But what about the curriculum?


This is the question I often get asked about play-based learning. There is a widespread notion out there that play-based learning is something that is separate from the curriculum — that students who are engaging in play are getting a “break” from the curriculum, from the work, from “school”.  Teachers struggling to make sense of it often complain that “play-based learning” is just one more thing they have to try to fit into their busy schedules. Parents worry that “play” means that their child isn’t “working” in school — completing worksheets, sitting and listening as teachers tell them what they need to know for “Grade One”.

This week I’ve had the opportunity to discuss at length some current issues in education with my colleagues, with parents, and with members of my online professional learning community.  Through my many musings, I’ve been left with one burning question:

How did it all get so off track?

The goal of education is simple. Learning. That’s what we want. And we want it for everyone.

Learning to communicate. To collaborate. To think critically. To be creative. To build character. To encourage citizenship.

These children collaborate as they figure out how to use a can opener. 

Our kindergarten curriculum in this province has been designed to guide teachers in their practice to work alongside children to develop these skills. Here is a link to the Program Design and Components Section of our NL Kindergarten Curriculum Guide.Please take the time to read this document. It outlines very well what kindergarten classrooms are supposed to look like. In fact, there are even a few photos.

My question remains: How did we get so off track?

How did so many people start to believe that kindergarten was some kind of training program for grade one? Where did they get the idea that children were supposed to sit in an assigned seat for hours upon hours each day, completing worksheets and being afraid to speak for fear of being reprimanded?  Where did they get this notion that school is where you complete “work” in order to “play”?

What’s even scarier to me is that parents  are NOT asking questions of teachers like:

How are you allowing my child to express their CREATIVITY and think CRITICALLY?

What experiences are helping my child to COLLABORATE and COMMUNICATE?

How are you helping my child build CHARACTER and become a good CITIZEN?


I would really love to know what YOU think. How did it all end up this way? And what can we do moving forward?





Cathy Baker View All →

Dedicated teacher for the past 18 years. Lifelong learner. Newbie blogger. Follow me on Twitter @Baker1973Cathy

2 Comments Leave a comment

  1. Aviva,

    Play-based learning underwent implementation in Grade 1 last year and is being implemented in Grade 2 this year. But there is still much work to be done around communicating positive messages about play to everyone involved. I believe you are right about people needing to value play before they can see the value in its use in learning. Perhaps we all need to play a little more, teachers AND parents. Something to think about for those designing professional learning for teachers!


  2. Cathy, these are some really deep and important questions. I might also wonder, how come play can’t continue into Grade 1 (and beyond)? The Ontario curriculum documents list expectations, but with the exception of the Kindergarten Document (which is play-based) and the Social Studies Document (which is inquiry-based), educators really can decide how they teach content. Worksheets are never proposed or required.

    I wonder though, to really see the value in play, do we have to also agree with its value? Does everyone feel that way? Do they use the research to help support their thinking when others might question it? Did we get so off-track because it’s hard to always be on the defensive, and with play, it always seems as though we are? I think that education needs people like you, who ask these kinds of questions and stand up for the value in play.


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