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The role of play in the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers : an observational study

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The role of play in the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers : an observational study
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Phillip, Germaine J., 1933-
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English
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vii, 123 leaves : ill. ; 29 cm.

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Child development ( jstor )
Child psychology ( jstor )
Childrens games ( jstor )
Classrooms ( jstor )
Learning ( jstor )
Mothers ( jstor )
Peer relations ( jstor )
Pretend play ( jstor )
Social interaction ( jstor )
Theater ( jstor )
Dissertations, Academic -- Instruction and Curriculum -- UF ( lcsh )
Instruction and Curriculum thesis, Ph.D ( lcsh )
City of Gainesville ( local )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Bibliography:
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 101-110).
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Typescript.
General Note:
Vita.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Germaine J. Phillip.

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THE ROLE OF PLAY IN THE DEVELOPMENT
OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE OF AT-RISK PRESCHOOLERS:
AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY










By

GERMAINE J. PHILLIP


A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


1998























I dedicate this enlightening journey to my grandchildren: Chelsea Marie, Nathan Michael, and Erik Maxwell













ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

This research project could not have been completed without the cooperation of Dr. JoAnn Pohlman, the elementary school principal, and Audrea Baker, the prekindergarten classroom teacher, who graciously consented to my frequent observations in the classroom, and, in general, facilitated my data collection.

I would like to extend my gratitude to others who have been there for me while I worked on my research project and dissertation. I particularly wish to thank Dr. H. Thompson Fillmer, the chairperson of my committee, who dispelled my doubts with anecdotes of his days as a doctoral candidate. He helped me to understand that my experiences were being shared by all doctoral candidates.

I also thank Dr. Simon O. Johnson, whose initial encouragement motivated me to create and work toward the realization of my dream. Utilizing his wry sense of humor, he taught me that it was entirely up to me to make all the rough edges smooth.

Dr. Robert R. Sherman deserves special recognition. He was always ready to

listen and to help me when I needed it. I have derived much benefit from his counsel and meaningful criticisms of my work. He also enabled me to stay focused even though I may have been viewing the world from a different perspective.

In addition, I thank Dr. Harry B. Shaw for his advice and encouragement along the way. I also thank Sherman Martin for many hours of technical support in the preparation of this dissertation.

Lastly, I offer my deepest appreciation for my husband Michael, who never waivered in expressing his confidence in me and my ability to complete this project. Without his understanding and moral support, none of this would have been possible.

Thank you all for your patience, your support, and your caring.













TABLE OF CONTENTS


DEDICATION ii

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iii

TABLE OF CONTENTS iv

ABSTRACT vi

CHAPTERS

ONE INTRODUCTION 1
Background 1 Statement of the Problem 16 Purpose of the Study 17 Significance of the Study 17 Organization of the Study 20

TWO DISCUSSION OF RELATED LITERATURE 21
Parental Influences on Social Competence 21 Sociodramatic Play 26 Play and Children's Conflicts 29 Play and Social Competence 32 Young Children and Rules in Play 34 Summary 38

THREE METHODOLOGY 40
Access 40 The School 41 The Participants 43 The Head Start Program 44 Research Procedure 45
Data Collection 45
Observations 45 Interviews 46 Writings 47 Artifacts 47








Data Analysis 48
Validity and Reliability 49 Bias, Control, and Researcher Qualification 49

FOUR FINDINGS: The Role of Play 51
What is the Role of Play? 53
How Does Play Advance the Self Competence
of At-Risk Preschoolers? 58 Imitative Learning 58 Instructive Learning 62 Collaborative Learning 69 Writings 75 Artifacts 75

FIVE FINDINGS: The Components of Play 80
What Are the Components of Play? 80
Physical Development 80 Social Development 82 Emotional Development 82 Intellectual Development 83 Intuitive Development 84
How Does the Classroom Influence Play? 86
Arrangement of the Classroom 86 Music in the Classroom 88 Making Choices 89 Adult-Child Interaction 91

SIX CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 94
Summary 94 Conclusions 97 Recommendations 99

REFERENCES 101

APPENDIX A INTERVIEW PERMISSION
FORM 111

APPENDIX B PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE
MATERIALS 114

APPENDIX C INTERVIEW PICTURES 117

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 123













Absract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE ROLE OF PLAY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE OF AT-RISK PRESCHOOLERS: AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY

By

Germaine J. Phillip

August, 1998


Chairman: H. Thompson Fillmer
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum

The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the

development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. The study was guided by four research questions: What is the role of play? How does play advance the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers? What are the components of play? How does the classroom influence play?

Initially there were 19 preschool children in the study. Their ages ranged from 48 months to 66 months. The group was comprised of eleven girls and eight boys. The girls ranged in age from four years to five years and three months, having a mean age of four years and nine months. The boys ranged in age from four years to four years and eleven months, having a mean age of four years and seven months. Thirteen of the children were African-American, five were white, and one was Latina. Three of the children were classified as having speech and language problems, and seven of the children were enrolled in the program for other unspecified circumstances. By the end of the school year, there were 20 children in the study. All of the children were from low income families, all had









been recruited from the county's Head Start waiting list, and all had been enrolled in the Head Start program on a full-time basis. All of the children were considered to be at risk of failure.

Observation, interview, documents, and artifacts were used to address the four

research questions. The children's social behaviors were observed as they interacted in the course of indoor and outdoor play. Social problem solving skills were assessed in an interview with each child. Hypothetical play situations were presented to the children in photographic representations and discussion. The children were questioned about their interpretations of each play situation and what ideas they had to resolve the problem they perceived in the picture. The collected data were examined using domain analysis procedures. Vygotsky's theory of play provided the framework for interpreting the findings.

The study's findings indicated that, for at-risk preschoolers, social information processing is fundamental to social competence; aggressive strategies lead to noncompliance and conflict situations; mixed-age collaborative play enhances prosocial skills and problem solving strategies; components of play advance total development; the social context of play influences peer interaction; music enhances the ambiance of the classroom; making choices promotes self control and an acceptance of responsibility for one's actions; and caring and supportive adults in the play environment promote positive peer interaction and enhance social competence.


vii













CHAPTER ONE
INTRODUCTION

Four-year-old Judith's Mom accompanies her to the classroom. Judith
runs to greet her teacher at the door and hugs her tightly around the waist
as she nestles her head on the teacher's bossom. She releases her hug on the teacher, bids her Mom good-bye, then walks over to a group of three
classmates whom she joins in an ongoing activity (Observation, 10/14/1996).

Darla and Cynthia are engaged in pouring and measuring at the gravel table
outdoors. Raoul, observing the girls at play, saunters over and grabs the
small plastic spade from Cynthia, while he comments: "That's not how you do that; that's all wrong. Lemme me show you ." The girls stop their play
and silently walk away from the table (Observation, 1/24/1997).


Each of these vignettes demonstrates vividly the complexities of social competence among preschoolers. Some young children are socially at ease with their peers and can initiate or maintain positive prosocial interactions with them, while others are rebuffed. A number of studies have focused on the development of social competence in young children, and findings have indicated that play is an essential component of that development (Farver, 1996; Petrakos & Howe, 1996). What is play? Over time there have been many theories of play, and each was presented within the context of early childhood development.

Background
Approximately three hundred years ago, the Czech thinker and educator Jon Amos Comenius (1858/1977) created a methodology that he called The Great Didactic. One essay entitled "School of Infancy" detailed the education of young children from birth to age six. Comenius theorized that play was an essential feature of educating young children. He declared that the mother is the child's first teacher. Through her patient nurturing, the child becomes the beneficiary of early sensory-motor experiences that are









manifested as play and which effectively prepare the child for later learning. He advocated that during these episodes of play, the child should move around at will and be not fettered by physical or other constraints. Comenius distinguished between physical exercise and play. Physical exericise energizes the body and the mind and should be presented as forms of amusement. If children enjoy the activity, they will learn from it. Play, as self-activity, is associated with psychological development, and Comenius believed that, after receiving instructions, young children had to be provided opportunities for engaging in selfregulated activities that facilitated imitation and assimilation of all new learnings.

Further, Comenius noted that, in the process of play or self-activity, children

develop langauge skills. Thus he advocated that all new learnings should appeal to the senses, since this made learning easier to remember and to imitate, and those who instruct young children should "make learning fun by allowing hands-on experiences that afford opportunities for utilizing language" (Laurie, 1904, p. 133). Morning classes exercised understanding and memory, while afternoon classes engaged voice and hand. Afternoon activities attempted nothing new, but repeated the morning lessons through play, including songs, writing, and counting. Thus, new learning was impressed upon the mind through occupying the senses with it. In short, the children practiced through play.

Dubbed the father of educational psychology, the eighteenth-century French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau was considered a thinker ahead of his time. His theory of play is found in Book II of Emile (Worthington, 1896), which he devoted to the development of children under age twelve, a phase he emphasized as the most important because it is the basis on which all subsequent mental and emotional development are built. The purpose of an education was to teach the child in such a manner that he would learn through his own efforts to be as free as possible within society. To achieve this goal, Emile, who symbolized all young children, was educated in the country where, under the watchful guidance of a parent/tutor, he was encouraged to experience nature without constraints. Emile achieved the free development of his own nature, his own powers, and









his own natural inclinations. From a hands-on knowledge of nature, Emile developed cognitive skills as he learned to reason and to categorize what he observeed in nature.

Using paradox, sarcasm, and exaggeration, Rousseau enunctiated what he

considered to be in the best interest of the children of his day. The underlying theme of Emile is the wisdom of nature and the need for young children, engaged in free play, to follow the dictates of nature if they are to grow up with balanced social reactions. Subsequently, Rousseau's psychological observations greatly influenced the work of other educators who also were concerned with the education of young children.

In Europe, the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries were marked by social and political activities that created philosophical trauma in some, as much as it assuaged a sense of security in others. The field of education was not immune. By the start of the nineteenth century, there were strong tensions between nationalism and brotherhood, freedom and moral purpose, scientific materialism and the human spirit, commercialism and naturalism, and all were bound up in what was to become the "Spirit of the Age."

Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi of Zurich survived the political and philosophical upheaval of this era. In How Gertrude Teaches Her Children, Pestalozzi (1894/1977) advocated that education should respond to the differences in background, prospect, native ability, and personal inclinations of the individuals being taught. He also held that psychological development was a matter of sensory-motor integration, and that early manipulative training was essential to the ultimate development of cognitive skills. He observed that nature is our school, and life is our tutor, and we know all that we know through the mechanisms of sensation. However, the senses only conveyed showers of disconnected and chaotic experiences. Like Rousseau, Pestalozzi held that sensory-motor experiences must be carefully guided by the mother or earliest instructor because language development is a by-product of play.

