I’ve been thinking about imaginary play and how as a young child my daughters would collect rocks, stones, seeds, cones, moss and sticks. Being fascinated by animals, they created mini animal habitats using these found objects. They would return to this play and over time created a whole world of rivers, towns and little people.
At school, we try to bring the outside in during our wintery rainy mornings. Little sticks, stones collected outside are transformed and when added to farm animals became a small farm. Turned over baskets and pebbles became a barn and moss became a mini forest. A glue gun and found objects can foster new directions with objects being transformed and integrated into their play. Found things easily become an amazing opportunity for kinders to connect nature with imaginative play.
Our lives are busy but when you commit time and some props for imaginary play, your child is boosting his brain and increasing his learning skills. Open-ended play builds cognitive skill in the brain called executive function. A few of the skills built through executive functioning are listening, waiting, self-control, self-motivation and cognitive flexibility-- all of which enable kinders to experience success in other curriculum areas like math. In our kinder classroom I plan for play by committing time, focusing my attention on the children while they play and looking for resources to encourage open ended play.
I was blogging about play this morning and landed at a wonderful site about parenting, play and creative endeavours. The title was “The Case for NOT Packing Away!” This really reflects a philosophy about play with a sprinkling of understanding child development. The discussion really addressed the topic very well and is always a great discussion at our kindergarten meetings. I’m sure many of you have already figured out that our big projects in the block centre stay for days as kinders visit the creations to add on, change or re-invent. Jace and Sarah worked on a block project over many days adding, building and decorating. Lots of math was experienced through their play; symmetry, balance, space, one to one correspondence, counting ...
Some of you might have experienced heartbroken resistance, when it comes time for your child to clean up that big project that he invested a great deal of time and creativity on, only to be told to put everything away leaving both of you frustrated. Here are a few suggestions, from the blog, for easing the situation.
Create a permanent display space:
Children need time to see their ideas come to fruition and often this time is interrupted by other elements of the daily routine. By packing away for mealtimes or to go out, you child needs to start all over again each time and as well as being disheartening and frustrating, it often means children do not have the opportunity to make more detailed, involved constructions or creations.
By revisiting previous work, children usually engage in revising, extending and improving upon their previous ideas. This is an important part of the learning process.
In terms of managing the situation with your child, I suggest allocating a special space in his playroom (or your living room, if you are in the same situation as we are) to be his ‘project work’ space where he can keep projects in progress. This could be a shelf or a mat in the corner of the room. A lightweight piece of board to build on can make moving constructions around the room much easier.
Make a hard copy:
If you have a digital camera you may also suggest that your son take a photo of a project before he packs it away. These can be printed out and stuck into a scrapbook for him to revisit (and rebuild) at a later time. Another idea is to make sure paper, pencils and a clipboard are always on hand so that he can draw the project before he puts it away.
Make big clean up jobs a shared task:
By working together, you show that you care about his work, value his time and model the right attitude. As children mature and develop self-regulation they begin to clean up with little or no reminders, organize their thinking and plan ahead. While they are maturing, working together on the bigger jobs reduces frustration and makes clean up fun.
Not too long ago, in my master’s class on child development we were challenged to write about our cherished memories of play as young children. Amazingly to us, but not surprising to our teacher, we had a common theme; unstructured, unsupervised and open-ended play. We shared common memories of playing outdoors for hours in multi-aged groupings in self-directed play. I remembered playing monkey in the middle with my siblings and neighbours, shooting pucks in the backyard rink that my dad made for us and hours of make believe play where of course my seven brothers dominated the game and indulged a little sister, assigning a minor role to me but inclusive.
Today I have the most amazing job in the world. I am a Kindergarten teacher and my program is play-based. For the past few years I have lamented the loss of play in some of our primary classrooms, not because the institution has restricted play but because it is not trusted as important work.
A friend recently asked what should be done to stem the growing number of adults, including teachers, who do not understand or trust that play promotes learning and that without play, learning is affected. When discussing pedagogy, as a student teacher, she believes that change begins with the teacher education program, but I believe that student teachers use two pillars; their beliefs about how children learn and teacher modeling. Including play in our teacher education programs will certainly help shape beliefs about how children learn, but to shape current practice (teacher modeling), we need to as Golinkoff, Hirsh-Pasek and Singer (2006) write to “discern the purpose and conditions under which play is optimally useful pedagogy (10). I fully agree with their statement and would suggest that communication, information and experience lead to an appreciation that play equals learning (Golinkoff, Hirsh-Paske and Singer, 2006).
The original purpose for this blog was to write about our Kindergarten classroom project, E-portfolio work in math. However, as I sift through the photographs of children’s work and re-read my anecdotal comments and children's interviews, I cannot seperate work from play.
I have been working on the design of our kinder math e-portfolios. I am still fiddling with what should be included. I keep noticing their work and thinking we should add that to the portfolio. This week I added a slide on math literature since we read so many math books. Then I included a photo of the kinders reading from their personal folders since so many of the emergent books in their folds are math based. I also decided to include a slide on math stations since that is such a big part of their learning. However since I have not included that choice in conferences with the Kinders I don't have much data on that right now. Then, I was thinking on Friday that we should have some math celebrations which could be included like 100 Day or take photos of kids doing puzzles. I'm getting really excited because the portfolios are beginning to show the growth of student knowledge while highlighting their own uniqueness. I believe that this project has the potential to truly provide parents with a lens of the math work that a child does in school while at the same time providing a process for assessment. It reminds me of the Reggio Emelia approach which makes the child's learning transparent for both parents and teachers. I have also decided that waiting until the end of the project is too late to share with families so I am providing a snapshot of their child's learning via email with the draft portfolio as an attachment over the next week.
Last spring I had the good fortune to visit an amazing kindergarten teacher, Janie Lee. She introduced me to reading folders. Each kinder has a pocket folder with a mini pointer. Thank you Janey!! I’ve developed a routine which the kinders love. Each time we finish a little emergent reader it goes into the folder, which they read each day after literacy stations.They pull all of the little books out of the folder and stack them on top then they read them (some a few times). In January the kinders will take a few home to continue practice and celebrate with their families. I find the emergent books on the internet, get some from colleagues, purchase some with teaching units or make my own. The top twenty sight words are included in these easy read books (i.e. like, I, and, the, my...).
I am so excited to share the portfolios with my kinders on Monday. I decided to wait until Monday because we have a long stretch in the morning with no interruptions which will enable the kids to view their portfolios one at a time or I can leave it running during play centres.
My biggest challenge this week with the portfolio project is finding time to conference with the students. I missed two days of school last week so I am behind in conferencing and have quite a pile of exemplars for the kids to choose their portfolio piece. We are lucky to have Miss Virgin our student teacher so that one of us can conference with a student while the other teaches. Hopefully I will get all caught up before she finishes her practicum on Friday.
We are beginning our winter theme this week now that we have become experts on spiders. We haven't done too much creative art lately so this is a perfect theme for designing and building a winter village of little houses, roads, snow people, trees and other village buildings. They have been talking about box art for a while so I know this will be a great mini project. If you have any small boxes at home this would be a good time to send them to school to be re-invented into buildings. I'll post pictures so that you can see our project grow over time.
I teach Kindergarten at Cinnabar Valley Elementary in Nanaimo, British Columbia. I love my job and am passionate about providing a play based program for my kinders. I graduated in 2009 from the University of Victoria with a Masters in Early Childhood.