2. Improving Children’s Socio-Dramatic Play

What is “socio-dramatic play?” It is the mechanism in which children recreate, through their natural inclination to play, incidents they have experienced and/or have made up in fantasy.

Teaching Challenge

Children’s socio-dramatic play was deemed inadequate.


Strategy: The approach was to introduce “talking time” during the circle time, when the children would come together as a group and activities were planned for the day. This served “Talking Time” to create opportunities for children to express ideas for socio-dramatic play, and to generate ways for educators to support those ideas.

Context: The action research took place in a rural Head-Start Pre-K classroom for 4-5 year olds. There were 16 children in the class with a lead educator and an assistant educator. Full day care was provided to children including those with exceptional learning needs. Educators used the High/Scope curriculum and Head-Start learning outcomes to guide their teaching.


The introduction of a strategy called “Talking Time” to Circle time gave children a daily opportunity to express their own ideas for socio-dramatic play and how educators should support their play. Once educators understood children’s ideas, they knew how to progressively facilitate the socio-dramatic play through relevant conversations, provision of appropriate play materials, and intentionally including children into the play. Video recordings enabled educators to track individual children’s involvement in the development of the play.


(1) Children’s fleeting socio-dramatic play existed, but educators did not recognize it.

(2) Children’s imaginative play was only apparent when educators asked them “open-ended” questions. An open-ended question requires more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer.

(3) “Talking Time” revealed that boys often had multiple, dynamic, and sequential ideas for socio-dramatic play.

(4) Children’s ideas comprised fantasy and real topics and often included moral themes.

(5) Children had creative ideas about how they could use materials to make their own play props.

(6) Children’s ideas for socio-dramatic play moved between circle time, the art area, and the socio-dramatic center.

(7) When children shared props, their play was more inclusive and encouraged control over their own actions.

(8) When children used their own ideas in socio-dramatic play, educators observed their greater use of literacy and mathematical skills and educators were able to transition to facilitating rather than controlling the play.

Fig. 2.1: The teaching challenge ~ children’s socio-dramatic play was inadequate

Educators identified the poor quality of children’s socio-dramatic play in this challenge, and described it thus: Few children went into the socio-dramatic play area, and if they did, they did not stay there for any significant amount of time. Children’s play was thought to be “basic” because they commonly used objects in literal ways, e.g., a child holds a doll and offers it a drink from a cup, as seen in fig. 2.1. Educators wondered if computer games had robbed children of imagination. Children, the educators speculated, were now used to being entertained, and were far less inclined to make up their own play plots or sustain them. Working parents had little time to interact and play with their children which may be one explanation for the lack of children’s socio-dramatic play.

To investigate the challenge further, the teacher candidate recorded a video of the children in the socio-dramatic play area. As educators watched the video, they more fully comprehended and described the teaching challenge, and expressed their own beliefs about socio-dramatic play.

Many children, boys in particular, did not interact in the socio-dramatic play area. Some boys were disruptive and broke each other’s props. Boys tended to act out roles on their own, e.g., changing the baby and mopping the floor. Educators said the boys did not play well together. Socio-dramatic play had a “cookie-cutter” quality about it and was described as “boring.” Educators wondered how they could get children, and boys in particular, to interact more in the socio-dramatic area. Sustaining the play was also part of the challenge because it often consisted of isolated tasks that were gender traditional and difficult to develop, e.g., carrying the baby around and changing the baby’s diaper.

Materials in the socio-dramatic area reflected everyday situations, e.g., going to a restaurant or visiting a beauty shop. Children used cooking pots and dress-up clothes, but materials were not used imaginatively to represent other purposes. The lack of imaginative plots made further development of the play more difficult.

Values about Socio-Dramatic Play

Educators said socio-dramatic play supported children’s development, both social and emotional. It helped children accept others who were different from themselves, and to learn tolerance of children with diverse needs. The socio-dramatic area offered boys the opportunity to take on roles that challenged stereotypical male behavior. It was thought useful for boys to act out traditionally female roles because they could then learn about social and family dynamics of varied composition.

