Saturday, June 02, 2018

Let them play ... even the older ones

There's currently a lot of discussion about the importance of play and with it a gradual swing towards a more play-based curriculum, particularly in the Early Years, which I think is a great thing. I worry about the creeping measurement of play as it becomes more embedded in the curriculum but that's something I've spoken about before so am not going to say anything here and now.

But regarding play in general I feel very strongly that by 'eliminating' play from the primary classroom further up the school, we are missing out on a valuable learning opportunity.

In the home environment, or the park or during the holidays or any other time away from school, children choose who they want to play with, to interact with. Generally they choose to spend their free time with people whose company they enjoy, who share their interests, although some might argue that often it's the parents' choice rather than the children's!

At school, they are thrown together with people who they don't get on with. In the playground they select from their friends: In class, however, they are asked to work with people that they might not 'like'; they are forced to work with children their parents haven't vetted. 

By disrupting friendship groups in the classroom and allowing free play, it's intriguing to see how quickly they manage to resolve issues, find areas of common interest and interact with people they previously wouldn't have had time for. To my mind, that's a lot of learning.

Equally, how often have we given our classes a new resource to support their learning only to find that they have all turned their multi-link cubes into guns and are taking pot shots at one another?

I'd argue that with the introduction of anything novel, we need to give them time to play before we ask them to engage with it from an educational perspective, if only so that they can get it out the system. In some instances, play could actually be the step up to the intended learning.

An example? I gave my class a big bag of wires, batteries, bulbs, buzzers and switches to see what they could do. I let them play with it. They knew what the bulbs were and what they did and so it was a short step to trying to get them to light; the buzzers and switches were then swapped in: The first pair who got the bulb to light were desperate to share their findings with their peers.

Play is part and parcel of childhood and childhood doesn't stop at the end of P2. Let them play. Even the older ones. They will learn so much that we strive and contrive to teach ... 

... and we won't even need to plan it!

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