play based learning

An Exhibition of Play-Based Learning

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This year, for the first time at Sekolah Ciputra, the PYP B students and teachers planned and implemented ‘An Exhibition of Play-Based Learning.’ The PYP B students are in their last year of early years education (5-6 years of age) before moving on to Elementary School next year. We felt there was an opportunity, at this momentous time in the students early education, to celebrate their learning and showcase it to both the school, and parent community.

As this was a brand new undertaking, everything had to be planned from the bottom up, and we had to be prepared to make mistakes and learn together as we went. When we first opened the doors to all four classrooms in the PYP B pod and students had freedom to roam and collaborate across classes, there was a fantastic energy to the play, and sometimes a little mayhem as well! However, it took only a few sessions before we could begin to see some patterns in children’s behaviours, and the interests starting to develop and grow. With the assistance of playgroup teachers acting as mentors, copious notes, photos, and videos, were collected and collated, and slowly groups began to form.

The interests were many and varied, and included such things as designing and building of robots, making a castle, making a cityscape with a functioning transportation system, to a variety of art groups with interests ranging from drawing, sketching and experimenting with colour mixing. There was a solar system, a collection of various modes of transport, and many of the students designed original games and puzzles for others to play. All of these interests were supported by the teaching staff, permitting maximum student agency through a process of in-depth small group inquiries.

By the time of the Exhibition itself, which came to stand for our student led conferences this year, there was a lot of good, healthy, nervous energy, and our shared spaces and classrooms had been transformed into one, large, and highly entertaining playground. On the Monday, our students entertained younger students at their various play spaces, sharing their thoughts and ideas, and permitting them to explore the spaces. Then on the Tuesday students entertained their parents, also sharing their thoughts and ideas, and the parent community also had the opportunity to not only spend some time with their child, but also to tour the playground and see the work of all the other student groups.

On the whole, the team feel very positive about the outcome of this Exhibition. We think it went a long way to making visible to parents the strength of play for learning, and inquiry as a teaching and learning process. We think it was a very good process for a student led conference. It was a lot of work and we will be reflecting on things we could do better, and things we might change. But, also, we think we have set a precedent for many more exhibitions in the years to come.

The teaching team pore over documentation early in the process. Student interests meant thinking through opportunities and possibilities for inquiry, and the practicalities of grouping students.

With support and guidance from playgroup teachers as mentors, collaborative efforts began to take shape. Robots went from ideas, drawings and plans, to real constructions.

What if we could make a game big enough to walk on?

And then we teach our Mum’s and Dad’s how to play!

What a fabulous day!

Dylan Braithwaite

PYP B Team Leader


PG B Exploration Moments

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This semester, PG B students are exploring two Units of Inquiry which are Sharing The Planet and How We express Ourselves. Through Sharing The Planet children wonder at the world, and they look and touch and listen as they learn more about their surroundings, especially living things. For this reason we have to provide activities that can encourage children to make images, to explore their thoughts and ideas, and to communicate their thinking to themselves and others. This brings the idea to use creative expression for students to show their understanding about the world around them. We built a space that called “Art Space”. We were inspired by how Reggio Emilia designs their atelier where students can explore different media and tools to show their learning. When the arts are integrated into the early childhood curriculum, children are given opportunities to express visually what they may not be able to say verbally. Young children can develop independence, confidence, pride, and self-expression through hands on learning in an environment that stimulates creativity through the arts.

Our first exploration in Art Space was about creating artworks using materials that they found during their nature walk. The goal was for students to create artworks from those nature materials. They painted the walls which had been covered with paper, they cut and paste the leaves, they painted using leaves as a brush, assembled some branches into animal shapes, and even use seeds to produce sounds in bottles, along with a musical performance. They learned about colors, shapes, lines, and textures through various materials and tools. Setting up the space with appropriate materials can provoke students’ creative thinking and drive students into further inquiry. The process itself helped students to develop their fine motor skills, promoted their patience and determination, promoted their confidence and their problem solving skills as well.

