|Arne Trageton||TASP conference|
|Stord/Haugesund College||February 3-7 1999|
|5414 Rommetveit, Norway||Santa Fe, New Mexico|
|Tlf +47 5349 1300|
|Fax +47 5341 1401|
This paper is based on the resarch project «Role Play and Drama 6-10 Year Olds» presented in its early stage in Salzburg (Trageton 1995). The project has resulted in a textbook about play in primary school + 11 videos. Some glimpses from the videos will be presented during the presentation.
Norway has lowered the school entry age from 7 years to 6 years in 1997. In the new school reform (L 97) play shall have a dominating place, not only for the 6 year olds, but for the whole lower primary school (6-10 years) Cross-subject teaching through longrun themes shall dominate the learning process. The last 8-10 years in Norway have also shown a massive expansion of SFO, a leisure time institution at school before and after compulsory lessons. In 1997 almost 50% of all school children 6-10 year olds are using SFO from about 1 to 5 pm. About 2/3 of the total time at SFO is now reserved for «free play».
From 1997 Norway has got the most «playful» National Curriculum in Europe for the 6-10 year olds. But what about the realization of this revolution? Preschool teachers were invited to move from preschool institutions to work in lower primary school in grade 1, and if they took one year further education ininitial teacher training, they were qualified to teach all children 6-10 year olds. This is a revolution for the preschool teacher. In the new grade 1, one preschool teacher and one primary school teacher cooperate. For the primary school teachers the reform is also a revolution. They have hardly heard about play in their initial teacher training. But for them there is unfortunately no demand to further education for the new 6-10 years pedagogics. But many of them find out they are unqualified, and will voluntarily take the same course as the preschool teachers. At our college we have spesialized on such courses, and last summer we had 160 students of both kinds together to start their further education. Parliament have decided that play should play an important part in school, but Norway has little research about play among 6-10 year olds in institutions. Also internationally, there are only few projects about play in primary school (Retter 1983, Hartmann 1988, Hall & Abbott ed. 1991, Moyles 1994, Christie 1995, Pessanha 1995) This situation was the main reason for my project.
1. To make a description and interpretation of role play and drama in ordinary lessons and leisure time at school for 6-10 year-olds, with the help of video documentation
2. Theory development in relation to new empirical research
3. Production of teaching aids consisting of video examples + textbook to qualify students and teachers for their new teacher role in school.
From 1994-97 I have studied children with the help of a video recorder in 6 different environments in school from child controlled «free play» in SFO to adult controlled structured playful teaching. Based on 50-60 hours of video recording, I have made a textbook and until now 11 edited videos. This teaching materials I hope will become useful for our students, and teachers in Primary School. The textbook have 9 chapters. Here I will give a brief summary of each chapter in the textbook, illustrated with some video examples.
The chapter gives the background for the new reform. The debate about lowering the school entry age to 6 years started in the early 80´s. The argument for was to harmonize school entry age with that of most countries in Europe and the belief that starting the academic learning process earlier would be effective. The argument against was that preschool (1-7 years) still had the best pedagogics for 6-year-olds with its dominating play curriculum. From 1986-1990 Norway made a big pedagocical experiment with 6-year-olds in 42 communities in three different settings:
a) 6-year-groups in preschool
b) 6-year-groups that come from preschool to primary school for a day or two per week to have some pedagogical programme together with the 7-year-olds at school
c) 6-year-groups located at school in a separate classroom or building.
As expected the programme a) gave the children more play than c). During the four years free play was reduced from 51% in a) to 23% of the time in c). Teacher structured programmes were doubled in the same period.
