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Colleagues quitting choice time

  • 1.  Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 14 days ago
    Hi,

    I work with 4 other teachers in my building in a public full day kindergarten. Our program is considered play-based. In some stress-venting sessions, 2 of the teachers said they have been beginning to reduce, or eliminate, free choice time (blocks, dramatic play, art, games). Their reasoning is that they believe their students prefer structured teacher-led activities, because the students behave much better during these times. They say their classes have been becoming more and more chaotic during choice time and believe this means their class is ready to take on more academic work. I have heard this a few times over the years, but know it can't be right. Any ideas on how to respond to these claims in an understanding way?

    Thanks,

    Kelly

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    Kelly Bhatia
    Teacher

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  • 2.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 14 days ago
    ​We use the High Scope curriculum and free choice or we call it work time is a big part of the program. For preschoolers, they need explore times. Our supervising staff reminds us often that if there are behaviors to 1st look at our environment to see what is missing or over stimulating for the children. Materials need to be rotated regularly and if there are activities out to meet the children's interests and to challenge those that need a challenge, then they should be busy during free choice. Busy eliminates lots of behaviors. I believe they will get enough of the teacher directed once they get into regular school.

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    Sue Miller
    team leader
    Child Development Center
    Hawarden IA
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  • 3.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 13 days ago

    Thank you to all who responded to the discussion about eliminating choice time.  I teach math and science for an online master's program in early childhood education.  My college supports a play-based curriculum but some of my students are not working in a play-based environment.  Now, I see first-hand what some of the provocations might look like.  For me a provocation is something that can move you forward while others might see it as a problem … (provocation is a word learned from Reggio Emilia philosophy).  Choice time, open time, free time - maybe it is time to call it what it is - playtime.  Then we need to ask the children for their ideas of what kinds of rules or guidelines must be in place for play to happen safely and so it can promote a good time for all.  This provides ownership and respect for children's competencies. Skipping choice time because the children are boisterous is prohibiting them from learning what was mentioned in the above dialogue and more - self-control, resiliency, making good choices, learning to make a friend and work with that friend or friends, having an idea and figuring out how to make it come to fruition, not to mention learning-all kinds of learning!  If we really believe that young children learn through their experiences and their senses then come on...let's be real.  Learning - internal learning is not happening during circle time or when children are engaged in worksheets.  That's rote stuff.  It doesn't take much of a person's spirit to be engaged in that.  The real work and the real learning take place during play.  We should not be fooled by the children's poor behavior, poor research on the value of early academics, by people who do not spend quality time with children, or those who do not know human development. All one really needs to do is look at a child's face who is totally engaged in play to see the light in their eyes and the wheels turning in their minds. Again, thanks for bringing this to our attention. Deb



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    Deborah Schein
    instructor and consultant
    Minneapolis MN
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  • 4.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 13 days ago
    I feel that is the frustrating thing about the way our school system, teacher expectations and parent expectations are becoming.  We have to remember that these children are young children.  They still fall under the category of early learners.  Children need to the opportunity to explore freely in their environments and this goes with learning.  It is easier to take the free choice away and have teacher planned activities for the children.  Although lets think about what choices are they really making?  Are they able to interact freely and develop the social and emotional confidence they need to be success as they grow?  If they are always told what they can play with, what they cannot do or is not "open?"  How they learning who they are and what makes them unique as an individual?  This was a lesson I learned myself many years ago when my oldest daughter was 4 and I was on maternity leave with our second child.  Being a preschool teacher, of course I had a beautiful large play room set up for my children that was very similar to my classroom.  I had a dramatic play area, block area, reading and writing area, sensory and science exploration area and a manipulative corner.  I was so excited to be home with my girls we would have so much fun together.  Then I quickly came to realize at those moments during our day that I thought would be perfect for my daughter have her free play while I nursed the baby, often she would sit and stare at me.  Now I gave it time because having a new baby in the house is an adjustment for children, and all of the family, but after a while she still did the same thing.  I had to reevaluate what was going on with her.  One very tired day, when the baby had had a rough day, I said to my older daughter, "Mommy needs you to go play with your toys."  she relied to me, "How do I play with my toys!"  It hit me!  She had been in a childcare center since she was an infant ( the same center I work for) but as I thought of her days, everything was scheduled for her and "choices" were the things that teachers put out for them.  Needless to say, I changed my way of thinking and teaching that moment.  I have teacher activities set out and the children often engage in them but they are still able to make free choices too.  If they ask to do something else, I bring it out for them.  We often vote on activities and at arrival time I let them choose what they want to take out for the morning.  I do have rules for their safety or there might be times when we can't do activities because of time or weather but for the most part it is their classroom and they help me plan by telling what they want to do.  Ive had much more success in teaching and learning and I have found that they all get along so much better!

