Intentional teaching in play and how to successfully use sustained shared thinking

By Michael Hilkemeijer


Intentional teaching can occur in pla-based learning in early childhood education. Learn more about this in my online pd for early childhood teachers titled "How to support play based learning in early childhood education with digital technology". Join now for just $460 AUD or gain INSTANT ACCESS to this course and become a member of "ICT in Education Teacher Academy" for just $5.99 AUD per month (cancel any time).


Play-based learning is the accepted early childhood pedagogy in preschool today. When playing, young children experiment with new ideas, develop their physical abilities and practice social and language skills.


As young children continue to engage in the use of digital technologies in their lives early childhood teachers must ensure that they plan for opportunities to extend children’s thinking and learning throughout their play-based approaches.


This type of teaching is deliberate, purposeful, and thoughtful. Through challenging digital experiences, you will be able to ensure that digital play will foster high order thinking skills.


In this video, I will discuss of intentional teaching through play for you to draw on as the context changes in your early childhood learning environment.


Intentional Teaching in the Early Childhood Curriculum

Drawing from the Early Years Learning Framework there are many examples of intentional teaching strategies to connect young children to learning outcomes.


EYLF learning outcome 4 –

  • introduce appropriate tools, technologies and media and provide the skills, knowledge and techniques to enhance children’s learning;
  • develop their own confidence with technologies available to children in the setting.


EYLF learning outcome 5 –

  • provide children with access to a range of technologies;
  • integrate technologies into children’s play experiences and projects;
  • teach skills and techniques and encourage children to use technologies to explore new information and represent their ideas;
  • encourage collaborative learning about and through technologies between children, and children and educators.



Intentional teaching is one of the key principles of early childhood pedagogy that underpins practices in the EYLF.


Strategies for intentional teaching in early childhood education include:



Planning for the use of ICT in early childhood education whether it be intentional or for digital play ensures that digital technology is viewed and understood by young children as a tool that is designed for a specific purpose.


It also enhances the teaching and learning experiences as the quality of what is taught and learned is further developed and the effectiveness of the learning process is increased.


In a digital context, planning involves such aspects as addressed in my online workshop for preschool teachers:

  • Planning to challenge young children;
  • Teacher knowledge of ICT resources (TPACK);
  • Linking digital play to learning and development goals;
  • Choosing meaningful digital resources;
  • Differentiated instruction with technology;
  • Developmentally appropriate practices.



Modelling and Demonstrating

As an early childhood teacher, you can apply sustained shared thinking to model thinking when using ICT techniques that you are teaching. This is important when developing their ICT capabilities and only the minimum amount of support should be given as required and then withdrawn.


Integrating digital technology in early childhood education is ideal for modelling for this purpose as children will learn a great deal from observing you and other adults and indeed other children's use of ICT as it is very powerful at this age.


Where ICT is integrated with other activities and is used effectively as a tool, for instance, modelling or painting, children will benefit from greater movement and exercise.


Effective modelling and scaffolding of the meaningful use of ICT tools will provide opportunities for children to practice and hone their skills.


Examples of intentional teaching through play


One of the ways in that you can document children’s use of digital technologies is by keeping track of their progress in ICT techniques. Through the use of an individual profile sheet you can map their progress through the various work samples collected and observations made. This type of documentation makes a link to the child’s own view of their developing capabilities and a link back to planning, thus completing the planning and assessment cycle.


It is intended that the same sheet is used for each child and that the columns are completed for each observation so that it is possible to check progress across the two or three observations made.


The areas covered include the child’s individual progress alongside notes about the school context and an opportunity to record the child’s own response to the piece of work.




What should you monitor when young children are using digital technologies?


Monitoring is important for two reasons: 1) it is common for children to be usefully occupied with the task when in fact they are working very inefficiently and failing to exploit the potential of ICT; and 2) Because of the richness of the ICT resource, children may divert from the intended task without it being obvious from their behaviour.


When ICT is used in a meaningful context such as in communication and language development children’s ICT capability can be developed. This is comprised of routines, ICT techniques, processes, concepts, and higher-order thinking skills.


There each of these components needs to be monitored in the following ways when involved in digital play-based learning in early childhood education:

  • Routines – Keep a list of up-to-date hardware and software. For each group, a brief checklist of ICT techniques that children should be able to use routinely will be helpful.
  • ICT techniques – another checklist of ICT techniques will enable you to keep track of which children are confident in using the ICT technique. Give children need help only the minimum amount of support then withdraw the support as soon as possible.
  • Processes – Provide the minimum amount of support. Children need to work on a task that is not step-by-step, so that you can let them try out their ideas, observe their approach and intervene when they fail to make the expected progress. Structure digital early childhood learning activities by questioning, prompting and showing if necessary. Again, you will need to withdraw as much support as possible to see what the learners can achieve unaided.


Speculating/Open questioning

This also has to do with sustained shared thinking and can be very helpful in enabling the child to problem-solve. Asking questions such as “What do you think?” or “I wonder what would happen if you used this technique?” will enable you and the child to work together in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities or extend a narrative.


These examples of intentional teaching through play in early childhood education will enable you to make informed, purposeful, and deliberate decisions in your planning when integrating digital technology in preschool activities today.


Become a member of the "ICT in Education Teacher Academy" today and get INSTANT ACCESS to 60 plus online workshops for preschool teachers for just $5.99 AUD per month today.