In the 90´s the debate continued until Parliament took the decision to extend the compulsory school from 9 to 10 years, with the 6-year-olds as the extra year at the bottom. At that moment there was a strong resistance in the country against lowering the school start out of fear for a less playful pedagogics in school than in preschool. Because of that and also because three of the political parties was against lowering the school start age, the political compromise was to say that the whole new lower primary school (6-10 year-olds) should be formed from «the best of the preschool and the best of the school programme». And the «best» from preschool was of course «play», and the first year at school should be as similar to preschool as possible. Parliament said: The teaching programme in lower primary school shall have a definitive preschool form. The school days shall mainly be organized around children´s need for play and free activities. Play is a goal in itself for personality development («free play»), but the teacher shall also use play as a working method for teaching cross-subject themes («structured play») The third type was «playful teaching» to motivate children in the different subjects. «Learning throuh play», was the slogan. The majority in Parliament meant that perhaps the most important thing with the whole new school reform was that play should get more room for the 6-10-year-olds in school. The national curriculum plan (L 97) has followed up what Parliament said about play. We have got the most «playful» plan in Europe for the 6-10-year-olds. The subjects have the following time space for the four first years at school:
|Norwegian language||912 hours|
|Art and craft||228|
For the first time in history «free play» is quantified on the time table. It is the fourth greatest «subject» in lower primary school!
Another revolution is that cross subject themes shall dominate the learning process at least 60% of the total time. So 60% of all the lessons in the respective subjects shall be used for a thematic approach to the teaching. The plan says that a themebased approach should inspire to play, and play should bring inspiration to the themes. The working methods in lower primary school is creative activity , play and practical work. The play method has got most space! Language talk a lot about role play and drama, mathematics about play and game, religion about dramatizing the stories, physical education mostly about sensomotoric and physical rule play, art and craft about constructional play, and so on.
What is learning?
Different definitions reflect different scientific paradigma. They also reflect what is meant by learning in school. I rely heavily on Bjørgen (1992) who says that learning is seeking for meaning after similarity relations beetween new knowlegde and existing structures based on experience in the learner. In such a constructivist definition the responsibility of learning is put on the learner, not on the teacher. Bjørgen put different learning forms into following hierarchy:
|Self-initiated learning within play, art, science, craft||
|Independent learning within given frames||
|School learning, instructions in hospitals, military force||
|Behavioural shaping, programmed learning||
|Conditional learning, habituated learning||
He says that behaviourism is characterized by learning at the lowest level. Here the teacher is the main person, not the learner, an amputated learning. The highest level in the hierarchy is where the learner has the full control. It is interesting that for Bjørgen play and scienctific learning are at the same level! This theory I use as an argument in favour of play as a necessary fundament for child controlled learning. Bjørgens definition is in harmony with the arguments in our new national curriculum.
What is play? Definitions from Comenius to post-modernism.
The main part of the chapter gives a summary of play theories from 1632 to the 1990´s in a compressed, popularized form. I think all these attempts say something about play, but also characterize the time and research tradition behind the definition. This is much of the same as Sutton Smith (1995) called «the rethorics of play». I give in my book short definitions, and from a half to two-page descriptions afterwords. Here is my simplified versions:
Play is action, symbol making, work,
edifying (in religious meaning) (Comenius 1634)
Play is children´s art. Synthesis emotions/cognitions (Schiller 1793)
Play is the highest point of development in childhood (Frøbel 1826)
Play is surplus energy (Spencer 1855)
Play is practice training for adult life (Groos 1899)
Play is emotional outlet (Freud 1920)
Play is expression, self mastery (Eriksson 1941)
Play is assimilation of the world, one condition for cognitive growth (Piaget 1945)
Play develops abstract thinking (Vygotsky 1933-76)
Play is process, creativity, flexibility (Sutton Smith 1967, Bruner 1972)
Play is group adapting, reflection of reality (Leontiev 1977) Nordic translation
Play is work Goodman 1974)
Play is fantastics, aestethics (Rodari1991) Nordic translation
Play is communication (Bateson 1971, Garvey 1979, Olofsson 1987)
Play is ecological cooperation, interaction (Bae 1988)
Play is culture teaching (Opie & Opie 1969)
Play is culture creation (Huizinga 1938, Gadamer 1965, Sutton Smith 1990)
Play is «Spiel» (Wittgenstein 1932, Papert 1983, Rasmussen 1990, Bauer 1996)
In my book I try to show that in the analysis of all sorts of play among the 6-10 year-olds the teacher may have to use a variety of these definitions to describe what is going on. For preschool teachers in Norway I try to expand their knowlegde to include more general theories than the traditionally preschool theories. In my opinion the last two definitions are the most representative for the rethorics of our time, and therefor perhaps most useful for us just now in our postmodern world. I therefore give most space for a discussion of the last two definitions.
