It’s a Beautiful Day to Play in the Classroom

It’s a Beautiful Day to Play in the Classroom

How high of an importance do you put on play in your classroom? In my classroom, there is a high level of importance placed on play. I am a huge advocate for play in the classroom because it allows children to learn at their own pace, develop their creativity and imagination, and develop social skills as they talk with the other children playing around them. Did you ever think there could be too much free play occurring throughout the day? I never thought I would ask myself this question until I entered a field placement classroom for children ranging from ages three to five years old. Some of these children will be entering kindergarten next year, but I feel as though some of them are not prepared, due to the amount of play time occurring in their classroom.

PreK Schedule (Ages 3-5)

8:30-9:30- Breakfast/Free Play

9:30-9:45-Small Group Academics

9:45-10:30-Free Play

10:30-11:15-Gross Motor Play (Recess)

11:15-11:45-Lunch

11:45-12:00-Music and Movement

12:00-12:15- Read Aloud

12:15- Nap

The children’s day consists of 15 minutes of academics and two and a half hours of play time. (Not including music and movement and read aloud)

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In my opinion, work and play should basically be the same thing. Children should be learning academic material throughout their play experience. However, this isn’t necessarily the case in my field placement. Many of the activities available during free time consist of puzzles, building blocks, cooking food in the kitchen, taking care of baby dolls, coloring, playing with play dough etc. Even though many of these centers teach children valuable skills, there should be more play that is connected to academic topics. For example, children could use play dough to practice making letters and numbers. Also, they could use building blocks to practice making patterns. There are many ways to provide play-based learning activities throughout the classroom.

To read more about how to implement play into learning, read this article: Play-Based Science Learning Activities: Engaging Adults and Children with Informal Science Learning for Preschoolers. 

The author of this article discusses an outreach project in the United Kingdom that provides play-based science learning activities for preschoolers, ranging from ages zero to five. The author also talks about how the outreach project provides scientific background information for adults. Lastly, the author discusses the various public locations in which these activities can take place.

Benefits of Free Play

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While it seems as though there might be too much play occurring in this PreK classroom, there are many benefits to play. For example, it can help students improve their social skills. It especially helps those students who are still learning English because it provides an opportunity for them to practice the new language that they are learning. I observed an ELL student playing in the kitchen. As she picked up a vegetable, she said the name of the vegetable in Spanish. Another student who speaks both English and Spanish would then tell her the name of that vegetable in English. Then, the ELL student would repeat the word in English. The assistant teacher in the classroom informed me that this student came into their classroom speaking zero English. Each week that I come into her classroom and observe, I see a major improvement in this student’s English abilities. Therefore, play in the classroom is beneficial to children’s social development and the development of language skills for ELL students. Play in the classroom also allows children to develop their creativity. For example, children can produce infinite amounts of creations with the blocks and art supplies offered in the classroom. I observed a student creating an architectural structure last week who explained that this type of building hasn’t been created yet, but he will make it happen. Lastly, play allows children to develop adaptive or self-help skills. When children play with baby dolls, in a kitchen area, or in a work shop area, it allows them to model skills such as drinking from a cup or bottle, eating, getting dressed, going to the bathroom, avoiding dangers, and working. These skills are essential to function, so it’s important for children to learn them.

To learn more about the benefits of free play in the classroom, read Play in Kindergarten: An Interview and Observational Study in Three Canadian Classrooms

The authors of this article discuss the benefits of play in kindergarten classrooms. They also talk about the various approaches to incorporating play in the classroom. One approach is that teachers can use play as an opportunity for children to play with whatever they want. Another approach is that teachers can provide opportunities for students to play with anything they pick, but also provide a separate time in which the students can learn academic material by playing. The last approach is that teachers can provide opportunities for students to play, but only if it’s connected to academic material.

It’s a Beautiful Day to Play in the Classroom

As we know, play is essential for all students. However, there are many different approaches to teaching with play. What is your approach to play? I believe that teachers need to provide time for students to learn academic material through play, but also provide time for free play. Therefore, I question whether or not the students in my field placement classroom will be properly prepared for kindergarten. Although there are many benefits to free play, I believe that there needs to be a balance between free play and play-based learning. Regardless of what approach you use to teaching with play, it’s always a beautiful day to play in the classroom!

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Who are your gurus?

Welcome: It’s a Beautiful Day to Learn Something New

We all have a guru that pushes us to be a better person, educator, and support system for o thers. Some of you may have just one guru and some of you may have many. Personally, I have many gurus that influence my teaching practices and pedagogy every single day. Some of my gurus reassure me and push me to be better, some shape my path in my teaching career, some teach me about the “how” and “why” in the field of early childhood education, and some allow me to gain new insights about teaching. Maybe some of our gurus are the same or maybe my gurus can teach you something new. Regardless of which one it is, let’s get started because it’s a beautiful day to learn something new!

Who reassures you and stretches you as an early childhood educator?

