Monday, July 21, 2014

Playing = Learning (Tools of the Mind)

I know I have been missing in action from the blogging world for over a month, but with good reasoning :) I recently accepted a position as an integrated teacher in a local public school and have been packing up my former classroom, attending meetings, reading through the first Tools of the Mind Preschool Curriculum manual, researching classroom pretend play ideas, and of course continuing to wedding plan. So now that things have settled down, I wanted to blog about the preschool curriculum I will be using come September. Being a pre-k teacher for the past 8 years, I know the importance of of play. Children playing = learning. 

Tools of the Mind focuses on developing self-regulation skills, mature make-believe play, exploring social relationships and practicing social problem solving all while being deeply engaged and having fun!  Some of the activities throughout the block schedule are: free time, opening group, make-believe play centers (w/ play planning), make-believe play practice,  large literacy activities (buddy reading & graphics practice), outside play, small group literacy activities (attention focusing activity & story lab), small group math/science activities (attention focusing activity, remember & replicate, puzzles & manipulatives & story lab), and closing group (attention focusing activity, community building activities, movement games, and story lab).

The make-believe play center block is the centerpiece of the Tools of the Mind Preschool Program. It is a 45-60 minute block when children engage in intentional make-believe play. Before playing, the children make a play plan by representing their plan by writing and/or drawing. The teacher scaffolds both the play planning process and play development, to support children's deep engagement in make-believe play. I love that this block is structured in this way, because I have learned that when children play in centers without planning they tend to have a short attention span and want to play with numerous props, multiple roles, and likely change their center, all of which can cause behavioral disruptions.  For the past 8 years, the structure of my pre-k centers was like many other early childhood classrooms I know, the children pick a center and had to stay in that center for the block. Although there were a variety of play props, the children didn't make a verbal or written plan of what they were going to do before they went into the chosen center. Of course, some of the children knew what they wanted to do, such as making a zoo for the toy animals out of blocks or playing "family". This structure didn't allow for children to develop mature play, in the way that Tools of the Mind ensures.

After finishing the first Tools manual, I have been researching make-believe play center ideas. Tools uses six centers: Literacy, Housekeeping/Dramatic Play, Science/Scensory, Blocks, Art/Fine Motor, Math/Manipulatives/Table Toys. These centers will be given theme-specific names throughout the year (i.e. hospital, grocery store, restaurant, vet, flower shop, space center). In the beginning of the year the theme will be "family" and therefore the students and I will likely transform the centers into a living room, kitchen, garage, bathroom, and bedroom.

Here are some great ideas from my hunt (Thank you Pintrest & all the wonderful bloggers who posted these pictures!): 

Do you teach early childhood and use dramatic play/imaginary play in your class? I'd love ideas and advice for the beginning of the school year! If you use Tools of the Mind or a similar curriculum in your class and you have a blog, let me know! I'd love to follow you and share ideas throughout the year! 

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