Part of teaching is reflecting. If you aren't doing it - you need to. Reflection helps you drive your teaching. You think about what is working and what isn't working, and therefore how can you make it better.
Over my Christmas break I read a lot of articles about how to improve my classroom. One thing that I found was a common discussion among Kindergarten teachers is the aspect of play in the classroom. sadly - recess is being taken out of schools. Yes you read that right. Thankfully this does not impact my school, but it does happen else where across the country. Yes, you read that correctly. Less recess. To which I say, "are you kidding?!" Kids need to play! They need to socialize and interact with their peers. AND give themselves a mental break from learning. Forbes did an article last year on this topic, read it here. Not only does Forbes argue that it makes no sense, but Scholastic says recess make kids smarter. Read their article here.
When we returned in January I decided to make a change. I had an option. Give my kids extra play first thing in the morning or at the end of the day. I chose to do in the morning. If I would have implemented it at the end of the day I would run the risk of not getting it in. So here is what is happening in my room.
My school day begins at 8am. My students beginning arriving around 7:45am. As soon as they come in they have their routine: unpack book bag, place F.I.S.H folder in the bin and hang up the coat and backpack. Now, in the first half of the year that would have been followed by taking out their folder and beginning their morning work. Why morning work? To give them something to do. In previous years this was a coloring sheet or something to that degree. This school year it was academic review.
I will be honest - I liked my morning work. My aide would do it with them and it was great review. And it gave me time to get my snack order and attendance ready.
This is now what my morning work looks like. The kids do their routine and then they go....PLAY! Yep. My students head back to their toys and play with each other. Now, let's reflect - has anything changed?
Here is what I am seeing
I will be honest, I was a little nervous about this at first. What would happen? If it wasn't working, how would I break it to them that we couldn't do it anymore? Well, thankfully I do not have bad news. Here is the best thing: I have gained more instructional time! YES! Since they come in and play they are not asking what they should do or if I could help them. I get my paperwork ready, my aide checks their folders and as soon as that bell rings, we are right into our learning. Oh - and I since I explained to them how it will work, as soon as that bell rings - they clean up. RIGHT AWAY. The other morning the teachers we meeting quick and I came in after the bell rang. Guess what I saw. The room cleaned up and my kiddos standing for prayers. WOOHOO!!! I was over the moon.
Bringing play back is hands down the best thing I have done.