Kindergarten: Where Play and Learning Can Meet


TERESA: WE KNOW
THAT FIVE-YEAR-OLDS,
IT’S VERY HARD FOR
THEM TO SIT STILL.
SO, PLAY-BASED LEARNING HAS
REALLY ALLOWED THE STUDENTS
TO JUST BE THEMSELVES.ROBERTA: PLAY IS SO IMPORTANT
BECAUSE IT’S WHEN YOU FIGURE OUT
WHAT YOU LIKE
AND WHO YOU ARE
AND WHAT YOU GRAVITATE TO. COLLEEN: THE TEACHERS ARE
NOTICING THAT THEIR STUDENTS ARE MORE ACTIVELY ENGAGED. TEACHERS ARE HAVING
MORE FUN TEACHING, BECAUSE CHILDREN ARE ACTUALLY
HAVING MORE FUN BEING THERE. ONE OF THE COMMON
MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT PLAY-BASED LEARNING IS THAT
THE KIDS WILL HAVE A GREAT TIME, BUT THEY MIGHT NOT
LEARN ENOUGH.PEGGY: I BELIEVE
STRONGLY IN DOING
WHAT’S DEVELOPMENTALLY
APPROPRIATE FOR YOUNG CHILDREN,
AND I THINK THAT FOR A WHILE
WE LOST OUR WAY. EBONI: CHILDREN LEARN
THROUGH PLAY. THERE IS NO DEBATE. BRING PLAY BACK
INTO THE ENVIRONMENTS. LET CHILDREN PLAY. STUDENT #1: I LIKE TO PLAY
WITH BLOCKS. STUDENT #2: I LIKE TO PLAY AT
TABLES BECAUSE THERE’S PUTTY. STUDENT #3: I USE PLAY-DOH
TO DO NUMBERS AND SHAPES.ANNOUNCER: THIS IS PRODUCED
IN PARTNERSHIP WITH WTTW
AND THE REGIONAL
EDUCATIONAL LABORATORY MIDWEST.
PUTTING RESEARCH INTO ACTION.FUNDING HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY:THE INSTITUTE OF
EDUCATION SCIENCES.
ROBERTA: PLAY IS REALLY
GOOD FOR KIDS. IT’S GOOD FOR THEIR
SOCIAL EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT, IT’S GOOD FOR THEIR
PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT, IT’S GOOD FOR THEIR
COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT. CHRISTINA: PLAY-BASED LEARNING
IS A DEBATED TERM. IT CAN BE REALLY FUZZY AND HARD TO UNDERSTAND
EXACTLY WHAT PEOPLE MEAN AND DIFFERENT PEOPLE HAVE
DIFFERENT INTERPRETATIONS OF THE WORD. WHAT PLAY-BASED LEARNING
SHOULD BE IS SOMETHING THAT’S
VERY INTENTIONAL. SO AN EXAMPLE IS CENTERS
IN A PRESCHOOL CLASSROOM. SO THESE ARE DIFFERENT
LEARNING AREAS THAT THE TEACHER
WILL SET UP IN ADVANCE AROUND THE CLASSROOM WITH ACTIVITIES THAT ARE OF
HIGH INTEREST TO CHILDREN. SO IDEALLY THESE ARE AREAS THAT
ARE TIED TO A BROADER THEME AND KIDS CAN GO DEEPER
INTO THE CONTENT IN REALLY HANDS-ON WAYS.EBONI: IN A PLAY-BASED
KINDERGARTEN,
YOU MAY SEE CHILDREN
BEING VERY SELF-DIRECTED,
CHILD CENTERED ABOUT WHAT THEY
WANT TO DO WITH THEIR TIME.
THEY’RE CHOOSING THE
ACTIVITIES THEY WANT TO DO,
THEY’RE FOCUSING ON THEM
AND THE TEACHERS ARE BASICALLY
FOLLOWING THE LEAD
OF THE CHILDREN.
