Re: Play discussion revisited: Re: LCHC play words meeting notes 4-18-05

From: Mike Cole (
Date: Sat May 21 2005 - 16:30:00 PDT

Seems like people are still in the end of semester frenzy, Ana, at least I
know I am! This is exam time for
grads and undergrads and deadlines for qualifying paper.. Madness!

I find it hard to imagine strong comparisons across these playworld
experiments, although the participants
seem to have some ideas about it. Beth and I discussed the information
contained in field notes and conjunction with/comparison
with video of the proceedings. A lot of work has to be done on a purely
descriptive level just to learn what each kind of represention
yields within a given play world sequence. I believe that the
representations will be complementary.

I am interested in this general topic of mode of representation of our
objects of analysis and what they afford for conclusions, explanations, etc.
I was impressed, for example, with the fact that while I had read Kris G's
AERA talk and I have talked to her about the summer migrant
program more than once the emotional force of the performance activities did
not come through in the written talk (nore, I suspect would
they come through in an oral presentation) but they NEEDED the video that
made manifest the socioemotional force of the activities.

I hope we can start publishing articles accompanied by web file videos to
enrich our ability to communicate about our objects of analysis.
(Hah-- in our spare time!)

On 5/18/05, Ana Marjanovic-Shane <> wrote:
> April is gone, it is the second part of May. Hopefully, many people's end
> of semester frenzy is gone too and maybe we can get back to the April play
> discussions. I was re-reading description of the 4-18-05 discussion and
> conference with Penttie Hakkarainen. Here are some long due comments:
> ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
> *Excerpt from the discussion (which you can also find below after these
> comments:*
> ***"Mike* referred back to Pentti's four types of interventions noting
> that one might distinguish them further in terms of content (problem solving
> adventures and folktales), who participates (professional actors), and
> purpose (developing narrative skills, inducing aesthetic reactions). Is
> there a relationship between the content and the participation structure? He
> posed a further question: How do you measure, outline, or characterize the
> outcome of what is being done in the play world?"
> *Comment:*
> *ANA*: I want to make a comment regarding the issue directly above in the
> text. Also, toward the end of the discussion the same or similar issue is
> stated like this:
> "The conversation returned to the topic of how to evaluate, measure the
> activities in the play world. Pentti acknowledged the difficulty of
> evaluating the play world as it centers on the process rather than the
> results of learning. The question of evaluation is relative to the aims of
> each play world site."
> So far, the descriptions of play episodes are very "thin" (global and not
> very elaborate) [despite the fact that they are nice and meaningful – please
> do not take this as a criticism!!!] –However, there are many dimensions that
> are mentioned: for instance: (a) introduced content; (b) who participates;
> (c) purpose; (d) length of play intervention; (e) props, costumes, stage
> development; (e) ownership; etc.
> It seems to me that before "evaluating" play worlds outcomes, one needs to
> develop descriptive techniques such that one can compare different episodes
> of play worlds described in this discussion session or in any other project.
> The main problem here, as I see it is to develop ways to describe a process
> (as Pentti said) rather than a result of learning. It is the main problem
> because it is a description of a dynamic, unpredictable and evolving
> activity – and yet, if we want to begin any evaluation, there must be a way
> to compare them on more dimensions and in a greater detail then to just note
> the difference in the length of time or the level of "professional"
> expertize in dramatic arts.
> In order to describe a process, I think, that we need to think of what
> constitutes a *"unit" of a process *– or at least what are *the "points"
> in the process* that are significant for the process itself.
> One type of the units of a process that Mike mentioned, I think in the
> previous discussion, are various *transitions *(from one world to another)
> and *points of transformations* (of activities, characters, participant
> roles, etc...). For instance in the Narnia series, it is clear that the
> transition in the play world and out of the play world through the cupboard,
> became something very significant to everyone, maybe a bit more to the
> teacher (Tigerr). How are these transitions doing in the other play worlds
> in Japan and in Finland? Are there any other transitions in and out of the
> play world that should be described. For instance , Pentti mentioned
> children's participation in decision making. Is that decision making done
> "within" the play world or, do the children and adults "freeze" the play
> world in order to "make a decision" or both? What are the means by which
> these kinds of transitions are done?
> What other kinds of units of a process would be important for the
> comparison of different play worlds? Here I think of particular *"moves" *by
