Let’s play…

Light table

“Play is the road to childhood happiness and adult brilliance.”

– Joseph Chilton Pearce

As a kindergarten teacher, I often get questions from incoming parents about how my students spend their time in our classroom.  I tell them that we spend a good part of our day learning through play in centres, and by that, I mean they actually get a significant chunk of time to play.  On any given day, some of the choices my students may have include building with blocks or trains, exploring coloured water with funnels and pitchers, “baking” cookies with playdoh, giving a “manicure” at the salon or exploring with paint.  What is setup in our centres often comes from conversations the children have either directly with me or that I overhear between them.  I value play in early learning and I believe in giving my students choice in where they play, what materials they use, who they play with and how long that play lasts.  I believe “choice” is a key element in play because I know firsthand that what is play for others (like going for a run) is work for me and things that I consider to be play (like writing this blog post) might be work for many others!

If you are interested in learning more about play and learning, there are many great resources out there.  As a starting point, try watching Stuart Brown’s TED Talk or reading his book Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul.  You never know, it just may change the way you think about play.

If you have a different favourite resource about play, please share it in the comment section below.  Thanks!

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Tree cookies and fabric – two simple things to add to your block centre

Last summer, while surfing the internet, I came across the idea of “tree cookies” and decided they would be something cheap (so cheap, they’re FREE), interesting and worthy of adding to my block and building centre.  What is a tree cookie, you ask?  Really, it is just bits of cut up tree branches.

So as I trimmed my trees in my backyard, I saved the nicer branches and cut them into small pieces.  I then put them in a bin at my block centre.  (As you can see I made some that were short and fat and others that were long and narrow).

class play - tree cookies 2

I also added bits of fabric (polar fleece, to be exact) that I had cut into strips, rectangles and oval-ish shapes.  Then I waited to see what happened.  One day, this is some of what I saw:

2012-09-24 14.47.49 tree cookies - dino paths 1

tree cookies - wood forest

The fleece became rivers and grasslands.  The “tree cookies” became pathways, bridges and forests…

tree cookies - water falltree cookies - river

The shelf in the block area also helped create a waterfall for the dinosaurs to play in and hide behind.

Tree cookies and fabric, what simple fun!

Quick Tip – Time Timer, A teacher’s best friend

In one of my early years of teaching, I was given a Time Timer to use in my classroom.  I have since moved schools and had to buy my own Time Timer.  I use it so often that I sometimes wonder what I did before my Time Timer days. 

time timer 2

 

I love this timer because it shows a piece of red for the given amount of time.  As time passes, the red gets smaller.  The visual is fantastic for students.  Some of the newer Time Timers also have a buzzer that, when turned on, beeps when the time runs out .

Here are 5 ways I use my Time Timer on a daily basis:

1.  At snack time – I set the timer for 12 minutes for snack.  Students know that when the timer runs out, everyone puts away the rest of their snack.

2.  As a clean up warning – I give students a 10 minute warning for clean up time.  It gives them time to finish up what they are working on and helps them switch from something they want to be doing (playing) to something I want them to be doing (clean up).

3.  As a signal to rotate centres – If a new center is overly popular, setting the timer to let students know when it is time to switch can be helpful.  (The only time I would limit time in a centre is when it is something new so that everyone has a chance to check it out before home time).

4.  As a reminder not to rush – For students who tend to hurry through a given task to move on to something else, setting the timer for a required amount of time can remind them to slow down and do their best work.  If they finish before the timer, they need work on improving their work until the timer runs out.

5.  And to keep me on track – Any time I tell students that they have __ minutes to do something, setting the timer helps me keep my word.  Before my Time Timer days, I would often say things like  “In 5 minutes…” or “You have __ minutes to…” and while I got busy working with students, 5 minutes could easily turn to 10 or 15 minutes without me even noticing.  When I set the timer, nobody lets me lose track of time!

 

If you are looking to buy your own Time Timer, they can be ordered from places like Spectrum or Scholars Choice or can be bought directly from most “teacher stores”.

Finding your “favourites” made easy for kinders

A couple of years ago, I came across Symbaloo, a great website for sharing internet favourites with my kinders and their parents.  With symbaloo, you can create your own account (here’s mine) and make buttons for your favourite curriculum-related websites.  The brilliant thing about it is that you can add an image to each of your links so that non-readers can find their favourite sites too.  Also, you can constantly edit your Symbaloo page, adding and removing buttons as needed.

I set my Symbaloo account as my homepage on my classroom computers to help make my students more independent at finding their favourite sites (that being said, I still have to supervise them closely, but it stops me from being constantly asked to help find the pattern machine game or Toupie et Binou).

And, if that is not all, Symbaloo now has a FREE iPhone app! If you create your own free account, you can now access it and any other webmixes you like on the go.

I like to share my Symbaloo site with parents so that at home, they can easily find websites that are appropriate for kindergarten students.  Parents have the option of setting it as their homepage or adding it to their iPhone as well.

As a French immersion kindergarten teacher, my links relate to French language learning, math and problem solving.  What is your favourite website for your kindergarten students or child?

What did I learn today? – Set of Mini-Posters

Here is set of mini-posters I created this past year to help parents understand why we make so much time to play in our classroom.  They link kindergarten outcomes (from the Alberta curriculum) with different centres we have in our classroom.  I posted it just outside our room to help parents understand how play is children’s work.

Mme Melissa