Purposeful Play – how the book changed my teaching

Purposeful Play – BUY IT! READ IT! LIVE IT!

Yesterday I saw this Facebook post in a group I’m in – Simply Kinder– about Common Core and Play based learning.:

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This got me thinking: Are CCSS and Play mutually exclusive? Does it have to be either or or can it be a yes and? My opinion – NO! They go together like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong!

Purposeful Play is a game changing book by Kristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler. I have been  big on incorporating play and being developmentally appropriate since college (Thanks Dr. Mira Berkley and SUNY Fredionia). Play based learning is my passion. But little did I know, I’ve been doing it all wrong! I was on the right track but there’s a better way. Here’s my reflection using a Visible Thinking routine I love –  I used to think… But now I know… after reading Purposeful Play:

I used to think…

Play is centers, free choice time, and recess. Lots of learning happens during play. Play is good for all ages. Play is a safe time for children to take risks. Play can support all subject areas. Direct instruction happens during subject area blocks. Students can take what they learn during direct instruction and try it out during play.

But now I know…

Play is centers, free choice time, and recess. Lots of learning happens during play. Play is good for all ages. Play is a safe time for children to take risks. Play can support all subject areas. Direct instruction happens during subject area blocks. Students can take what they learn during direct instruction and try it out during play.  Play is the glue that holds it all together. Play is a mindset and a method. Play should not be separate from my standards and objectives.

It’s not like me to read something mind-blowing and take no action. Here’s how I changed my teaching after reading Purposeful Play:

  1. Transition time now includes more singing or movement themes (hop like a kangaroo, crawl like an inchworm, etc.)
  2. During reading, writing, and math mini lessons children act like a spy to watch what I’m doing. “Put on your spy goggles!”
  3. I do collaborative activities and tasks every chance I get!
  4. Cleaning up the room is a game called treasure trash- Who ever can find the secret piece of trash I’m thinking of wins! (hint: the treasure trash is usually the last thing I see)
  5. I got puppets for literacy centers for children to act out stories!
  6. Inquiry focus – I have a Wonder Wall in my classroom (no not the Oasis song, photo below), I’m incorporating PBLs (another great book – Hacking PBL)

I still have a lot of work to become better and be more Play Based. Here are my action steps:

  1. Teach mini lessons before choice time and recess to help children collaborate, communicate, and problem solve. The book has some great ideas to use as a starting point and some amazing examples of anchor charts.
  2. Add more share time with my class. I’m really bad about this. We need to be sharing after independent and partner reading, after writing, after math stations, after choice time, and at the end of the day. Kids can learn from each other as much as they can learn from me.

Biggest take away = be playful through instruction and everyday tasks. While choice time is important you can incorporate play in other ways.