Sunday, February 10, 2013

Literacy in the Sand Box

I have been thinking a lot lately about sand play (fyi: sand and blocks are two areas that I think about often). In this current educational climate of, "if you aren't doing literacy activities then you'd better be doing math activities, and they'd better be real activities that are quantifiable...",  I think about the play based learning that is becoming endangered in our kindergarten classrooms. I often hear the phrase, "purposeful play." Now, I know that all play is purposeful, but what they really means is, "Sure they can 'play' but it better be play that is based solely on the prescribed outcomes..." So I have been thinking of a way to promote play and creativity, while still placating those "purposeful play" mentalities.

What we have been practicing with our sand play (and block play) is a kind of a "build it, draw it, write about it" philosophy. After we build it, we sketch it, then we write about it. Not too complicated, but the results are what I am most impressed with.
We build it:

We draw it:

We write about it:

Instead of trying to come up with something new each day to write about in our writing journals, we are writing about a variety of subjects throughout the day. Instead of having a set time for writing (which we still do at times), we are finding that our incidental writing is more authentic. It is another step in making sure my curriculum is integrated. We don't just have to do writing at writing time. Writing happens in all kinds of ways throughout the day. And, most importantly, I am finding when we are writing about our creations, we are writing more. Instead of short sentences, we are beginning to write stories. We are not writing to get it out of the way, but really putting in time to make sure we get it just right. I am impressed with our effort and our output.

I sometimes get caught up in the idea that if I am doing this, then surely everyone else must be doing this as well, surely I am not that original. But as I reflect upon my practice and my beliefs about education in the kindergarten classroom, I become more convinced that we have to demonstrate in our practice why we believe activities such as sand play and block play are so important. This is just one of those ways.