Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Play. I miss it.

One of my former colleagues who now teaches kindergarten posted this question on her blog- should she have a play kitchen in her kindergarten classroom or a doll house? It's been interesting to read the comments both on her blog and on her Facebook page to see what people's perspectives are.
Interactive writing to create a menu for the kitchen area.

In answering the question I started to realize just how much I miss teaching through play and having the opportunity to interact with kindergartners during their free play times at my former school. My current school, while amazing in many ways, does not have any toys in the kindergarten classrooms. I understand that is the way many kindergarten classes are going these days as kindergarten becomes the new first grade.

As I've gone back and read all of my former posts on play and I'm slowly remembering how much I relied on it to get to know my students and to teach. I did so much during the kindergarten free choice time. I did interactive writing activities based off of the students' play schemes. I led guided play groups where in mid-play I could introduce a new scenario and help the kids determine how to solve a problem. I taught sorting, counting, reading, and writing skills. I encouraged kids to stop playing and write books about the stories they just acted out. In my class for students with intellectual disabilities I used it as a time to develop their working memory, enhance their literacy and numeracy skills, and develop social skills like making eye contact. I miss those opportunities.

Spontaneous interactive writing in the beginning of kindergarten in the kitchen area.
When did we decide play was out? When it made programs look like they were wasting valuable instructional time? When we couldn't measure the outcome in data easily? When we felt we had too much to do to get the students ready for first grade?

I've just finished up an on-line Greenspan DIR/Floortime course so perhaps I'm feeling more passionate about what can be done through play and following the child's lead than I normally am, but my heart is breaking for those moments of teaching through following a child's lead during play.

Acting out the restaurant 
Working on her oral language skills and English by chatting on the phone.

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