“Emphasizing the Importance of Play During Distance Learning” by Madeleine Rogin in Edutopia, July 6, 2020
In this Edutopia article, California teacher Madeleine Rogin says she really misses watching her kindergarten students play. “Play provides opportunities for self-discovery and social connections,” she says, “and it allows kids to try out ideas and use what they are learning in their academic subjects in a less-pressured environment… Play is a time when mistakes can be deeply explored, because children are intrinsically motivated to repair a friendship or rebuild a structure.” Rogin especially misses hearing statements like, “If you say it without yelling, I can hear you better.”
How can young children’s play be incorporated in remote learning? Rogin has the following suggestions:
• Tell families that you care as much about unstructured play as academics. Block out time for such activities, just as you do for reading and science. Ask families to share photos of their children playing fantasy games or showing off forts and inventions.
• Schedule one-on-one time with each student and get details about their play activities. “Think about how what this child is saying teaches you something new about them that you could incorporate into a lesson later,” says Rogin.
• During synchronous class meetings, enthuse about play and foster a growth mindset. You might ask, “What’s one thing you’ve built at home that you are proud of?” or “What was something you kept trying to do even though it was hard?”
• Incorporate games into online teaching. Rogin has used freeze dance, I Spy, scavenger hunts, and a game where each person tries to make another person smile.
• Share strategies for working through frustrations involving peers and family members. Prime topics for discussion are specific ways of developing emotional regulation: taking a break, running around in circles, or talking it out. Students might have a place to record their difficult moments. All this tells students that even though they’re not together in the classroom, they are still part of a community that solves problems together.
“Someday, we will return to our classrooms,” Rogin concludes, “and when we do, I hope our students come back having played, taken risks, tried new things, dreamed, and discovered more about themselves and each other.”