IN A MORE TRADITIONAL KIND OF
ACADEMIC SETTING WITH CHILDREN, THEY ARE MORE OF A
GROUP CENTERED TEACHING WHERE THE TEACHER MIGHT
BE STANDING IN FRONT OR HAVE ALL THE
KIDS AROUND THEM. THE TEACHER IS
GUIDING THE INSTRUCTION. THE TEACHER IS TELLING THEM
WHAT WE’RE GOING TO DO. ROBERTA: CHILDHOOD IS
ABOUT PLAY AND FREEDOM THAT YOU DON’T HAVE LATER ON, BUT NONETHELESS,
IT BUILDS A FOUNDATION FOR THE PERSON YOU WILL BECOME AND IT FUELS ALL THESE OTHER
ASPECTS OF YOUR DEVELOPMENT. WE HAVE TO LET KIDS BE KIDS
AND DO THINGS THAT ARE DEVELOPMENTALLY
APPROPRIATE FOR THEM. WE SAW A SHIFT IN HOW WE
THOUGHT ABOUT CHILDHOOD, STARTING WITH SPUTNIK WHEN THE
RUSSIANS SENT UP A ROCKET BEFORE THE UNITED STATES. WE LOOKED BAD AND
WE SAID, “WHAT IS THIS? “THE RUSSIANS ARE
BEATING US IN SPACE. WE GOT TO TEACH
KIDS MORE STUFF.” SO AT THAT POINT WE INCREASED
THE DEMANDS THAT WE WERE MAKING
ON KIDS IN SCHOOL. THE IDEA IS THAT
WE WANT TO GIVE EVERY CHILD AN
EXCELLENT EDUCATION. THAT’S ONE PIECE OF IT,
BUT THERE’S ANOTHER SIDE TOO, AND THAT IS EVERY TIME
THERE’S AN ECONOMIC DOWNTURN, PARENTS GET WORRIED. THEY’RE RIGHT TO BE WORRIED BECAUSE AS PARENTS WE ALL
WANT OUR CHILDREN TO EXCEED US.CHRISTINA: SINCE THE 1980’S
WE’VE HAD A CONSENSUS
AMONG THE EXPERTS AROUND
PARTICULARLY IN PRESCHOOL
WHAT LEARNING SHOULD LOOK LIKE.THAT IT SHOULD BE
INTENTIONAL AND PLAY-BASED.
THE DISAGREEMENT COMES
IN SOMETIMES AROUND WHAT KINDS OF MODELS
GET US THERE. WHAT THE MISCONCEPTION IS
AROUND PLAY-BASED LEARNING IS THAT IT’S NOT
ACADEMIC… THAT’S REALLY AT
THE HEART OF IT, AND WHAT ISN’T ACADEMIC
IS FREEFORM PLAY BUT GUIDED PLAY,
WHERE THE TEACHER HAS A PLAN FOR, YES, THE KIDS
WILL ACTING OUT SOMETHING THAT THEY
HAVE DREAMED UP, BUT I WILL COME IN AND
INTERJECT SOME LETTER PRACTICE AS THEY DO THAT, FOR EXAMPLE. I THINK PARENTS
ARE REALLY IMPORTANT. THE FALSE DICHOTOMY
THAT’S OUT THERE AROUND PLAY-BASED
VERSUS ACADEMIC, HAS REALLY CONFUSED
PEOPLE. FOR PARENTS, WHEN THEY GO IN, A PROGRAM MIGHT TELL YOU
THAT THEY ARE PLAY-BASED, BUT IT’S HARD FOR YOU
TO FIGURE OUT, DOES THAT MEAN THERE
IS A SOLID CURRICULUM THAT YOU’RE FOLLOWING
BEHIND THAT? DO I HAVE REASSURANCE
THAT MY KID REALLY IS GOING TO GET PRACTICE
WITH THE KIND OF MATH SKILLS THAT THEY REALLY SHOULD HAVE
AS A SOLID FOUNDATION? IN ONE OF OUR
BOSTON PRE-K CLASSROOMS, THE KIDS ACTUALLY OPENED A
RESTAURANT FOR PARENTS AND HAD THEM COME IN
AND THE KIDS SERVED A MEAL. AND THEY HAD WRITTEN MENUS. THEY HAD FIGURED OUT
HOW MUCH THINGS COST, AND THEY WERE ABLE TO
USE THEIR MATH SKILLS WHEN THEIR PARENTS ORDERED
AND TAKE THE ORDER. SO THE PARENTS WERE SEEING THAT THEIR KIDS REALLY COULD DEVELOP
THESE SAME SKILLS, BECOME SKILLED READERS
AND MATHEMATICIANS, WHILE HAVING FUN. IT’S ANOTHER WAY TO
GET TO THE SAME GOAL, AS HAVING THEM SIT IN DESKS, BUT THEY ARE LIKELY
TO BE MORE ENGAGED AND THE LEARNING IS MORE
LIKELY TO STICK. ROBERTA: WE WANT
STICKY LEARNING. WE WANT LEARNING THAT CAN BE
TAKEN OUT OF THE CLASSROOM AND USED IN OTHER VENUES AND WHEN THE LEARNING
