Lisa Macleod’s Play Project

Using A Virtual Classroom to put play at the heart of family learning.

Lisa Macleod
Working Party Member
P1 Teacher

A Virtual Classroom

This year especially schools have been exploring the best tools to communicate effectively with families.  The relationships formed between home and teacher are more important and more in unification than ever. To this end ‘Sharing the Ambition’ I feel has arrived just at the perfect time. My enquiry will look into ways to support a more seamless transition between the learning taking place through play in my classroom and at home.  To form a deeper connection with the families in my Primary one class.  Sharing my play pedagogy and supporting parents to continue this at home. When families ask for more information about play the first direction I point them to is ‘Realising the Ambition’, it discusses the importance and impact on play especially across the early years, “We need to value play and take time to observe the child’s learning through play in order to deepen or extend their learning” (The Scottish Government, 2020).  My hope is to share and spread my enthusiasm of my play pedagogy. 

What format will your communication take?

A weekly virtual classroom sent out via Microsoft teams together with my stage partner.  This has proven to become a popular choice amongst practitioners, and it is easy to see why. Although the initial set up, I found technically challenging for beginners.  It is interactive, fun and child friendly. It is also easy to make personal to your classroom using avatars and photographs.

What content will your communication have?

The virtual classroom is used on the smartboard in the classroom and sent home to parents via Microsoft teams to support the weave of home and school learning. There are links to songs, stories and games that are being used in class to reiterate the learning at home. Using the virtual classroom in school primarily, has empowered the children to support their parents in learning how to use it at home. To share the resources families can use together alongside the learning at school.  

Next Steps

  • I would like to start incorporating photos and videos, I am not sure of the best approach to present this, however we have had a lovely response to the photos posted on twitter and I feel photographs and videos can capture the magic moments to share with families.
  • To find the best way to monitor engagement and support families who may find this challenging. 
  • To continue to encourage and facilitate feedback to understand and listen to families involved. To be as responsive and reflective as possible.
  • To make sure I am including child lead play as well as adult initiated.  
  • To continue my own learning and further my play journey by keeping up to date with research and professional reading.

Covid-19 Caveat

  • Due to Covid-19 forcing schools into a second lockdown I had to re-evaluate the use of Microsoft teams and consider how my setting as a team were going to use technology to teach remotely.
  • To provide consistency across our school learning platform I had to stop using the virtual classroom.  The school created a format for a learning grid to be posted weekly. We recorded videos of ourselves teaching so our class could continue to have a personal connection with their teachers. The virtual classroom along with this we felt was too much information and confusing for families to cope with.
  • Although I had to change my format on teams from a virtual classroom, I was still passionate about my class having play opportunities and I wanted to support families to do this.  In order to achieve this I kept my videos very playful, dressing up, involving my own little boy who is the same age and modelling with my son games families could play together over lockdown. The families in turn uploaded videos of the children playing these games with their families at home, which was incredible.

“All children have a right to play, to learn and to access experiences that meet their physical, social, emotional and cultural needs.”

scottish government, 2021

Project Progress

  • For many reasons I continued with the adapted teams format when pupils returned to school.  The new set up of Microsoft teams I developed with my stage partner and job share we found had a lot of positives and helped me to achieve a lot of the next steps I had set out in my first blog. Although it was not the initial aesthetics I wanted.
  • From my list of next steps my first challenge was getting all my parents engaged in teams. A positive from lockdown was that it did help this as every parent had to sign in to access home-schooling. My parental engagement jumped from 40% to 100%. I have created a home engagement grid to keep track of engagement weekly and call any families who at any point are not engaging to offer support.
  • I initially had my teams page set for everyone to access all areas on the virtual classroom. One of my next steps was to support uploads from families and to include photos and evidence of play.  To make the contact responsive.  A parent had said they were uncomfortable uploading their child’s work/pictures onto teams as all the other families were able to see their child’s work. To overcome this we created an individual channel for each child.
  • The individual channel for each child was a game changer in terms of interaction.  With every child having an individual channel that is private to them, it is now easy for me to record play observations using photographic/video evidence and send directly to families.  The families also did this over lockdown and recorded videos of their children playing.  We decided to stop using twitter and keep everything on Microsoft teams so everything was in the same place.

Family Feedback

“Thank you so much for the effort and time you have put in, it has all been incredible”.

“My child felt like she was able to stay connected with her teacher during lockdown and the feedback always made her smile”.

“I enjoy looking at the observations with my child as it sparks conversations at home about their learning”.

Next Steps

  • Now that the children are back in the classroom and all confident accessing teams I would like to begin to upload a virtual classroom again, perhaps monthly instead of weekly so not to overload families.  I would use it to suggest play ideas only and continue to use the teams individual channels to record my observations.
  • To share more of the curriculum with my families and children, directly link observations to the curriculum and provide next steps to extend knowledge collaboratively.

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