You students are entering your classroom at various levels of play – some will prefer to observe their friends at play, some will play side-by-side but separately, and some will dive right in and start interacting with each other immediately. As a teacher and a facilitator of play, you have some great opportunities to begin working on teamwork and collaboration in your classroom – building incredible social-emotional skills that will form a foundation for your students’ entire lives!
Teamwork: Building a Community
Teamwork in preschool starts with a sense of belonging. Building a classroom community is the first step. One great way to get your kiddos to feel a sense of responsibility and belonging is classroom jobs. If possible, make sure every child has a job every day. Be creative with the job titles! Your weather checker can be a “meteorologist,” and your light switch operator can be the “electrician.” Children love the sense of importance and duty that comes with a job of their own, and you will see your room change from a classroom to a community.
Teamwork: Taking Turns
Are you still encouraging your students to “share?” For preschoolers, the idea of sharing is confusing – how long does the other person get it? Will I ever see that toy again? Can I touch it while they’re using it? Instead, try “take turns.” Taking turns is more concrete – the other child will have it for a time, then I will get it back. They may also use that time to observe how the other child plays, and this can begin to build collaboration in play, as they share ideas for using toys and learn to incorporate the ideas of others. A sand timer or motion timer is a great way to introduce the idea of taking turns and allowing children to self-manage their play – teach them to turn the timer when they take turns and give the object back when all the sand is at the bottom.
Collaboration: Dramatic Play with Purpose
One great way to build collaborative play is to have children work toward a goal together. Your dramatic play center is a great place to start! Are you reading The Three Little Pigs? Then your dramatic play center can include blocks, and students can try to build a strong house together to withstand the wolf’s huffing and puffing. Additionally, focused dramatic play that includes roles, such as a restaurant or a grocery store, encourages play-based interactions that children are familiar with from home life.
While children develop through the stages of play at their own pace, there are several ways you can create an environment that contributes to interaction, teamwork, and collaboration. Be creative, and have fun with your students!
Contributed by Emily Millspaugh
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