Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Role of PLAY in Kindergarten Today!

The Role of PLAY in Kindergarten Today: Insight from Professionals -- candid thoughts and concerns at RainbowsWithinReach

What is the Role of PLAY in Kindergarten Today?

The reality is that education is always changing. Are children? Changing? Are five year olds of today significantly different than the five year olds of five years ago? Or their predecessors of a decade back? In my travels making author/illustrator school visits around the country I hear teachers venting about the expectations for their kindergarten classroom. 

Rigor is one thing. LUV me some high expectations! Institutionalized prohibiting of recess in kindergarten? That's another. Can you guess where I was when I heard of a school that forbids recess? Do you know how much recess time your school district allows? For kindergarten?  

The Role of PLAY in Kindergarten Today: Passionate Teachers Speak Out at RainbowsWithinReach

Hearing from teachers in my travels is one thing. Sending my WonderTwins (that's my grand-kiddos, for any new visitors here) to Kindergarten is quite another. Friday was their first mongo-bus ride into the big-time. They're little. Truly. Their birthday is late in April. That will make them the very youngest in the tribe. Their backpacks are as big as they are! All of these facts filled me with a multitude of emotions, seeing the photo of their official launch. So I went looking for a quote about kindergarten and you've seen the result of my search. 


Posting the image above to my FB fanpage, Instagram and Twitter, I asked my fellow bloggers and followers to respond. Is their classroom anywhere near a garden? How about the rest of Froebel's thoughts? Where is play these days on the pendulum? There are many factors at work when it comes to classroom, curriculum design and the school day unfolding in fact and reality. Politics and legislation are now a conundrum that get mixed in with best practice, research and professional training and experience. 

Kinder Garden Word Wall from Conversation on the Role of Play in Kindergarten at RainbowsWithinReach
A 'Kinder-Garden' Word Wall 
I have gathered up the responses here to open a conversation. Pour yourself a cuppa cuppa and listen to the heartfelt sentiments expressed. Then ask yourself some questions. Even if you don't have a child crossing the threshold of a kindergarten classroom, this conversation is important to join, or at the very least to hear.  

Children's Self-Portraits in Response to "You're Wonderful" by Debbie Clement (from Love those Kinders)

"I am a kindergarten teacher and I still incorporate play into my curriculum. Play promotes cooperation, respect, responsibility, sharing and kindness. Play in kindergarten offers a safe arena for learning how to deal with people as we grow. Should kindergarten be all play? Absolutely not! We must prepare our students for the world and their minds are so eager to soak up knowledge! BUT I have found that adding a few minutes of Free Play into the day creates children who become more independent in their choices which helps when they are making ACADEMIC choices in their literacy and math rotations. Play also creates a foundation for an independent adult. I have found that many kids have trouble with play because their days are so scheduled by adults that when faced with the choice of what to do, they are stumped! My daily free play lasts no more than 15 minutes and I do not plan to remove it from my curriculum! BTW..... although my classroom does not FACE a garden, we do have a 'Kinder-garden' on our school grounds that my students use and visit!"  ~~ Cindy, Love Those Kinders! 

Kindergarten writing center using student names at RainbowsWithinReach

"This was my first week of kindergarten with 24 students. Instead of learning the 3 R's -- reading, writing and arithmetic .... we follow the 3 P's: Party (eat), Potty, and Play! Since we are a private school we also pray."  ~~ Charlotte of Charlotte's Clips and Kindergarten Kids


Kinder Garden of Artwork loves their glorious Kinder Teacher

"Sadly, Kindergarten is the new first grade. It's too academic and no longer allows our students to learn the basics such as sharing, kindness, friendship, creating and exploring. I fully believe that lack of real kindergarten is why the all important test scores are so poor. If our students had a year to learn how to do school and be good citizens you would see a huge improvement in education across the board. But.... I still bring in as much fun, art, creating and dancing as I can. And guess what? My 'data' is still through the roof. Kindergarten Rocks!"  ~~ Greg, Kindergarten Smorgasboard


Debbie Clement visits Kindergarten Smorgasboard!

