Children are natural teachers for each other. Child development has long shown that play is naturally passed down from older children to younger children through organic experiences. Older children create norms, make expectations clear, and pass down roles and responsibilities within the context of their play. As children have fewer free play experiences, this natural progression of play and understanding of social expectations can become blurry and unclear to our little ones. As we look closely at play within the context of our current time and culture, it is important to consider the ways in which we can both offer and elevate play for young children.
The image below shows children in 4 different states learning and sharing their play.
Over the past couple of weeks, our focus technology standard has naturally emerged from our experiences with #innovatingplay. In this post I share two special examples of the ways in which we are finding global friends that are supporting our academic and play development. Check out the ways our social media connections have created a global community, and supported children in their everyday free play and academic experiences.
TECH.8.1.2.C.1 - [Cumulative Progress Indicator] - Engage in a variety of developmentally appropriate learning activities with students in other classes, schools, or countries using various media formats such as online collaborative tools, and social media.
September Play Invitation: Playing with Boxes
A Literacy and Play Experience
After sending out our play invitation via Twitter, children from @Pintobeanz11 and @kjohnson2009 Kindergarten and Pre-K classes shared their play experiences using the #innovatingplay hashtag. In order to create an opportunity for social scaffolding, I took screenshots of their Tweets and put them into a Google Doc to introduce during a shared writing experience with my Kindergartners. Sharing the Google Doc on the Smart Board allowed children to look closely at the text and the corresponding photographs to make observations. Here is a look at the process we used:
In addition to the social experience of sharing, recording observations right into the Google Doc opened up the process of literacy development. There were opportunities to model left to right movement of print, sight words, and matching text to visual images. As a literacy experience, this was rich with student-led teachable moments. As an anticipatory set for free play, it was priceless! Children were beyond excited to participate in the box project within our classroom, and enthusiastically engaged in play. Their conversations as they painted their boxes revealed connection and understanding between their work, and the work of other children across the country. There was an immediate sense of purpose, as they knew the potential to share their work beyond our classroom.
@AubreyDiOrio shared a wonderful shadow play investigation by her first graders through #innovatingplay!
Although this was not part of my "plan" for the week, I decided to share the tweet with my Kindergartners to see where it would take our learning and playing. I shared the tweet on our Smart Board, introducing our new friends from Ms. DiOrio's class. They quickly made observations about the shadows in the photos and began looking for shadows around our classroom as well. They came up with the idea of adding flashlights to our block center to investigate shadows during free play.
Apparently, this reply caused some excitement back in first grade! After seeing our reply to their Shadow Play tweet, Ms. DiOrio's class decided that they need to add more blocks to their first grade classroom! They are on a mission to continue elevating and innovating play because of their interaction with children beyond their everyday world.
Throughout the week, the Kindergarten children continued to take shadow play in different directions. They worked collaboratively to create "shadow stories" which they documented in their Seesaw portfolios. One little boy became quickly engaged in the process of creating a variety of dinosaur shadows. He carefully set up each dinosaur on blocks and used the iPad to take a photo of the shadows and add an audio recording of his idea in Seesaw.
Shadow exploration has sparked a natural curiosity in the children, and I can't help but think it is largely due to the fact that it did not come from the traditional teacher. It came from child "teachers" sharing their experiences and discoveries.
Research and Reflection
When deciding on technology experiences to include in our Kindergarten class, I often turn to this source which can be found on the NAEYC website. Technology and Interactive Media as Tools in Early Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. A joint position statement issued by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and the Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children's Media at Saint Vincent College.
Among the many principles listed for guiding technology use with young children is the following:
The idea of using technology as a tool to support play opens up possibilities beyond which we have ever known in the world of young children. Not only can we stay by our children's sides and model hands-on and digital interaction, we can connect them with other "child experts" in the world of play. This social scaffolding returns to them the opportunity to pass play norms and expectations on to each other. In a very unique way it brings their play to the world on a broader scale than ever before. Instead of pushing play out of our classrooms, and being afraid of technology, we can put them together to elevate the experience of childhood.
So...to the dear teachers who have jumped in to begin innovating play by our sides, we are so grateful! You and your children have helped us to see our learning as deeply connected from a global perspective. You have helped us to see reading, writing, and playing as meaningful and important parts of our learning and everyday lives. You have become our "friends" and are recognized in our classroom as our learning partners.
May our project continue to grow, expand, and change the course of global communication for our little ones as they prepare to take the lead one day. All are welcome to join us as we continue innovating play!
Heart & Soul,