IS NOT MEANINGFUL TO CHILDREN AND DOESN’T RELATE TO
THEIR OWN LIVES, IT’S NOT GOING TO BE STICKY. WE KNOW HOW CHILDREN LEARN
BEST FROM 25 YEARS OF STUDIES IN THE LEARNING SCIENCES. CHILDREN LEARN
BEST WHEN THEY ARE ACTIVE, MIND’S ON, REALLY WORKING
THROUGH THINGS, NOT WHEN THEY’RE JUST PASSIVE
AND LISTENING TO ADULTS. CHRISTINA: INSTEAD
OF HAVING A TEACHER AT THE FRONT OF THE ROOM TEACHING KIDS THAT
ONE PLUS TWO EQUALS THREE WITH SAY, FLASHCARDS,
AND REPEAT AFTER ME, INSTEAD YOU CAN HAVE THEM
IN SMALL GROUPS DOING A HANDS-ON ACTIVITY, A GAME WHERE THEY’RE EXPLORING
THOSE SAME CONCEPTS AND ABLE TO REALLY WORK
THROUGH IT ON THEIR OWN AND MOVING MATERIALS,
HANDS-ON LEARNING. SO IT IS STILL ACADEMIC, BUT THERE’S A GOAL AND
YOU’RE MOVING THEM THROUGH THE SAME SET OF STANDARDS THAT
YOU WOULD BE OTHERWISE WITH A MORE ROTE APPROACH. IN BOSTON, WHAT THAT
DISTRICT HAS DONE IS CREATED AN INTENTIONAL PLAY-BASED BUT
ACADEMIC PRE-K EXPERIENCE. SO THEY’VE TAKEN CURRICULA THAT
WERE DESIGNED FOR FOUR-YEAR-OLDS THAT FOCUSED ON LANGUAGE,
LITERACY AND MATH IN PARTICULAR AND COMBINED THEM AND SUPPORTED
THEIR TEACHERS WITH COACHING AND PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT. AND WE HAVE DATA THAT
SHOW THAT THE IMPACTS OF THAT ARE QUITE MEANINGFUL, AND ON HARDER TO REACH
SCALES LIKE LANGUAGE. THIS IS REALLY PREPARING
FOR KIDS IN A WAY THEY WERE NOT PREPARED
BEFORE IN THAT CONTEXT. WHEN WE THINK ABOUT
EARLY CHILDHOOD AND EARLY ELEMENTARY
CLASSROOMS, WHAT WE IDEALLY
SHOULD SEE IS A BALANCE, THERE SHOULD BE SOME
TEACHER DIRECTED INSTRUCTION. FOR EXAMPLE, WE KNOW FROM
A LOT OF RESEARCH THAT KIDS NEED A SOLID
FOUNDATION IN PHONICS, AND A TEACHER
TELLING YOU THAT THE LETTERS S-H MAKE THE SH SOUND IS A VERY EFFICIENT WAY
TO DELIVER THAT CONTENT. KIDS DON’T HAVE TO DISCOVER
EVERY LETTER SOUND ON THEIR OWN, FOR EXAMPLE,
IT’S EFFICIENT FOR SOME TEACHER DIRECTED
INSTRUCTION TO OCCUR.KRISTIN: I HAVE BEEN TEACHING
IN U-46 FOR 12 YEARS.
MY FIRST YEAR IN KINDERGARTEN,WE DIDN’T HAVE THE PLAY-BASE AND
IT WAS STILL AN AM AND A PM,
WE DIDN’T HAVE FULL DAY.MY FIRST YEAR
WAS DEFINITELY A STRUGGLE.
FILLING IN ALL OF THE CURRICULUM
THAT I NEEDED TO WAS VERY DIFFICULT. I REMEMBER
SITTING DOWN FOR MATH, AND WE HAD JUST ADAPTED
USING EUREKA MATH. IT WAS TOO HARD
TO MANAGE. THE KIDS COULDN’T
FIND THE PAGE NUMBER, THEY COULDN’T DO
THE WORK. KRISTIN: IS THAT SQUARE? NO, WHAT IS THAT SHAPE? WHEN WE MOVED
TO THE FULL DAY AND WE WENT THROUGH EIGHT
DAYS OF TRAINING PRIOR TO THAT, I FELT SO RELIEVED, BECAUSE I KNEW THAT
WHAT I WAS DOING BEFORE WASN’T BENEFICIAL
FOR MY STUDENTS. PLAY IS NATURAL FOR THEM, AND SO WHEN WE INTRODUCED
THAT INTO THE CLASSROOM, I SAW A WORLD OF DIFFERENCE
AND I WAS ABLE TO SEND ALL OF MY KINDERGARTEN
STUDENTS TO FIRST GRADE AT THE READING LEVEL THAT
OUR DISTRICT WANTED THEM TO, SO I WAS VERY PROUD
AND FELT A LOT OF SUCCESS FROM OUR PROGRAM
BECAUSE OF THAT.PEGGY: WHEN WE WENT TO
FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN,
WE IMPLEMENTED THE
PLAY-BASED MODEL.
