Comments (37)

  1.' Jan Delaney says:

    well articulated article Keryn, hope it makes a difference to schools.

  2. Keryn Davis says:

    Thanks for your feedback Jan. I'm lucky enough to be working with an innovative and completely inspiring team of new entrant teachers at the moment who are really putting the research into action. We'll be sharing this work as it progresses across the year. Next term we'll be taking a careful look at how this approach to ‘doing’ school makes a difference in terms of transition to school for children. We’ll also be looking at particular aspects of learning (such as oral language, and Key Competency development) by some of the children when involved in play and child-led inquiry when compared to teacher-led aspects of the programme.

  3.' Clare Gierc says:

    Thank you for the insightful reading. I am a new entrant teacher working on a personal goal to improve the transition between ECE and school within my classroom. I would love some direction and advice with this if that would be possible. I am highly interested incorporating inquiry learning also at this level. Thank you, Clare Gierc.


  4. Great! Let's talk Clare. I'll be in touch.

  5. Keryn one of our N.E. teachers attended a workshop last year and on return to school shared her learning, we have a strong transition to school programme and inquiry model through the school but I am keen to develop this further with our team of up to 9 N.E. teachers this year. Would be keen to talk. Jackie Procter DP

  6.' Julie Steele says:

    So interesting to read and a lot for me to consider.  I have just started with a class of 15 new entrants – my first time teaching them – and I am thinking carefully about how to approach inquiry learning.  Very interested in any other readings / ideas on this topic.  Thanks  Julie.

    1. I'm pleased you've found this useful Julie. I'm planning to have a summary of the Re-thinking, re-designing NE classrooms project findings out around mid March. I'll make this available online (and I'll link it here) and I'll also write another blog post then too. I'm planning to publish a series of short videos relating to this work too.

      In the meantime you might be interested in finding out more about the curriculum for the first 3 years of school for children in Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland has made a major shift towards a greater emphasis on dispositional learning (like our key competencies) and play as learning/inquiry for children in these years of school.

      These changes were based on a big study where a play-based programme was trialled in 100 ‘disadvantaged’ schools for 950 year 1 (4 – 5 years of age) and year 2 (5 – 6 years of age). The study associated with this initiative tracked children's progress into years 3 and 4. They also had a control group of 950 children who had experienced more traditional classroom programmes at the same age. 

      The researchers here used an observation tool to evaluate the effectiveness of the play-based programme for children in terms of 9 areas: motivation, concentration, confidence, independence, physical well-being, multiple skill acquisition, higher-order thinking skills, social interaction and respect.


      They found children in the play-based programmes significantly outscored children in the traditional programmes in 8 areas. The 9th (weakest area) was higher-order thinking. The children experiencing the play-based programme still scored higher than the control group in terms of higher-order thinking, and were challenged more than those in the traditional programme, however the advantage was not as significant as the other 8 areas.


      There were all sorts of reasons for this – perhaps I'll write a blog about that – but in a nut shell the researchers felt this probably had a lot to do with teachers who weren't yet sure about their role in play – so weren't giving children quite the stretch in their thinking that they could have been giving them.


      Anyway, the children in the play-based programme group continued to outscore their control group peers in those 9 areas at Y3 and Y4. So this early experience was having a lasting impact on learning.


      Interestingly they made changes to their reading programmes too, and while the play-based group scored lower at Y3 (when they entered a more formal classroom), than their control groups peers, they very quickly reached the reading levels of their control group. These results matched those of the Otago study I've mentioned in my blog post. Interesting stuff for us to think about in this country given when other countries choose to introduce formal reading instruction.


      Here's a link to the NI curriculum


      It's all good food for thought!



  7. Keryn Davis says:

    It would be great to hear what's working well for your NE children Jackie, and areas you'd like to play around with. I'll drop you a line and we can talk some more.

  8.' Tara O'Neill says:

    Hi Julie,  I teach at Te karaka Area School and we have set up a foundation class with similar ideas.  I would like you to read my blog about some of our journey at

    I was so excited to read your blog and to know there is someone else out there thinking the same way.  This journey is not without difficulty and there are lots of issues around National Standards.  I would be very interested in discussing this further.

    1. Kia ora Julie,

      It's been great to connect via the Learning through Play FB page. Hopefully more readers of this blog post will join the group.




  9. […] Next we were taken through some inspiring examples from her own research where play had been first introduced as a special hour at the beginning of the day, for “proper” school to commence afterwards. She explained how the positive results from this specially timetabled hour of play had led the schools to extend it and use elements of play throughout the day, making the most of opportunities that arose. Learners naturally started to organise, lead others and collaborate. I highly recommend you read more about her work here. […]

  10.' Liz Coleman says:


  11.' Sarah Hasselman says:

    Hi Keryn

    I am a New Entrant teacher at Nelson Park School, Napier and I cannot wait to read your research findings on Re-thinking and re-designing NE classrooms.  I have really enjoyed reading this article and would love to talk to you further about the role of play in providing young children with more power over their learning.  I am from Northern Ireland originally and it has been very interesting to read about the Foundation Stage again.  I was very lucky to do my teaching practice in one of the schools that trialled the play-based programme originally. I would be very keen to discuss these things with you at some stage but understand how busy you must be. Kind Regards  Sarah

    1. Keryn Davis says:

      Sarah! We need to talk. I can't believe a whole term has gone by. Can we get together on Skype next week?

