Play lessons are powerful when it comes to effectively teaching through play in Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms. Teachers who want their little learners to build stamina, make plans for their play, problem solve (and so much more) use play lessons during their free choice time.
If you are wondering what a play lesson is and how exactly you can use it in your classroom, then you are in the right place! This blog post will dig into exactly that.
I am not going to sugarcoat my story here. In complete transparency, my first year as a 4K teacher was not my proudest school year. I had fully embraced the play-based learning philosophy, but it was glaringly obvious that my students were not naturally demonstrating the skills that I had hoped they would organically develop through play . . . at least not consistently with every child. I knew something had to change and that responsibility was my own as the lead teacher.
My gut instinct told me, “Amber, if you want your students to fill-in-the-blank, then teach them how to do it!” This seems obvious, right? But I had the voices of other play-based learning advocates in my brain: “Do not interfere! Just let your kids play.”
While I agree with this thought process to some extent, I took in that information too strictly as a new Pre-K teacher. Now I know better. I understand now that a balance between teacher-initiated support and child-directed play is necessary in order for students to be most successful. This is where play lessons are beneficial.
By the way, years later I stumbled across some research that confirmed what I was slowly figuring out back then. After working extensively with preschool-age children, researchers Christopher Lonigan and Timothy Shanahan concluded that “valuable learning experiences occur when adults provide children with the tools they need to then make child-guided learning experiences valuable” (2013).
Think about a kiddo in your personal life. Perhaps you can think of your own child, a niece or nephew, or a family friend. Certainly you can remember a time in which you have had to explicitly teach that child something. Perhaps you are thinking of your lessons on brushing teeth, finding and checking out books at the library, or playing a board game. Would that kiddo have been as consistently successful without your guidance?
What Are Play Lessons?
Defining Play Lessons
Play Workshop opens with a teaching and learning activity, often referred to as the focus lesson. Some teachers also call this part of Play Workshop the play lesson or the mini lesson. The terms can be used interchangeably. So a play lesson is a short, whole group lesson that focuses on one particular topic or skill that students can immediately apply during their exploration time.
If you are a Kindergarten teacher (or a Pre-K teacher who has previously taught other grade levels), then you might already be familiar with these types of lessons. The readers, writers, math, and inquiry workshop approach includes a focus lesson. There is a handy-dandy workshop comparison visual in my blog post, “What Is Play Workshop?” in case you want to check it out.
Play Lesson Structure
A comprehensive focus lesson in Play Workshop includes a connection, engagement, teaching, and link. Each part of the focus lesson happens rather quickly, but serves an important role.
- The connection hooks the students by grabbing their attention. It links their background knowledge or previous learning to the current teaching point.
- The engagement activity involves the students (often in a hands-on way) and relates to their own experiences.
- The teaching activity is the time in which the educator teaches or reviews a skill or concept.
- The link connects the teaching point to the play and work that students will do during exploration time.
Purpose of Play Lessons
There are many benefits to facilitating focus lessons immediately before your students go off to play and explore. Here are just a few of those reasons:
- Focus lessons allow teachers to bring to the surface any recurring problems in the classroom in a positive way. For example, if you notice that your students are regularly shouting indoors, you might lead a focus lesson on voice levels. In this way, you are not singling out and inadvertently shaming any students. Rather, you are addressing the concern in a caring and supportive way.
- Play lessons provide educators with a platform for providing explicit instruction around a skill that all students would benefit from, particularly because they are young and school is new to them. For example, if you notice that many of your students are engaging mostly in parallel play without any communication between one another, you could use a focus lesson to model for your students how to play together and talk with one another during that play.
- Focus lessons offer an opportunity for students to learn skills that are not only useful during Play Workshop, but also across their entire school day and even beyond the school year. For example, if you notice that your students are bouncing around from activity to activity without ever getting to the level of purposeful play that we know is most powerful, then you might use focus lessons to teach your students how to build their play stamina. The skill of using stamina is one that students use beyond a single school year. (Think reading and writing stamina in Kindergarten and up, for example.)
- Play lessons are the perfect time for teachers to build on the life skills that their young students are learning. For example, if you notice that students are resorting to physical aggression when they are upset during play time, then you would take advantage of the focus lesson time to teach your students how to problem solve in safe ways. For instance, you might teach your students how to use their words to express their feelings and wishes.