Language is the means by which mere sense impressions are converted into

thought and organized into coherent concepts and memories. Thus, through prolonged









and carefully-guided exposure to sensory-motor experiences, Pestalozzi hoped to overcome the passivity that characterized education of young children by promoting a theory of play as "self-activity" or "spontaneity," the creative manifestations of what young children have assimilated and interiorized. Work should be transformed into play whenever possible. And spontaneous self-activity connoted self-engagement that required total freedom to express oneself through action. It is this aspect of play that transforms learning into human potential.

To enhance the play or self-activity of very young children, Pestalozzi created a

series of "object lessons" which he called his Book for Mothers. It consisted of songs and games constructed around natural objects found in and around the home environment. The idea was that in guiding the play of children, mothers would use these songs and games to heighten sensory-motor experiences which he believed were fundamental to all future development.

Many others, before and after Comenius, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi, recognized the value of play in early childhood. Plato, Quintilian, Luther, Fenelon, Locke, and Richter, all noticed some of its beneficial affects. However, it was Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, a student and avid follower of Pestalozzi, who seemed to uncover the evolutionary meaning of play and the role it should have in education (Bowen, 1909).

Froebel was credited with establishing the first known "children's garden" for educating young children. He theorized that play was central to all activities in kindergarten; it was the connector that unified the entire program. Thus the name "kindergarten" which means child's garden. Like Comenius and Pestalozzi, Froebel conceived of play as self-activity. But for him play was more than a means of assimilating new actions and experiences. A basic principle was that self-activity is of the whole mind; the mind must be considered in terms of its three activities: knowing, feeling, and willing.

In The Kindergarten (Bowen, 1909; Downs, 1978), Froebel tells us that children always are eager to demonstrate what they know and that knowledge is important to them





5


only in terms of their ability to think at any given time. The act of expressing or using knowledge exercises the mind and furthers the development of mental powers. A child's play or expressive behavior illustrates to parents, teachers, and others the nature and/or level of the child's knowing; enhances cognitive skills; and encourages the creation, development, and effectiveness of other skills; all training the muscles, nerves, and organs of sense to be willing and effective servants of the mind. This is the substance of Froebel's principle of "connectedness." So that in the process of taking in, assimilating and expressing, the child's self is called into action, and more particularly, by expressing, the child's self-activity is produced.

For Froebel, a major objective of the kindergarten was to help young children use their knowledge to express themselves by utilizing each and every mode and means of expression that lie within their powers and are most natural to them, as in play. One might say that Froebel's key concepts of the kindergarten were self-activity,connectedness, expressive activity, and a happy and harmonious environment. And play is the vehicle through which all of this may be achieved.

Another core feature of The Kindergarten was Froebel's "gifts" and "occupations." These appear to be an extention of Pestalozzi's "object lessons" and emphasize the theme of "connectedness" that runs through all aspects of Froebel's methodology. According to Froebel, knowledge is information taken in and assimilated. In mastering the meaning of new facts or experiences, a child observes likenesses or differences in relation to other facts or experiences already internalized. It is in stressing the differences of facts and experiences that Froebel introduced his "doctrine of contrasts". By their contrasts, each fact or experience is rendered more noticeable and more intelligible. This is followed by the process of "synthesis," or the bringing together of things again in intelligible relations. To this end, Froebel compiled a book that he called A Complete Series of Gifts for Play (Bowen, 1909).









The "gifts" were fundamental forms as found in nature and designed to show the general qualities of things. They included soft balls and wooden spheres; cubes and cylinders; round, square, and oblong objects; large cubes divisible into halves, quarters, eights, and sixteenths; a large cube divided into eighteen whole oblongs, some divided lengthwise, some, breadthwise; quadrangular and triangular tablets, sticks and wands, whole and half wire rings--all designed for laying figures; materials for drawing, perforating, embroidering, paper cutting, weaving or braiding, paper folding, pea work, modeling, and slats for interlacing (Downs, 1978). These materials promote categorizing, they range from simple to complex, and they follow a developmental sequence. They also include different colors, shapes or forms, sizes, and textures.

The "occupations" were the children's self-produced activities, which they creatively expressed in physical activity like drawings, songs, games, and so on. According to Froebel, the "occupations" of the kindergarten represented an anticipated progression of behaviors or activities that corresponded to the children's physical and mental development. For Froebel, play was more than mere recreation. It was the most important phase in the spontaneous development of young children because it allowed them to exercise harmoniously all their physical, emotional, and intellectual qualities.

This idea of play as self-produced activity resurfaced in John Dewey (1916), who seemed to have been influenced by Froebel, although he disagreed with some of the latter's ideas about child development. He agreed with Froebel that children should be able to move about the classroom freely, learn by doing and thinking, and interact freely with their peers in the process of learning and developing. Dewey also defended Froebel's use of play as merely a learning device. In Democracy and Education he stated:

Doubtless the fact that children normally engage in play and work out of school has seemed to many educators a reason why they should concern themselves in school with things radically different. School time seemed too precious to spend in doing over again what children were sure to do
anyway. (Dewey, 1916, p. 195)









Dewey also agreed with Froebel's "gifts" and "occupations," although he did not accept the narrow scope of Froebel's thinking on child development. He extended Froebel's "occupations" to include

work with paper, cardboard, wood, leather, cloth, yarns, clay and sand,
and metals, with or without tools; processes such as folding, cutting, pricking, measuring, molding, modeling, pattern-making, heating and cooling, and the use of the hammer, saw, file, and other tools; outdoor excursions, gardening, cookng, sewing, printing, bookbinding, weaving painting, drawing, singing,
dramatization, story-telling, reading and writing, as well as a variety of plays
and games. (Dewey, 1916, p. 196)

For Dewey, it was not enough to introduce play and games, handwork and manual exercises in the classroom. The aim of such activities should be to generate intellectual results and encourage socialized dispositions as well as manual skills and technical efficiency. He believed that a child lives through his play, and if suitably directed, derives many benefits from play activities.

And then there is the psychoanalytic perspective on play. Peller (1978) has offered the following composite of Freud's theory of play and psychoanalytic insight: Play is therapy in the lives of young children. Play helps children deal with traumatic events which would otherwise devastate them. The playful repetition of a traumatic event enables children to move from passivity to activity by engaging in role playing. This affords children opportunities to change the outcome of painful events and to give a happy ending to what was once distressing to them. Thus play is a means of confronting one's emotional state when that state has the potential for creating debilitation.

The progression from passivity to activity can also be viewed from another point of view. A child may witness harm perpetrated on another with whom he identifies. He reverses the passivity with which he witnessed the event with activity through play. Because the child can initiate, vary, or terminate play at will, play can enable him to overcome the anxieties engendered by the original experience. This kind of play enables the child to move from pain to pleasure.









However, not all play mirrors the repetition of a painful experience. Play supports fantasies that are pleasurable or engenders imagery that compensates for perceived limitations, anxieties, and deprivations. Play permits children to return, again and again, to an experience that was pleasurable, or seen as pleasurable in retrospect. Play makes possible the anticipatory enjoyment of what is to come. Play transcends time to overcome the destructive impact of shattering emotional experience.

According to Freud, early play is the antecedent of, and the prerequisite for, conceptual thinking. As precursor of conceptual thought, play is not bounded by the acquisition of immediate goals; thus the child can immerse himself freely in the activity with utmost abandon, and the materials of the play are enjoyed in terms of the roles, functions, and meanings with which the child has endowed them. While imagination is crucial to both play and conceptual thought, play is kept in motion by fantasies and their accompanying effects. In conceptual thought, imagery is constantly referred back to reality and/or to the conceptual structures of others.

Play involves interaction with others and with the environment, which may be complex and varied and is pleasurable to the participants even in the absense of specific goals. Finally, children take play seriously and invest intense emotion in this activity. As they structure their play, it is marked by exuberance, sequence, fluidity and consciousness. Freud's theory of play becomes relevant in the discussion of Piaget's work.

Jean Piaget's psychological and developmental theories dominated the first half of the twentieth century, and his approach to play was essential to his larger theory of cognitive development. Every act of intelligence is characterized by an equilibrium between two poles, assimilation and accommodation. In assimilation, the child incorporates events, objects, or situations into existing ways of thinking, which constitute organized mental structures. In accommodation, the existing mental structures reorganize to incorporate new aspects of the external environment. During an act of intelligence, the child adapts to the requirements of external reality, while maintaining mental structures









intact. On the other hand, play is characterized by the primacy of assimilation over accommodation.

Piaget (1945/1951) described the unfolding of children's play as consisting of three phases: Practice Play, Symbolic Play, and Play with Rules. Each phase corresponds to a given stage of child development. The infant engages in Practice Play during the sensorymotor or preverbal stage--birth to two years--and this play is characterized by the repetition of actions and manipulations of objects. The infant engages in this activity solely for the pleasure he derives from mastering motor skills--grasping his foot and putting his toe in his mouth. Gradually the infant understands that certain actions on his part will lead to specific results, swatting the mobile produces pleasant sounds, and a certain cry will bring his mother to his side. Thus, through actions and manipulations the infant constructs scripts and schemas. As this practice play continues, the schemas or sequences of actions performed become symbolic, and objects and actions assume meanings of their own. As the infant becomes socialized, he may manipulate schemas in combinations that, while pleasurable, require rules. At this point, practice play begins a progression towards games with rules.

Symbolic Play corresponds to the preoperational stage--two to fours years--and is characterized by make-believe or pretend play. Schemas formerly ritualized in practice play now become representations or ludic symbols that the young child accesses and uses for pleasure; thus the use of the term "pretend play." The ludic symbolism of a pillow for sleep may be extended to a small blanket or to a personal toy, which provides pleasure similar to that from the original symbol, the pillow. Eventually, the child uses the blanket or his hands to symbolize the spreading of a blanket to put another child or object, like a teddy bear, to sleep. Or the child creates combinations, like eating from an empty box or imaginary plate, drinking from an empty or imaginary cup while producing the lip and throat sounds that accompany these activities in real life, or sleeping with an imaginary pillow. In this way, the child creates an entire episode in make-believe.









To explain the connection between the early ludic symbols and the representational imitation of them, Piaget demonstrated that every schema includes both assimilation and accommodation, since these two processes are inseparable. The difference between ludic symbol and adapted representation is that in the act of intelligence assimilation and accommodation are constantly synchronized in equilibrium. However, in the ludic symbol, a present object is assimilated with an earlier schema not objectively related to it and it is to evoke this schema and the absent objects related to it that imitation comes into play and provides the "signifier". So far as intelligence, imitation, and play are considered in sensory-motor experiences, imitation is a continuation of accommodation, play is a continuation of assimilation, and intelligence is a harmonious combination of the two.

According to Piaget, Symbolic Play is closely followed by Dramatic Play.

Dramatic Play is socialized play involving two or more children and consists of games constructed on themes from daily living: school life, weddings, child rearing, and so on. Here ludic symbols gradually become adapted representations. According to Piaget, the child goes beyond the physical manipulation of reality. Through symbolic distortions as described earlier, children gradually come to assimilate the world of reality into their world of fantasy.

