Often times as educators we are so focused on teaching material to students, that if we just sat back and “listened” to them, we would learn a great deal about them and they too can play the teachers to show us some things. I like the quote in the summary of the assignment description. It states “Listening… means giving value to the other; it does not matter whether you agree” (Rinaldi, 2006). As a mother I find myself wanting to interrupt or cut off some of the things my oldest says without even really taking time to listen to her. Allowing her the ability to freely express her thoughts enables me to understand fully her own unique thought process and supports the Constructivist approach in knowing a student’s suppositions. Brooks agrees with this statement by saying “Students in classrooms that emphasize ‘rightness and wrongness’ cease to offer their views on issues unless they feel confident that their acknowledged and discussed” (Brooks, 1999). It is important to observe and listen to our students so that we can see how they learn and really find out their interests. I have found within my area of professionalism that observations are great ways to note where children are. In this paper you will read about an observation that took place within my home of one of my nieces.
Halo is my niece and I have had the pleasure of watching her grow up from a tiny, bowlegged toddler to a talkative kindergartner today. Halo is 5 years old but has always been ahead of her time. She is an energetic, enthusiastic little girl that has lots of conversations and opinions. She enjoys dancing, eating and playing with her Barbie dolls. I observed Halo last Saturday afternoon after doing her hair. My daughter was out of town (her usual playmate of choice) so I was able to spend an afternoon with her and my son alone and when I read this assignment was excited to have the pleasure of writing about my observations.
Initially entering my home, Halo excitedly ran up the steps automatically searching for my daughter. After explaining her absence, she seemed to be a little disappointed but then quickly stated that it was ok to spend the afternoon with me! We began to braid her hair and seeing my son playing alone immediately gravitated towards playing with him. Having a 3 year age difference, there was no hesitation in dominating the situation. They were playing with my son’s vetch smart cars fire station and she jumped right in to tell him how to play, what to do, and what car he could have. Him, being younger and her “being the boss” allowed her to control the play which I thought was going to be a tragic situation because my son is very strong willed and likes his way. I was pleasantly surprised that although giving instructions, her demeanor was very gentle and my son seemed to enjoy playing along with her. He welcomed and requested her instruction for what to do with his cars and got a kick out of her car noises and animated ad libs. After about 10mins of following instructions and nap time growing closer, my son grew impatient with following her lead and began doing his own thing. Halo initially became very annoyed because he was no longer playing the she wanted with his things! She also stated many times that she was older and he needed to listen to her. I had to explain to Halo that because of their age differences that he was only going to follow suit for a short period of time and that those were his toys that normally he plays with however he likes without interruption and although she is older, she must respect the fact that those are his toys and that she cannot boss him into playing how she wants. This situation supports the psychoanalytic perspective that the ego is active and autonomous and involves competence, control and positive relationships with others (Copple, 2012).
There was a specific time within this play that the behavioral learning theory was exhibited. Halo was instructing Cameron (my son) how to properly put the car tracks together and then roll the cars across it. She both instructed and showed him how to do it and then told him if he allowed the track to stay together she would “allow” him to have a second car to push along. This is in line with the texts description of the behavioral theory perspective. “ A child needs to learn to assess the relative value of different rewards, choose appropriate goals for the setting & the child’s own level, give themselves previously learned instructions or successfully follow instructions provided by others and monitoring their own actions.
After completing her hair, I put my son down for nap and Halo immediately ran to the mirror to look at herself. All you could hear was her self-praise and admiration for what she looked like and I immediately noticed how high her self-esteem was at 5! Being the flamboyant personality she is, she then wanted to dress up and ran to my daughters dress up clothes. She then immediately went into full dramatic play mode grabbing the baby dolls and dishes to have a tea party. I figured she may ask for some assistance because as my daughter does she needs an extra real person to play tea with. Not Halo! She played all the characters and even changed tones and voices to represents each different baby. Her ability to be so imaginative and created for such a long period (35min exactly) was astounding. By allowing her to dress up and play out her own imaginative story is supporting the growth of complex dramatic play roles and rules and encouraging independent learning and problem solving (Copple 2012). This was great evidence of her ability to self-regulate. After the tea party, she moved on to the dolls and doll house where she again let her creativity emerge until it was time to clean up and her mother came.
It was very interesting to watch Halo individual play and interaction with my son. From watching her alone I see that she is very comfortable with actively playing alone and needs no one to enjoy the materials she is presented with. Her confidence and dominant personality is showing not only within herself but in her interactions with others. One concerning issue is her need to be “the boss” of her peers and younger ones around her. Existing in an age and time where bullying is present and growing, this can eventually be misunderstood and possibly turn into that without proper guidance of her educators, parents and family around her. From watching Halo, it gave me a slight glimpse into the maturity and independence that my daughter will soon develop. It gave me the ability to see that dramatic play is a great way for children to express themselves freely and use their imaginations. It is also a way for them to show how they interact with others and how they apply their problem solving skills with conflict resolution.
By watching Halo, it has shown me the importance of dramatic play and that I should incorporate more activities involving these elements to help develop their imaginations and relationships skills. It also encourages me to provide more free evolving activities that involve the children exploring materials freely and coming up with their own learning experiences without my direction.
1. Copple, Carol. (2012). Growing Minds: Building strong cognitive foundations in early childhood. Washington, D.C.:NAEYC
2. Brooks, J.G. & Brooks M. G. (1999). In Search of Understanding: The Case for constructivist classrooms. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development.
3. Rinaldi, C. (2006). In dialogue with Reggio Emilia: Listening, researching, and learning. New York: Routledge.