Play or Work

“That looks like playing, not working,” I heard my self say to a child during our reading and writing workshop time earlier this week.

To set the stage, I was working with a couple of students in a guided reading group while the other sixteen kiddos were either writing or at a work station (in our classroom library, sorting high frequency words, working in their poetry binders, or retelling stories with a partner). So it’s a very busy time.

I noticed a child I thought was messing around rather than writing and I said, “That looks like playing, not working.” As soon as these words came out of my mouth I thought, “What the heck? Why did I say that?”

The message I just sent to that child was that playing is not okay in our classroom, at least not during reading and writing. Also, that reading and writing are work and not play.

Those messages go against everything I believe. In spite of that fact, I doubt any student in my class was surprised to hear me make that statement. Both because of societal beliefs about work and play and what they’ve come to expect within our classroom, I’m sure my statement was completely routine. So sad. I can do better by these darlings.

We say so much more than we realize frequently. This week I heard two other adults in our school chastise students for being too loud in the hall because testing was going on. I understand the urge, but would so much prefer students be quiet in the hall because learning is going on. Otherwise we’re telling kids testing is so much more important than learning. I’m not comfortable with that message.

Anyway, next week’s big goal will be to more closely live my beliefs about the importance of play in learning and work to show that to my students. I want them to see learning as play. That doesn’t mean it’s easy but it’s fun.

2 replies on “Play or Work”

  1. I can so relate to this post. I catch myself saying the same thing all the time, but what I need to say is “Are you focused or distracted?” or “How are you managing/using our learning time?” It’s just so easy to fall into my old habits.

    • jenorr says:

      I’m so glad I’m not alone in this line of thinking! I love the two questions you’ve posted here. The first one says what I want to say so much better than play vs work and the second one is all about them taking responsibility for their own learning. Brilliant.

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