My kindergarten colleague, Lauren, brought up an important issue in her comment on my last post, Explore:
“In the first few weeks of school we use a lot of explore time in kindergarten with Unifix cubes, pattern blocks, and other manipulatives. What kinds of questions can we ask during discussion to create meaningful reflection and what supporting materials should we provide in order to make the play time more focused?”
Lauren brings up the point that the role of the teacher in Explore Time is very important. The teacher, through her carefully crafted questions and facilitation of group reflection, can help children take their play to a deeper level.
Selma Wassermann writes about exactly this issue in, Serious Players in the Primary Classroom: Empowering Children Through Active Learning Experiences. In this book Wassermann explains her “play-debrief-replay” structure in which a question, materials, or idea is introduced and children freely explore and play with it. The teacher’s role during the initial exploration is questioning and observation. After the initial play session the teacher facilitates a debrief session in which she helps children identify problems to be solved and ideas to be further explored. She helps plant the seeds of thought that can be explored further and more deeply in the next play session, the “replay,” which immediately follows the debrief.
Although this book is a little older, is has great ideas for open-ended math and science inquiries you can set up and how you can lead children through the “Play-Debrief-Replay” structure. In an upcoming post, I’ll walk you through one such session in my classroom and delve deeper into the teacher language used for facilitation. In the meantime, find yourself a copy of Serious Players for some ideas on how to deepen and empower children’s play in your classroom!