Alignment with NAEYC Standards

The value of play in children’s lives was emphasized in NAEYC Standards (2009) and was articulated in detail in Standard 1: Promoting Child Development and Learning; Standard 3: Observing, Documenting and Assessing to Support Young Children and Families; and Standard 4: Using Developmentally Effective Approaches to Connect with Children and Families. Well prepared early childhood teacher candidates were required to base their practice on a sound knowledge and understanding of young children’s characteristics and needs through play. They were to provide children with opportunities to play and learn so that they understood and made sense of experiences both through spontaneous and guided investigations. Because spontaneous play was a powerful force in support of children’s development, well-prepared teacher candidates were expected to observe and support children in playful situations and in more formal learning contexts.

Aims of the Action Research

The aims of this action research project were to enable the team to improve socio-dramatic play, aligning it with relevant standards; building consistency for teacher candidates between their college and Practicum experiences; and, improving teacher candidates’ planning and teaching of their socio-dramatic play lesson.

Creating a Baseline Assessment

The team created a “check-list” of the teaching challenges they identified. While watching a 20-minute video of children in the socio-dramatic area, the team was able to count the frequency of each behavior to assess how problematic it was.

Teaching Challenges in socio-dramatic play Frequencies
Children do not play together 6
Children do not share materials 3
Socio-dramatic play is mundane 5
Socio-dramatic play is not sustained 3
Socio-dramatic play area is underused 3
Socio-dramatic play is stereo-typical 1
Socio-dramatic play is not imaginative 4
Pretend play not evident 2
Children’s own ideas lacking 3
Socio-dramatic play is static 3
Children do not self-regulate 4
Table 2.1: The checklist of teaching challenges in socio-dramatic play

Thirty-seven behaviors were recorded in categories of challenge. Six examples of solitary or parallel play indicated that children seldom played together. Children copied one another as they carried dolls around and fed them. Children commented, “I’m sitting next to my baby,” and “I’m a dad.” On four occasions, children played with materials in literal ways, e.g., holding a bottle to the baby’s mouth. Children did not often share materials. On five occasions, the team described the play as “mundane” because children did not speak or develop the play beyond repetitive actions. The play was uninspiring for the team, if not necessarily for the children. On four occasions, play was not sustained. The socio-dramatic area was underused because only seven out of 16 children played there over the 20-minute period. Single gender play was not often stereotypical. All children, regardless of whether they were a boy or a girl, largely played out domestic roles. On five occasions, children played parental roles that appeared to be in response to the play materials at hand. On three occasions, the play was static because it did not develop beyond the use of materials in literal ways. For example, babies were put in high chairs at feeding times, and cups were used to give babies drinks. One boy said while mopping the floor, “I’m making it nice and clean.”

Only one example of self-regulation was observed when a child attempted to solve a problem. The child wanted to feed his baby with a bottle, and offered another child a cup in exchange for the bottle she was using. As educators watched the video, and recorded the frequencies of challenges, they reflected that they would have expected children in the 4 to 5-year old age range to demonstrate higher levels of play. The team was concerned that the children who had been in the classroom for one semester already had not yet formed friendships necessary to engage in social play. However, several children with special needs played alone so the diversity of ability had to be taken into account.

The team noticed other unexpected but positive behaviors in the video. A child who rarely played in the socio-dramatic area spent a prolonged period changing a baby’s diaper. A girl, described as a “flitter,” spent considerable time making a chain out of links which required a definite level of concentration. Educators observed in footage toward the end of the video, six fleeting examples of pretend play concerned with dragons. A quiet child was identified as having initiated the dragon play. Educators were shocked that this child had such imaginative ideas for pretend play about dragons, even as the children were seen hiding in cupboards and wearing hats to represent themselves as dragons.