Lastly, Symbolic Play develops into Games with Rules. This kind of play

correlates with the upper range of the preoperational stage and the stage of operational intelligence, that is, concrete--seven to eleven years--and abstract--after eleven years, and it is further characterized by social behaviors involving verbal and intuitive thought. The play participants determine the structure of the game and the rules that will control participant behaviors. Although sensory-motor and symbolic content are present, this play differs from earlier play in that rules are added and result from a "collective organization of ludic activities" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 113).

Piaget (1945/1951) posited that the three classifications of play correspond to

three successive forms of intelligence: sensory-motor, representational, and reflective; and









constructional games occupy, at the third level, a position half-way between play and intelligent work, or between play and imitation. He showed that play progresses from purely individual processes and idiosyncratic private symbols to social play and collective symbolism, that play derives from a child's mental structure and can be explained only by that structure, and that play is a mode of activity that starts with the differentiation of assimilation from accommodation and, in particular, emerges when assimilation can function on its own. With the development of the capacity for representation, assimilation for the sake of assimilation becomes not only distorting, but also a source of deliberate makebelieve. Thus, pretend play recalls a Freudian psychoanalytic dynamic in that it enables the child to relive past experiences for the ego's satisfaction, rather than for the ego's subordination to reality. In this sense, play reflects the need for sympathetic understanding rather than the need for an objective grasping of reality.

Piaget (1945/1951) theorized that, although there is a clear distinction between practice play and symbolic play, still there is an undeniable relationship between them: "Symbolic play is to practice play as representational intelligence is to sensory-motor intelligence" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 163). At the same level, he further theorized that "Symbolic play is to representational intelligence as practice play is to sensory-motor intelligence" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 163). It appears that the active agent is the exercise of intelligence, for Piaget posited that intelligence is the only activity that achieves the coordination of assimilation and accommodation.

Although Piaget (1948) acknowledged that there is a sociocultural influence on the development of young children, he never related any of this to his theory of play. This omission facilitated, possibly, the later influence of Vygotsky, for whom this dimension was fundamental. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky did not offer a comprehensive theory of play. Instead, he offered a number of concepts that, taken together, resulted in a new way of viewing the psychological development of young children.









For Vygotsky, play begins at about age three. This is pretense play and is characterized by its sociocultural overtones. Social in nature, this play involves two or more children, and the themes, stories, and roles enacted express the children's understanding and acceptance of the sociocultural underpinnings of their society. Even solitary play expresses sociocultural elements. Vygotsky held that, although young children have innate physiological and psychological proclivities for dealing with the reality of their world, it is the cultural practices and systems of ideas within their environment that define their abilities as individuals within the given community.

Unlike Piaget's child who creates a conceptual world from scratch, for Vygotsky the community's conceptual resources are inculcated by parents, siblings, relatives, friends, and peers. Social interaction and communication become important factors in the development of higher psychological functions and represent two key elements of society:

(a) social relationships and interactions shaped by society's organizations and institutions

--home, school, church, and the wider community; and (b) the collectively elaborated conceptual and symbolic systems that are the cultural heritage of the society--customs, traditions, religious practices and icons, myths and legends, and politics. It is interesting to note that decades earlier Dewey (1916) also emphasized this concept of social transmission as the primary means through which a community renews itself "The grounds for assigning to play and active work a definite place in the curriculum are intellectual and social" (Dewey, 1916, p. 195). Therefore, play is educative and

education is ... the means of . . . social continuity. Society exists
through a process of transmission... This transmission occurs by means of communication of habits of doing, thinking, and feeling from the older
to the younger. Without this communication of ideals, hopes, expectations, standards, opinions, . . . social life could not survive. (Dewey, 1916, p. 3)

A child learns and develops in a social context that includes more knowledgeable and capable peers and adults who pass on the cultural heritage. This transmission is accomplished primarily through the use of language and communication, buttressed by the









use of cultural artifacts such as written documents or other physical, mechanical, or symbolic representations. Thus, the child's psychological development proceeds from the social--interpsychological--to the individual--intrapsychological plane (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, 1934/1986,1934/1987).

Central to Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development is his concept of the "zone of proximal development":

The zone of proximal development of the child is the distance between
his actual development, determined with the help of independently solved tasks, and the level of the potential development of the child, determined
with the help of tasks solved by the child under the guidance of adults and
in cooperation with his more intelligent partners. (van der Veer & Valsiner,
1993, p. 337)

"Actual" development is equivalent to what has been accomplished as of today;
"potential" development is equated with what it is possible to achieve with adult guidance and the collaboration of more capable peers "because of [the child's] singular ability to imitate the activities of their more able partners" (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993, p. 342). Organisms in general are limited in their capacity for imitation. However, children are far less limited than other species because they can, to a point, profit from instruction. In contrast to other species, children are capable of intellectual, insightful imitation. In the case of children, teaching can invoke and promote their cognitive development (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993).

According to Vygotsky (1933/1967), significant others in the life of a child-parents, teachers, and community leaders--are actively involved in the transmission of the society's cultural resources, which include linguistic and other symbolic systems, cognitive frameworks and concrete knowledge. These resources guide children's interpretations of the world and help them to systematize the diverse physical and social phenomena they encounter. Thus, the actualization of the "zone of proximal development" depends on social interaction within a shared cultural framework. This interaction may consist of both









instruction and other forms ofjoint activity. Further, Vygotsky held that a child benefits most from such interaction when it is geared appropriately to his or her level of "potential" development, thereby advancing "actual" development (Vygotsky, 1933/1967).

It is within this theoretical context that Vygotsky posits his analysis of play. Play is a social activity; and rather than reflect cognitive development, play actively contributes to that development. Further, Vygotsky himself suggested that play can create the "zone of proximal development":

play also creates the zone of proximal development of the child.
In play the child is always behaving beyond his age, above his usual
everyday behavior; in play he is, as it were, a head above himself
Play contains in a concentrated form, as in the focus of a magnifying
glass, all developmental tendencies; it is as if the child tries to jump above his usual level. The relation of play to development should be compared to the relation between instruction and development.
�. Play is a source of development and creates the zone of proximal development. (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993, p. 345)

According to Vygotsky, two significant elements are present in all play: an

imaginary situation and rules that are implicit in the imaginary situation. However, the imaginary element may not always be readily discernible in all forms of play. The rules constitute the game or play situation, while the rules and actions based on those rules derive their meaning from the play situation. Thus, rules define play, even when they are implicit. For example, implicit rules are embedded when young children play house. The roles of "mother" and "father" are locked in by unstated rules, and the children cannot adopt behaviors that lie outside of what is known and understood about the role of mother and father in the real world. An important cognitive effort is involved here: "What passes unnoticed by the child becomes a rule of behavior in play" (Vygotsky, 1933/1967, p.9). In short, pretend play and games with rules are two poles of a single continuum, and Vygotsky sees the long-term development of play as a gradual movement between them, from an explicit imaginary situation with implicit rules--pretend play--to an implicit imaginary situation with explicit rules--games with rules.









In early childhood, play is a source of development and creates a zone of proximal development. By providing an imaginary opportunity for self-empowering internalization of social rules, play contributes to the development of a capacity for "the creation of voluntary intentions and the formation of real-life plans and volitional motives. All appear in play and make it the highest level of preschool development (Vygotsky, 1933/1967, p. 16). During the preschool years, play takes on the role of a "leading activity," an activity that, during a particular phase of a child's sociopsychological development, becomes a major source of new developmental advances. This role does not imply that play is the most frequent form of activity among preschoolers, or the only one that contributes to their development, but it is the source of major advances that, in turn, force the recognition of existing psychological functions.

Several implications can be drawn from this discussion of theories of play. First, mother is the first and most important teacher a child will ever have. It is she who promotes the acquisition of early sensory-motor experiences that are crucial to the child's cognitive development. Second, infants and toddlers need an unfettered environment in which to observe and explore the world of nature. These early experiences bring the child in tune with her or his surroundings, familiarizes her or him with ideas and patterns of behavior, and enables the primary stages of cognitive development. Third, those in the position of instructing young children should ensure that the child is in an environment that is conducive to learning, that the guide/instructor is ever cognizant of the child's present capabilities, and that the child should never be required to work at tasks for which he has not been prepared adequately. Lastly, play is the vehicle that makes possible all phases of early development in children. In play, children learn from instruction as well as from more capable others. Play is a social phenomenon through which children learn what is or is not acceptable behavior. This early grounding through play becomes fundamental to future learnings.









The investigator concludes that play is an essential feature in the lives of young children because it is a significant means of promoting their overall development. It is, therefore, reasonable to deduce that play can promote social competence in young children. Piaget (1972) declared that play, language and cognitive development, and social competence were intricately interwoven. Play enhanced language skills and cognitive development, language skills and cognition enhanced the child's ability to communicate adequately with peers, and this ability further enhanced the play of children. However, Vygotsky extended Piaget's theory to include the role of a sociocultural/historical perspective. Vygotsky (1933/1978, 1934/1986) suggested that specific social contexts facilitate the enhancement of intrapersonal competence in social and individual functioning. These contexts--pretend play, interactions with more competent others--facilitate children's ongoing construction of new ideas and competencies from imitations of external information and experience (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993).

For some toddlers, important issues impinge on the social context for play and the capabilities of the more competent others, in particular, the mother. Studies have shown that security attachment and maternal acceptance (Baruch, 1991; Rosenberg, 1984; Ventura-Cook, 1995), the mothers' level of education and socioeconomic status (Kavesh, 1991), as well as parenting behaviors seriously influence the prosocial skills of young children, positively or negatively (Booth, Rose-Krasnor, & Robin, 1991; Kuhns, 1993). As preschoolers, these children may be considered at-risk for failure in school and in life. The purpose of this study is to explore and describe the development of social competence of these at-risk preschoolers within the social context of play.

Statement of the Problem
At-risk preschoolers are young children whose life experiences place them in one or more categories that pose a serious threat to their possibilities for future social and academic success. Like typically developing young children, at-risk preschoolers derive a sense of who they are from their relationships with their parents, siblings, and peers, as









well as from exposure to the various aspects of the larger community of which they are a part (Glasner, 1961). Many of these experiences hinder the development of positive prosocial behaviors and do not facilitate readiness for the learning environment of the classroom. Consequently, teachers spend more and more time dealing with the effects of these experiences that are manifested in disruptive and angry outbursts, interpersonal conflicts, and off-task behaviors. These young children are going to fail socially and academically.

Purpose of the Study
This study examines and describes the role of play in the development of prosocial behaviors of at-risk learners in a model preschool intervention program. These behaviors are empathy, impulse control and problem solving, and anger management. Because of the exploratory nature of the problem, questions rather than hypotheses have been formulated. The research questions are: (a) What is the role of play? (b) How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers? (c) What are the components of play? (d) How does the classroom influence play? These questions can best be addressed in a qualitative study utilizing ethnographic-type techniques: observation, interview, domain analysis, and interpretation. Accordingly, this investigation is an exploratory, observational study.

