ABC Play and Learning

During free play in the Pre-K Dragonfly classroom a few weeks ago I heard soft singing at the puzzle table.  It was a song familiar to all of us but shorter and repeated.  “A-B-C.  A-B-C-D, A-B-C-D-E …”  On closer inspection i noticed a 5-year-old boy working independently on an alphabet puzzle which had no template for where the letters would go.  The puzzle frame was just an open rectangle in which the pieces fit.

He was engrossed and attentive to the task, quietly singing his way through the entire song.  When he finished, I said “Looks like you did the whole puzzle!”  “Yep!” he responded, walking off with an air of accomplishment.

Later in the morning another child came up to me and said: “Miss Ellie, would you help me with something?”  I followed her back to where she was working on the very same puzzle, holding pieces up in the air to try to get them to fit together.  “Your friend has a strategy that worked for this.  Why don’t you ask him about it?”  In response to her query, the first child replied: “Sing!”

Without further ado, the second child started humming and assembled the puzzle  in short order, with no help from me!

As I reflected on these observations I had many thoughts:

  • Often our natural tendency is to step in and help a child, but not intervening can promote learning.
  • Encouraging children to help each other is empowering and creates community.
  • Time to play with interesting materials is important for learning that is self-motivated and captivating.

There is great value in playing in a carefully orchestrated environment that promotes learning.  Instead of being directed by a teacher to work on alphabet letters, the children here were self-motivated which makes the learning, meaningful,  lasting … and fun!