“At its best, arts integration makes the arts an interdisciplinary partner with other subjects. Students receive rigorous instruction in the arts and thoughtful integrated curriculum that make deep structural connections between the arts and other subjects. This enables students to learn both deeply. Integrated arts education is not arts education as we generally think of it. It is designed to promote transfer of learning between the arts and other subjects, between the arts and the capacities students need to become successful adults.” -Rabkin(2004)

Julia Ika, Ivan, Ayu, Sisca, Swastika, Kenang, Rebekka, Elsi

PG B Teachers

Global Play Day: A Call for Unstructured Play

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When you ask students what their favorite time of day is, how many say recess? Or after school activities? Why is that? Not only do children enjoy playtime, but also research has shown us for decades that children learn best through play. And yet, playtime in schools is shrinking, not growing.

We know that through play, students not only explore the world around them, but develop their sense of engagement, resilience, and collaboration. Through play, children process, work together, and problem solve, exercising communication and thinking skills to achieve their goals. Essentially, they develop the skills that we in the IB World call the Approaches to Learning – and they do this best through unstructured play.

And yet, so much of our opportunities for ATL development are teacher-driven. We plan purposefully and with the best of intentions, through transdisciplinary and stand-alone inquiries. Is it wrong of us as educators to incorporate ATL skill development during the day? Of course not. The problem comes when our learning engagements come at the expense of unstructured play.

If given a choice, how would children choose to develop their Approaches to Learning? What if we dismantled the normal school day, and gave our students the reins? What decisions would they make? What observations could we make on the development of ATLs in our students, through unstructured play?

Since we began unpacking the PYP Enhancements at BIS, we have seen a growing need to focus on student agency through unstructured play – especially in our Early Years classes. When we discovered Global Play Day, we knew this was our chance. Let’s dive in, give students complete control, and observe what happens.

Global Play Day takes place each year on February 5th. It is a simple but powerful movement, aimed to encourage more unstructured playtime in schools. After watching Peter Grey’s TED Talk on “The Decline of Play,” a group of BIS teachers got together and made a plan. Our intentions for the day were:

  • to try to be ‘invisible’ and let the children play (indoor and outdoor as they please)
  • to resist the temptation to organize, discipline (unless interference is crucial for safety reasons), and ‘teach’
  • to only use our devices for taking attendance
  • to allow the students to have a day of self-controlled and self-directed play
  • to allow the students to have a choice e.g. where to play (indoor/outdoor) and when to eat
  • to observe the students and find out more about their passions and their Approaches to Learning

Some educators might read this and think, I can’t let my students “just play” all day. We have too much to do! What about National Curriculum standards, or upcoming assemblies? They have too much to learn – we just don’t have the time.

Well, let’s see what one day of unstructured play accomplished at BIS.

In our Early Childhood center, some students worked collaboratively and used tools like the 2-seater bike to organize their building materials.

Others focused on spatial awareness and art through painting and sculpture.

Lower primary students wanted to choose from different art materials, and a range of toys.

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And our upper primary students wanted to “play” with microscopes and solar system models, learn board games, and create art in different forms.

In one day of unstructured play, students developed their sense of independence and creative thinking. At the same time, they solved problems in groups, taking turns and listening to different ideas. They used standardized measurement tools and a range of art materials. In short, they still learned stuff! They activated their ATLs in authentic contexts, and chose to engage in activities which reflected curriculum standards. The teachers simply helped them to accomplish their goals. We gathered materials, looked up a play dough recipe, and most importantly – We. Backed. Off.

Why do we continue to think that we have to forsake unstructured play for learning? Why do we ignore decades of research in the name of ticking off learning outcomes? And who ever said that playtime and curriculum standards are mutually exclusive, anyway?

Global Play Day was a wonderful reminder to us to remember why student agency is a renewed focus of the PYP. Agency is about students making decisions for themselves. It’s about trusting our students to try different solutions until they find what is best for them. In just one day, our students took the reins and accomplished more than we imagined. Just imagine what they would do with the other 179.