Instructional Approaches to Play Lessons
Some of the most common teaching approaches that are used in other grade levels can also be used in Pre-K and Kindergarten. Educators frequently use direct instruction, inquiry, storytelling, and coaching. A mix of these instructional methods is perfect for the focus lesson of Play Workshop. The goal of your focus lesson will ultimately determine which approach(es) you utilize.
Poor ‘ole direct instruction. It seems to have gotten a bad rap – at least in the last decade or so. I argue, however, that there is absolutely a need for direct instruction in every grade level, but especially with our littlest learners.
For clarity purposes, direct instruction is an educational model in which the teacher explicitly explains and demonstrates a skill or concept. A Pre-K or Kindergarten teacher will name a teaching point, model how to do it, and encourage the students to watch closely.
Example of Direction Instruction
Sometimes we just have to show and spell out to young students how to do something that is new to them. Because so much is new to our little learners, direct instruction is probably the most frequently used instructional method in our early childhood and primary classrooms. For example, direct instruction in a Play Workshop focus lesson might sound something like this . . .
“Kindergarten friends, today I am going to teach you what to do if you have to go to the bathroom, but you are not done playing. So as you can see here, I have been working with these blocks. This is my skyscraper, but . . . uh oh! I have to go to the bathroom. I feel worried that someone might knock my skyscraper down. So what I can do is put this orange cone here next to my blocks. The orange cone tells everyone, “Please step away! I am still playing with these blocks.” This way I can go to the bathroom without worrying about my skyscraper! If you need one of these cones, you can find them in this basket next to our Smartboard.”
With that being said, everything in moderation, right? I am NOT praising direct instruction as the sole instructional approach in Pre-K and Kindergarten classes. (Keep reading to learn about other teaching methods that you can utilize during your play lessons.) What I am saying is that small chunks of direct instruction are beneficial, and often necessary, in our Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms.
Podcast on Direct Instruction
Bonus! As I am in the process of writing this blog post, a new podcast arrived in my queue from That Early Childhood Nerd with Heather Bernt-Santy. In this particular episode, “NERD_0039 Direction Instruction,” Heather interviews Tiffany, a member of the ECE Nerd Collective. They chat all about direct instruction, which is totally worth listening to as they make many valid points.
If you do not have 42 minutes to spare so you can listen to the entire podcast, here were some of the big takeaways that I gathered:
- Direct instruction plays an important role in classrooms full of little ones. It is an entry point into learning in which the children have little to no prior experience.
- Like ALL things in education, there must be a balance between direct instruction and other forms of teaching and learning.
- Direct instruction is often a scapegoat, but it is not direct instruction that is sometimes the problem. We need to continually question the value of the lesson to ensure that it is serving our students in developmentally appropriate ways.
Another instructional method that can be used during Play Workshop focus lessons is inquiry. During an inquiry session, the teacher poses a question and invites the students to share their thoughts around that question. Inquiry is a good choice when you suspect most of your students have some background knowledge, but you just want to be certain everyone is on the same page.
This approach to teaching can be highly effective in Kindergarten. But I will warn you: it can be tricky in Pre-K classrooms, particularly at the beginning of the school year. Imagine you have a group of 4 year-olds at the carpet in September. You ask, “How can we make a plan for our play?” You are going to get blank stares, right?
On the other hand, in that same situation, you could certainly ask, “How do we look at books?” Hopefully, the large majority of your students have developed a regular routine at home of snuggling up with their grown-ups and a few good books. For this reason, the background knowledge is there. Your students will be able to contribute their ideas around the posed question.
Example of Inquiry
A Play Workshop focus lesson using an inquiry approach might sound something like this . . .
“4K friends, today we are going to talk about this question together: How do we use glue sticks? Wiggle your fingers if you have ever used a glue stick before. Oh, great! Okay, soooo . . . pretend that I am an alien that just flew down in a spaceship from outer space. I have never used a glue stick before. What should I do with this thing? It looks like chapstick. Do I put it on my lips? No!? Oh goodness, please help me out.”
The teacher could then call on students to respond. It would make sense for the teacher to demonstrate the students’ ideas and perhaps even record their thoughts using words and pictures on an anchor chart.
I love storytelling because it is fun! But it can also be a highly effective instructional approach because it grabs and maintains the students’ attention. My personal philosophy with storytelling is that you can never be too dramatic!
Just to be clear, storytelling as a method of instruction is when the teacher tells a story that relates to the teaching point. The story can be something that actually happened or it can be made up, so long as it is believable. (And let’s be real, our little ones believe just about anything we tell them.)
Example of Storytelling
Storytelling during a play lesson might sound something like this . . .
