At the preschool level of Tools of the Mind, Play Planning is an instructional strategy used to promote the development of self-regulation. Children plan their play every day, right before they start playing in the centers. A Play Plan usually describes the role and the actions a child will engage in during the first few minutes of play. This initial plan helps children to act purposefully. Play Plans can be also used by a teacher or by the children themselves to resolve arguments occurring over the choice of roles or the use of play props. Children often modify and change their plans as they play with each other during center time.
Another important outgrowth of the systematic use of Play Plans in a preschool classroom is the children’s literacy development. For Vygotskians, drawing is an important precursor to writing; without this foundation, writing letters may turn into nothing more than an exercise in calligraphy. As children plan their play, they draw a picture of their plan that will help them remember what they say they are going to do. These drawings gradually become more and more representational, as children use their pictures to review their earlier plans and to discuss their plans with other children. In the beginning, children state their plans orally and the teacher writes them down so she can remind children of their plans, if needed. As children learn more about literacy, they begin to represent their intentions using Scaffolded Writing.
Preschool Student Work
At the beginning of the year (September), Jennifer is able to draw a picture of herself and tell the teacher what center she wants to play in (dramatic play). Teachers use a color-coded system to help children remember what center they will go to; the children then use that same color marker to make their plans.
In December, Jennifer is able to represent her message with lines that match her words using Scaffolded Writing. Her picture shows more detail and her message is more mature.
At the beginning of the year (September), Alexander can draw a picture of himself and say what center he wants to go to. (Please note that in this picture the teacher assisted Alexander with writing his name.)
By January, he can draw a more mature picture, showing more detail, and his message tells more about his plan. He is also using Scaffolded Writing to convey his message.
By March, Alexander is hearing beginning sounds in all of his words.
In the fall, Ariana is drawing herself and choosing a center (science).
In March, Ariana is able to draw a more detailed picture and is using Scaffolded Writing to represent her message. She is using invented spelling in her native language (Spanish). Teachers encourage children to use their native languages whenever possible, as the process stays the same. Yo voy a pintar un arco iris (I am going to paint a rainbow).
By June, Ariana has better fine motor control.
Brandon’s plan at the beginning of his three-years-old year, shows that he wants to go to the art center and has made an attempt to draw himself.
At the end of that same year, he is able to draw a more mature picture of himself and knows that he needs to write words at the bottom. He has included what he is going to play with in his picture.
At the beginning of his four-year-old year, Brandon is drawing a representation of himself and has begun using Scaffolded Writing to represent his message. He has memorized parts of the message that he writes everyday.
At the end of his four-year-old year, Brandon has shown himself as a king in his picture and in his writing, using beginning sounds.
In December, Gregory is in a three-year-old classroom. His drawing of himself is somewhat representational, but his message clearly states what he wants to do in a center.
By June, Gregory’s drawings are more mature and he is able to include more detail in his drawing. In addition, he is beginning to represent his message using Scaffolded Writing.
In December of his four-year-old year, Gregory is interested in playing with others and has begun to represent his message with initial sounds. This is an important step in literacy development.
By May, Gregory’s messages are much longer, which forces him to practice new sound-symbol correspondence.