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October 18, 2011 Keeping Play in Kindergarten by Making It a Collaborative Learning Time By Megan Power
Grades PreK–K

    It’s easy to get caught up in the curriculum and the standards and forget that our young students are just that . . . young. As more kindergartens are going full day and our grade level expectations are increasing, it is important to remember to schedule in time for play. Play doesn’t have to be open, free playtime. It can also double as important learning time. Read on for more about how our collaborative workshop time allows kindergartners to play and learn at the same time.

    As a mom of a 3-year-old and a 17-month-old, I know firsthand how important play is in child development. During this important piece of children’s learning, they practice and develop life, social, and language skills. Even at ages 4 and 5, children need this.

    Two years ago I decided to take a look at my daily routine to see where students had the opportunity to play. Since my traditional center time was being replaced with more efficient and individualized learning time, my students' playtime was now down to just daily recess and Fun Fridays, when students have free choice the last part of the day.

    The students and I brainstormed different workshop centers that they would like. They came up with building, storytelling, dramatic play, creative thinking, board games, and art. I supplied the centers with tools they could use as they played together. For example, in the building area, they have different types of building blocks, road pieces, houses, cars, little people, and even traffic signs. Our dramatic play area has been a grocery store and then a doctor’s office, and we are currently turning it into a farm with costumes, props, and decorations made by students.


    When I began collaborative workshop, I assigned students to a group and a workshop area. They began playing right away, and I watched to see how they interacted with each other and how well they played together. I noticed that in all of the areas, students were mainly playing side by side and not together. This was an interesting observation for me because my class works together on many different types of projects. I realized that many of them just didn’t know how to play together and just did parallel play.

    After I made this observation, we decided to call this playtime "collaborative workshop time."  We took the time to learn what the word "collaborate" means, and the kids helped come up with rules to promote collaboration in their group.

    Here are their rules:

    • You must have a team meeting and come up with a plan everyone agrees with before anyone touches any materials.
    • You must be working and playing together. This means you need to talk with each other as well.
    • At the five-minute warning, the group must decide on a spokesperson that will share out what the group did and how they worked together.
    • In the art group, where they will have worked on one picture together, the group must agree on which child will take the picture home.

    At the end of the collaborative workshop time, we go around to the different groups and the spokesperson shares out what the group did and how well they worked together. The big focus is on working together. We ask if there were any disagreements and how they worked it out.

    Ever since I started collaborative workshop time, my students are much better equipped to work with others. The effects of this important play and learning time spill over into the rest of our day. Students love this special time with their friends where they can just be kids.

    As teachers we are educating the whole child when we provide them with both a strong academic environment and opportunities to express themselves and explore through art, music, digital media, and play. I’d love to hear your thoughts on keeping play in kindergarten. Please comment below and share with our collaborative blogging community.


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Susan Cheyney