> which a play word is built or unraveled, i.e. what strengthens and builds
> up the world, and what is a move that destroys and un-builds...
> Ana
> Robert Lecusay wrote:
> Here they are (in the body as well as an attachment). I have also attached
> a copy of Kiyotaka Miyazaki's presentation.
> (Since it's my first time posting to XMCA, I should introduce myself: I'm
> Robert Lecusay, first year grad student here at the LCHC, working with
> Beth, Mike, Sonja, Lars, Tiger, Christian, and Kelli on the play worlds
> project. Nice to meet you all!)
> take care,
> robert
> Play worlds Meeting at LCHC
> April 18, 2004
> Kiyotaka Miyazaki Presenting
> This was a joint teleconference between the Play worlds group in Finland
> (Pentti Hakkarainen) and the LCHC.
> After introductions Kiyo began his presentation on the play world project
> he ran in a kindergarten in Ibi, Gifu prefecture, Japan. (See the attached
> file for the full text of the presentation.)
> Briefly, Kiyo described the study site and the general characteristics of
> the project. He noted that the Japanese play world differed from the LCHC
> play world in the fact that it took place over a comparatively short
> period of time (3 days vs. the ongoing weekly interactions) and that it
> involved professional artists (actors, musicians, and a playwright). The
> play world was based on a character that appears in many traditional
> Japanese folktales, Oni the ogre. Over the three day summer play world
> session, the children in the kindergarten engaged with teachers and actors
> in a variety of activities that centered on the theme of Oni: reading
> books, reciting rhymes, playing tag, and drawing pictures. On the final
> day of activities the children, teachers, and actors took part in an
> elaborate, large-scale pretend play activity involving, among other
> things, the "kidnapping" of teachers by Oni, the rescue of the teachers by
> the children, and making peace with Oni.
> Next Pentti discussed what he saw as the four types of interventions
> represented in the different play world projects:
> 1. Problem-solving adventures in which the problem solving is part of the
> development of the story (e.g. Narnia)
> 2. Play worlds based on classical stories and folktales - Here the problem
> solving aspect is not explicit.
> 3. Play worlds involving the collaboration of professional artists.
> 4. Dialogical drama approach using puppets (Finland)
> Sonja wondered to what degree the Narnia play world was an educational
> intervention that, for example, helps promote children's narrative
> development, literacy, or oral language skills vs. a production – creating
> an event that changes the quality of children's experiences, their
> experiences of school, of their interactions with their teacher.
> She referred to three "genres" that were at work in the play world:
> - Theatrical techniques for creating suspense (e.g. lighting, costumes)
> - Traditional pedagogical techniques (e.g. small group activities)
> - Activities from children's culture (e.g. drawing, pretend play)
> Pentti added that play pedagogy was theory driven, based on Gunilla
> Lindqvist's reading of Vygotsky's ideas about the aesthetics of play, that
> aesthetic techniques are a way of inducing emotional reactions in
> children.
> Mike referred back to Pentti's four types of interventions noting that one
> might distinguish them further in terms of content (problem solving
> adventures and folktales), who participates (professional actors), and
> purpose (developing narrative skills, inducing aesthetic reactions). Is
> there a relationship between the content and the participation structure?
> He posed a further question: How do you measure, outline, or characterize
> the outcome of what is being done in the play world?
> Pentti's approach is to use structured field notes that include
> descriptions of the activity, the participants in the activity, and the
> role of these participants among other things. The notes are examined in
> order to determine the "kind of sense creation that happens with the
> kids." He added that it is also important to note the children's
> contribution to the development of the play world (what they propose
> happens next, the emotions expressed in this decision-making, how the kids
> define the problems in the play world).
> Nilda (in Finland) (Milda? not sure if I have her name right) spoke about
> her work which, compared to the LCHC and Japan play worlds, is more
> structured because of its institutional nature. Second-year university
> students enrolled in a practicum course (Development and Learning through
> Play) visit children (6 weeks – 5 yrs. old) once a week for four hours and
> engage in dramatizations and play activities. The dramatizations
> (currently puppet shows) last about ten minutes then the rest of the time
> is spent engaging with the kids (those who want to participate) in
> self-directed play activities. Observations are made of the type of play
> the kids engage in after the performances and from these observations the
> students and researchers try to understand what ideas were important for
> the kids. Nilda mentioned two examples. One of a girl who over time drew a
> series of drawing that made up a story. The other of an individualistic
> boy who, collaborating with a five year old girl and using all of the
> artifacts that had been created by the kids in the classroom during play
> related activities, put on a puppet show for everyone (the boy invited
