Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Don't Mind Us...We're Just Playing!

Playing probability games and recording results

Imagining that they're in a chrysalis

Sorting beans and macaroni by shape and colour

Building a medieval castle

When people hear "play-based" to describe the approach to teaching and learning in Ontario's Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten classroom, the most common misconception is that the children are "just" playing. 

Just playing? 

It might be more accurate to describe what we do each day as "learning THROUGH play". In basic terms, it means that the skills and knowledge that the children gather over the two year program are acquired through play, experience, interaction, and communication (rather than by the teacher delivering information, then having the children prove their understanding through one-on-one assessments and paper-and-pencil tasks). It might even be said that the children are learning because they are playing.

It is a child's birthright to spend their time playing. When children play, they:

*construct knowledge   *process emotions  *problem solve  *internalise experiences  * challenge themselves  *laugh and have fun  *imagine  *learn to lead   *learn to cooperate  *develop as critical thinkers  *manage stress  *express ideas  *develop an inquiring mind  *foster healthy living habits

In our classroom, play takes two shapes. Free-choice play is where the children become engaged in many different activities of their choosing, such as playing in sand, water, or sensory materials, using art materials, building with blocks, sorting buttons, using math manipulatives, imagining with puppets or costumes, and so on). This is also our "inquiry" time in the day, where the teaching team circulates, listening and observing, watching for those little sparks of interest that come so naturally to children. As the children argue, solve problems, seek more information, and explore the play materials, we make notes and plan for the next day's deeper explorations.
Learning to blend consonant sounds in small groups

Finding words that start with their letter

During our more "formal" instructional times, we incorporate play to teach the children specific skills and areas of knowledge. For instance, instead of just counting by rote, we play number games that challenge the children and allow them to use their hands and bodies (instead of having them fill in worksheets!). Simple materials like number cards, letter cards, counters, ten frames, hundreds charts, and word cards can be used in so many ways, to make these moments of explicit teaching fun.

Tune in tomorrow to find out more about a typical day in our classroom, what we like to call "The Flow of the Day".

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