Reflective Practice and Play as Complex Learning…

As I walked into the University of Saskatchewan this morning, and entered into Marquis Hall where the Reflective Practice and Play as Complex Learning Institute is being held, I was reminded of where my learning began in my journey in the philosophy of Reggio Emilia. I was greeted by familiar faces of educators and facilitators that have guided my practice and inspired me as a teacher.

Play is something we still have to hold up. – Deb Curtis
The institute began with a video that encapsulated the importance of play and how play can encourage children to not only work together to problem solve, communicate, build language, and explore the world in a way that we cannot offer. (I’ll find the video and upload it). The children in the video spent 6 minutes trying to bring a plastic bottle from one side of the fence to the other. Through many different trials and errors, the children brought the bottle through the fence. Lorrie Baird asked us this question, and I will pose it to you as well, “what do you notice in the video about the brilliance of a child?”

“What specific roles do you think educators play to support the development of complex play for children’s learning?”

My first thought came to the value that we as educators put on time. We so often as teachers, regulate the time frame that learning can take place. If time is given to children to explore and discover, the learning that happens can be brilliant.

Check out to watch more videos of children learning through play.

I feel like my thoughts are starting to bounce off all areas of my brain and my mind is thinking about my practice. So I apologize, if this post feels disjointed in any way. However, where my mind is going right off the bat, is towards the teaching around literacy. How can we as educators incorporate the belief of play based learning into the parameters centered around literacy education within the classroom? When I returned from my maternity leave in January, I gave myself a goal to answer this question in my own classroom. Years ago, I let go of the “printing books” and focused on writing workshop in order to teach printing, and letter sound recognition, for children to develop these skills.

This year, I have focused my energy on setting up engaging invitations to provoke children’s thinking about letters, sounds, building words, and storytelling. I still am using Writing Workshop and think it’s such a valuable tool for children to share their stories, but thinking about what else I can do, what should I be doing as a teacher that engages the children through play. I am hoping to become inspired today to go further in this practice.

Roles for Educators…

We looked at pictures and listened to a teacher explain the play that her children took through creating pathways. The children’s play evolved, and the educator allowed the space and materials that engaged them further in that play. “Troubling the play” created opportunities for new thinking to take place. She put breaks within their pathways, which allowed the children to develop their thinking and problem solve through the situation. This project developed into creating a variety of pathways through many different materials and connected to taking their thinking outside and through their community. As we reflected on these photos and the teachers voice, we shared in a conversation the role that educators play in the environment and how we can support children and recognize the potential and richness that has come from this initial engagement.

1. Educator as Architect

  • planning for and adapting the space for the children’s active minds and big hearts
  • provisioning the environment with complex materials for many possibilities, exploration, and learning
  • creating opportunities to explore magic and wonder, light and shadows, sound, colour, and texture
  • Integrating outdoor and natural elements into the indoor environment
  • Rearranging the environment to create new interest and investigations

2. Educator as Observer

  • Noticing the details of the children’s play in the environment
  • Making note of a child’s likes, dislikes, accomplishments, and frustrations
  • Observing before intervening or reacting
  • Using observations to plan curriculum and interactions based on children’s ideas and interests.

3. Educator as Prop Manager

  • Suggesting play possibilities through collections and arrangements of materials
  • Encouraging open-ended use and transformation of materials
  • Creating order behind the play with casual picking up and putting away (refocusing)
  • Providing additional materials to extend play without interrupting the play flow

4. Educator as Coach

  • Recognizing skills and strengths and providing opportunities to practice them
  • Encouraging risk-taking with a supportive presence
  • Teaching skills to support independence and deeper use of materials

5. Educators as Mediator

  • Creating a climate of safety for children to speak their needs and feelings
  • Seeing conflicts as opportunities to learn social skills and see other perspectives
  • Providing support and language for children to solve their own problems
  • Focusing on the content of the play rather than on a violation of rules

6. Educator as Collaborator

  • Seeking multiple perspectives from coworkers, children, and families for making decisions
  • Sharing decision making on directions to take with children and curriculum
  • Joining with others in the work to be done

7. Educator as Broadcaster and Storyteller

  • Describing children’s ideas and work to them and others
  • Showing children their ideas through photo and homemade books
  • Making written and pictorial representation of children’s play
  • Creating stories for children about their own play activities
  • Taking dictation or transcribing children’s language
  • Supporting children’s efforts to tell stories or write about their play creations
  • Sharing the stories of children’s play and learning with families and the larger community

Children are not distracted. They are attracted. We need to slow down so children can show us the wonders of the world. – Lorrie Baird

This has huge implications in our practice and how we take on this role as an educator. How can we capitalize on the mind of these incredible beings? 

One Comment

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