gowns, they negotiate their roles, discussing and explaining to each other what they will do and how they will do this. When done, they instantly begin their play, some running around as princesses yelling that the dragons are coming, others pretending to be the dragons, ready to capture the princesses and take them to their prison towers. As the girls play, it seems that none of them have noticed that Bahja has arrived in the Fox group this morning.

… having received no invitation to join the girls, she walks into the group and with a somewhat sad expression on her face, she passes the girls by, unnoticed. Walking into the group, she spots Kris, the first author, observing her. Bahja begins to smile and walks over to him. Passing him by, she stands behind him and opens a large wooden chest. From this chest, she takes up a silky gown frequently used by the other girls in their role play. Holding it in front of her, she examines it closely. Then she puts on the gown, and when she is finished, she smiles at Kris, asking him, ‘Do you want to play with me?’ ‘Certainly, Bahja,’ Kris replies, and instantaneously, Bahja starts narrating and takes more content from the chest. Even though enthusiastically narrating, the first author notices how Bahja struggles with finding Norwegian words and as such supplements with Arabic and body language to communicate her intention whenever she notices that Kris doesn’t understand her. But, without any doubt, the first author understands that Bahja is narrating her own version of the princess and dragons role play, as routinely performed by her peers.

(Kalkman and Clark, 2017, p. 299)

Kalkman and Clark suggest that Bahja does not quite identify herself as ‘suitable’ to engage fully in this particular play, perhaps because she does not yet align with all of the social and cultural references. She does however find support in her relationship with an adult who she knows will listen, and integrates some of the group play activities with her own cultural expressions, enabling a sense of participation and belonging.

Summary points

  • Complex transitions can involve linguistic and cultural shifts, listening to individual experiences can support children to explore their sense of belonging.
  • Developing relationships with children based on listening and trust, can provide a context for them to make meaning of their transition experiences.
  • Children who are making significant shifts in transition may vary their levels of participation over long periods of time and often look for the support of a long-term listening partner.

Activity 4 Listening for ideas to support transition

Timing: This activity should take approximately 40 minutes

Part 1

In Section 4 the focus was on children changing situations where there are shifts away from familiar languages and cultural practices. However as highlighted in Section 2 for some children the transition from pre-school to school can also be an intricate experience to negotiate.

In this activity you are going to begin by reading the views of two young school children, Tanya and Rory, reflecting on their experience of transition from Reception class to Year 1 in an English Primary school. They are being interviewed by their teacher who they know well from their current Year 1 class.

Read both the interviews and for each one make notes about the things that Tanya and Rory say about their experience in both Reception and Year 1. What do they value most in each? Are there any differences? Use the space provided below:

Tanya’s interview

Interviewer

Tanya, can you tell me about any of the special toys that you played with in reception that you enjoyed?

Tanya

Hula hooping.

Interviewer

Hula hooping? OK. Where did you used to do hula hooping?

Tanya

Outside.

Interviewer

Outside? OK, and did you have any really nice friends in reception? Can you tell me about your friends?

Tanya

Hope and Bethany.

Interviewer

OK. Are they still your friends in year one? What’s year one like with Miss Johnson?

Tanya

It’s very fun.

Interviewer

Is it? What’s fun about it? Tell me about it.

Tanya

We get to play lots of fun games.

Interviewer

Do you? OK, and do you have any role play areas in year one?

Tanya

I like going to play in the role play because there’s really fun things that we can do.

Interviewer

Is there? That’s fantastic. And what’s it like compared to reception, year one?

Tanya

It’s really fun.

Interviewer

It’s really fun? So both reception and year one were fun? OK, that’s fantastic. Is there anything that you really enjoy playing with in year one?

Tanya

Playing lots of number games.

Interviewer

Lots of number games? You’re really good at maths, aren’t you? OK. You showed me how good you are at maths, haven’t you, that treasure chest this morning. That was fantastic. OK, well done, Tanya.

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Rory’s interview

Interviewer

OK. Did you have a nice day today? Yeah? Can you tell me about some of the things you used to play with in nursery and reception that you used to really enjoy?

Rory

Um, the Lego.

Interviewer

The Lego? What can you remember making anything with the Lego or--

Rory

I can remember making something with a smiling and happy face.

Interviewer

Can you? OK. And what’s it like in year one now?

Rory

It’s quite different.

Interviewer

Is it?

Rory

Cause it’s got more, loads more Lego.

Interviewer

Oh, so it’s got loads more-- so Lego, but lots more. OK. And do you still get to do independent learning in year one?

Rory

Uh, yeah.

Interviewer

You do. OK.

Rory

Um, and we’ve still got a role play like in reception.

Interviewer

Can you remember any friends you used to play with in reception?

Rory

I can remember some. But they were nursery when I was in reception.

Interviewer

OK.

Rory

Because it was Eddy, Connor, Stefan, and Stefan’s friends.

Interviewer

Oh, that’s nice. They’re in reception, aren’t they at the moment? So they’ll be coming up into year one, won’t they? When you’re year two, they’ll be year one. OK. And they sometimes come for visits, don’t they as well?

Rory

Yes.

Interviewer

Yeah? And you have to sort of show them the classrooms?

Rory

We’ve done it before. Cause-- We’ve done it before when we were in year one where some of the year ones have to move into reception and some receptions have to move in year one.

Interviewer

OK. You remember doing that as I think so the children get used to the different classrooms. That’s it? Well, it’s nice to have special memories, isn’t it? And special friends in school.

Rory

Yeah.

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Discussion

Both Tanya and Rory are very clear about the activities that were their favourites in Reception- ‘Hula hooping’ and ‘outside’ for Tanya and Lego for Rory. They both also highlight the importance of role play for them particularly as this still is an activity they can continue to pursue in Year 1. Tanya feels that Year 1 continues to be fun but her choice of favourite activity is much more curriculum based – ‘number games’. Rory has also noted that Year 1 is ‘quite different’ hinting perhaps at some of the discontinuity between the two environments. Rory and Tanya both have clear recollections of the friends that they made in the previous year and perhaps tellingly these peers are still within their friendship group. Rory chooses to highlight the transition visits that take place in the school between Reception and Year1 which suggests that he found them a useful part of his experience.

Part 2 Planning to support transition

For the second part of this activity use the insights that listening to Rory and Tanya have given you and list 3 pieces of advice that you would give to a practitioner who is planning to support a transitioning child or group of children from Reception to Year 1. Then add three more suggestions that you would make based on the listening approaches that you have learned about in this course. Use the space below to record your points:

Ideas to support transition
1
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2
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3
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4
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Discussion

Because of the importance that Rory and Tanya highlight about play that they particularly enjoyed in Reception, it would be appropriate to ensure that the preferences of the children who are making the transition are known. These activities could then also be on offer during any settling in periods. Information about friendship groups for children moving up would also be useful so that children could retain their own support network as they experienced transition. Rory also referred to the shared visiting that took place between the class groups and so it would be helpful to replicate this approach.

You will have a number of other ideas about how practitioners could also support transitions. These could have included:

  • Preparatory sessions with the child and their family to listen and respond to multiple perspectives on children’s needs and interests.
  • Time spent listening to children’s views in the early days of transition to reflect on potential barriers to participation?
  • Promoting the value of listening to children as they share their boundary objects that reflect their wider identities.
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