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
10:30-11:15-Gross Motor Play (Recess)
11:45-12:00-Music and Movement
12:00-12:15- Read Aloud
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)
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
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!