What can children tell us about how things are organised in their kindergarten classrooms?: Thinking about children, materials, space and learning

Year: 2019

Author: Manassakis, Evangeline

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Recent research indicates that teachers continue to take a predominant role in organising early childhood classrooms. There is limited research about the involvement of children in organising kindergarten indoor spaces ready for teaching and learning, or the types of roles that children are able to take up when classrooms are in the process of being organised. By taking a sociomaterial perspective the research reported in this paper takes into account the play equipment, resources, the classroom space itself, along with the children and adults who play and learn in the kindergarten room where this research was conducted. The paper is interested in how children talk about their kindergarten indoor learning spaces and how they are set up, by whom and for what purposes.

Children’s much needed insights about their role in organising classrooms, was sought firstly through child-led tours, where children were asked to take the researcher around the classroom showing the who, what, how and when of their engagement in these same spaces. The children talked to the researcher while video recording and taking still images of the tour on a tablet device. The same children were later engaged in video-stimulated recall interviews with the researcher, where they were given the opportunity to discuss the recordings and images that they had produced. Photographs were also taken of the indoor kindergarten classroom. These methods aimed to provide an alternative to the oft used observations and interviews of much research of children and their lives.

The paper aims to problematise the typically taken-for-granted notion that the early learning space is an empty container in which objects and resources are placed, and where children take up a passive organisational position. The paper unpacks issues related to how children describe their role in organising the materials – the tools, resources, technologies and furniture – in the indoor early learning space of one kindergarten. Six young children aged 3.5-5 years, from one kindergarten in Queensland participated in this study. A sociomaterial lens was brought to the analysis of data enabling the consideration of the underlying forces and interactions between space, materials and people.

It can be argued that child-led tours and video-stimulated recall interviews were effective in hearing children’s views about their role in organising the classroom. The analysis demonstrates that children reported participating in organising the kindergarten classroom in a diverse range of ways. The roles children described were complex in nature.