Had the children not been recorded, the educators would never have seen these fleeting instances of play. One teacher said, “I had no idea how they started playing dragons. I didn’t know so much went on. We really need to sit down and pay attention to the play. What did it mean when they put bowls on their heads to represent being dragons?”

Educators had recorded observations of children on a daily basis, however, as a means to provide evidence of specific Head Start learning outcomes, behaviors not included were not recorded. After discovering that they had undoubtedly missed these instances of play, the team wanted to find ways to improve their ability to identify and record such behaviors in the future.

Developing Dragon Play

The team decided to act immediately to sustain the dragon play before it disappeared. Educators realized that because they had not seen the dragon play before, their evaluation of children’s learning and development was inaccurate. The team showed the video to the children the next day and asked them to explain what was happening. Children were asked open-ended questions to support the dragon play, e.g., “What can we do to help you play? What can I bring for you?”


At the next team meeting, educators reported that children were full of “great ideas that showed their thinking in their fantasy play.” Children’s answers to questions revealed how they were aware of “evil versus good forces.” Some children said they were either “good” or “bad” dragons. Children described their roles in the play. Even though the dragons were invisible, children hid in holes with them. Children identified the materials they needed to develop their play, e.g., costumes to act out the role of princesses, paper shields to protect them from the dragons’ fire, dragons’ wings to fly and a reindeer nose. Children planned to build a dragon’s den with a roof, walls, and a door with handles so they could lock the “bad” dragon out.

Team Reflection

Educators reflected on how asking questions had improved their ability to learn about children’s play. Previously they were not aware of the content of children’s play, or, of how they could support it. As a result, educators underestimated children’s social, intellectual, and creative abilities. Children used three areas of the classroom at the same time. During circle time, the whole group of 16 children discussed plans for socio-dramatic play. In the art area, ten children made props for the play. In the socio-dramatic play area, six children played out the plot. Educators described how children demonstrated more self-regulation as all abilities worked cooperatively, acted out their own ideas, organized the play, made props, problem-solved, and developed the plot from day to day. Educators remarked how they themselves really enjoyed the play and wanted to know how to sustain it.

Selected Literature

The teacher candidate worked with the college librarian and found three journal articles for the team to read:

(1) Egan, K. (1991) Young children’s imagination and learning: Engaging children’s emotional response. Young Children 49 (6) 27-32.

(2) Howell, J. & Corbey-Scullen, L. (1997) Out of the socio-dramatic keeping corner and onto the stage – extending dramatic play. Young Children 52(6) 82-88.

(3) Manz, D. (1966) This is the socio-dramatic area that Kindergarten built. Young Children 52 (1).

The team chose one strategy from the article Out of the Socio-dramatic keeping corner and Onto the Stage – Extending Dramatic Play. The strategy called “Talking Time” gave children opportunities to express their ideas for socio-dramatic play and explain how the educators could support those ideas (Howell & Corbey-Scullen, (1997) p 83). The strategy reinforced what educators had already started doing during circle time.

The team also referred to Wood (2007) to confirm that the talking time strategy was developmentally appropriate for 4 to 5-year-old children.

Assessment of the Strategy

The team developed a second checklist…a strategy assessment grid (see completed version at Table 2.2) to assess and measure the effectiveness of the “Talking Time” strategy. They identified desirable socio-dramatic play outcomes to help them know what to look for in videos, and to determine what constituted evidence of improvement. Questions were devised to guide the team’s consistent reflection. The strategy assessment grid was used each time the team viewed a video.

First Stage of Strategy Implementation

Fig. 2.2: Implementing the “talking time” strategy

A 20-minute video showed the first stage of the “talking time strategy” during circle time. Analysis of the video revealed the following.

