Choice Time is an integral part of our kindergarten curriculum at Fernbrook Elementary. Across all classes, students engage in purposeful play and learn to apply the executive functioning skills they have developed throughout their classroom experiences and interactions with peers.
In order to ensure that students collaborate, plan, problem-solve and reflect within the allotted amount of playtime, we decided that Choice Time must be composed of four stages: choose, plan, play and proud share. Each piece of Choice Time is essential for developing life skills.
While the choose process gives students a choice in what they do, they are often confronted with tough choices, such as deciding with whom they want to play and where they want to play. Giving students time to work out these differences helps them develop language and conflict resolution skills.
After making their choice, students plan their Choice Time. This step is the most critical piece of the puzzle, as students work in groups to outline the materials they will need, the roles each member will take on, and how they will build their Choice Time center. During the planning stage students are forced to develop their skills in organization, communication and collaboration. Then the magic happens and play begins!
During play, I walk around the classroom and spend time with each group. Sometimes I observe, coach or join in the play. Observing enables me to understand the social-emotional needs of each student. I use the observational data I collect when coaching playgroups, as this enables me to support students in learning how to take turns, speak up for themselves, and share. Finally, joining in the children’s play helps me foster individual relationships with each of my students and enables me to experience how their brains are evolving.
The last piece of the Choice Time workshop is called proud share. This is the time when each group reflects on what they accomplished that day. First, groups are asked to discuss among themselves what they would like to present to the class. Then, the students make a presentation with the group of peers they played with during Choice Time. At the end of each presentation, other members of the class give the group feedback on their share. Groups may discuss conflicts that arose during the period, and we use these scenarios to reflect on solutions that might make their play better in the future.
The benefits of Choice Time are limitless and stem from real-world experiences. Choice Time engages all students, as they can vary Choice Time areas in an infinite number of ways if they use their imaginations and interests to alter the areas where they play. Students have established areas to represent restaurants and rock bands, and then changed them to depict pet shops or magic shows.