The battle between play and eduction

So often it seems like there is a battle going on between play and education.  Many people seem to feel that education is something that must be done sitting in rows at desks, and that worksheets are the most sure way to teach and to learn.  Yet play is so important for children, and many parents and schools overlook play as unimportant.  The following quote describes a study that was done to see how play impacts learning.  Specifically, they tested to see if there was a correlation between literacy and time spent in sociodramatic play.  The results emphasize the tremendous value of play and show the ways that play can be a tool for education rather than fighting against it.


“…Bodrova and Leong’s Tools of the Mind preschool and kindergarten classrooms, based on Vygotsky’s theory of cognitive development and the work of his student, Elkonin, use sociodramatic play to foster literacy.  These classrooms contain dramatic play areas where children spend a substantial amount of time daily, and dramatic play permeates many classroom activities.  Teachers support children’s play by helping them create imaginary situations, providing props and expanding possible play roles.  Children, with the teacher’s assistance, develop written play plans, including the theme, the roles, and the rules that will govern the play.  Studies of the Tools of the Mind curriculum support its effectiveness (Bodrova & Leong, 2001; Bodrova, Leong, Norford, & Paynter, 2003).  In one study, children who spent 50 to 60 minutes of a 2½-hour program engaging in supported sociodramatic play scored higher on literacy skills than did children in control classrooms (Bodrova & Leong, 2001).  Thus, play, rather than detracting from academic learning, actually supported it.  More recent research, published in Science, showed positive effects of the curriculum on executive functioning, particularly cognitive control (Diamong, Barnett, Thomas, & Munro, 2007).  In this study, 147 5-year-olds in a low-income, urban U.S. school district were randomly assigned to classrooms using either Tools of the Mind curriculum or another literacy curriculum.  Children were evaluated on two measures of executive functioning:  (a) ability to hold abstract rules in mind; and (b) ability to focus attention, ignore distractions, and switch focus of attention.  For the first measure, most children in the Tools of the Mind group completed the task successfully, compared to fewer than one-third of the children in the comparison group.  Children in the Tools of the Mind group also outperformed comparison children on their ability to switch focus of attention” (Zigler & Bishop-Josef, 2009, p. 9).