THEY WERE INTEGRATED AND
INSEPARABLE BASICALLY. KRISTIN: WHAT ARE THOSE LINES
THAT COME OUT? DO YOU KNOW WHAT
THOSE ARE CALLED? WHISKERS. YEAH, THERE YOU GO. IN TERMS OF THE
KIDS ASSESSMENT, IT’S AN ONGOING
AUTHENTIC ASSESSMENT. SO, TEACHERS ARE
WATCHING STUDENTS, OBSERVING HOW THEY’RE
INTERACTING WITH THEIR PEERS, WITH THE MATERIALS, WITH THE CLASSROOMS
AND THEY’RE GATHERING EVIDENCE OF WHAT CHILDREN
KNOW AND CAN DO. KRISTIN: HOW MANY OF YOU AGREE? SHOW ME YOUR THUMBS UP
IF YOU AGREE THAT THEY ARE GOING TO PUT SEEDS IN
THE GROUND DURING THE SUMMER? WE THOUGHT THIS WAS
THE PERFECT TIME TO BRING ALL OF THESE TOGETHER: A FULL DAY PROGRAM,
A PLAY-BASED MODEL AND OUR ONGOING AUTHENTIC KIDS
ASSESSMENT AS A REPORT CARD. PLAY IS HOW CHILDREN
LEARN AND FOR US TO THINK THAT THAT MAGICALLY STOPPED
AT KINDERGARTEN, THAT’S NOT WHAT WE KNOW ABOUT
HOW YOUNG CHILDREN LEARN. SO THEY’RE STILL IN THAT
EARLY CHILDHOOD PHASE UP UNTIL REALLY THIRD GRADE. WE ARE THE 2ND LARGEST
SCHOOL DISTRICT IN THE STATE OF ILLINOIS. WE MOVED FROM AROUND 80
KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOMS TO ABOUT 125. WHAT WE FOUND IS THAT CHILDREN
THAT ARE ALLOWED TO EXPLORE AND TO JUST BE IN A
PLAY-BASED ENVIRONMENT ACTUALLY ARE HAPPIER,
THEY’RE HEALTHIER, THEY OUTPERFORM PEERS. PARTICULARLY FOR
LOW INCOME CHILDREN, A PLAY-BASED ENVIRONMENT IS
EVEN MORE CRITICAL FOR THEM AND HAS ACTUALLY BEEN SHOWN
TO SHRINK THAT GAP THAT WE’VE SEEN AS CHILDREN
GO ON IN GRADE LEVELS.COLLEEN: MY ROLE IN SCHOOL
DISTRICT U-46
IS A FULL DAY KINDERGARTEN
TEACHER LEADER
AND I WORK SPECIFICALLY WITH
NINE SCHOOLS AND 25 TEACHERS. IT’S A BIG UNDERTAKING, UNDERSTANDING WHAT PLAY-BASED
LEARNING ACTUALLY IS AND HOW TO IMPLEMENT
THAT APPROPRIATELY. SO BY HAVING US THERE ONSITE,
WE CAN PROVIDE THE TEACHERS THE TOOLS THEY NEED
TO BE SUCCESSFUL. OUR DISTRICT DECIDED TO
IMPLEMENT PLAY-BASED LEARNING FOR ALL OF OUR STUDENTS
THREE YEARS AGO. I THINK WE JUST
KNEW IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE. THAT WE WERE SEEING THAT
STUDENTS WERE STRUGGLING WITH THE CONCEPT FORCE OF
ACADEMICS BEING PUSHED DOWN AND SITTING AT TABLES AND HAVING
TO DO WORKSHEETS. SO I THINK WE JUST FELT THAT
THERE WAS A NEED FOR A CHANGE. KIDS: GREEN G-R-E-E-N,
G-R-E-E-N. I KNOW HOW TO SPELL GREEN,
G-R-E-E-N.COLLEEN: WE’VE SEEN GREAT
RESULTS WITH OUR STUDENTS.
THE CHILDREN ARE
JUST ACTIVELY ENGAGED.
THEY LOVE COMING TO SCHOOLAND THE TEACHERS ARE
HAPPY TO BE HERE AS WELL,
BECAUSE THEY KNOW
THAT THEY’RE IMPLEMENTING THINGS
THAT ARE GOODAND ARE DEVELOPMENTALLY
APPROPRIATE FOR OUR CHILDREN.
