“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.