I listened to my co-workers in the district discuss how they wanted to incorporate play into their day (all first grade teachers). They were stuck. Many said that they could get it in a few times a week, but that was all they had time for it. My 6 year-old heart hurt for them. The 6 year-old inside of me wanted to scream, "Let me run and be joyful! Let me be creative and make a mess! Let me experiment with new materials, toys and ideas! I want to talk loudly with my friends about our play!" The teacher in me said, "I totally get it- there is a lot of curriculum to cover. I have assessments that are required (some twice- long story) and academic interventions to do with them. Sometimes, I feel we have a target on our backs... we can't let anything slide or do any subject at a shallow level. The expectation is so high at times for our little ones."
Then, my own voice came out, "I serve the WHOLE child, not just the cognitive portion. I have a duty to do what is best for them. This is my charge and what parents trust me to do." This can be a scary thing. I even found myself admitting it to my peers out loud. I do not do all of the science or social studies that I could be doing (according to the curriculum- I focus on the state benchmarks for the necessities). The room was pretty silent. The presenter called it the "elephant in the room". How do we do it all? It's simple... we don't. I've come to realize in the last few months that the academic portion of my focus is reading, writing and math foundations. The rest is integrated into the other areas. The rest of the child MUST be looked at and honored. I thought I spoke too soon, when my principal stood up and reinforced my commitment and focus. (Phew! I'm not in trouble when I go in to school tomorrow! She is very much aware and supportive of how I teach and run my room.)
In early childhood/ kindergarten rooms, it is very obvious that the teachers are trying to take in account the whole child when creating the learning experience (social, cognitive, physical, and emotional). This cannot end once they get to first grade (and beyond for that matter!). I am not perfect- I freely admit it. I am trying my best to learn everything I can about my little people and what they need.
So yes, I take them outside every day for another 20 minutes (on top of the lunchtime recess). I make it work. When the weather gets too ugly, I'll switch to 2 days inside play and only 3 days outside. I also have integrated a sense of playfulness into our learning stations for math and literacy. They are playing games related to our content and learning cooperatively (think self-regulation and social skills). Is it my ideal? No. I wish I had more. Maybe once I am more experienced at this level, I will find a way. In the meantime. I'm not sacrificing the little bit that I have to make a canned holiday craft or an extra science unit (said with respect towards my teaching partner who is an awesome science teacher!). Here is a sample schedule for a typical week. I tend to alternate science and social studies (or blend it into something else- like reading non-fiction during a read aloud time). I will also post it on my TeachersPayTeachers account (free), so it can be downloaded if you like the format. (Please ignore the thumbnail pictures- I did something weird, but the file looks like below).
Anyway, I've spent enough time on my soapbox for one night. I'm off to bed to rest for another day in First Grade :)