Sunday, 28 September 2014

What does play mean and how can you have play in your Key Stage 2 classroom?

Play is at the heart of what happens in the Early Years. The government agrees: “Play is essential for children’s development, building their confidence as they learn to explore, to think about problems, and relate to others. Children learn by leading their own play, and by taking part in play which is guided by adults” (DfE, 2014, p9).

Lindon (2002) suggests that play describes “the activities of children from babyhood until the early teenage years” and identifies some common characteristics:
  •   Activities are chosen by the child
  •    They can be done alone, but are often done with others
  •    Play absorbs participants
  •   There can be disagreements within play “about how the play should progress”

So how does play work in Key Stage 2 classrooms? It’s a rhetorical question – I’m making a point: play doesn’t happen in Key Stage 2 classrooms (nor in lots of Key Stage 1 classrooms).  It seems contradictory that in schools we are comfortable encouraging children aged 3-5 to lead, choose, collaborate (and sometimes disagree) and consequently be absorbed, but uncomfortable about allowing children aged 5-11 this kind of ownership (leadership, choice, opportunities to invite collaboration and to disagree with those they collaborate with).  Perhaps play is not seen as a legitimate use of time.  But these play characteristics are life skills.  Isn’t it the responsibility of teachers to foster these skills?

How could you start to introduce play into your key stage 2 (or Key Stage 1) classroom? * 

Provide opportunities for children to take the lead.  Children might

a.     generate sets of activities in response to specific learning objectives
b.      identify key questions to answer
c.      develop criteria for assessment
d.     make assessment decisions
e.     evaluate the success of activities

Provide opportunities for choice.
  Children might choose

a.     from a selection of activities each of which enables them to demonstrate understanding/progress (see 1a)
b.     the order in which they complete a set of activities
c.      how to record an activity (by devising a chart or using a camera or a voice recorder)
d.     how they want to report back on an activity (through spoken word or PowerPoint or poster)

Provide opportunities for children to organise.
  Children might

a.     devise rules which govern how activities are carried out (and go through a process of disagreement and discussion)
b.     distribute roles
c.      invite participation/collaboration

* These approaches require adult guidance initially (modelling, moderation, evaluation, feedback).  Children don’t automatically know how to do these things, but I would argue that activities such as these develop the types of play activities with which children in the Early Years are encouraged to engage.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I am a PGCE primary student and have chosen to base my specialism assignment on playful learning, focusing on key stage 2. It is frustrating how limited the research is in this area and so it is refreshing to come across your blog. Any pointers or advice would be appreciated.