Help! Can there be a balance between play/Academics in Kindergarten?

Posted on September 11, 2010. Filed under: edublog, Kindergarten, reflection, teaching and learning | Tags: , , |

This week’s post is a reflection on what has happened in my Kindergarten classroom this week:  I was sick and had to book a sub, I survived a meet the teacher night, and I am battling through the idea of meaningful play versus academic/literacy work.

First, I booked my first sub yesterday.  I had got really sick Thursday night during meet the teacher night.  I was shaking, freezing cold, and felt like I was going to pass out.  By the end of the night, I was sitting down behind my desk as parents were coming up to talk to me.  (I know, in terms of teacher etiquette, that’s a big no no, but in my opinion, it was better than passing out into a parent’s arms.)  I decided to keep my hands under my desk because they were shaking so bad; I didn’t want my parents thinking I was a drug addict needing a fix! I had decided to write out a detailed sub plan that night, just in case I wasn’t feeling better by the morning.  When I got home, I hopped into bed and threw a whole bunch of blankets on top of me, and sure enough, 5 minutes later I was sweating and couldn’t handle the heat… Oh the joys of being sick.  On Friday morning I woke up and still felt like I had been hit by a train so I called the sub office and asked for our school’s “resident sub.”  I had heard about her in the staff room; apparently she’s been subbing at Ford close to 30 years.  I figured my kids would be in good hands, so I asked for her.  This was a tough decision for me as I want to give some of my friends who are subbing a chance to work, but I figured that because it is still this early into the year, an experienced sub might be able to handle them a bit better.  I had her call me at lunch time to let me know how things went and she had very nice things to say!

Second thought from this week: I battled a lot with the idea of academics versus play.  I am a very strong believer in play.  I believe that early childhood classrooms should be centered around the play environment, and that play is how children learn.  But, I have also been reading some books that have been stressing early literacy skills.  It says that the best indicator of how well a child will do in Grade 1 is how well a child knows his/her letters and sounds by the end of Kindergarten.  Now the obvious solution to this dilemma would be to teach the children their letters and sounds through play.  Of course! I have in fact thought of that.  But the problem I am facing is the clock.  I usually do my explicit instruction right after circle time heading into table activity time. This is where I try and teach the kids their skills or concepts and do a table activity that corresponds.  This week we played alphabet bingo.  This game was a playful way for the kids to become more familiar with their letters and sounds.  This table time goes great, but I find that the battle is not during the table activity time, it is during free centres time, where the children choose their own play activity.  Centres time comes after snack, which is after recess.  This playtime lasts for about 35 minutes, and I feel like I am running around trying to help the children in their centres rather than observing, questioning and documenting their play.  I want to use the play, debrief, play method where children play, come and talk about it in a circle, then go back and experience it again, but I feel like there is just not enough time in the day.  I have also noticed that the math centre, writing centre, and ABC centre are not chosen as much as the dramatic play, car centre, paint centre etc.  I completely understand why this is, but I am afraid that by the end of the year, if I continue to give them free centres time, some of them will not have had enough literacy/numeracy experiences.  Am I falling into the idea that the “other” types of play (the ones that don’t have to do with letters or numbers) aren’t important? I hope not.  I know the value of pure play, but I also want my Kindergarten’s to succeed in a school system that is heading towards a higher focus in numeracy and literacy.

That all said, my goal this week is to try and appoint some centres experts in the classroom that can answer their peer’s questions about the computer centre, or the music centre, etc.  Hopefully this will free me up to actually have a chance to get around and observe, interact with, and question the children in their play.

As for the discussion around balanced play and academics, I will keep reflecting on it.  I know that being a good teacher means that I need to meet the needs of my students, and I need to be flexible in my practice.

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2 Responses to “Help! Can there be a balance between play/Academics in Kindergarten?”

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Could you do something similar to the Daily 5 system, where the teacher keeps track of which centres the children choose on a daily basis, and then “encourage” them to choose a wider variety of centres?
Could have stipulations like choose alphabet/math/writing centre at least one or two times per week. Maybe they need more guidance/suggestions on how to use these centres as these would be the most “foreign” to them.
Just some ideas for you, I don’t have answers!
Good luck!

Teachers, researchers and administrators all ask this question. The pendulum right now is swinging towards more academics in Kindergarten, but I am with you in believing in the importance of play.
Remember that free play can support literacy and numeracy development. Try implementing literacy/numeracy into the free play centres. For example, a phone book in the house centre or menus and paper for taking orders at a kitchen/restaurant. Your students will get better at centres…I know it seems to take forever, but it does happen. Once they are better at handling the centres on their own you will have more time to interact with them academically during centre time.

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