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Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Beauty of Unstructured Play

Point To Take Away: Don't Work HARD. Work SMART! And have fun whilst you're at it! If you do ONE piece of high quality, you'll learn more than doing 10 pieces of poor quality. The rest of the time, you can PLAY!

Point to Take Away: "So I wonder why Singaporeans are arguing over scores or bands. Shouldn't the debate be about whether the exams are appropriate for children at such a young age?

Point to Take Away: "He also defends the use of more free play as opposed to purposeful play."

In Dr Pet's Enrichment there are no tables and no chairs. The children sprawl on the floor and wander about the room as and when they so wish. The Husband said that it isn't professional to run a classroom with no little tables and little chairs. However, that's not how the kids view it. The kids don't want to be reminded of school. The kids can't care less how PRO you LOOK as long as your PRO looks like a version of school where Teachers yell at them. When they come here, they want to play. So, we disguise the environment to look like play... and we weave HARD WORK into a series of learning activities that LOOK like play.

Our facilitators need to have a sense of fun and a high tolerance for noise. This is because, the kids are yelling at each other. As long as we observe that everyone is ON Task and not quarrelling, they can yell as much as they want. Our worst discipline problems come when the girls get bitchy with each other and the boys get aggressive. We want the kids to learn social skills and these interpersonal aggressive behaviours are dealt with immediately and firmly.

Children in Dr Pet's Enrichment working hard at highly difficult inference questions in a play set-up and environment.

End-of-Class Structured Play

I must say that I was very proud of myself for having succeeded more or less at achieving this UNTIL I read the words above "We believe strongly that free play nurtures creativity and independence." Those words gave me pause and punctured a hole in my own inflated sense of pride. This was even more so since I completely agreed with "He also defends the use of more free play as opposed to purposeful play."

The Yaya Papaya Dr Pet didn't quite feel so Yaya Papaya anymore.

The problem with Dr Pet's Enrichment is that all the play is STRUCTURED. There is no time for free play. Even the play session at the last 15 minutes of class is structured and controlled. It is rather scary for me to effectuate unstructured play in my classes. How will I control the class? How will I deliver results? How can I trust the children to make progress if I don't lead them through with a structure? How am I going to achieve this?

I need to think. I wanna build in UNstructured play too. But how?

I think Dr Pet's Mommies and Daddies are already very very very forgiving of the weird things they see about our classes. Part of them must wonder whether their children learn anything at all in an environment where facilitators NEVER lecture not teach. Part of them must wonder if we are wasting time at all when we allow the children to laugh and giggle and yell. Part of them must wonder at their children's bad behaviour in class. And oh boy... what must they think when they see their children sprawling on the floor on their bellies... or lying flat on the floor reading comprehension passages. Last Saturday, our puppy even peepee-ed on a child's book. Yikes!

I wonder if parents can take it if they observe UNstructured play in Dr Pet's classes. Hmmmmm?

The words "It cannot be done." is like a red rag to a bull for me. So, I'm gonna go ahead and try to see if I can build a lesson with UNstructured play and still ensure that children learn something. Please Mommies and Daddies... bear with me. I'll do it once and we'll see how. Ok? It may take months but I'm gonna go ahead and develop something. I'll think it through carefully. It may take months for me to develop something I am reasonably sure won't hurt the children. I won't run it unless I've thought it through PROPERLY. Promise!

The thing is this. The UNstructured play environment does really teach many lessons. See how much Little Boy learnt from unstructured play HERE and HERE and HERE and HERE.

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