Play, Learning, and Authentic Tasks

Join the Slice of Life movement at Two Writing Teachers.

Join the Slice of Life movement at Two Writing Teachers.

“Gigi please get out of that drawer.”  I was in the kitchen trying to cook dinner.  Gigi was being a typical toddler and getting into everything that she possibly could get into. My frustration was starting to grow.  I sighed and followed along behind her picking up the Tupperware containers that she had tossed all over my newly cleaned kitchen floor.  As she opened yet another drawer and  peered in to see what items she might grab I decided to entice her with a measuring cup and a whisk.  She seemed satisfied for the moment and took the two items from me with a “dankoo.”  I watched for a moment as she banged the whisk against the refrigerator, then put it into the cup and started stirring.  “Where does she learn these things?” I wondered aloud.  Of course the answer was clear.  She had learned by watching me.  She had learned by playing.

I’m currently working our new book project and I’m immersed in research about play and learning.  But I don’t really have to read articles and research papers to see the value.  I see it everyday in my own home.  As the mini-boss grows so does her desire to take on more adult like tasks.  She watches adults carefully observing what they do and then attempts to take on the task, playing and experimenting with how things work.

I use the swiffer, she uses the swiffer.

I whisk the pancake batter, she whisks the pancake batter.

I read pointing to the words, she “reads” and points to the pictures and words.

And as she grows I notice what I knew all along.  That the plastic toys and items intended for littles only go so far.  She is just as happy, if not more so, with an empty box.  A muffin tin.  A dust pan.

This is what real learning looks like.  Time to explore and practice and do.  Tasks that are authentic and intrinsically satisfying.  I think we need a little more of this in our classrooms.

As the summer heats up and the school supplies start making their way on to store shelves I think we all need to do some reflecting on the way we approach learning in our rooms.  Our students don’t need fancy things created by companies to teach them.  They need basic tools of the trade like books, markers, paper, and a creative technology tool.  They need a good model to follow. They need real work and time to do it.  They need to play.

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2 Responses to Play, Learning, and Authentic Tasks

  1. “They need basic tools of the trade like books, markers, paper, and a creative technology tool. They need a good model to follow. They need real work and time to do it. They need to play.”

    YES! YES! YES! YES!

    Thank you for this important post, Katie. You’re thinking is right on-track. (Gigi is lucky to have you as her role model/mom!)

  2. Katie,
    I love, love, love what you shared here! I have experienced similar play examples with both my son and daughter! Your description, “mini-boss” made me LOL! That would be fitting for my daughter as well.
    The idea of play is huge! I worry in the standards based world that principals are demanding play be replaced with a stronger focus on academics.
    Thank you for the reminder that play is a necessary part of social growth and development!

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