Significance of the Study
At-risk preschoolers are young children whose families live at or below the poverty line, and they bring to the prekindergarten classroom their own perceptions and world views. Often their experiences within their immediate environment are such that a number of these young children enter the learning environment of the classroom at a disadvantage when compared to their peers. While these experiences may be many and varied, many of the children never really benefit from them. In the school environment, these children may lack the kinds of reciprocal interactions that facilitate the development of skills that are deemed necessary for readiness to enter kindergarten and to benefit from a public school









education (Baruch, 1991; Green, 1989; Rosenberg, 1984). For example, learning may not be a priority for a child who comes from an environment that is characterized by frequent moves of the parents and a lack of employment (Sikora, 1989).

Some children identified as "at-risk for failure" may exhibit attitudes and extremes of behaviors that seriously disrupt the process of learning (Spivak & Cianci, 1987). Often they are unable to share, take turns, follow rules, and be considerate of others. They may be highly aggressive, intolerant of others, and highly distractable (Chess & Thomas, 1991). These young children may then be labeled trouble-makers and/or slow learners. The basic problems are overlooked and the children are further at risk of failure.

The inabilities to understand, to respond to the feelings of others, to show

compassion, and to empathize seriously impinge on these children's ability to initiate and maintain friendships among their peers. The children must be helped to see themselves and their world from a new perspective, and that perspective comes through learning.

According to Combs, Avila, and Purkey (1971), learning is an active process, and every child is motivated to learn. The teacher creates problem situations that provide children with opportunities to explore and discover new goals, new values, and new ways of seeing themselves as they actively seek solutions. Thus, behavior change takes place over time. The acquisition of prosocial behaviors or social competence boosts self esteem, and a positive view of the self promotes effective behavior. It engenders selfconfidence and a genuine openess to new experiences.

Researchers suggest that individuals behave in accordance with their perception of themselves (Combs, 1991; Rogers, 1951). Others see a connection between prosocial behaviors and the child's ability to engage in perspective taking and empathy. Children who see themselves positively are more likely to display positive behaviors toward others during social interactions (Cauley & Tyler, 1989; Larrieu & Mussen, 1985). Other individuals who perceive themselves in a negative manner have a tendency to interact more negatively with others, and in extreme cases display signs of delinquency (Meadow,









Abramowitz, Cruz, & Bay, 1981). Therefore, the study also examines the children's positive behaviors such as helping, sharing, comforting, cooperating, problem solving, and dealing with anger.

Some studies have elucidated new and interesting perspectives on Vygotsky's
"zone of proximal development" (Smolucha, 1989). One such perspective is collaborative multi-age grouping of typically developing children, which is designed to promote crossage interactions, cooperative activities, and modeled learning. The present investigation is an exploratory, observational study that uses the Vygotskyan theory to frame its analysis and interpretation. Play is a social activity, and the context of that play is heavily influenced by the cultural interactions within the play environment, wherever that may be. Play is a "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978), and research indicates that it enhances the cognition and language skills and social development of young children (Howe, 1993; Petrakos & Howe, 1996). The "zone of proximal development" is the difference between a child's "actual" development and her or his "potential" development in terms of her or his ability to problem solve. The child can realize her or his "potential" development under adult (teacher, parent, or other) guidance and/or in collaborative activities with more capable peers (Vygotsky (1933/1978). The child achieves "potential" development when instruction and collaborative activities are tailored to her or his level of "potential" development. Thus, Vygotsky emphasizes the significance of social interactions within a shared, cultural framework.

In play, children learn the importance of rules. A game or play event will not

advance in the absence of rules--this includes possible modification of existing rules or the children's creation of their own rules. "Wherever there is an imaginary situation, there are rules" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 95). The children learn to follow the rules of the game played and later, those of the classroom and the larger society. Rules are the means by which society structures behavior. Therefore, play as a social activity helps children to









discern those behaviors and attitudes that are or are not socially appropriate. Preschoolers who do not acquire prosocial skills might find it difficult to adapt to life at school.

As young children learn to accept the rules of play, they also learn to appreciate the necessity for rules in other aspects of the classroom. This acceptance and adherence to rules facilitate the development of prosocial skills and enable the children to engage in group activity of any kind. For at-risk preschoolers, this can carry over to collaborative, multi-age (preschool-kindergarten) play activities, with their generally more capable peers. No other studies have yet extended this theory as a significant means for bringing about an effective transformation in the behavior of at-risk preschoolers, and addressing the needs of children who fit into this classification throughout the state and nation.

Organization of the Study
Chapter One presents an introduction and background of theories of play. Chapter Two reviews the related literature. Chapter Three, Methodology, describes the process of gaining access to the school, the social environment of the study site, the preschool program, and the design of the study. The design of the study includes the procedures used for data collection and a description of the instrument used for evaluating the children's social competence, as well as the procedure used for evaluating documents (writing) and artifacts (drawings). Chapters Four and Five report and interpret the findings from observations, interviews, documents, and artifacts. Chapter Six presents a summary of the findings, draws conclusions, and makes recommendations for practice and further research.













CHAPTER TWO
DISCUSSION OF RELATED LITERATURE The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the

development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. Research establishing the value of play is plentiful but somewhat ambiguous, and information, particularly on the mechanisms by which socialization occurs through play, is sparse. In addition, few studies deal with the development of social competence of at-risk learners, and these studies tend to focus on the handicapped and children with learning disabilities. This discussion of literature presents information regarding the relationship between security attachment and mother's acceptance, mother's beliefs about child rearing, and mother's education as parental influences on the social competence of young children. It also describes the influence of sociodramatic play, play and conflict, play and social competence, and rules in play on the social behaviors of young children.

Parental Influences on Social Competence
Ford and Thompson (1985) observed that people must simultaneously function independently as autonomous systems and also function interdependently as cooperative parts of the larger social system. Therefore, the values and practices of the culture and the developmental status of the target individuals must be considered. Spivak & Shure (1974) and Shure (1994) viewed social competence from a problem-solving perspective, in that social competence is not only how individuals act, but also how they think. They envisioned social competence as a problem-solving skill, not only in adults, but in children as young as four-years-old. For young children, the ability to relate positively in peer encounters is crucial to success in the school environment. Those who lack social









competence or those who fail to achieve the necessary prosocial skills are likely to experience difficulty in school and, possibly, in life as well.

Ventura-Cook (1995) examined the socioemotional attributes of two groups of socially withdrawn children and investigated the quality of their attachment representations. In addition, the study compared these children with a group of non-withdrawn children on the same measures. Participants were 29 preschool children from low income families who lived in a semi-urban community and were registered in a Head Start program.
The findings showed that 22 % of the children were classified as non-withdrawn, 78 % as withdrawn. Based on the children's quality of attachment responses, the nonwithdrawn children showed significantly more secure attachment representations--76 %-than the withdrawn children did--24 %. There were no significant differences on any of the socioemotional characteristics--social competence, internalizing, and externalizing, suggesting that the socioemotional characteristics of securely attached at-risk preschool children do not differ significantly from those who are insecurely attached. The findings also indicated that anxiety levels of withdrawn and non-withdrawn children, as well as those of insecurely and securely attached children, do not vary from each other. The mothers' education was not significant to either the children's attachment security nor their socio-emotional attributes. This finding reinforced the theory of cultural transmission as well as the findings of Ford and Thompson (1985) and Shure (1994).

Other studies based on the attachment theory have established that the quality of the attachment relationship between mother and infant influences numerous aspects of the child's later functioning, including social interactions. Such studies focus on the quality of the mother-infant attachment and the mother's education (Dissinger, 1991; Kavesh, 1991) and parenting behaviors as they relate to the child's ability to demonstrate social problemsolving skills (Kuhns, 1993).









In a related longitudinal study, Kavesh (1991) explored the association between early socioemotional variables of attachment and maternal parenting attitudes and the quality of peer interactions of children at age six or seven years. This study is included in this discussion because it is multifaceted and its findings offer a comprehensive overview of the influence of mother-child interactions.

Kavesh found that children who were securely attached in infancy were better able to engage with a new child in an unstructured play environment that required the modulation of affect behavior and the use of cognitive strategies with a new acquaintance after separation from the mother. The finding suggests that in a free play environment, children who earlier in life had enjoyed a secure relationship with their mothers are better able to engage in positive, prosocial interactions with others; to enter a new, potentially stressful situation with a strange child; and to adapt quickly through the use of initiations, engagement in mutual tasks, enthusiasm, conversation, sharing, and appropriate affect.

The study also found that children of well-educated mothers were better able to generate strategies that helped them maneuver through this new and potentially stressful play period, suggesting that mothers who are well-educated may provide greater and more opportunities and environments for their children to interact with both friends and strangers. In addition, contextual variables proved to be more important than the predictor variables of temperament and intelligence in relation to the children's behavior. This finding supports the work of Vaughn, LeFever, Seifer, and Barlow (1989) who concluded that attachment and temperament at age one year are not correlated and are two separate constructs when measured early in life.

Finally, mothering styles were related to the childrens' demonstrated levels of social competence. Children of mothers who were overly directive in providing verbal instructions did less well in free play interactions, children of less directive mothers were less socially motivated, and mothers who acknowledged a preference for a permissive style perceived their children as having fewer behavior problems. Thus, it seems that permissive









mothers may be distorting their children's behavior. Because these mothers are responsive but less demanding, it may be that their standards of problematic behavior differ from those of overly directive and less directive mothers.

Children of less responsive mothers had more behavior problems. According to Roberts (1986), responsiveness, a component of parental warmth, may constitute a child's primary experience of herself or himself as affective and agential. He adds that both overcontrol and under-control by parents--the latter representing the permissive parent--may contribute to learned helplessness. These findings on mothers' beliefs and child competence suggest that responsiveness results not only in a sense of agency, as Roberts puts it, but also in a child's ability to act appropriately with peers.

Finally, Kuhns (1993) investigated the relationship of mothers' modeling and

coaching behaviors and provision of peer experiences to children's social problem-solving skills or social competence. The participants were 32 four-year-olds and their mothers. The teachers rated the social competence of the children on the basis of their behaviors, and the children were observed as they interacted with their mothers in a problem-solving task. In addition, hypothetical vignettes of peer dilemmas were presented to the children through drawing and discussion, and the children were asked to tell their interpretation of the situation and the ideas they had to resolve the problem.

Findings showed that mothers who believed adult modeling of appropriate

behaviors was helpful to children were not likely to provide structured peer play, but provided high quality instructions to their children in the problem-solving task. To accomplish this, a mother would have to demonstrate flexibility in her interpretation of her child's responses and adapt her efforts to her child's abilities. In short, the mother would be problem-solving while interacting with her child. Thus, problem-solving would become a collaborative activity. This particular finding suggests that mothers who believe that provision of directions helps children learn are more directive in their interactions with their children, and mothers who value compliant behavior are more likely to set limits on









their children's behavior. This is consistent with work done by Booth, Rose-Krasnor, and Rubin (1991), who found that mothers who emphasized directiveness as a means for teaching social skills were more directive as they interacted with their child. And Kochanska, Kuczynski, and Radke-Yarrow (1989) found that mothers' endorsement of specific child-rearing practices was related to the mothers' actual use of those practices.

