Play, language and social skills of children attending a play-based curriculum school and a traditionally structured classroom curriculum school in low socioeconomic areas
Reynolds, Emily, Stagnitti, Karen and Kidd, Evan 2011, Play, language and social skills of children attending a play-based curriculum school and a traditionally structured classroom curriculum school in low socioeconomic areas, Australasian journal of early childhood, vol. 36, no. 4, pp. 120-130.
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Aim and method: A comparison study of four six-year-old children attending a school with a play-based curriculum and a school with a traditionally structured classroom from low socioeconomic areas was conducted in Victoria, Australia. Children’s play, language and social skills were measured in February and again in August. At baseline assessment there was a combined sample of 31 children (mean age 5.5 years, SD 0.35 years; 13 females and 18 males). At follow-up there was a combined sample of 26 children (mean age 5.9 years, SD 0.35 years; 10 females, 16 males). Results: There was no significant difference between the school groups in play, language, social skills, age and sex at baseline assessment. Compared to norms on a standardised assessment, all the children were beginning school with delayed play ability. At follow-up assessment, children at the play-based curriculum school had made significant gains in all areas assessed (p values ranged from 0.000 to 0.05). Children at the school with the traditional structured classroom had made significant positive gains in use of symbols in play (p < 0.05) and semantic language (p < 0.05). At follow-up, there were significant differences between schools in elaborate play (p < 0.000), semantic language (p < 0.000), narrative language (p < 0.01) and social connection (p < 0.01), with children in the play-based curriculum school having significantly higher scores in play, narrative language and language and lower scores in social disconnection. Implications: Children from low SES areas begin school at risk of failure as skills in play, language and social skills are delayed. The school experience increases children’s skills, with children in the play-based curriculum showing significant improvements in all areas assessed. It is argued that a play-based curriculum meets children’s developmental and learning needs more effectively. More research is needed to replicate these results.
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