“a game is a moment when the kid gets to have that in spades, when the kid gets to be focused and intent and hardworking and having fun at the same time.” (Jenkins, 2006b)

     Incorporating play in the classroom brings more engagement into lessons. The students become dedicated to their learning, it has become real to them, it has created a goal that they feel determined to reach. I have seen that the students feel safe in a play based lessons, creating less of an emotional risk f being wrong.  After reading through Jenkins “Confronting the Challenge of Participatory Culture,” “Play: the capacity to experiment with one’s surrounding as form of problem solving.” (pg. 22-25) and thinking of my past and present classrooms I can really see how play equals; engagement, experimentation, risk taking, problem solving, emotional investments, and of course fun. This week’s assignment was to have the students create a game to teach and play with their peers.

I have found the value of play in my classroom to be extremely important no matter the grade. The kids that are struggling feel a little more at ease if they see their learning as play.  I also see the kids who need to be challenged take on more of a leadership role in the lesson as well as trying new things and challenging themselves. I provide many opportunities for play in my class. More so in science, socials, writing, drama, and math. I have been wondering how I could incorporate play into my reading lessons. Even if it is just a short play time the kids get engaged…most of the time.  This also leads me to think about center time (we call it exploration time in our class), and  how important it is to have during  the day. As a teacher I use this time to observe social interactions amongst the students. I watch for listening skills, problem solving, fairness, and I also pay attention to their questions and wondering. Exploration time has become a meaningful assessment tool as well it helps me better understand each individual.

I really see the value in play especially in math. The kids get excited to do math and want to continue with it. Today for example our math went for over an hour and a half, just by simply playing with the materials and then doing some work. The students that finished early were so excited to continue playing with the math materials and math games that I had to remind them to lower their voices a couple of times. It was great to see them all enjoying it! There assignment today was to begin planning on creating a game for math. We first brain-stormed what makes a good game. I simply wrote what they decided on. I loved the idea that a game should not need any adult involvement.

After we decided on what makes a good game, I had the students select a team of three. It is good to note that we collaborate all year, and most times I create the groups. However, the students have demonstrated that they understand how to create good working groups without leaving others out.  I told the kids that they would have three days to work on their game (three 45 minute blocks).We will teach our games to the others on Tuesday. They all got to work immediately! Here are a few examples of what they created. As I walked around I wrote down my observations and ask the students questions.

This group created two games. I asked them what inspired them to create their games. They told me that they wanted to use some of the tools (tens and ones and playing cards) that we have used to create a game about guessing and counting. They felt that people would really enjoy it. This group created guidebooks, which was all their idea!

Another group created a game called Make a Number. They told me the goal was to create the highest number using our place value tools and dice. After you had to create the number using counters. I asked them how is it  game. They told me well, “you have to ass and figure our how many counters you need. It is really fun and we are learning 100’s and hoe to add better and to put things in order and we can look at measurement.”

One group spent a lot of time planning with each other before they started to create. Their game is called Bear Math. They told me “it is a game because you need to figure out how many spaced you need to go forward or backward. You don’t have to write the question down, you just have to say it.” They were very excited about giving colour choice of the game pieces to the players.The students felt that it was goo to have choice in their game.

I am looking forward to seeing the kids present their games to each other. I know they really want teach their older buddy class the new games, I think I will try to make that happen. As I look back on this assignment I do see the validation in play. I have also been a believer in play in lessons, but I now feel I can explain it much better to students, to parents, and colleagues. Another exert from Jenkins, “No sooner does a player enter a game than he or she begins identifying core conditions and looking for problems that must be addressed.”(pg.24) I read this in the midst of the students creating their games and I saw this happening. The kids were thinking critically and they were engaged in their own learning.


Learning Team Reflection

“Children everywhere know that the secret of wisdom is to be curious about the world, to open up their senses and see, hear, taste, touch, and smell life’s treasures.  Giving children time to explore their world, ask questions, and pursue those questions that matter to them the most lets them know I value their curiosity outside the classroom as well as inside. My job is to continue to nurture their wonder and work to awaken my own.” pg. 135

Once we started our learning I began to read Debbie Miller’s book, Reading for Meaning. I adore this book, and I know it is one that I will read before every new school year. I was also recommended the book, A Place to Wonder by Georgia Hear & Jennifer McDonough. In that book there is an amazing quote that connects so well with reading nonfiction;

A Place for Wonder

” The secret of wisdom is to be curious – to take the time to look closely, to use all your sense to see, and touch and taster and smell and hear. To keep on wondering.”

In class we have been doing a lot of wondering! We have a wonder wall where the students and sometimes parents post their wonders. It is a great way to provide support to the students who are afraid to ask questions for fear of being wrong. It is a place to understand that not all wonders and questions need to be answered, but to be embraced and to take us to further wonderings.We use Wonderopolis, a great site for wonders of the day, I provide questions of the day for us to merely think about, and sometimes I show them little video clips about the wonders in the world. The students love these activities and continuously refer back to these lessons, making connections!

Over the year I have seen a huge growth in my students in their collaboration skills, their communicating skills, and their reading skills. But most important I have seen a growth in their understanding of their own learning. The students explain to me how they learned something, how they found an answer, and how they helped another student with a question. We have done many assignments around reading fiction and non-fiction. Many of the lessons have come from Debbie Miller and some have come from Adrienne Gear’s workshops.

Our latest assignment has to do with creating their own non-fiction book. Wow, the first day of research was an eye-opener! I instructed the students that in pairs they would work collaboratively with their partners to help research their Canadian animal. Immediately I noticed how well the students got to work and they were discussing what they were doing as they did it. Here are a few quotes I got from the students as they were researching;

What is good about researching together?

“So we can help other people ad express our ideas and then we have two people’s ideas to write down.” LT “Then I ger more work done quicker and I get more writing done too.” JB

“It helps you get it down faster, one person reads while the other writes.” TR  “It helps when you don’t know a word and if there is something not in the book and your partner knows they can tell you!” JC
Now these two I caught deliberating on where to look for something. Madisyn was trying to use the table of contents to find what type of food her animal, the eagle, eats. Well, the table of contents did not say food or eats and she was a little baffled. Her partner, Archie, says not I think it might be under prey, what do you think? This picture was taken while they were discussing this, these two worked so well together and they encouraged each other and thanked each other.
I have taught the reading strategies throughout the year using fiction and non-fiction with the students. I believe they have really understand the differences in reading both, but more importantly how to use the strategies while they read both fiction and non-fiction.  The students have been having conversations around what they are reading and learning. I hear them use the language that comes along with the reading strategies, and I have seen them all gain confidence in their own learning. They have shown that they are curious an now are not afraid to wonder why. I embrace the questions that I do not know, and I validate the student who can teach me. To model to the students that we too are learners open the students eyes to see that we do not always need to have the answers to the questions, but that we need to be open to dig deeper to find the answers even if that means more questions!
Back to Debbie Miller’s quote;
“Children everywhere know that the secret of wisdom is to be curious about the world, to open up their senses and see, hear, taste, touch, and smell life’s treasures.  Giving children time to explore their world, ask questions, and pursue those questions that matter to them the most lets them know I value their curiosity outside the classroom as well as inside. My job is to continue to nurture their wonder and work to awaken my own.” pg. 135