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Learning 29 Jun 2022

Learning through play

By Heather Kim, JK Bilingual English Teacher
Photograph by Heather Kim, JK Bilingual English Teacher

What is play based-learning and why is it important?

Children use play to explore and make sense of the world around them. During the act of play, children explore, take risks, engage their imagination and solve problems. A well designed play-based learning approach will help children to learn independently, use their imagination and help build social and important vocabulary skills.

Play-based learning appeals to children’s natural curiosity. In play-based learning programs, teachers tailor learning opportunities to align with the type of play the children are engaging in. Play based learning is fundamental to the IB Primary Years Programme approach, as it “brings life to transdisciplinary learning” (PYP The Learner, p.10) The photos in this article show how play helps students develop cognitive and social skills, which are essential IB ATLs (Approaches to Learning) skills.

1. Social and communication skills

The pictures show the progression of students’ ability to work collaboratively. In August, students would only build blocks with a few other friends. Over time, they developed a “community of learners,” where everyone has their role for their shared project. The students learned to share, take turns, help one another, and exchange and negotiate ideas all by themselves!

2. Cognitive development (Problem-solving, persistency, math concepts)

The student decides what they are building using their own ideas (student agency). When they build, they test their ideas while trying to build stable structures that are able to free stand. They inquired into the concepts such as length, height, symmetry, ramp, balance, and velocity. Because play (building blocks in this case) allows students to follow their personal interests, they are able to work persistently and try a variety of ways to figure out the optimal way to make the building stand strong. They constantly discuss the shape and number of blocks that go into a specific area. They expand their plans and challenge themselves. Currently the students are experimenting on how cylinder shaped blocks roll on a slide.

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