All Aboard the Rotation Train: the benefits of the rotation structure from a child's perspective

Choo choo! Core students transition from class to class in a human train formation A morning at TYO is very busy for 4 year old Motaz, his bright eyes open wide with exclamation as he tells you that he has six different classes to attend with his classmates, but it's not only his class, all 130 early childhood students rotate classes every 30 minutes! Thank goodness for the volunteers though, or else he might get lost during transitions, all Motaz has to do is place his hands on the shoulders of the student in front of him and walk slowly, and like a small human train they arrive at their station, their first class!

Motaz knows that each class, like each destination on a train, is different and that he will act differently in each class. The first stop is in the concentration corner, here Motaz uses higher order thinking, he has to use logic and engage in problem solving when playing, so in this class there are lots of puzzles and games that always stay in the room. It's an amazing opportunity for him as he doesn't get structured time to play with such toys when at home. Sometimes at the end of a lesson Motaz covers his ears with his hands and notices that his head is sore from concentrating so much! Must be time for the next class!

Phew, he is led to sport! He loves running around, it is such a good release of energy and a good contrast to the concentration corner. He is always amazed at the amount of space there is to play sport at TYO, he feels so privileged as in his neighborhood there is no safe, clear space for playing, which is sad as playing is so important to his development. He has been working on his fine motor skills in sports class, last week he worked on catching a ball, sometimes his flailing arms missed the catch, but his volunteers remind him to watch the ball and he succeeds.

On the wall of the next class Motaz can see strikes, slashes and dots, he knows that he has entered the Arabic classroom. Every student at TYO gets to participate in the new pilot Arabic classes with Mohammed. On each table there are paints so the class can start coloring in the alphabet, Mohammed must be grateful that he doesn't have to transport equipment everywhere, instead the class rotates to him.

Hands on shoulders and walking slowly, Motaz arrives in a class where he hears “Hello!” He knows that it is an English word and his teacher has come all the way from New Zealand to teach him English! Around the room are posters of the English alphabet with pictures of words he learns each day. Celia points at each poster and Motaz repeats the letter sound. There's lots of speaking in this class, repeating after the teacher, and singing!  Celia often sits down with Motaz and makes him watch her mouth annunciate a word, so he can repeat the word correctly.

Just when Motaz thinks his brain cannot fit in another English word he sings the ABC song and lines up, this time to go and wash his hands in preparation for snack time! Snack time is his favorite part of the rotation, he gets to have tomato, bread and egg. His teachers tell him that he must eat to learn, and he believes them, as he often gets very hungry at TYO and he knows he is learning so much!

Now that the train is fueled and rested it has two more stops, the imagination room and the computer room. Motaz gets lost in the imaginary worlds of the imagination room, sometimes he is so engaged in creating masterpieces, listening to stories or playing games, he loses track of time and is surprised when he is asked to line up to move on. Developing creative skills is crucial to his development, TYO is one of the few places where he has had a teacher encourage him to work on these skills.

Finally, Motaz gets to sit on a big chair and play with a computer. Something he never gets to do at home by himself; he is told computer skills are very important for his future and the future of all the Core students at TYO. Apparently, exposure to computers with a teacher he trusts is the perfect environment to learn. He loves playing games and laughing at the colorful characters on the screen who teach him information, at first he didn't know how to use the mouse to make the characters talk to him, but now his computer motor skills have developed significantly!

As the classroom train completes its rotation of classes, Motaz notices that he and his class have remained engaged; walking to new classes reenergized them, they've enjoyed meeting different teachers, and they've used different skills in different subjects. But most of all, this train drops him to things he never has the opportunity to do at home, by coming to TYO he gets to be involved in childhood opportunities he might otherwise miss.

He thinks that this rotation structure really works! But thank goodness for the volunteers, as they make sure everyone makes it to every destination!

This program - as part of Student Training and Employment Program (STEP!) - is sponsored in part by the Abdul Hamid Shoman Foundation.

-TYO Intern, Celia