Sunday, July 31, 2011

Structuring Play

At my school, our 5 and 6 year olds are expected to have achieved certain literacy and numeracy benchmarks by the end of the year. I believe that the best way to do this is through small group teaching that is specifically tailored to individual children's learning needs and so for one hour each day we have a structured play time. This allows me to give the appropriate amount of time and attention to my small groups whilst the other children are engaged in independent play.

I started by introducing the children to a range of play icons (on cards) for them to choose from but I soon found that the children who loved construction would always choose to play in our construction area and not try their hand at anything else. I then decided to use this as an opportunity to expose my children to a range of activities that they might not otherwise try.

Now my children work in groups to progress through four activities that are different each day.

Here are some of the things we do during this time...

Puppet Plays

Buddy Reading

Writing Centre

During this time, my teacher aide supervises and assists the children when necessary and some days we have parents come in to play literacy or numeracy focussed games.

After much trial and error (and worrying about how I was going to achieve small group explicit teaching in a child friendly way) I am really happy with how structured playtime is working at the moment.

We spent a few weeks at the beginning of last term getting used to the new routine (during which time I didn't take groups) but the children are now self managing and seem to love trying out different activities.

Here's what I'm loving about our structured playtime...

  • The children are engaging in play based activities and aren't doing worksheets (Worksheets don't grow dendrites! as Marcia Tate says)
  • They are practicing the important skill of being self managing.
  • I am able to take small groups for focussed explicit teaching and am ensuring that children have the opportunity to work at their individual level to achieve their learning goals. 
  • As structured playtime only goes for 1 hour each day, the children aren't missing out on developing their interests through play or working on 'projects' which I am free to fully facilitate throughout the rest of the day.

1 comment:

  1. Just found your blog - love it. I've had the same thing happen with my class last year, one group would always occupy the Mobilo. Sometimes I would just leave it on the shelf to encourage them to play with something else. Might try the groups this year, might also encourage them to work with others.