"I agree that kindergarten is much, much more like first grade. Sadly, many parents do not realize this and have not had the knowledge or opportunity to prepare their children. Many preschools, daycares and home settings do not have the resources including qualified teachers to prepare children for such a huge academic leap. Hence... the reason we practice the 3 P's at the beginning of the school year. Unfortunately, the 3 P's all too quickly become the 3 W's -- work, work, work." ~~ Charlotte's expanded thoughts


K is for Kindergarten: The Role of Play in Kindergarten at RainbowsWithinReach

"Even tho we are more and more tied to standards, and really have to push those little ones harder than they may be ready to move, I still marvel at the wonder in their eyes. They still tend to make the very best of what we throw their way, and when asked, they rise to the more rigorous challenges presented to them. I am awestruck at the end of each year when I see how incredibly far we have come. It is such a privilege to be a part of their lives for a year. I disagree that we should be so academic-- they need time to explore, play, resolve their own conflicts, etc. I believe time to grow has been lost in today's kinder classes. That being said, I still try my level best to give them opportunities for just plain fun! There is a way to get those standards in and still have fun. I will know it's time to quit when I stop having fun. Who could not love kindergarten?" ~~ Maggie, of Maggie's Kindergarten

Magnetic Name Match via RainbowsWithinReach


"I love the idea of a Kinder "garden." Like Greg said, gone are the days of worry free kinder, we are the new first grade. With that being said, I try to make my room as 'old school' as possible. I do allow free choice centers and we start off the year working with Fine Motor and Gross Motor activities." ~~ Kaci of Mrs. Hoffer's Spot


Happy Face Painting at RainbowsWithinReach

"We really are the new first grade teachers. My classroom has never had a housekeeping center or kitchen. It is my job to include the play aspect in my class through hands-on activities and exploration."  ~~ Jennifer Gibbons of Teaching with Grace


 Kindergarten Art Project of School Buses in the City from Simple Shapes (Fine Motor Leads to Fine Arts: RainbowsWithinReach)

"My kids kindergarten class had a garden.... they went outside in the spring to plant and watch their flowers grow. It was a great experience for them, and for the group of moms, myself included, who went there during the summer to keep it up, along with our children's help. Great memories for me and my two kids, who are now in high school!"  ~~ Kathleen 


Kindergarten Children Participate with Enthusiasm with Debbie Clement
Kinder Kiddos Participate Enthusiastically with Debbie Clement in Kristen's Kindergarten Classroom

"I just had 'Back-to-School' night this week and as has been my tradition the last few years, I started off with "welcome to Kindergarten, but this isn't your Momma's Kindergarten, or even the Kindergarten you remember!" Kindergarten used to be such a carefree place to be, a happy place, where children could come and just explore -- explore new materials, new friends, new social situations, and more. Now, they get the chance to hurry through all that (if they haven't gone to preschool) and then we push standards that are not developmentally appropriate at them and expect them to learn it quickly. We have seen such an increase in behavior problems the last few years because of this. I'll be the first to admit, when I see my babies rolling on the floor while I'm trying to teach them, we stop and we just PLAY! It's what they need and what I remember most from my Kindergarten years. Mrs. Taggart set up a shoe store in our classroom and we got to play there for hours -- BEST thing ever! Here's to a year filled with what I like to call "Learning Play" -- learning through play (while still getting my standards in!)  ~~ Kristen of 'Kristen's Kindergarten' 


Kindergarten Gears

"I taught first grade for 21 years and kindergarten for the last 7 years.... I am teaching my Kinders what I taught in first grade. Many of my children do not attend pre-school and are just not ready for the rigors of the Kindergarten day. I truly believe children need to play and I incorporate free choice time into my daily schedule." ~~ Melody


100 Kindergarten Friends (Role of Play in K at RainbowsWithinReach)


"I have been teaching for many years. Yes the standards have changed but the kids are still 5. I still include play centers and try for 20 - 30 minutes. We also play outside every day. I wish we did not have to spend so much time testing!"  ~~ Emily


100 Day is Kindergarten (Role of Play in K at RainbowsWithinReach)


"That is what kindergarten should mean." ~~ Marlene 


Kindergarten Magnetic Letters

"I didn't even go to Kindergarten. It wasn't required when I started school. I can't even imagine that today. We seem to think there's something wrong with kids if they haven't gone to preschool nowadays! I remembered hearing some of my friends talk about kindergarten when I was little. It was always a positive conversation and I always felt like I missed out on something fun! I really don't believe that today's kids would have that same conversation. Teachers try really hard to make school as fun as it can be, but truth is, we HAVE to have good test scores to keep our jobs. Sometimes that equals no fun at all. We are creating a society of people who care nothing about relationships with others or a love of learning..... Because no matter what we say, we all know deep down that its all about the test. We know that's not what we want, but how do you explain that to experts and leaders without sounding like you want to take the easy way out and play all day?"  ~~ Crystal


