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Purposeful Play: A Review and a Giveaway

9780325077888When my daughter was three years old, I visited every preschool within driving distance, searching for just the right one. I saw schools of all shapes and sizes, of varying philosophies and curricula. The one thing I was most interested in was: Is there enough time for play? Will she be happy? Will she be able to move around, make choices, talk, sing, dance, and make things?

Then, when my daughter started kindergarten, I found myself asking, once again: Is there enough time for play?

Then, I started thinking about the many classrooms where I work: Is there enough time for play? Earlier this year, in this post, I made play my One Little Word (OLW) for 2016.

In the new book Purposeful Play: A Teachers Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the DayKristine Mraz, Alison Porcelli, and Cheryl Tyler have laid out the research and practical advice that many of us have been looking for. In our heart of hearts we’ve known that play is crucial to learning, yet time and time again we find ourselves putting play aside.

The book begins by addressing, head-on, the misconception that teachers must make a choice between academics and play. “The Common Core State Standards are an endpoint, not a curriculum. Imagine the standards as a destination, like a point on a map. Reaching that destination involves and endless array of choice” (p. 5). Purposeful Play articulates the message that many teachers have been waiting for: We can teach everything we need to teach through play. We don’t have to choose one or the other–academic success or play.

The book is divided into three very practical sections, each designed to provide an overview for teachers who might be new to play-based learning, and a nudge for those who are long-time advocates. Each section is jam-packed with theory, research, and practical advice for creating classroom environments that support play-based learning, and how to coach into children’s play once it’s up and running.

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Section I: All About Play: The Reasons, Research, and Resources
This section lays out the nuts and bolts: lists of materials, pictures of classrooms, and charts galore (no surprise there, with chart-master Kristine Mraz as one of the coauthors). From the block center, to dramatic play, it is easy to see how play supports the work of reading and writing workshop. For a literacy person like myself, this section was both affirming (yes, we can play!) while at the same time, pushing my thinking about the types of play that children might engage in:

Fantasy Play

Constructive Play

Games with Rules

Rough and Tumble Play

Personally, as a literacy researcher and literacy coach, I have studied fantasy play, constructive play, and games with rules in depth. I’ve long held these near and dear to my heart as crucial to children’s literacy learning. Writing workshop can spill right into choice time easily and vice-versa. Simply by offering up paper and materials in the block center, clipboards in the dramatic play area, and notepads near the sand-table.

But the rough and tumble play section caught me by surprise. After reading the book, the need for this type of play seems so obvious to me — it’s difficult to believe that I had overlooked it for so long.

Section II: The Work in Play: Using Play for Social and Emotional Growth

This section is the perfect blend of practical tips and teaching points for coaching children as they play, combined with big thinking about educational philosophy and social justice. It covers everything from teaching children how to really look at other people’s faces to read their emotions and empathize with others, to strategies for sharing, taking turns, and solving big problems in the world outside the classroom.

This section provides an eye-opening connection between social-emotional learning and literacy. Practical advice on teaching children to empathize with others in real life is presented, and then connected directly to being able to empathize and understand characters in books, and through writing. Connections like these – from children’s real-life social skills to important literacy skills – are found on almost every page.

Section III: The Play in Work: The Whole Day Can Feel Playful

The final section provides an incredibly useful tool for reflecting on writing workshop, as well as across the curriculum. It isn’t a huge stretch to see how play is woven into the fabric of writing workshop. Day-in and day-out a writing workshop is built on the premise of children being writers. They take on the role of author, complete with published books, publishing parties, and all the rest of the trappings of real, live writers. They dramatize stories, acting parts out with partners, reading with storyteller voices during narrative units, “Discovery Channel” and “Wild Kratts” voices during informational units, and “Presidential” voices during persuasive units. As teachers we can use silly songs, goofy voices, and materials like “magic revision pens,” glittery tiny-topics notepads, and special pink or green paper booklets to make writing playful and engaging.

Some of the book’s most powerful advice about play pertains just as much to adults working with children as it does to the children. Play is a mindset. The role of play in the classroom doesn’t only improve kids’ learning lives; it makes teachers’ lives that much more joyful, purposeful, and sustainable. When we take on a play-based mindset in the classroom, we shift the focus from outside pressures, to the lived-experience of all the people in the classroom, children and adults included.

This book is just the right book for any writing teacher looking for infusing their entire day, including literacy time, with more joyful, playful learning: for children, and for teachers.


