Sunday, October 10, 2010

Parallel Play

Parallel play is a developmental stage in social activity wherein a child plays beside rather than with another child.

Both children may engage with the same toys (blocks, dolls, trucks, etc.) but they never quite acknowledge one another or join together in cooperative experiences.

It is what cognitive psychologists like Jean Piaget might define as an early stage of egocentrism, or a preoccupation with one's own views.

Teachers are often guilty of this.  We sequester ourselves inside our classrooms, behind closed doors, neglecting to share our ideas or successes.

Educational blogs are one way to combat this phenomenon.  They provide an outlet for us to open our doors and invite others into our "play".  Visiting one another's classrooms is another way.

At the end of the last school year Lauren and I ventured out to Long Island to do just that.  My friend Denise arranged for us to visit her kindergarten classroom (and we, in turn, reciprocated).  This year we have incorporated some of her ideas into our practice.

Most notably the way she conducted her morning meeting.  Morning meeting is a time where the "administrative business" of the day usually occurs.  Attendance is taken, we count off the number of days we have been in school, chart the weather, write a message together and develop calendar skills.  In the past we conducted this on the rug with all of the children seated.

Denise however did this while incorporating movement and exercise.  Her motto is "everything must have a dual purpose" and it is inspiring to see how effective this is.

Now, we begin each day on the rug for our greetings.  This is a time for American Sign Language (ASL) development without voice.  This is followed by hopping to one corner of the room to track the school days on our number line while counting forward and backwards.  Next we jump over to another area to chart attendance (again incorporating math skills and one to one matching).  Once this is completed the group hops over to the calendar and weather chart to focus on language associated with these concepts.

We conclude with some more exercise as Denise does in her classroom (counting jumping jacks, clapping hands with a partner, etc.) and by the time we begin our group word study lesson the children are ready to focus because they have "shaked the sillies out".

We gathered a plethora of ideas on our visit and I encourage other educators to open your doors and make your teaching visible.  As John Dewey wrote in The School and Society in 1899, "Helping others, instead of being a form of charity which impoverishes the recipient, is simply an aid in setting free the powers and furthering the impulse of the one helped. A spirit of free communication, of interchange of ideas, suggestions, results, both successes and failures of previous experiences, becomes the dominating note of the recitation".

13 comments:

Dumdad said...

Fascinating. I always learn something new from your blogposts. And your pupils are lucky to have a teacher who is forever seeking out new ways to make their education more useful, more fun, more thoughtful.

Akelamalu said...

It's always good to share ideas where children are involved. :)

Brian Miller said...

the exercise idea and dual intentions are realy cool ideas. i was just talking to our art teacher the other day about blogging with other art teachers to swap ideas and crit on what works or what works better...

and anytime you want some poetry, just let me know...

ModernMom said...

What a great blog! I'm so glad you stoppesd by my blog and paused to say hello!

I did acutally work with children with Special needs for more then 10 years until my second child was born. There is no more rewrding job in the world:)
Have a great day!
MM

Pauline said...

Shake those sillies out - a great way to start a scholar's day. We have shake the sillies opportunities throughout the day - second graders can be notoriously silly. It keeps we oldsters in good shape, too ;) And sharing ideas outside the classroom is so beneficial, not only to the ones who learn new ideas but as a verification of the sharer's ingenuity!

Barbara said...

I'm thinking of adding a morning meeting to my day. It sounds like a great way to get going and prepare for what lies ahead. I like the idea of "multi-tasking" during your form of morning meeting. And I love the idea of learning from others. It's a good reminder that we never have all the right answers, or better yet that there is no right answer!

Did I ever tell you that my favorite memory of kindergarten was when the teacher gave us an old red bedspread and said we could do anything we wanted with it. Big hunks of red fabric contributed to a new set of games we invented. We called them "red rags".

Gary said...

Dumdad - I can't imagine how torturous my teaching life would be if I stopped growing and learning 15 years ago when I started. Many of the teachers I have taught in college say that they are embarassed by the things they did when they were fledglings because they know so much more now. That is the nature of learning, to grow and become better at something. I don't think I was ever horrible but I am much better now.

Akelamalu - Yes, and beyond...

Brian - I will def let you know when the time comes. Thanks for your willingness to share as well.

ModernMom - Thanks! Raising children and teaching children has got to be a challenge in itself. It is nice to have some 'me' time every once in a while. Being a parent and a teacher must be difficult at times.

Pauline - Well stated, as always. Second graders are pretty amazing too.

Barbara - It is so true. We went on our visit for one reason but became more interested in other aspects of the day. You never know what will make an impact on someone, what they are ready to take away. There are no right answers as you say. So, your teacher gave you a red bedspread and all you kids tore it up? :) I LOVE how inventive children are.

willow said...

I like the notion of everything have a duel purpose. You know, I had a dream the other night about speaking in sign language. I hadn't dreamed in signs for a long time. (I used to be a licensed interpreter ages ago.)

Barbara said...

It was a very large red bedspread. Tearing it up into smaller pieces was the only way everyone could get a piece of the action so to speak!

I remember more from that year than perhaps any other year. I remember learning how to cross the street with the lights. I remember playing Rapunzel in a play. I remember eating my snack of Fritos with onion dip made by my Mom. What a strange collection of kindergarten memories!

lettuce said...

brilliant - what great ideas.

theres a lot of parallel playing goes on in University too.... wish I could see some of it transformed by this sort of activity!

Gary said...

Letty - Thank goodness my university teaching experience has been chock full of sharing and support. Maybe becasue I have only taught as an adjunct and the chair of the department provides so much, including an outline of the syllabus. I think I have had it relatively easy in that arena but once I have the doctorate maybe they won't be as supportive. We'll see...

Barbara - It is strange what we remember. I remember the exact moment in kindergarten when I learned to tie my shoes, nap time (on my small blanket on the floor in the dark with a bunch of other kids) and playing blocks while standing. I always wonder what my students will remember.

Willow - I forgot that you were an interpreter! How interesting. I remember the first time I dreamt in sign I was so excited. My instructor said you are on your way to learning when that happens. It was a milestone of sorts. I'd love to know more about your experience. Why did you sign and why did you stop?

Mona said...

It is so true. Specially now , when ppl have single children, socializing is nil, even in a group. That is why I feel that one must make them play games that involve more than one or two persons

Gary said...

Mona - The only child syndrome. I am so glad I had my brothers (one a twin which is a build in best friend) and my sister to keep me busy and socialized. There is also quite a bit of home schooling which also limits interaction.

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