A Story Of DPA, Family Engagement, And A New Perspective

As many of my blog readers know, I’m very passionate about a number of topics in education, one of which is parent engagement. Both Aaron Puley, a vice principal in our Board, and Nancy Angevine-Sands, a family engagement specialist, have been pushing my thinking on this topic for many years now and engaging both my teaching partner, Paula, and I in conversations on how to improve engagement with families. While these might be discussions we have all year long, the recent move to remote learning has Paula and I thinking even more about parent engagement. As kindergarten educators, we almost always have parents and siblings join our online classes, but usually they are more in the background. They might help unmute computers or gather resources for play online, but their involvement tends to be more periphery. Then Friday happened.

Andrea Haefele and Laura Seckington, the two educators behind @playbeyondlabel, reached out to Paula and I about trying out one of their DPA (Daily Physical Activity) choice board resources featured in a recent blog post.

Unbeknownst to both Andrea and Laura, we were at first reluctant to take part. Yes, this resource looked and sounded fabulous, but in the classroom, we don’t really do DPA. Our DPA is woven into the 1 1/2-2 hours that we spend outside each day. We always support additional physical movement for those students that need it, but given the nature of the Kindergarten Program and our classroom set-up, this need seems less pronounced than it might be in other grades. With this in mind, we wondered how students and families would respond to a different routine, especially when being introduced and supported online. You never know unless you try — right?! — and with the outdoor time not happening in the same way online, Paula and I wondered if maybe a DPA option is exactly what our kids might need.

We did decide on a couple of things though based on our knowledge of our students and of the online format.

  1. We planned this DPA (movement) option at the end of one of our voluntary meeting times. Children could join just for this time, or they could stay for the DPA component if they were already at the meeting. We decided to choose this time as then we would be supporting a smaller group of students — all of whom wanted to be there — at a time when they would be leaving after the 20 minute activity option. They could then continue this play on their own or spend time with their family coming down from a more up-regulating experience. We know in the classroom that it takes a lot of time and proximity to even come down after a Phys-Ed class, and this is harder to support through a computer screen.
  2. We chose to use the independent choice board options instead of the “Play With A Teacher” ones. We appreciated how these independent options were less competitive than the Play With A Teacher ones, did not require a lot of wait time or instructions, and could easily be supported in any sized space. Paula and I also know that our students need a lot of support to interact with each other online. They tend to interact more with us or play independently. Trying to support social interactions while also supporting safe gross motor play could be a challenge, so we reduced all of our stress by choosing the Play Alone option.

After collecting materials …

and practising the instructional side of things …

we were ready to go with the kids.

Paula and I were thrilled with how things went! Not only did we get more students joining in to participate than we usually have during this voluntary time, but we loved how many siblings and parents got involved.

  • The activities are so open-ended that even toddlers could find an entry point.
  • There was limited set-up and supplies, so everyone could gather what was needed quickly and easily.
  • There were multiple other options for supplies, so families could use what they had on hand.
  • The instruction could take place during the play. Instead of having everyone sitting around to listen and observe a long explanation, the movement could happen quickly.
  • The activities could easily be modified for other grades. A child in Grade 2 joined us for a bit, and he was thrilled to show others how he could use a couple of socks for balancing or move while balancing an object. This inspired others to try various options.

This was truly joyful play, and I have to wonder if this is what helped with the engagement factor for families. It’s like when we end our playdates with a dance. We now have parents dancing along with their kids. Smiling. Laughing. Twirling. Moving. Pure bliss, completely voluntary, but a favourite moment for so many!

Upon further reflection, we’ve decided to include a DPA component for the last 20 minutes of our two playdates on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Not only are we hoping that this time will continue to aid in family/parent engagement, but maybe we can also help kids connect this movement with Self-Reg. Is this additional movement what some children need? How can we support them in choosing this option — even online — when required?

After our DPA experience yesterday, here are our reflections. @playbeyondlabel, you have @paulacrockett and I looking and talking about how we can bring this regularly into our online environment. Thanks @andreahaefele and @laura.seck

I’m glad that we didn’t let our preconceived ideas have us turn down this opportunity to try something new. Once again, I’m reminded how remote learning is different from in-person learning, and sometimes to engage with families and support students, we have to expand our options. What does DPA look like in your online classroom? How have students and families responded to these activities? I’m curious now to see the impact that these DPA activities might have on our classroom environment when we return. Will some students choose and explore more movement options when needed? How might we support this? Every educator and group of students are different, but sometimes it just takes a little push to explore something different … and then you realize what else might be possible. Thanks Andrea and Laura for giving us this push!


2 thoughts on “A Story Of DPA, Family Engagement, And A New Perspective

  1. We do a “body break” in-between our small group sessions twice a day and invite all students to either stay or come on 10 minutes early. It can be anything from Go Noodle to active Simon Says. Last week I used some of Play Beyond the Label’s activities. Haven’t thought of inviting parents and siblings although we do have a few that join in of their own accord. Will have to talk to my partner about extending an invitation. Thanks!

    • Thanks for sharing what you do, Wendy! How are you finding the students settling after this body break? We were reluctant to do these types of activities at the start of a meeting time for fear that it might be harder to reconvene after such active movement. I’m curious to know what you’re seeing.

      I would love to hear how your parents/families respond if more do participate. Paula and I noticed the great connections between children, siblings, and parents that happened during this time.


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