In this chapter I am discussing the different play forms in general, and what type of play forms that are most useful for the 6-10 year-olds. The different play theorists use different names and categories, but roughly we talk about 4 play form groups:
a) Functional play, psycomotorical play, practice play, sensomotoric play
b) Role play, sociodramatic play, make believe
c) Constructional play, play with materials, building play
d) Rule play
In my earlier books about play in preschool will «Play with material 1-7 year-olds» (Trageton 1995) cover constructional play and «Focus on play» (Heggstad, Knudsen, Trageton 1994) will cover dramatical play. Rule play is according to Piaget a more advanced form and should therefore be the most usual play form for 6-10 year-olds. Most play researchers of this age group, and the teachers in lower primary school in Norway seem to have accepted Piaget´s theory and have traditionally mostly used this play form, while the other ones have been seen as childish and for preschool children. But a long time ago Sutton Smith (1971) and Gardner (1983) did not agree with Piaget that rule play is the most advanced play form. Dramatical play can have more complex and intellectually more demanding and flexible rules with sudden shifts from time to time. The children have to use all the seven intellligences Gardner is describing, not only the logical mathematical and verbal intelligences by Piaget. In Germany Otto (1990) found that children 6-8 years old in «Grundschule» were more interested in role play than in rule play! But the adults around the children followed Piaget´s theory and expected rule play. Therefore they arranged the physical environment for rule play, (different ball games, hop shots and other games in leisure time, games in mathematics, rythmical rule play in language and music and so on). And the adult was close to the children in this type of play. But dramatical play was hardly expected, and neither the physical environment, nor the teacher assistance stimulated this sort of play. My observations from 1994-97, documented with 40-50 hours video recording, support the observations of Otto, and the criticism of Piaget from Sutton Smith and Gardner. The dramatic role play for 6-10 year- olds seems to have much more complicated rules than the rule play by the same children, if the school stimulates dramatic play. Reorganizing the physical space prowed to be very important. Reorganizing the time table was necessary. Courses for the personnel to favour dramatic play, and training in observation of play and an active adult role in relation to dramatic play (Christie 1992) was important to change attitudes about what sort of play was important in school. In the following diagram I have tried to describe the relation beetween the playforms in another way than Piaget.
Instead of saying that rule play is the most advanced, this model says thatwith a common root in sensomotoric play you can see three different branches of play in primary school. I think it is important not to forget the sensomotoric fundament in all play forms. The arrows show the develop-ment outwards. First the children develop divergent, flexbile symbols in constructional play (Trageton 1994) and in dramatic play (Heggstad, Knudsen, Trageton 1994). This corresponds with the four-years-old children in preschool . But many children 6-10 year old are at the same level, if they are not trained in constructional play (Trageton 1992). But the most common level for 6-10 year olds both in constructional play and dramatic play is a play dominated by convergent thinking, on how to build a special oil platform in the correct representation for example. Another example would be the proper, systematic realisation of a role play about a special adventure, family life and so on. I have no corresponding research on rule play, but for me it seems to be a good hypothesis that creative, flexible use of the rules in rule play is an earlier stage than the convergent, logical, systematic rules all children have to accept at a later stage.
Rule play is much described in earlier books about play in Norway. Earlier I have written a book about constructional play as a base for «workshop pedagogy» (Trageton 1992). Therefore this book specially focuses on the dramatic role play, also because this has had a minor place in Norwegian schools.