    I will always push for the freedom of play!

    Good Luck!

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    Renee Stridiron
    Head Teacher
    Northville First Care
    South Lyon MI
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  • 5.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 13 days ago
    Hmmm very interesting. My take away from that would have been to sit down with something I knew she loved and play. Next maybe play together with something else she chose.. Sometimes it is semantics.  All I know is my grandchildren are champions of playing and they were never tuaght...maybe guided, given space and time, and lots of modeled.






  • 6.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 12 days ago
    ​Modeling is a form of teaching play. I have seen that evidence in my classroom over the years. Using materials in a different way when engaging with the children often helps them to discover other ways to use materials. All children are taught from birth one way or another and most of it is through modeling.

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    Sue Miller
    team leader
    Child Development Center
    Hawarden IA
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  • 7.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 14 days ago
    One important aspect about choice time is that even though it is free play and may look chaotic -it is a time to observe for learning opportunities. During choice time is when a teacher can help promote social and emotional development. It may seem like children have more behavior issues during this time because they need more practice developing these areas. Actively looking to see how they are treating and playing with each other gives the term community true meaning. Helping children develop in these areas also teaches them self-regulation skills that can also be applied outside of the classroom.

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    Angelica Gonzalez
    Arizona PBS
    Laveen AZ
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  • 8.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 13 days ago
    ​Angelica,
    You are very right in your response. We do need the opportunity for them to practice social skills and find the appropriate solutions to them. Free choice gives that opportunity for the children. Also it gives us a chance to model it for them.
    Free choice is where our staff comes up with a lot of our ideas on where the children's interests are as well. Then we can plan for appropriate experiences to further that interest.

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    Sue Miller
    team leader
    Child Development Center
    Hawarden IA
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  • 9.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 13 days ago
    Kelly,

    It's only stressful because they have lost control of their classrooms at that time. The students are acting like that because they have been allowed to. The teachers need to reteach and practice expectations during that time.


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    Susan Rinker
    Las Vegas NV
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  • 10.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 12 days ago
    Over the years in working in the early childhood profession, I have found that alot of teachers feel this way about choice time, especially in the beginning.  The free choice time is critical in building those social emotional skills that so many of our preschool children lack.  It does require some time, effort,and planning on the part of the teachers to ensure a successful choice/center time.  Children should be aware of their expectations during this time and the expectations should be reviewed/discussed on a regular/daily basis.  Also, the staff should not see this time as a time to sit down at their desk and get some paperwork done.  This time should be used to engage in those "teachable" moments that come during their play time such as taking turns, self regulating one's behavior, sharing, getting along with others, problem solving, etc.  It is also important to rotate the materials out of the learning centers and change them periodically to avoid children losing interest.  I know that some of the teachers that I've talked to in the past really didn't like the chaos that was created in both the blocks center and housekeeping/dramatic play center.  These are also usually the high interest centers in most classrooms.  They felt the kids would make too big of messes and not clean them up, so these centers would often be "closed" to the children.  My question is How can the teachers say that the children have difficulty with behaviors while in the "choice centers"  and instead of teaching them how to successfully enter, engage, and sustain play with their peers- they choose to skip focusing on these social emotional skills all together and go straight for the academics?  Seems backwards to me....and will likely create further behavioral difficulties in those that children that weren't allowed to practice these social emotional skills with their peers.

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    Tanya Williams
    Zebulon NC
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  • 11.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 11 days ago
    Thanks for all the advice on free choice. I wondered if others felt the chaos, but I know free choice is needed. I have to rearrange the room often to keep the running down. We run outside or in our large motor time. Or if all are wiggly then we need to do some group movements.
    Nellie Hennen
    Teacher and director
    Faithful Beginnings at Guardian Angels
    Chaska, MN

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    Nellie Hennen
    lead Teacher and director
    Guardian Angels Preschool
    Chaska MN
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  • 12.  RE: Colleagues quitting choice time

    Posted 12 days ago
    I agree with my colleagues who have voiced strong support of choice time. What messages are we sending to children when we tell them what is meaningful and important to learn all of the time. Free play sometimes looks chaotic, especially when children are negotiating play or problem-solving. The teacher has a role during play time as well. "When do I step in to help solve a problem?" Do I need to add something to the environment to support deeper play?" "Is there a protocol for problem solving in place at your center?" Children learn so much from figuring out themes of play, sharing space and resources, and teachers learn about them in kind. By observing and documenting children's play and reflecting with them on your documentation, you can help them go deeper in their exploration. You may also see strengths and interests that you never saw before. I'm not saying that teachers should never do teacher-led activities, I just think that we need to look at our motivation when restricting play.

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    Brian Silveira
    Pacific Primary
    San Francisco CA
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