Balanced Literacy Handbook - Literacy and Play by leader6


									                              Literacy and Play

Play, as part of its very nature, defies a single or a simplistic definition. One definition that
might work in Kindergarten is “to move or operate freely within a bounded space, actively
engaged in something for enjoyment or recreation.” This still is not a complete picture of play in
the classroom. It is easier to talk about the elements of play. For example, choice must be
present for play to exist. A child forced to participate in an activity is not playing but following
directions or doing an assignment.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) supports children’s
play as “a primary vehicle for and indicator of their mental growth. Play enables children to
progress along the developmental sequence from the sensorimotor intelligence of infancy to
preoperational thought in the preschool years to the concrete operational thinking exhibited
by primary children…. In addition to its role in cognitive development play serves important
functions in children’s physical, emotional, and social development . . . therefore, child-
initiated, child-directed, teacher-supported play is an essential component of developmentally
appropriate practice.”
                                                             - Sue Bredekamp

Play Increases Cognitive Development

Play is the vehicle by which many components of literacy can be most effectively “taught” and
“learned”. Sharon Stone, in her book Playing, A Kid’s Curriculum, documents: “Research
substantiates a strong relationship between play and cognitive development. Vygotsky (1976)
sees play as having a direct role in cognitive development with symbolic play having a crucial
part in developing abstract thought. In a study by Lieberman (1977), “playfulness in
kindergartners was found to correlate with higher scores in divergent thinking. Through play,
children use divergent thinking to research solutions to problems. Play has been recognized as
the highest form of research.” (Caplan and Caplan, 1974)

Sometimes parents see play as a useless pastime, good only for keeping children busy. The
purpose of play experiences are often different at school than at home. The following chart
points out the differences between home and school play and may help parents recognize that
children are active learners who constantly seek out opportunities to explore and make sense of
their world through their play.

                        Differences in Play at Home and School
                                      Home                                  School
Peers                   Mixed ages                           Age peers
                        Self-selected                        Selection within the group
Group Size              Alone or small group                 Large group
Materials and           May be restricted by expense,        Larger selection
Equipment               space, messiness                     Less restricted
Guidance and            Guidance often focuses on safety     Guides development of specific
Supervision                                                  concepts
                                                             Models play behaviors
                                                             Questions about learning
Adult/Child             Purchases materials                  Facilitates play
Interactions            Listens to child’s requests          Interacts with individual children
                        Attends to safety issues             Determines child’s goals
Time Commitments        Must fit family schedule             Regularly scheduled time
                        Shorter periods                      Longer periods
Planning                Guided by family budget              Choices of materials, equipment
                        “Go play” is common direction        Evaluation of experience
Space                   Typical bedroom, family room or      Larger spaces for blocks, climbing,
                        living room space                    etc.

                                                               - Brewer and Kieff

What a Literacy Rich and “Play Rich” Classroom Looks Like:

A “Play Rich” classroom is set up using centers. Centers provide the opportunity for children to
play during choice time or as part of other appropriate segments of the day. Each center is then
enhanced with literacy rich materials to support the play and enhance literacy development in
purposeful activities in which the children are highly engaged and therefore, most receptive to
learning. For example, the Block Center may have photos and books on bridges or different
architectural styles that children may view as they construct. Materials for making signs are
readily available.

The Science Center is well stocked with non-fiction and fiction books related to a theme study
going on at a particular time. Interesting items to provide language and questioning change
along with children’s interest. A journal is available for recording observations.

The Dramatic Play Center may be turned into a restaurant where children are engaged in
conversation, writing down orders, drawing illustrations for menus, and writing words on menus.

Centers with play dough, sand, water, and clay provide children the opportunity to explore and to
interact in conversation. Teachers notice what children are doing and introduce new vocabulary
or ask appropriate questions to expand children’s thinking.

Other centers, activities, and outdoor spaces provide many opportunities for play and playful
interactions. Opportunities for reading and writing during and after center time abound and are
well received by children because they relate to activities that highly interest them.

Unlimited possibilities exist during the school day to engage in play and enhance literacy
learning at the same time. The teacher has a key role in guiding the literacy development of
children through play. The goal is to implement a program that provides modeling and
demonstration of literacy skills in context of meaningful reading and writing activities, for
       - model/demonstrate answering the phone and writing notes on a writing pad
       - model/demonstrate ordering food and writing the order on the order pad
       - model/demonstrate taking money and giving change at the cashier
       - model/demonstrate making signs
The teacher acts as observer and facilitator rather than interfering as the children seek out
opportunities to explore and make sense of their world through their play.

Learning to read the world is best understood as a complex process that includes such play
related components as risk taking, negotiation of roles, problem solving, giving meaning to
experience, active questioning, purposeful involvement, symbolic representation, social
interaction, decontextualizing of experience, and awareness of socio-linguistic subtleties. Play
is respected as an appropriate way of learning.
                                                               - Anonymous

The Total Child Develops Through Play


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