Earlier this month, we talked about the math explosion that took place during our block play. I shared the delight of capturing a play buzz to knock out early learning standards through play. To my astonishment, our play buzz continued all the way through our pickup activities and, let me just say, that never happens! We usually have one older “organizer” who likes to put the unit blocks in their specific spaces, but the younger children struggle just to find any shelf in the room that will work. So, when I saw the empty shelves actually being organized in order, I took note.
“Here’s a circle!” calls out two-year-old Eleanor. “That goes here. My mom calls this a cylinder,” says four-year-old Noah. “A silly-der?” asks a confused two-year-old. “No, a cylinder!” A burst of giggles is followed by the two-year-old trying again and again and again—to the hysterical delight of her friends. Finally, the play moment is over and the two-year-old impresses the group by naming the block correctly: “Your mom calls this a cylinder!” Applause and dancing ensue. During this rare but engaging pick-up period, we have all the elements needed to build the brain. We have movement. We have physical touch. We have mentoring and experimenting. When we fail, there is not a meltdown in sight, because there is always a friend nearby to show us the correct solution. We have conversations, rationalizing, cooperation, observation, design and data collection, as well as sorting, grouping and problem-solving. We have hit the nirvana of meeting learning standards with hands-on learning and communicating!
By turning a block in a different direction, it completely changes how it fits on the shelf. I watch the little wheels turning in Saaliha’s head. It’s deep thinking, she is silent, she tries different ways, she puts the block down only to pick it back up to try again. She sees another friend place a block in effortlessly. She turns her block in the same direction and tries again. Success! There is no celebration. There is a search for another matching block to cement this learning in her brain.
Early Learning Standard 9.A.ECe gets checked off the list! I am not convinced that Saaliha’s brain was ready for this on paper. The brain may not have been able to see it on a worksheet. When we put the objects in their hands and the vocabulary in their world, the pieces of the puzzle can make their way into the brain. Make the learning real!
As educators, we are so often running around putting out fires, that the documentation is a struggle. Play buzzes give us that time to stand back and actually observe the learning that is happening in front of us. This is a great time to just put your phone or camera on video. Target the group or the individual child you need data on. When we are indoors, the majority of our play buzz moments will come in that block room. Blocks are always developmentally correct for the child who is interacting with them. If your program doesn’t have a block area, try to make it happen. It will enrich the lives of everyone in the room. If you have a block area, carve out a nice LONG period of time to get down on the floor and start the play buzz. I promise you, your assessment will be met.