Katie Stone

PYP Coordinator / Grade 3 Teacher

Bandung Independent School


Teaching Through Games

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Let’s play games!

Teachers use lots of ways in conducting their lessons. One of them is through games. The advantages of using games for students include:

  1. Competition factor: Generate positive competition among peers to achieve stated objectives of the games
  2. Discipline factor: Allow students to be able to follow series of instructions or rules.
  3. Unity factor: Teach students about teamwork, sense of belonging and unselfishness. Games also encourage the students to play for teams instead of their own personal accomplishment.
  4. Confidence factor: Games enhance students’ confidence and communication skills.

Here are some games that I have used for teaching students mathematical concepts.

Game 1: “Throw the Ball”


  1. Place 4 trays in line. Put some division facts in each tray. The closest tray consists of the most difficult questions. The easiest questions are in the furthest tray.
  2. Students make a line and give them a ball (I used ping pong balls) and asked them to shoot the ball into the tray. Yes, most of them tried to shoot the ball in the furthest tray, which has the easiest questions.
  3. If the ball is out, students will line up again from the back.

4. Once the ball got into the tray, ask students to get a piece of paper and answer the questions by themselves.

5. If they can’t answer in a given time, students will then line up from the back.

6. Finish this game until all the questions have been answered.

Game 2: “Solving Word Problems”


  1. Prepare papers with question. Label each paper 1, 2, 3 and so on.
  2. Divide class into groups.
  3. Each group stands in front of a piece of paper.
  4. Let students answer the questions on post-it notes. Tell them to put the answers at the back of the paper.

5. Ask students to move clockwise to the next paper.

6. Stop until all the groups are back to their first paper.

7. Discuss the answers together.

Game 3: “Group Yourselves Equally”


  1. The students stand in a circle.

2. Give the question, “Group yourselves into 2”, “Group yourselves into 3”, and so on.

3. Ask students to count how many groups they made.

4. Write down the number with the equal answers. Examples include 9 (18 ÷ 2) and 6 (18 ÷ 3).

5. Discuss why some students were not in groups. It means the number cannot be divided equally. Examples are 18 ÷ 4 and 18 ÷ 5.

6. Discuss and review what numbers are really equal if you divide for 18.


I found that the students really enjoyed these games. The students actively participated and cooperated well during the activities. Using games in teaching creates an exciting learning atmosphere for the students and the teachers as well.

By: Debby Selvianita

Grade 1 Co-Teacher



Yahmad, S. B. H. Motivating students with games.

Grade 1 Exploring Forces through Games

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What is Play-based Pedagogy?

Play-based pedagogy describes an approach where the teacher recognizes that children learn through an active, hands-on, playful environment. In a play-based classroom, the teacher makes decisions about, and adjusts, the daily schedule, environment, materials, interactions and activities based upon the strengths, needs, interests, and input of the students to enhance learning opportunities. (Common Understandings – Play-based Pedagogy, Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, page 35).

As active children, Grade 1 students enthusiastically explore the world around them through play-based learning. For the young students playing is an effective provocation, one which stimulates their thinking skills in connection to their unit of inquiry.

Under the theme ‘How the World Works’, Grade 1 students had the opportunity to play several games to engage their knowledge about the impact of forces on everyday life. We joined two classes to play frisbee, bowling, javelin, soccer and tug of war. During the games, the students observed important information. We found out that the games had different rules and procedures. We also observed how the objects that we used moved, and identified differences between the weight and size of the objects. Through the games we found out that the more power we use, the faster things move. We also practised our social skills and communication skills by showing our respect for each other.

After we played the games, we held a discussion and some of the students recognized the similarities between the games. The games required us to perform certain actions (throw, push and pull) to make the objects move from one place to another. To engage our knowledge, we read a variety of books, including ‘The Enormous Turnip’, ‘I Can’t Open It’ and ‘Motion’. We also had the opportunity to role play ‘The Enormous Turnip’ book in front of our friends. This story helped us to understand that we need forces to make things speed up or slow down.

