Play based learning in actionWatching my students learn through play is one of my favorite things! During center time I rotate between centers, with a clipboard to take anecdotal records. This way I can note what they already know, what they are practicing on their own, or any struggles they have. In this post I'm sharing the play based learning that I saw in action in my classroom.
At the beginning of the year, center choice is limited as I slowly introduce each one and ensure the routines are down (how to play with the materials and how to clean up the center when we're done). Currently we have the following free choice centers available for the students to choose from: Painting Easel, Blocks, Puzzles, Play Dough, Lego Table, Dramatic Play, Puppets, Reading, Listening, Games, Math, Sensory Table and Pet Center.
When I opened Math Center for the first time, I sat back and took some observational notes as 4 students chose to play with our Learning Resources Three Bear Family Counters. We've been doing a lot of sorting and patterning in our math lessons, plus learning about shapes, so I wanted to see what they would do when set free with these counters.
First, they sorted by color - this was great because it meant each student had their own set of bears so there was no fighting over them!
They also formed their bears into the shape of a circle - at this point they put their bears together so they could indulge in some cooperative pretend play.
While I watched, one sweetie decided to count her bears and successfully counted to 22! During our two center rotations, I observed 5 children successfully sort the bears by color, and 3 of them then sorted successfully by size by their own initiative. Another child has one-to-one correspondence down, but skips 20 when counting (she went from 19 to 21 every time). All of this is invaluable information for my records and report cards, and I didn't have to do any assessing to get it!
We also opened Game Center this week with some board games from Learning Resources.
I was sent All Around The Playground and Picnic Party to try out in my classroom in return for an honest review.The thing that I LOVE about both of these games is that there are different levels of play. Right now we're working on number, shape and color recognition and one to one correspondence so the Level 1 play is right up our alley. As the year progresses and we start building our skill set, these games will be able to advance with us!
The All Around The Playground game was an instant hit with my kiddos. They loved the little people and the colorful gameboard. This one has a two-sided spinner for game play. We chose to use the side with shapes and colors as we are really working on basic 2D shape recognition. There are merry-go-rounds on the board too, so if you land on a special space, you get to take a ride! This was cause for lots of giggles! This game is for 2-4 players and is for ages 3 and up, although my 4 1/2 year olds were sufficiently challenged just by Level 1 play. On the other side of the spinner are numbers 1-10, so it would be great for reinforcing numbers and one-to-one correspondence too! The kids enjoyed this game so much that Game Center was full all week! The game play is simple enough that they could play it by themselves after a few times playing with me.
Picnic Party is also for 2-4 players, and is aimed to the 4+ age group. This one was a little trickier for some of my kiddos, but with adult support they still enjoyed the game. The Level I play requires students to compare numbers - which some of my kiddos could do easily and others found a bit tricky. For the ones that need help, I will add some unifix cubes next time so they can build their number towers and compare them.
This game was also great for number recognition - which is also a skill some of my littles really need to work on. The players each get a stack of cards and then flip over the top card. Whoever has the largest number gets to move that many spaces. The kids enjoyed the ant tokens and the fun picnic themed gameboard. I think in another month or two they will be able to play this game on their own, but for now either myself or my aide play with them to assist.
We also introduced our Pet Center this week! I created a Classroom Pet: Hermit Crabs pack that we are using with great results. It includes a pocket sort for foods that hermit crabs can and can not eat (which led to great nutrition discussions!) as well as vocabulary cards, diagrams, a daily care check list, graphic organizers, observation journal, emergent reader and more!
I love having pets in the classroom, but I want to make sure that they're an actual learning experience for my students and not just taking up space. I also wanted them to have something constructive to do when visiting Pet Center, which cuts down on behavior problems.
Each student has their own observation journal and can add to it whenever they visit the center.
There you have it, with just a few math manipulatives, board games and a pet center we were able to cover so many academic standards! Play based learning is one of the easiest things to do in the classroom because children are hardwired to play and will explore and create with just about anything your give them! And, if you let them direct their play, you may be surprised at how much academic practice they slip into their "play"!