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How Do My Students Learn With So Much Play? A Look Into My Journey Toward More Play-Based Learning

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Why do we put so much focus on play here in room 201?  What are they learning? Will they learn the basics? I know these are questions some parents may have going through their minds!  In this post I will tell you why in my room, play is he most important part of the curriculum!

I start out by setting out materials and experiences that will foster curiosity, wonder, creativity, team work and problem solving.  I want to provide experiences where kids feel confident enough to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and try again!  99% of my kids think mistakes are bad. I spend a lot of time telling them I hope they make a lot of mistakes in Kindergarten because that is how they learn!  This includes social mistakes also!  

It's not a matter of just having materials, but setting them up in inviting ways that will draw the children in.  At each area, I have to wonder...will this provide real, meaningful situations where math, reading and writing skills can be fostered and encouraged?  What equally important 21st Century Skills (teamwork, problem solving,critical thinking, creativity) will be fostered and encouraged? Where might kids take this?  It takes a lot of planning and time to set up a room full of experiences to foster all of this and to change them as the year goes on. 

Here are just a few examples of learning situations that have happened in our room this week all through play!

Critical thinking as they come up with a design, problem solving as they figure out what to add next, team work as they discuss what would be the best next move, respect as some others were allowed to play with the environments that were created without destroying what someone else worked hard to make. 

Counting with one to one correspondence, measurement, comparing lengths, critical thinking, persistence, problem solving and handling frustration as they explored balance. 

Patterning with loose parts all over the room!

The concept of "equal" meaning "the same" has been explored and discussed as a class through the creations below. 
When I projected this on our promethium board during sharing time, they realized that if the red group had six, they didn't need to count the others since they could tell by looking that they were all equal.

Observational, reading and writing skills were practiced at our "look closer" table. 

Below is an observational drawing of our praying mantis. We worked together to figure out the "p" and "m" that we heard in praying mantis. 

This friend put an S for sparkle because she observed the sparkles in the rock.

This friend wondered what the spots on the pumpkin were. 

This friend knew how to make the "I" when he wanted to write "I wonder" but wanted to dictate the rest. I took that opportunity to model sounding out the words as I wrote and had him help me figure out some of the letter sounds. 

This friend wrote the color of each table and the names of each friend that sat at each table!

Kids are creating web maps about their friends, imitating what we do whole class each day as we get to know the "special friend of the day."

Measurement using both non-standard and standard units, and comparing lengths. The concept of "half" came up when they discovered this long unifix cube trail was 3 1/2 friends long!

Showing how many, counting and one to one correspondence. 

Do we have whole group instruction? Yes!  We have a time for focused instruction for reading, writing/drawing, and math!  When they are better at working independently, I will pull out small groups to work on skills specific to their needs.  But the most important parts of our school day are when they can take what they are learning during focused instruction and apply it to the real life situations that happen here in our room as they are being active learners and outside of our room in their own homes and lives. 


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