“Pre-K friends, I feel so silly about something I did last night. Let me tell you about it. So I started making dinner for my family. I was chopping some vegetables when I remembered that I had to do some laundry. I stopped chopping the vegetables, walked to my bedroom, and started to sort my clothes. Then, I remembered an email that I needed to write to our principal. So I left my laundry and I walked to my computer.”
“Before I knew it, my husband and son were asking me, “What’s for dinner?” Yikes! It was already dinner time, but the food was not ready. Not only that, I never finished my laundry and I never wrote that email to our principal.”
“I felt disappointed in myself because we have been learning all about stamina in our classroom, haven’t we? I should have known better last night. What should I have done instead of bouncing around from one thing to the next? You are right . . . I should have finished cooking the dinner first, then moved on to other things, like the laundry and the email. It is a good thing that YOU remember to use your stamina in our classroom, so you do not feel disappointed at the end of Play Workshop.”
As you read this story example, I bet you can imagine how you can use facial expressions, acting out and gestures, as well as voice level and intonation. The more drama, the better!
Yet another teaching method that can be used during Play Workshop focus lessons is coaching. If you have ever been a part of a sports team, you are already familiar with this approach to teaching. The teacher invites a student, partnership, or small group to model a skill for the rest of the class. Meanwhile, the teacher provides prompts and tips to the student volunteers throughout the demonstration.
Coaching could be used during a Play Workshop focus lesson on planning for play. Do keep in mind that this approach would be most effective in the latter part of the school year; perhaps even mid-year in a Kindergarten class.
Example of Coaching
The coaching process might sound something like this . . .
Teacher: “Kindergarten friends, Samantha and Nathaniel have volunteered to show us how they make a plan for their play. Let’s look and listen, so we can learn. Samantha, might you start making a plan for your play with Nathaniel?”
Samantha: “Hi Nathaniel. I would like to bake cookies in the Imagination Center. Do you want to bake cookies with me?”
(Nathaniel looks uncertain, but does not say anything.)
Teacher (whispering): “Nathaniel, remember that it is okay to say, No thank you.”
Nathaniel: “No thank you. I would like to play with the cash register. Hey, maybe I could be the person that sells your cookies in the bakery. Is that okay with you?”
Samantha: “Sure! I like that idea.”
Teacher (whispering to both volunteers): “What might you do to remember your roles?”
Samantha: “I can put on the baker necklace and you can put on the cashier necklace so we remember what we are doing.”
Nathaniel: “Okay! We can do that.”
Notice how the teacher quietly provides suggestions and prompts on the sidelines while the primary action comes from the student volunteers. That is the essence of coaching as an instructional method.
Characteristics of Play Lessons
While the topics and goals of our focus lessons change based on the needs of our students, there are features of play lessons that are consistent. Here are a few of those characteristics:
- Focus lessons should be short and sweet. My personal teaching style is high-energy, fast-paced, and packed with dramatics that keep my kiddos engaged. For this reason, I can pack in quite a bit of teaching and learning in a short amount of time. On the other hand, if your teaching style is more relaxed and chill, you may find it beneficial to break your focus lessons up into shorter chunks across several days.
- Play lessons should be as student-centered as possible. The coaching and inquiry approaches lend themselves well to student-centered focus lessons. Hands-on activities are excellent ways to involve students. For example, if you are teaching your students how to click the caps on markers, provide each of your kiddos with a marker so they can practice. This will be far more effective than you just modeling.
- It is beneficial for our students when we connect our previous learning to each day’s teaching point. This can be as simple as saying something like, “Yesterday we stuck labels around our classroom, so we remember where to put our toys and materials during clean up time. Today we are going to…”
- To the same point, as the focus lesson wraps up, it is important to link the teaching point to the work and play that students will do during exploration time. This can simply sound something like, “So today and everyday, when you hear our wind chimes at the end of play time, remember to be on the lookout for our labels. Be sure to put our toys and materials back in their homes so we know where they are the next time we want to use them.”
- Teachers should plan to repeat teaching points several days in a row (maybe even a couple of weeks, depending on the topic, age group, and time of the school year). Educators should also spiral back to topics in their focus lessons. Any experienced Pre-K or Kindergarten teacher knows that just because we teach our kiddos something once does not mean that all students get it the first time. Little ones need to learn and practice again and again in order to solidify a skill.
Digging Into the Specifics of Play Lessons
Play Lessons Topics and Goals
The immediate needs of your students should always be considered the priority when you are planning focus lessons for your Play Workshop. This is why it is so important to observe your students, document what you see and hear, then reflect on those observations.