  12.' Mel Poynter says:

    Hi Keryn,

    I have been a N.E. teacher for a number of years and would love to read your research as I am currently looking into play-based learning for my teaching as inquiry. Would you be able to send me the link please? I would also love the opportunity to talk to you about how we can make changes at Kaiapoi North. Kind Regards, Mel

    1. Kia ora Mel,

      I'm hoping to get a new project up and running soon. I'll certainly be in touch as I'm keen to establish a small group of teachers who are keen to trial some new ideas and really step things up. The link to the New Entrant classrooms in the re-making research project will be ready to go live in the next couple of weeks. I'll be sure to post the link here for you.



  13.' Mel says:

    Hi Keryn, I have been looking into play based learning as my teacher inquiry over the last few months.  I enjoyed reading your post.  I would love to read your research findings.  If you need another guinea pig I'd love to be involved…I teach Year 0/1 in Blenheim.  

    1. Keryn Davis says:

      Kia ora Mel,

      Yes, I do need more "guinea pigs"! If you are keen to get in touch – or anyone else for that matter – I'm starting work on a new project next term. It will start off really slowly but I'm keen to get some people together to talk through ideas and try some ideas in their classrooms.

      Drop me a line


  14.' Paula Roberts says:

    Hi Keryn

    wow, this has really struck a chord with me. After reading this (thanks Facebook) I would love to know and learn more about this approach. I teach NE/yr 1 and can totally see the benefits in this. I would love to get in touch to talk more about your findings,and where to next. 

    1. Keryn Davis says:

      Great Paula. As I've said above to Mel, I'm trying to get traction with some new thinking/approaches. I'd love to keep you in the loop if you are keen.


  15. […] Powerful play: Continuity and inquiry for children starting school — Keryn Davis […]

  16.' RBI says:

    Hi Keryn,

    I teach at a small country school in Central Hawkes Bay and have been considering how I can incorporate more play into my classroom.  I teach Y0-2 and am struggling with the idea of how to involve play but also cover all areas of the curriculum and assessment requirements plus observe the children in play enough so I am able to build a clear picture of what interests them to assist in facilitating further learning.

    Feeling slightly overwhelmed…

    1. Kia ora,

      Your feelings of feeling overwhelmed at the idea of incorporating play are understandable! You certainly aren't alone.

      To help, I'd suggest to read this research report on the work at Mairehau Primary School in Christchurch

      I also suggest that you start small. Commit an hour a week to begin with and then see how you can grow it.

      Here's some questions that might be helpful for you to answer first – just to help you weigh it all up: 

      – Imagine you had a play based programme up an running – What would be the outcomes for learners? What is the learning you would hope to see? Make a list and see how many you can name. 

      – Which aspects of the curriculum do these outcomes relate to?  – How much curriculum 'coverage' does your list represent? How worthwhile does it appear now?

      How does this level of 'coverage' compare to other aspects of your current programme? Imagine what might be covered in a term, or a year? How does it feel now? 

      – If you were to do this, what could you let go of to create room for play based learning? (Many teachers I work with let go of Topic for a start – could you do the same?).

      Please keep in touch.

      I'd love to hear how you get on.

      Ngā mihi Keryn

  17.' Tracey Schumacher says:

    Hi Keryn, I'just reading your blog and findig it really interesting. But when openig the linksit takes me to the page….should I go somehwhere on this site?  Or is it just me being a bit dense?! Would love to keep track of this. Thanks,                                                                                                                          Tracey          

    1. Thanks Tracey. It's not you! It seems these links have been lost since the MOE changed its website. I'll arrange for them to be updated. 

      Ngā mihi


  18.' Helen Auty says:

    Hi Keryn,
    Were you able to get the links updated? My DP has just given me this article as we are moving more strongly into play based learning.

    1. Keryn Davis says:

      Hi Helen,
      Sorry it has taken so long to update the links. These are all up to date now.
      Ngā mihi

  19.' Catherine says:

    Yes, please update the links. Really keen to see them.

    1. Keryn Davis says:

      Kia ora Catherine,

      All up to date now. Sorry it has taken so long!

      Ngā mihi

  20.' Julia Cider says:

    Thank you very much for providing this information. We set up a play-based learning approach in our school at the beginning of the year, and are reflecting and refining all of the time.

    I’d be interested to know your thoughts about how much input teachers should have during play.

    Thank you.

  21.' Liz J says:

    Hi Keryn,
    I am a teacher in a special school in Chch and see this as a real area of need for my class of new entrants, mostly with a diagnosis of ASD. I was just wondering if you have had much experience of implementing play into a special education setting? I am really keen to learn more / do more / research more but am wondering where to start! Any advice or support gratefully received.

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