One Sunflower

hooray for play

on March 16, 2010

Yesterday, our professional development session began with a call to remember the importance of play in our school day. 

Ah, the delicate balance we are tasked to maintain  – especially in early childhood programs designed to provide intervention to students at risk. 

I totally believe in the importance of play. I think this broadcast I heard on NPR a while back outlines my beliefs and reasons for trying to maintain at least 45 minutes of “play time” in my school day.  If I had my way, my ideal school day would have more play time.

I am not a rigid teacher in that I am not above scrapping my plans to support whatever wonderful thing is happening in the classroom.  But I also know that my students benefit from our Circle Time activities – kept to a minimum of 15 minutes, and our small focus groups – which are really more like center activities. The most rigid time of our day is our writing workshop.   Although I sometimes wish my students could have music, art and library like the older students in our school, then there truly would be no time for play!

I sympathize with my kindergarten colleagues who feel their students are slowly being robbed of play.  They might not have breakfast time but they do have those other added components as well as math and science curriculums to teach.  And their day is the same length as mine!

I celebrate that in preschool we’ve got time for animal sorting, and practicing one to one correspondence in tea parties and sand play.


Time for connecting shapes into awesome patterns and exploring the wonderful properties of tape.

In as much as I can’t provide the length of time in free play that I would like, I try to create a classroom where “playful” is a state of mind and a state of our relationships. We might be eating, or chanting nursery rhymes, or looking at animal fact cards but our exchanges have a playful feel.  Of course there are times when our interactions are more scripted – usually when I’m doing some sort of quick assessment – but I try to do this in play as much as possible.

I know that it is the pressure for assessing our youngest students that makes my fellow teachers feel it is necessary to teach with a more structured dynamic.  I am glad that we are being encouraged to learn how to do these evaluations in a format that looks and feels like child’s play.


3 responses to “hooray for play

  1. Vanessa says:

    Thank you for this post, I too believe that we can teach pre-k students in a playful, planful, and purposeful way as the TEA says. I was intrigued by the following statement:

    “I know that it is the pressure for assessing our youngest students that makes my fellow teachers feel it is necessary to teach with a more structured dynamic. I am glad that we are being encouraged to learn how to do these evaluations in a format that looks and feels like child’s play.”

    Could you elaborate? How exactly is the pressure changing the way your colleagues teach? How are you learning to evaluate students in playful way? Can you give examples?

    This is a very hot topic and I’m just curious about how you are dealing with it your district.

  2. Vanessa says:

    Thanks! I learned everything I know from my editor at Pre-K Now – those are the types of questions they used to ask me 🙂

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