Another finding showed that there were significant relationships between the

mothers' socialization practices and the children's social problem-solving skills. Mothers' belief in modeling behavior as an effective strategy for teaching social skills did not relate either to the children's problem-solving or to their social competence. But modeling appropriate social skills in the maternal-child interaction related negatively to children's expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies as the means to resolve peer problems. This finding supported the conclusions of Boldizar, Khatri, and Jones, (1991); Hart, DeWolf, Burts, Charlesworth, and Bourque (1991); and Lochman, Cohen, and Wayland (1991). In each of these studies, parents' behavior in discipline situations was related to the children's outcome expectations for aggressive strategies. Parents who used power assertive discipline strategies had children who expected positive outcomes for aggressive strategies, whereas parental use of induction was negatively related to the children's expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies.

Supportive mothers demonstrated respect for their children's autonomy, were effective in the instructions they gave, and set limits to provide some direction for the children's efforts. They praised the children frequently and were less directive in their verbal behavior. They praised their children and provided more peer play opportunities for them. These findings suggest that mothers who are supportive and guiding, but do not demonstrate overly controlling behavior, rear children who are better able to interact positively among peers.

Mothers who were less controlling in interactions with their children and better

able to coordinate their behavior to the children's ability had children who were less likely









to suggest aggressive strategies and more likely to expect positive outcomes for prosocial strategies and for appeals to authority strategies. In contrast, mothers who were more controlling and had more directive behavior were associated with children expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies and expectations for less positive results for prosocial strategies. These findings seem to reflect the scaffolding concept of Vygotsky's cognitive development. Mothers who provide too little guidance to their children or are too directive may not be challenging the children's higher levels of development. Mothers who use scaffolding lead their children to think through the situation and consider alternatives; that is, they give their children practice in problem-solving and reinforcing their children's success at problem-solving.

There was a significant relationship between mothers' provision of peer play and child outcomes. For example, the relationship of non-school peer contacts to children's social competence is clear. The less exposure children have to peers, the more aggressive strategies they suggest, the more likely they are to expect positive outcomes for give-up strategies, and the more distractible and hostile they behave in the classroom. The more children interact with peers, the more considerate they are and the fewer aggressive strategies they suggest to resolve peer problems. The children's sense of competence with peers was related to their social problem-solving skills. Children who lacked confidence in their social skills suggested aggressive strategies in response to hypothetical peer problems.

These studies of parental influence and mothers' education and socioeconomic status emphasize the importance of secure attachments in the first year of life, as well as the extent to which a mother's education influences her child's ability to initiate and maintain positive interactions with peers by age four and beyond.

Sociodramatic Play

Sociodramatic play is the coordinated and reciprocal make-believe with peers that emerges around two and one-half years and increases rapidly until age four or five, and









experts agree that it is an integral aspect of preschool activities (Beaty, 1992; Hendrick, 1988). The dramatic play center is a housekeeping area, which includes props for engaging in work and family roles. Some classrooms also may include other thematic centers like a grocery store, restaurant, airport, or doctor's office. Using traditional housekeeping and novel dramatic play centers, Howe (1993) compared the effects of theme and novelty on the social and cognitive play of two- to five-year-old children and reported that more dramatic play was observed in centers that used familiar rather than unfamiliar themes. Other studies have shown that such thematic centers enhance children's active involvement in their play (Woodard, 1984) and facilitate their social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. Further, the arrangement or design of these centers may significantly influence the children's play (Howe, Moller, & Chambers, 1994).

Petrakos and Howe (1996) investigated the influence of the physical design and the theme of dramatic play centers on young children's social and cognitive play. The participants in this study were four- to five-year-old children from middle-class families. The children attended two preschool classrooms in the same urban day care center. The program's goal was to promote the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of the children. There was a balance of teacher-directed story reading and child-directed play activities. During play, the children were encouraged to be active explorers in their environment. Teachers were mainly observers and intervened only when a child requested assistance or required help in a conflict situation.

The dramatic play centers of both classrooms were altered weekly in theme-extended housekeeping area or train station, and in the design of the equipment--solitary versus group design. The participants were assigned to groups of four, each group comprising children with low, medium, and high levels of dramatic play and balanced for gender. Groups remained constant throughout the study.

The findings showed that group designed centers facilitated children's social

interactions by allowing them to focus on each other and to engage in complimentary role









play. Conversely, solitary designed centers facilitated individual use of materials and limited social exchanges and role play behaviors. In addition, the study's findings showed that in social play, group play was more frequent, followed by solitary play and parallel play. Dramatic play was the most frequent cognitive play. In the non-play categories, peer conversation occurred most often.

These findings supported those of Howe (1993), and served to emphasize the

importance of play. New play experiences enhance child development and promote social understandings through peer interaction. Both of these studies also supported the findings of Woodard (1984). The teachers' goal in designing dramatic play centers can have a direct influence on the content of children's play. Meanwhile, some studies have shown that moderately realistic materials like dress-up clothes and vehicles facilitate higher levels of pretend play than do materials of high or low degrees of realism (Elder & Pederson, 1978; Overton & Jackson, 1973; Pulaski, 1973). Depending on their interests and ability to use their imaginations, children can elect to play bus driver, race car driver, fire fighter, astronaut, or any other role.

Make-believe play also can enhance mental abilities. Newman (1990) explored some of the ways in which this kind of play promotes memory recall in preschool aged children. Four- and five-year-olds were asked to remember a set of toys or to play with them. The play condition was more fruitful. Some of the children were asked to name and touch toys as a strategy for later recall of the objects. Others were allowed to play at will with the toys. This latter group was better able to remember the toys and seemed to do so with little effort. This finding suggests that play is a viable strategy for facilitating the recall of information already processed and stored.

More, make-believe play enhances the development of language skills. ErvinTripp (1991) and Winton (1991) found that in group play, children made active use of verbal communication. In the process, they shared and exchanged ideas and vocabularies, they corrected each other's speech, and came away from the play experience richer in









language experience. This is particularly true in play situations where children represent diverse backgrounds and different ways of thinking and doing. Thus, play can and does contribute to the overall development of young children.

Play provides personal expression and catharsis of inner desires, helps the child to distinguish between reality and fantasy, provides for social adaptation, provides a dynamic for learning, and enhances creativity through interactions, transformation, and imagination.

Play and Children's Conflicts

Play and behavior complement each other in children's social interactions which may be positive or negative. An interaction is negative when the outcome is a conflict. Hay (1984) and Shantz (1987) defined a conflict as a relationship in which two people have incompatible goals and use a variety of prosocial and antisocial strategies to influence each other's behavior. Conflicts arise when chosen strategies fail to achieve a desired goal and may continue if persistent attempts or alternative strategies are unsuccessful (Krasnor & Rubin, 1983).

Some researchers have studied conflict by observing typically developing children. Sackin and Thelen (1984) found that the type of behavior or strategy used affected the outcome of typically developing children's conflicts. A conciliatory solution was found when a satisfactory outcome of the conflict was obtained and play continued among members of the preceding conflict. Laursen and Hartup (1989) found that conflicts were most commonly resolved by teacher intervention, resulting in a win-lose outcome and separation after the conflict. Both children losing in a conflict was rarely observed. When it did occur, it was usually the result of a teacher intervention. The interaction between the children ceased and each child went her or his separate way. However, in at least twenty percent of the conflicts, adult intervention helped to maintain play (Wilson, 1988).

Sometimes conflict leads to aggression. In a related study, Shantz (1986)

examined the relationship between conflict and aggression in typically developing children. The participants were first- and second-grade boys and girls from two suburban schools









that served working-class to upper-middle-class families in predominantly white neighborhoods. The children were observed in the after-school free play period. A major finding of this study was that children who frequently engaged in conflict with peers used a higher percentage of physical aggression in resolving disputes than did children with fewer conflicts. This finding suggested that grade-school children may be disposed to resist peer influence by using some form of force in the resolution of a conflict. The force may be expressed as assertiveness, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and stubborness. It also suggested that children who have a high concern for themselves and a low concern for others are more likely to be confrontational and enter into conflict with others, rather than to avoid fights and/or immediately defer to the wishes of another. Having a strong desire to win at all times, such children resort to aggression during the course of conflict episodes.

The study also showed that for both both boys and girls, the rate of conflict and measures of aggressive behavior displayed during conflict were related to being disliked. Studies have shown that aversive treatment elicits hostility and dislike when it is viewed as unjustified and unfair (Burnstein & Worchel, 1962; Mallick & McCandless, 1966). Some studies suggested that the behavior patterns associated with aggression among grade school children and adolescents originate in early childhood and tend to remain stable over time. These studies also showed that as long as a child's environmental conditions remain relatively the same, an aggressive toddler is likely to become an aggressive five-year-old (Cummings, lannotti & Zahn-Waxler, 1989), and the amount of verbal and physical aggression a child displays at ages five to twelve is a fairly good predictor of aggressive behavior in adolescence (Cairns, Cairns & Neckerman, 1989; Caspi, Elder & Bem, 1987; Huesmann, Eron, Lefkowitz & Walder, 1984; Olweus, 1987). Aggressive children are more active, more irregular in their behavior, have lower thresholds for tolerating differences, are lower on adaptability, and are rated high on intensity, persistence, and









distractibility (Thomas, Chess, & Birch, 1968). Thus, difficult children elicit negative responses from their peers, and this, in turn, engenders hostility and aggression.

Malloy and McMurray (1996) investigated the peer conflicts of preschool boys and girls in an ethnically diverse prekindergarten classroom at a midwestern university's laboratory school. The participants were four- to five-year-old children from lower- and middle-class families. Some of the participants were considered to be typically developing children, while the others were considered to be at-risk learners.

The findings revealed that the at-risk children sought to achieve social goals that were associated with conflict: object acquisition, annoyance, group entry, change in the course of play, invasion of space, defying school rules, and stopping the actions of others. The children chose goals and strategies associated with conflict according to their cognitive, social, verbal, and physical abilities; and teacher interventions were necessary to facilitate conflict resolutions. Object acquisition was the most frequently sought goal of children in conflict.

All of the children used a variety of verbal strategies during conflicts, but typically developing children used more verbal skills, while at-risk children demonstrated a lack of effective verbal skills necessary to resolve conflicts successfully. The latter used more aggressive strategies such as pushing, hitting, kicking, taunting, name calling, pulling hair, and hostile gestures than did the typically developing children, whose strategies involved affection and removing the object of conflct.

The study's findings also revealed that boys had more frequent and aggressive conflicts than did girls. This finding supported one finding of Shantz's study (1986); however, another study contradicts it. Sheldon (1992) questioned the cultural stereotypes that interpret girls as less forceful or less assertive than boys in pursuing their own agendas, particularly during conflict episodes, and found that at-risk girls were just as forceful and aggressive as were boys.









