Monthly Archives: June 2011

Creating, Designing and Reflecting On An Authentic Learning Opportunity Through Play

Kindergarten is a special place where learning opportunities seem to appear from the simplest, yet important lessons we, as teachers can help to foster.  Young children really engage in lots of higher level thinking and collaborate when the purpose is clear and the experience is meaningful.

Yesterday I walked my class over to the food shelf in our community where we dropped off a wagon full of food to be shared with families in need.  This was our second trip this year. Our presenter, Reggie spoke to the children as we walked through the 3 rooms where food was kept and distributed.  The children immediately noticed the shelving and that labels were used to organize the food.  A few children responded by making a “c” with their hand showing that they made a connection and then shared their connection out loud.  Some of the comments were,”Mrs. D the food shelf labels are like the ones we do in Kindergarten”,”their labels are big”,we use labels for our scientific drawings too”‘.  As Reggie continued to talk the children began recognizing other things at the food shelf that they could connect too.  This is a great example of the learning opportunities that unfold and appear when young children connect with their environment. It is through this connection where learning has meaning and then children can develop a deeper understanding.

In my mind I was flashing back on the writer’s workshop model that I use in Kindergarten.  During our writing sessions together the children are introduced to an idea, craft and or big writing idea.  Afterwards we practice using our newly learned knowledge.  The application piece is the most important!  The idea of labeling will stick with the children, as they saw the application and some of the features are the same which can even be more powerful.  By features I mean large letters, letter formation, words match the picture/item they are representing.

The other idea I was thinking about was all the time we spend together in Kindergarten sharing, collaborating and designing learning opportunities that we can relate too and want to know about.  The morning meeting is a daily opportunity to introduce these ideas as well as the idea of empathy.  In our visit to the food shelf the children asked;” Can anyone could come to the food shelf and get food.  How do mommies and daddies know the food shelf is here?, Can we take pictures and put on our blog?”

This displays how children naturally become sensitive, caring and want to help others out who need help.  This field trip displayed lots of big teaching ideas I have worked on throughout Kindergarten and how easily these ideas can come together in a place where you can see, hear and touch how they make a difference for others.

On our walk back to Kindergarten the children talked about what they saw and heard.  One of my students remembered seeing a crate of books also.  The books were donated so families could take and read to their children.  By the time we returned to Kindergarten the children ate their snacks and then slowly as exploration time started I noticed children beginning to create and design a food shelf!  As I watched this evolve I observed the children creating shelves for food, stacking baskets to create the shelving that they saw at the food shelf.  Later the food started to arrive in bags, arms and baskets.  The children seemed to work together in a flurry of constant movement and dialogue without any prompting or help from me.

Life in Kindergarten is really exciting and engaging.  I love how willing young children are to try new things and how excited they get when they explore a new idea and/or experience.  Play is such an important part of a young child’s day and development.  I value the time spent challenging children to push themselves in ways that they are genuinely attracted to when inspired by an idea.  The implications of the endless opportunities that can evolve through play are available to us, if we just open our eyes to the possibilities that exist.  The technologies available give children an opportunity to reflect and listen to themselves create and design play situations that display true meaning of their understanding of what they experience.  The challenge as a teacher is to continue to find ways daily for this type of sophisticated play to emerge.