Certainly a blank notebook will do the trick, but if you want a resource to guide you during these observations, then today is your lucky day! You can grab my FREE Play Workshop Observation Documentation and get started right away.
By observing your students through the lens of my free Play Workshop Observation Documentation, you will certainly begin to notice skills that need attention and topics that you will want to address during your focus lessons. Below is a list of examples of some play lesson topics or themes.
- launching Play Workshop → There is so much to explain to your students at the beginning of the school year, isn’t there?! So much to say, and so little time to share it, as their attention spans are limited. At a minimum, you will want to address how students choose their play centers and materials, how you will signal and transition into clean up time, as well as how you students will gather back at the carpet,
- managing materials → When you introduce school supplies to your students, observe that your students are mistreating toys, or you are adding new materials to your classroom, it may be a good idea to use your play lesson to tackle these topics.
- building stamina → If you notice that your students are bouncing around from activity to activity without reaching a deep level of purposeful play, you may want to address this during your focus lesson.
- growing independence → One of our big goals is to help our students build their sense of independence. In Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms, being independent can look like getting the attention of others in respectful and confident ways, learning how to patiently wait and take turns, as well as pausing play to use the bathroom when needed.
- making a plan for play → Our students are more likely to engage in powerful play when they put some thought into what they want to do before they get started. This can be accomplished by drawing out their ideas, selecting jobs and maybe even wearing role play necklaces, or simply by chatting with play partners.
- solving problems → This is a topic that Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers address throughout the entire school day, especially during social-emotional learning lessons. However, it can be extremely beneficial to address problem-solving strategies during Play Workshop focus lessons. You might consider including strategies that are especially useful during play, such as sharing, taking turns via a timer, and using “I Statements” (ie – “I feel sad when you take that toy car from me. I wish that you would give it back please”).
If you are feeling overwhelmed with the planning aspect of being prepared for your Play Workshop focus lessons, you will love my Play Workshop Lesson Plans product line! Each product includes ready-to-teach lessons plans and all of your teaching materials.
Check out the entire set of lesson plans or click on the specific topics in the above list to go directly to those lesson plans. Any topics that are not yet linked in the above list are the topics that I plan to add to the product line soon. If you are not already following my Teachers Pay Teachers store, I encourage you to click this link so that you will be notified when new products and updates are added to this product line.
By the way, if you happen to have any suggestions for topics that you would like to see added to this product line, please do share! I am open to your ideas.
Teaching Strategies to Use During Play Lessons
Here are some teaching strategy ideas for maintaining student engagement during your Play Workshop focus lessons. Examples are provided to give you a clearer picture in regards to how the strategies could be used.
Disclosure: This blog post contains affiliate links to my Amazon store. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn a small affiliate commission, if you click through a link and finalize a purchase.
- songs and chants → When learning about your classroom clean-up routine, you might teach a song that your kiddos can sing as they are tidying up. Repetitive or echo songs work especially well with little ones.
- partner talks → During a focus lesson in which your students are learning how to enter play, you might invite partners to practice some sentence starters that you have taught. For example, each student could take a turn saying, “That looks fun. Can I play with you?”
- books → There are countless published picture books that can enhance play lessons. Cheri Meiners is a former first grade teacher. She is also the author of some of my favorite books to read aloud during focus lessons. For example, you could read aloud and discuss the book, I Play, when facilitating lessons that encourage students to transition through the stages of play (ie – parallel play to associative play).
- social stories → Other times, however, the perfect published book does not yet exist for the teaching point that your students need most. In this case, social stories work well. They do not need to be fancy! Some of the best social stories that I have seen have very simple text and images. Before you create your own social story though, be sure to first check Teachers Pay Teachers. Many educators share their social stories there, sometimes even for free.
- samples of student work → Frequently, our students are the best teachers for each other. For instance, if your kiddos are learning about how to make a plan for their play, you might first ask a child if you have his permission to share his work during the focus lesson. So if a student drew a picture of the rocket he wanted to build in the Makerspace before getting started, you could later share the student’s drawing along with a photo of his completed rocket with the rest of the class.
- props → Puppets, stuffed animals, magic wands, magnifying glasses, or any other tangible object that enhances your teaching point will certainly grab and hold your students’ attention. They are especially useful if you are using the storytelling method. Classroom mascots or “pets” can act as another teacher during a play lesson.