Because the 6-year-olds in Norway until 1997 have been preschool children where play fills 50-60% of the time, school can learn a lot from how preschool organizes the play for 6-year- olds. What consequences will these experiences have for the new 1. form at school? In this chapter I tell the school teacher about the play tradition in preschool, specially for the 6-year- olds in constructional play and dramatical play. Here I borrow material from our earlier books about play in preschool. The most important lessons school can learn from preschool are the following:
This is the main chapter in the book, built on my research project 1994-97. Our new national curriculum (L97) talks about play in three different versions: play as free development, play as working method in the thematic crossubject teaching, and playful teaching within the different subjects to further motivation. My video recordings are done in 6 different settings within this frame:
Play as development («free play») (child controlled)
a) «Free play» in SFO (leisure time after school)
b) «Free play» in school lessons
Play as working method («learning centered play»)
c) Drama/role play in «Workshop Pedagogics»
d) Drama as free choice in SFO
e) Drama as method in thematic teaching
Playful teaching in different subjects
f) Mathemathics, music, language (adult controlled)
Theoretically, the «play» concept in L 97 spans from the most child controlled to the most teacher controlled «play» or drama. In my textbook it was important to show examples from the whole range of the «play» concept.
Play as development
a) «Free play» in SFO
In SFO 6-year-olds in Norway are playing 69% of the total time (Haug 1996). The adult role is usual passive. The argument is that the child should have free time to do what they want, most of their time. They can play where they want, with whom, with what, when they want during the SFO period. But research shows that this often leads to stereotype repetition of earlier preschool play. The personnel have little knowlegde about play in the 6-10 year-group (Liden et al. 1994). I have followed one SFO for a year with a video camera. The focus was on dramatic play, not rule play or constructional play. From the 38 observations I have chosen 18, and have edited compressed versions down to 3-8 minutes resume of the play sequence which could last for an hour or longer. This cassette should be used in the teacher training to analyze and discuss the quality of the play from a motoric, social, emotional, aesthetic, cognitive and communicative point of view. Also the impact of the physical organizing for play and the adult role can be recognized and discussed. I give a brief description of some of these episodes in the book, to show typical play episodes and the variation of the different themes in play in one SFO.
b)Free play in school lessons time
In our new national curriculum, 247 hours during the first four years at school should be «free play», most in the first year. This is a totally new demand at school. I have followed a class of 7-8 year olds for two years, where two playful teachers dared use 3 hours each week reserved for free play, two years before this reform started. This experience has given us useful knowlegde about something now all the classes shall do, without knowing how to do it!
The classes had one hour «free playtime» two days per week before lunch. These classes was trained in group working and «workshop pedagogy», and therefore it was rather easy to arrange ten different play corners. The children chose in which corner they wanted to play, but if three or four children had chosen one play corner, no more children could choose that corner (something like Weikart´s «High scope» system for preschool in the USA). Later on the classes also used the outdoor area for these periods. I have made video programmes which show the development in this play over the two years. The book gives a verbal description of this development. Paradoxically there seemed to be a higher level of play within this more restricted time and space compared to SFO. Perhaps the narrow time schedule, a systematic choice of play corner, and a more active adult role, inspired the children to use more energy and commitment in play?
