While they play, what should I do? Strengthening learning through play and intentional teaching
Play lies at the heart of quality early childhood education (ECE) with the benefits to children and their learning and development well documented throughout early years literature (Edwards, 2017; Hedges, 2018; Siraj-Blatchford, 2009; White, Ellis, O’Malley, Rockel, Stover & Toso, 2008; Wood, 2010;). Given the power of play to support learning, primary teachers are showing an increased interest in how play can be implemented in junior classrooms (Briggs & Hansen, 2012; Blucher, Aspden & Jackson, 2018; Davis, Davis, 2015; Davis, 2018; Fesseha & Pyle, 2016; Peters, 2010; Martlew, Stephen & Ellis, 2011 ). However, primary teachers may feel a tension between notions of child-led play, defined as a “freely chosen, personally directed, intrinsically motivated behaviour” (National Playing Fields Association, 2000, p. 6) and the more traditional teacher-directed classroom practices. If children are to self-direct their play, what do teachers do and how do they teach? Add to this tension curriculum requirements such as policy, assessment, routines and achievement foci, and primary teachers might find it difficult to blend an authentically play-based approach with current primary teaching practices.