Hokitika Primary School is proud to be a lighthouse school for the implementation of the PLAY IS THE WAY® programme.

PLAY IS THE WAY is a practical methodology for teaching social and emotional skills using guided play, classroom activities and an empowering language.

We have found that PLAY IS THE WAY is excellent for developing independent, self-motivated, self-managing, socially and emotionally competent learners.

What is Play is the Way®?

‘Behaviour Education using wisdom, not force.’

Wilson McGaskill, Founder of Play is the Way.

Training students to be in control of their thoughts, feelings and actions allows them to harness their many and varied abilities and skills to pursue the abundant pathways to success in life. The Play is the Way programme of physically interactive games, with it’s philosophy and supporting language, achieves the following outcomes:

  • Develops positive social behaviour
  • Creates a shared body of experience that is used to build relationships
  • Highlights the benefits of managing emotions and working together
  • Develops optimism and the ability to bounce back (resilience)
  • Encourages self-motivation and the ability to persevere
  • Initiates a process of self-awareness and discovery
  • Creates a positive tone and safe school culture
  • Fun, excitement and challenge
  • Use of the Supporting Language

We believe that the language we use when correcting children on their behaviour is key to creating opportunities for students to accept responsibility for their actions, make correct choices and develop resilience. The language is firmly embedded throughout our school. When dealing with children, it is important to maintain composure and speak in a calm manner while utilising the 6 key questions of the PLAY IS THE WAY Self-mastery checklist:


Every teacher acknowledges and reinforces the use of good manners in our school community. We believe that manners are the lubricating oil of the community. Manners create the tone and culture of the school.

Life Rafts

Each Life Raft is taught, unpacked and revised for two weeks during each term. The Life Rafts are concepts for life. Each concept is unpacked using activities and scenarios that encourage reflection, critical thinking and discussion. Building a capability in students to talk about issues of concern - to question the motives behind behaviour and the challenges inherent in adhering to the five concepts - is a worthwhile strategy for social and emotional well-being.

1. Treat Others as You Would Like Them to Treat You

2. Be Brave – Participate to Progress

3. Pursue Your Personal Best No Matter Who You Work With

4. Have Reasons For The Things You say and Do

5. It Takes Great Strength To Be Sensible

The Pathway to Empathy

The more that principles, virtues and rights guide our behaviour the less we need rules.

"Put simply, rules ask for compliance and obedience, and virtues ask for the making of moral decisions, personal accountability and consideration of others."

- Wilson McGaskill, founder of PLAY IS THE WAY.

Adding and embedding the Virtues alongside the Life Raft key concepts leads to collaborative, democratic classrooms where behaviour is further guided by beliefs not rules. Rules, by their nature, imply that someone must enforce them, whereas Virtues ask for the strength and courage to live by them.


An awareness of others.

The ability to see things from another’s point of view.

The ability to identify with the plight state or needs of another.

Virtues that support The Pathway to Empathy by entrenching habits of action:

Good Manners / Friendliness


Persistence / Resilience

Tolerance / Acceptance


Praise / Rewards / Punishment

Praise needs to be specific and sincere, with the intention of giving meaningful feedback to the child.

‘Think of praise (and attention) as you would with food.

No child should starve for lack of it,

just as no child should become obese from too much.’

At Hokitika Primary we work with students to develop self-motivated learners. We believe using rewards and punishments to manipulate student’s behaviour is intrinsically objectionable and counterproductive. It takes talent, effort and patience to help students develop the skill of self-control and the commitment to manage their own behaviour. Instead of using rewards, praise and punishments we teach children to reflect upon their actions and learn more about themselves.

Learn more at the website Play is the Way.