I have a lot of toys in my school library, thanks to the fact that my own son and daughter are the only grandchildren on both sides of the family. Now that my own children are teens (18 and 16), the toys that aren't kept perfectly preserved in my newly-cleaned garage migrate to my workplace so my students can enjoy them. I don't put all the toy bins out at the same time - that's too overwhelming and makes their appearance less special. Usually I allotted only a few minutes at the end of a period for our kindergartens and early primary students to play. This year, partly because our kindergarten groups are very Year 1 / JK heavy, I've replaced some of the whole-group instruction time with longer time to play with the couple of options I've offered (in this case, Koosh balls and Fisher-Price toys).
What has the impact been on giving more play time in September, especially to the kindergarteners?
- less resistance / defiance from students
- moments for self-regulation in a "lower-stress" environment
- more time to observe students
- more opportunities to build relationships with students
- ideas for future lesson topics and teaching structures
- practice with social skills
This first photo is from the very first day of school, during third period. Look moms and dads - no crying kids! The formal lesson portion took about three minutes, and then there was the few minutes of asking students to sit and wait while we spread out the toys. That was a great chance to see who could wait and who had trouble resisting the urge to run for the toy bin. Play time was long enough to enjoy the toys and provide advance warning for clean-up. The DECE and I could notice who needed just a verbal cue to begin tidying, who needed a song, and who needed modelling and targeted individualized reminders. I didn't have to face many stubborn "NO" responses when I asked them to do things, because I didn't ask them to do much that they wouldn't want to do. Passing around the Koosh ball was easier when students realized they could have a longer time playing with it a few minutes after the task.
It was great to see who played with whom, and how they played, and what they played with. I didn't take any observational notes because half the time I was taking photos (itself a form of pedagogical documentation) and half the time I was playing with them! I had fun playing with the students. Toy people took bumpy helicopter rides and chased toy chickens. We took cars through car washes and filled farms with animal families. When we brought out the Koosh balls, a student and I counted how many baskets we could successfully shoot and challenged ourselves to walk a path in the library while balancing a Koosh on the back of our necks!
In this third photo, you can see the DECE on the floor right alongside the students, chatting with them and having fun. The students are busy doing their own thing, but practicing concepts like sharing, taking turns, and using their imaginations.
Having the toys really helped last Thursday. One of the kindergarten teacher had an appointment after school and asked if I could switch the schedule so that I could see her students during the final period of the day and she could make it to the appointment on time. One little boy was overtired and responded to my look of disapproval, (I promise, I didn't yell at him for his transgression) when he erased something I needed from the board, with loud wails and tears. He needed some serious consolation, so we brought out the toys earlier than planned and the other students played while he fell asleep in my arms on my shoulder. The others comforted him in between bouts of playing with pats on the back and phrases like "Don't cry X - it was your birthday yesterday!"
Speaking of making, I also made a cool name tag at the first 2018-19 Tinkering Thursday event, but like the students, I spent a lot of time at that event just reconnecting with others by talking (and talking, and talking).
What do you do you’re in the middle of finger knitting and you see a familiar face? Pull the piece of yarn across the room, of course! @MzMollyTL @ATeactweet @RJLANGTDSB pic.twitter.com/o7M4uqDhsK— Rupali Rodgers (@rodgers_rupali) September 13, 2018
Talking is not a bad thing, necessarily. For the older grades, we spent the first couple of classes together just talking. We talked about what they want to do during their library periods. (Consensus were items like book exchange, current events community circle, and free time to either catch up on work or socialize a bit.) We talked about books a bit. We talked about possible clubs and teams. And although we didn't use the Fisher-Price toys, we did use the Koosh balls. (For those who are unfamiliar with Koosh balls, [like Stephen Hurley, my VoicEd interviewer I spoke to last Friday] I found a "labelled for non-commercial reuse" image below.)
The beginning of the school year can be a stressful time, especially for those new to a particular school or school in general. (Aviva Dunsiger wrote a great post that dovetails a bit with this one, about power struggles with youngsters - see https://adunsiger.com/2018/09/15/how-do-you-avoid-the-power-struggle/) Play is supposed to be an important part of the kindergarten curriculum and I need to remind myself to allow more time for it - not just for the youngest students, but the older ones as well. Of course, having written this, this coming week is Book Fair time - upended/limited space, disrupted routines, and new items around but not for general play. Wish me luck!