Play as working method
c) Drama/role play in «workshop pedagogics»
Workshop pedagogics (Trageton 1992) is a way of organizing teaching lessons for 6-10 year- olds inspired by the Laboratory School in Chicago (Dewey 1899) and the british «Integrated Day in the Primary School» (Brown/Precious 1969). The movement started in three classrooms in 1978 and has gradually spread across the whole of Norway. Each class is divided into 5 groups working with different art and craft materials, such as clay, sand, blocks, rigid materials and flexible materials. They should work within a common cross-subject theme, for instance «our town». The children produce through structured constructional play representations of different sides of the theme, houses, cars, people and so on. After the constructing they have to dramatize what might happen in their structured environment. Then they draw from their experiences, and afterwords they write a story about their special theme, and at last they are doing mathematics around what they have made. The main role for the teacher is to be a dialogue partner to expand concepts and language around the concepts each child is interested in. This strategy from concrete to abstract has for the last 20 years proved effective both for slow and fast learners in the classroom (Trageton 1992). As mentioned in the beginning of the paper, L 97 says that the dominating working methods for 6-10 year-olds should be creative activity, play and practical work. The workshop pedagogics is in tune with such a demand. In this new book I concentrate on the dramatizing stage in workshop pedagogics. Here I followed a class for 2 years (7-8 year-olds). I made 95 video recordings of the drama stage. From them I have chosen 24 episodes and edited on a videocassette as examples of the development over two years. In the book I describe the development in detail, with concrete descriptions of different dramatizations or structured role play. In the beginning the dramatization was of actions only. Gradually one child in the group played two roles, later two and two children played together, but it was very hard to get real cooparation beetween all the four/five children in the group. The rest of the class was the audience.
In another school the teacher documented the effect on written language. From a beginning of 10-12 written words, the texts grew rapidly to an average of 80 words in February in grade 1. (now grade 2). The class performance ranged from 12 to 310 written words! To give you an impression of an advanced level let´s take a story from the theme called «Skudesneshavn» (a tiny town where the children live). The children had made some houses in town and family members who wanted to buy the house. In the dramatizations the figures representing husband and wife went into the house to look. They tried to go through the door but the door opening was too narrow for the figures. They improvised and went down the chimney instead. Much laughter! One of the stories composed afterwards was like this:
Once upon a time a man and his wife wanted to move to another house. But they did not know that they had ordered such a small house. They had to creep in the door. But the man got a good idea, he said that they should try the chimney. But the chimney was narrow, so it was hard to get through, so they wanted to find another house. They went to the man who owned the biggest house in town. But he was a real miser, and he said no. So they began to search for another house. At last somebody showed the way to a house of just the proper size.
d) Drama as free choice in SFO
Among 6 different courses of 2 hours a week for 12 weeks, the 8-9 year-olds could choose a drama course. This drama course was very structured by the teacher. They should follow a family who travelled from Norway to the US around 1880. This family was followed in 12 episodes, first the farewell at home, then the sailing trip, the immigration problems in New York, how to find a farm in the Mid-West, fighting with Indians, inventions like the steam engine, spinning machine, and in the tenth episode they moved to Chicago to produce cars. All the time the teacher practiced the teacher-in-role principle. She dramatized and made the children dramatize and role play the proper roles but within these narrow frames. The groups built their creative, original cars of old school tables and chairs, cardboard boxes and other scrap. Then the teacher is a director who wants to give a prize to the most original car. Afterwords there is a car race, where specially the boys show a deep commitment in their playing& According to our new national curriculum, this could also have been a good type of lecturing in science, social science, language, mathematics, art and craft. But this drama course was in SFO. Is the children´s dramatizing real play? According to L 97 this is play as working method.
e) Drama as method in thematic cross-subject teaching
According to the new national curriculum (L 97), drama should have a strong position as working method among 6-10 year-olds. One example I have videorecorded is the cross-subject theme of «Stone Age» in the grade 3 (9-10 year-olds). This theme lasted for four weeks. Here the drama teacher together with the classroom teacher also used the teacher-in-role tecnique. The drama teacher is the stone age leader, and the children acts as the tribe who go outdoors making stone weapons in the little forest outside school. Then the classroom teacher comes as a representative for a Bronze Age king , and the adults build up a conflict where the children have to choose if they want to become the slaves under the bronze age king and learn to make bronze swords and jewellery, or be fought by the modern bronze warriors and fleeing back to their stone ageThe children themselves have to solve this conflict, because now the old Stone Age leader (the drama teacher) is so old and sick, that he cannot give them any advice. By systematically playing stone age roles and bronze age roles, combined with reading about these ages in books, making stories around the theme, making stone carvings, paintings and so on, this drama or structured play as working method should make the stuff more attractive and engaging for the children.
