One Scene at a Time: Imaginative Play as The Young Person's Frame of Reference
Vivian Gussin Paley
University of Chicago (retired)
Last modified: April 2, 2007
Presentation date: 07/19/2007 8:30 AM in Coast Hotel Ballroom
In our eagerness to achieve classrooms of early readers and writer's, we tend to hurry past the original source material that preoccupies the thoughts of our youngest students. "Pretend I'm a baby unicorn and I can't fly because i don't got feathers" carries us further than "B is for baby" and "F is for feathers." The sounds of letters and the shapes of words are causing us to overlook the remarkable display of language, ideas and logic taking root in the doll corner and blocks.
"I can dig you some feathers," say the Threes and Fours who are far ahead of us in matters of curriculum. They know that "Let's pretend" draws upon the strengths of every child and that under the guidance of fantasy play no one is left behind. ""Pretend I'm the fairy that glues in feathers but I lost my powers" properly sets up the next scene anc keeps the story going.
The doll corner exists in a world free of technology and direct instruction and is the first place in which to expore the nature of imagination. It is where children find roles to play and questions to ask as they begin to build intimate school communities. "Here is your power back!" says Batman. "A wicked ogre stealed it."
Watching the unfolding of dramatic play we see how children mix logistics with friendship as they listen and act upon every concern. There is no activity they take more seriously, nor one that better represents their thinking. Like the fairy who loses her power, we will find ours again in the doll corner.