The person that reassures me and stretches me as an early childhood educator is a third grade teacher that I intern for at Ore Valley Elementary, Mrs. Shirey. As every teacher knows, not every lesson plan is going to be a success. Mrs. Shirey is not afraid to admit when a lesson falls flat. This reassures me because she’s taught me that if a lesson doesn’t go as planned, it’s not the end of the world. However, she stretches me as an early childhood educator because she emphasizes the importance of reflecting on lesson plans. Many times, I have seen a lesson not go according to her plans, but the next day she comes back and makes it magical. She also stretches me as an early childhood educator by emphasizing the importance of kinesthetic learning and movement in the classroom. For example, one day, she tried teaching her students about the various regions in Pennsylvania using a map. This lesson didn’t go according to plan, so she went home that night and recreated her lesson. The next day, she retaught this lesson using Poptarts, icing, and various candies. The students had to bite around their Poptart to make it look like the shape of Pennsylvania. Then, they spread icing across the top of it. Lastly, the students placed various pieces of candy across their Poptarts to represent the different regions and their locations throughout Pennsylvania. After this activity, the concept clicked for her students. Don’t you love that aha moment? I think most teachers do. Therefore, Mrs. Shirey reassures me and stretches me as an early childhood educator because she’s shown me that it’s okay if the aha moment doesn’t come at first, but she’s also shown me how to create those aha moments for my students. We should all aspire to be a little more like Mrs. Shirey.

Whose pedagogies are shaping your paths?

Everyone has their own pedagogies that shape their path, but there is one specific person whose pedagogies truly shape my path as a teacher. That is Jennifer Gonzalez. If you have not heard of her, you must go to Cult of Pedagogy immediately! (or at least watch some of her videos that I’ve shared below) This wonderful woman has her own blogs, podcasts, and videos based on teaching. In her videos, she discusses essential topics such as instruction, classroom management, educational technology, and advice for teachers. Below are some of my favorites:

The 5 Second Solution for a Talkative Class : This video shapes my path because it has given me a tool to use to have better classroom management when my students are being talkative.

The Reciprocal Learning Strategy : This video shapes my path because it has shown me a new way in which I can structure my instruction time. Also, when students teach someone about the information that they have learned, they are much more likely to remember it.

To learn more about reciprocal learning/teaching and it’s benefits, click here 

How to Use Quizlet : This video shapes my path because it has shown me how I can incorporate technology into my lessons and to help review past material with my students.

How Do I Help Slow Workers Speed Things Up? : This video shapes my path because it provides various ways in which I can support my students who don’t work as quickly as some of my other students.

Who is teaching you about the Why and the How in the field of early childhood?

As an early childhood educator, we’ve all sat through many classes, some better than others, and learned about the why and the how in the field of early childhood education. However, none of their reasons for why or how ever caught my attention and made me want to learn more. This all changed when I walked into Dr. William Himmele’s ERCH 485: Teaching Young English Language Learners class at Millersville University. I was blown away by how engaging and fun his class was as we learned about the why and the how of teaching students, especially ELL students. Dr. Himmele made me want to learn more about these ELL students, why they need our support, and how we can support them in their learning. He also made me want to learn more about why we need to make learning more fun and engaging for our students and how we can do this. I highly recommend reading the books that he has written with his wife, Persida Himmele, about having a language rich classroom and using techniques in the classroom to encourage total participation. Dr. Himmele and his wife will make you want to dive whole-heartedly into learning about the why and how in the field of early childhood education because they are truly inspiring.  Here you can find the website that the Himmele’s have created. On their website, they post videos, articles, and you can purchase their books, The Language Rich Classroom and Total Participation Techniques. These books are a must have for every teacher!

Who speaks truth to you? Shares new insights with you?

We all have that person who speaks truth and shares new insights with us. For me, that’s my mom. She teaches grad courses based on cooperative learning and kinesthetic learning, so she’s constantly sharing new ideas with me. It’s important for teachers to find ways in which they can make learning fun and engaging for their students, but many teachers ask, “how can we do that?” It turns out, there are so many simple techniques and activities available to teachers that they can use everyday in their classrooms. I’ll share a few with you! One activity that my mom has shared with me is called Inside-Outside Circle. This activity gets our students up and moving, while developing their social skills and still reviewing the information they learned. During this activity, half the class forms a circle. Then, the other half of the class forms a circle around the already existing circle, the outside circle students should each be facing a student in the inside circle. Throughout the activity, students move throughout the circle to review questions based on the topic they were taught. To see how Inside-Outside Circle works, click here. Another activity that my mom has shared with me is called Quiz-Quiz-Trade. This activity also gets our students moving, developing social skills, and reviewing information. During this activity, the students each have a card that contains a question or definition. The students work in pairs of two to ask each other the question on their card. Once both students have correctly answered each other’s questions, they will trade cards, find another partner, and repeat the process. To see how Quiz-Quiz-Trade works, click here. One last insight that my mom has shared with me is the importance of brain breaks. Our students need brain breaks to refocus themselves and recharge for the next lesson. Brain breaks are essential to ensure that our students are able to focus and retain the information that they’re being taught. To read more about the importance of brain breaks in school, click here. This author uses yoga as a brain break for her students, and the outcome is incredible. If you don’t know what brain breaks you should use in your classroom, click here. This teacher has created a list of brain breaks that she uses in her classroom, along with explanations of how to complete them. They’re definitely worth checking out! Overall, my mom is the person who speaks truth and shares insights with me. I plan to use her insights in my own future classroom.

It’s a Beautiful Day to Learn Something New

Over the years, I have learned so much from my gurus. I have learned that if a lesson doesn’t go as planned, tomorrow is a new day to try again. I have also learned new ways to use technology in my classroom, manage behaviors in my classroom, and vary the way I instruct my students. In addition, I have learned how to implement techniques in which I can get total participation from my students and how to better support my students, especially my struggling ELL students. Lastly, I have learned how to incorporate cooperative learning and kinesthetic learning into my everyday teaching practices. As a teacher, it’s important to step our of your comfort zone because every day is a beautiful day to learn something new!