Assessment Criteria Frequency Comments
*Children suggest characters 6 Roles in play
*Children suggest educators’ roles 1 To provide materials
*Children express ideas for play 34 Boys contribute fully
*Plot is dynamic 4 Different plots suggested
*Children resolve own problems (self-regulate) 21 Rationale for thinking
Boys interact in play
Boys share materials
Use materials creatively
Play is novel New scenarios are suggested
Play area is well used (how many children?)
Play is inclusive
*Play plot is imaginative Very imaginative
*Pretend play exists Frequently
*Children go in and out of role Long enough to explain play
* Assessed during “talking time” at circle time
Table 2.2: Video analysis checklist

Team reflection after video is viewed:

  • Is the strategy working? How?
  • Is the original teaching challenge being improved upon? How?
  • Is children’s learning improving? –How?
  • Is your understanding of your teaching changing? How?
  • Is your teaching changing? How?

Video Analysis and Results

One week after the introduction of “talking time,” the teacher candidate recorded a video during circle time. Using the strategy assessment grid at Table 2.3, analysis showed that children suggested character roles on six occasions in different play plots. Plots included: a man to pay for puppies bought in the pet store; a person to take dogs outside; a pet doctor; a fishing pole maker, and a team of good dragons. The talking time strategy was highly effective in providing educators with opportunities to ask children to come up with their own ideas about characters and roles in socio-dramatic play.

Fig. 2.3: The impact of talking time on children’s socio-dramatic play

Children asked educators to provide them with materials to make props for the play. On 34 occasions children requested paper to make signs to keep dragons out of the play area, an X-ray machine for the veterinarian, flames for the dragons, tape and string to make spiders’ webs, a syringe to vaccinate pets; a fish tank, a fishing pole, and a rope.

Children suggested four play plots that included: a pet store called “Animal Actions;” the dragon’s den; a fishing trip and spiders which indicated that children held multiple play-plots in their minds at one time. Play plots were dynamic and included ones they had performed before. The teaching challenge of static play was overcome. Children showed 21 examples of resolving their own problems with props in the play. This included explaining why certain materials were needed in the pet store. For example, a table was needed “so dogs could lie down” and another table was needed to help “dogs with an infection.” In response to the teacher’s question about why they should get an X-ray machine, one child responded, “We could buy it so we could look at bones.” Children suggested making “spider webs, tall bridges, and a door with a lock on it,” as suitable deterrents to keep the bad dragons out of the socio-dramatic area.

Boys dominated “talking time” discussions and contributed many new imaginative ideas for pretend play. One boy said “We need to work as a team to keep mean dragons out.” Boys slipped in and out of pretend roles as they described play-plots and materials educators could provide to make props. This result suggested that Talking Time provided the children, and boys in particular, with opportunities to express highly imaginative play ideas that the educators needed to listen to.

Team Reflections

Questions on the strategy assessment grid at table 2.3 guided team reflection. “Talking Time” worked well as it allowed educators, including the teacher candidate, to create daily opportunities for children’s ideas to be expressed during circle time. The team concluded that the teaching challenges concerning children’s mundane play, in which their own imaginative ideas did not feature, were overcome.

With more imaginative play, many aspects of the original teaching challenge were improved. A teacher commented, “There has been a blossoming of children’s ideas that are key to improving socio-dramatic play.”

Children’s learning improved in many ways. Wider vocabulary was used as children participated in planning discussions and then in acting out the play. Children’s literacy skills were reinforced when they saw educators write their ideas for plans on a flip chart. Children “wrote” letters and numbers as they created props. They expressed their creativity as they made props for their play. During free-play time, educators commented how the whole curriculum rotated between circle time, the art area, and the socio-dramatic play area.

Educators’ understanding of their teaching techniques changed. Initially, educators had set up the socio-dramatic area, but now they asked the children questions about the area, and listened to their answers. Educators learned how to successfully support and sustain the play. Educators commented that the video had been an invaluable tool in helping them see the impact of talking time on children’s learning. Watching it several times helped to make sense of what was happening.

