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To Code or Not to Code: New Rules for the Playground

10 Nov 2016 by Sarah Hadden

This morning, we received an email from an observer who had a great question about whether or not it’s OK to code interactions on the playground. Page 11 of the Pre-K Manual states, "Observers, may follow the students and teacher outside to code an activity (e.g., for a walk or a science discovery lesson).  Observers should terminate observation and not assign codes during recess or outdoor play.” Her question was as follows:

Our organization has really stressed to our teaching staff that meaningful interactions need to happen in every part of the day, including on the playground, and that the playground is but an extension of the classroom. I feel like I'm missing some wonderful moments there. Can you tell me what the purpose of the 'classroom only' philosophy is, and if you think I would be compromising the fidelity of the tool if I were to include the playground time in my observation?

So, what’s up with the playground? Should observers code when the children go out to play or should they stop the observation? The answer is simple: It depends. It depends on what is going on outside. If outdoor time is truly an extension of the classroom, the observer should code. However, if the purpose of going outside is to let the children run around and burn off steam while the adults stand off to the side and chat, the observer should stop the observation.

With that said, a classroom does not have to be a “classroom without walls” for an observer to code outdoor time. Any time a class goes outdoors to engage in a structured activity, be it a nature walk or an obstacle course that is led by a member of the teaching staff, is a good time to conduct an observation.

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