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".