Play is a word which often gets dismissed as ‘something’ children do to have fun and is not as important as other KLA’s for Early Stage One. Play is actually something which starts at a very young age but is an essential part of a child’s developmental growth and wellbeing. It allows students to be a part of active learning, exploration, negotiation, risk taking, socialising and encourages students to create meaning of their world.
How does play fit into my ES1 class? From the beginning of the year until early this term, play was part of our morning routine. We would come in, say our prayer, mark the role and then students set off for 10 minutes of unstructured play. This meant that students were able to select what they wanted to play with, who would be involved in their play (if anyone) and what space they would like to use in the room. As all teachers should do, my stage partner and I reflected on the effectiveness of play and discussed the purpose of which we were wanting to gain out of the unstructured play.
Yes, play does assist in the social skills of students although what happens to those students who like solitary play (independent), those students who don’t have effective communication skills or those students who have difficulties with their oral language. On a daily basis, we would have to remind certain students to select another activity as they would only select the ‘drawing table’ or we would place a student with another because they both liked solitary play. Reflecting on these points, it was evident that some changes needed to be made to increase the advantages and effectiveness play can have on young children.
In my ES1 class there are quite a few EAL/D students who come from diverse backgrounds and their first language is not English which therefore impacts on their oral language. There are also a significant number of students who do not know how to effectively communicate and collaborate with one another.
I am sure you are eager to find out what we have changed in ES1 to ensure these skills are incorporated into play on a daily basis so here it is.
We began by playing around with a google document trying to put ideas, information and evidence/ links to the six pillars together in order to see how we could best accommodate for the class. We needed to think about the purpose and what we want to achieve out of developmental play experience.
As part of developmental play, we decided that for the first few weeks we would structure different activities which would promote team work, collaboration, effective communication and most of all targeting students with their oral language skills. Having two teachers in the class has been amazing and really benefits the students in many ways. Both my stage partner and I work with a small group of students to focus on each day to ensure we model how to communicate and collaborate effectively, encourage students to question and problem solve through tasks. We then record our observations in a separate google document to ensure we monitor each child’s growth over time.
Evidence are also then hyperlinked to the developmental play document with a short blurb of how the lesson went so that we are able to go back and refer to any comments, images or videos we may have as part of evidence. Overall one important aspect which I have mentioned is to ensure there is always a PURPOSE to students learning, even for ‘developmental play’ and continue to act as a role model demonstrating the ways in which we do certain things such as communicate effectively. It is crucial that we remember that students are still learning and have their ‘L plates’ on. We are the educators of the future generations and need to support and guide our students to effectively communicate (oral language), collaborate, think creatively, be innovative, and develop problem-solving skills to assist them with their everyday lives.
Example taken from the first 2 weeks of ES1 developmental play document.
Images taken during developmental play