Tag Archives: play

Once upon a story…

“Children need to be immersed in a listening and storytelling culture where their voices are valued and heard.” – Lucy Calkins

the-castle-in-the-classroom - Copy

From the beginning of my teacher training, I have been in love with and identified with the works of Vivian Paley.  Her books line the shelves of my personal library.  Repeatedly, I turn to these books as reminders of what my kinders are capable of and the importance of teaching them the ways they are meant to learn.

This school year, I am fortunate enough to take part in a literacy cohort just for kindergarten teachers in my district.  Upon entering this professional development, my expectations were cautiously high.  We all know that sometimes PD is just not what it should be.  Fortunately – I have hit the mother load of PD.  The instructors are knowledgeable, enthusiastic, and realistic.  This is a PD worth writing sub plans for!

The focus of the class is literacy – with a heavy emphasis on play. Yes, PLAY!  It is alarming how PLAY has become a nasty four letter word in our classrooms.  Before we all start asking the “How can I fit this into my day with this assessment and that assessment, etc.?” question, let me share one of the best parts of this PD.  We embrace what is natural!  Play is natural – not something extra that should be fit in to our days.  Standards are being met through play – each and every day.  I know that we all know the benefits of play.  But should you need a reminder, or documentation to prove the benefits:

Four Ways graphic1_0

We are given time during each session to read (no homework) from several different books that are ours to keep!
We are reading:

literacy-through-play-owocki-1999

the-castle-in-the-classroom

51j+u61awGL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_

The most recent session, we focused on storytelling and creating thinkers in kindergarten.  We were reminded that the standards (Common Core) are not what we teach, but where our students are heading this year. Storytelling a grand vehicle to get our students where we need them to be.  We started off with an activity that asked us to created characters for a story – any characters we wanted.

IMG_1177

The next step was to join with a partner and create a story with both of our characters.  This was challenging – and fun.  We then shared our stories out to other partnerships.  What a fun time!  So many aspects went into the creating of the story:

  • talking about story elements
  • the relationship between the characters
  • sequence of events
  • dialogue of characters
  • addition of props depending on setting and mood

How many standards do you see addressed above?  So many!  The speaking and listening standards are obvious – but many reading standards are also addressed.  We then highlighted the standards we thought were addressed during the activity.

FullSizeRender (1)

Our instructors then used their characters and told their story.  After they were finished, we extended the learning by participating some word activities using language of the story.  Again, we were asked to highlight standards we thought were addressed during the extension activity.  Boom – foundational skills!

FullSizeRender

Our children are natural storytellers – with or without props.  How many times have you chosen to stop a child from sharing a story for the “sake of instructional time”? Instead of stopping her, incorporate her story into the lesson!  Doing what feels natural and right for our children can be challenging when the expectations are increasing and we are made to feel like what is natural and right does not mesh with academics.  Arm yourself with these benefits of storytelling:

  • Students attain meaningful vocabulary
  • Students are exposed to cultural diversity
  • They play with the sound of language as they repeat rhymes and chants
  • Ability to visualize increases
  • Ownership increases – students become emotionally attached to what they are listening to, in turn producing motivation for remembering and retelling
  • Students motivation to read increases
  • As students learn to tell stories, they hone oral language skills and build self confidence
    • Oral language skills developed through storytelling lead to better reading comprehension
      (Generative Theory of Reading):
  • Children must understand the point of reading is to make sense
  • Children must become confident of their ability to make meaning
  • Children must recognize that reading can be fun

  • When these 3 things take place – comprehension takes place

 

Go forth and tell stories!

Want to incorporate technology?  Check out this post by Matt Gomez:
http://mattbgomez.com/33-great-apps-for-storytelling-and-creativity/

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Literacy, Things That Matter

Snippets – Take 3

16f6554dfd0b25f7edcc1603ce35b703

 

Maybe I’ve used this before, maybe I haven’t, but either way – I’m feeling crazy busy.  I’m running around like a chicken with her head cut off. Between the beginning of the school year, more responsibility at work, and planning a wedding – most days I feel lucky to be dressed and groomed to go to work.  Hence, the lack of blog posts in the past month or so.  Scatter brain doesn’t make for the most coherent of writing! Ha!

So, I bring you some snippets of what we have been doing lately in the lands of Kinder and Tutor Town….

 

 

Celebrating International Dot Day

IMG_0872 IMG_0875 IMG_0876

 Using students’ voices and choices during tutoring

In my experience, the most successful tutoring sessions involve working on confidence and using activities the student feels invested in.   The smallest things, like paper color for flash cards, help students feel in control of their learning.  The student I tutor each week loves dinosaurs, so dinosaurs are on the top of his flashcards.  We keep activities varied each week to keep it interesting.

IMG_0442  IMG_0446

Indoor hopscotch and “SWAT” a word on laminated butcher paper that has been folded in half

IMG_9537 IMG_9539

Hidden sight words – white crayon and watercolor paint

  IMG_9543    IMG_9538

Personalized flash cards – We play Memory and Go Fish

Literacy Through Play

I began taking a kindergarten literacy class that discusses how we can incorporate more play into our school day.  The class is relevant and exciting.  We are not required to read outside of the class, but I have found myself reading the books on my own time.  More to come from this class!

literacy-through-play-owocki-1999

 

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

All Work and No Play (pull out your soapbox)

images

An article featured by the Washington Post has been making its way through social media lately.  The article, “A Very Scary Headlines about Kindergartners”, can be found here.