Math Manipulatives (Role of PLAY in Kindergarten at RainbowsWithinReach


"It's a balance that I refuse to let tip to one side or the other. There is a time to work and a time to play. We have a circle of sunflowers right outside our door and a vegetable garden behind the school."   ~~ Jennifer


Kindergarten PLAY: What is the Role Today? (RainbowsWithinReach)

"Kindergarten is a place where children should play. The greatest learning is done through play developmentally. There is a teacher who gave each kindergartener at open house a little bag of 'Jitter Glitter.' That was supposed to take away the jitters when they come to class. They should be singing songs, doing fingerplays and learning nursery rhymes. Now we have people who are IN CHARGE of the aspect of teaching... the problem being they have never stepped foot into a classroom. When a 5 year old tugs on your shirt and says 'I miss my mommy'...... well, where is that in the common core.... I rock them. I hug them. I comfort them. We have to make them confident little people who are eager to learn everything. Some of them are learning that children are different. Playing is different. How can they sit and write and do WORK when their little muscles can't even hold a writing utensil? That is not what our Politicians see.... they don't experience that, so they should not make the decisions that are not right for our children. If we are to grow successful adults we have to nurture the little children."  ~~ Barbara


Kindergarten "Life Skills" Corner: What is the Role of Play in K Today?


"I have taught first grade my first 16 years and have now taught Kinder for 15. They have caught up! I hate that Kindergarten has become what first grade use to be. If one of my kids comes in not knowing their letters or not writing their name, they are labeled 'low'............ really??? Wasn't that our job?? It is ridiculous!"  ~~ Ampy 


Kindergarten Skeletons via RainbowsWithinReach

"I am thrilled to teach Kindergarten this year. I have spent many years in a play based, developmentally appropriate preschool. I am so fortunate to be in a school lead by an administrator who focuses on the whole child. In my class we have a workshop model that uses centers. I think so much more is expected of our lovely kinders. It takes a special teacher to remember they are only 5 and need to play and learn through experience. It is challenging to run a play based program in an academic world, but it can be done!"  ~~ Barbara 


Seasons as Science: Art Project from Reggio Emilia Italy via RainbowsWIthinReach

"My room last year looked out onto our school garden. My students love planting and cultivating. I even planted sunflowers with them at the end of the year so that when they return in September they can see them in bloom. Unfortunately I found out a week before school ended that I was moving my classroom to the other side of the building. No more view of the garden. I am sad, but I just might have to plant some sunflowers outside my new classroom window. I am just happy we have a school garden for our students to learn and grow from."  ~~ Melina


Meaning Math Bulletin Board in Kindergarten: Teams of children and their handwritten Math summary


"I agree with the post about more behavior problems. I have been in kindergarten for 18 years. No matter what we do the first grade teachers want more. We can not make parents help them at home. I give my students free centers while I call groups. I would spend weeks making cute center stuff and and still have them begging to play. No matter how much you push a child is not ready to really read till first grade." ~~ Deneen


Comparative Height Self Portraits via RainbowsWithinReach

"I looked at my old lesson plans from the 80's, back in the day when I first taught Kindergarten.... we didn't start our first letter until after Thanksgiving! Not that we didn't do alphabet, we just did prewriting, writing, writing their names, numbers, shapes, colors, fine motor, gross motor and when they had learned how to be in school we started letters and sounds. Behavior problems occur when we ask too much of our littles. I need to remember that more and be better about building in free play time into our schedule. I am so happy to have changed rooms this year. I now look out onto our outdoor education area." ~~ Terri of  Kinder Kapers


Welcome Banner of Rainbows for SKYPE author visit with Debbie Clement
Welcome Banner Created for SKYPE author visit with Debbie Clement by Terri and her Kinder Kapers in Nevada!

