Making Connections between Play and Assessing Children’s Learning

This month’s newsletter is all about play and how teachers can engage in play with young children.  In the newsletter, we acknowledge the many tasks that teachers are responsible for completing on a daily basis.  Sometimes there are just not enough hours in the day to sit down and play, which is unfortunate.  Luckily, there are ways to multi-task, by using free play as a time to complete those ever important child assessment tools. 

Free play provides an excellent opportunity to gather authentic assessment data. Being at the table or on the floor with the children will allow you to get a more accurate sense of how they think, solve problems, interact with peers, and regulate their emotions.

Here is a list of things teachers can do to integrate authentic assessment into their play with children:

Learn the standards. Take time to become familiar with the learning standards or skills included on the assessment tools used by your program.  Over time, you will probably have much of the list memorized, which will help you recognize skills as they happen during children’s play.

Focus on one skill or area of development at a time. Be intentional about where you want to start your observations.  Pick one area of development or even one specific skill to focus upon each day or even each week.

Provide materials that promote the skills you hope to observe. Once you have identified the area of development or skill you want to observe, consider the materials available to you. Determine which materials would be most likely to bring about the skills you want to observe.  You don’t necessarily need to plan a specific activity for children to complete – simply make the materials available in a learning center and plan to engage in play with children in that area. See what happens next.

Brainstorm prompts and questions.  As we discuss in the newsletter, your questions should not derail children’s play, but a few properly timed and worded prompts can drive children’s thinking in a new direction. Without directly asking children to perform the task you want to observe, you can work questions into play scenarios such as, “How could we solve this problem?”

Post cue cards. Make notes on cue cards that you place in prominent areas of the classroom. Your cue cards can have the learning standards written on them or the open ended questions and prompts that you want to use.  Write these statements on Post-it notes or sentence strips to remind yourself and your coworkers of the skills and prompts you plan to use during play.

Think creatively about the materials and how they are used.  Sometimes we get stuck thinking that materials can only be used for one purpose or in one learning center.  Open your thinking to consider different ways to use materials to promote child engagement.  Ask colleagues and even the children if they have any ideas about new ways to use materials that might have lost their appeal.

Tell us about other ways that you have used free play as a time to assess children’s learning on our Facebook page here.

May 2019 Newsletter – Engaging in Play with Children: Why Engage in Play with Children

Here are a few reasons why engaging with children while they play is an important task for ECE professionals:

It allows teachers to learn more about children’s skills and abilities. Simply playing with children can give teachers a true sense of what children are capable of achieving.  Doing so is a form of authentic assessment, which can be more accurate that putting children on the spot be asking them to complete a task on demand.Teachers can then use the information they gather during play to introduce different materials, ask relevant questions, and extend children’s learning. 

It provides an opportunity to introduce and model many different skills. Engaging in learning centers or on the playground can be an excellent way to gently model the use of the following skills:

  • Language skills: new vocabulary, conflict resolution language, naming emotions
  • Problem solving skills: brainstorm solutions, use tools in different ways, try different approaches to problems
  • Use of materials: how materials work, cause and effect, how materials can be used creatively
  • Cognitive and critical thinking skills: practicing elements of the scientific method, reflecting on learning, pre-math and early literacy practice
  • Social skills: manners, communicating wants and needs, considering the wants and needs of others
  • Self-regulation: managing frustrations, self-calming strategies, perseverance

It helps teachers build relationships with children. In a nutshell, playing with children helps teacher build strong, trusting bonds with children.  Children will see teachers as trusted playmates and guides who are there to support them in all types of scenarios.Everything teachers hope to accomplish is grounded in the relationships that they have with children. Taking time to engage in meaningful play with children supports everything else on the daily agenda. 

Tell us about the reasons you engage in play with children on our Facebook page here!

For the main article Engaging in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Ways to Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article When to NOT Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Encouraging Teachers to Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

May 2019 Newsletter – Engaging in Play with Children

Early childhood professionals have may responsibilities.  The list of tasks that must be completed on a daily basis includes everything from making sure the environment is clean and safe to planning lessons and documenting learning.  Teachers are responsible for feeding young children, settling them down for rest time, and supporting them as they develop self-help skills such as using the toilet independently. Teachers must establish and maintain open lines of communication with families, collaborate with coworkers, and coordinate with other service providers who work with the children in their care. On top of all of that, teachers must be prepared, at any moment, to support children as they work through social interactions with their peers.

These tasks are time-consuming and can fill an entire day in the blink of an eye. They are equally important and together; contribute to the high-quality learning environments that every child deserves. That being said, there is another task that is just as important for children’s learning and development; one that often gets placed on a back burner as teachers work to fulfill all of their other responsibilities. We are talking about engaging in play with children. 

Different philosophies approach the idea of engaging children in play in different ways.  Some people are staunch advocates for allowing children to engage in free-play, without any adult interruption.  Others feel it necessary to guide most aspects of children’s play, from the materials they can play with, to how long they must play with those materials.   

In this newsletter, we will explore ways that teachers can enter into meaningful and purposeful play as well as way to recognize when they should NOT interrupt children’s play.  Our goal is to help teachers find a middle-path, or balance, in allowing children free-play while still utilizing children’s play as the valuable teaching tool that it is. 

For the article Why Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Ways to Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article When to NOT Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Director’s Corner: Encouraging Teachers to Engage in Play with Children, CLICK HERE