I had a wonderful time on Friday. I was standing in for a reception teacher. I had taught in that school a few years ago but not in reception before.
It was delightful because the children were obviously used to getting on with their learning unhindered by the adults in the classroom for the most part of each day.
They came in and just started doing whatever interested them. Some boys were on the carpet in the Lego corner creating, building, imagining and discussing. Some girls were at the craft table creating interesting collages or colouring, and chatting. A few made get well cards for their teacher who had been off work for a few days.
A group of mixed gender were at the large dolls house and some looking at books. One girl wrote a letter to her mum 'cos she was not going to see her as she was going to her dad's.
Unfortunately I had to interrupt this industry to take the register, a gym, and writing numbers lesson and read a story with them, but then they were back to the autonomous learning. I was impressed with the fact that there were no rules like 'only 4 people to play here' etc as there are in many classrooms. And it was normal to leave a half completed project so they could go back to it later after the interruption of the lesson.
This was the most autonomous class I have been in. (Many nursery and reception classes and quite rigid in their rules and lessons.)
It would be wonderful to have a really autonomous class, but I know that in this particular pair of classes I was at on Friday the teachers were continuously fighting off the directives from 'above' and acted as a buffer between what the government required and what was best for the children.