KRISTIN: FOR ME,
PLAY-BASED LEARNING IS MORE OF DEFINING
WHAT SKILLS YOU NEED AND GIVING THE STUDENTS THE
TOOLS TO MASTER THOSE SKILLS. I LIKE HOW YOU’RE USING WHAT YOU’VE ALREADY
SEEN TO HELP. THAT’S GOOD PROBLEM SOLVING. SO A LOT OF MY CLASS
IS NOT A LOT OF ME UP THERE PUTTING ON A SHOW. A LOT OF IT IS THE KIDS
DOING THEIR LEARNING. CHILD: THAT’S NOT HOW YOU DO IT,
YOU DO IT LIKE THIS.KRISTIN: THEY HAVE A LOT OF
MANIPULATIONS WITH BLOCKS
AND BEARS AND SHAPESAND PRIOR TO THAT, I FELT LIKE
I WAS ALWAYS THE ONE DOING THE MODELING
AND DOING THE MANIPULATION, INSTEAD OF GIVING THAT
TO MY STUDENTS. CHILD: WHOO. THAT’S TOO HEAVY. NO, THAT ONE’S TOO BIG.KRISTIN: ANOTHER BENEFIT OF
HAVING THE PLAY-BASED LEARNING
IS THAT THE KIDS ARE INTERACTING
WITH EACH OTHER A LOT MORE
AND THEY’RE GIVEN OPPORTUNITIES
TO HAVE TO PROBLEM SOLVE. AND WHEN THEY’RE PROBLEM
SOLVING, WE KNOW ACADEMICALLY THEIR BRAINS ARE WORKING, BUT
THEY ALSO HAVE TO PROBLEM SOLVE WITH THEIR CLASSMATES AND
I THINK THAT’S A HUGE ASPECT, IS THAT SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL PART. IT’S AUTHENTIC AND I THINK
THAT WHEN WE STRAY AWAY FROM PLAY-BASED IS WE’RE
LOSING THAT AUTHENTIC PIECE. PEGGY: IT’S PUT SOME OF THE JOY
BACK IN KINDERGARTEN AND WHEN TEACHERS ARE JOYFUL,
CHILDREN ARE JOYFUL. KRISTIN: AWESOME, I CAN’T WAIT
TO SEE YOUR BIRTHDAY HATS AND YOUR HOUSE AND
YOUR LITTLE MOUSE. IF WE’VE GOT CHILDREN THAT COME
TO SCHOOL THAT SEE THEMSELVES AS SUCCESSFUL,
THEY’RE EXCITED TO BE LEARNING, WE CAN GO FAR BEYOND
WHERE WE COULD WHEN WE WERE SITTING AND TRYING
TO DRILL AND KILL THEM. IT’S BEEN EXCITING FOR ME TO SEE
THE TRANSFORMATION. MY GOAL IS ALWAYS TO SPREAD
THIS NEWS FAR AND WIDE AND SO IF THERE ARE
OTHER DISTRICTS THAT ARE CONSIDERING IT, WE WOULD BE MORE THAN HAPPY TO
SHARE INFORMATION WITH THEM.JILLIAN: IN VALLEY VIEW
WE BELIEVE THAT
PLAY-BASED
TEACHING AND LEARNING
IS ALLOWING STUDENTS
THE OPPORTUNITY
TO SHOW US WHAT THEY KNOW
IN AUTHENTIC LEARNING,
WHICH WE CALL PLAY. SO THE TEACHERS GIVE
SOME CORE INSTRUCTION THAT USUALLY INVOLVES MOVEMENT AND REALLY GREAT DEVELOPMENTALLY
APPROPRIATE PRACTICE, BUT THEN WHEN THE STUDENTS
ARE GOING TO SHOW US WHAT THEY KNOW
AND WHAT THEY CAN DO, WE FOLLOW THEM INTO THEIR
LEARNING SPACES. KIDS: SOMBRERO, SOMBRERO.
[HAT, HAT]JILLIAN: WE LOOK FOR THEIR
SOCIAL INTERACTION
STUDENT TO STUDENT,
STUDENT TO TEACHER,
AND WE HAVE THE TEACHER
WORKING AS A FACILITATOR
WHERE SHE CAN KIND OF GUIDE
THE STUDENT’S LEARNING AND ASK REALLY PURPOSEFUL
AND INTENTIONAL QUESTIONS TO GET THE STUDENTS TO EXPLAIN EXACTLY WHAT THEIR THOUGHT
PROCESS IS AROUND THE SKILLS THEY LEARNED DURING THE WHOLE
GROUP CORE INSTRUCTION. TERESA: WHERE DOES
THIS NUMBER GO? CAN YOU TELL ME WHERE 5 GOES? GOOD JOB.JILLIAN: WE HAVE HAD TEACHERSTHAT HAVE BEEN TEACHING
FOR MANY YEARS THAT HAVE
APPROACHED US TO SAY, “I REMEMBER WHEN PLAY
WAS PART OF KINDERGARTEN AND PART OF EARLY CHILDHOOD, AND WE REMEMBER WHAT IT FELT
LIKE WHEN IT WAS SLIPPING AWAY, AND WE HAD TO
FOCUS SO MUCH ON ACADEMICS.” AND THEY SAY “WE’RE SO THANKFUL
THAT IT’S COMING BACK.” TERESA: I WAS COMPLETELY EXCITED
WHEN I HEARD THE DISTRICT WAS MOVING TO PLAY-BASED
LEARNING IN KINDERGARTEN. FOUR, FIVE, SIX, SEVEN,
EIGHT, NINE, TEN. VERY GOOD. LET’S WORK ON
A DIFFERENT NUMBER. PLAY-BASED LEARNING
HAS REALLY ALLOWED THE STUDENTS TO JUST BE THEMSELVES,
