Monday, June 27, 2016

Balanced Play

Chapter 2
Balanced Play: How It Makes Kids’ Lives Better

What Is Play?

Play is different for every age group. For an adult, play my be building or making something, like Joann from “Fixer Upper” decorates the houses her and her husband fix up. While for others, it may be participating in marathons. For children, play maybe taking all the pots and pans out of the cabinet like my daughter did when she was younger. While it may be play for her, it wasn’t so much for mommy and daddy. LOL! The challenge is defining play. Play can be almost anything as long as it fulfills certain characteristics. The authors of Play for a Change define play as, “what children and young people do when they follow their own ideas, in their own way and for their own reasons” (2008, 10).

Why Is Play Valuable?

Play is not limited to just humans. Go to a zoo or watch animals on a TV show and you will see them using things in their surroundings for play. I remember watching a gorilla at Animal Kingdom with my daughter playing with her food bucket. She would roll it around, place it on her head, and play peekaboo with us watching her. This was her form of play. Another gorilla in the area was picking leaves off of a tree and making things with them. This was their form of play. Play benefits us in many ways by shaping our brain. It helps us to be flexible, resilient, and allows us the ability to deal with complex situations. It allows helps develop stress-response. Think of children building a block tower together. They are working hard putting the pieces in the right spot. Their brain is learning to take risks. If they place a block in a certain place, will the tower fall over? Sometimes it does and they have to start all over. Or another students places a block in a different spot than they wanted it to be place? This is helping them with resilience and building their ability to adapt. As you can see, play is very valuable in helping children develop their minds. Children need to be able to play. We need to provide them with balanced play just as we do with balanced literacy.

Kinds of Play

There are many different kinds of play to be incorporated into balanced play for children. They are fantasy play, constructive play, games with rules, and rough-and-tumble play. Each one helps to enhance a child’s development.

Fantasy/Imaginative Play

Fantasy play is when children choose an imaginary scenario in which they act out roles and determine a set of rules for the roles. This is usually done when children play store. They assign different roles: cashier, shopper, stock person, etc. Each person has their own role and they determine the rules for each role. The stock person or cashier isn’t going to be the one buying the items. The same could be said for my students who loved to play kitchen during inside recess time. Several of them would be the cooks, while others would be the waiters/waitresses and customers. They would create menus and even write down orders on paper before serving the customers. Sometimes if they didn’t have an item they wanted, they would substitute another item for it. For example, one of my students used a block as a phone for taking take-out orders. This helped her develop her abstract thinking.

Constructive Play

Constructive play is an organized form of play that is goal/product oriented. Children use materials to create something. Most constructive play uses materials like blocks, playdough, art materials, and recycled materials. Children can use these materials in a variety of ways to meet standards. For instance, children can use the materials to make murals or costumes for characters to retell a story. By using straws, paper, beads, and other materials, children can create something,  examining,  exploring, sorting, and arranging the materials. This taps into the STEM/STEAM mindset. By incorporating this type of play, we are allowing them to problem solve, connect, deepen their understanding, an replicate their learning while keeping math, science, and engineering in the classroom.

Games with Rules

Games with rules helps children build important social skills such as cooperation. Think of your students playing hide and seek. Now think of them playing hide and seek, where the seeker isn’t covering their eyes. What would happen? For certain type of play, there are rules that need to be followed in order for the game to work. By allowing for this type of play, they are learning to  communicate   and develop healthy competition. They are understanding what it means to win and how it feels to lose. This is an essential part of building empathy. This type of play also helps them to develop their growth mindset by teaching them to learn and grow in a risk free environment for failure.

Rough-and-Tumble Play

Rough-and-tumble play is often known as play fighting or horseplay. We most commonly see this type of play on the playground. We see it in the form of running and chasing each other, playing tag, wrestling, and having sword fights. We often discourage this type of play because we often think that they will take it to far. This type of play is often controversial, but it is yet very critical to the development of children. Roughhousing is necessary to help social and  cognitive   development as well as physical development. According to Stuart Brown (2010), a “lack of experience with rough-and-tumble play hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery, and has been linked to poor control of violent impulses later in life” (89). When children engage in play fighting, they learn what it means to take it too far and build the rationale that their friends won’t want to play with them anymore. We do have to monitor this as teachers to help them determine when they have taken it too far at times.

Stages of Play

When children are playing, there are different stages in which children fall into based on their development of play. There are six stages of play:
-Unoccupied Behavior: Children will randomly observe anything that catches their interest. If nothing catches their interest, they will often fidget, spin in circles, or bang hands of table. This is the most immature form of play.
-Onlooker Behavior: This child chooses to observe others at play and will often ask them questions about their play but doesn’t play herself.
-Solitary Play: This child chooses to play alone. The child might play near another group, but will not join them.
-Parallel Play: This child will choose to play with the same materials alongside another child, but will create or build their own thing.
-Associative Play: Children who choose to play together in a group using the same materials or even play the same activity. For example, children may be playing with the blocks, but each one if building their own building to make a city.
-Cooperative Play: Children plan how they will play. They discuss and  negotiate   their roles. This is the most mature form of play.

