Northern Oral Language and Writing Through Play

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Participants’ Voices

“Rather than saying, ‘Here’s a bag of flour and you can only make a cake’, you are recognizing that you can make so much more with flour than a cake.”

An Alberta early childhood educator provided a metaphor to explain the flexible, child-controlled nature of play

“Students will learn from each other. They will also develop socialization skills. It seems like now there are more technical games and the kids are on the couch and they’re playing all kinds of games and they’re lacking social skills. There seems to be less human interaction so I think through natural play, they will develop better socialization skills, relationships and friendships. That’s important too.”

A school principal

“It’s a project that everybody wants to be a part of… Because people hear about it and they’re like ‘Oh, what’s that? Oh, what’s that? Well, why are you there? What are you doing?'”

a teacher from an Indigenous community

“…It’s been positive in our elementary [school]. And then so my staff have done some studying on inquiry-based learning for the whole school to move to that style, much more than prescriptive teacher lessons…. anyway, [a Kindergarten teacher] made a comment about [it], she says ‘You know, when I have them in centres, Math station centres, which you know in itself is play … They’re much better than when I ask them to do paper and pencil work.'”

A school principal

“…doing play in Grade 1 is a little bit, you know, I guess controversial. Some people agree, some don’t. And it depends. So it’s kind of neat that they took the approach that they’re going to do play through using curriculum at the same time…. You’re still learning curriculum as you play. So that should take care of anybody that’s skeptical about using play as a way to learn.”

A grade 1 teacher

Participant Artifacts

The output of ideas and collaborative strengths during our May 2016 Conference included a segment of producing Artifacts for teachers. The challenge? Create something “related to young children’s oral language and literacy learning in play and/or Creative Collaborative Curriculum Activity contexts, particularly in northern rural and Indigenous communities”.

Power of Play — Tree of Knowledge


The branches of the tree represent the different applications and the goals of play- based approaches, and the roots represent the foundation (which includes theoretical knowledge) of such approaches. Our own Jayson SanMiguel, Amanda McLean, and a contingent of  NOW Play Teachers developed this unique Tree and captured the essence of the Project and the aims of Teachers to foster this enriching environment.

3 Thousand Miles Away from Home


Play connects us to home. Play has the potential to embrace our multiple identities. Join collaborators Eefje van der Zalm from Utrecht (who was truly “three thousand miles away from home”), Burcu Ntelioglou from the University of Manitoba, NOW Play’s Soon Young Jang, and a small group of NOW Play teachers as they drum and sing. The video captures the collective poem they created using meaningful totems and quotes to express what the educators learned from the Conference.

Dear NOW Play: Advice Column


For educators interested in learning more about play-based learning, our own Alesia Malec and Jennifer Briere join Associate Professor Gisela Wajskop— an expert in play-based learning from São Paulo— and an assortment of NOW Play teachers and Ministry of Education’s Greg Farrell in devising this helpful presentation as to how to implement play-based inquiry in the classroom.

Red River Jig: Métis dance for culture and community


Join Maureen Kendrick from the University of British Columbia, Janice Greenberg, Deborah Burnside, and a group of talented, red-socked NOW Play teachers as they perform a traditional dance to a traditional tune. Narrated by NOW Play’s Wendy Byrnes. Come learn why “Métis dance… is a form of social interaction in mastering learning and confidence with a sense of pride”.


Bonus: Create A Problem: Classroom Approach to Child Problem-Solving

Contributors Eefje van der Zalm and Resi Damhuis share their engaging secret for drawing out the critical and creative processes in a child by building upon what they discover when faced with a problem. This hands-off, yet guiding principle: Uitdagen tot gesprek (“Challenge to talk”), provokes and stimulates meaningful exchanges that empower the child while enhan

Tips and Tricks for Expanding Your Child’s Oral Language Through Play


Collaborator Jim Anderson from the University of British Columbia, Shelley Stagg Peterson, Shakina Rajendram, and NOW Play Teachers created a set of tips for parents who want to support their children’s oral language.

NOW Play Infographic: Digital Version
NOW Play Infographic: Print-Ready Version


In conjunction with Angela Ward,  professor from University of Saskatchewan, Lori Huston, Marianne McTavish, NOW Play’s Christine Portier and a group of NOW Play teachers developed a NOW Play Spider Diagram, illustrating the various aspects of our 2016 May Conference that brought together knowledge bases and collaborative perspectives. Supplied in 2 formats.

Dear NOW Play: An Advice Column for Parents, Educators, Administrators, and Helping Professionals


Ann Anderson, a Speech-Language Program Coordinator in Canada; Laureen McIntyre, a Speech-Language Pathologist and Associate Professor at the University of Saskatchewan; Resi Damhuis, a professor at Marnix teacher training college in Utrecht; Nazila Eisazadeh, a registered Early Childhood Educator and Ph.D Graduate at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education; and some of the NOW Play participating NOW Play teachers developed an advice column that touches on a variety of topics in Education. See the document for problems that might arise in or out of the classroom.

Through the Lens of NOW-Play While Filleting a Fish


Tips and Tricks for Expanding Your Child’s Oral Language Through Play

“Imagine a grandfather coming into his grandchild’s classroom to show everyone how fish are filleted and to give them a chance to do it themselves”. This survey—assisted by Heba Elsherief, First Nations speech pathologist Sharla Peltier, renowned expert in Play from the University of Auckland, Helen Hedges, and a group of NOW Play teachers—leads the parent and teacher through the various “lenses” which engage children, as well as make meaningful connections to their community and family.cing their contextual knowledge in a real-life, real-time experience.

Focus Group Technical Reports

On June 6, 2014, educators from across four Canadian provinces: Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario, met in Saskatoon to launch Phase I of the NOW Play Project. Researchers, teachers, principals, day care workers, and parents got together in focus groups to discuss their experiences and perceptions on the current practices in early years education settings. This series of papers reports on discussions about teaching, learning and assessment practices in the areas of play-based learning, children’s oral language, and early writing development.

Play-Based Curriculum

Nazila Eisazadeh

Oral Language & Writing 

Jayson San Miguel
Wesley Galt
Denise Heppner