Alicia Mari Portfolio



Keeping imaginative play in the kindergarten classroom: How to conduct observations of play behaviors to identify and understand individual student development and integration of skills within authentic play contexts.

Needs Assessment

Intent Statement

The objective of this course is to increase awareness of the importance of creative play in the kindergarten classroom. Through examples, analysis, and interactive exercises, participants will consider play as a tool for identifying and analyzing play behaviors of individual kindergarten children with the ultimate goal of clarifying student development and integration of skills.

Instructional Problem:

The 2009 report commissioned by the Alliance for Childhood,"Crisis In the Kindergarten Why Children Need to Play In School",finds that educators' limited understanding of play as an integral part of children's global development is one of the reasons for the loss of play time in kindergarten classrooms. In the report, Professor Diane Levin discusses her research findings and states that teachers, "May say that play is important, but they often don't recognize the difference between the imitative, repetitive play frequently seen today and the more creative, elaborated play of the past. Many teachers don't know why play is important." The report summary underscores that play not only supports socio-emotional and motor development, but is central to academic skills acquisition as well as the growth of critical thinking and problem solving skills.

  • The nature of what is to be learned: Participants will recognize and value the critical educational role play has in the kindergarten classroom. Participants will gain a working understanding of how play serves as an informal assessment tool to identify individual student development and integration of skills.
  • About the learners: intended participants include pre-service teachers, teachers in kindergarten classrooms, administrators making decisions on the amount of play allowed in the kindergarten classrooms, and parents.
  • Instructional content: The format of this course will be broken up into units. In order to keep participants engaged there will be varied sequences of content presentation such as the following examples: information> example> do> reflect; example> information> do> reflect; do> procedural information> reflect. Content will also have to account for different learning styles by limiting the amount of information presented per page,providing guided questions to facilitate the retrieval of prior knowledge,using visual cues to underscore important terms and information, maximizing online visual resources, varying color and font size for greater visual salience, using graphic organizers to consolidate and summarize information.
  • Context analysis: The content of this course will be presented within an online learning environment. The challenge of not having learners present, as in a traditional classroom context,is gauging the participant's degree of motivation at different points throughout the course. Since feedback from participants will not be available while taking the course, the online learning environment will have to offer motivational artifacts such as video,audio,and graphics. In addition,to assure full engagement,it will be important to present material in small units or chunks. Another factor that will impact on the context of learning, but that the designer has no control over, is the physical time and place which participants will schedule to take the course. Ideally, participants learning context will include peers and colleagues, making for a collaborative learning experience with rich discussion and analysis. If participants take this course independently,a comfortable setting as well as a time of day that the participant is most alert would provide for an ideal learning context.
  • Explore instructional problem/solution: The degree of concern with testing may be overshadowing opportunities for experiential learning for students. Constructivist theory supports maintaining play within the learning process, especially for young learners. This course intends to demonstrate how play offers a win/win situation for learners and proponents of testing by demonstrating that play cultivates the skills necessary for positive test results within a learning context that maximizes on learner's intrinsic motivation. Critical to this objective, is the teacher's role in the play observation process, gathering and analyzing essential information about students' ongoing developmental and academic progress.

Course Goals

  • Participants will have an understanding of the developmental benefits play offers young children.
  • Participants will recognize play in the kindergarten classroom as a tool for identifying students' developmental and academic progress.
  • Participants will choose to implement the use of play observations within their scope of practice.

Performance Objectives

  • Given a list of the 6 types of play, participants will verbally formulate examples of each type of play and its component characteristics.
  • Given a list of 4 developmental categories,socio-emotional, motor, language,and cognitive, participants will write in their own words the beneficial role play has in the growth of each developmental domain.
  • Given the academic categories: math, science, literacy, participants will generate a written description about the role play has in the acquisition of early skills within each category.
  • Given a short video to watch, participants will classify play behaviors to the corresponding developmental domain(s)being accessed by defining in writing the correlation between the given behavior to the developmental domain.
  • Given a short video to watch, participants will extract examples and describe in writing instances of creative play supporting the acquisition of early math,science,or literacy skills.
  • Given a short video to watch, participants will write a descriptive observation of play behaviors observed which will include specific classifications of the type of play as well as developmental domains and learning domains accessed within the play context.
  • Given 9 descriptive criteria to consider, participants will select 3 periods during the school week to observe and formulate a written summary about activity in the classroom with a focus on the physical use of space, materials, and student access.
  • Analyzing information from the self generated summary about activity in the classroom, participants will identify elements to be modified in the physical space and implement those modifications.
  • Given 7 descriptive criteria to consider, participants will select one period in the school day to observe play in the classroom and take notes about what is observed.
  • Given 5 descriptive criteria to incorporate, participants will use the self generated notes from the observation of play to compose a written summary of the play observation.

Task Analysis

  • Essential prerequisites

For general participation in a Wiki course: access to a computer with Internet connection, ability to navigate wiki course/links, auditory and visual processing skills, reading and writing skills.

For effective engagement to course content: knowledge of early childhood development, understanding of constructivist theory, knowledge of common core education standards for kindergarten.

  • Supporting prerequisites

An interest in the topic of play behaviors. A desire to explore the application of play into the classroom. A desire to learn and collaborate within a group context.

Instructional Curriculum Map



Edward Miller and Joan Almon, Crisis in the Kindergarten: Why Children Need to Play in School, College Park, MD: Alliance for Childhood,2009.

Course Link

Keeping Imaginative Play In the Kindergarten Classroom