You know that famous scene in The Princess Bride, when the legendary Spanish swordsman, Inigo Montoya, says, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Growing up in the 80s and 90s, my brother’s room was a shrine to Michael Jordan. After I came home one day, devastated about missing out on a part for a children’s theater production, I was taken by my brother to his display. He pointed at one of his favorite posters.
The topic of “testing” gets a very passionate response from educators (and parents), and not usually a very good one. But ask them about assessments, and you’re likely to get a very different response. It may be a matter of semantics, but the underlying cause is not something to consider lightly.
The mystery of the disappearing recess, is not an uncommon topic of discussion in elementary education. The majority of adults remember a morning recess, a lunch recess, and an afternoon recess. I think most Americans would hazard a guess and say that there is probably less time devoted to recess today than in years gone by.
It was years ago that I read the passage, but it is one of the first that comes back to me as I consider the importance of recognizing that the work of the mind and the work of the body are inextricably linked.
The 30 million word gap has become somewhat legendary. But in case you missed the recurrent rumbling, here’s the quick rundown. Back in 1995, researchers Betty Hart and Todd Risley recorded hours and hours of interactions between parents and children. What they found was startling. By age three, the average child from a family in the professional class heard 30 million more words than did the average child living on welfare. What was perhaps most striking about this research was their finding that there was a tight link between the number of words a child heard and their future academic success. This link was so strong that it appears to exist even when other factors, including socioeconomic factors, were controlled for. In essence, they asserted that closing that word gap could close the achievement gap between the social classes.
Subsequent studies have found that it isn’t just the quantity of words, but the quality of conversation that makes such a big difference for kids. [Read more…]
Until about the mid 1700s, childhood wasn’t recognized as part of the lifespan. Children were viewed as miniature adults. The same rules, expectations, and responsibilities were applied equally to children and adults. (Hence, the child kings, child brides, child laborers, etc.) No one considered that children might have different needs, different ways of thinking, or different capacities. The shift in perspective that allowed adults to consider children and childhood to be unique was one of the great advances of the 18th century
“Way before we put a pencil in a child’s hand and ask him to write, we need to have a foundation of fine motor skills.”
One of my favorite moments during my last Powerful Play workshop was talking with the table of teachers who were doing their in-depth study on dramatic play. With wide eyes and excited tones they made connections between the play they saw in the classroom and the developmental benefits of playing pretend.
“Susie” played hospital for weeks after her brother was born. “Bobby” had themes of death woven through his play for a month after going to his grandfather’s funeral. “Lisa and Lori” spent most of their dress up time negotiating themes and characters. And the concept that pretending is actually part of building the foundation for reading — that one sparked a major a-ha moment.
Seeing how excited they became as they unpacked all of this, reminded me of why I love what I do. And made me want to give the same experience to you. So here’s a repost from the archives, originally posted in 2010. A primer on the purpose of playing pretend.
Share your observations of powerful play in the comments!
Many parents have come to their child’s preschool teacher with the same concern. “It seems like my child plays dress-up all day at preschool. What could he possibly be learning from that?” The question is understandable – what does he learn from leaping around with his cape fluttering behind him? And yet, the question is somewhat ironic, as these very parents likely spent much of their childhood engaged in the same kind of play. [Read more…]
“Developmentally Appropriate Practice”