We all know, “learning” is a continuous process that goes on throughout an individual’s life.
They start learning and acquiring skills from the experiences they get since their birth. However, “Learning” , specifically,in education is vital. It is a purposive and goal-oriented process that helps an individual progress and develops in their life and attains success; it has endless benefits. But, when educating kids, it is important to introduce “Play” into their learning process rather than providing a word-to-word learning.
Academics, at present, give more importance to “rigorous” learning, they have replaced kid’s playtime has with instruction and standardized tests. Their classrooms are being held to a higher standard and being expected to know how to read early-leveled books and are starting to prepare for standardized tests; which are not appropriate for our youngest students. They learn better while playing. Besides these, teachers need to understand that such “harsh” learning would be challenging for kids and it may not serve the purpose of “overall” development. Play is essential to a child’s social, emotional, physical, and intellectual development. It must be involved in learning.
In this article, we talk about importance of play during distance learning and how to support kids and their parents in making them play as well as learn.
Why is “Play” important?
According to a research learning through play is an important part of children’s development. One of the great benefits of play is that it allow children to release some extra energy, a help them find out who they are through play, even during infancy. Besides these, using educational toys can be extremely beneficial; they can learn many different skills which they will need in their life such as:
- Problem solving and learning skills
- Learn how to play with others through compromise, conflict resolution and sharing
- Develop fine and gross motor skills
- Nurture their creativity and imagination
- Discover their independence and positive self-esteem
In a nutshell, we may say, play provides opportunities for self-discovery and social connections to kids; and allows them to try out ideas and use what they are learning in their academic subjects in a less pressurized environment. It develops imagination and speaking and listening skills and solidifies math and science concepts. Not only this, Play time can be used to deeply explore mistakes and learn from them, because children are intrinsically motivated to repair a friendship or rebuild a structure.
What does “Meaningful Play” mean?
When deciding to introduce play into learning, make sure you provide a “meaningful play.” Here the question arises, what does “meaningful play” actually mean?
According to a book, From Play to Practice: Connecting Teachers' Play to Children's Learning,these are the characteristics of “meaningful play”:
- It gives the child a choice about what he or she wants to do.
- It feels fun and enjoyable for the child.
- It evolves spontaneously, rather than giving kids a script to follow.
- It is driven by intrinsic motivation about what the child wants to do.
- It creates a risk-free environment where kids can experiment and try new ideas.
- How to keep kids playing during distance learning?
When planning to teach through play, firstly, ensure families that you care just as much about unstructured play time as you do about academic work, make them understand the importance of play. Then, include play in your daily or weekly assignments, and provide a time frame, as you might with a reading lesson.
To make learning more fun, ask parents to take photos or videos of students at play and share them with you. This might look like something the child built or drew, or a fantasy game invented by them.
Besides these, you could schedule a one-on-one interactive session with each student on an audio/video call, and express that all you are interested in learning is how they play at home: What’s their views about play? What materials do they use? What they like most to play or say game? Which is their favourite toy? Make note of all those information for further reference. You may also assess a student’s performance by asking them questions related to their play routine.
You could also arrange video conference with the whole class on zoom or other similar platforms. During this meet, share your interest in their play with all of your students: Ask questions similar to one-on-one interactive session, for example “What have you built so far at home? What amongst them were badly-built and the best that you are proud of? What troubled them while building things?” Ask them to share problems that are arising and what strategies they are using to solve them. Once received all answers, talk about them and guide them for better performance in future. All these must be done in a friendly yet interesting manner with a focus on play, so that your whole class continues to see you giving it your value and attention.This would help communicate to your students that even though you’re not in the classroom together, you continue to be a community dedicated to solving problems and working together.
Furthermore, incorporate games into your online teaching, like I Spy, scavenger hunts, Pitching pennies, Puzzles solving, Pictionary and more. These games should be focused on building skills through play and most importantly, should interest them.
Needless to say, teaching kids might be a big challenge for few parents and frustrating for some students too, some may not have much interesting learning at home or integrate playing in learning. In such circumstances, share strategies for working through frustrations, challenges with your students and their families, share whatever you used in the classroom to help kids emotionally regulate —whether it was taking a break, stretching in classroom, running around the playground, or talking with classmates or others. Suggest allowing kids to make a journal for drawing pictures, an adult to talk to, or a recorder where they can “record” be listened to later by a hypothetical adult to let the child take out their frustrations.
These strategies would help you in traditional classroom when kids would return to the “ old normal.”This would have kids play, take risks, try new things, dream, and discover more about themselves and each other even in traditional classrooms and make them learn better than before.
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