Educators said their own teaching had changed because they had a better understanding of children’s thinking. Changes in educators’ roles and practices were identified. Educators were much more involved with listening to children’s play ideas and helping children fabricate the resources they would need to act out them out. Educators said they enjoyed observing the children’s play more now, because it was so much richer than before. The way in which children used multiple classroom play areas meant educators were able to participate in the planning, resourcing, and acting out of the play. One teacher described the change in her teaching as “an explosion, but in a really, really good way.”

The strategy provided opportunities for NAEYC standards 1, 3 and 4 to be met. Requirements concerning educators improved the following: understanding of young children’s development and learning through fantasy play; increasing children’s reasoning and understanding through play; and providing opportunities to observe and support children’s play. These improvements were now featured during Practicum. The teacher candidate experienced improved consistency between the content she learned in college courses and professional practice during Practicum.

Second Stage of Implementation of the Strategy

A second 20-minute video was recorded to discover the impact of the strategy on the quality of children’s learning during socio-dramatic play. The following criteria and frequencies were observed and recorded:

Assessment Criteria Frequency Comments
Children suggest characters 0
Children suggest educators’ roles 0
Children express ideas for play 0
Plot is dynamic 0
Children resolve own problems (self-regulate) 0
* Boys interact in play 10 Dragon flight, signs
* Boys share materials 3 Bandages, doctor’s kit
* Use materials creatively 8 Signs, shots, syringe, stop sign
* Play is novel 3 Copies Christmas list, numbers
* Play area is well used (how many children?) 8 Changing, doctors, dragons, vets
* Play is inclusive 3 Door to let in or out
* Play is imaginative 6 Boys with dragon claws, shields
* Pretend play exists 7 Dragons, binding pet’s tail
* Children go in and out of role 3 Stop signs
* Assessed during socio-dramatic play
Table 2.3: The strategy’s impact on children’s learning during socio-dramatic play

Boys interacted with other boys on ten occasions. They lay on the floor acting out the roles of knights and dragons. Some flapped their wings and roared like dragons. Others held shields up to protect their eyes. Boys searched for the dragon that slept under the table saying, “Don’t wake him up!” Two boys gave “bad dragons” shots to make them better. Boys stuck “written” signs on the den. They shared materials on three occasions… when they used the doctor’s kit on sick animals; bandaged a sick cat’s tail; and gave animals shots. Boys mended a broken shield by applying new tape to the back. On two occasions, boys held the trains of girls dressed as princesses, and the pairs processed up and down the classroom. The quality of socio-dramatic play was greatly enhanced by children’s increased opportunities to plan and discuss their own imaginative play plots, to move around freely to develop the play, to solve problems, to manipulate materials and to use literacy and mathematical skills. As a result, the challenges of children not playing together, not showing imagination, and not sharing materials were greatly reduced.

Fig. 2.4: Children interact and make props for socio-dramatic play

Children used materials creatively in the art area on eight occasions. They “wrote” signs to put at the entrance to the den. One boy made a syringe to treat sick dragons and represented the liquid with a strand of wool. Many children made pairs of symmetrically decorated wings. Girls made crowns to go with their princess dresses. One child made antlers, a tail, and a pink nose to wear so she could represent “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” Another child made a paper lock to keep bad dragons out. Evidence suggested that the teaching challenge concerning a lack of pretend play was conquered.

The play incorporated surprising elements of ingenuity on three occasions. One child used a list of children’s names displayed on the classroom wall to copy letters onto a sign. Children wrote numbers on signs and placed them at the entrance to the socio-dramatic area. Up to eight children were seen in the socio-dramatic area at one time. The play spilled over into art and literacy areas of the room so that, at times, all 16 children in the class were involved. Much of the play focused on concepts of dragons being “good or bad” and “in or out” of the socio-dramatic area, suggesting that children had their own ways of exploring moral concepts. Evidence showed that challenges concerning the previously underused, stereo-typical, socio-dramatic play area were solved.

