People tend to forget that play is serious.
If you visit the Galapagos Islands, one of the first things you notice is that sea lions are everywhere. They have no fear of humans, and if anything are irritated when a guide tries to shoo them off a walking path. What’s most striking is how playful the babies are – swimming through the water and grabbing the tails of lizards as pull toys, strutting across the beaches and greeting every other sea lion in their path with swats and loud honks.
My sister Mary was with me on a tour of one of the islands as we watched a couple of the babies frolic. We asked if sea lions everywhere are so playful, and the guide noted it’s only the babies who play. They spend most of their days waiting for their moms to feed them, and they have so much to learn. “The quickest way for them to learn is through play,” the guide explained. “Once they are adults their focus is on survival – getting the food they need to live. No time then for play, but the play has taught them what they need to know to navigate their world.”
Mary is also an educator, and we marveled at the lesson for teachers and administrators. The quickest way to learn many essential skills in life is through play. In schools, we often treat play as a “nice extra” we have to eliminate in the face of all the required work we don’t have enough time for. But if we want children to grow up with the essential skills they need to get along with others and survive in the world, they probably need more time to play.
Later that afternoon, I was snorkeling and a baby sea lion swam with me for 15 minutes. The sea lion mimicked my loops through the water, heading down or up as I did. It made me think about what we learn when we mirror others, and the stress so many children feel as they mirror the moods of the tired and overworked adults around them. Play is serious business, and the children around us are watching us, always ready to follow our lead.
This week we look at the power of play in classrooms. Plus more as always — enjoy!
Founder, Choice Literacy
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Leslie Woodhouse finds a classroom prop, Potato the Crow, gives young students powerful and humorous lessons about the value of play and fantasy lives:
Pernille Ripp considers why fun is the one thing we forget to plan for:
Pat Johnson explores the value of Playing in 5th Grade:
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Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris connect their own working lives to those of students in The Secret to Productivity: Hard Work or Play?:
Melanie Meehan suggests Three Classroom Games for Literacy Learning and Laughter:
Katherine Sokolowski gives advice for integrating student teachers into literacy workshop instruction:
In an encore video, Mandy Robek and her kindergarten students enjoy a playful choral reading of Goldilocks and the Three Bears:
New PD2Go: Katie DiCesare confers with JJ in first grade to help him meld decoding and comprehension skills:
This video and workshop guide fulfill Common Core State Standard ELA-Literacy.RL.1.7: Use illustrations and details in a story to describe its characters, setting, or events.