Using Play in Education
I consider play in education as a fun, motivating strategy to help young children learn and develop basic skills that are taught in early childhood education. For example, a teacher I know of uses "planned-play" in her Kindergarten classroom. The children have a piece of paper with room for them to draw a picture on top and lines on the bottom half to write a sentence. The children, to the best of their ability, have to write a sentence about what they are going to play with during play time. The top space provided allows them to draw a picture that portrays the meaning of their sentence. This exercise has children work on their spelling and writing, while also incorporating the play aspect. This is the only method implementing play in education that I have really seen and was wondering if there were any other ideas that educators have/use that link play and education.
Many times, while the students are playing, I talk to them about different concepts. For example, our students might play at the sand table. So, we add water and talk about what it is doing to the sand. Some students may even write about the experience or as a class, we write about the experience. If they are building with blocks and they all fall down, we may talk about why that happens.
I strongly believe that play is a very important and integral part in not just early childhood education, but in any child's education. Play is especially important in an early childhood setting because kids will always be kids and one thing that they love to do is play.
I agree that discussing what is occurring with toys and objects allows a great teaching moment for both teacher and child. The child is able to question and provide reasoning for an action that has take place.
Educational play can occur through dramatic and imaginative play the children come up with by themselves. This will be highly influential because the children have the opportunity to interact with others and learn to share and socialize, which will help them out in future societal endeavors. This play, however, can be teacher guided through the objects and toys available throughout the classroom. For instance, if doing a project approach type lesson on pet safety a teacher could set out different animals, pet supplies, and boxes to initiate the idea for the children to create a pet store. Once this pet store is created, the children will take on the roles of pet store owners, pet buyers, or maybe even the animals and the story will just unwind from there. This type of dramatic play turns the educational focus from just learning information on school related subjects to learning life lessons.
Another way that play can be educational in an early childhood setting could be through the use of simple puzzles or games. From these activities the children will learn to use fine motor skills, patience, problem-solving skills, and more school-related subjects, such as pre-literacy skills or mathematical concepts.
In general, I am a high advocate for play because I believe children should have the right to act their age and construct their own learning and knowledge. From this play, many questions will arise that lead to teachable moments for a specific child that the teacher may bring up to the whole class to create a whole lesson. This lesson may be taught through the project approach or just general instruction. What do you find would be more appropriate and useful for the children?
Thank you for your ideas. It seems it is easy to incorporate play into little "science" lessons such as you have described. I think it is important for children to understand the whys and the hows. It seems that these are play experiences that gave way to educational sides, I was just curious if there have been any instances where you have chosen to specifically implement play into an educational lesson?
I like that you share the same views of play as I do. In regards to your question, I would believe that project approach could be more appropriate and useful, especially when dealing with younger children. I feel they have a chance to explore more on his/her own and can come up with the answers themselves more readily. I think you example of a pet store with the children playing various roles could be a model for all different types of educational lessons an educator could provide.
We all know that there are claims that "earlier is better" and that children in kindergarten curriculum is starting to be taught to children younger than 5 and children in kindergarten are starting to be taught concepts that you would normally see in 1st or 2nd grade. This might not have bad implications on certain individuals, but could be very developmentally appropriate, thus my questions concerning play. I was just curious to hear from educators if they have seen curriculum changes over the years that would show this to be true and what teachers do to make lessons more developmentally appropriate if this is the case. If there are any stories you have that relate to this topic that come from experiences you have had while teaching I would LOVE to hear them.
When I taught in the early childhood setting, we implemented play into all of our lessons, as well as choice. Students were given a variety of different settings (similar to ljjunker stated) to explore and ask questions. As a teacher, I was mainly a coach guiding their learning. Yes, we also did work on specific skills...but not as I do in sixth grade.
I can tell you that one year recently, I had a group of students who could not work together. They were great on individual assignments or when they could choose to work with a partner. But put them in groups---disaster. I had to teach them how to talk and work with others.
Bbarto: I also believe that it is necessary for children to understand the whys and hows behind certain lessons and reasonings to various occurrences happening in the world around children. The outside world is full of learning opportunities everywhere, so it is important to embrace and use them whenever a teacher can. I believe some of the best learning comes from teachable moments. Thank you for your thoughts on my question! I definitely agree that at a younger age the project approach will be extra useful and beneficial for the students. But, with older students I think it is a great way for them to work on delegating and dividing up the tasks and lessons at hand with whatever they are learning about.
I agree that the older children’s curriculums are being pushed onto younger and younger children. This is highly correlated with the many four-year-old kindergartens that have started appearing. In regards to this I wonder about the differences between this type of class and a preschool program for four-year-olds. Is there an advantage to be in one program over the other?
