Play In Kindergarten

On Monday I joined my weekly #kinderchat that had a wide range of topics. This is a fun group of educators who take their work very seriously, but often times, not themselves. We celebrate a lot with silliness from holiday sweaters to green drinks/food avatars. We party, we talk and we share. We meet here from different parts of the world to discuss best practices for early childhood programs. There are more similarities than differences about our programs, but some are quite stark. We have constraints and guidelines, whether needing to be in compliance with CCSS or working in parochial or private schools that structure the curriculum. We talk about the ideal classroom and dream about using the best of each of our programs to design our “kindergarten schoolhouse.” One thing that we all agree on is the importance of play to young children. How and what kind of play is often defined by space, time and curriculum constraints. Many of us have a defined literacy block incorporating the Daily 5 structure, as well as Writer’s Workshop. Some follow a math program (mostly hands on manipulative based). Then there are specialists classes (art, music, library, p.e. Etc.) for some of us. And here is the crux of the matter, where does play fit in? My kinders have various play times and spaces. We come into a classroom where they can choose to build with manipulatives, color, use the computer, play board games and at this time of year rotate to a math center once a week. They have a morning recess yard with a climbing structure, sensory table, sand toys and areas for dramatic play (making cakes and coffee for me has been a big hit this year). During lunch recess my kinders rotate and share play spaces with 1st and 2nd grade classes. And here is where I differentiate between this type of play and the play experiences involved in #geniushour . In their self initiated unstructured play, my kinders often start to play and then a purpose unfolds, whether making various cars, planes or structures, or decorating the sand cakes with beautiful treasures they find on the yard. They play with joy and excitement practicing their growing academic and social skills. This is a play that is dear to my heart, one I value unconditionally. And then # geniushour came to my attention as I read about it on Twitter. I saw another way to have my kinders engage in their learning. Here was play with a defined “purpose and intent.” Not better, but one more way to scaffold the learning. We try to instill in our students that we value who they are and what they share with each other and us, their teachers. We introduced #geniushour with videos and books and they expressed their interests and excitement in making stuff for others. I have written other posts about some of these experiences for my kinders. They see geniushour as a time to think outside of themselves (not easy for quite egocentric five and six year olds). And then they have an opportunity for reflection and discussion: how they decided what to make, its purpose and why they felt it is important. (A reflection is usually not a component of their self initiated play unless issues occur and they need teacher guidance to help them with the conflict.) They ask and wait for the next geniushour; it is not always about making something out of recyclables, nor does it always have a permanent product. We often go through the same collaborative process, coming up with ideas, then working on them, reflecting and discussing their “purpose and intent” while using the many different blocks, manipulatives and paper, crayons and scissors. In our classroom we try to have as many opportunities for play: unstructured, creative and exploratory as well as our #geniushour that hopefully moves the kinders to see how they matter and what they can contribute to our world.

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One Response to Play In Kindergarten

  1. Pingback: Play: A Four Letter Word To Embrace | The road traveled

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