AND TO LEARN THROUGH PLAY, AND LEARN IN A WAY THAT IS DEVELOPMENTALLY
APPROPRIATE FOR THEM. I AM A KINDERGARTEN
BILINGUAL TEACHER. [SPEAKING SPANISH TO STUDENTS] THE CHILDREN WORKING
IN BOTH LANGUAGES HELPS THEM TRANSITION INTO PLAY-BASED LEARNING
RELATIVELY EASY. THEY CAN DO ANYTHING THAT
THEY WANT IN THE CLASSROOM IN EITHER LANGUAGE
THAT THEY PREFER TO USE. EVERYTHING IS HANDS-ON
FOR THE STUDENTS. [SPEAKING SPANISH TO STUDENTS] SOMETIMES THEY CHOOSE
TO WORK IN ENGLISH, OR THEY CHOOSE TO WORK IN
SPANISH WITH THEIR PEERS, AND YOU KNOW, THAT’S OKAY. WE LET THEM BASICALLY
DO WHATEVER THEY FEEL MOST COMFORTABLE
WITH IN THE CLASSROOM. RIGHT NOW WE WANT
OUR CLASSROOMS TO BE NOISY, YOU SHOULD WALK INTO MY ROOM
AND HEAR A LOT OF NOISE, A LOT OF GOOD CONVERSATIONS
BETWEEN STUDENTS. YOU SHOULD SEE A LOT OF
MOVEMENT IN MY CLASSROOM. [SPEAKING SPANISH TO STUDENTS] WHATEVER THEY’VE CHOSEN
TO WORK ON AT THAT MOMENT OR FOR THAT DAY, IT’S MY JOB THEN TO HELP THEM
UNDERSTAND THE INFORMATION THAT I WANT THEM TO
LEARN THERE. [SPEAKING SPANISH TO STUDENTS]JILLIAN: WE COLLABORATED
WITH ERIKSON INSTITUTE
AND THEY CAME AND GAVE OUR
KINDERGARTEN TEACHERS
ONE FULL DAY OF TRAINING THAT
REALLY ADDRESSED THE WHY
BEHIND PLAY-BASED TEACHING
AND LEARNING
AND IT HELPED OUR TEACHERS TO
RECONNECT WITH THEIR OWN WHY.
SO WHY DID I BECOME
AN EDUCATOR?
AND WHAT DO I NOW ABOUT
WHAT’S BEST FOR KIDS?
AND THAT WAS, I THINK,
A PRETTY CRITICAL STEP IN US REALLY SOLIDIFYING
OUR WHY, SO THAT WHEN WE CAME
TO ANY TYPE OF BARRIER OR ANY KIND OF CHALLENGE, WE COULD ALWAYS
FALL BACK ON, ‘WELL, WE KNOW THIS IS WHAT’S
BEST FOR OUR LEARNERS.’ ADRIAN: I LIKE TO PLAY SHOPPING
CART, ALSO NUMBERS, ABCS, ALSO SHAPES — TRIANGLE,
CIRCLE, A SQUARE, AND DIAMONDS. TERESA: THE PARENTS HAVE
RESPONDED VERY WELL WITH PLAY-BASED LEARNING. I SEND OUT PICTURES
ALMOST DAILY OF THE THINGS THAT THEY’RE
DOING IN THE CLASSROOM, AND I’VE EXPLAINED TO THEM
HOW WE QUOTE/UNQUOTE PLAY IN THE CLASSROOM. SO THEY HAVE
ACTUALLY SEEN VIDEO OR PHOTOS OF THEIR STUDENTS IN CLASS,
HOW THEY ARE WORKING, AND THE PARENTS HAVE
RESPONDED WELL. THEY ALWAYS RESPOND POSITIVELY
AND HOW HAPPY THEY ARE. I’VE SEEN LOTS OF
POSITIVE CHANGES IN THE KINDERGARTEN CLASSROOM. I CAN SEE THEM EXPLORING WITH
NUMBERS, MOVING OBJECTS AROUND. I CAN SEE WHERE THEY STRUGGLE AS
I WALK AROUND THE CLASSROOM AND KIND OF PUSH IN AND
HELP GUIDE THEIR LEARNING AS THEY’RE STILL PLAYING. BUT THEY’RE PLAYING WITH
DIFFERENT THINGS WITH NUMBERS, EVEN WITH PLAY DOH,
BUILDING NUMBERS, MAKING NUMBERS ONE THROUGH
10 WITH THEIR PLAY DOH. JILLIAN: THE STUDENTS ARE LOVING
THE OPPORTUNITY TO PLAY. THEY’RE LOVING THE OPPORTUNITY
TO SHOW THEIR TEACHER WHAT THEY KNOW IN THEIR OWN
CREATIVE WAYS OF THINKING. A LOT OF TIMES THE TEACHERS
WILL PROVIDE A TARGET OR THEY’LL ASK THE STUDENTS, “SHOW ME WHAT YOU KNOW
ABOUT MAKING 10 WHEN YOU GO OFF INTO YOUR
LEARNING SPACES.” AND THEY TAKE THAT
LEARNING SO MUCH FURTHER THAN WE WOULD HAVE
EVEN BEEN ABLE TO SEE IF THEY WERE JUST DEMONSTRATING WHAT
THEY KNEW ON PAPER AND PENCIL. CHRISTINA: FROM OUR RESEARCH, AS WELL AS LOTS OF
RANDOMIZED TRIALS, WE KNOW THAT WHEN WE FOLLOW
CURRICULA THAT ARE PLAY-BASED, BUT INTENTIONAL,
WE CAN HIT ALL KINDS OF THINGS. ‘CAUSE WHEN KIDS ARE PLAYING, PARTICULARLY FOR
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL SKILLS, THAT’S REALLY A LOT OF TIMES