f) Playful teaching in different subjects
Our national curriculum uses this formula with the argument that although this is not «play» in the ordinary sense, a «playful» teacher can use «playful» methods to motivate children for spesific learning activities. Here my examples are borrowed from my students taking further education in 6-10 years pedagogics. One student organized a shop in the classroom corner to teach the children the numbers from 1-9 and the addition of these numbers. All the prices in the shop were from 1-9 Norwegian krones, and the children played shopping in a structured manner, and took notes of the results of the shopping in their mathematics book. Another example was music lessons where the teacher wanted to teach the children a classical song, while the 8-9-year children were most interested in heavy metal music. The result was a playful combination of the classical melody, where the children played that they were a heavy metal band and with the help of the teacher composed the rhythm and beat they found suitable to brush up the ancient song. A third examle was where pupils in grade 1 at school played with personal computers and text programmes to make texts. The teacher «played back» comments, and so the children could make a new and better version of his text, in fact process oriented writing in grade 1 (now grade 2).
The danger by expanding the play definition as far as to «playful teaching» is that teachers can say that by referring to «playful teaching» they cover the demands about play in school. I try in this chapter to show the readers that according to L 97 the teachers have to use the whole range of the play concept. Classroom teachers have to train themselves specially to accept and master «free play» at school. Preschool teachers on the other hand have to accept that also play as working method and playful teaching should have their place inside the play concept at school.
I have divided this chapter in two:
a) Play observations.
While preschool teachers have a long tradition of play observastion, classroom teachers have not. To train teachers to make play observations as a new routine at school is a radical new task. In this chapter I try to offer strategies for very simple descriptive/interpretive observations, and short daily logs, and spontanous reflections. For the busy teachers I think it is better to train them to make observations and short logs as a simple daily routine than to teach them so complicated observation forms that the average teacher find no time to make such observations. The most important thing is to train the teacher to draw consequences of the observations for structuring the total learning climate in the classroom. As I said, we have no tradition for play observations in Norwegian schools. Therefore I have used the play observation tradition in English primary school (5-11 year olds) to give examples of good observation schemes (Moyles 1994). Her book is just now translated into norwegian.
b)Adult roles in play
In my opinion a strict routine about observation of play is the best way to change the ordinary teachers´ attitude to play, and to different adult roles in play. Here I refer to the classifications by Wood, Mahon and Cranstoun (1980) and Christie´s scale from ignoring to dominating roles in play (Christie 1992). Also the adult roles of Hartmann (1988) are referred to in my book. Also here the most important thing is that the teacher not only learns the different adult roles to stimulate higher quality in play, but to practice these roles. Only then is a better understanding of the play possible.
The chapter is divided into school building, classroom and furniture, out door arrangement and time organizing. I raise the question if we want an auditory school or a laboratory school. The Norwegian school history shows that the auditory school with traditional classrooms and students listening to the teacher´s lecture still has a strong position, in spite of the national curriculum plans about the opposite.
The preschool in Norway and the Integrated Day in Primary Schools in England on the other hand are much more like a laboratory school ideal with children´s concrete
activities in the centre.
When our new national curriculum says that creative activity, play and practical work should be the dominating learning methods for 6-10 year-olds, the school and the classrooms ought to be more laboratories than auditories. Because 6 year-olds up to now have been in preschool, it has been accepted that their classroom should be quite similar to a preschool room. The problem is to convince all teachers that this would be a good classroom also for 7-10 year- olds, instead of a more auditory setting. Here follows the structure of two classrooms for 7-8-year olds, where I videorecorded «free play» in school lessons.
