Creating Playful Environments
If You Build It, They Will Play
We often set up our classrooms for us. We careful choose our color schemes or themes. We place everything in the perfect location in the room. We have everything completely organized. Then, BAM! Within the first hour, everything has changed. Our carefully thought out classroom has been changed. Our students move things. They do what works for them. We like to think our classroom space belongs to our students, but in reality most of the time we create it for what works best for us. This section will talk about changing the classroom for our students, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have an influence. (Wink, wink)
Space: The First Frontier
Space in our classrooms is always a hot commodity. Us teachers are hoarders. We don’t want to give up any of that furniture, because let’s face it. Once it’s gone, IT’S GONE! Trust me, I’ve been there. I’ve given up a table or bookshelf to another teacher and then needed it later on. But you know what, I survived. I made things work. Plus, if I had it in my room, it would have taken up space and made things more cluttered. Take the time and go through your room and really consider what you really need.
These are some things to consider when planning out your room:
-Leave Open Spaces for Children’s Creations
-The authors’ suggest to provide a space where children can leave their structures out for up to multiple days. I don’t know about you, but my room is often used by the aftercare children. This will be especially hard to do since they will more than likely touch the structures.
-Use Furniture Flexibly
-Provide Different Kinds of Spaces Within the Classroom
-Ask Children How They Would Like to Use the Space in the Room
-The authors’ reference one teacher allowed her Second Grade students to design the classroom for learning. On the first day of school, she had here students help set up the classroom.
Extreme Makeover: Classroom Edition
Here are some questions that the authors’ want you to think about when setting up your classroom:
-Do you have flexible seating options (standing, sitting, laying) and the items to support it?
-Can you repurpose furniture (e.g., make tables shorter or taller, replace a regular table with a sand table with cover) to vary the work space in the room?
-Do you have at least one largeish space where children can build and leave their buildings standing?
-Do you have at least one smallish, cozy spot for children to recenter and feel safe?
-Do you have a space in the classroom that allows for big movement?
-Do you have materials easily available for children?
-Do you have a permanent open space to store works in progress?
-Is this environment pleasing to the eye?
Materials for Powerful Play
When organizing your classroom, keep in mind that you will need the following items for the classroom. The authors’ suggest these items for play, as well as using them in the classroom as manipulatives. Here are some suggested items plus some that I have added:
-large, hollow blocks for building large structures
-Cardboard: boxes, rolls, cones, flat pieces
-Markers, crayons, colored pencils
-Mini Shaped Erasers
-Familiar objects from home/parents’ workplaces
Setting the Stage for Community and Caring: Building a Play-Friendly Emotional Environment
Create a Culture of Caring
The first thing that we need to do in order to create a classroom for play is establish a community. We need to set the following principles in our classroom to do so.
-Get to know each other. We need to provide opportunities to interact with each other. What better way than the first week of school? Allow your students to share their feelings, passions and ideas.
-Learn to solve problems by talking through them. Provide your students with opportunities and role play situations with them.
-Talk about self-control. What does it mean? What does it look like?
-Have class meetings to gather to share, reflect, and problem solve. Discuss situations together as a group.
Make Rules That Work
We need to establish rules that work in our classroom. Rules need to be in children’s language. Below are 3 principles to follow:
Rules Are Positive Statements
Rules Are Guidelines
Rules Mean Specific Action
Teaching with Independence in Mind: The Workshop Structure
Just like we teach writing, reading, and math in a workshop manner, we need to consider teaching “play” in this manner as well. Many of our students come into us with different levels of play. Some have only played organized games and sports, while others have played on iPads and other electronics. We also can’t assume that they can all play on the same maturity levels. By having a workshop, it will allow us to assist them in learning social skills and learning habits.
What Does Play Look Like in a Workshop Structure?
There are 2 different types of play workshops.
Choice Time Workshop
Choice Time occurs in the classroom. During Choice Time children choose to play with a variety of materials. Choice Time Workshop looks very familiar to a typical reading, writing, and math workshop. You choose a theme (1-2 minutes), have a focus lesson (3-5 minutes), plan (1-3 minutes), work or play time (30-35 minutes), and share (3-5 minutes). When modeling “choice time”, it will give your students an idea of how they should act and play during that time.
Many schools have a scheduled recess time into their day. By offering a recess workshop, it will allow those students unfamiliar with recess the opportunity to learn from the other students. A recess workshop is similar, but only has 3 parts: focus lesson (3-5 minutes), work or play time (20 minutes), and share (3-5 minutes).
*During work or play time for both workshops, the teacher is observing and offers tips to the students.
What are some ideas you have from this chapter?
Don’t forget to join me on my book study on play by reading Purposeful Play. Find it HERE.