Sensory Play-Based Instruction
Keywords:Sensory play-based instruction, preschool, guidebook
Education is one of the structures of society that functions as the means by which the needs of the community are being met. Education provides knowledge and skills from infancy to adulthood. In early childhood, from birth to eight years old, a child’s brain reaches a high point of development, paving the way for early childhood education through daycares and kindergartens to provide the foundation of learning. It enhances the child’s social, emotional, cognitive, and physical needs holistically to build a solid foundation for lifelong learning and well-being through age-appropriate activities to help them develop their senses in a loving and caring environment.
In a typical play-based curriculum, sensory play is a part of regular programming or lesson planning. It comes in a learning area or center where a specific table or bin of sensory learning materials is set up for the children to manipulate freely. Sensory play is learning through the different senses of the body such as sight, taste, smell, and touch. These experiences are based on theories of Montessori, Piaget, and Vygotsky where the manipulation of hands-on learning materials can enhance the development of not only fine-motor but cognitive, language, emotional and social skills as well. The COVID-19 pandemic brought a significant crisis at all levels of the educational systems around the globe. The disruptions took a tremendous toll on teachers scrambling to deliver quality education. During the pandemic, pre-schools and early childhood centers worldwide faced successes and new challenges in implementing sensory play-based instruction in distance learning. Schools in other countries such as the USA, Ireland, and Canada managed to conduct their classes during the pandemic implementing sensory play by providing sensory bins for their learners, exploring outdoors, and creating interactive and sensorial videos.
The Philippine Department of Education (DepEd) mandated the implementation of the K-12 program under the Republic Act 10533 of 2012, known as Enhanced Basic Education. It included Kindergarten and 12 years of basic education (six years of primary education and six years of Junior and Senior High School). DepEd Order 021, s 2019 seeks to provide Filipino learners with the necessary skills to prepare them for employment and business opportunities and challenges in the 21st century. One of the significant features of this act is the strengthening of pre-school education by giving access to millions of Filipino five years of age to early childhood education through Universal Kindergarten (Official Gazette, 2012). Republic Act 10157 states that kindergarten education provides learning environments to engage children in developmentally appropriate practices such as play-based and child-centered activities to promote literacy and creativity (DepEd).
Philippine private schools in Region One need to plan, re-skill and upskill and provide for continuous re-skilling of their teachers to abide by the requirements of the Department of Education but more so to remain relevant and effective teachers in any modality of learning. Among these private schools include the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – Nursery and Kindergarten schools in the North Central Luzon Conference (NCLC), and North Luzon Amburayan Conference (NLAC). The UCCP teachers are facing challenges in reaching out to their pupils. In the survey conducted in one of our Service-Learning Activities in early 2021, the UCCP preschool teachers have insufficient knowledge and skills in play-based learning components. Furthermore, the issue of supporting modular learning with developmentally appropriate practices such as child-centered and play-based activities were among those identified.
This paper aimed to determine the status of sensory play-based instruction at the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) preschools as a basis for developing a teacher’s guidebook for hybrid learning.
The study was carried out using the mixed-method research design, specifically the concurrent triangulation approach, during the first semester, the School Year 2021–2022, with the nursery and kindergarten teachers of North Central Luzon and North Luzon Amburayan Conferences as participants. The study sought the relationship and differences between the extent of implementation of sensory play-based instruction and the level of competence of the respondents before and during the pandemic. Quantitatively, it utilized the descriptive research design to acquire information to systematically describe a phenomenon, situation, or population. In contrast, narrative inquiry for the qualitative part was used to describe the respondents’ experiences by listening to the participants’ stories as they narrated their experiences and used them with other sources to form an in-depth analysis in the use of sensory play-based instruction.
An online survey questionnaire was sent to the participants to collect quantitative data on the status of implementation and competence of the teachers. Each set had six domains: Set A on implementation are: Sensory Play Learning Materials; Sensory Play Activities (primary senses); Sensory Play Activities (secondary senses); Concept Integration; Child Development; and Other Use of Sensory Play in Curriculum and for Set B on teacher’s competence: Use of Sensory Play; Communication and Professional Development; Use of Sensory Play in Curriculum; Attitude Towards Play; Scaffolding in Sensory Play; and Facilitation of Sensory Play. The researcher conducted an unstructured interview to gather the respondents’ experiences on the implementation of sensory play-based instruction before and during the pandemic through Zoom Meetings. The researcher utilized descriptive and inferential statistics in managing the gathered quantitative data such as the weighted mean, t-test paired two samples for means, and the Pearson product-moment of correlation.
The study revealed that there were no significant relationships or differences between the variables before and during the pandemic. However, the qualitative data revealed that the respondents have limited competence in sensory-based teaching and are constrained in the implementation of the approach for the following reasons, as a result of the qualitative analysis: Materials (limited materials, poor internet connectivity), Means (teachers’ limited knowledge and skills, limited integration of sensory play, complex tasks, and Moment (time constraints).
In the discussion of this study, it validated the lack of resources and materials, the poor internet connection as well as the absence of teacher training in sensory play-based instruction. Hence, the researcher developed a guidebook that includes step-by-step instructions for material development, integrating teaching techniques for sensory play instruction and sensory activities. This guidebook is aligned with Kindergarten’s Most Essential Learning Competencies (MELCs) of the Department of Education (DepEd) for consideration by the UCCP-NKP schools of North Central Luzon and North Amburayan Conferences, and to all preschool teachers who find the material relevant to them.
The study re-oriented the participants the value and benefits of sensory play-based activities in the holistic development of children. Through the dissemination and the guidebook, this study enlightened the participants on how to create, integrate, and implement sensory play experiences in their daily instructions, with the MELCs in mind, in a hybrid educational program. The researcher highly recommends an echo seminar be conducted for the parents and appeals to the schools’ heads to provide sensory tables in each classroom.