- anchor charts → Anchor charts are a way to record your students’ learning and discussions. As many (if not all) of our students are pre-readers, it is best practice to create anchor charts that are heavy with visuals (ie – drawings that elaborate an idea). For instance, if your students are sharing ideas around specific activities they can do in each play center, you can document their responses on an anchor chart.
- hands-on activities → If your students are learning where to return supplies, toys, and other materials when it is time to clean up, invite them to stick labels around the classroom (vs. you taking time to do this without the students present). This is just one of many examples in which you can get your students actively involved in the learning activities.
- games → Any activity that has a playful game-like feel to it will certainly be a homerun. For example, when teaching your students how to safely and correctly use school supplies, you might model a behavior and prompt your students to jump up and down and clap if you are using the school supplies safely and correctly. On the other hand, you might prompt your students to cross their arms and shake their heads if you are using the school supplies unsafely or incorrectly. The key is how you present the activity to your kids. If you call it a game and you seem pumped up about it, they will be too.
- movement → Remember that you are not stuck at the carpet during your focus lessons. Sometimes it makes sense to get up and move to different parts of the classroom. For example, if you are introducing the sensory table for the first time (which may be too bulky to move to the carpet anyway), you might lead your class to form a “train” and then transition to sitting around the sensory table for that particular play lesson.
- visuals → Visuals are an absolute must in Pre-K and Kindergarten classrooms! Drawings on your anchor charts, images on the Smartboard that reinforce your teaching point, and printed mini posters that you hold when teaching all fall under the visuals umbrella. For example, if your students are sharing ideas around what they can build in the Construction Center, you can pull up photos on the Smartboard. So if a student says, “We can build bridges,” you might show photos of real bridges.
Tips and Tricks
The more play lessons that you facilitate, the easier the process will become. Here are a few other random tips and tricks that I have figured out over the years. These are simple ideas that make a big difference.
- Prep and gather necessary materials ahead of time. This can be done before school or anytime when your students are not in the classroom. I even go as far as tearing strips of tape and forming tape loops for my anchor charts ahead of time.
- Along that same line, have the materials you will need for your focus lesson within reach. Play lessons should truly be quick. So you do not want to waste precious time by searching around for something you need for your lesson.
- Here is a cold hard truth: your focus lesson will crash and burn if you do not grab your students’ attention out of the gate. But no worries! This can be done quickly and easily. There are countless ways in which you can hook your students. For example, I have a magic wand that I like to wave around and say, “Henry, Henry, I see you! Making green choices. Bippity boppity boo!” I repeat this chant a few times as a way to gently encourage my kiddos to settle in and focus. Then when I have their attention, I immediately begin the play lesson.
- I have said it before and I will say it again: do not underestimate the power of dramatics! Using big gestures, expressive facial expressions, as well as a range in voice level and intonation are just a few ways to be a little extra during your play lessons. The more you are into the lesson, the more your students will buy in too.
- End each play lesson on a positive and predictable note. If you have ever used the Teachers’ College Readers and Writers Workshop curriculum, you may be familiar with Lucy Calkin’s phrase, “Okay, readers / writers, off you go!” That is how she signals the transition from her mini lesson to reading / writing time. In our 4K classroom, at the conclusion of each focus lesson, I always say, “Okay, let’s not delay, it’s time to play!” and my students say, “Hip hip hooray!”
- It is tempting for some littles to run around and horseplay on the carpet during clean-up time. For this reason and others, it is important to create a calm transition to the carpet. In our classroom, we ring the wind chimes to signal clean-up time. Then, I move directly to the carpet and help my students pick up. My presence there minimizes the likelihood of a brawl breaking out. We also sing a clean-up song, then I play our YouTube playlist of clean up songs.
Resources and Tools to Help You with Play Lessons
Play Workshop Lesson Plans and Teaching Materials Product Line
If you are anything like my past self (the one who was brand new to 4K), you are ecstatic about Play Workshop. Perhaps you may also be thinking, “But I do not have time to write play lesson plans on top of everything else!” Believe me, I 100% get you!
That is exactly why I started my Play Workshop Lesson Plans product line. Each product contains 5+ days of detailed lesson plans as well as all the supplemental materials (anchor chart pieces, teaching visuals, social stories, etc). The consistency of these lesson plans has made a world of a difference in our 4K classroom. If you are all about the Play Workshop approach in your Pre-K or Kindergarten classroom, you have to check out what I have in store for you and your students!