The classrooms are constructed for small groups of children doing creative activity, play and practical work. The classrooms and group rooms is constructed for workshop pedagogy where small groups of children are working with clay, sand, blocks, rigid and flexible materials to construct different concepts in relation to the cross-subject theme going on this month. The groups are also the bases for other practical work and their work books in different subjects. For «free play» lessons mentioned earlier, children use the different corners as play opportunities to choose among. Here they also can choose among the three corners in the wardrobe. This extra play area may class A use on Monday, class B on Thuesday. To smothen the pedagocical barriers between the 6-year-class with preschool teachers, and the 7-year- class with classroom teachers, an ideal structure would be to have the 6-year-olds in classroom A and 7-year-olds in classroom B, and have a mixed pedagogical programme for both classes and teachers some hours a week, for instance in the «free play» periods and in workshop pedagogics with a common theme for the two age groups. This is now becoming a common structure many places in Norway. What about the auditory function of the classroom? The block corner is so big that the teacher can gather all the 20-28 children around her to tell a story, sing a song, or discuss a common plan for what to do in the workshops this day, or evaluate the work the children have done last week. In this chapter I also give a lot of advice about the furniture, materials and tools for learning in the different subjects.
Planning the out-door area.
In Norway out-door activities have had a high status. Our children have a long tradition for out-door sport activities and play. But in recent years, children in Norway have spent more and more time indoors. The play possibilities outdoors in forests, in open fields and so on are strongly reduced, children sit more in front of TV, video, radio and computers at home. Because the school now expand the time radically for 6-10-year-olds, the tendency to inndoor life is strenghtened. Therefore there is a movement in Norway to stimulate «out-door school», out-door play and so on. But in practice the out-door environment often is a black asphalt square. Here the school follow a piagetian thinking that rule play, hop schot and organized sports like football dominate the play possibilities. Areas for constructional play and dramatical play are almost nonexistant. Here we have a hard job to do to make the out-door environment at school more attractive for 6-10-year-olds. In my book I discuss the physical demands for better possibilities for out-door play. In relation to the new reform many communities and schools have bought play apparatus from commercial firms, like climbing threes, slides, swings, carousels, without reading all the research reports which show that this costly apparatus occupies only a few children for a short time, when they are new. Most research shows that what children really need, is an out-door space divided into small corners with the help of plants, walls etc. to shape a safe environment and framed corners for small play groups to organize their own play. A lot of unstructured play materials is also necessary where they can form their own play environment.
The most important thing is to stimulate a «building playground», a Danish tradition I have tried to implement in many Norwegian schools. In my book I give some concrete examples. If there are 150 children 6-10-year-olds at school, you have to plan an area for 30 huts, 5 children per hut. The parents (or 13-16 years children at school) construct the skeletons for the huts, and reserve the building area for the children. Plain asphalt is fine building ground, because the «streets» then are ready beforehand! The children have to make a general plan: How to put 30 huts into that restricted area? I show one example of huts and one of town planning.
Cheap materials makes the cost of this «town» a minimum compared to the permanent, commercial play apparatus few children are not playing with at all. Here 30 groups of children can play both constructional play and role play at the same time. In the cross-subject thematic teaching that shall dominate for 6-10-year-olds, «Our town» would be a good theme for several months. Also the social learning has shown good results and bullying at school has been reduced. Most school subjects could be integrated in that theme. After three/four years the town has to be deconstructed and so the newcomers at school have to build their town. Much of the materials can then be used for a second time.
To expand the traditional physical/motorical play to be more than football, many schools try to make use of real trees and a natural environment combinated with ropes, climbing possibilities and so on. The third important area is «learning through landscape» movement, inspired from England (Titman 1994). This stimulates the biological/ecological thinking in children. A greater stress on these qualities will give better possibilities for children´s play. At last I have an example from the north of Norway about snow as play material. Two students in further education in 6-10-year-pedagogics showed that in their climate with snow 6-7 months of the school year, there are many possibilities to play with that free material. This is not developed before in a systematic way. For instance they used the material in a similar way as in modern concrete buildings, where the children with the help of formwork could could «mould concrete» with snow and make a perfect house with a pillar row in the front in 20 minutes! With snow as «concrete» they could strip the forms immediately. Afterwards the role play in the house started at once. Another group used a rectangular plastic bucket to form snowblocks to make a roman arch, the same principle for igloos, barrel roofs, gothical churchs etc. The children also made huge sculptures in snow, tunnels and holes etc. This project showed how to use the snow systematically to stimulate diverse playing over a long time, and not only as a «happening» some times.