What this article, and the several (listed later) it references, brings attention to is the effect Common Core and academics has had on kindergarten in recent years.  This is my second year teaching kindergarten.  I am teaching skills and strategies that I remember from my first grade lesson plans five years ago.  Expectations are high.  While that can be a good thing – students always surprise you with their capabilities.  The negative side to high expectations is that five and six year olds begin experiencing the “stress” of school from the very beginning, possibly fostering a dislike for school and altering their academic careers.

I love what I do – absolutely, positively.  But, let’s be honest – teaching kindergarten is a HUGE responsibility.  More often than not, my classroom is the first experience children have with the public school system.  My classroom is their first chance to “do school”.  Many come from day care programs, but they are not the same.  Their little brains become overwhelmed with routines and socialization – and then we throw academics on top of that.  I sincerely believe that kindergarten in my classroom can factor in to how a child feels about school.  I take that to heart.  I want my students to LOVE school!  I want them to feel successful and confident and proud.

After some days, I wonder if every child left feeling that way.  Fountas and Pinnell have had to change their reading level chart.  What was once considered on or above level at the end of kindergarten (level B) is now considered below level after the second nine weeks.  To be on grade level at the end of kindergarten, Fountas and Pinnell (and my school system) say that students should be reading at level D.  You and I both know that some kiddos just aren’t ready to read in November, December, or January.  They may jump on the reading train in March and as a teacher, you’re ecstatic.  And as students, they are ecstatic because they can finally read all by themselves!  But some of that joy gets stolen when at the end of the year, all of their hard work still doesn’t seem good enough.  They end the year at level B and you’re worried they will struggle in first grade.  Common core says teach them how to decompose numbers into tens and ones.  Well, Sarah can only count to ten with confidence.  How will she feel after a day of working with numbers larger than ten in a complex way?  High expectations are not all bad, but what gets pushed to the wayside is the developmental appropriateness of standards.

funny_baby_faces

The designers and writers of assessments and standards do not seem to take into account the age of the child – and where he or she is at developmentally – when putting forth requirements.  One of the first classes of my teaching program was on child development.  Obviously, this stuff is important!  For example, five and six year olds are very egocentric still.  Everything is about them, their families, their lives.  The entire world is their world.  Anything outside of their bubble is foreign.  So if Piaget and others taught me this in undergrad, why am I being asked to expect my students to understand the concepts of states, countries, and continents at ages five, six, and seven?  Do I love to teach about these concepts?  Do we love exploring about other places?  Of course!  The difficulty lies in ASSESSING these developmentally inappropriate skills.  I could go on and on about this – but I’d rather focus on play.

Play is losing its place in our kindergarten classrooms.  We all try to play.  We play to learn.  My students have voice and choice in the classroom and learn through a variety of ways.  We go off on tangents to answer questions.  We play hands on games, explore, ask questions, research, build, create, use iPad apps, write, color, stamp, cut, sort, and experiment.  Currently, I’m making a conscious effort to provide more opportunities to play for play. 

We play at recess, yes.  In the past couple weeks, I’ve hung up my “whistle” and loosened the reins a little.  Unfortunately, I have been worried about injuries on the playground and have come to realize I was making recess less fun – for me and the students.  “Make safe choices” is our new philosophy on the playground.  So if a student is running up the slide or throwing sticks – he might get hurt.  If he gets hurt, then we will have a discussion about the safety of his choices.  My reflections on recess and play led me to see that recess was not always a break from the classroom if I had to continue redirecting behaviors on the playground.  Tattling has decreased and students are getting more energy out.

We are also fortunate enough to still have “nonacademic” centers in our classroom.  Students are able to invent and pretend in the home living, block/cars, and art centers.  The kitchen is a kitchen, a barber shop, a store, a house, an animal shelter.  Students are moms, dads, babies, and pets.  Blocks become airplanes, rocket ships, bridges, ships, and roads.  Construction paper transforms into robots, hats, gifts, and decorations for our room.  The noise level during choice time is louder than other times in our classroom.  This is an adjustment and also a fine line.  Our class if filled with friends who take a mile when you give them an inch.  We talk about procedures and what being at a center looks like and sounds like.  We sit in time out when we can’t respect the space of others.  We make messes – and then learn we need to clean them up.

Through play, for the sake of playing, we take care of our emotional selves.  We develop life long skills that will make us happy human beings, successful human beings.  We form friendships and develop talents.  We find out our likes and dislikes, our strengths and some of our weaknesses.

We gain so much – and none of it can be assessed.

importance-of-play-poster

How do you incorporate play into your day?

 

Referenced articles:

http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2014/01/kindergarten_test_results_a_so.html

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/02/01/the-trouble-with-calls-for-universal-high-quality-pre-k/

http://curry.virginia.edu/uploads/resourceLibrary/20_Bassok_Is_Kindergarten_The_New_First_Grade.pdf

4 Comments

Filed under Lower Grades, Uncategorized, Upper Grades