Gentle Facilitation of Free Choice Time: Supporting Children’s Development during Authentic Play

  • Judy Hicks Paulick University of Virginia
Keywords: play, free choice time, teacher professional development, observation tool


Free choice time (FCT) is on the schedule in nearly every Head Start classroom, but teachers tend to get relatively little training or support regarding how to enact FCT. Given that play is important for children’s development, what authentic play looks like as part of the preschool day should be intentional. The purpose of this study was to define high quality free choice time (FCT) in Head Start classrooms. I developed and piloted the Framework for Free Choice Time (F-FCT), which describes low, middle-range, and high-quality FCT practice. Findings from classroom observations demonstrate some initial validity and reliability of the framework and support the notion that there is a range of teacher practice, even in classrooms administered together. The F-FCT can be used to support preservice and in-service teacher professional development. Future work with the F-FCT may have implications for preschool curricula, policy, and teacher evaluation.

Author Biography

Judy Hicks Paulick, University of Virginia
Assistant Professor of Elementary Education
Research-to-Practice Summaries