Often conflicts arise when unpopular preschoolers decide who will play and what roles each will assume during group play. Black (1992) examined the communication strategies that preschoolers used to negotiate themes and roles in social pretend play and reported that the disliked group used higher proportions of suggestion and demands than did children in the liked group, while disliked girls used the highest proportion of suggestions. This finding seems to suggest that unpopular preschoolers are disliked and/or rejected by their peers. However, other studies have shown that the opposite is true (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey & Brown, 1986; Farver, 1996).

Play and Social Competence
Children's aggressive behaviors have been related to poor social competence with peers (Kavesh, 1991). Children who lack prosocial skills often behave negatively with peers, experience difficulty in initiating and maintaining interactions, and may use aggression to resolve their conflicts (Dodge, et al, 1986). Conversely, aggressive behavior also may be a contributor to children's poor social competence (Kuhns, 1993). Children who behave aggressively with peers have problems forming close mutual friendships; display characteristics that annoy and anger their peers, and often are socially rejected by their peer group (Dodge, 1983; Dodge, Coie, Pettit & Price, 1990; Coie, Dodge & Kupersmidt, 1990; Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992).

Research supports the notion that throughout middle childhood and adolescence children tend to form friendships with those who are similar to themselves in age, gender (Berndt, 1982; Eppstein, 1989), social status, popularity, and behavior style (Kandel, 1978; Ladd, 1983). These associations result in the formation of cliques whose members generally reinforce certain patterns of behavior.
Farver (1996) examined the role of social cliques in manifested behaviors of

aggression among preschoolers. The participants were four-year-old white and Hispanic boys and girls enrolled in a preschool program that served a low income community in a large west coast city. All of the children had attended the program regularly for at least









four months before the study began. The investigator observed naturally-occurring aggressive behaviors among well-acquainted and socially-experienced preschoolers during indoor free play periods. The teachers rated the children's social competence and behavior style within an educational setting and also named their friends.

Aggression was defined as an incident in which a child engaged in name calling, teasing, taunting or quarreling, pinching, hitting, pushing, poking, or grabbing another child with the intent to hurt, annoy, or harass the other child, or to obtain an object or access to territory or privilege. Narratives of aggressive behaviors were coded for how the aggressive behavior got started, the behavior displayed by each child involved in the conflict, peer and teacher responses, and the outcome of the conflict.

The findings of this study showed that at-risk preschoolers formed reciprocated friendships within social networks of aggressive peers. The findings support work done by Cairns and Cairns (1984) and Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Gest and Gariepy (1988), which showed that aggressive school age children and adolescents are not necessarily rejected by their peers, but tend to form social cliques of other aggressive individuals and reciprocated friendships with children similar to themselves.

The relationship of the children's behavior style and social competence showed

that, for both boys and girls, aggressive behavior was negatively associated with personal, social adaptability and positively correlated with difficult social functioning with peers. The children organized themselves into cliques, and there were significant effects of clique status on total aggressive behavior. The social cliques were characterized by moderately high levels of similarities in total aggression. However, similarities based on behavior style and social competence varied from clique to clique.
The frequency of aggressive behavior observed in this study support the findings of other investigations. Cairns, Gariepy & Kinderman (1990) reported that aggression is an infrequent event and generally accounts for 3 to 6% of children's total interactions. This finding also supports studies of aggressive grade-school children and adolescents in which









a minority of children in each classroom are often found to be involved in a majority of the incidents (Perry, Kussel & Perry, (1988). In the Farver (1996) study, 33% of the children accounted for the majority of aggressive incidents.

These studies challenge the long held assumption that friendships among

preschoolers are so tenuous that it is difficult to tell from day to day who is whose friend. In the life of preschoolers, play and friends go together. Friendship is the key factor in who gets to play in whose group, who is accepted into which group, and the duration of a child's participation in a given play group.

Young Children and Rules in Play
Another aspect of social competence and the acquisition of prosocial skills also touching on the variables of play and friendship is the preschoolers' attitude to classroom rules and moral development. Rule following has been established as a stage in children's moral development and in their play, although scholars have noted that children both respond to and resist adult-imposed rules. In the developmental literature, the recognition and internalization of rules is seen as one of the major stages in moral development and play. Both Piaget (1945/1951) and Kohlberg (1969) have established that an important phase in children's moral development, the second level in most schematic representations of their work, is reached when they accept that society should be rule governed. Furthermore, the third and final stage in Piaget's stages of play is the children's move to playing games with clearly defined rules.

For researchers with a sociocultural rather than a developmental approach, the

focus is on rules as an artifact of the society into which children are born, an artifact they must learn to handle. Vygotsky (1934/1987) declared that all forms of play are rule governed and that the rules, implicitly or explicitly stated, are understood and accepted by children. Garvey (1990) argued that children are taught the art of playing in accordance with rules from the earliest games of peek-a-boo with their mothers, and that Piaget's games stage is simply a final formulization of this learned process. In addition, Garvey









also noted that these are not the only rules children encounter. They are constantly met by definitions of appropriate use of objects and appropriate forms of interpersonal relations. Children, it seems, are continually testing the limits of these rules, taking chances, running risks, and finding humor in the unconventional use of objects. Cosaro (1985), looking at the same phenomenon, has analyzed it in terms of secondary adjustments, a covert, often mocking, resistance to the rules that demonstrates the individual's determination not to be coerced, but also to avoid the overt resistance that would provoke sanctions.

Jordan, Cowan & Roberts (1995) investigated this aspect of the use of rules among four- to six-year-old children who were enrolled in prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. The children were predominantly white and English-speaking and came from socioeconomic backgrounds that ranged from professionals to welfare recipients. The children peer interactions were observed during after-school free play time for the kindergarteners and during outside play time for the prekindergarteners.

The investigators focused their attention on the children's knowledge of rules and their ability to use this knowledge strategically as a way of attaining power. Paraphrasing Weber (1922/1978), the investigators defined rules as every possibility within a social relationship of imposing one's will, even against opposition. In conversation, such rules may have semantic markers like "must," "got to," and "not allowed." However, they often must be deduced from less specific wording that can be seen as referring back to a rule, unstated in the particular context, but familiar to all those engaged in the interaction. Jordan et al (1995) also relied on the conceptualization of power first elaborated by Michel Foucault (1984), who distinguished between a relationship of violence, which acts upon the body of the other, and one that determines the action of the other. Foucault argued that power is wielded by those who can best manipulate the definition of truth. Truth is produced by society, and it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth or types of discourse that it accepts and makes function as true.









Jordan et al (1995) also found that there were no gender differences in children's attempts to gain control of space, equipment, and materials by excluding other children. Both boys and girls used physical and discursive strategies, and the boys relied more than girls did on the physical, corroborating the finding of work done by Malloy and McMurray (1996) and Shantz (1986). Nor were there differences in the discourses the children used. However, a persistent pattern emerged in almost every incident showing children invoking classroom rules to impose their wills, sometimes implicitly but often clearly stated. This was often supported by other strategies although not always successfully. Due to the emergence of this finding, Jordan et al (1995) replicated this study at three more schools, using the same classroom groupings. The findings of each study supported the others.

The study also showed that while physical interactions were intense, they were brief and unmarked by violence. In the prekindergarten classrooms, hitting, scratching, pushing, and snatching were brief and were followed by appeals to adult intervention. In the kindergarten classrooms such behaviors were rare and children use their "inside voices." In all study settings, violence was not condoned, and the children were neither allowed to fashion guns from classroom materials like construction paper nor engage in games that emulated TV's Captain Planet and Power Rangers. The study suggests that these structural conditions caused the children who wanted to have their own way or to resist the dominance of others, to learn quickly alternative strategies that could not be categorized as violence and, therefore, be forbidden.

In the prekindergarten classrooms, children learned to invoke the rules to defend their own activities and exclude others. For example, two girls built a tower while two boys watched. One of the watchers destroyed the top of the tower. The other watcher supported the girls by claiming ownership of the tower. When another boy came along and wanted to join the construction crew, the builders quickly invoked another rule, which previously had been ignored, about the permitted height of buildings, to position him as a watcher rather than a builder.









Prekindergarten sociodramatic play was often characterized by slippages between discourse referring to the real world in which they found themselves and those that assume they are operating in a shared fantasy world and their shared awareness of the difference between the two worlds. Although rules played a significant role in these fantasy worlds, they were seldom used as weapons within a power struggle. When a struggle arose, the children tended to slip outside the fantasy world and invoke the classroom rules.

These findings suggest that young children view rules of the real world as more

useful than those of fantasy games. A major source of power for children seeking it seems to lie in the ability to invoke, selectively, rules whose truth is unchallenged within the shared discursive knowledge of the group, but which legitimizes their own personal requirements and desires at a particular moment. The findings also suggest that these children have found that the safest discourses to refer to, the ones where there is the least chance that the truth of the rule will be challenged, are those from which rules imposed by the teacher are derived, rules established by her to create a classroom environment for fostering the children's learning and development, but used by them for the exercise of power.

It appears that four-year-old children become increasingly skilled at the manipulations of this knowledge. To adults, the invocation of rules in this age group seems helter-skelter and sometimes inappropriate. Meanwhile, the children manipulate their knowledge of the classroom rules with sophistication and ingenuity. Ultimately the children see these rules as significant not only for the control of their own behavior but also for that of others.

Of interest are the children's effective utilization of the rules. This may indicate that they sought to gain or resist power without resorting to physical violence. And, as Garvey (1990) and Corsaro (1985) have shown, the children may have explored, resisted, and played comic tricks with the rules imposed on them by adults. In addition, the









children may have used the rules as a form of knowledge in the Foucaudian sense to impose their will on others or gain control of valued resources.

Summary

The studies cited in this review of the current literature reinforce the theory of cultural transmission through mother-child interactions and show that parental attitudes can and do influence the prosocial skills of young children. In some cases, the influence is positive; in others, the influence is negative. As the child enters the school environment, play takes on a new significance. To a child, play is just that, play. To researchers and educators, it is a lot more. Mellou (1994) stressed the importance of this essential activity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in sociodramatic play, where interactive events facilitate the children's social, emotional, cognitive, and language development.

For many young children, a preschool classroom is their first systematic experience and opportunity to form new relationships with other children their own age. Not all children enter the environment of the classroom with the social competencies to embark upon this challenge. The literature shows, through repeated incidents, that in the process of acquiring social competence, at-risk preschoolers must encounter and learn to cope with conflict and, sometimes, with verbal and physical aggression.