"I taught kindergarten and preschool for a few years. I still believe we need to "let them be little" in K as we prepare them academically. Whole child, hands-on, learning through doing as much as possible. I think sometimes this can be lost in the testing-driven culture of the day. Happy to see so many awesome teachers keeping it alive! "  ~~ Primary Practice via Instagram


Kindergarten Math Center Assignments (child's photos on tongue depressors)


"Kindergarten means pure JOY!"  ~~ Julia


"Imagine" Author's Chair: Kindergarten and the Role of Play via RainbowsWithinReach

"Kindergarten children need to explore and play -- they are 5! I work my kindergarten kids hard, but we play too! If I ever have to take out my 'developmental' centers, I will need to leave kindergarten." ~~ Louanne of 'My Kindergarten Kids'


Self Portrait Painted Faces in Kindergarten via RainbowsWithinReach

"Kindergarten is a place to make the intellect blossom. It's a place to begin the journey of loving learning, loving books, loving friends, loving teachers. No, it's not a boot camp, but when my students end the year, they know how to write a sentence, read a book, listen to their teacher, do Daily 5, BUILD, and have a step up on the road that lays before them. No, no garden, but trips to the closest park, and every day on the playground. It's not a garden of plants. It's a garden of kids and fun." ~~ Denise


"Hand Jive" Kindergarten Chart for Behavior Management via RainbowsWithinReach

"That is the true meaning and I try to maintain that everyday. It is so sad that politics now try to rule my classroom. It breaks my heart, but I hang in there, play 'their' (gov't) game, close my door and do what is best for kids!"  ~~ Deb


Bathtub Reading Center in Kindergarten Room via RainbowsWithinReach

"Play is a must! I'm so thankful my school still allows centers that aren't 'academic.' We have housekeeping, blocks, art -- considered 'choice' centers. Other choices are science and poetry. Reading, math, writing, abc are academic." ~~ Frannie via Twitter



Science Center in Kindergarten: The Role of PLAY in K Today

"I totally agree Frannie! Play is a child's work -- how they learn. I have building, dramatic play, playdough and more." ~~ Barbara chiming in on Twitter

Classroom SetUP for Reading Area (Classroom Decor RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

"This is what K and 1st mean to me! We "play" all day, everyday to develop those much needed thinking, talking, listening skills for the upper grades. Just because they move from one grade to the next doesn't mean that the learning and discovering shouldn't still be play." -- Cara of 'Kindergarten BoomBoom'

Kindergarten Bulletin Board for Author Study "You're Wonderful"

"Careful what you ask for Miss Debbie, you may get a small dissertation. But here is how I weigh in.... It is disheartening when you consider the demands put on kindergarten students today. Legislation has pushed academia so far that today, even though kindergarten is only required of age appropriate children in approximately 20 states or so, many states have kindergarten achievement standards that students and teachers are expected to achieve. One constant in this history change and evolution of kindergarten is the way in which kindergarten aged children learn. Developmentally, they function the same way that children their age did 100 years ago in Froebel's kindergartens. The ways they socially interact, play and solve problems remain the same. They need opportunities to be  exposed to ordinary experiences, they need to touch and manipulate objects, hear language in many forms, sing, move, see and explore various environments. This lays the foundation within their brain for acquiring more complex skills such as reading, writing and computation. If a child's brain has these kinds of experiences during their kindergarten year, it will grow naturally." ~~ Marsha of 'Differentiated Kindergarten' 

Kindergarten Focus Wall at RainbowsWithinReach

"I think Early Childhood Education as a whole is becoming too bogged down by the expectations of the higher grades. The third grade teacher complains that the 2nd grade teacher didn't do enough, the 2nd grade teacher blames it on 1st grade and the 1st grade teacher complains that there's too much play in kindergarten for students to learn what they need to know. What everyone forgets, in the stress of trying to secure their jobs against low test scores, is that playing IS learning for our kinders. When we make learning fun, we motivate our students to want to participate! Our students will learn more when they are able to express their interests and process things in their own way, at their own pace. I love to quote Fred Rogers: "Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning." And really, if we work at it just a bit, we can make the case for more play in the classroom - I still have centers even in my 1st grade classroom this year, simply because I can justify each one to the administration -- children playing with the puppet theatre? RL.1.2! Students "playing" at block center? 1.G.2! It takes a bit of extra work to keep anecdotal records of the learning at each center, and to make sure that the centers are set up to encourage specific exploration, but my students are much happier learning this way than through rote drills or worksheets!" ~~ Herding Cats in Kindergarten 

Kindergarten Excellence "Classroom Crashing" via RainbowsWithinReach

"The expectations for kindergarten students and teachers seem to rise every year. As more demands are placed upon teachers, it becomes apparent that something has to give. Unfortunately, time for play is often sacrificed as teachers bow to academic pressures from parents and administrators. It is so important to remember that kindergarteners are just 5 or 6 years old and play is a vital part of their development. Children gain physical, cognitive, language, and social skills through play with their peers. It is a valuable use of time to provide at least a few moments of play in the academic workday." ~~ Maria of 'Kinder Craze'

Skype Author Visit at Kinder Craze with Debbie Clement
Kinder Craze SKYPE visit with Debbie last spring! 

