Day 101 (of 188) Play… #GSPD
It’s tough to define. For some it’s complex and all-consuming- such as computer coding for names like Wozniak and Gates; grown men playing kids sports such as prodigies like Sidney Crosby and @dangerusswilson; yet for others a frivolous activity with no value – especially in schools…..sigh.
for many it is a distraction – in a good way- a way to either self-regulate or escape from every-day pressures; to me it is a time/way to let the brain percolate – to let ideas run in the background to enhance learning. For example in writing: option A – Heres a topic, you have X minutes, go! or option B: here’s a writing topic. Think about it. Distract yourself (there’s a reason why ‘great ideas’ come to us in showers, on long drives, jogging etc) and THEN start writing. There is a reason we “play” music, “play” games (video or board), “play” sports etc – also a reason as a coach I’d differentiate that we WORK hard at practice so that we get to PLAY in the game…
Play also shouldn’t get confused with pure ‘consuming’ (entertainment only) – even when ‘playing’ video games there are opportunities to practice ‘how to fail’ (good thing for bonus lives) and critical thinking to ‘crush the best candy’. Without a doubt, there is a lot of creation that can occur:
My son plays Pokemon – but he’s also created around 200 unique characters with evolutions and back stories.
One daughter while playing basketball creates scenarios, offences and defences while ‘in the zone’.
My other daughter loves to create stories and bring them to life via role plays, dances, stories, etc
Playing solo is important – enabling self-regulation and mindful reflection – whether it is actively being done or happening ‘in the background’ – but adding in collaboration and different (not saying better – acknowledging different) things happen! But playing together ain’t always easy (as Munsch & Fulghum reference kindergarten: where we learn to share….everything) as boundaries are pushed and occasionally toppled (and friendships crumble and then get rebuilt). But the challenge is to ‘not get involved’ (not let anyone flounder too long either!) but to mindfully allow and unable individuals to experience anxiety and frustration and independently (probably not at first) self control & self regulation….via play…
Speaking of which….
One of my bugbears is the evolution from ‘playing in the neighbourhood’ to ‘organized play dates’ – recently at school one of my little darlings was talking to me so excitedly that a friend was moving down the street and that meant that they could play whenever they wanted – their moms wouldn’t even have to get on the phone! Just last night I looked at the clock and asked my wife if we should send our son across the street to see if our youngest should be coming home (7:30) – I loved it because a) the girls self-organized their play at both houses (including choreographing a dance that they will be performing for us) and b) the other mom was embarrassed at how much time had gone by (dinner for both girls was going to be quick). That is what “play” does…what it should do…
Over the years I have given more support to “learning through play” including emphasizing it to my primary staff by – as a teaching principal that has meant modelling it with my intermediates. Several times a week (luckily connected to our gym block) we have “free play time” – I’m there to help manage equipment and monitor if things are going too far (not often but it’s a lot of kids and sometimes they forget they’re not the only ones being active). And they are in constant movement. It was few classes of ‘take your turn shooting a basketball/hitting a volleyball etc’ that an equal amount of activity was reached. Many don’t realize how much hard work “play” can be!
The hardest part…..my head hurt when I first encountered an article talking about “deep play” https://www.nytimes.com/books/first/a/ackerman-play.html and blogged about it here as I tried to visualize the “at least 45 minutes” needed before kids enter a zone of “free play” – that’s not a 45 minute block – that’s 45 minutes with no knowledge of when the period will end (watch out school bells!) – kinda what others call “entering flow” – where time just seems to disappear (like my daughter disappearing until well after dinner time). But it’s true. There have been opportunities where our goal has been to reach “deep play” and you can actually ‘see’ it in the group dynamics – nobody looking at the clock on the wall; even greater engagement in the activities they are involved in; multi-tasking and changing collaborative practices; stuff that is so hard to “direct-teach” but comes naturally to us when given a chance to PLAY!
I love the fact that @bedleybros (Scott @Scotteach & Tim @tbed63 ) took it upon themselves to bring together some of these pockets of “gee – I think this is working”. “Play” has been something that has blended in nicely with our school goal on Physical Literacy/Self-Regulation/Anxiety; it de-stresses the formality of learning and enables learners to experiment with a variety of self-regulation methodologies and exploratory efforts. It’s okay to make mistakes when “playing” but you better not at “work” time….? Indeed “playing at school” goes against some thoughts: you work at school; this isn’t a time to play; schoolWORK, homeWORK, etc – even I use this terminology with our language when students work with technology at our school: if it is helpful it is a tool – if its a distraction its a toy….but I know (and acknowledge) that sometimes toys are useful….I also know (and acknowledge) that not everybody does….
Wednesday February 4th has been a great day – a global look at playing in school for the day. Quite a challenge…a whole day? sure. part of a day? sure. An hour? sure. The time isn’t the important part, the action/activities are.The recognition and acknowledement of the value of play is important. A day where educators across the globe take some time and model that “learning through play” isn’t just a catchphrase but it IS a thing….and is invaluable. I’m looking forward to following the hashtag, exploring the tweets and blogs and reflecting on what has been going on globally and see how I can expand PLAY in my own educational practice….and see what happens at the next global play day…..!