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“Monsters Are Coming!”: Learning Literacy and Playing Games

by Annette Woods & Michelle Jeffries - 2021

Background/Context: There are recent trends of bringing highly defined, teacher-directed pedagogies into early-childhood contexts in Australia, the United States. and other Western contexts. While the justification for these moves is often the improvement of outcomes for young children, they ignore the large body of research that attests to the social, emotional, and academic benefits of children having time to play and to experience educational programs founded in play-based pedagogies.

Focus of the study: In this study, we were interested in considering how young children name their worlds in education contexts in which literacies and sustainability education are brought together as educational concepts. This paper reports on the playing of one game over time and considers the opportunities that were created by the playing of the game and the competence of the young children in using the game to collaborate, to learn literacy, and to make spaces for other everyday business together.

Setting: The fieldwork which produced the data for this paper involved two researchers attending a suburban Australian early-childhood education context regularly for one year.

Participants: The children and educators of the center were engaged in an approved program, in the year before school starts within Australian requirements. Therefore the children ranged in age from 3 to 5 years.

Research design: This paper reports on a qualitative study of one class of young children and their educators. Data were collected during fieldwork visits over a period of one year. We observed the children’s engagement in outdoor play, collecting data in the form of short video recordings, still images, field notes, and texts produced by the children.

Conclusions: Our analysis provides evidence that children can demonstrate competent understandings of how language, bodies, movement, and space position themselves and others. The children involved competently collaborated and used language and texts to get along and to sustain a game over many months. They were only able to achieve this because they were given space to play, to own and govern spaces of play, and to problem-solve together as issues arose. The opportunity to direct themselves and their friends was vital as they developed respectful language and literacy practices.

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Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 123 Number 3, 2021, p. -
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 23610, Date Accessed: 8/5/2021 12:15:49 AM

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About the Author
  • Annette Woods
    Queensland University of Technology
    E-mail Author
    ANNETTE WOODS, Ph.D., is a professor in the Faculty of Education at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She teaches and researches in literacies, social justice and school reform, and pedagogy, curriculum, and assessment. Her current projects include a study of learning to write in the early years of school and a study of opportunities to bring literacy and sustainability together within prior-to-school curriculum. She recently edited the collection Literacies in Early Childhood: Foundations for Equity and Quality (Oxford), which brings together international perspectives on balanced literacies pedagogies.
  • Michelle Jeffries
    Queensland University of Technology
    E-mail Author
    MICHELLE JEFFRIES is a doctoral student at the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Her research emphasis is gender and sexual diversity in education, with a specific focus on families. She recently published a book chapter entitled "Examining Media Discourses of Diversity and ‘Indoctrination': Public Perceptions of the Intended Screening of Gayby Baby in Schools" in Education Research and the Media: Challenges and Possibilities (Routledge).
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