"I am reading the thoughtful comments that have been left on your blog about the role of play and as I am going from teacher to teacher I feel myself getting a lump in my throat. I realize that in 2013 we are all about academics and Common Core. When I reflect on my own children I had the luxury of putting them in developmental kindergartens where they had a playhouse, a kitchen, and a dress up corner to learn how to share, treat each other with kindness and negotiate their understandings of the world with their friends. They learned how to pretend, dream, build literacy, collaborate and just have fun! I view them as successful adults who dare to take a risk and can think on their own feet. What happened? High stakes testing has impacted on our youngest children and many of them spend hours doing academic work without enjoying sunshine or knowing the joy of planting a garden. I often feel guilty that I am a part of this and have been known to go outside and play with my class, teaching them a game or how to jump rope. I have given in to this whole philosophy when my gut knows better. Moderation is probably the key and I can only hope that the pendulum swings back sooner rather than later. As the saying goes.... 'Kindergarten children need to blow bubbles, not fill them in.' That just says it all." ~~ Fran Kramer of Kindergarten Crayons 

Kindergarten Collaborative Quilt in Response to "You're Wonderful" by Debbie Clement
Collaborative Kindergarten Quilt in Response to my Picture Book "You're Wonderful" 

That's a LOT of heartfelt insight, experience and observation. I'm not one to wish to turn back the hands of time. There is wisdom, however, in listening to the voice of experience as we go running pell mell into the future. 


Kindergarteners should be blowing bubbles, not filling them in via RainbowsWithinReach

Fran's reference to the bubbles really resonated with me. 
I hadn't heard that thought previously. 
The power of the web. 
I searched and found this image in reference.
If anyone knows who to reference for the quote,
I will happily alter my little bumper-sticker above
and give proper credit.  

photo of: "The Kindness Pledge" Anchor Chart in Kindergarten via RainbowsWithinReach

Thanks to all who added their voice to the conversation. 
I certainly invite any other readers to add their two cents via the comment section below. 

photo of: Springtime Science with Seeds at Kindergarten Rocks via RainbowsWithinReach

***Editorial Addition: This just in! 
As is the way of the internet, we are each just a few clicks away from really great projects. From the initial comments left by readers, I have been given permission from Carolyn Kisloski to share her most impressive 'Prezi' presentation on the power of play.

Carolyn is a wizard at the Prezi. She is offering this presentation for free from her Teachers Pay Teachers store. With this amazing dedication to protecting play in the kindergarten classroom, I know you'll want to be a regular reader at her blog, "Kindergarten: Holding Hands and Sticking Together." 

PLAY EVERY DAY



So many brilliant minds on the power of play!
Does your classroom face a garden? 
What is the role of play in kindergarten today?
I hope that you are still singing together! 

I believe in the power of affirmation. 
Therefore: I write songs of affirmation: 
'Glad I'm at School Today.' 
It's available for digital purchases here and here


---------------------------------------
***Here are some of my previous articles that you'll want to investigate. 

My first FB followers conversation on Classroom Decor: 
How important is 'cute'? 
{click pictures below to go to earlier article}

Classroom Decor: The "CUTE" Conversation (RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Back-to-School Bulletin Boards (RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Apple Projects for Back to School (Preschool thru Kindergarten)

photo of: Reading Corner RoundUP: Inviting Centers for Inspiring Reading via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Collection of 100+ Anchor Charts and their Organization via RoundUP at RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Word Walls in Elementary School: Sight Word Presentation on Bulletin Boards Round-up via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Fall Arts + Crafts Projects for Children (Fall RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach)

photo of: Kindness Inspiration, Filling Buckets + Emotional Intelligence RoundUP via RainbowsWithinReach

photo of: Eric Carle Birthday Bonanza Bash: Children's Art Response to the Classics at RainbowsWithinReach

I hope that this article has given you food for thought, affirmed your convictions and reassured you that you are surrounded by passionate professional peers. 

Please pin joyously from this article to invite others into the conversation. 

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