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Ever since ancient times, the greatest thinkers and scholars have been trying to find the most efficient and successful ways of teaching. This search is still going on in the world nowadays. Today, a huge variety of teaching techniques and strategies exists, though the professionals would not let go of the idea that teaching could be optimized even more. The purpose of this paper is to focus on the synthesis of articles about learning through play and its effectiveness in teaching various types of skills and abilities.
Learning through play in Early Years
Over the last couple of decades, educators from all around the world started to pay deeper attention to play as a necessary and natural way of learning for little children. Observation of typical behaviors of elementary and preschool students makes it clear that these children are extremely active, and they cannot be locked in neat classrooms and surrounded by various limitations. The brain of a small child is in constant need of new information and experiences. Touching, tasting, and experimenting with materials and objects is the best way for them to gain the wanted knowledge and skills. Play is an extremely useful way to optimize active learning for younger children, make the learning process interesting and informative. Supervised and directed play by an educator play is now mainly viewed as the best ad only way to achieve advanced learning. Since play is a combination of entertainment, socialization, and communication, thinking, and physical activity, it is used to deliver various lessons that require both theoretical and practical knowledge.
For example, Cutter-Mackenzie and Edwards (2013) suggest that play is involved in environmental education because the success of environmental teaching relies on the composition of values, knowledge, and action, and these aspects can be best united in a play. Besides, play maybe also the most suitable way to address national concerns around education level in the United States. Evidentially, play-based, and child-centered kinds of teaching happen to be much more productive compared to the traditional academically concentrated educational programs (Fisher, Hirsh-Pasek, Newcombe & Golinkoff, 2013). Logically, the improvement of the national level of education is better to address the youngest students and then move forward as they grow up. Of course, the employment of learning through play for the younger children may be problematic due to conflicts that are inevitable during the game, as this is a process of active socialization, which often results in personality clashes among children (Bulotsky-Shearer, Bell, Romero & Carter, 2013).
Teaching the Teachers
To add teaching though play and successfully introduce it to the school program as one of the most basic forms of teaching, the professionals need to be prepared. The appliance of teaching through play is difficult to introduce due to the pressure to follow the standard format of teaching put on the educators (Baker, 2013). This teaching technique is often romanticized and referred to as something easy to arrange and put into practice (Cutter-Mackenzie & Edwards, 2013). Yet, teaching through play is a complex subject that has multiple layers. An educator plays a role of an observer, an analyst, an organizer, and a creator of practices. Besides, the educator also acts as a mediator of the behavior issues that show during the play (Bulotsky-Shearer, Bell, Romero & Carter, 2013). Ethical, emotional, and practical preparation of a teacher for efficient teaching though play requires reflective practices that develop the educators’ awareness of their practices and choices (Baker, 2013). The study of Fisher et al. (2013) confirms that constant supervision is essential to make the playful learning informative, organized, and to the point.
The Skills Developed through Play-Based Learning
The articles reviewed for this paper suggest that play-based learning is highly useful for the development of a variety of skills and knowledge. For example, Fisher et al. suggest the use of play for teaching Geometry and shapes, whereas Cutter-Mackenzie and Edwards (2013) explore the employment of play for teaching environmental values and practices. Apart from Math and Environmental Studies, games can be employed for Physical Education, Literature and Languages, Craft, Biology, Science, Physics, and many other disciplines. The study of Baker (2013) notes that play-based learning is important because it provides the link between theory and practice in every discipline that employs it. Baker (2013) identifies the main function of teaching though play as the engagement of a child as a thinker and a communicator.
Games and Creativity
The articles viewed for this paper discuss the role of the educator during the play, and the effects a play has on the learners, what has not been discussed is the kinds of games that are better for the students. Marchetti and Valente (2014) argued that digital learning games with a fixed number of scenarios limit the creativity of the students using them. At the same time, tabletop games or non-digital toys stimulate the creativity of their users. The researches described in the works of Fisher et al. and Bulotsky-Shearer et al. were based on a non-digital play that required scenarios created by the supervisor and direct interactions between students. The study of Cutter-Mackenzie (2013) explores the importance of open-ended play, where the students have the opportunities to explore, create, and interact with peers and adults.
The study also mentions that a play cannot be value and gender-neutral. Baker’s (2013) study also points out that gender can be used as a moderator of the gaming process to avoid conflict. This confirms the idea of Marchetti and Valente and demonstrates that the majority of scholars view non-digital games as more effective ways of learning. Viewing children not as empty vessels that need to be filled, but as communicators, creators, and thinkers require the application of the kinds of games that stimulate children’s creativity instead of limiting it. This way, the digital games used for teaching need to be upgraded so that they offer more options, scenarios, and engage the student’s creativity using a challenge. Since such advanced games are rarely available, it is best to use non-digital toys and games.
Play-based learning is one of the most effective teaching techniques for children and adults. It can be employed within a variety of disciplines. If widely used, play-based teaching has the capacity to improve the academic success of the students on the national level. This requires the qualified preparation of educators. In the contemporary world, digital computer games are widely used as bases for learning. Yet, evidence shows that simple tabletop games and non-digital toys are more useful and provide better stimuli for the students’ creativity.
Baker, F. S. (2013). A Pathway to Play in Early Childhood Education Developed through the Explicit Modeling of Reflective Practice in Teacher Education in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Reflective Practice: International and Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 15(2), 203-217.
Bulotsky-Shearer, R. J., Bell, E. R., Romero S. L. & Carter, T. M. (2013). Identifying Mechanisms through Which Preschool Problem Behavior Influences Academic Outcomes: What Is the Mediating Role of Negative Peer Play Interactions? Journal of Emotional and Behavioral Disorders 22(4), 199-213.
Cutter-Mackenzie, A. & Edwards, S. (2013). Toward a Model for Early Childhood Environmental Education: Foregrounding, Developing, and Connecting Knowledge through Play-Based Learning. The Journal of Environmental Education, 44(3), 195–213.
Fisher, K. R., Hirsh-Pasek, K., Newcombe, N. & Golinkoff, R. (2013). Taking Shape: Supporting Preschoolers’ Acquisition of Geometric Knowledge through Guided Play. Child Development 84(6), 1872-1878.
Marchetti, E. & Valente, A. (2014). Design Games to Learn: A new Approach to Playful Learning through Digital Games. Proceedings of the European Conference on Games Based Learning, 1, 356-363.