I have already mentioned some of these projects. In our further education in 6-10 year-pedagogics students shall make a little research experiment and project innovation from a special area within 6-10 year pedagogics at free choice, say into language, mathematics, music, cross-subject themes etc. The last 3-4 years more and more students have chosen something about play in primary school. About fifty students have made small projects documented in reports of 20-30 pages. Many of them have been most useful for me in writing this book, and this chapter should also function as an inspiration for different schools to start new projects at their own school.
The revolution in Norway with our new national curriculum saying that play now shall have a dominating place for the first four years in primary school, is a political compromise.To get political accept for lowering school start, originally to begin the academical training at an early age, Parliament had to write the programme for the lowest level in a radical «playful» tone. Many people now ask anxiously: Does play pay? We have no answer, because we have not tried this programme in practice yet. I think this radical pedagogical experiment should be followed by a huge evaluation research programme for the coming 5 year period, to show to what degree this programme is realized, and what effect this has also on the academic learning. Because we have little Norwegian research about play in school, in the following I concentrate on spread experiences from other countries.
England has a long tradition for informal education and learning-centered play as the dominating method. As we know, with Thatcher´s policy and the Education Act 1988, formal academic learning in English and mathematics, and testing of the level were favoured, and the informal education was reduced. But the results now show that the level in English and mathematics has been lowered, when the school stressed more formalized teaching in these subjects in school (Pollard 1994, Galton 1995). In addition social problems and bullying in school expanded.. England is an interesting example as to what happens if you reduce play and playful learning i school.
Austria went the opposit way. The Wienna play programme in school (Hartmann 1988) led to a revision of the National curriculum of 1987, which was the most «playful» curriculum in Europe, before Norway´s new national curriculum 1997! I now use Hartmann´s research as a good argument for why also the Norwegian curriculum may give good results in creativity, social collaboration, and that they possibly will reach the same level in their academic study as the non-play classes before 1997 in Norway! But we have no Norwegian research yet to show that this is true.
In Portugal Pessanha´s (1995) convincing research showed that the drop-out percent in mathematics and language was heavily reduced after introducing her play programme in school.
Denmark has for 25 years had the 6-year-olds in separate classes at school, with their preschool teachers. During the eighties Denmark tried to bridge the gap between this preschool class and 1. and 2. year at school. Preschool teachers and classroom teachers for the 7- and 8-year-olds built a team to make a common teaching programme for the 6-8 year-olds for 20-50% of the total time in school. Workshop pedagogics, and a combination of practical and theoretical/academic subjects was preferred, and much structured constructional and role play as working method, within a common theme which lasted for 1-3 months. This strategy has been inspiration for the Norwegian reform. Evaluation research showed that these children just like the Austrian were more creative, better in cooperation, wrote more intersting stories, liked school and reached the same level in academical studies as the control group.
From Arizona I refer to the «early literacy» movement (Christie 1995). His language programme based on role play in language stimulating play corners is documented to give good effects on academic level in language.
So, does play pay?
I think the Norwegian «play revolution» for 6-10-year-olds in school have possibilities to become a success, on one condition: All teachers/preschool teachers for these children must have a thorough training in play pedagogics. My book and other literature in the same area is intending to help. Our national curriculum says that the Norwegian school shall foster the meaning-seeking, creative, hardworking, allround educated, cooperative , mileu-conscious human being. All these parts should together become the integrated human being. In my opinion the most integrated human being is HOMO LUDENS.
Play is culture creation and a necessary fundament for learning in primary school.
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