GIVEAWAY INFORMATION:

  • For a chance to win one copy of Purposeful Play: A Teachers Guide to Igniting Deep & Joyful Learning Across the Day please leave a comment on this post by Sunday, May 22nd, 11:59 p.m. EDT. A random number generator will be used to pick the winner.
  • Please be sure to leave a valid email address when you post your comment, so we can contact you to obtain your mailing address if you win. Your e-mail address will not be published online if you leave it in the email field only. Heinemann will ship to winners in the United States only.
  • If you are the winner of the book, you will receive an email you with the subject line of TWO WRITING TEACHERS – PURPOSEFUL PLAY. Please respond to the e-mail with your mailing address within five days of receipt. Unfortunately, a new winner will be chosen if a response isn’t received within five days.

BethMooreSchool View All

Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.

75 thoughts on “Purposeful Play: A Review and a Giveaway Leave a comment

  1. I’m interested in thinking more about the idea of play as a mindset. And I love this quote from the post: “The role of play in the classroom doesn’t only improve kids’ learning lives; it makes teachers’ lives that much more joyful, purposeful, and sustainable. When we take on a play based mindset in the classroom, we shift the focus from outside pressures to the lived experience of all the people in the classroom, children and adults included.” It makes me think of a true learning community, where the intellectual lives of both children and teachers are valued and nurtured within the school.

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  2. This book sounds wonderful! What a lovely way to bring students –and teachers– to life in classroom learning. As Fred Rogers said, “Play is the work of childhood.” Children are more invested in their learning when it is meaningful to them and they are actively engaged through play. I would love to mine this book of ideas!

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  3. A very timely read as teachers feel there is little time for play in the ever crowded curriculum. However, purposeful play engages children and, more importantly, encourages them to be risk takers in their learning.

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  4. My district is preparing to look into the impact play has in the classroom. I will be highly recommending this book to my teachers to read in their journey.

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  5. Sounds like a great book with a lot of ideas to integrate into the day. Will definitely need to read this one. I like section II’s emphasis on play and it’s role with developing those SEL skills that are so needed.

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  6. I’m moving to a K-1 next year after many years at 1st (and up). This sounds like just the book to add to my stack (which has “I Am Reading” on top at the moment).

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  7. Is this book primarily for early childhood teachers? Or, since the philosophy is that play is a mindset, does it apply those principles to upper elementary as well?

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  8. So excited that so many people are advocating for play! Can’t wait to read this book, I have loved following your twitter chats.

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  9. Wonderful article! As an elementary school counselor, I see the need for play, but also see the pressure the teachers feel to meet curriculum goals. This so beautifully explains how both goals can be met.

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  10. I am loving Mraz’s book A Mindset for Learning that she wrote with Christine Hertz and I would love to read her latest book Purposeful Play. I saw her speak at NCTE and it was so inspiring–I brought so many resources back to my school to support play and it has truly started a mini revolution! She is also the best person ever to follow on Twitter, I love reading about her classroom and her students!

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  11. As an advocate of teaching Social Studies at the elementary level, this mindset offers a wonderful and engaging way for students to learn how to be good citizens through role playing and story telling. So excited to read a book that reminds us of what’s important in students young lives- joy and curiosity!

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  12. I love how this book’s subtitle isn’t age or grade specific. Children of ALL ages need to play. I am looking forward to reading this book, but Section 111 looks especially intriguing.

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  13. I have taught in general education classrooms and am currently in special education. Play is vital to student success… both socially and academically. I wish more teachers saw the value of purposeful play across settings. 🙂

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  14. I love the idea behind purposeful play and how easy they make planning in moving theory into practice. This would be a great summer read!

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  15. I was just putting together a course for Para-Educators on this exact topic. I think they could learn a lot from this resources. I’m excited to see it!!

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  16. I always felt a little guilty when I did playful things in the classroom, like teaching songs, playing Scrabble or grammar bingo, or making found poems, but I did them anyway and had a lot of fun on those days.

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  17. I think Common Core has dictated what we teach and I agree with you that it’s how we teach that’s important. There shouldn’t be a decision to play or to have academic success. I look forward to reading more, thank you!

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  18. I’m one of those people who has been a play advocate and practitioner my whole career. What I’d love is the research to help continue to help others understand. I will be buying this book, if I don’t win it.

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  19. I know that play lays the foundation for our children to be successful in every way. It is so silly that people look beyond the longest standing, most natural form of how our brain develops and learns for interventions and programs developed to meet the needs that natural play would already address.

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  20. What a powerful way for children to learn. One of the reasons I’m grateful that my children are able to attend Montessori school.

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  21. I have been an advocate for games for my teachers. They are a great way for students to practice and reinforce social and academic skills. I used them in my classroom all the time.