WHERE EMPATHY IS DEVELOPING, PERSPECTIVE TAKING,
PEER NEGOTIATION, IT’S A REALLY GREAT SPACE. OUR PEDIATRICIANS HAVE RECENTLY
SHIFTED TO WHERE SOME OF THEM ARE PRESCRIBING PLAY,
AND I THINK SOME OF THAT HAS BEEN BECAUSE SOME
CHILDREN ARE OVER SCHEDULED. KIDS DO NEED THAT TIME
AS WELL TO DISCOVER, TO EXPLORE, TO REALLY ACT OUT
THEIR OWN IDEAS. SOME PART OF THE DAY
REALLY SHOULD INCLUDE THAT, WHETHER IT’S AT HOME, AT SCHOOL
AND IDEALLY SOME OF BOTH. IT’S MORE ABOUT, I THINK,
A BALANCE. ROBERTA: WE KNOW THAT
WHEN CURIOSITY IS PRESENT, CHILDREN LEARN MORE
BECAUSE THEY WANT TO GO DEEPER INTO WHATEVER THE TOPIC IS
AND WHEN YOU ASK QUESTIONS, THAT’S WHEN YOU’RE FOLLOWING
UP ON YOUR CURIOSITY AND YOU’RE SAYING,
“I WANT TO KNOW THIS, I WANT TO LEARN MORE.”COLLEEN:
AS A TEACHER,
WHEN YOU SEE YOUR CHILDREN
ENJOYING BEING AT SCHOOL,
YOU ENJOY BEING AT SCHOOL.THAT JUST SHOWS THROUGH
IN EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO.
YOU’RE EXCITED TO BE THERE.THE KIDS ARE
EXCITED TO BE THERE.
AND THEY CAN’T WAIT TO FIND OUT
WHAT THEY’RE GONNA DO THAT DAY.
WE HAVE SEEN THAT CHILDREN’S
LITERACY SCORES HAVE INCREASED
AND THEIR MATH SKILLS
HAVE INCREASED AS WELL
BY HAVING THOSE
HANDS-ON OPPORTUNITIES.
JILLIAN: I THINK ONE OF OUR
BIGGEST GOALS WITH IMPLEMENTING PLAY-BASED TEACHING AND
LEARNING IS THAT WE ARE TRULY PREPARING THE WHOLE CHILD
TO MOVE INTO ELEMENTARY SCHOOL. WE FEEL LIKE IF WE
REALLY FOCUS ON THE WHOLE CHILD, THEN WE FOCUS ON THE ACADEMICS
WITH A BALANCED PORTION OF FOCUSING ON THEIR
SOCIAL/EMOTIONAL WELLBEING, THAT WE’RE GOING TO BE SENDING
MORE WELL-ROUNDED STUDENTS ON TO FIRST GRADE, SECOND GRADE,
THIRD GRADE, SO THAT THEY ARE READY TO
COMMUNICATE WITH THEIR PEERS, AND COLLABORATE
WITH THEIR PEERS, AND HAVE REALLY EFFECTIVE AND
HIGH FUNCTIONING RELATIONSHIPS WITH THEIR TEACHERS AND OTHER
STUDENTS IN THE CLASS. TERESA: WE HAVE MOVED
AWAY FROM THE DAYS WHERE A TEACHER JUST STANDS IN
THE FRONT OF A CLASSROOM… ALRIGHT MY FRIENDS, WHICH LETTERS
ARE WE LOOKING FOR? …AND IS JUST
SHARING INFORMATION, AND HOPING THAT THE
CHILDREN ARE UNDERSTANDING IT. WE HAVE LONG CHANGED
FROM THOSE DAYS.PEGGY: I’D LIKE TO
SEE MORE OF THOSE
DEVELOPMENTALLY APPROPRIATE
PLAY-BASED TYPE MODELS
INCORPORATED INTO A
FIRST GRADE CLASSROOM, AND THEN PUSH UP
INTO SECOND GRADE. IF WE KNOW THAT THIS IS
WHAT CHILDREN NEED TO THRIVE, THEN I WOULD HOPE THAT
WE WOULD MOVE FORWARD IN TRYING TO PROVIDE
THAT FOR THEM. THERE ABSOLUTELY
WAS AN UPFRONT COST, AS WELL AS FINDING TEACHERS. BUT ALL OF THE RESEARCH SHOWS
THAT THE RETURN ON INVESTMENT FOR PROVIDING A HIGH-QUALITY
EARLY CHILDHOOD EXPERIENCE PAYS FOR ITSELF. JILLIAN: ONE PIECE OF ADVICE
THAT I WOULD GIVE TO DISTRICTS THAT WERE LOOKING TO IMPLEMENT
PLAY WOULD BE TO BE PATIENT WITH THE PROCESS,
THAT IT IS A CHANGE. IT’S KIND OF A BIG CHANGE WHEN
WE THINK ABOUT WHAT THE TEACHERS HAVE TO DO AS FAR AS MAKING
CHANGES IN THEIR CLASSROOMS, MAKING CHANGES
IN THEIR ROLE AND SHIFTING TO BECOME
A FACILITATOR.KRISTIN: LAST YEAR I SENT ALL
OF MY KINDERGARTEN STUDENTS
TO FIRST GRADE AT
THE READING LEVEL
THAT OUR DISTRICT EXPECTS.SO I’M HOPING THAT
IN A FEW YEARS
WHEN THEY ARE
IN THIRD GRADE
THAT THEY’RE GOING TO BE EVEN
HIGHER THAN
WHAT THEY NEED TO BE.THEY’RE GOING TO BE READING
AT THE THIRD GRADE LEVEL,
WHICH IS WHAT OUR GOAL
HAS ALWAYS BEEN.