> parents!) What was notable about this was the fact that the boy went from
> simply engaging in play to cooperatively organizing a dramatization
> (including telling the audience how to behave).
> Sonja wanted to confirm her interpretation of what Pentti and Nilda were
> discussing: the intervention objectives were not necessarily determined in
> advance but instead emerged in interaction with the children who each
> brought in their own perspectives.
> Nilda responded that her goals and expectations were for the kids to be
> flexible players, to be able to play with others, to be able to create
> narratives in different forms. She then turned to the issue of involving
> professional artists in the play world, arguing that they are necessary
> because they can create and explain art forms in ways that school teachers
> cannot.
> Kiyo returned to Mike's earlier question about understanding the purpose
> of the individual play project. He explained that at the outset of his
> project his purpose was to help children construct imaginary worlds to
> promote the development of imagination as a cognitive tool. This he hoped
> would in turn serve as a resource for the children to draw on in their
> everyday school activities. He went on to note the complications of trying
> to understand the relationship between the everyday school activities of
> the play intervention, noting that teachers, artists, and children have
> different goals. He also argued that teachers play an important part in
> developing children's imaginative activities in part because they are
> engaged with the every day.
> Pentti posed the question: Is imagination mediating between the play
> situation and the classroom situation? And went on to say that play or
> dramatizations do not necessarily translate directly into everyday
> situations.
> Nilda returned to Kiyo's point, agreeing that the main objective is to
> develop the child's imagination, adding that it is important to create a
> space in which the child feels that he or she can think and do anything (a
> space which begins with play). Imagination, after all, is an activity that
> is necessary in all the subject areas children encounter in school (e.g.
> math, physics).
> Kiyo argued that school teachers mediate the resources that the children
> gain from play through the everyday school activities.
> Sonja asked Beth if she wanted to speak.
> Beth began by describing two moments that impressed her from her visit to
> the Finish play world site, moments that showed the children's sense of
> ownership of the play space. One moment, witnessing the kids rushing to
> take off their coats to begin playing, and another when the kids forced
> one of the actors, who was sick and preparing to return home, to put her
> costume back on to play. Beth continued with anecdotes from the Narnia
> play world. One child who said he hated the story, but only because it
> occurred once a week. He wanted it to happen everyday. Another child who
> was sick and who had to go home, but who cried her way into staying to try
> and participate, but eventually had to leave because she had a fever. Beth
> felt that this enthusiasm had something to do with the fact that the
> teacher is fully participating in the play activity as well, that there is
> space in which the adults and children have a shared sense of space and
> time.
> Nilda agreed that in the play situation adults begin to feel and think
> like the children which in turn may give insight into the child's learning
> process. She also brought up the point that children always have to deal
> with the adult world, but in the play situation the adults enter the
> child's world and show their respect for it, there is a recognition that
> learning for children begins from their world, not necessarily from the
> adult world.
> Brian noted the fact that the narratives used in the play worlds contained
> many traumatic situations. He asked about the relationship of these
> traumatic situations to the intense engagement of the children, and how
> this related to the process of choosing the narratives that formed the
> basis of these play worlds.
> Sonja responded that the children insert their personal narratives into
> the main narrative as they begin to interact with the characters of the
> story. She highlighted the example of the boy who wanted to have the play
> world occur everyday, saying that perhaps this was a manifestation of the
> boy's desire for constancy. The boy lives with his grandmother and is only
> occasionally visited by his parents.
> The conversation returned to the topic of how to evaluate, measure the
> activities in the play world. Pentti acknowledged the difficulty of
> evaluating the play world as it centers on the process rather than the
> results of learning. The question of evaluation is relative to the aims of
> each play world site.
> Mike brought up the issue of comparability of, for example, the
> pre-k/k/primary school play worlds to work in high schools, like that
> being conducted by Yrjo Engestrom. What about teacher evaluations of the
> projects? What about examining the children's representations of the play
> world in their drawings?
> Pentti ended with a final comment about evaluations of Finish school
> children showing that they scored high in cognitive abilities but low in
> motivation!

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