Perfect Read Aloud Books for Play Lessons
Earlier in this post, I pointed out that reading aloud books (that connect to your teaching point) is an excellent strategy for your focus lessons. Here is a short list of published books that you may want to consider adding to your collection:
- I Play by Cheri Meiners → This book is useful when encouraging your students to move through the play stages.
- Share and Take Turns by Cheri Meiners → The title is self-explanatory. This is a book that can be read aloud when teaching your students how and why to share and take turns during play.
- Join In and Play by Cheri Meiners → When you are working with your students on topics like joining in play, taking turns, taking turns, and play fair, this book is a great choice.
- Respect and Take Care of Things by Cheri Meiners → Helping young students gain a sense of ownership of their learning environment can be tricky, but this book definitely helps.
- I Can Make a Plan by Ellen Garcia → This realistic fiction story is perfect for facilitating a conversation around the how and why of making plans for play.
- A Place for Everything by Sean Covey → This book is helpful when you are teaching your students about why it is important to put classroom materials and supplies where they belong when it is time to clean up.
Helpful Teaching Tools to Use During Play Lessons
We Pre-K and Kindergarten teachers know the power of a great prop. Below is a short list of teaching tools that I use during our play lessons.
- feather boa → When I taught first grade, I wore a feather boa when I modeled a writing skill. I also wore a pink superhero cape when I modeled a reading skill. So I thought, “Why not bring this strategy to 4K?” For example, when I model how to draw a plan for my play during a focus lesson, I make sure to pop on my feather boa first. It acts like a signal to my students: “Look here! I am about to show you something important!”
- microphone → When students are sharing their ideas during our focus lessons, we often use a toy microphone. I purchased one similar to this at Dollar Tree years and years ago and it is still in good shape. If you want to be extra fancy, you could grab a karaoke microphone. Either would work well and they both serve the same purpose. This is to encourage students to share their ideas AND listen to the ideas of their classmates.
- class pet or mascot → The phenomenal Jamie White of Play to Learn Preschool and her Betsy the Blackbird inspired me to start using a puppet as a class pet. Our class pet is Whiskers, who is a wildcat (which is our school mascot). My students LOVE him so much! Former students even come back to visit him. Anway, we use Whiskers often during our play lessons. He is great at helping me teach our focus skills. My students always listen to him far more than they listen to me!
If you use other props during your play lessons, I would LOVE to hear about them. Please leave a comment at the bottom of this blog post, send me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org), or direct message me on Instagram. Seriously! I love to add tools to my teaching toolkit and would love to hear about what works for you.
Play Workshop Is the Way to Teach Into Play!
Powerful Words to Think About
In a (totally worth listening to) podcast episode hosted by Vanessa Levin of Pre-K Pages, the guest speaker made an excellent point that hit home for me. Allison McDonald of No Time for Flash Cards said the following:
“There are a ton of different ways of practicing early childhood education. There are a lot of people that really, truly believe that we just have to let children play. Now, there are also a lot of people that want to put them in desks and not let them play at all. I am absolutely a middle ground person. I’m a middle ground everything. There’s a great quote by Pearson who says he is radically in the middle. And that is me with a lot of things because I see the good and the bad with everything. If we swing too far anywhere, it is not going to get us anywhere when we need to be right here.”
When Allison said this, all of the fireworks went off in my heart and head. This is 100% how I feel as a Pre-K educator as well. It is for that reason that I am such a strong proponent of the Play Workshop approach.
Play Workshop is the way to teach into play! More specifically, our focus lessons at the beginning of Play Workshop are the perfect opportunity to teach those important skills. These are often skills that our students will use throughout life.
Your Turn, Teacher!
If you want to level up your Free Choice Play block of your school day and transition to a Play Workshop approach, then adding in a play lesson is your first step. Here are 3 action items to get started.
- Observe your students during play. Document your observations. Make your life easier by using my FREE Play Workshop Observation Documentation.
- After you have collected sufficient notes, look them over and think about what skills are currently missing in your classroom. Are your students struggling to problem solve when issues arise during play? Are your students bouncing around from activity to activity without reaching a deep level of play? The skills that your students are lacking currently are your teaching points.
- Think about and plan how you can teach those skills during a focus lesson immediately before your students go off to play. Re-read the tips in this blog post as you are thinking about the HOW of your play lesson.
If you found this blog post to be helpful, YAY! Pass it on to a teacher friend who might enjoy it as well. Be sure to create a pin on Pinterest by hovering over the image and clicking on the pink “Pin!” button. That way, you can always come back to this blog post when you need some inspiration for planning your play lessons.