It is essential that young children learn the appropriate strategies that would

equip them to avoid or handle confrontations adequately when such arise. An important variable is behavior, but the most important variable is the teacher. This is especially true of the preschool experience of at-risk learners. The teacher has a significant force and effect on the children in terms of how behaviors are dealt with. An advantage is that the setting of the preschool classroom affords more opportunities for at-risk children to arrive at generalizations for behaviors and attitudes than they do at home. A proactive approach to promoting social understandings among preschoolers would help those children considered to be at-risk for social and academic failure to self-adapt and self-adjust their thinking and their attitudes as they learn to control their own behaviors and coexist within





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the framework of the rules that govern the classroom. In the process, these children will learn to be self-reliant, self-confident, assertive, show initiative, and solve problems on their own. At-risk children will have developed prosocial skills, that enable them to initiate and maintain positive interactions with both friends and new acquaintances.














CHAPTER THREE
METHODOLOGY
The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the

development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. This chapter provides details about how the study was conducted. This includes information about access, the school, the Head Start program, the participants, and the research procedure. It also includes the procedure used for data collection, interview, and access to the children's writings and artifacts, as well as the procedure used for data analysis, validity and reliability, and bias, control, and researcher qualification.
Access

In the fall of 1995, a laboratory school in a southeastern state had initiated a Head Start program to serve the needs of preschoolers who were considered at risk for social and academic failure. The criterion for inclusion in the program was that the child must be from a low income family or from a family that receives public assistance. I was keenly interested in the social and academic welfare of such children. At the same time, I was aware of the many commonly held assumptions about children from low income families. I believed that, upon completion of the study, I would be better equipped to work with such children. This school is well-known throughout the community and state, and one of its main functions is the promotion of research in education, which may be useful to members of the teaching profession, such that students may be the beneficiaries of studies conducted there.
Accordingly, I arranged to meet with the school's director in the spring of 1996. I outlined to him my proposed study in terms of its purpose, participants, methodology, and duration. By this time, I already had obtained permission from the university's institu-









tional review board to conduct an observational study. The director seemed pleased that I had chosen his school as the proposed site for my study and readily granted me permission to do the study. The elementary school principal was out-of-town and could not participate in this meeting; therefore, I scheduled another meeting where she and I could discuss my proposed study. That opportunity came one week later. The discussion was similar to that which I had had with the director. The principal reiterated that I had permission to conduct the proposed study at this school, and I was given the option to observe children in a prekindergarten-kindergarten combination classroom or children in a prekindergarten classroom that served young children considered to be at-risk for social and academic failure. I chose the latter. The fact that I am a former teacher at the school also may have facilitated my entry to the study site.

The School
The setting for this study is a laboratory school located on the campus of a large university in a southern state. There are three schools combined to serve children in prekindergarten through the 12th grade. The elementary school has its own administrative and teaching staff, while the middle- and upper-schools share administrative and teaching staff, with a director at the helm.

In order to provide some background information about the study site, here is a

brief historical perspective on the school. Founded in 1934, the school was once a part of the main university campus and served children whose parents were on the university's faculty. By 1958, increased registration and space requirements necessitated a move to a new 34 acre site not far from the main campus. The school consists of a series of onestory buildings that, on one end, open onto parking areas, and at the other end they open onto open grassy areas decorated with flowering trees, a football stadium, and large play areas. All of the classrooms are large, well-lighted, and well-ventilated; and all classrooms are accessible to students.









The elementary classrooms are at one end of the campus and are separated from the middle and upper schools by a ravine that traverses the campus. This ravine is significant because three to four weeks before the end of the school year, fifth-graders are given an orientation to the middle school which they will attend the following school year. At this time, there is the traditional "crossing of the bridge" and entry into the world of the middle-schoolers. There are no physical barriers between the middle- and upper-schools.

To attend this school, parents must apply for their child's admission; the waiting list is very long, particularly for the elementary school. In fact, there is a commonly held belief that parents apply for admission of children who are yet unborn. There also is an annual tuition fee. The application process and annual fee set this school apart from the public schools, and the local residents refer to it as a "private school." However, this fee is not applicable to participants of the Head Start program, which is federally funded. The primary criterion for inclusion in this program is that the child is a member of a low income family or a family on public assistance. Because of the school's commitment to the education process, the academic success of its students, its emphasis on maintaining a diverse student body that mirrors the ethnic make-up of the state, and its affiliation to the university, many parents want their children enrolled there. Some children are known as "lifers" because they have completed all of their formal education in this one school.

The parents are very much involved in the life of the school, and they serve it in many capacities. Some parents function as chaperones on field trips, some are teacheraides, some offer presentations before student assemblies, some participate on school committees, some help in the library. Their involvement serves two purposes: it helps the school, and it motivates their children. Parents are welcome to visit classrooms at any time, as long as they do not disrupt the normal flow of classroom activity. In fact, the classrooms are afflicted by a "fish bowl syndrome," for in addition to parents, there are always visitors from other counties, states, and countries wanting to see what takes place at the school and how things are done there.









The Participants
Initially there were 19 preschool children in the study. Their ages ranged from 48 months to 66 months. The group was comprised of eleven girls and eight boys. The girls ranged in age from four years to five years and three months, having a mean age of four years and nine months. The boys ranged in age from four years to four years and eleven months, having a mean age of four years and seven months. This included two sets of fraternal twins: two boys and a girl and a boy. Thirteen of the children were AfricanAmerican, five were white, and one was Latina. Three of the children were classified as having speech and language problems, and seven of the children were enrolled in the program for other unspecified circumstances. By the middle of the first semester, one of the girls was taken out of the program because of transportation problems, and by the end of November the twin brothers no longer participated in the program. Reasons for their absence were never divulged to the investigator. During the seventh and eighth months of the school year, three boys and one girl were admitted to the program. At the end of the school year, there were 20 children in the program.

All of the children were from low income families, all had been recruited from the county's Head Start waiting list, and all had been enrolled in the program on a full-time basis for six weeks prior to the start of this study. Two of the families lived in an area of the city that is generally considered affluent. Eight families lived in middle-class neighborhoods. Five families lived in working class neighborhoods. There were three families, each living in a different outlying area of the county. One family's domicile was unknown to this investigator. Information about the families was derived from teacher information and items on display in the classroom and demonstrated an effort to maintain the demographic diversity that characterizes this school. This Head Start program was chosen for the study because all of the students were from families that shared a common economic status, both genders were represented, and there was cultural diversity. In particular, all of the children were considered to be at risk of failure.









The Head Start Program

Head Start is a prekindergarten intervention program that is specifically designed to meet the needs of young children from low income families. This program was important to this study because all of the children enrolled in it were considered at-risk of failure. On average, the children spent at least seven hours a day, five days a week at the school. The after-school program lasted from 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p. m. A teacher and one teacher-aide were assigned to the classroom with a maximum of 20 children in the classroom. Incorporated into the program were educational activities that included classroom free play to promote the social, affective, and academic development of the preschool child. The teacher and teacher-aide(s) were required to attend weekly Head Start workshops, where they were instructed in the use of the High Scope, a program grounded in the interest of at-risk learners.

The Head Start program was comprehensive in that it addressed the total

development of the children considered to be at-risk of failure. It was a child-centered, child-directed program. The classroom was self-contained, and the teacher and teacheraide(s) ate their meals with the children in a family-style setting. Accordingly, there was a number of support personnel available to the children who benefited from the services they provided. There was a teacher specialist, a speech therapist, a mental health counselor, and a liaison person. The liaison person was hired into the Title One program at the school and maintained continual contact with the Head Start program. She and the teacher made home visits at regular intervals. Together, the teacher and the liaison processed the needs assessment of the families: Did the child need shoes? Were the utilities turned on? Was there enough food in the house? Did the parent(s) need educational, social, or metal health support? This information was added to the database, and Family Services--through the Head Start program--was contacted to accommodate these needs.









All parents were encouraged to become actively involved in their children's school life. There were monthly parent meetings where business and other concerns were discussed. These meetings were held in the evening in the classroom. Parents took turns in the roles of secretary and policy counselor. The secretary prepared and presented the minutes of the monthly meetings; the policy counselor attended school board meetings and shared pertinent information with the others at the monthly meetings.

Research Procedure

This section of the chapter includes the procedure used for data collection, interview, and access to the children's writings and artifacts. It also includes the procedure used for data analysis; validity and reliability; and bias, control, and researcher qualification. Data Collection

All of the children had been classified as at-risk learners. The children were observed in the natural setting of the preschool environment while at play. Observations

The investigator observed the children at play, both indoors and outdoors.

Observations of their naturally-occurring interactions were recorded in writing. The study was initiated in mid-October, 1996, and continued until the end of the school year in May, 1997. Permission to observe the children was granted by the university's institutional review board.

During the first week of the study, the children were observed every day for two

hours a day. All of the children had been enrolled in the Head Start program on a full-time basis, and the investigator believed that this initial phase of observations would facilitate the early identification of each child by name and provide some sense of already existing social relationships. The investigator also believed that this period would accustom the children to her presence in the classroom. After the first week, observations took place three days a week for two hours a day. Observations took place in the mornings during indoor sociodramatic/pretend play and outdoor free play. These observations provided









first-hand information about the children's ability to utilize prosocial skills and appropriate problem-solving strategies. The findings are presented in the form of a narrative report that is interesting and informative. To protect the rights of those involved in the study, the investigator has assigned fictitious names to all participants. Interviews
To evaluate the children's prosocial skills, an in-depth, one-on-one interview was

conducted during the month of May, 1997. The investigator sought parental permission to conduct the interviews. A letter providing the details of the interview process and consent form were included in the weekly package sent home to parents. Both the letter and the consent form were prepared by the investigator ( Appendix A). The following Wednesday, another copy of the letter and consent form were again sent to those parents who had not responded to the first request. Forty percent of the parents returned the signed consent form.

Social competence is the development of adequate social skills that lead to the

ability to initiate and sustain nondisruptive social interactions. Asher and Renshaw (1981) stated that if social competence is not demonstrated through performance in a behavioral situation, it can be evaluated through responses to hypothetical, problematic social situations. Play is a social event, and hypothetical, problematic social situations provided the background for the interview process.

Problematic social situations were derived from the Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum (1990) published by the Committee for Children, Seattle, WA (Appendix B). Second Step was designed, specifically, to speak to the social competence needs of young children, who have been classified as at-risk learners. The interview instrument was a series of large photographic posters. Each poster was approximately 18 inches by 12 inches and represented a social situation that is common in the daily experience of at-risk preschoolers (Appendix C).









Each interview took place in a quiet, shaded corner of the play area outside of and behind the classroom. Each participant was escorted from the classroom and led to the interview area by the investigator. The participant was told that she or he was going to have a conversation with the investigator about playing with other children. The participant also was told that she or he did not have to answer a question if the question was too difficult or made the child uncomfortable. Lastly, the participant was told that she or he could end the conversation at any time and for any reason.

