Day 176 (of 184) free [deep] play
Today I tried an experiment with another class (the part of the experiment where you test something you are pretty sure works): surpassing the 45 suggested minutes needed by kids to reach a state of ‘deep play’. I have used this frequently with my own class to great success. So much success that we already have plans for next year to start the mornings with both grade 4/5 classes having physical education time, but like most of what I touch, with it having a slightly different twist than the traditional gym classes:
We want all kids to be as active as possible so that is ‘forcing’ us to do different to avoid the wait-lines that I remember too well with my own PE classes. “One ball per kid” was a bit of a mantra as our staff explored a bit more about physical literacy and it is very rewarding to see flushed cheeks and hearing begs for water because the kids are always ‘on the go’.
Not all the time is on free play though. We also have used a variety of games and activities from “play is the way” which has helped provide a framework for our school goal on Physical Literacy to help with anxiety.
Speaking of anxiety, I checked in with one of our most anxious learners to see how he was doing with ‘no direction and no time frame for when the activity would end’ (those who have worked with students with significant + anxiety know why I ask this question – those who don’t need to check out my blog from day 107: https://technolandy.wordpress.com/2014/02/21/day-110-of-184-anxiety-107-a-blunt-approach-to-anxiety/ ) and he said he was doing great as he puffed along on a bouncy-ball.
We also use ‘activity stations’ that have the students focus on cardio vascular and we do have some structured lessons as well to build in ideas about what to do during those times when we can be physically active. Thinking about also having some posted around the outside of the school for a morning pre-bell activity..
The deep play concept (ie https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/a/ackerman-play.html ) is tricky though. It is a tough balance between chaos and boredom. It is student centred. My best role has been to join in with the activities (I know, modelling activities – crazy!) and to ‘let go’ for 45+ minutes has been tough at times. Yet shockingly (sarcasm font) when the kids are engaged there are no behaviour issues. There is also moving around (though some of the kids playing floor hockey and “2 square” are pretty committed to their game, they still welcome new participants – especially when others need to take a break) and exploring new ideas and activities – suddenly creativity makes its presence in the gym (or outside!).
It’s definitely a shake up, but as times get stressful, see if there is an opportunity for you to try find a way to help your learners try out ‘deep play’! I still need to do a better job with my ‘boredom breaks’ to have my learners have some ‘processing time’!