Unit Four: How to incorporate play observations in the kindergarten classroom



Unit Goal

  • By the completion of this unit participants will be able to plan and conduct observations in their educational setting.

The Education Setting

Pin.gifPlease formulate written responses to the following questions. Participants working independently can post their thoughts on the discussion page and comment on others' posts. Participants working in groups should discuss and compare responses with group members. Think about the space in your educational setting. A simple diagram of the classroom may help visualize the complete area and its contents.

  • In general terms, how is the space conducive to imaginative play?
  • Is there anything that restricts children's imaginative play?
  • Does the flow of the space allow you to observe individual and groups of children?
  • What open-ended materials are available in your educational setting?

Examples of Kindergarten Classrooms

Pin.gifIn this section, several teachers discuss the process of setting up and organizing classroom environments that encourage children's self initiated play and learning. While watching the videos, think about and take notes on how these challenges might be addressed in your school setting.

  1. In this video teachers address the question:What to remove from the physical space?.[1]
  2. This video presents two teachers' experiences with indoor and outdoor spaces.[2]
  3. Topics addressed by teachers in this video include,selecting materials that can be used in many ways, the flow of movement in the classroom, the layout of activity areas in the classroom.[3]

Preparing the classroom for play and observations of play

Pin.gifThe goal is to streamline the classroom setting in order to maximize students' play/learning experiences and allow for meaningful play observations. Participants will conduct an observation of the classroom in order to analyze the learning environment and consider the issues depicted in the videos.

Part 1

Choose two to three periods during the day to observe and take detailed notes about the activity in the classroom. Consider the following questions during the observations.

  1. Are there distinct play/activity areas in your classroom for children to explore?
  2. If so, do the children understand the purpose of each area?
  3. Can the children function independently within the classroom?
  4. How is the flow of movement from one area of the classroom to the next?
  5. Are there things that could be removed in order to have more space?
  6. Are there any possibilities for creating indoor and outdoor play areas?
  7. How are materials being used?
  8. Can materials be used in many ways?
  9. Are there any materials that should be removed?

Part 2

  • Read through your notes and highlight the items that can be immediately modified such as moving furniture or removing items from the classroom.
  • Make those changes in the classroom that can be immediately addressed.

The Play Observation

Pin.gifParticipants will conduct play observations of students in their educational setting. The examples of the nature classroom observations presented in unit three will serve as the framework for the observations. Play Observation Notes, pages 12-15Summaries of Play Observations, pages 24-50

Choose a period during the day to observe students' play.

Observation notes should include the following information:

  1. name and age of the child or children being observed
  2. time of day and location
  3. description of the activity
  4. materials used
  5. description of how materials are used
  6. samples of dialogue or self-talk
  7. elements of make-believe and symbolic use of objects

Summaries of play observations should include the following information:

  1. description of the type of play observed
  2. description and examples of developmental domains accessed
  3. description and examples of academic domains accessed
  4. description of how the child/children benefited from the play activity
  5. explanation of how this observation informs ongoing teaching

Participants working independently can post their observation summaries on the discussion page and comment on others' observations. Participants working in groups should discuss and compare observation summaries with group members.


  1. Edugains. co (2010). Rethinking the learning environment: what are educator teams removing? The physical space. [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesKIN/Video/index.html?movieID=79
  2. Edugains. co (2010). Thinking about elements to repeat in the environment [Video file]. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesKIN/Video/index.html?movieID=81
  3. Edugains. co (2010). Rethinking the learning environment: what materials are educator teams removing? [Video File]. Retrieved from http://www.edugains.ca/resourcesKIN/Video/index.html?movieID=80
  4. Miller, D.L., Tichota, K., White, J. ( November, 2009). Young Children Learn Through Authentic Play in a Nature Explore Classroom: A White Paper Based on Research Conducted at Dimensions Early Education Programs in Lincoln, NE. Dimensions Educational Research, 12-15. Retrieved from http://www.dimensionsfoundation.org/research/authenticplay.pdf.
  5. Ibid.,24-50.


Keeping Imaginative Play In the Kindergarten Classroom

Unit One

Unit Two

Unit Three

Course Summary

Course Evaluation