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Our Thirty-Ninth Post — The "Play" Problem

June 6, 2009

We had another busy and exciting week in Kindergarten! It’s hard to believe that it’s June already. The children are continuing to develop their literacy and numeracy skills as they prepare for next year.

This week, I (Aviva) decided to devote our blog to a Letter to the Editor that was in Friday’s Hamilton Spectator. This is one of my favourite topics to discuss, and I am very interested to hear your thoughts too. Please post your comments here, or you can e-mail them to me directly too (aviva.dunsiger@hwdsb.on.ca).

When people talk about learning in Kindergarten, the discussion often quickly changes to a discussion on “play” and the merits of “learning through play.” In most cases, it is expected that Kindergarten classrooms will include shelves of toys, lots of blocks, a sandbox, a water table, and a house centre, and that children will spend much of their day using these items. When I first started teaching Kindergarten eight years ago, I structured my classroom much like this, and my children spent much of the day playing too.

My teaching has changed a lot in eight years, and the look, feel, and sound of my classroom has changed too. Over the past two years, as I have had the benefit of team-teaching, my program has become a lot more structured, and due to space restrictions in the room, one of the first things that I got rid of was the house centre. I have very little “free choice” time during the day (15 minutes at most), and not only do my students not miss it, I think that they even benefit more from not having it.

In my opinion, the key to having children love learning and learning literacy and numeracy skills at the same time, is to incorporate hands-on learning (structured play) into meaningful learning centres. As just a handful of examples, this year the students made bear puppets to retell Goldilocks and the Three Bears (art and literacy), scooped out and identified words and letters from chicken soup, hot chocolate, and Spooky Stew (water centre and literacy), completed numerous SMART Board and computer literacy and math activities (technology and literacy and numeracy), identified and used three-dimensional figures to build dinosaur houses for various plastic dinosaurs (play and math), created pattern apartment buildings out of cardboard boxes (art and math), and measured the volume of different containers using scoops of sand or rice (sand/rice centre and math). All of these centres were differentiated, and all of them allowed students to develop their academic skills at their level while having fun and being creative too.

Just yesterday, I told the class that beginning the week of June 15th, the children will be working on their own to complete the math problems that we are now completing in small groups, and initially, completed as a class. Here is the response from one of my students: “Oh yeah! We are so ready for Grade 1!” I couldn’t have said it better myself. This child is not sad about a lack of free choice time, but excited about the many possibilities of academic learning time. As a teacher, I cannot imagine anything more rewarding than this!

Aviva

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One Comment
  1. Aviva, what you say here makes a lot of sense. I'm sure the children benefit from the increased structure and I know Sarah has fun with all the great activities you come up with. Thanks!

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