For anyone working in a public school, you’ve most likely at least heard of the Common Core by now. A national list of ‘standards’ for K-12 education the Core is defined as follows: The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.
Sounds pretty good right? The standards are broken down by specific grade strands, so it’s easy for say, a kindergarten teacher, to see exactly what is expected of his students. As I delved into the English Language Standards (ie. Reading and Writing) with my coworkers, I keep coming up short… where is play? Certainly not in the Math Standards, but I looked anyway.
Then, the nerd in me (I embrace all parts of my personality) did a search. I searched for the word ‘play’ in the entire Common Core document. It comes up exactly twenty five times… maybe I missed something… with the exception of one time, all other twenty-four mentions of the word refer to either ‘play’ as in a work of drama by Shakespeare, or as part of the word ‘display’. Hmmm…
Then, at the very bottom of the document is section called “Not Covered in the Standards” – here it was, the one, single, solitary mention of the word play.
The Standards define what all students are expected to know and be able to do, not how teachers should teach. For instance, the use of play with young children is not specified by the Standards, but it is welcome as a valuable activity in its own right and as a way to help students meet the expectations in this document.
Ok, so I’m not crazy. Play is, at least in some way, a ‘valuable activity in its own right’ – that’s it? Oh boy…
Now I know the best teachers out there (you, you, and YOU!) will take it to heart and make sure they utilize play as a way to deliver and secure the standards… my worry is that some teachers (not you, you, or YOU, but I’m sure you know someone…) won’t.
I’m all for having my students reach for the sky and pride myself on setting high expectations… some of the kindergarten standards seem appropriate and spot on… others seem more like, well, first grade. I worry we’re trying make our four, five, and six-year-olds something they’re not supposed to be… seven-year-olds. This is not a new fear, but with the nationwide adoption of the Common Core, I worry the nail is in the coffin for play.
So I urge you, beg you even, don’t let play be put out to pasture. We all know how critical play is for the development of a child’s language and social skills. We know this and we need to demand our students get what they deserve. So play, play, PLAY! It may not be in the Common Core, but surely, it’s common sense.