Learning in play.

Children learn as they play. Most importantly, in play children learn how to learn.
—O. Fred Donaldson
Contemporary American martial arts master

Play is our brain’s favorite way of learning.
—Diane Ackerman
Contemporary American author

Almost all creativity involves purposeful play.
—Abraham Maslow
American psychologist, 1908–1970

As a young learner, I loved being in the Classroom. I found so much joy in learning, and knew that this was the site of exploration and discovery (or perhaps more importantly a place/space of validation and encouragement from my educators). Now that I am a teacher-in-training, my love for classroom spaces persists. Yet my favorite time of the school day has become Recess.

Every morning, I go out to Recess with the primary classes in my student teaching placement. There are so many benefits of this daily practice. The opportunity to go outside, run around, get some exercise; the ability to observe my students in  more unstructured social situations/settings; the act of directly modeling for my students a transition from “class time” to “play time” and back again; the critical moments of intervening in conflict, facilitating conversation/reconciliation, inviting a lonely child to play too. I am still processing and exploring what advantages and opportunities can come from participating in Recess. At this point, I believe the most valuable product of this practice has been the effect that play has had on my relationships with my students. Spending even just fifteen minutes a day playing with the kids—smiling and laughing, creating new games together, simply being goofy—has opened up and (radically) transformed many of our student-teacher dialogues and dynamics, both in the classroom and without. Our play seems to have cultivated a sense of mutual respect, confidence, comfort/safety, and (most importantly) trust.

Play is the heart of a (or at least my) Pedagogy of Belonging. I strongly believe that all teachers can benefit from going/coming out to Recess. Not as a monitor on “Recess Duty,” but as a co-participant in the creative and collective play that goes on. I am eager to experience the continuing transformation and transgression this practice permits/provides.


5 thoughts on “Learning in play.

  1. janevangalen says:

    Cool. My other grad/seniors class is grappling with this video and with an assignment to do a “weekly play” as part of some digital communities that are exploring creativity. It’s a stretch to rethink learning as play after so many years of it feeling so otherwise.

    • RLT says:

      This sounds like a really cool and valuable assignment. I am always surprised (although maybe I shouldn’t be) by how many adults are unwilling to play. How do we push/pull/brake this barrier?

  2. I agree, I am one of those adults, unwilling to play, especially kids kind of play:) I have always admired adults who are natural at that. What a wonderful way to connect with the kids. I do have others ways of connecting but, outdoor play is not one of them. Coming back to recess, I had the opportunity to go out for recess last week, more than once as our class had earned extra recess. It was such a fun experience to talk to them in that environment. My question though is how do you transition back to class quickly because for me, it took a while for them to get into classroom mode. They were hoping that I would be more chatty and not give them work to do:)

    • RLT says:

      It makes me happy to hear that you got to experience the joy of recess! I think consistency in modelling the transition is key. Since I go out to recess with them every day, and model the same behavior every day as we transition together from class to recess to class again, the expectation becomes clear. It is still exciting for them to have me out at recess, but not so novel that it is distracting. I encourage you to keep going out to recess and see what happens! It can totally be uncomfortable, and sometimes I feel like the kid that is left out of the game, but I guarantee the practice of playing (and/or learning to play again) is worth any of the discomfort.

  3. […] able to comment  as much as I would have like to. Nevertheless, I engaged in conversations  here and here, by sharing my […]

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