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Using book play to support & strengthen schema.

Updated: Jun 9, 2023

Schema help us to make sense of the world around us by categorising and understand information, predicting outcomes and make connections. As a teacher we can be intentional in our teaching or the materials we provide to support and strengthen schema.

In young children, schema supports metacognition, dispositions and development in several ways:

Supports Metacognition:

Schema helps children to think about their thinking and to reflect on their experiences. This can promote their ability to understand and regulate their own learning.

Supports Dispositions:

Schema can help children to develop dispositions such as curiosity, creativity and a love of learning. By making connections and seeing patterns in their experiences, children are motivated to explore and learn more.

Supports Development:

Schema is a crucial part of cognitive development in young children but it can also support social and emotional development through play. As they encounter new experiences, they expand and refine their schema, leading to increased understanding and the ability to make new connections.

I learnt about schema 30 years ago and it has recently become popular again but sometimes called ‘urges’. With the surge in popularity, I took another look at the opportunities I provided for children and how I could support schema through books and book play. I soon discovered some great books and play that supported and strengthened the following schema:

  • Trajectory

  • Positioning or Ordering

  • Enveloping

  • Enclosing

  • Transporting

  • Connecting

  • Disconnecting or Deconstructing

  • Transforming

  • Orienteering

  • Rotating

This led me to create a BUNDLE of schema e-patterns with hands on resources to support schema and an e-book explaining them, which includes what you may observe to recognise them.

In the BUNDLE there are e-patterns for:

  • Where's Spot?

  • The very hungry caterpillar

  • 3 little pigs

  • Little blue truck

  • Dear zoo

  • There was an old lady that swallowed...

  • Green eggs and ham

  • Caps for sale

Through play and storytelling, I saw children engage more deeply and it sustained their interest (and schema), which in turn supported their cognitive, social and emotional development.

Let’s take the Little blue truck which I set up on a moveable storytelling mat for a child who was exploring the connecting and positioning schema but struggling with friendships. In the book the Little blue truck is a friend to all and gets others to lend a hand to push the dumper truck even though it had been rude and made no time to say HELLO or beep, beep and YELLED HONK!!!! instead.

Sam loved his cars and trucks and would line them up and tell elaborate stories about them BUT he did not want others to touch them and mess up the story he was telling. This story posed a different storyline where others could help and in fact were needed to help. I sat with Sam and the mat and role modelled using team work and invited them to join me. Sam did not want to and observed. I put out the same resource the next day and again role modelled but alongside a child. I changed the story and ‘mixed it up’ the order of animals going to help the Little blue truck. Sam said “no that is not how it goes”. I invited him to share with the us how it went. Sam did this and let the other child continue with the pig AND HELP.

Where’s Spot? Is a firm favourite and we LOVE the flaps but with felt it has added texture and I believe a play factor! Here I used it in a story basket, not my usual basket and one that was bigger and more like a tray.

It is an obvious resource for the enveloping schema with the flaps and story stone characters BUT it could also be used to support positioning or ordering, enclosing and orientation. Hopefully not the trajectory schema 😉 I share which schema each e-pattern can be used for but you may see children use other schema and can add this to the e-book provided.

In the BUNDLE I also include a BONUS on other books you can use for the schema. Here are some for the positioning schema. Stack the cats, 10 apples up on top and the napping house.

I have found that schema and book play (also storytelling) can be connected in meaningful ways to support young children's learning and development. By providing opportunities for children to engage with a range of experiences and materials, you can help them to build their schema and make connections with the world around them.

Until next time.


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