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Active, Joyful Engagement
September 20, 2019
Kind words conquer.
-Tamil Proverb

To learn the word ‘the,’ Kristen Bauter’s kindergartners used to sit at their desks with a worksheet and circle words scattered across the page. Now, the 5-year-olds stand at a station digging through shredded blue paper to find cardboard fish marked ‘the.’It’s a change for the Watertown City School District in far upstate New York, where Bauter works. This year, the district has implemented a play-based learning curriculum for kindergartners and first-graders in its five elementary schools, an effort to make learning more developmentally appropriate and to cultivate students’ social-emotional skills.” So begins an article by Kate Stringer on the website, the74million.org.

It’s also in alignment with the state of New York’s new standards for early learners,” Stringer explains, “which encourage play and ‘active, joyful engagement’…

That makes sense to early-learning researchers, who have long argued for play-based education for young students. Years of research have demonstrated the importance of play for childhood development, yet the ‘either/or’ argument between play and academics, with their strict standards and assessments, has inhibited making playtime more prominent in the early grades.”

In the popular book, Really Seeing Children, Deb Curtis writes about how important it is for educators to truly understand and respect children’s play-based learning. She explains:

“Seeing children is about seeing the details of their remarkable ideas and actions. Studying what you observe and seeing yourself as a teacher-researcher to find children’s skills and competencies enhances your own professional development and informs your practice when responding and planning for children. Seeing children’s astonishing ways brings the joy and wonder back to your teaching.”

Source: “A New Push for Play-Based Learning: Why Districts Say It’s Leading to More Engaged Students, Collaborative Classmates … and Better Grades,” by Kate Stringer, the74million.org, February 6, 2018

Really Seeing Children

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Educators have the opportunity to slow down, observe, delight, and practice really seeing children every day. In her new book, Really Seeing Children, Deb Curtis offers a wealth of ideas to help teachers and parents see with fresh eyes.

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Comments (1)

Displaying 1 Comment
Teri Torchia · September 20, 2019
Medford, MA, United States

I have followed and admired your work for years and I think this might be the first time you got it wrong. First of all, searching for a fish with the word "the" on it is NOT play. It's just a hands-on worksheet where children must search for a sight word. Sight words should be taught in the context of a meaningful text. And when individual children are ready. Learning sight words is not appropriate for many kindergarten children. Remember when it was a first grade thing? If you read the 74 Million article, you will see that the teacher still feels the need for 30 minutes per day of "traditional" seat work. The article is a misrepresentation of what "play" is. The second thing I find disturbing is that you used a piece from The 74 Million which was founded by Campbell Brown and is funded by the Gates Foundation and the Walton family (among others) who are "school reformers." Those three are among the most visible, vocal, deceitful and dangerous of "school reformers." They are not educators nor are they friends of public education, educators or children! They want to privatize public education for profit and have been doing so for years.They have been involved in Common Core, high stakes testing, charter schools and union-busting. Brown was involved in union-busting lawsuits. Bill Gates came up with the gravely misguided idea of linking standard test scores with teacher evaluations. Good teachers were fired over this. He recently admitted it was a failure. If only he would put his billions to good use in supporting teachers and children.
I have always found your work to be progressive, informative and inspiring. I hope you will do the right thing and offer a retraction. And take The 74 Million off your list of sources, Check out Diane Ravitch's blog instead. She speaks truth to power!

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