Rigor in Play, Part 3

In Part 1 of this series, we talked about the definition of rigor and it was a bit alarming at first.

In Part 2, we focused on achieving rigor through play by intentionally challenging our little ones, challenging being one of the key terms in our definition of educational rigor.

In Part 3, I want to really drive home a point about rigor:

Rigor may feel uncomfortable at times, but we have to embrace that in order to optimize and allow for learning to occur.

Let’s go back to the word challenging again. A challenge demands something of us, it provokes thought or action, requires that we rise to the occasion. The word challenge also invokes a sense of competition. And competition (in healthy doses) is responsible for us achieving our best, right?

I mean, a fourth grade violinist competing in a UIL music competition will practice until she gets every note right consistently, and that takes a lot of patience, dedication, perseverance, and failure. LOTS of failure before finally playing that minuet beautifully. (By the way, that fourth grader was me.)

I chose this example not to broadcast that I’m a nerd, but to highlight that competition doesn’t necessarily mean competing against others. In this example, I was competing  against myself and against a norm of what the musical piece should sound like. But even that could differ from player to player and still be beautiful.

This type of competition happens in everyday play and learning. Our kids compete against themselves, to build their block tower higher and higher, or to build it to look like something in particular, maybe their favorite playground or a zoo for their animals.

They will experience frustration and discomfort, and as educators and parents, we must tough through our own feelings of discomfort as we stand back and let them fail, because only through failure can they experience perseverance.

We will experience discomfort as we painfully bite our tongues and allow little ones to think through their ideas and find their words instead of feeding them the words or answers.

Sometimes 5 seconds can feel like an eon, but sometimes that’s all it takes for your student or child to supply an answer more beautiful than the one you were waiting for.

We will experience discomfort as we let kids make messes! Newsflash,  play and learning are not neat and tidy. It irks me when all the Legos and toy cars and figurines are all out at the same time and I can’t see the bottom of the living room but that’s when Aman displays some of his most creative and complex play, so I let my eye twitch and ignore my OCD tendencies (most of the time).

We should let kids use things in ways we might not have intended. It’s ok to take materials from the science area to enhance their dramatic play. It’s okay if the toy grill is used as a shopping cart or part of a train that takes over my dining room. It’s ok to let kids from different centers intermingle so that their play can take on more complex scenarios. Of course, there should be some rules and supervision to ensure safety and that play is meaningful.

The point is if we want our kids to think outside of the box (isn’t that part of rigor and complex thought?) then we should too, even if it might feel uncomfortable at first.

One thought on “Rigor in Play, Part 3”

  1. I recently wrote (briefly) about how difficult it is for us as adults to allow children to have feelings that don’t “sit well” with us: we want to “fix” whatever is making them sad or angry, instead of allowing them to experience–and learn to cope with–those feelings. It’s challenging to be self-reflective enough to recognize this when we’re doing it. I’ll tag you in my post so you can see it–but you’ll need tissues.

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