One of our formative assessments required students to differentiate between pictures using a Venn Diagram. Students categorized which pictures showed pushing activities, pulling activities or both. After finishing, the students did a bus stop activity to observe other groups’ ideas. From the observation, students found out that other groups had different ideas so we held a discussion to enrich our understanding.

Here are some examples of the students’ comments.

Group A: “Bu, we observed that other groups put the fishing picture as an example of a pulling activity. We think it’s supposed to be a pushing and pulling activity because we have to cast the fishing line out first and after we get the fish, we have to pull it.”

Group B: “We put the fishing picture as an example of pulling activity because we saw the girl in the picture already got her fish, so she only needed to pull the fishing line in.”

When discussing the other pictures, the students sometimes had the same opinions and sometimes their opinions were different. We learnt that it is important to listen to others’ opinions, because every point of view has its own angle and every angle has merit.

We also conducted some experiments about how forces affect movement. Students explored the three stations provided, each representing different types of force. After doing the activities at the three stations, students explained their experiences in one particular station through drawing and writing.

We believe that through play students are able to explore things more enthusiastically and also learn how to negotiate with one another and solve problems, be more of a risk-taker, and develop self-confidence.

Grade 1 Teachers

Sekolah Pilar Indonesia

Involving Parents in Play-based Learning

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On November 18, 2016, early years classroom teachers facilitated an information session on play-based learning for parents at BINUS School Simprug in Jakarta. It was an informative and engaging session. The teachers shared their knowledge and experience in teaching children using the play-based approach.


At the beginning of the session, parents were asked to recall and share an early memory about learning through play. It was interesting to know that some of the parents who are from different countries played similar activities such as hopscotch, jumping with rubber-band rope, hide and seek, role playing and jackstones. They also used native materials or instruments due to limited resources or creativity. Parents came up on inventing games without the need for anything but themselves. Many of the traditional games shared by parents appeal to a broad age and don’t require much equipment.

In this session, the definition of play was emphasized as any activity engaged in for enjoyment and recreation, especially for children. It was pointed out that play without enjoyment is not play. Children do not necessarily need expensive toys to enjoy playing. It is even encouraged for the children to explore their surroundings and materials when playing. In that way, they will be more creative and spontaneous.


As adults, it is important to interact and observe the children when they play so that we will be more aware of their interest and to have a better understanding of our children, including how they think and behave. It is through play that children learn or acquire information, develop physically and socially and express themselves confidently. German educator Friedrich Froebel stressed that “play is the highest expression of human development in childhood, for it alone is the free expression of what is in a child’s soul.”

The poem, “The Hundred Languages of Children” by Loris Malaguzzi beautifully conveys the important roles imagination and discovery play in early childhood learning. The poem points out that “the child is made of one hundred. The child has a hundred languages, a hundred hands, a hundred thoughts, a hundred ways of thinking, playing, of speaking. A hundred always a hundred…”

The hundred languages are the endless number of children’s potentials, their ability to wonder and inspire. The poem reminds us that there are multiple ways of seeing and multiple ways of being. As adults (parents and teachers), we should not hinder them but support them instead.

The “Not a Box” story also captures children’s imaginations at play and how boxes or other objects can become anything. It brought back a particular memory of the box I took from my mother’s kitchen. I used it to become the flooring of our toy house, which was made of banana and coconut leaves. I had fun playing in my house with my siblings and friends and until now I still recall how we helped each other in building it.

According to Sir Ken Robinson, who is an expert on learning and children’s education, “imagination is the source of all human achievement.” Imagination is essential in the learning process and can advance cognitive development. Young children often learn about events, cultures or people that they will never meet, and imaginative play is a way for them to discover the world that surrounds them and collect experiences. Through imaginative play, children are more likely to adapt learning habits and to develop their communication skills.

Children learn important skills through play such as solving problems, thinking creatively and critically, and interacting with others. There is also a link between PLAY and foundational skills and complex cognitive activities.

After the sharing session, our Early Years parents realized the importance of play in their children’s development and their roles as parents in supporting them as they play.

By: Lea S. Carbonell

Early Years Class Teacher and Level Head