On six occasions children took on pretend roles, moved between classroom areas, and played in three play-plots at one time. Children acted out pretend roles as they fanned dragons’ flames, played Mr. Wolf, and imagined the dragons either inside or outside of the socio-dramatic area. Children moved easily in and out of roles as they either played a role, or gave instructions that were relevant to the role. For example, one child said, “The dragons want to come in.” Another responded: “Get a door knob (to lock them out). A third said, “She’s making the doorknob out of paper.” This evidence suggested that the play was highly imaginative and that children thought and communicated on multiple levels during the socio-dramatic play. The teaching challenge concerned with dull, unimaginative, and mundane play was overcome.

Team Reflections

The “talking time” strategy was very successful. When children were able to initiate their own ideas for play, new opportunities were created for educators to “jump right in and support their learning and development.”

The team was pleasantly surprised at the overlap between play plots. The play moved quickly between wolves, the zoo, coyotes, fishing, and dragons. By using the rug, art, block and socio-dramatic areas, children’s play was expanded beyond the socio-dramatic area throughout the classroom.

Children’s learning was definitely improving. When making props, children developed new literacy skills by using sentence strips to read and write signs. In play, children creatively used materials to represent objects they needed. They showed their understanding of concepts and knowledge across curriculum areas. One teacher commented: “How would we have ever known that shields were made to protect their faces from the dragons’ fire?”

Educators’ understanding of their teaching was changing. They abandoned their belief that socio-dramatic play only took place in the area designated for that purpose. They no longer believed that play was focused on one play plot at a time. Educators no longer thought that children’s play was based on real-life events. Instead they were surprised to see children’s interest in moral ideas such as good forces being allowed “in” and bad forces being kept “out.” Educators described an example of this behavior when a child used a fishing pole to “catch” a bad wolf. He took the wolf out of the socio-dramatic area, placed him in a cage, and locked him up in a zoo.

Teaching roles in the classroom changed. Educators and teacher candidates’ practice was improved during Practicum. They were amazed at children’s play that showed examples of leadership, tolerance, and concern for what the children identified as “good” and “bad” forces. Educators no longer took on a supervisory role during play. During circle time each day, they carefully listened to the children’s ideas. Educators observed children’s socialization that indicated who led, who followed, who was an outsider, and what friendship groups existed in the classroom. The talking time strategy enabled teams’ practice to be aligned with NAEYC standards 1, 3 and 4.

Third Stage of Strategy Implementation: Educators’ Roles in Socio-Dramatic Play

Developing the roles educators played in socio-dramatic play required further improvement. The talking time strategy successfully allowed educators to take on new roles. They were better able to hear and understand play ideas and provide new materials for children to make props to act out their ideas. However, educators also wanted to discover and quantify the effect of their involvement in socio-dramatic play. A final video showed their impact and was logged on the assessment criteria grid:

Assessment Criteria Frequency Comments
Children suggest characters 0
Children suggest educators’ roles 0
Children express ideas for play 0
Plot is dynamic 0
Children resolve own problems (self-regulate) 0
* Boys interact in play 4
* Boys share materials 4
* Use materials creatively 5
* Play is novel 5 Many play plots developed
* Play area is well used (how many children?) 5
* Play is inclusive 6 Large groups involved in play
* Play is imaginative 5 Fantasy play
* Pretend play exists 5 Throughout the play
* Children go in and out of role 2 As they give instructions
* Assessed during socio-dramatic play
Table 2.4: Educators’ involvement in socio-dramatic play

One educator and four children hid from wolves by covering their heads with blankets. Children howled like wolves and ducked to the ground to avoid a lion. One child asked while pointing to a hiding place on the floor, “Are they still in there?” The teacher sat with a crown on her head and pretended to be a wolf. A second child asked, “Are they still there?” Children jumped as they moved the blankets down from their faces to peep and check whether the wolves were still in the hiding place. One child, who was a lead player, narrated what happened throughout the play.

Team Reflections

The team reported that the “Talking Time” strategy had worked “wonderfully” because it gave educators access to children’s ideas for play. When educators understood these ideas, they were in an informed position to support play effectively.

