Play is The Way

Behaviour Education and Self-Management

Hokitika Primary School is proud to be a lighthouse school for the implementation of ‘Play Is The Way’ programme.

This philosophy is the foundation of our Behaviour Education and Self Management approach to developing independent, self-motivated, self-managing learners. We believe that ‘Play Is The Way’ programme is the most effective way to achieve our objectives of socially and emotionally competent children.

‘Behaviour Education using wisdom, not force.’

Wilson McGaskill – Founder – 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 your composure and speak in a calm manner while utilising the 6 key questions of the PLAY IS THE WAY Self-mastery checklist.

  • Right thing or wrong to do?
  • Strong decision or weak moment decision?
  • Feelings or thinking in charge?
  • Am I trying to hurt you or help you?
  • Are you running away from the problem or dealing with it?
  • Being your own boss or asking me to be the boss?


Every teacher does focus on the acknowledgement and reinforcement 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, focused on and revised for two weeks during each term. The current Life Raft is displayed in the foyer as well as the corridors and all classrooms. The Life Rafts are concepts for life. Each concept is unpacked using activities and scenarios that encourage reflection, critical thinking and discussion. Building a propensity in students to talk about issues of concern; to question the motives behind behaviour and the challenges inherent in adhering to the five concepts, can be considered 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 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 – 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 and 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 committment 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.


Rescue vs Support. We work with parents to ensure they understand that:

‘Falsely rescuing children from emotional discomfort and difficulty weakens their resilience and lessens their capacity to persevere.’