Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

Global School Play Day 2016

I initially heard about Global School Play Day (GSPD) on the Techlandia Blab show. Where @mrsfadeji mentioned how her whole school was participating in the day. She went on to describe the day, as a day with NO curriculum and promoting the importance of unstructured play. I was interested, so I opened a new tab and looked into Global School Play day. On the website I found a great TEDx video of Peter Gray talking about the decline of play with students over the last 60 years. In today's world with the raise of technology we have been able to utilize and play with great new resources in the educational world and beyond. I will be the first one to praise the use of technology in all classrooms with all students.  Technology has also has brought forth a shift of how we play and interact with others, leaving students who come to school not knowing how to interact with others in a social face to face environment that is often associated with interactive play. If you have read my previous post or follow me on Twitter you will see how important I think play is in my classroom.

I emailed the link to my principal saying I am thinking of participating in this day and seeing if any other classes would like to join me. I then sent the link to my teaching team ( other Kindergarten teachers at our school) saying hey do you think you would like to do this in Kindergarten. They instantly responded back saying YES. My principal came in and talked to me the next day saying, “ so this play day thing is for 30 minutes in a day, right?” I said, “ No. it’s suppose to be a full day of unstructured play.” He asked what if an administrator from district walked in, how would you justify not using the curriculum. I told him that we would still have targets for that day related to ELA, Math, and Social Skills. He then said ok, we will use you guys as the test run for our school this year, see how it goes and then maybe invite more people to do it next year.  

As a team we came together to make the targets for the day and discuss how we would justify the day if admin walked in. Our targets included: I can take turns, I can play nicely with others, I can follow the rules, I can read,say,and write sight words, I can count by ones to 20, and I can add numbers together to find a total. As a team we decided that this being our first GSPD, we were going to have a very loose structure to the day. With Kinder classes of 24,24, and 25 students we were a little worried about giving up all control. So we decided to have designated loose schedule here it is:
Board games, Sight words, alphabetical practice games
Outdoor instructional learning through play time
Habitat walk, talking about what makes its habitat in our own backyard
Playdough and Craft time
Free play time
Mathematical instruction with addition games
Possible learning through movement in the gym
Guest reader

The schedule helped to give us a little structure also be able to get to everything the students brought in. Notice no times, just kind of a feel the crowd moment for us as teachers. When we started to see more kiddos bored, tired, or saying I’m done we would adjust to something else on the schedule.

To prep for GSPD we decided it would be easiest to have Ziploc bags for each student to bring their toys and games in. We attached a letter outlining the basis of Global School Play Day and a piece of paper for them to write what they brought to school. Here is the letter we sent home that was attached to the Ziploc baggie :

The day finally arrived I was really nervous and really excited. My students came in super excited. I explained to the volunteers how we were going to start with board games, and activities that had to do with Reading, Writing, Grammar, or Phonics. I had pre-printed some wonderful signs I had gotten in Tara West’s Math Centers Super Pack 3 on Teachers Pay Teachers, it included signs for how many people can play at each center,we used it to tell how many students could play each game. I found this helped right off the back as lots of students rushed to one or two games, and the students had to count and look at the sign and problem solve who was going to have to leave for the time being. The students had a wonderful morning of play. When we went to specialist, I asked what did you learn this morning. The student’s piped up and answered, “ How to share and take turns.” “How to solve our own problems.” “That I like center times when the class is quiet.” “Yeah, when it is quiet I can do my job better.” At this point my jaw was on the ground! My 5 and 6 year olds verbalized exactly what I was wanting them to learn that morning. The bonus of them finally seeing the benefit of voice level during centers blew my mind. I swear these are all real things my class said, just WOW! I thought this was awesome, very powerful, and that was only with a hour and a half of play.

In the afternoon, we played with math games and toys, such as building, shapes, counting games, etc. Students got to experience some amazing games they had never played before. Jenga was popular, and opened a wonderful opportunity for me to play with my students as many of them had never played the game before. It was so nice to be able to just love on ALL of my kiddos and have fun playing a game I love. Here is a picture of some students playing math focused games.
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After about an hour of Math games they were starting to fade, having indoor recess for the 2nd day in a row at lunch time didn’t really help. The rain had let up a little, so I took the opportunity to take them outside and go for a walk. Right outside our door was a HUGE spider (EWW! Mrs. Richardson strongly dislikes spiders!), the student’s pointed it out and said hey it’s house is the school. Hey Mrs. Richardson is a spider’s habitat a wall? I thought, “did you guys read my plans for today?” YAY, for self created learning from the students! We had a wonderful conversation about where we had seen spiders before. As we walked around our conversation continued about what else has a habitat in our own backyard (schoolyard). When we got back into the classroom we did arts and craft activities for another hour. Students painted, drew, colored, built with legos, and other crafty things they came up with on their own. After art and craft time died down a little, we pulled out our toys that we brought from home and had free play time. Then at the very end of the day our school counselor came in and read the students a fun little book by Julia Cook called The Bad Case of Tattle Tongue. This was perfect, it gave me time to check bags to make sure all toys got home and clean up the paint. The students were totally on top of sitting and listening to a story at the end of the day. Then the students packed up and went home.

3 big takeaways from #GSPD2016
  1. It was so nice to be able to have conversations with the kiddos and just sit and play games, do puzzles, or cut paper and not feel the demands of the curriculum.
  2. The students learned so many social skills. They learned how to ask for help to play a game, how to problem solve their own problems, how to work independently with lots of distractions, and much more.
  3. MARBLES is the ultimate game to beat in Kindergarten. This was by far the busiest center. Students had a hard time waiting their turn but did a wonderful job and we got through everyone.

In short, Brownsville Kindergarten teachers will be participating in #GPSD2017. I highly encourage you all to join us by going to and signing up. If you have a hesitant administrator let others on Twitter know and we will come up with strategies to help try and make this wonderful day of play happen for you.

Until next time Play more, teach passionately,use tech,and be Kinder,