Epic Play. Epic Learning. Epically Wonderful.

I don’t usually use my professional blog as a space to share a learning story, but it was the evolution of this one that makes me want to share it here. Also, with my current position as a Reading Specialist, I don’t have a classroom blog, so this becomes the area where I share and reflect on my learning.

The Spark …

About two months ago, I was perusing my Instagram feed, and I saw a post from a Grade 1 teacher, Kristina. Kristina taught Kindergarten for years, and while we’ve connected a few times online, we’ve never met in person. She now teaches Grade 1, and I love how she’s bringing her play-based philosophy from Kindergarten up to Grade 1. On this particular day, she shared some store play that was happening in her Grade 1 classroom. Students set-up a variety of stores, and they were selling her items. I really appreciated the menu making and reading in the restaurant, and the authentic reasons to read and write. Kristina’s post brought me such joy!

I didn’t think much about it until a couple of days later when I was connecting with one of the Grade 1 teachers. She was cutting out items for a money activity, and I mentioned about the store that I saw a few days previously. As I showed her the Instagram post, we realized that not only did these two teachers know each other, but they actually used to work together. The Grade 1 teacher at my school could feel my excitement about this store idea and she got a little excited as well. We didn’t really go further than a discussion at this point until

A Request To Look More Closely At Writing …

a couple of days later, when we were chatting about student writing. We noticed that students could use some additional support in writing and applying their reading knowledge to their writing. I offered to lead a mini-lesson based on my new learning around writing instruction, which came out of a recent Reading Specialist Meeting.

We didn’t get into too much discussion because I was about to go and set-up for some outdoor literacy play with a kindergarten class. The success for this play led to me mentioning how amazing it would be to give Grade 1’s these kinds of learning moments. What if we took Kristina’s store idea and connected it with our upcoming writing experience? We could slow the process down, and provide lots of reading and writing opportunities prior to the creation of the actual store. I shared the idea with this teacher, and she was in. Yay!

Growing Beyond One Class

A couple of other Grade 1 classes also had me booked to model and support a writing lesson, so I shared this idea with them as well. They were also in. As a previous kindergarten teacher, I was overjoyed to bring more play to Grade 1.

Leading To The Epic Play Store Project

It was thanks to this excitement and this interest around writing and reading instruction that this Epic Play Store Project was born.

Reflecting Together

While I might have been the original driving force behind this project coming to our school, the responses from the students and the interest from the educators has propelled the learning forward week after week. Below is some documentation from these weekly literacy play experiences, often supported with additional learning led by the classroom educator.

This project is not done yet, but it’s been the reflections together each week, which has led to us working together to plan where to go next. Classroom educators and students are as excited about this project as I am — I get stopped in the hall by kids asking when I’ll be coming in next — and they are even reflecting on the play experience as part of this process.

What’s the impact?

At our Reading Specialist Meeting yesterday, we got to share our Impact Stories in our Professional Learning Teams. This Epic Play Store Project was part of my story.

Sometimes our impact is in the actual work that we do, and sometimes, it’s in the inspiration to try a different approach or to view learning in a different way.

What Next?

I love that these Grade 1 educators are seeing the potential in play and inquiry, and experimenting with both in their classrooms. June can be a great time to dabble in something new as maybe both kids and educators need a bit of a change under an umbrella of routine. What might your “dabbling” be? How might play-based and inquiry-based learning be used in all grades to also support opportunities for authentic literacy learning? Thanks to Kristina for the one Instagram post that resulted in this epic learning adventure that is not done yet. Thank you, as well, to these awesome Grade 1 educators, who were open to trying something new and embracing some messy learning with me. I love working with all of you, and from now on, I’ve decided that every play project needs to be at least a little bit epic! 🙂


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