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January 9, 2016

What Happened When I Brought Play Back Into Kindergarten

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. 


  1. I have been re-doing my schedule this weekend and was thinking about switching out morning journals for more time with their play/exploration bins. I might try it this week!

  2. Thanks for sharing! I have wondered whether or not I should do the exact same thing and I just fear the chaos that it could cause! I will have to go back to considering this now!


    1. Makes sense Gina. I was worried about the same thing. Be explicit with your expectations!


  3. We are returning to more play at our Buffalo, NY school and have received new materials and room rearrangement help this week. Our principal is listening to us, but wants the play areas to be integrated into our ELA block when we also have academic areas and a guided reading group for our Journeys program. My idea was to have six areas and do three rotations. Our classes have high numbers of ELLs. We have no aides/assts. but the ESL teacher pushes in for one hour. Do you have any ideas or insights as to how we can proceed?

    1. Here is what my ELA centers look like. I have 4 groups. 1 group is with my during guided reading. But before they start with me I have them work together to build their sight words so I can make sure my other groups are getting started. I purchased connecting blocks and wrote letter and sight words onto the blocks. They have to take the block with the word on it and build their sight words on top by adding the necessary letters. You could do this with sentence strips and cut them apart and have the place the letters on top of the words.

      I have a writing center that my aide does, however that could be self directed.

      I purchases OSMO and have a group working with words with my personal ipad. But this can also be done by giving them picture cards and building words. Reading Street came with picture cards and have the word on the back, so they could check their work.

      I purchased a habitat matching game at the target dollar spot and will have them match the animals to the habitat and then write/illustrate a sentence about the animal and where it lives. Here you could use toy animals and have them simply draw a setting for the animal or let them create stories with each other about the animal and it's habitat. (that directly related to our story for the week.)

      If you can structure you day so that the ESL teacher pushes in during the ELA block. How do you do your grouping for centers/ guided reading?

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  4. Just wondering what the "play" consisted of.... do your students use the home living/lego/block centers during this time? I currently only use those on Fun Friday, but am considering using them more often.

  5. In my room I have all student allowed toys in one area. Blocks, animals, Lincoln logs, white boards, etc... These are the items that they use during any free time or indoor recess. I am wanting to purchase more games/toys for them. I have a few educational items that they are also allowed to used and want to use! I do not utilize creative play or blocks into my centers. Rather my centers are academic driven. With the new addition of a sensory bin that they play with to build socialization and team work.

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  7. Replies
    1. Thank you! I am glad to hear so much positive feedback and seeing other teachers rethink!