Around the time we were embarking on our 3-D dot project, we were also exploring creating dots using natural materials. We looked to land art and Andy Goldsworthy for inspiration. The students were quite amazed at the different ways Goldsworthy created dots and “not dots” and they took on the challenge of creating their own versions. As you can imagine, there was a lot of compromising, troubleshooting and problem-solving happening. Many of the students worked in pairs or small groups to create their own unique versions of their nature dots.
And so, the question arises…Why do you continue to play in Grade 1? Aside from the inspiration of watching the students engaged in this play, I began to think of the curriculum expectations. I knew we were addressing them, but I’m always surprised to see just how many are uncovered through one experience. Some of the obvious mathematics expectations around sorting were addressed in addition to the other 4 strands and the mathematical processes. Also uncovered were expectations in art, science, and language. While many of the children were interested in using these materials, some preferred to demonstrate their understanding in different ways and were given the opportunity to do so. When I looked at our math text book, I realized that the entire unit was covered in just the first two weeks of school and we didn’t look at the textbook once. We talk about the importance of giving students experience with manipulatives and exploration, yet we often resort to, or begin with, textbook lessons where everyone is expected to do the same thing. Reflecting on this experience is yet another reminder to me that “play” is powerful and definitely has a place in Grade 1.