Google+ bakers and astronauts: Productivity v. Chaos

08 November 2011

Productivity v. Chaos

I don't know if I've ever mentioned this topic before, but it is something I struggle with as a teacher.  Although I feel like I have learned quite a bit about teaching, there are days when I feel that I don't know anything.

The photo above was taken in the middle of choice time on Monday.  I have had some challenges with this particular group of children and engagement - it was a much bigger challenge three months ago.  But between how the classroom environment is set up, what materials and prompts are presented, and how those materials and prompts are presented, I find that children are getting into their work.  And the work that so many of them love is dramatic play.

I have written about dramatic play before, and I hope that we can have a conversation about it here.  I am proponent of open-ended materials for children - I want them to make their own decisions about what they want to work on.  I stopped setting up stores and post offices and doctor's offices in the dramatic play area years ago, and I have tried putting in open-ended materials : scarves, shells, rocks, squares of fabric, chairs and tables - I have made many attempts.  Nothing has been the picture of success that I imagined as I presented the materials.  More often than not, small items are put into bags or wrapped in fabric and carried around the room; unifix cubes become pet food and legos are poured into a construction helmet and become soup.  It is very imaginative, but it ends within 3 minutes for something that draws the children in more.

My desire to support the children in my classroom as they explore the world through dramatic play is a double edged sword.  Do I tell them what to play by providing an exact "play environment"?  I know they are playing and exploring using open-ended materials, but I feel that I can support them better.  My struggle right now is to find the middle ground between teacher-chosen prompts and open-ended materials that children are not drawn to as imaginative props.

Do you set up dramatic play for children?  If you do, is it a topic that the children have seemed interested in?  If not, how do you engage the children in the play?

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