Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Power of Play

When you ask your child what they did at school all day, what do they say?  "We played!" Well, they are right!  Play is an important part of what we do each day!  Many of the projects and inquiries that have happened in our room either happened during our free exploration time or are started during our free exploration time.  Here are a few examples of learning that has taken place this year while "playing":

Shell exploration:  The kids were fascinated by a collection of shells that I had with some magnifying glasses next to them.  They observed them, categorized them, sequenced them by size, made patterns with them, and started a smaller class inquiry of the patterns that they noticed within the shells.  All of this was completely their idea and the way they choose to explore these shells!

Weight and Density Inquiry:  In the Fall I put out a balance scale with some natural materials and the kids became obsessed after they noticed that they could pile sweet gum balls on one side of the scale and they were still lighter than a few buckeye nuts!  They wondered how all those sweet gum balls could possibly be lighter?  They documented on paper and presented to the class pictures of what they noticed.  They started (on their own) trying to figure out how many sweet gum balls were equal to one buckeye.  They were labeling their documentation with numbers showing how many and words showing what they were weighing.  Math vocabulary was being used as they talked about things being heavier, lighter, equal and balanced.  

They asked me to cut open a sweet gum ball and they noticed that there wasn't much inside! It was mostly holes!  But the buckeye was hard and solid on the inside!  They concluded that must be why they weighed more!  This was was an introduction to density that they explored more during our Sink/Float Inquiry later in the in the fall!

Force and Motion:  This is going on right now!  I had set up a provocation in the block area of boxes, ramps, cars and three dimensional shapes.  As they played, they created ramps for the cars and shapes.  Some of these creations started becoming very complicated!  They created signs and labels for their works.  They made signs to warn others not to touch because they were not done.   
V.J. added rocks to help keep the car on his road.

When they shared with the class, they presented ideas such as: "I noticed that these two shapes (the sphere and cylinder) rolled down my ramp, but these shapes that are flat did not go down the ramps very well." "Look at how when the car hits the ball sitting at the bottom of the ramp, it makes the ball move!"  "Look at this game we made!  You have to try to get the cars in the holes when they go down the tubes!"  "We made a game!  You have to roll the car through the tube and try to get it in between her legs!"  
Sharing with the class (and my amazing Instructional Assistant Mrs. Hoang) a game they made with the tube and a car.
I will start guiding them to incorporate measurement in this play as they measure how far objects go and think about why some things go further than others.  (I am thinking that our next inquiry will be force and motion based on this play!!!)

These are only a few examples of the learning that has been taking place during their play this year.  I set the materials out and provide the opportunities.  I am there to listen, record observations and ask them questions about what they are doing, what they are noticing and what their next steps are going to be.  They are free to explore!

They are also learning important life skills they will need for their future careers such as working together, taking turns, cooperation, collaboration, patience and problem solving!  Don't you wish more of the population had more time to play?  So yes...we play! 


  1. You had me at play! What a brilliant thought to link play with inquiry. Thank you, Liz :)

    1. Thank you so much Liz! I feel like it is their play that will help me make that jump to a more child-led inquiry based classroom! It is a fun journey! Thanks for visiting!

  2. So much exploring they did with just a few materials. I bet they learned a lot and had a lot of fun doing it! :)


    1. Thank you Miss Trayers! It is so much fun for all of us! I am amazed at what the kids will learn if the materials are just made available to them and I am there to listen and ask them questions! Thank you for visiting!

  3. Oh my gosh! May I come and observe your class?? I wish. I so want to move this direction, but am not sure where to start. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thank you so much Mayasan for your kind words! I started out by taking a theme that I had taught before and that I knew the children would be interested in (weather) and tried to change it by following the kids lead more. It was always a 3 week theme, but they turned it into a 6 week inquiry and cloud project! I just started out by asking what they knew about weather and what they wanted to know about weather. Instead of teaching what I wanted to teach, I listened to their discussion and questions and taught what they wanted to know. They were more interested in clouds so we focused mainly on that. This past year they wanted to focus more on storms. Since they were the ones interested in it, they were much more engaged! The ramp inquiry started because I set out materials for ramps in the block area and noticed that they were obsessed with them during choice time and were creating amazing things with them. Being aware of the kids interests, listening to them, and observing their play gave me ideas for inquiries and projects.
      Finding other Reggio Blogs have helped me a ton!! One of my favorites is It has really inspired me! She also has a tab with other great blogs that are great resources if you are interested in a more Reggio/ inquiry based way of teaching! Good luck! I can't wait to hear how you are are doing!