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[Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --

Well, you certainly caught my attention with this message, Beth.
You wanted questions.
What would you take (in the context of young children) to be the simplest unit of "symbolic thought"?
And what would you take to be the simplest unit of "play"?
I am out of my comfort zone here, Beth, so there is no trick or anything here. I can't make sense of these questions otherwise. Vygotsky tells us that there is preverbal intelligence and preintellectual speech. So I don't find observations of 1-year-olds decisive on the question of the relation between play and symbolic thought.

*Andy Blunden*

Beth Ferholt wrote:
Thank you for all the interesting responses, both the ones in this chain
and the many private responses we received -- we have been hard at work
thinking and reading in response!

We had not read all of the things that people sent, before -- Francine, can
you send your dissertation? -- but we were familiar with much of it of it,
also the work on play and narrative development, language development, and
metaphor. BTW, we just heard Bert van Oers talk, a very interesting talk,
and he mentioned near the start that the connection was inconclusive (a
2013 literature review – ).

However, what made us reach out to XMCA was the following dilemma:

The teachers at the preschool where we are working are generally suspicious
of developmental theory. Gunilla Dahlberg and Peter Moss write some of the
books they read in their training, and argue convincingly that
developmental theory is very important to the discourse that supports a
deficit model of the child. These teachers turn to Deluze before Piaget and
they are also wary of Vygotsky -- through the looking glass compared to
preschools in the US -- *and* these are the preschools that (because of
their practice) we would most want to be in if we were young children, or
would most want our kids and grandkids to be in, hand-down.

In any case, many of these teachers have taken on the task of showing us
that our idea that play leads to symbolic thought is not right. They show
us all this amazing play -- and symbolic thought -- that one year olds are
doing. They make films and take photographs and the give hour-long
presentations to us : ).

For instance, they showed us one year olds pretending a blade of grass was
a key and "opening" a locked door and describing what they saw inside. They
showed us one year olds using letters and numbers. In fact, my own just-two
year old, who has been attending their preschool for almost a year, could
identify letters and numbers months ago, and also seems to have an idea of
what these symbols mean/ are for (although I have to think more about why I
think this -- I DO think it is right, but why -- ). Many children in my
child's class do this, he is certainly not "gifted" when it come to
reading, so the point is that I had to see it in a child I knew really well
to believe it ... and I did, and I do.

So, we are stuck. We really are not ready to give up the relationship
between play and symbolic thought. But we are confused by what we are
seeing these very young children doing, and I suppose that when we wrote
XMCA we were sort of hoping for some impossible and longitudinal experiment
that showed that without play symbolic thought does not develop : ) . Of
course we know from Gaskins and Goncu that this is probably not right? So
perhaps an experiment that showed children incapable of symbolic thought,
playing, and then all of a sudden -- presto – hmmm.

Do people have further thoughts or questions for us? THey would be much
appreciated. We don't want to leave the teachers without defending what we
still think is so important about play, but maybe children are more capable
of both pretend play and symbolic thought, when they are very, very young,
than we thought after our years of teaching in other contexts (in which we
were less supported in seeing the competent child -- really the competent
toddler or even baby in this case) and than we though about after our
reading of VYgotsky on play.

Thanks to a few comments we ARE back to Wartovsky – It may be less about
seeing a competent child in these schools, than about their emphasis on the
arts?  Or maybe it’s both?

THank you all again for the help with this, Beth and Monica

On Fri, Sep 20, 2013 at 3:18 AM, larry smolucha <lsmolucha@hotmail.com>wrote:

Message from Francine Smolucha:
I would not hesitate to say that play is essential for
development(cognitive, social, emotional,and neurological).
Elena Bodrova and Deborah Leong's Tools of the Mind Preschool
Curriculumhas also provided supporting evidence that spans these four
domains.They have an ongoing study with the University of Chicago.While
their focus is on self-regulation which itself courses all four
domains,they also teach the preschool teachers how to teach the children to
use object substitutions in pretend play. There is much potential here for
a systematic study of the role of object substitutions in learning to use
symbol systems.
Date: Thu, 19 Sep 2013 10:34:28 +0200
From: bferholt@gmail.com
To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --

We will look at your dissertation, from 1991, this is helpful.  And yes,
this is what we are thinking about.  Your response makes me think more
broadly about the challenge the teachers we are working with are posing
our conception of the importance of play in child development ... I think
we must be more clear about this before we can answer my question, above.
 I don't think we want to say play is essential, so then we need to ask
we want to say it is hard to replace, or particularly efficient at what
does -- The response will not be found in one experiment. Thank you!
On Thu, Sep 19, 2013 at 3:01 AM, larry smolucha <lsmolucha@hotmail.com

Message from Francine Smolucha:
According to Vygotsky, object substitutions in pretend play (such as
riding on a stick as if it were a  horse) are the pivot for separating
meaning from object. The ability to make the gesture with a non-replica
object leads to more abstract symbols such as using pictorial
representation (such as stick people and stick animals in drawings, i.
line drawings) to words made out of alphabet letters and numerical
notations. I do not know of any one longitudinal study that documented
progression, but there are certainly studies thatfocused on specific
components. My doctoral dissertation University of Chicago
how objects changed their names and functions in pretend play (a
longitudinal study of toddlers aged 14- to 28- months.) Isn't that the
basic definition of a symbol - that one object can stand for another
(re-present another)???
Are you thinking of something along these lines?
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2013 12:31:41 +0200
From: bferholt@gmail.com
To: xmca-l@mailman.ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Re: Play and symbolic thought --

We are wondering if there is anything actually showing that play
the development of symbolic thought ... we do not have an idea what
experiment could look like : ) ... anytime it was done is fine! Beth

On Tue, Sep 17, 2013 at 7:18 PM, Hansen, Monica <
monica.hansen@vandals.uidaho.edu> wrote:

What specifically about Vygotsky's claims and the relationship
play and symbolic thought are you looking for research to
substantiate? Are
you looking for contemporary research? What kind of research? The
not always easy or direct because Vygotsky's thoughts encompassed
ideas within which a myriad of approaches to research on this topic
can be
framed and approached. At least this has been my experience in
down :)
--The other Monica

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:
xmca-l-bounces@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Beth Ferholt
Sent: Tuesday, September 17, 2013 10:06 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Cc: xmca-l@ucsd.edu
Subject: [Xmca-l] Play and symbolic thought --

Monica and I have been talking about Vygotsky's work on the
between play and symbolic thought and been being challenged by
preschool teachers.  Is there an experiment that shows Vygotsky was
in his claims about this relationship?  We can't find any!
Beth Ferholt
Assistant Professor
School of Education
Brooklyn College, City University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889

Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Phone: (718) 951-5205
Fax: (718) 951-4816

Beth Ferholt
Assistant Professor
School of Education
Brooklyn College, City University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889

Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Phone: (718) 951-5205
Fax: (718) 951-4816

Beth Ferholt
Assistant Professor
School of Education
Brooklyn College, City University of New York
2900 Bedford Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11210-2889

Email: bferholt@brooklyn.cuny.edu
Phone: (718) 951-5205
Fax: (718) 951-4816

Status: O