We are the Play Learning Lab, run by Dr. Angela Pyle at the Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education/University of Toronto.

ADDRESS

 

Dr. Eric Jackman Institute of Child Study

45 Walmer Road, Room 320
Toronto, ON M5R 2X2

© 2018 by Play Learning Lab

What is collaborative play ?

In collaborative play, teachers determine the academic skills students will develop through participation in this type of play. The teacher and students work together to design the centre and the resources to be used in the play. The children then direct the play within the created environment.

 

Why do teachers use it?

This collaboratively created context of play provides opportunities for children to direct their own play narratives, as well as allowing natural opportunities for the teacher to integrate academic skills into the play.

What are some examples ?
  • Veterinary clinic
  • Doctor's office
  • Haunted house
  • Mario Castle
  • Igloo
  • Grocery store
  • Post office
  • Airport
  • Restaurant

Veterinary Clinic

Students suggest the creation of a veterinary clinic and together, the teacher and the students discuss resources needed to create the clinic. During a secondary discussion, the teacher and the students discuss any changes and additions needed. Students take on various roles within the veterinary clinic: students wait with their “pets” in the waiting room, students act as the veterinarians using medical equipment, and students take on the role of receptionist by booking appointments for the animals. The teacher provides guidance and extensions to the children’s play (e.g., introducing the concept of an x-ray machine, assisting students with research about x-ray machines on tablets, and providing the materials for children to build their own).

Suggested Resources

Toy stethoscope, stuffed animals, informational animal books and posters, telephone, materials to build equipment (e.g., x-ray machines)

Doctor's Office

As a result of the children’s interest in the human body, the teacher and students create a doctor’s office. A list of resources needed for the doctor’s office is generated by the teacher and the students. Students create signs and labels for the office. Students take on roles (e.g., doctor, nurse, patient, receptionist) and act out their own scenarios.

Suggested Resources

Materials to create signs and labels, student-sized tables and chairs, cash register, kitchen set, tissues, dolls, doll bed

Haunted House

The teacher builds the structure of the haunted house with tree branches and a large plastic sheet. The teacher watches the students and observes the way they are using the centre. The teacher and students play in the space together and decide what elements of the haunted house are missing (e.g., signs, tickets, prices, spooky characters). Students become “experts” by leading centres where the missing materials are created. All newly created materials are added to the haunted house.

Suggested Resources

Materials to create signs, labels, money and tickets, price list, spider webs, black plastic sheets, strings of lights, blankets, materials to make spooky crafts (e.g., ghosts, Frankenstein)

Mario Castle

Together, the teacher and the students discuss ideas for a new centre. One group of students wants to create a Mario themed centre and another group of students wants to create a castle. The class decides to merge the two ideas together to create a Mario Castle. Students decorate the castle by drawing and colouring bricks and pictures of characters. Students create crowns and puppets and take on various roles during their play.

Suggested Resources

Large paper roll, cardboard, markers, paint

Igloo

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As a result of an inquiry on cold weather, the class decides to create an igloo. The teacher provides cardboard and paint for students to create ice blocks. A large wall-length piece of paper is posted behind the igloo for students to draw pictures of images they associate with the cold weather or with igloos. 

Suggested Resources

Cardboard, paint, large paper posted for student drawings

Grocery Store

Together, the teacher and the students collaborate to create a grocery store, which includes brainstorming the materials needed for the centre. The teacher and students contribute various recyclable materials from home to add to the centre as props. Students create signs and money and take on various roles during their play (e.g., cashier, customer).

Suggested Resources

Small tables and chairs, materials to create cash register, supermarket flyers, cardboard and string to create shopping baskets, student-created money, recyclable materials (e.g., cereal boxes, ice cream containers, cake mix boxes, milk cartons, egg cartons)

Post Office

As a result of lessons on letter writing, students become interested in mail. The teacher and students look for symbols in the community by participating in a community walk to examine a nearby postal box and a Canada Post truck. The class decides to create a post office and together, the teacher and the students create the materials needed for the centre. Students act as Canada Post employees and customers. Students’ family members send letters to the class post office and the class examines authentic examples of mail.

Suggested Resources

Student-created signs, stamps, envelopes, Canada Post postal box, mail bin for each student labeled with student names, paper for letter writing

Airport

Students express an interest in planes. The teacher and the students decide to create an airport centre. The teacher and students discuss materials needed. The teacher provides materials and the students use the materials to create the centre. Students act as pilots, passengers, security, and flight attendants during their play.

Suggested Resources

Materials to create object security scanner, real life pictures of an airport, toy cash register, Air Canada plane tickets, keyboard, student-created signs, selection of baggage, toy cell phones, world map, materials to create flags, materials to create tags for different roles (security, flight attendant), materials to create a life-size plane (e.g., large paper, chairs set up side by side)

Restaurant

The teacher asks the students what type of centre they would like to create and the class brainstorms ideas together. The teacher privately surveys each student for their preference, and the idea with the most votes is chosen. Together, the teacher and the students discuss the materials needed for the restaurant centre and they decide which objects they can make as a class. The teacher sends a letter home to families to inquire about lending certain items to the class for the centre. The teacher asks the students how they would like to arrange the furniture. The teacher brings in materials and students create menus and money to be added to the centre. The teacher brings in a variety of food ingredients for students to identify through the sense of smell at the restaurant centre.

Suggested Resources

Materials to create money and menus, tables and chairs, play food, a variety of food ingredients