The quality of socio-dramatic play had improved beyond all expectations. Educators could see the different content areas and associated concepts embedded in those areas. They commented how concepts, for example, concerned with “putting locks on doors to keep bad dragons out” would never have occurred to them. Using syringes to give puppies injections to make them well was beyond educators’ own imagination.

Children’s learning was much improved. Their fantasy play removed learning from the confines of mundane everyday situations, with outcomes addressing all content areas. Concepts in the content areas were wider and more elaborate than educators had expected.

Educators’ understanding of their teaching changed from their being directors to facilitators of socio-dramatic play. They increasingly understood more about young children’s thought and how it differed from their own. Even when children answered questions at circle time, it was not always easy for educators to respond appropriately. Children’s thinking, they found, was qualitatively different from their own. Educators were learning to enter the play, and to respond to children through play.

Three themes emerged concerning the educators’ new teaching roles. First, close proximity to children was important for educators’ understanding of the play. When educators participated, they could see the socialization patterns among children, i.e., who developed, who followed, and who was on the margins of the play.

The second theme concerned educators’ fear of overly directing the play. To avoid this, educators asked children for their opinions, and required explanations of what was happening. Educators asked leading questions, for example, “How far does the awning need to be lowered for the pit-crew?’ and “Tell us why the wolves came?” Educators reflected on the origin of children’s ideas and wondered where they had gotten their information about wolves and zoos. Children’s ability to generate imaginative thoughts was more apparent to the educators when they participated in the play. When educators observed, interacted and conversed with children at the art table, they recognized inventiveness of children.

Third, involvement in the play helped educators assess children’s abilities more accurately. Closer observation revealed children’s ideas and resourcefulness.

Final Reflections

The aims of the action research were achieved. Reading about and implementing the “Talking Time” strategy had a transformative effect on educators’ teaching. Improved early childhood teaching practices resulted in closer alignment with NAEYC Standards (2009) 1, 2 and 3. By the end of the semester, elements of Standard 4: Using Developmentally Effective Approaches to Connect with Children and Standard 5: Using Content Knowledge to Build Meaningful Curriculum were also met. “Talking Time” nurtured positive relationships between educators and children. Children’s learning was evident in content areas including language and literacy, the arts, science and social studies. Greater consistency existed between the theory taught in college classes and educators’ practice in classrooms. The teacher candidate’s understanding of how high quality socio-dramatic play looked in action helped her write her lesson plan assignments.

The original teaching challenge was much improved through talking time. Time was allotted and opportunities were created each day for educators to listen and respond appropriately to children’s ideas. Children articulated their imaginative ideas and learned through the applied play experiences. Once educators relinquished control of the play, they no longer set up the play scenarios, but instead responded to what children told them. As a result, children’s learning improved in social, physical, language, intellectual, creative and emotional developmental areas. The use of video cameras during talking time improved educators’ assessment. Educators saw and observed the entire play and did not merely look for predetermined learning outcomes. Educators valued children’s play more highly and no longer missed children’s ideas expressed in fantasy. More accurate assessments were carried out and that meant children’s abilities were no longer underestimated.

Talking time changed educators’ values about socio-dramatic play. Educators worked to change their adult perceptions, and instead appreciated children’s fantasy-based ideas. “Talking time” enabled educators to re-evaluate the role of parents in children’s socio-dramatic play as well. Busy parents, they concluded, did not have to be barriers to children’s imaginative play. Instead, families were encouraged to observe and participate in it at home because of the rich learning opportunities that imaginative play presented. At the start of the action research, educators identified the teaching challenge as “boys’ lack of imaginative play.” Talking time had amazed educators by revealing that boys had a wealth of ideas for play and were often the play leaders in the classroom. Educators next decided to focus on the needs of girls in socio-dramatic play.


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The ELC: An Early Childhood Learning Community at Work Copyright © 2020 by Heather Bridge, Lorraine Melita, and Patricia Roiger is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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