Saturday, January 26, 2013

It Pays to Play...

There are many aspects about my job that I love and one of the things I like best is that my classroom is a play-based classroom!  My students learn important academic and life skills through play. In today's society, preschool programs that encourage play as a learning tool are often thought of as inferior to those programs that don't. The truth is that neither programs is superior or inferior to the other scientifically, both have good arguments for success. What it comes down to is which philosophy you believe in (you believe in one or the other whether you realize it or not.) I believe in PLAY!  And the really best part of my job...I get paid to do it!! How awesome is that?! I get paid to play!

Maybe its the kid in me or maybe I'm just weird, but I love the fact I get to go to work and play with one of my all-time favorite childhood toys: Play-dough!  I love the feel of it and the smell of it, especially when I add some of my own ingredients such as Kool-Aid, cinnamon, or vanilla extract! (Yes, I make my own play-dough! Its cheaper and I can get creative with the recipe.) If you played with play-dough as a kid you remember all the really cool sculpture you could make. I always enjoyed making "cookies," and other food items.  Like many other play items that fill my classroom, play-dough is a multifaceted learning tool! I love strengthening my student's reading and math skills when I sit down and join them in play-dough play. You are probably wondering how a hunk of dough can teach a child to read and add aren't you?  Well, did you ever roll your play-dough in a long snake-like roll? Did you ever make it into the letter 'S'? I'm pretty sure you did, or else you were robbed of proper play-dough play AND a happy childhood. Anyway, when I roll out really long snakes, which the kids ask me to do quite often because evidently I'm awesome at it, I will often make a letter out of the "snake" and ask the child if they recognize the letter. Most often they do, and when they don't I get help them learn a new letter. This is all pre-reading!! (You can't read if you don't know your letters.) If the child knows the letter I will often continue my teaching opportunity by asking if they know what sound the letter makes and if they can think of a word that begins with that letter. Another way, to reinforce literacy skills using play-dough is by giving the children straws or toothpicks. Kids love straws!! I often flatten out a ball of play-dough into a clean slate and then use the straw or the toothpick to write my name or the child's name or just some letters. The children will often practice writing their own name in their play-dough! They think it is pretty cool to see their name written in play-dough.

Now on to play-dough math fun! This often starts out with the child using cookie cutters to make cut outs. Most of my students also enjoy making "cookies" and they usually make quite a few. Leaving the opportunity reinforce counting skills. If they have have made different types of cookies, there is an excellent opportunity to encourage sorting skills (necessary for math) and even work on patterns. Sometimes I will throw in some early addition skills by asking how many of each cookie and then how many all together.

So in one fifteen minute sitting, my students and I have worked on literacy skills and math skills all the while having fun with play-dough!  Its an easy and inexpensive way to make learning fun through play.

Lesson of the Day: Never underestimate the power of play! (or play-dough)

Kool-Aid Play-dough Recipe:
2 cups of flour
1 cup of salt
2tbs of cream of tartar
1tbs vegetable oil
1 cup of very hot water
1 packet of favorite Kool-Aid (if using Lemonade, have yellow food coloring on hand to enhance color)
*Mix dry ingredients (except Kool-Aid) in bowl. Add Kool-Aid to water and stir well. Then add oil to colored water. Stir until ball forms and all ingredients are absorbed. Lightly flour surface and then knead dough until its no longer sticky and all the flour is absorbed. 

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