SO I’M HOPING THAT
IN A FEW YEARS WE’LL LOOK BACK AND
WE’LL SEE THAT THE STUDENTS THAT HAVE BENEFITED FROM OUR ALL
DAY AND PLAY-BASED KINDERGARTEN, WILL BE THE ONES THAT ARE
SHINING IN OUR DISTRICT. EBONI: WHAT DO I SEE AS THE
FUTURE OF PLAY-BASED LEARNING IS ONE WHERE THE
PENDULUM IS GOING BACK TO SUPPORTING PLAY-BASED
LEARNING AND EARLY CHILDHOOD PROGRAMS. YOU CAN SEE THAT IN
MANY PRIVATE SCHOOLS. THEY HAVE A
PLAY-BASED PHILOSOPHY AND THOSE WHO
HAVE THE MEANS OR HAVE THE UNDERSTANDING
WILL GO TOWARDS THOSE SCHOOLS AND THOSE ARE GROWING
AND EXPANDING. CHRISTINA: THE REALITY IS
THAT WE DON’T HAVE UNIVERSAL PRESCHOOL IN MOST
PLACES IN THIS COUNTRY. WE HAVE A LOT OF KIDS
WHO COME IN WITHOUT THE FUNDAMENTAL SKILLS
THEY NEED TO FINISH KINDERGARTEN MEETING THE STANDARDS
THAT HAVE BEEN SET. IT’S TOUGH TO BE
A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER. YOU HAVE KIDS COMING IN FROM
SUCH WIDE SKILL RANGES AND YOUR JOB IS TO MAKE SURE
EVERYBODY HITS A CERTAIN MARK BY THE END OF THE YEAR
AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.COLLEEN: WHEN I STARTED
20-YEARS AGO,
I HAD ALL OF MY TABLES IN
THE MIDDLE OF MY CLASSROOM.
I HAD MY STUDENTS WERE ALL
PRETTY MUCH DOING THE SAME THING
AT THE SAME TIME,
AND WE FELT CRUNCHED FOR TIME.
IF I COULD GO BACK TO MY FIRST
YEAR STUDENTS AND APOLOGIZE AND SAY I’M SORRY, I WOULD,
BECAUSE I WOULD HAVE DONE IT TOTALLY DIFFERENT IF I HAD
KNOWN BACK THEN. BUT I WAS JUST DOING WHAT I
SAW EVERYBODY ELSE DOING. [KIDS SPEAKING SPANISH]TERESA: IF WE’RE NOT GIVING
THEM THE OPPORTUNITIES
TO WORK TOGETHER SOCIALLY,WE’RE REALLY NOT HELPING THEM BE
THE STUDENTS THAT WE WANT THEM TO BE MOVING FORWARD AS THEY
GO THROUGH THE HIGHER GRADES.ROBERTA: I WANT THE KIDS
WHO WILL PERSEVERE,
WHO WILL HAVE THAT CONFIDENCE,WHO WILL HAVE THAT
GRIT TO KEEP GOING.
AND A PLAY-BASED CURRICULUM
REALLY ENCOURAGES THAT.
WHAT WE SHOULD
HAVE CHILDREN DO,
IS PLAY IN THEIR FREE TIME,BECAUSE PLAY IS THE
WORK OF CHILDHOOD.
IF WE DON’T ALLOW
OUR CHILDREN TO PLAY
AND TO BE CREATIVEAND TO QUESTION THE RULES
TO MAKE UP THEIR OWN,
WE ARE UNDERMINING
OUR OWN DEMOCRACY.
WE NEED OUR CHILDREN
TO LEARN TO BE CREATIVE
AND TO QUESTION THE STATUS QUOAND TO WANT TO
MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE.
[MUSIC] [MUSIC]ANNOUNCER: KINDERGARTEN, WHERE
PLAY AND LEARNING CAN MEET,
IS PRODUCED IN PARTNERSHIP
WITH WTTW
AND THE REGIONAL
EDUCATIONAL LABORATORY MIDWEST.
PUTTING RESEARCH INTO ACTION.FUNDING HAS BEEN PROVIDED BY:THE INSTITUTE OF
EDUCATION SCIENCES.

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