Marc Armitage - Thought Crime

To be or not to be play-based

To be or not to be play-based

a \‘shȯrt-rēd’\ piece

In a recent online discussion, a kindergarten educator mentioned that she had lately introduced a play-based approach in the classroom. She had been excited about making this change and was equally excitied to see the change it would make in her children. But then, a problem occurred.

The ‘powers that be’ began to express concern at a ‘slowing down’ in the learning of children at the school. This was clearly putting some pressure on her to justify the move yet she also mentioned that she was beginning to have doubts herself. Despite feeling that the learning space felt calmer, busier, more engaged with and was more cooperative, she was not seeing the results in terms of learning that she had expected.

What her students were lacking, she said, was ‘a degree of focus’. She explained, once her students latched on to something it was proving difficult to extend on what they were doing with teacher inventions.

In one example, a small group of children took the large building blocks from the ‘construction corner’ into the ‘play house’ and started to build a wall. She said, ‘That’s Great! But wouldn’t it be better to take the blocks back into the construction area so that you could incorporate the many other building materials there into your project?’ She found that making this suggestion to them had stopped the playing dead in its tracks.

It is this comment that gave the game away.

When educators, in the early years especially, say that they are not getting the results they expect from a play-based approach the most common reason is that they are not actually applying a play-based approach. What they are more commonly doing is trying to shoehorn a play based methodology into the old expectation of didactic teaching and as a result are adopting similar expectations.

The pressure from those above, who it would appear were quite sceptical about the whole idea to begin with, cannot have helped. Yet the greatest barrier facing those children in their new play-based environment was actually unintentionally being set by the educator herself.

Expecting a play-based approach to work within the same time frame, classroom structure and educator role is simply not compatible with a play-based approach. It is not compatible with the training that many educators receive either, which is why often they cannot see this point.

This educator will get there, and the reason why I can be certain of that is because she reached out for advice. Clearly, she already knows where the need for change lays.

#playconversation #justsaying #learning #playbased #kindergarten

Photo from Smithfield Plains Kindergarten in Adelaide SA, Australia. 


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