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  22. I am currently reading this book and it is fabulous. My administrators will hear me quote constantly from Purposeful Play next year!!

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  23. I absolutely am in love with this book. I just left a 3rd grade reading celebration where students shared why they love to read. A little girl shared that she loves to go home and pretend she is the characters, and when she does that, she really understands them so much more. From the mouths of babes… they need to play to learn. 🙂

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  24. I am an instructional coach and would love to share this resource with my staff; especially my 2 kindergarden teachers. They are very passionate about this topic!

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  25. This sounds like a wonderful book and I think i t would be great to use with my sixth graders who still love to play. Why not at this level? So much is expected of them that we tend to lose sight of the fact that they are still children! Am looking forward to reading this book!

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  26. This sounds fantastic! Children play to learn. I am looking forward to reading this book for more ideas of ways to incorporate play into learning! Thank you!

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  27. I am so excited as a mother and educator to read this book. I feel that purposeful play is key to learning and had been all but eliminated in many districts throughout NY state. I would love to help champion it’s return.

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  28. I have been thinking about how to talk about the role of play as I roll out a new reading curriculum with Kindergarten teachers. This will be a great resource.

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  29. The school I am working at just finished a full day of Play PD. This book would be a great resource to guide teachers trying to infuse play into their day.

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  30. Thanks Beth for the inspirational post! It reaffirms the importance of play. I hope to have more purposeful play in my kindergarten classroom. I look forward to learning more about the rough and tumble play. This book is definitely on my summer reading list. Thanks for blogging about it.

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  31. Play is such a vital act in our lives. Isn’t it amazing how one can be shifted cognitively, socially, and emotionally through it? Play should be honored in learning. So excited to share this resource (and your post) with my teacher friends, one of which is working on a KIPP campus that is transitioning to play-based learning. Your post couldn’t have popped up on my Twitter feed at a more perfect time! Thankful for your insights, Beth! Keep them coming! #PLN #tribe

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  32. Beth, this book sounds wonderful! It reaffirms the philosophy of play-based learning. I’m interested to read more about the rough and tumble play. I hope to have more purposeful play throughout the school day. This book is definitely on my summer reading list.
    Thanks for blogging about it.

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  33. Play is such a vital act in our lives. Isn’t it amazing how much one can gain through play socially, cognitively, and emotionally? Thankful for your thoughts, Beth! I can’t wait to share this resource (and your post) to my teacher friends…one of whom is teaching at a KIPP campus that is transitioning into a play-based learning environment. This resource will be so helpful and couldn’t have popped up on my Twitter feed at a more perfect time!

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  34. This is something I’ve long believed—that the destination has a myriad of paths for our arrival, and traveling on the interstate isn’t always the most scenic route. Play gives all of us a more dynamic route to success.

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  35. Thanks, Beth. I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of Purposeful Play, and I’m appreciative of your review. Teachers in my community, like in many others, are talking a lot about finding the joy and play in our lives and children’s lives. This looks like it would be a great book to read as a school community.

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  36. We need to bring back play. I feel sorry for children and teachers with all of the added responsibilities. We might as well make it fun! This book is on my read list.

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  37. Thank you for the thoughtful post, Beth! A part that caught my attention is the either/or trap in education. Language about our beliefs has become more “either/or” than when I started teaching 22 years ago. Whether it is technology or writing or grammar, I feel like I hear the belief (criticism) that teachers either teach/use x or don’t teach/us y…when the reality is that they do teach/use it WITH other skills and objectives. But we are being trained to see and articulate things as either/or too often…and it isn’t helpful! We do need to advocate for more of an and/with mindset.

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  38. What a wonderful blog. Sounds like an interesting book that I should read. My fourth graders are so caught up in video games and web based entertainment at home. Meanwhile they are bombarded with the not very playful common core curriculum at school. They need a chance to “play” of course in a meaningful way. Everyday on my drive home I think, what can I tweak tomorrow so we can have more fun. (I need to play too) They never forget the fun things. Glad to hear I’m not alone in thinking kids need to do what comes naturally.

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  39. Thanks for this great post, Beth! I’m anxious to read this book. As a new full time coach, my experience with our youngest students has been limited until this year and I’ve been humbled by the importance of play! I love the fact that the book covers the 3Rs of play: reasons, research, resources. I know our K-3 teacher will want to explore it!

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    • Hi,
      Although the whole book sounds just right for me, I’m especially interested in Section III: The Play in Work: The Whole Day Can Feel Playful. I feel I can do more with classroom management and making “work” more playful. I’m looking forward to reading this book!
      Marian Mumford

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