Thursday, July 02, 2020

How Children Make the World Meaningful

"Help! I've fallen!"

"Don't worry, dear, I'll help you!"

"I can't reach, dear!"

"Oh dear, let me reach farther!"

"Thank you, dear, you've saved me!"

"Are you okay, dear?"

"Yes, dear, I'm not hurt."

It was a cyclical game of turn taking with each of them "falling" to the bottom by running pell mell down the concrete slide, then the other two performing as rescuers, reaching out to take a hand and pull.

It was a game of relationships. Sometimes they were sisters and sometimes mothers and daughters.

It was a game of helpfulness, manners, and concern.

And it was a game of heroism.

They were so deeply engrossed in their game that they didn't even notice when I climbed up to stand with them.

Dramatic play is the thread that is woven through everything we do in our preschool. Our paintings, block buildings, and sensory play are vehicles for telling stories. When we're younger we play our stories alone, but as we reach four and five we tell our stories to and with our friends, building upon one another's imaginations, negotiating, insisting, compromising, dreaming.

This dramatic play is surrounded then by science, literacy, math, physical education, the arts and humanities, tools we take from the shelf as we need them, learning to use them at the level at which we comprehend them in the context of the story we are telling together. These "academic subjects" don't stand at the center of what we do at school, but rather exist to support us as we explore worlds of our own creation, practicing the relationships, manners, and courage that we need to live a fulfilling life.

When we turn that on its head, when we place the "subjects" at the center and push the stories to the side the way normal schools do, we render that knowledge and those skills meaningless. Dramatic play is how children make the rest of the world meaningful and it's from there that the rest flows.

"I'll save you, dear!"

"You can do it, dear!"

"Oh dears, we did it!"


I'm excited to announce that Teacher Tom's Second Book is now available in the UK, Iceland, and Europe thanks to my friends at Fafunia! It's also available in the US and Canada. If you want to go directly to the Fafunia page click here.  And if you missed it, Teacher Tom's First Book is back in print as well.

And finally, this is uncomfortable for me, but I earn most of my income by speaking at education conferences and running in-person workshops. I've had 95 percent of my income wiped out for the foreseeable future due to everything being cancelled. I'm hustling to become a new and improved Teacher Tom. I know I'm not the only one living with economic insecurity, but if you like what you read here, please consider hitting the yellow donate button below. 

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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