Playing in the Teacher Education Classroom

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Joined: 14 Dec 2004
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Location: Virginia, USA

PostPosted: Sat Jan 22, 2011 11:48 am
PostPost subject: Playing in the Teacher Education Classroom
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Submitted by Dr. Nancy Baird
Notre Dame College, Cleveland, OH

Last night could not have gone better! The topic was "play." To get the class into the spirit of play, I created a River of Play with butcher paper on the floor. We talked about rivers and why poems, songs, and stories are written with rivers as the theme. Then each student was invited to find a place on the river to sit. I asked the students to think about a play experience that was just the best, most memorable play time in their lives. They just sat and reflected on these memories. Then I asked them to draw a picture, an image, words, or sounds that illustrated their thoughts. The room went silent as each student began to draw. Some spread out prone on the floor to be more comfortable. There was a little funny conversation at one end, but it mostly resembled parallel play.

When everyone was done, each person told the story of his/her best play experience. The stories are amazing! The students glowed in telling their stories. Everyone was intent in listening to others. Then we talked about play in general and how necessary it is for body and spirit. We talked about the biology of play as we had read a book earlier in the semester about the brain and learning and the effect of fear and pleasure on both. Then we moved into the content part of the session.

We used Piaget's four stages as the basis for the remaining 2 hours. The basic format was a short lecture/discussion about the stage, examples from childhood, and examples of how the stage continues into adulthood. Then I facilitated games that were examples of the stages. The games came from a book of theater play that I heard about years ago on public radio. After the discussion about the stages, we had some great discussion about play and its benefits. One student said she could never have her students play because the principal would think she should be spending time on academics. I asked, "if the college president walked in right now and wondered why we were playing and asked for a rationale, what would you say?" The students presented a biological and a developmental reason for it with great aplomb as though it was an affront to their integrity. It was wonderful!!

At the end of class, I asked everyone to "return to the river" and reflect again about the power of play. Then I asked them to think about another person who was involved in that play experience and write that person a post card about the experience, the memories of the experience, and anything else they wanted to add. I have the postcards and I don't think I'll give them back to the students...or maybe I'll just make copies of them...yes, that's what I'll do. These postcards are so amazing....emotional, articulate, happy.

Class is from 7:00 PM to 9:30 PM. Most of the students work all day, have families (some whose children have the flu), and come to grad school. I don't know how they do it! But last night we were still at it at 9:40 PM and everyone was still engaged. One student was sick; she was pale and exhausted at the beginning. Another student had two children at home with fevers over 100 degrees. Both said they would have to leave early but both were there until the end, even though I told them to use their own judgement and exit when they needed to. The one who felt ill was no longer exhausted and gained back her color.
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