Children love to play, adults love to play and I love to play. Play is a natural social scenario that starts from the time infants are able to take control of their own body and interact with other humans. Play provides real life learning opportunities that help teach and develop socially appropriate ways of interacting with each other, how to follow an agreed upon set of norms as well as creating a healthy body.
The way a child plays independently (or is not able to), the way a child engages with a group of peers in play and the way a child is able to communicate, problem solve and compromise in these settings serve as an extremely valuable source of information about my students. As teachers we strive to provide lessons that help teach responsible citizenship in our classrooms and schools (character education). We need to look no farther than our playgrounds to find contextually relevant opportunities to focus on character education.
I start my year by watching my students play. I look for patterns they display in how they communicate, how well they listen, do they compromise, can they problem solve or do they argue, become frustrated easily if the game is not going their way. Are they passive or competitive? I use the data I obtain to drive my social skills program. I am able to complete a gap analysis and begin to plan out the sequence of skill introduction. This years’ initial class needs have me focussing in on developing the ability to handle scenarios that do not go their way and result in them becoming argumentative about winning and losing.