Here we are now, entertain us…
“Research shows that play-based learning helps to develop the neurological pathways that affect learning, behaviour, and health. This is the “brain connection” – play literally stimulates different parts of the brain and spurs physical, emotional, social, and cognitive growth in children.” ~Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario~
In the province of Ontario we are in the process of implementing full day/full time kindergarten program (FDK) and working together to figure out the implications of this for schools. As a result, I’ve been reading, with interest, the various positions that have been put forth on ‘how’ early learners should be taught.
My colleague Carmel Crevola (@CarmelCrevola) is a passionate and compelling advocate for precise and personalized literacy instruction with a sharp focus on developing student’s oral language capacities. Talented and innovative teachers like @Grade1, @team_jelleybean and @TechieAng are bringing these ideas to life in their classrooms, helping us understand how the role that ‘inquiry’ plays for young learners and helping expand the understandings of many in our PLN.
We hear of examples of how early education is structured from around the globe and each anecdote is added to the discussion, like logs to a campfire, each example adding both heat and light to the conversation. Educators and union staff have added their insights, as have parents and media outlets.
All this attention is exciting and important. After tinkering with a range of less impactful reforms like curriculum revision and class size, we are investing in a program that will deliver meaningful change in our school system; especially for those children who most desperately require our time and attention.
For me, this is the important detail. My superintendent reminds us that we need teach the students we’ve got; not the ones we wish we had. Ontario is a geographically large,with a culturally diverse population that is growing more diverse with public schools that serve students across the socio-economic spectrum. These are the kid’s we’ve got.
With this in mind here are a few things I’d like to put out there:
- There is a difference between ‘play’ and ‘playful’. I hope that our FDK students inquire and learn about interesting things that are designed by teachers to engage them and prompt them to think, talk and write (yes, write). A playful environment has a structure and an intentionality that is designed to meet student need and sustain language development.
- Aiming high is better than aiming low. Richard Elmore said it best, “It turns out kids can do pretty much anything you ask them to do with the right kind of instructional practice.” Lets make sure that our FDK programs are planned to develop critical thinking and age appropriate academic press, especially for those students who don’t come to school with a wealth of social capital. We have a real chance to tackle the challenges posed by the ‘Matthew Effect’, let’s please aim high.
- What about 1 to 12? As the parent of two grade 7 students and one grade 9 student, I’d be quite happy if we could spend some more time talking about what ‘play-based’ learning would look like for adolescent learners. If ever something was needed…
These are my thoughts, designed to open a dialogue and push our thinking in this important area. I hope to hear from you…