Friday, November 27, 2009

Play in the Classroom

Last weekend, I was asked to speak at the Games in Education Forum, part of the Chicago Toy and Game Fair at Navy Pier. My presentation was called Play and Creativity in the Classroom. The air in the room and the showroom below was filled with fun, excitement, and energy, so, in a way, I felt like I was preaching to the choir.

Play is a hot topic these days. Some fantastic books on the subject are:

Einstein Never Used Flashcards   How our children really learn and why they need to play more and memorize less
by Kathy Hirsh-Pasek Ph.D., Roberta Michnick Golinkoff  Ph.D.
Rodale/St. Martin's Press 2003

Play  How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
by Stuart Brown M.D.
Penguin Group 2009

In Defense of Childhood  Protecting Kids' Inner Wildness
by Chris Mercoliano
Beacon Press 2007

The Case for Make Believe  Saving Play in a Commercialized World
by Susan Linn
The New Press 2008

The easy route in talking about play would have been to stand in front of the group and read several passages from these books, but I did have an outline:
  1. History of Toys (Blocks, Dolls, Wright brothers, etc)
  2. Toys in American History (Pioneer toys, Native American toys, Immigration, etc)
  3. Toys in Other Cultures (Balls, Jacks, Marbles, Bilboquet, Tangrams, String, Hopscotch, etc)
  4. Toys in Math (Dominoes, Dice, Building, Tangrams, Qubits, Zillio, Wrap-up, Games, etc)
  5. Other Areas for Play & Toys (Recycling, Art Projects, Puppets, Bingo, etc)
  6. Creativity
  7. Hands-On Activities
Peppered through the presentation were online and down-loadable lesson plans.
The Hands-On Portion included donated product from:
Several other products were set up on other tables, but I was touched by the teacher who was so grateful for the plastic tangrams she could take back to her class. The cardboard shapes that she had created were worn and dog-eared and she had no resources to purchase new ones.

A few of the books that I referenced were:

Kids Around the World Play
by Arlette N. Braman
John Wiley and Sons  2002

Children at Play: An American History
by Howard P. Chudacoff
New York University Press  2007

My nine-year-old's fourth grade class is doing a nonfiction book unit. After checking out his school library and the local public library, he came home empty-handed from his search for a nonfiction book. Mind you, this child is the opposite of a reluctant reader so I was very surprised. After checking out my collection, he picked one of my favorite books.

Toys! Amazing Stories Behind Some Great Inventions
by Don L. Wulffson
Henry Holt and Co.   2000

We've had a great time talking about the history behind some of the classic toys. In fact, I bought him some Silly Putty and that's the only toy he's played with for the last two weeks.

Remember that this Black Friday, during the toy buying scramble --- Silly Putty = $1.99 and hours, days, weeks of fun!

And, remember Toys and Games for the Classroom, too!


Unknown said...

Anna, loved your presentation especially the hand-on demonstrations!


Michelle said...

I love tangrams! Such a simple thing and yet so many ways to play and learn with them. A classic! Great book suggestions Anna! Well done!

Eileen said...

I wanted to thank you for your excellent presentation at this years ChiTag Toy show in Chicago
The history of toys and the information on the creative play was very good for me as an educator to learn. Also, it was very helpful that your brought toys that we could actually learn creativity as you so patiently helped us with. All your research, your excellent web page and information in beyond amazing.
I will use it as a teacher and pass this along to all my friends and family who are teachers, schools and parents themselves. Keep up your good work. This type of information is very needed. Today we have students texing each other maybe due to boredom. Creative play that you are educating us with may just involve the students enough that they want to put down there phones. Thank you for your effort to make a change.
I am looking forward to next year already.