Maureen’s thinking about her students who play with race cars every day got me thinking about “periods” in our lives. Periods when it might seem we are getting a little stuck but perhaps there is more going on.
Picasso’s painting between 1901 and 1904 came to be known as his “Blue Period.” In fact he went on to have a “Rose Period,” “African Period,” and “Cubist Period.” He often painted the same people throughout these periods.
When my daughter was five, the animated Disney movie of The Little Mermaid was her favorite. Over the course of her entire year of kindergarten, the only thing she painted was Ariel on a rock in the water. My husband and I came to call this her “Little Mermaid Period.”
Maybe her efforts to become proficient at portraying her favorite story character provided a touchstone in this busy first year of school.
I don’t rotate the toys in my classroom as often as I used to because I’ve found that when my students have more time to play and explore what they find fascinating, their vocabulary, understanding and ability to explain their thinking is strengthened. This isn’t to say I don’t work to stimulate their exploration of other areas and new mediums but I’ve developed some perspective about what sometimes seems like repetitive play scenarios.
I have some students who want to play with dolls and dress-up all year long. These students can create and tell me detailed stories about the lives they imagine for themselves and their loved ones.
I have a few students who play with blocks every day. They have developed a keen understanding of how to choose blocks to support their architectural plans and they are able to explain their ideas to their peers.
This climbing box used to become a conundrum for me over time because it seemed to be a haven for the same students day after day after day. But now, I “embrace the box!” I’ve realized that my students who beg to build a dark fort in the box every day are often children without much privacy and independence in their own homes.
Like Maureen, I try to be right in the middle of my student’s play. At first glance, their actions may seem repetitive to me, but as I watch and listen, I find this immersion to be a process of refinement. The continuous interaction and conversation distill the play to its most essential elements, and then daily engagement works over time to weave and layer in new learning and thinking.