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Christina Blum says during K-Play time she was able to “listen to conversations, help solve problems of sharing and taking turns, witness creations of airplanes and castles, and [watch] what seemed like shy students open up with peers who had similar interests."

‘K-Play’ Time Promotes Creativity and Collaboration

Kindergarten students throughout Manchester are regularly given opportunities to "play" in school as part of a new strategy designed to help them become creative and collaborative thinkers and problem solvers.

To better understand how "purposeful, constructive play" supports student development, we checked in on the first days of school with Christina Blum, a kindergarten teacher at Washington Elementary School.

Here's how things went:

"As it was the first day of school I first went over expected and unexpected behavior while engaging in the different centers," Blum said.

She had created four "centers" or stations to give students the choice of an activity -- and to gauge the interest areas of her new students. There options were:

-- blocks and building

-- doll house and dolls

-- play dough

-- action figures

Each student chose a station as Blum circulated through her room.

"As they played and created I noticed active engagement and waning interest," she said, and for the latter students she added another option -- drawing and coloring.

"I was trying to get to know my students by observing and interacting with them during a "non-structured" activity," she said. "I was able to listen to conversations, help solve problems of sharing and taking turns, witness creations of airplanes and castles, and watched what seemed like shy students open up with peers who had similar interests."

On the second day of school, Blum changed some of the "centers" during K-play time. For example, she offered a larger drawing and coloring area, and added Barbies to the doll area.

"I saw students coloring, drawing, and writing letters to their parents in the drawing center," she said. "Students in the doll house and Barbie center played 'house.' They really wanted more Barbie shoes, which I found very entertaining."

Blum noted that she planned to hunt for Barbie shoes during the weekend, then continued:

"Students with stuffed animals played "house", as well as created words with the letters from the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree," which she said is a stuffed tree character from a book.

Blum said the first two days of K-play were worthwhile for a host of reasons.

"I feel like I am getting to know my students' interests and as a result I will be able to incorporate those interests into our academics and active play," she said. "I hope to find books of interest and games that will allow my students to dive deeper into what they would like to study.  Even though it's only day two, I know my students will be in the front seat of their learning, guiding what we learn.  I'm looking forward to adding the different play centers I have."

Blum noted that she sent home a questionnaire to her students' parents asking questions about interests and favorites from their point of view since they are the experts of their children. She received 16 out of 17 parent responses.

"I enjoyed reading over the questionnaires I got back," she said. "For example, I learned one student loves dinosaurs.  I have endless books, build-able dinosaurs, posters, fossils, coloring books, and dinosaur figures I want to offer to him over the weeks as a point of study.  I know my students' interests and different learning styles will lead the way for the upcoming year."

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