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Reflections Magazine : Reflections Issue 57 Summer 2014
10 Children may repeat the first couple of words of what they want to say, while others are still talking, to indicate they will be talking next, or identify when the existing speaker is about to finish, thereby creating a successful overlap within the conversation. In addition, children will use exaggerated expression to convey their feelings about their peers' suggestions and, in western cultures, powerful body language, for example, a child's pouting and folding of arms sends a very clear message of disapproval to their peers. Language is also used by children of 3 or 4 years of age to create or maintain social order (Docket & Fleer, 2003). An example of this can be seen when a group of children in conflict with another use words that sound similar, or use 'we' when making individual statements to demonstrate a unified front. The use of 'we' in this way can be a very powerful form of expression, as children sometimes use it to secure the support of their peers. Children creating a dramatic play scenario also demonstrate their vast knowledge of what is required to tell the story they have in mind (Shagoury, 2009). They create an initial basic narrative, and alter the characters to suit the number of children involved in the scenario. Often seen when playing house, children will add a sibling or other relative when an additional child wishes to join in. Within such a scenario children express their often detailed understanding of characterisation within a story setting. For example, the 'dad' may use a low-pitched voice and engage in behaviours which the child perceives as 'dad like'. By sharing narratives within play scenarios children are also broadening their view of their world, increasing their vocabulary and developing their understanding of communication (Campbell & Green, 2006).When a child without a pet engages in a role play scenario where the sick or injured animal is taken to the vet, that child learns from peers not only about the process of what happens in a veterinary office and the associated vocabulary, but is exposed to other forms of communication. Since this play experience reflects the child's understanding of what takes place at a doctor's surgery, the child can then transfer this knowledge from one scenario to the next.This sharing of knowledge occurs throughout play as children learn from, and teach, each other. In addition to the creation of narratives, scripts and stories, dramatic play enables children to practise all forms of communication at their own pace (Birckmayer, Kennedy, & Stonehouse, 2008). If we look again at the scenario of the sick pet, children can practise communication skills, role-play the use of the computer, engage in writing and interpret environmental print. To do so however, the environment must be one which provides children with the resources and freedom to explore - in this case a telephone, pencils and paper, and keyboard or toy laptop would be provided. The environmental print which includes both words and pictures is also of great importance and could include exit signs, the medical cross shape, posters about different pets, and what a pet might need such as food and water. By providing writing materials within dramatic play spaces the play scenario becomes more realistic and children are able to document their experiences (Makin,Diaz,& McLachlan, 2007). Children may write or draw images to create lists, instructions, labels or signs, demonstrating their growing understanding of the purpose of the written word. Enquiring about children's pictures and writing not only provides greater insight into children's interests and ability, but enables children to reflect on their work. Children can identify the places they could improve "I forgot to write..." as well as celebrate their achievements. This reflection creates habits which children will use when editing their own work in later schooling. When looking at the 'writing' which occurs within play scenarios, it could be easy to assume a child's print is mere scribble. However, careful analysis will demonstrate the considerable understanding of print conventions that young children are practising during play. Children's 'writing' may run from left to right across the paper, or start at the top and work towards the bottom of the page. It may include series of symbols which reflect the print from within a child's home environment -- for example, the English alphabet, Arabic or Kanji letters and often the letters/sounds included in the child's name. These letters may be written in random order to label a picture, or to write stories which can be read back to parents, educators or peers. When children are asked about their writing it shows them that those marks on the paper have meaning and purpose. Through dramatic play scenarios children are also engaging in a range of reading experiences. Children who turn the pages of a book while 'reading' a story of their own creation are further developing an understanding of the connection between images and print, a skill which will be later refined as beginner readers. When provided with the resources to do so children will engage in a range of reading experiences through play. They will read maps, instructions and engage in literacy experiences which are useful to them as part of their play experience. As with any pursuit, literacy development needs to be one which children themselves feel worthwhile (Healy, 2008). During play children explore concepts which interest them most, and apply new knowledge obtained from observing and communicating with those more capable than themselves. When parents or educators involve themselves in play scenarios with children, they are able to take on the role of the more knowledgeable peer to challenge and extend children's understanding at the exact moment it is relevant and useful to them, thus maximising the benefits of unstructured play. References: Birckmayer, J., Kennedy, A., & Stonehouse, A. (2008). From Lullabies to Literature; Stories in the lives of infants and toddlers. Castle Hill: Pademelon Press. Campbell, R., & Green, D. (2006). Literacies and Learners: current perspectives. Frenchs Forrest, NSW: Pearson Education Australia. Corbett, P., & Strong, J. (2011). Talk for Writing across the Curriculum. Berkshire: Open University Press. Docket, S., & Fleer, M. (2003). Play and Pedagogy in Early Childhood: Bending the rules. South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia. Healy, A. (2008). Multiliteracies and diversity in education: New pedagogies for expanding landscapes. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press. Makin, L., Diaz, C. J., & McLachlan, C. (2007). Literacies in Childhood. Chatswood, NSW: Elsevier. McDevitt, T. M., & Ormrod, J. E. (2010). Child Development and Education. Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Pearson Education Inc. Shagoury, R. E. (2009). Raising Writers: Understanding and nurturing young children's writing development. Boston: Pearson Education.
Issue 56 Spring 2014
Reflections Issue 58 Autumn 2015