3 Take Aways
1.    Each form of play has its benefits.
2.   During play, children are learning to create, innovate, explore, and develop.
3.   Rough-and-tumble play shouldn’t be discouraged and it is essential for them to build the rationale of “taking things too far”.
What are your 3 take aways?

Don’t forget to join me on my  book study on play by  reading    Purposeful Play.  Find it  HERE. 

Friday, June 24, 2016

Play Isn't A Luxury. It's A Necessity.

Sorry, this post is a little late. I am currently on vacation in the mountains in Tennessee and our internet is spotty. We’ll be moving on from here tomorrow, so I will be on track.  Any who, I can’t express how excited I am about this book study. I can’t wait to get into it more and hear all of your thoughts.

Chapter 1
Play Isn’t A Luxury. It’s A Necessity.

This chapter starts off in a kindergarten classroom where there are children playing in different areas. There are children playing with Magna Tiles building, others playing in the kitchen area, and others making a haunted house with blocks. The teacher is observing her students playing together. Two girls in the kitchen area were having an argument over who would play mommy, since both children wanted to be mommy and another student stated that they both could be mommies. After observing for some time, the teacher determined that this was a teachable moment and that she needed to discuss the differences in families and what families are. 

Why Choose Play? Answers to Common Questions About the Role of Play

We Follow the Common Core State Standards. How Does Play Fit with Meeting the Many Standards?

The Standards are our endpoint. They are what we need to accomplish with our students by the end of the year. How we choose to get there is not dictated. There is no set map. The authors state that play allows for multiple opportunities and modes to reach the various standards. For instance, a standard in Speaking and Listening states that children need to follow agreed-upon rules for conversations. By implementing play into our classrooms, students have the opportunity to engage in discussions with peers and develop problem solving skills while playing. This can be demonstrated by their communication in building structures with blocks and even cooking in the kitchen. Another standard that can be  integrated   is the standard for reading fiction that states that a student should retell texts with key details. Children often during play will re-enact their favorite stories or even stories that were just read.  

How Can There Be Time for Play When There Is Such an Emphasis on Academic Rigor?

First off, the authors define what academic rigor means. According to Barbara Blackburn, author of Rigor Is Not a Four-Letter Word, “Rigor is creating an environment in which each student is expected to learn at high levels, each students is supported so he or she can learn at high levels, and each student demonstrates learning at high levels” (2013, 13). The authors believe that play is one type of environment where children can be rigorous in their learning. Play is a natural environment for children which allows them to feel free to take risks. They will often use their imagination to explore their creativity and become flexible thinkers and build their communication skills.

But What About My Students Who Need Extra Support? Wouldn’t Their Time Be Better Spent Engaged in Small-Group Instruction?

In this section the authors discuss the importance of small group instruction. Yes, small group instruction is important, however, play should not be replaced by it. Some students who have difficulty in certain areas can benefit from play because it gives them access to content and higher level thinking in a variety of modes. Play gives them opportunities to express their thinking through multiple sign systems. Sign systems are the different ways of communication and can be done through art, music, drama, and language. (Short, Harste, and Burke, 1996). Children can also engage in choice time, which is another type of play. This gives them the opportunity to build with blocks, paint, and dramatic play. Choice time allows students to tap into their own strengths and gives them access to learning at higher levels.

How Much Time In the Day Do Children Really Need to Play? Can’t Children Just Play When They Are Finished with Their Work?

In the beginning, we often struggle to develop our students’ stamina in reading and writing. However, when our same students are playing either during recess or choice time we can often see the stamina last for a longer amount of time. With this, we need to look at play from a different point of view. Play is the work of children. While playing, our students are developing ideas, creating, discovering, taking on and assigning roles, collaborating, developing and negotiating rules, and being active listeners with each other. If play is there work, then how can we incorporate it across the curriculum.

After reading this chapter, it has gotten my brain into motion on how play is beneficial to all learners.

3 Take Aways
1.    Students need play everyday to build on their strengths and develop key communication and social skills.
2.   Play is natural for them.
3.   Play can be incorporated into daily lessons to achieve goals.

What are your thoughts about this Chapter? My mind is in motion on how to put play back into my classroom. I can’t wait to share with you all and get your ideas.

Don’t forget to join me on my  book study on play by  reading  Purposeful Play.  Find it  HERE. 

Sunday, June 19, 2016

I'm Bringing Play Back Book Study

For years now, I have been wanting to bring back play into my Kindergarten classroom.  We have been told over and over again to take it out of our daily routine. I  know it isn't my administrators fault. It comes from the higher ups. I would occasionally break that rule and allow my students the time to play. I know, I know, I'm a rebel. (Smack the back of my hand.)  But guess what? My students  still succeeded and were able to get a little time to develop the necessary developmental skills they  need. I have been searching for that research based text to help me show those who question me  the proof they need.  Well, I HAVE FINALLY FOUND IT! Woohoo!!!!!!!! (Sorry, for so many exclamations. I am to excited.)

Join me on my  book study on play by  reading  Purposeful Play.  Find it  HERE. I know many of you may be busy with travel plans, but you can always come back and follow along when you can. 

Below are a list of  the dates in which you can come back and  share your thoughts and comments. I can't wait for you to join me.