May 2019 Student Spotlight – Lisa Stevens

I was a Head Start parent who volunteered in my daughter’s preschool classroom in the 1994-1995 school year. An Assistant Teacher position became available and I applied and started as an Assistant Teacher in 1995. I taught in the classroom for just over 20 years. I spent four years as an Assistant Teacher and then the rest of my years as Lead Teacher until I took a Mentor position.

My favorite time to be in the classrooms is still Choice Time (Free Play). The amount of discovery, “lightbulb moments”, and learning you can watch unfold, and help facilitate during that time of day is just the best! I think that, like myself, most of the children would say Choice Time is their favorite time of day!

I am currently the Education Mentor for our Head Start program and handle Professional Development tracking. At 18, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, and I still get to be a part of that by supporting their Teachers as they reflect on teaching practices and further their work as quality preschool teachers. I was awarded my CDA early in my career and kept that until I began college for Early Childhood. I love the position I currently hold, and the agency I work for, so I can see myself staying in this position as long as that’s possible. What I love most about being an Education Mentor is being able to be a support to teachers, knowing I understand and have been in their shoes.

CCEI provides our teaching staff with SUTQ Ohio Approved training hours that are relevant to their work in the classrooms. Through coaching, we can individualize our Professional Development efforts and assign CCEI trainings to staff considering their current goals and the needs they have expressed. I have received positive feedback from the teaching staff about how CCEI courses made them dig deeper and reflect on their practices. I will be using CCEI for my own professional Development in the future.

In my free time, I love spending time with my husband and our four granddaughters. I love to do art projects or crafting with my granddaughters. I love being involved at my church because it’s really my “home away from home”. I like to read and be near the water whether that’s a lake at a local state park, a waterfall on a trail, or at the beach. Those peaceful moments help me to recharge and refocus, so that I can give the best of me to my family and my career.

May 2019 Newsletter – Engaging in Play with Children: Director’s Corner – Encouraging Teachers to Engage in Play with Children

In early learning environments, as with most other workplace settings, the tone is set at the top. This means there are things that you can do as a leader to encourage teachers to be more playful in the classroom.  Below is a list of a few things to consider – we would love to hear how you encourage teachers to engage in play in your program.

Be playful. Play games during staff meetings that build teamwork and cooperation.  Ask teachers to brainstorm ways that these games can be adapted for children of different ages.

Practice playing. Provide professional development opportunities that allow teachers to engage in play and recognize the benefits of open-ended, free play. Trainings should also guide teachers how to enter into play and ways to engage with children in meaningful ways.

Make intentional plans to play. When reviewing teachers’ lesson plans, provide feedback about ways that more open-ended exploration of materials can be integrated into the plan.  Encourage teachers to identify which times of day, or during which activities, they intend to engage children in play.

Materials for play. Review material request lists to ensure that most of the requested materials can be used during open-ended free play. During classroom inspections, look for materials that can be used creatively and in multiple ways.

Time for play. Observe classrooms in action to ensure that the daily schedule allows for long periods of interrupted play. Work with teachers to adjust their daily routine to include more time for children to engage in free play.

Model ways to engage in play with children. Set ten minutes aside each week to visit classrooms and just play with the children.  Encourage teachers to observe you, whenever possible. Afterward, talk about what they noticed you doing while you were engaged with the children.

Organize play dates. Once a month, invite parents to visit the program and engage in play with their children. Teachers can guide parents on ways to allow children to engage in child-led play and engage with them in meaningful ways. Provide a variety of resources for parents to take with them about the value of play!

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

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

May 2019 Newsletter – Engaging in Play with Children: When to NOT Engage in Play with Children

Here are a few instances where it may be better to sit back and observe children, rather than stepping in or interrupting their play:

When children appear completely engrossed in their work. If children, whether playing alone or in a small group, are engaged in play that is industrious and captivating, it is not necessary to step in.  Look for opportunities to step in when children’s play seems stagnate or when you see that a nudge in a different direction would extend the children’s play. 

When children are talking through a conflict. If children are actively seeking a solution to a problem, hold back and allow them to generate their own solutions.  They may not use the nicest tone of voice, or as much patience as we would like, but those skills can be discussed later.  Don’t stop the momentum of the problem solving to coach small details. Once the scenario has played out, acknowledge the children for using their words to communicate and point out the positive actions that you noticed.  This will give children clues as to what they can use next time a conflict arises.

When your engagement would not add anything valuable to the play. This happens often when children are engaged in play and a teacher approaches them, stops their work, and asks them a question that is unrelated to their play.  For example, imagine a child who is building a structure in the bock area.  A teacher approaches the child and says, “How many blocks did you use to build your tower?” The child replies, “It isn’t a tower, it’s a spaceship.”  The teacher amends the original question and the child stops working to count the blocks. This type of interruption and irrelevant line of questioning does not add anything to the child’s play.  Consider asking open ended questions that encourage children to tell you a story about their play.

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

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

May 2019 Newsletter – Engaging in Play with Children: Ways to Engage in Play with Children

There are a number of things to consider when entering into play with children. It is important to honor children’s play by working yourself into their story line, rather than taking over and changing their play.

Even when you are attempting to redirect children to a more productive kind of play, attempt to notice what the children find motivating and engaging about the play scenario and make adaptations to the materials if possible.  Imagine children pretending to have a snowball battle, but they are using hard plastic materials. Rather than stopping their play altogether, recognize the joy and benefits of their play and encourage them to think of materials they could use that will keep everyone safe, such as pompoms, cotton balls, or balls of scrap paper.   

In order to do this, you will need to observe children before entering into their play – as long as the scenario is safe.  If there is a dangerous situation, you will need to address it immediately.

Here are a few other practices to consider when entering into different kinds of play scenarios with children:

Wait for an invitation. It is quite common for children to invite adults into their play by assigning them a role. You could sit down near the dramatic play center and ask, “Is it okay with you if I hang out here for a few minutes?” and see what happens next.

Ask for permission. From time to time, you may want to join children in play because you see an opportunity to extend their learning or introduce something new.  In these instances, rather than stopping the play to teach the lesson, ask if you can join the children and then work your idea into the children’s play.

Comment on what you witness. Rather than stopping children’s play to ask unrelated questions, make comments about what you see children doing.  You could say something like, “I see that you are using the back of the shovel to pack the sand tightly into the cup. That’s a great way to use that tool. I wonder which tool I could use?”

Ask questions. Choose your questions and timing wisely. Refrain from peppering the children with a ton of questions.  Do not allow your questions to interrupt the flow of the play.  Open-ended questions and “I wonder…” questions can help you guide children to make new discoveries in their play, without doing the work for them. 

What are a few of your favorite ways to engage in play with children? Tell us on Facebook here.

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

For the article Why 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