Check Out #InnovatingPlay via @jlabar2me

This is a guest post by a kindergarten teacher who frequently inspires me, Jessica Twomey. She shares what a day of innovating play looks like in her classroom, the tools her students use, along with ideas for getting started.

What does innovating play look like
in the classroom?

There is a happy buzz of movement in our Kindergarten class. Chatter fills the dramatic play area as talk of a story the children would like to perform begins to come to life. It is about animals in a forest, and the main character is a ladybug. They spend several minutes navigating the supporting roles, along with the flow of the storyline. During conversation, they grab an iPad and open up Book Creator to begin to record their ideas with photos and voice buttons. They shout across to the children in the art area, “What do we have to build a forest?”. The artists begin to pull out open-ended materials and negotiate which types of materials would be best to create a forest over by their cubbies. The children in the dramatic play area use the drawing tool to sketch out their ideas in their digital book, and then visit the art center. They collaborate on how to move forward. Later that week, we work together to edit the digital book in small groups. With support, each group is able to make a their own version so that it becomes a “just right book” for guided reading.

In the writing center, three children overhear the excitement about the forest story and ask if they can create tickets for the show? I ask them how they would like to do that and they brainstorm different ways they could make them. They settle on Google Drawings in which they can design a ticket that looks real, and then duplicate it to make many. They beam with pride as they create authentic tickets for the performance. There is a spirit of cooperation, excitement, and ownership.

Two little girls are snuggled in a rocking chair with an iPad. They are using the Draw and Tell app to draw and record a song they are writing about a trip to the movies. They jump back and forth from the acting out the movie with the puppets in the library corner, to the recording of their ideas. They negotiate, perform, and reflect by listening to their recording. They talk about what they like, and problem-solve on how to fix what does not meet expectations. Music and giggles fill the air.

The math center hosts three little boys. One is on logged into Google Classroom on the Chromebook where he is completing his Pixel Art in Google Sheets (template by Alice Keeler). The other little boys use Unifix Cubes to create characters inspired by the one on the sheet. They are engrossed in conversation about the story that will take place with the characters they created. They make plans to place a photo of their Unifix Cube creations into their portfolios, and negotiate what each of them will say about it in their voice note. They consider ways to connect the completed pixel art to photos of their real life creation.

The block center houses variety of building materials carefully constructed, balanced, and manipulated by individuals and groups of children. I notice one little boy who is carefully moving animals within the zoo he built. He stops every few moments to take photos of the animals in slightly different locations. I decide not to interrupt the process, but to back away and see what happens. As a teacher I carefully observe, and make thoughtful decisions about when to scaffold, and when to move back and allow the independent process.

When the kids have left for the day, I log into Seesaw to approve any pending additions the children have made to their portfolios. I notice a stop motion movie that has been uploaded by the boy in the block center. I open it up, and am amazed by the creation that shows the animals in our block center magically racing across the rug. I have only introduced the stop motion app once. I quickly approve it with a note to the family about the independent, self-initiated process he undertook.

Later that evening, I see a comment from the family sharing the excitement at their dinner table when the little boy shared the story with his siblings. They watched the magic of his imagination come to life as they viewed the video together. The learning transfer has happened. Play has been experienced, elevated, reflected upon, and shared in an authentic way.  

When we integrate purposeful play with meaningful use of technology and social scaffolding, we are innovating play.

As progressive 21st century educators, it is our responsibility to maintain sound, research-based practices in our classrooms. At the same time, we must continually re-evaluating cultural shifts and progress in the surrounding world. This means carefully observing not only our children, but the world in which they live. We must ensure that our early childhood spaces accurately and safely reflect the opportunity to explore, discover, and navigate their current surroundings and daily experiences.

Innovating Play Together

Link to Infographic

1. Develop a Plan

As with any lesson, we must first begin with careful thought about how we will integrate meaningful play experiences and elevate them through technology.  A plan does not mean we do it for them, it means we have created a framework in which children can explore and discover, so that we can scaffold learning and play as opportunities arise. In the post I Play with a Purpose and a Plan for more details on an innovating play lesson plan.

2. Discover Examples and Create Opportunities

Innovating play is dedicated to sharing examples of experiences that can be integrated in the classroom on a daily basis.  From a morning meeting framework, to scaffolding block building through use of a HyperDoc, resources are meant to inspire creation for teachers and children. Learn from my blog posts, I Play With Blocks and I Play as Part of a Classroom and Global Community, where I share some HyperDocs and elaborate more on these ideas.

Below is a Link to Google Doc to connect with other educators and their classes about innovating play and discover more examples.

3. Modeling Play for Families

As teachers of young children, we have a responsibility not only to our students, but to their caretakers. It is our job to support them in navigating the world of raising a thoughtful, aware, respectful community member and digital citizen. Making the process of innovating play transparent to families opens up the possibilities for transfer from the classroom to the outside world. In my Families at Play page, I share some tips with caretakers for embracing our innovating play journey at home.

4. Reflection and Sharing

Of all of the elements of innovating play, this is perhaps, the most critical.  The innovating part comes largely in the documentation and reflection of an experience for young children.  In this post, I share ways to scaffold children’s understanding of their responsibility as a digital citizen by looking critically at their ideas and experiences before sharing globally. In my post, I Play with Social Scaffolding, I have a template with 2 questions that help children develop self-reflection and empathy as they consider the perspective of the other

As teachers of young children, we must be the advocates and the protectors of play. The word innovating means: make changes in something established, especially by introducing new methods, ideas, or products. By considering what play looks and sounds like for the child growing up in the 21st century, we can hold dear to the organic experiences of play, while elevating them to match the needs of our current globally connected world.

It is a privilege to be trusted with the task of innovating play.  Please join me by connecting and sharing ideas via Twitter using the hashtag #innovatingplay and visiting Innovating Play website for ideas and inspiration.

Heart & Soul,

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