1.22.2011

Play?

Almost all kindergarten teachers wish there was more time for play. With the pressures of rigorous standards, testing, and benchmarks constantly increasing from The Powers That Be, finding time for our students to be, well kids, can be difficult at best.

Teachers know that play is an integral part of early childhood development. All you have to do is walk around a classroom during play centers to see the language and social skills development happening. It also gives our sprouts some time to take control of their day and learning.

Recently, I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times about a school in Forest Hills, Queens where parents decided enough is enough. Working together, they petitioned administration to change the structure of the day, increase recess, and allow more time for play in kindergarten.

It sounds simple, but it’s a powerful reminder. Parents are partners. Just like us, they genuinely want what’s best for their children. Just like us, they know how essential play is to the development of the whole child. Just like us, many of them are frustrated at the increasing academic stresses placed on such young children.

How do you incorporate play into your day? How does your administration feel about play? How do parents? When teachers and parents work together, amazing things can happen.

16 comments:

Pamela Sunshine/Carr said...

I teach Grade 1 and we always have play, centres with building, sand, free art (cutting, sticking, creating, plasticene, etc), easel painting, imaginative play.
Also after math "work" there is free time with math manipulatives, cards, sorting, geoboards etc.
In Literacy, we have one group doing free choice literacy activities, creating books, puzzles, etc.

gail said...

My heart is broken about this situation. Ten years ago, we had 2 blocks of "play." We barely get in one block of play now. If NAEYC were to look at us for reaccreditation, we would be in trouble. It's one thing to take play away from kids with a rich preschool experience but what about the kids who never played with other kids before coming to school? It is clear they are behind the eight ball. Keep in mind, we reap what we sow. I don't like the prospects for the future when collaborative Work Board centers are a substitute for free play.

Jessica S. said...

I teach 2nd and I still incorporate play time. We don't have the housekeeping/blocks/sand play areas, but I always let them do something each day. Recess of course, and I think I give more time out there than other teachers.
I think class management is a nightmare if you don't allow play time. They want to socialize, and if you don't give them time to do it, they are going to do it anyway.

Anonymous said...

I agree 200%!!! I've been teaching kindergarten for 23 years and have seen the effects of less play. THe children don't know how to solve problems, make decisions, and use their imaginations. Classroom behavior issues have increased as a result. It is so, so, so, frustating that decisions are being made by people who have never worked with 5 year olds.

Miss Night said...

Let's be clear: while it is wonderful that the parents in that article understood the value of play in their children's development, they did not GET what they wanted from the principal. 30 more minutes of phys ed may be a valuable break from worksheets and whiteboards, but it is NOT the same as more playtime for those children. Genuine play means children are engaged in sustained, open-ended, child-directed, child-selected activities. It is painfully apparent that the principal at that school does not, in any way, understand the needs of young children, or developmentally appropriate practice. She simply doesn't "get it," and because of her response, that article cannot be considered a "success story" for those of us who advocate for the importance of play in our students' lives.

That said: I am not in the US, and therefore am able to offer a developmentally appropriate kindergarten program with LOTS of precious playtime. My kids play: as they arrive at school, after they finish their "work" for the day, and for at least an uninterrupted hour every afternoon. They also have 45 minutes of recess every day. They don't know how lucky they are, but I do.

Mr. A. said...

Miss Night - I couldn't agree more. What I do commend is parents standing up for their children.

KellyTeaches said...

I find parents generally are bigger supporters of play than most anyone else.

Play is an important part of my day with the kids. Another K teacher at my school was talking about how she hadn't had play centers in a week because they weren't getting the academic stuff done. I was like really.. if I don't get stuff done we just do it the next day, not during choice time. What I do wish is that I had more time to organize fun stuff for the kids to do during choice time. I know it's an unstructured time but I could provide more choices and activities.

Miss Night said...

Mr. A: Sorry if I sounded too strident. That article has been thrown around in lots of ed and ece circles lately, and many people don't seem to be reading past the headline. I agree with you -- the success lies in the parents' support of their children's needs. Glad to know we are on the same page. Hope you are recovering from your cold!

123A2Z said...

(Warning: On my soapbox now) Free choice or play is SO important! Those of us who were teaching back before the curriculum from first grade got pushed down to K remember having more time to let kids use their imaginations and work through social interactions through play. I get so frustrated when parents think they need to enroll their 3 year olds (yes, 3 year olds) in organized sports teams. Good Grief!!! They should be in play groups, not worrying about what the score is or what the ref calls. When did teaching your baby to read become more important that letting your child be a child? I wish more parents and administrators (and teachers) would read Chip Wood's 'Yardsticks'. I re-read it every few years just to remind myself how important developmental activities and play ARE for these children.

Mr. A. said...

@123A2Z - Please do NOT get off your soapbox! I LOVE Chip Wood. His work is important - he has a wonderful blog too.

Toria said...

I found your blog last semester when I was doing my methods semester with 4th graders and I loved all the teaching details you gave. Now I'm spending the next semester with my own Ks and I will be looking closely at your blog for support and advice. Thanks for all the reminders you give me of what I am looking forward to in my teaching future!

child central station said...

Yeah for PLAY! The more we can advocate the better! For real play.

I passed a blog award along to you today: http://childcentralstation.blogspot.com/2011/01/blog-awards.html

Anonymous said...

I am wondering if you teach all day Kindergarten or a 1/2 day program. I am a paraprofessional in a building with two all day Kindergarten classrooms and one classroom of two half day sessions. It is hard to work choice time into 2 and a hour hours for the half day students. They have to cover all of the same material as the all day program.

Becky Larson said...

I am wondering if you teach all day Kindergarten or a 1/2 day program. I am a paraprofessional in a building with two all day Kindergarten classrooms and one classroom of two half day sessions. It is hard to work choice time into 2 and a hour hours for the half day students. They have to cover all of the same material as the all day program.

Diane Massad said...

The strong linkages between body movements and neural synapatic routing makes it imperative to provide as much physical activity as possible: in school, at home and one the way...wishing kids were walking to school!

Teacher Tom said...

I teach preschool, Matt, as you know, and our entire curriculum is play.

That NYT article is very encouraging. I'm really worried that the "education reformers" are going to turn learning into "work."

I just dropped this quote from the German psychologist Karl Groos today: "The very existence of youth is due in part to the necessity for play; the animal does not play because he is young, he has a period of youth because he must play."

Rock on with your good work, my friend!