I was at a school open day the other day, I saw this in reception class, what do you think?
A group of children sitting together on a table were doing an activity on a sheet, as part of numeracy hour. They had to trace round the number 5, then draw their hand and colour it in. They were doing this sheet before morning break. The group came back to the same task after playtime, and had to finish it before they were allowed to go and play in the home area.
One boy asked the teacher if he could go to the home corner, he'd finished the number tracing and had coloured a bit of the hand yellow. She said "no, you haven't finished colouring, we have to do our jobs before we play don't we?" He said "but it doesn't matter" She then told him he was colouring it the wrong colour. She took the yellow crayon out of his hand and gave him the pink crayon. She then looked at the black child next to him (the only black child on a table of otherwise white children). He'd coloured it the same pink colour as his friends. She told him he was doing it wrong too, and gave him the brown crayon.
I felt really sad for the children involved as:
1. At only just 5 (or younger) they should be learning through play more than sitting at tables doing formal work IMO (the EYFS curriculum supports this doesn't it?)
2. I feel very strongly that she was surpressing their creativity. The activity was to do with maths, what does it matter what colour the hand is? The hand is there as it has 5 digits, that's the maths bit! The colouring's meant to be the fun bit surely?! What colour it is has no relation to the number 5!
3. I didn't like the way play seemed to be being used as a reward, rather than being used as part of their education.
4. I felt sorry for the little boy who had obviously had enough of this very dry task, which they'd been doing for ages. I didn't like the way he was told he was wrong, when he had been colouring and had nearly completed the task.
5. I really didn't like the way the black kid was singled out for being different to all the others. I mean, really, what does it matter what colour he uses for the hand in a maths exercise? DS (4) calls people "the white person" / "the blue person" because of the colour of their clothes, skin seems to be meaningless to him so far! Why force the issue so young? That boy may not see himself as different from the others in a predominately white class - yet - as skin colour may not be important to such a young child.
Would this kind of approach be normal in many schools do you think?
The school I work (supply reception teacher) has set play times in the morning. They do have free flow in the morning but only inside. They have free flow inc the outside in the afternoon. I think it's because all staff are working with groups in the morning.