Sunday, March 24, 2013

Documenting And Reporting The Power Of Play

As an advocate or the belief that children learn best through play what are you checking for in terms of progress? As a preschool manager who holds the same beliefs I would love some advice from you on progress reports for parents who see writing and number recognition as their top priorities for school readiness.  Your views would be greatly appreciated.  

I received this great question the other day on my facebook page, Playfully Learning, and wanted to share my answer as many of you may be faced with similar challenges.  
I teach in a private nursery school in Connecticut.  We do follow the state guidelines for our objectives, The Connecticut Framework.  This has thirty objectives across several domains: Personal & Social, Physical, Cognitive and Creative.  My staff is responsible for creating environments and activities that will foster development in children across these areas as well as assessing their progress on each of the objectives. 


A lot of the work that we do with children is focused on their social development; problem solving, conflict resolution, using language to get their needs met and entering and exiting play.  

We also focus a great deal of our efforts on the business of learning; wondering, questioning, discovering, experimenting and reporting.  Along the way with all of these processes there is a great deal of writing and reading and counting.  It is not as obvious as it would be if we were sending home worksheets and having all of the children sit down together to complete writing assignments, but it is there. 

This is where you need to educate the parents.  Because so much of what we do is process oriented, they often do not see exactly what the children are learning as they write out invitations as part of their dramatic play, or count out crackers at snack, or sign up to work at the workbench, or the physics they are learning as they balance a block structure.  

Educating parents on what is developmentally appropriate for young children is a very big part of our job as early childhood educators.  Explaining the importance of the social development and what needs to be firmly in place before children can be successful in elementary school can be very enlightening for parents of young children.  

Our school is a cooperative school, so our parents work in the classroom as an assistant every few weeks.  They do get to see so much of the learning that takes place.  But even with this inside access, sometimes it does need to be explained.  I often give workshops for parents detailing the learning that occurs in each center of our classroom.  What do children learn when playing with blocks?  How exactly does dressing up and pretending to go grocery shopping help a child develop?  What is being learned when cooking or pouring rice from cup to cup in a sensory table?  

On the other side, observing children engaged in rich play gives so much information.  I can observe them using their concepts of print as they reread a class book.  I do see them writing and sounding out words as they create a save sign for a block building or write a ticket for a speeding bicycle.  I am sitting next to them as they count out their crackers at snack and compare them to the number of apple slices they already have.  I can see who can recognize a pattern or create one as we play with unifix cubes or write songs on the xylophone.  I can document who is using full sentences and correct pronouns with their speech when I have conversations with children.  And so much more.  This is what I can share with parents in the progress reports along with samples of work and photographs. 

I know this is a quick explanation of a very heavy topic and I would be happy to engage further and help with parent education and/or staff development.

Put even more simply, believe in the power of play and be able to explain and document why and how it works. 

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