|Design made in a Building Center in Kindergarten Classroom.|
“Pretend I’m a big sister just like you,” said a little girl, climbing out of a doll-corner crib. “I’m not a baby anymore. I’m you!”
“No! Don’t pretend that!” cautioned her playmate, suddenly remorseful, stepping out of her role. “Don’t be like me! Because I’m really bad!”
“Like the wolf?”
“Oh, wait, now it’s okay. I’m a good sister now.”
Paley, ever interested in recording and interpreting children's play, makes this connection:
Had I not heard these lines before? Isn’t this what the older brother warns the younger brother in Long Day’s Journey Into Night? Watch out for me, Eugene O’Neill has Jamie tell Edmond, I’m no good and I’ll try to bring you down to where I am. But I’m being a good brother now to tell you this" (p. 17).
|Devon at Home, Before School|
"When I was five, living in an immigrant neighborhood in Chicago, we stayed home and found our stories there. We created spaces and rituals in corners and under tables, listening to grown-up conversations at the kitchen table. We knew all the local shopkeepers by name and history and could walk to their stores by ourselves. We recognized the sounds of peddlers calling out their wares in the alley behind our building and ran to greet them.Story and dramatization form the foundation upon which more formal learning might rest. Yet, Paley knows that play is severely limited at school, even at the kindergarten level. From the 1980s to present, the reduction of child-inspired play has been limited and has been in part replaced with teacher- or school/district-determined learning centers, worksheets, and curricula directly connected to reading, writing, and computing. Instead of child-inspired stories, some schools have required specific genres as young as kindergarten where children who have only been on the planet for 60 months at most are asked to create memoir. Paley states:
The grocer invited us to pet the cat, and the fruit and vegetable man, the iceman, and the knife sharpener gave us sugar cubes to feed their horses. My friend Shirley called down to me from her third-floor back porch when she heard them coming: “Pirate ship ahoy!” (p. 35).
By the mideighties we were trying to transform the children’s work into projects and learning centers, hoping the players would not detect the differences. It made us feel more like real teachers when we controlled the topic, and we seldom borrowed our themes from the children’s play (pp. 30-31).An issue related to replacing children's spontaneous and self-directed play with these adult facsimiles is that "fantasy propels the child to poetic heights over and above his ordinary level and was considered the original pathway to literacy" (p. 32). Now, though, "it is now perceived by some as an obstacle to learning. We are allowed to nourish play only so long as it initiates reading, writing, and computing. We continue to call play the work of young children while reducing its appearance to brief interludes. There is barely time to develop a plot or transform a bad guy into a hero. The educational establishment has ceased admiring the stunning originality of its youngest students, preferring lists of numerical and alphabetical achievement goal (pp. 32- 33).
How many numbers can the chid count?
How many letters can the child identify?
How many sight words does the child know?
What DRA level is the child?
And so on.
In our rush into reading, writing, and numeracy, we may want to pause and as, 'What is being lost?' How might we begin to know and then tell that story? Paley offers us a method we can use to restore play as a central figure in kindergartens. She tell us to become keen observers and to record what the children say and do as they engage in dramatic play and to use this as source material for the adult stories we need to tell about young children, the importance of play, and learning..
We who value play must do more than complain of unwanted drills that steal away our time. We must find time for play and keep daily journals of what is said and done during play if we are to convince anyone of its importance. Our children will happily join us in the project by giving us their stories that so well explain their play when the stories are acted out (p.33).I am wondering how many kindergarten classrooms still privilege children's spontaneous play?
|A dramatic play area in a Kindergarten.|
Paley, Vivian Gussin (2005-05-27). A Child's Work: The Importance of Fantasy Play. University of Chicago Press - A. Kindle Edition.