Sunday, October 4, 2009

Taking Imagination to a Different Level...

When I was going through my graduate classes a few years back, I was working with a group of kindergarten teachers who shared their concerns about their students lack of understanding on how to use their imagination. They told a story about the day they took out the kitchen play center tools to introduce for the first time. Kindergartners usually jump at the chance to get free-time and dive into a world of make believe cooking, chopping, mixing and serving. Not this group though. The 3 teachers shared that this group of kids went into the kitchen and started climbing all over the play stove, throwing the plastic food and making a huge mess. After a few days of observing this behavior, the teachers had a realization that this group of kids did not know how to use their imagination to play kitchen. They were confused by the toys, the set-up and had no idea how to gather a group of friends, to each get a role in the imaginary family that needed to cook dinner. What they ended up doing was taking all three classes of kids and setting them down in front of the kitchen. Each teacher took on a role, one a mom, one a kid waiting for breakfast and the other a dad. The teachers interacted with each other, all three playing their make believe roles and modeled for the kids how you could pretend to be a family that needs to use a kitchen to make food. The teachers then switched roles and went on to play restaurant for the kids to see. It was only after the teachers showed the kindergartners how to 'pretend' did they start to engage in imaginative role play games.

As a teacher, and a mother, that is incredibly scary for me to hear. Although I find the idea of online role-plays very interesting and I am sure engaging for older students, at the first grade level, I am going to continue to work hard and see that my kids can make play make believe in person, before I have then do it on the computer. Many kids are already exposed to the world of make believe all too much with computer games and video games. I understand that they need to have the ability to play in this way and it is vital for their growth and development. With the ongoing pressure to get kids farther, faster and at a younger age, I think it is important to make time to imagine with kids. We do not do that enough. The technology that we have is amazing and a gift that I can honestly say helps me to reach more kids, but it should not replace a child's ability to create and imagine on their own. I am fully aware that to teach my Main Street unit in Social Studies I could somehow create a virtual city that we could all claim residence and create a business, but why would I? The kids enjoy using cereal boxes brought from home, construction paper, and anything else they can dig out of my room to create our own model of our city street. This is the time when some of the kids who don't normally shine, come out like a beechen in the night!

1 comment:

  1. Kristin, it seems that you really are thinking seriously about the advantages of role-play or play in general. This might be a possible inquiry topic. If interested, you may want to check out the work of Karen Wohlwend, the researcher I mentioned in class last week, who researches primary students' use of play.

    Just google/bing her and you find her Indian University website, which has a lot of her publications on it.

    May you find play in your inquiry endeavors.