This is our fourth year growing into play. This is the richest journey I have ever been on in my professional career. This journey has unfolded naturally without the need to be forced, time has allowed me the opportunity to reflect, respond and change as needed.
My one concern at the moment is that with the growing popularity of play, teachers will jump on board, without a why, thinking they need to put everything in place at once, rushing in without taking the time to let the process guide them, and in turn finding the journey is not as successful as they believe it should be, in turn they will blame play and return to the old way of doing things.
I know and trust that my journey still has a lot to teach me, but wanted to share some of the things I have learned so far.
1) You have to have a why, a reason to start this whole journey, and it can't be because others are doing it and it seems like a good idea. Our initial why was the limited oral language children were coming in with and the apparent rise of 'learning difficulties.' Our why now has morphed into developmental readiness. This why needs to be clearly evident when lovely people like ERO visit, if you are the best person to speak about that why, be part of that meeting, don't count on others to be able to articulate it for you.
2)Clearly have the bones of what you are trying to do in your head and on paper from the start. What dispositions are you after? Are you using elements of Te Whariki? What are the values you want to develop? How will you guide social and emotional skills? These are the elements that will help to shape where you find your place in the programme. Where and how will you take the opportunity to 'coach' these things? What is it you want for your children?
3)Trust, this is crucial, you need to take time to develop trust in yourself and trust in the children, without trust, this approach will be quite restricted.
4)Learning, how does it look and how does it happen? I have learned some much about the brain and how it develops. It is crucial in a play based class that you are aware of developmental needs and how you can use these to engage with each child in your class.
5)Time, it is important not to try to change too much at once, take time with everything, it has been important for me that I have had time to reflect on what I am seeing and respond to these. I have changed so much of what we do, but don't believe at any stage I have been wrong, I just didn't know better yet.
6)You can not run a class based on play and developmental needs and still hang on to the old way of forcing learning. This needs to change. A play-based/developmental approach is at cross purposes with a programme that forces academic learning and testing in the way it has been done in the past.
7)Children are individuals and need to be treated with respect given to their needs. One of the gift a class based on play gives us is the opportunity to really see children, but we must allow us to take the time to do so.
8)The curriculum comes from the children, trust that it will. In fact I have never discovered so much with my children, I don't plan for this, but it is up to me to notice it and work out a way to respond if appropriate. It is up to me to see how the prescribed 'curriculum' has been falling out of our days, not the concern of the children who naturally see everything as connected.
9)Oral language is off the hook in a play based classroom, if you are looking for a way to improve confidence and ability to speak, play based is an absolutely perfect way to do this.
10)Eventually there is a need to ditch weekly planning and the timetable, this will happen naturally and as if feels right. Backward planning is where it is at.
11) There is no need to spend loads of money on resources, in fact we have ended up ditching many of ours. If you want to purchase items, take time to watch the interests and urges first. Open ended items are the absolute best.
12) Mess is good, pack up at the end of the day.
13)Reading, writing and maths can still be part of your day, these just may look a little different. For us we use storytelling for writing, number agents for maths and reading is individual if and when they are ready.
14) Get ready for that old teacher on your shoulder to have a field day every time you see the actual age of children and compare it to their so called reading level. This voice will dim with time, but it will always be there. Take it from me, progress will be there, but it will look different. Measures of reading, writing and maths may be more relevant from Year 4 on.
15) Children will naturally deepen play, you don't need to do it. There is no need for beautiful provocations, take time to provoke or invite when you are responding to an interest.
16) You may have wonderful ideas for a provocation, and the children may not take the bait...don't worry, just shelve that idea.
17)Children love a 'sense of a mysterious other' and it is a great way to provoke writing. Use magic at every opportunity.
18) Every day won't be a wonderful leap through the daisies, this approach is hard work, I have never worked harder, I go home brain dead and some days wouldn't make the pages of facebook. The great days outweigh the difficult ones.
19) Eventually you will be able to ditch any rewards you have been using in a traditional classroom. We have phased this out this year. Children simply don't need them.
20) Allow yourself good chunks of time to reflect, honestly look at your programme, if something is not working, why isn't it...what can you change?
Play has transformed our classroom and continues to transform our school. We have learned to see children from a point of competence, to see them as creative, imaginative and able...this lens has helped us to change the way we see children and in turn, change the way we interact with them.
- Learning Through Play
- The Villains and The Heroes
- What I love about Number Agents!
- My PDF Products - Available on TPT or Teachers Helping Teachers
- Teachers Pay Teachers Store
- How to order
- Number Agents in a Nutshell and Getting Started with Agency
- What is in the book?
- Children and Numbers - My Belief
- Mantle of the Expert
- My number goals
- My learning dispositions and habits
- My Youtube channel
- My Brain Model
- My Sentiments
- My model for literacy development
- My developmental goals