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Dr. Tisha Shipley has been in education for over 23 years. She has taught Pre-K, Kindergarten, Gifted and Talented 3rd-6th Grades, Dr. Shipley was an elementary principal, a cheer coach, and was on...
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Be An Advocate For Play

As early childhood professionals, we each have a philosophy on teaching, classroom management, family engagement, and curriculum, to name only a few. Starting today, we must make sure that if our philosophies don’t already include play, we begin developing that vital part of our teaching philosophy. We must be advocates for young children, and that means pushing for and doing what is best for each individual child. We must advocate for more developmentally appropriate practices, play curriculum, teaching on their developmental level, and differentiating for all learners.

Being an advocate for play means having a plan! 

These are great questions to start out with: What do we want our environments to look like? What materials do we need to begin collecting? What curriculums are based around play? How many centers will our environment allow? How will I assess my children for growth and learning?

There will always be advocates against play and all for learning through paper pencils and formal assessment techniques. We must always remember that a child’s vehicle for learning is play. We can even prove this to naysayers, but we must be prepared to do this! As professionals, we get to decide what and how play will look in our environments. It is up to you, and you are creative, and you can do this!

What we need to think about:

  • Believing in DAP centers where children can engage, collaborate and play.
  • Providing documentation about centers that shows alignment to state, national, and local school standards.
  • Providing resources to families, administration, and the community about the power of play.
  • Research the theories, theorists, and relevant and current research that shows how children learn best.

How I like to set play up in my classroom: 

Table toys/puzzles/manipulatives, games, etc., as my students enter the classroom.

Setting up multiple differentiated centers that reach each child is open-ended and allows for creativity, imagination, trial and error, engagement, and collaboration. 

Centers with materials that are rich and children want to learn about.

Centers that allow children to practice the curriculum taught in the classroom through play. 

How to Assess for Learning through Play

Authentic assessment that includes: checklists, anecdotal notes, observations, portfolios of pictures and work, rubrics, and interviews are great ways to assess children while they play. This allows teachers to not only see a child’s learning as they are engaged in the process but allows teachers to plan for what comes next. Proving that you can align standards to play and assess will help you with the naysayers of a play-based curriculum.

 If we are not already doing it, let’s begin advocating for play. Let’s use the NAEYC standards and prove that play based curriculum works and is what is best for children. It is all about trial and error; what is the first thing you want to do to improve your teaching practices when it comes to play?