In regards to your question, are you asking for examples showing the change of the curriculum to more play based in kindergartens today or in the programs for younger children?
Mopar: I like that you gave the children the choice option when determining what activities to partake in. Also, the modeling and explaining you did for the older kids when it comes to group work seemed very effective as well. These methods go in hand in hand with being developmentally appropriate because they challenged and taught the students an important task.
The Other End of the Spectrum-Why Eliminate Play?
The concept of play is essential to all children growing up. It not only has a direct connection to positive cognitive development, but also in forming healthy relationships among peers and family members. With that said, why is it that recently, schools continue to take away what used to be dedicated to a child’s unstructured playing time? As you all have mentioned already in your posts, incorporating play into a classroom environment benefits children at the social level as well as at the developmental level.
Eliminating play from a child’s everyday schedule negatively influences their academic performance in school. Therefore, taking adequate playtime away from kids is primarily hurting parents and teachers during the day. Without the chance for children to interact in play, their mental capacity to focus in a school setting is significantly impacted. This leads to a stressful learning environment for the teacher, as they now have to try and manage restless children who aren’t getting enough time for unstructured play. The more opportunities children have to balance aspects of learning and playtime, the more progress a child will make in their cognitive development.
Play primarily focuses on children’s social interactions with their peers and also allows them to learn appropriate behavior associated with positive social skills. A general theme seen in research studies and in everyday life is the pressure of a hurried lifestyle, which ultimately takes away the time needed for children to be involved in self-driven play. The pressure of work on parents is also taking away from a child’s playtime. The state of our economy is contributing to too many families focusing less on their child’s needs, and more on the economic hardships that may be affecting their personal lifestyles. As a result, the more time parents take away from interacting in their child’s playtime, the less the child feels connected to his or her parents. In fact, without time to play, many studies have proven damaging evidence leading to violence, emotional imbalances, and significant declines in academic growth and performance.
So do you think, that the project approach is the method of teaching that will ensure that all children maintain a healthy sense of play in their busy school schedules?
lgkoch: I as well do not understand why play has been taken out of many classroom schedules when the benefits of the play on the children is highly effective, especially for gains in their cognitive development like you mentioned. Children learn from socialization both with peers and the adults in the classroom, so taking away this free play would eliminate the aspect of learning from peers somewhat.
I wonder if teachers are taking play away in order to fulfill the idea of "teaching to the test" and the notion that the younger the children learn concepts the easier standardized tests will be as they grow older. A lot of times nowadays what used to be first grade information is taught in the kindergarten and the expectations and standards of children are higher.
The project approach is a great way to incorporate structured play into the classroom. BUT, I do not think it should be the only way. Children need to learn from self-directed and self-motivated play that they have the right to be given time for during the school day. This time should be flexible, yet structured somewhat so children learn to follow guidelines and respond to adults.
bbarto: Since the younger grades are beginning to be taught information from the grade above them, like I mentioned before, relates to the idea of the push for four-year-old kindergartens being implemented. I personally have not seen a four-year-old kindergarten so do not know exactly how they are enforced and what the regulations behind them are.
bbarto: Incorporating play in ones everyday lifestyles may seem extremely challenging. However, there are many different types of play that can be included in a daily schedule. Types of interactive play can simply be demonstrated through the role modeling of appropriate behavior or even combining life lessons and responsibilities into a game setting. Other ways to provide a playful environment for children is sending them to preschool where they can be exposed to a social atmosphere, which uses hands-on types of learning. An additional way to include play in ones everyday lives are parents allowing enough time away from work to interact with their children. Rather than just watching over them, which is extremely prevalent today, with the technology that has flourished in the Twentieth Century, they can organize activities for both them and their children to take part in.
Play is a source of creativity and higher thought that ultimately contributes to active learning. Not only do children learn and practice rules of society through play, but they also increase their creative thinking on a level that cannot be determined when otherwise instructed to do so. Above all, play leads to healthier relationships between children and parents, and positively influences cognitive development.
ljjunker: I agree with you about maybe teachers are taking away time to play in order to teach to the test. The idea behind this is absurd. Standardized should not have this much influence over a teacher's instructional methods of choice, especially when this pressure has made them switch over their style of teaching to teach in a way that does not address the individual differences across learning styles.
I understand why early childhood programs are trying to prepare children to be academically competent before they reach their Kindergarten year. However, by doing this we are taking away their time to just be kids. This is a crucial stage of development, and to immerse them in programs that essentially take away their childhood is going to hurt them in the end rather than benefit them.
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