“Play is the highest form of research.” ~ Albert Einstein
When you ask my students what they did at school on any given day, they will answer, “I played.” For those unfamiliar with how young children learn, that answer can be unsettling. Play gives children a chance to practice what they are learning. Play, by its very nature, is educational. It saddens me to see kindergarten classrooms doing away with centers. Fortunately, my principal sees the value of play in young learners.
My students have a variety of centers to “play” in each day. These centers are carefully planned to enhance learning. We have a reading center, a poetry center, a writing center, a math center, a science center, and an ABC center. We have centers for blocks, legos, housekeeping, and art. We use a rotation system in the morning while I teach guided reading groups and in the afternoon while small group guided writing occurs. While students are at the ABC or at the math center, they may also choose iPads. I have 2 iPad cards (or passes) in each of those centers. 2 students may work on iPads while at ABC and 2 at Math. My apps are in folders and students at ABC may only work in the ABC folder while those at math may only work on apps in the math folder. They must have the “pass” in order to use the iPads during that time.
I don’t start the “pass system” until a few weeks into school. I print them on card stock and laminate them. (See photo at left and click here to print your own.)
I need to make sure the children know where the folders are on the iPad and that they know how to properly use the iPads on their own. They also know that if they are not in the appropriate folder, they will lose their iPads for the afternoon. While I do monitor the students, my monitoring is nothing compared to the eagerness of my students to monitor (tattle on) each other. By giving them these “controlled” opportunities to use iPads on their own, I am building up to having them use iPads in the reading center and other times as they deem they are needed in their learning.
Children need the freedom and the time to play. When the fun goes out of play, most often so does the learning. My students are engaged in a variety of structured play activities throughout the day. We include iPads as a part of those activities. In play, children learn how to learn. iPads give us the opportunity to extend and differentiate learning.