By the Methodist Welfare Services Communications Team
Imagine a preschool classroom that transforms every two weeks – into a home, salon, post office or a familiar landmark in the neighbourhood.
This kind of experiential learning is now a reality for the children of MWS D’Joy Children’s Centre located in Jalan Besar. Named the Dramatic Corner, this changeable classroom offers pre-schoolers aged two to six years old the opportunities to role play, engage in physical storytelling, and learn in a unique and interactive manner.
The Dramatic Corner is one of the Specialised Classrooms D’Joy has created within the centre to make learning more fun, engaging and effective. Since early 2017, much of the centre space has been renovated and converted into thematic classrooms or corners geared towards helping children develop specific skills and abilities.
Besides the Dramatic Corner, there are two Language Rooms, an Art Corner, a Construction Corner, and a Music and Movement Room. A Cookery Room will be completed in June 2017.
This new approach to learning sees children moving from one room or corner to another for their lessons instead of staying put in one classroom and environment.
MWS D’Joy Principal Ms Julie Tan says, “Initially, the children were confused with this arrangement. Over time, they got used to the flow and now know where to go. In fact, they enjoy being in different spaces rather than staying put.”
Creating special classrooms took shape in Julie’s mind when she met a preschool consultant to renovate the centre in 2016. Together, they brought integrated learning spaces to life.
“In a normal classroom with 15 children, they may feel the space is very cramped. Now, they can learn and play in less limiting spaces,” she adds.
Previously, the preschoolers were confined to observing only their direct peers’ behaviour and handiwork within their classrooms. That has changed with the specialised corners, where teachers display a variety of art and hand-lettering works by kids from various age groups. This makes it easy for the students to get a glimpse of what children at different academic levels are doing.
Julie leads a lean team of seven kindergarten teachers who conduct classes from Playgroup to Kindergarten levels. The teachers are split into three groups according to their subjects: arts and crafts and music; language and numeracy; and Chinese and hands-on play. Administering specialised classes may be slightly more labour-intensive as compared to regular classes, but Julie says it is worth the effort.
“The more learning spaces there are, the better. But we need staff with different inclinations and capabilities to make this work. For example, I’ve noticed that the children benefit most from music and art lessons by teachers who are more artistically-inclined,” she says.
Developing and improving these specialised classrooms also empower teachers to deepen their knowledge of different disciplines.
What Julie has observed since rolling out Specialised Classrooms is how exposure to different subjects in different environments can improve a child’s learning. She says, “One of our students was not able to read and write initially. After taking lessons in the Art Corner and Construction Corner, she picked up drawing and developed gross motor skills. This in turn improved her literacy and hand-lettering.”
About MWS D’Joy Children’s Centre
MWS D’Joy is a full-day childcare and preschool centre. More than 40 per cent of the children come from low-income families living in the Jalan Besar area. Children may also be referred by social workers and the Ministry of Social and Family Development.