For the Whole of Their Life.

Learning Through Play

Posted 3rd August 2021
By Jaime Boys

200226 Spcc Dale Waratah 85

Take a moment. Breathe deeply. Think back to your childhood memories. What comes to mind? Is it a family holiday? Playing with friends? Or time at the beach? Often when we’re asked to think back, we remember time of happiness and play. This lends to the idea that play can be an instrumental tool in learning.

For children that find reading, writing and/or numeracy difficult, learning across each key learning area can be arduous. What happens when you find something difficult? Often, we put the item, event or situation to the side- we avoid it. There has to be some key motivation to pursuing something that we find challenging- so what is the key motivation for children when they find something challenging?

Learning through play can make something that could be challenging an enjoyable learning experience. It is effective because children and young adults are given control of a situation. Play-based activities reduce the fear of failure. It increases a sense of enjoyment and fun. Play-based activities allow students to interact with their peers and build friendships, which then in turn has an improved effect on their involvement in other class activities.

Play also fosters the development of a wide range of skills such as imaginative play, social skills, negotiation, problem-solving and sharing. These are all key skills in being able to grow and nurture friendships, and later work and negotiate in a variety of careers. With new careers emerging every day it is important to grow skills that can be applied in a variety of positions to enable students to move from school into the workforce.

At St Philip’s Christian College DALE we teach key social skills through a program ‘Play is the Way’. It is based on short, active activities to develop understanding of 5 key ‘life-rafts’ or rules for life. These 5 life-rafts are;

· Treat others as you would like to be treated.

· Be Brave- participate to progress.

· Pursue your personal best no matter who you work with.

· Have reasons for the things you say and do.

· It takes great strength to be sensible.

It is easy to see how these life-rafts can apply across a range of situations at all stages of life- including adulthood. While children are playing a fun and active game, they are also learning values for life.

Across each key learning area teachers strive to have activities that have game-like qualities to develop student’s knowledge of content through fun, play-based activities. Some examples include board games for Maths that involve counting and adding numbers on the dice and board pieces, fraction dominoes and memory games with shapes and names. In History, treasure hunts are utilised with vital pieces of information to create a historical timeline hidden around the school for students to reconstruct. For our senior students we use fun activities to introduce and anchor information for Maths concepts, students can then explore this more in their individual modules. At an ICT level quizzes using Kahoots and Quizizz are a popular way to explore what students know and understand from a unit of work. The engagement we see in play-based activities leads to a greater achievement of outcomes for students. Teachers are able to say, ‘Remember the game we played outside on Tuesday...’ to direct students to remember the information they learnt during that lesson.

Music and song are other ways to develop knowledge around key topics. In younger years songs can be used to cue a time to pack away or as introduction to the day. Older years may experiment in creating songs to demonstrate their knowledge of content area. There are a variety of songs for all subjects and topics readily available on YouTube.

Trauma can often have an impact on memory, impulsivity and social skill development. Play based learning activities offer opportunity to teach skills to improve impulsivity and social skills, alongside creating links in brain for new knowledge to be built. For students that experienced any disengagement in learning, play allows them to reconnect with learning in a fun style.

There are many arguments to support the use of play to support learning. The most compelling argument is being the development of the ‘whole’ child- gross and fine motor skills, social skills and content knowledge while developing the key skills in making and maintaining friendships.

So, what does this mean for families at home? Play builds stronger, more connected families. Whether you incorporate song into your getting ready or packing away routines or have a regular games night you are creating family memories and traditions that will be remembered for a lifetime. Connected children grow into adults that are equipped to face the world. For the adults of the household, hopefully the play has a positive effect for you too- laughter has the ability to boost serotonin- the happiness hormone- so, let the games begin!

About the Author

Michelle Collier has been teaching at St Philip's Christian College DALE since 2012, and in the Public and Catholic systems since 2007. At SPCC DALE she has taught Stage 3 through to Stage 5. Michelle studied at Newcastle University majoring in Special Education, Literacy and Numeracy. She is passionate about making a change in children's lives through quality education, preparing them for life beyond school. Michelle holds a strong belief that learning should be fun, engaging and purposeful. She loves working at DALE because it embodies this style of learning, with Christ foremost. Michelle believes that anything is possible when you put God first.

Play-based activities allow students to interact with their peers and build friendships, which then in turn has an improved effect on their involvement in other class activities.

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