Building Relationships with Students #GSPD

Building classroom community has always been a very important part of what I do in my classroom. Using our morning meetings, “good news, bad news,” playing different games, creating our Room 108 podcast… these are all important elements in our routines. Since all of the students at our school our homeless, we always have high levels of transition and mobility among our families. This year in particular, however, it seems we have had a higher turnover rate. This has made it even more challenging to build classroom community.

A few weeks ago, however, we had a breakthrough. For the second year in a row we participated in “Global School Play Day” (@GSPlayDay.) Scott Bedley (@scottbedley) is the California teacher who first alerted me to Global School Play Day a couple of years ago in a Twitter chat. Global School Play Day is an entire day at school dedicated to unstructured play. This is so important for all students, but particularly mine who may not have any toys of their own. Simple toys that other children may take for granted, like Legos or cars or dolls, are not things most of my students have when they leave our classroom at the end of the day.

During’s this year’s Global School Play Day, I was so happy to see my students connecting with others who they do not normally play or even socialize with. Multiple students created their own imaginary store using play-dough creations and play money, and other students came to shop or help contribute new items. The students recognized the need for store security, so someone appointed themselves as the security officer.

The beauty of Global School Play Day is that teachers step away from directing activities, and students come up with things they want to play and do. Our classroom was filled with LOTS of imaginative play. By the end of the day, some students settled down to play board games like checkers, card games, Connect Four, etc. Interestingly, most of these games were played in pairs, although some played Uno in a group of four.

At the end of the day, we reflected in a class radio show about what we noticed about each other during Global School Play Day and the ways we interacted. Students recognized what a relaxed day it was, and how much they enjoyed structuring their own games and activities. For students who often don’t have much of a say in their own environment, and definitely don’t have regular routines outside of school, this provided chances to make meaningful choices. It also gave them the opportunity to be free of many stresses which are regularly part of their lives.

 

Read more about Global School Play Day in Scott Bedley’s February 3rd post, “Play Needs a Rebrand… #GSPD.” I am so thankful our school participates together in this awesome day of unstructured play. This day was a turning point in our classroom this year: Trust was built, relationships were strengthened, students opened up more about what is going on in their lives, and new friendships were started. I encourage you to bring Global School Play Day to your classroom next year!

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