The children responded to 20 play situations that were divided into three phases. Phase one focused on the child's ability to empathize or recognize the feelings of others. Phase two emphasized the child's ability to problem solve through perspective taking. Phase three stressed the child's ability to decrease and, if possible, eliminate the anger of another child by using verbal and physical cues. The progression of interviewer questions depended on the answers the interviewee provided to the previous question. Interviews were conducted in the second half of the month of May, and took place at the rate of one a day during the children's nap time. Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes. All interviews were recorded on audiotape and transcribed later. Writings

Examples of the children's writings were obtained from the classroom teacher. The purpose was to ascertain if the writings contributed to the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. These items included writings the children produced on their own as well as their dictated writings in the form of book-making. Artifacts
The children were asked by their teacher to draw a person, but were not told who to draw. Each child was given a sheet of paper, crayons, and markers. A mirror was placed at each table. The children could have used it if they chose to do so. This activity was repeated at regular intervals, and the products of the children's engagement in it were collected and filed away. The Head Start program evaluated the first and final drawings









for each child for evidence of social growth. The investigator had access to the final drawings.

Data Analysis
Data analysis was conducted on 172 hours of observations from field notes taken and then transcribed by the investigator. The measure used was Domain Analysis (Dodge & Price, 1994). The collected data were coded to determine the existence of patterns. When patterns were found, they were recoded and categories were established. This process of coding and recoding was done until saturation had been achieved.

In Phase One of the interview, the child was shown a picture of a young child's face and asked: "What do you think this child is feeling? How can you tell that she --or he--feels...? What makes you feel...? Do you often feel this way? What do you do when you feel...? Attention was given to whether the child was able to read and interpret accurately facial cues that indicate feelings like happy, sad, angry or mad, afraid or scared, and disgusted, and how well the child empathized with the feelings of another child.

In Phase Two, the child was asked to look at a representation of a play situation and respond to the following questions: "Do you think someone has a problem?" "Who has a problem?" "What is the girl's--or boy's--problem?" What can she--or he--say or do to solve this problem?" "Do you think that will work?" If you were this girl--or boy, what would you say or do?" "Why would you say--or do--that?" Responses were evaluated as to (1) how well the child was able to read and interpret facial, physical, and environmental clues, together; (2) her or his ability to choose appropriate problem solving strategies; (3) her or his rationale for the strategy chosen; (4) and her or his ability to find and explain the choice of alternative strategies, if any.

In Phase Three, each participant was shown pictorial representations of an angry young child and asked to respond to the following questions: "How do you think this girl--or boy-- feels?" "Why do you think she--or he--is angry?" "If you were the girl--or boy--in this picture, what would you say or do to help her--or him?" Why would you say









--or do--that?" Responses were evaluated as to whether the participant was able to sugguest a verbal cue--"I'm sorry," "Would you like to play with me?"--or a physical cue--"Do you want to play with my toy?" The children's writings and drawings were evaluated for evidence of physical, cognitive, and social growth. Validity and Reliability

To provide validity of the data collected, every attempt was made to capture the children's interactions as they happened, thereby providing as faithful an account as possible of how the interaction started, the reactions of those involved in the interaction, and the outcome of the interaction. The data included replications of play situations and participants' responses to those situations. Further, the interview posters offered multiple representations of play situations, which contribute to the reliability of the assessment. Reliability was also achieved through triangulation. This is a process that required the input of at least three individuals in analyzing the collected data. The data were analyzed by the investigator with the assistance of two graduate students. After the coding, categorizing, and domaining of the collected data, the investigator and the two assistants compared their resulting patterns, categories, and domains. There was only one area of disagreement, and this was settled after a group discussion. Thus triangulation had been achieved.

Bias, control, and researcher qualification

The investigator for this study was a teacher, who has had 28 years of classroom experience at the middle and high school levels. And although she never was a teacher of young children, her role as parent and grandparent have afforded her a considerable measure of experiences with young children. In addition, the investigator's concern for young children who are considered at risk of social and academic failure provided a depth and motivation to carry out this study. In readying herself for conducting this study, the investigator has successfully completed the necessary coursework in this area of inquiry. In the course of the study, the investigator assumed the role of observer in the play





50


environment, both indoor and outdoor. The children were accustomed to her presence in the natural setting of the classroom and outdoor play, and they were familiar to her. She did not participate in any of the children's play activities, indoor or outdoor. And on one occasion when the teacher asked her to supervise the children for 30 minutes, the investigator reminded the teacher that her role in the environment was that of observer. This supports what she was able to do to control for bias.














CHAPTER FOUR
FINDINGS: The Role of Play

The study posed four research questions. The first question asked: "What is the role of play?" The second posed the question, "How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers?" This chapter reports and interprets the findings from observations, interviews, writings, and artifacts that speak to these questions within the framework of Vygotsky's theory of play.

Leonard is kicking the mother of another child. He walks up to her and kicks her on the outside left ankle. She shakes a finger at him as though admonishing him. He listens quietly. She stops talking. He
approaches her and kicks her again on the same ankle. She seems
to be scolding him once more. She stops. He kicks her a third time.
She scoops him up and tucks him under her arm. He is kicking his
legs, flailing his arms, and screaming loudly, as he tries to free himself
(Observation, 10/14/96).

Leonard exemplified the behavior of children in this study who were violently aggressive, even toward adults. Two of these children displayed compulsive behaviors. Five of them demonstrated aggressive behaviors. For the purpose of this study, a compulsive behavior is a sudden and irresistible urge to display a "fixed" response to a social situation, regardless of the circumstances. One example of this behavior is the desire to totally control the behavior of others in every play situation. An aggressive behavior is an unprovoked response to a social situation and involves the use of strategies that are demanding, offensive, coercive, and intended to produce a positive outcome for the aggressor.

For these children behavior modification was not effective at the start of the study. An observed behavior checklist was compiled on each of three boys, and they yielded the following results: (a) In one hour, Jake had demonstrated nine acts of non-compliance









and eight acts of physical aggression with no time outs (10/15/96). (b) Stanley was noncompliant on three occasions, created six serious disruptions, was verbally agressive twice and physically aggressive six times. He had six time outs (10/16/96). (c) David had five acts of non-compliance and was verbally aggressive five times. He had no time outs (10/17/96).

These behaviors escalated, and there were threats of physical violence. Leonard runs after some of his classmates with a broomstick poised over his head, while his brother Lincoln is yelling and weaving in and out among the classroom furniture and purposely throws a wooden toy at one of the girls. Jake climbs on a table and snatches a toy from another girl. The teacher stops him. He responds by vigorously kicking the breakfast carrier, twice. Then he grabs a pair of cutting shears from the teacher's hand and stands poised, as if ready to fight. Minutes later, Jake snatches a plastic cup from Stanley, who punches him on the nose, which bleeds profusely (10/15/96).

By mid-week a crisis was building up. Upon the investigator's arrival in the classroom, Leonard accosted her in the following manner:

Leonard: Ah doh like you. You stupid an' you fat [He walks away, but promptly returns].
You hear me? Ah say ah doh like you 'cause you stupid, an' you fat, an' you u-u-ugly!

Precisely four minutes later,an object whizzes by her face. She feels the current of
air against her left cheek (Observation, 10/16/96).

Leonard was an angry and violent child. He was initiating a confrontation and, when it did not happen, he became angry. He was very physical in his response to classroom experiences, and he easily hurt other children. On the playground, Leonard dropkicks a girl (10/15/96), and he stands on the face of another girl during play (10/16/96). The teacher-aide confides that she is leaving the program as of today because Leonard has punched her in the face three times since the start of the school year and, on one of those occasions, he has broken her nose (10/18/96). Leonard punches the teacher









in her face and later strikes the mental health counselor on the left temple with a small wooden instrument (10/17/96). This child, and others who exhibit like behaviors, are at risk of failure because they lack the necessary prosocial skills that characterize successful interactions with adults and peers. Because of Leonard's behavior, the question of personal safety became a topic of discussion; however, the issue was never resolved.

At the end of the first week, the classroom had become unmanageable. The

behaviors exhibited by Leonard, Lincoln, Stanley, David, and Jake do not represent that of all the children in the classroom. However, 20% of the children consumed the teacher's time and succeeded in creating a chaotic atmosphere in the learning environment. The events of this week led to a complete shut down of the classroom for a period of two weeks, during which only the teacher and support staff were allowed in the room. And yet, these behaviors of the children were not intentional, although they seemed to be such.

What Is The Role of Play?
Information processing is fundamental to the at-risk child's acquisition of social competence. In information processing, the human mind is likened to a computer. Incoming information is processed and integrated into information already stored within the cortex of the brain. Processing includes encoding, recoding, and decoding of information; comparing or combining it with other information; storing it in memory; and bringing it into conscious awareness. "The quality of children's thinking at any age depends on what information they represent in a particular situation, how they operate on the information to achieve their goal, and how much information they can keep in mind at one time (Siegler, 1991, p. 59).

Different kinds of information are processed and organized into units of various sizes and levels of complexity before it is stored. Also, there are limitations on how much information can be attended to and processed simultaneously; and cognitive operations such as encoding, comparing, and retrieving information from memory require time to









execute. In a social situation, a child must encode the problem, manipulate the information that is readily available, and retrieve one or more strategies to handle the situation at hand (Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993).

Social knowledge or cognition includes a child's inferences and beliefs about the inner psychological attributes of human beings. It also includes visible social acts One child may be able to infer what another child is thinking if given adequate cues--social cognition--but may only be able to act on the cues at a superficial level--social act (Flavell, et al, 1993). Researchers have noted that the successful execution of an act of social thinking requires three general preconditions: existence, need, and inferences. (Flavell, Botkin, Fry, Wright, & Jarvis, 1968/1975).

Existence refers to a child's basic knowledge that a phenomenon of the social world exists. For example, to think about something in the social world requires an individual's awareness of its existence as a possible object of social cognition. If children are not aware that, psychologically, people think and behave in certain ways, they cannot infer the presence of those thoughts and behaviors within particular people and in particular situations. Need refers to a child's understanding of the necessity to look for cues. A child may know that all humans have experiences called feelings--existence--but may not think to look for the cause of the feelings--need. Inferencing is the skill or capacity to carry out a given form of social thinking successfully. The acquisition of social cognition is the child's developing knowledge--existence--of the variety of possible social cognitive objects available to her or him, the developing awareness--need--of when and why one might or should try to take readings of such objects, and the development of a wide variety of cognitive skills--inference--with which to take these readings (Flavell, et al, 1968/1975). It should be noted that children do not always make use of the knowledge and cognitive skills they possess, because they do not think to, do not want to, or do not see the need to do so.









Kenneth Dodge (1986) provided a model of the processing of social information during social interactions. In general, children process social information the same as they do physical information. A child is hit with a ball from behind. To most children, this would be an ambiguous event. The act could be intentional or an accident. However, a highly aggressive boy would interpret the incident as an intentional act against him (Dodge, Murphy, & Buchsbaum, 1984).

A child comes to a situation with a set of relevant, biologically determined

capabilities and predispositions, such as motor skills, temperament, and a data base of remembered, similar, past experiences. There are social cues such as peers' facial expressions, the event leading up to the act, and the reaction of observers (Flavell, et al, 1993; Tomasello, Kruger, & Ratner, 1993; Tudge, 1992; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). During encoding and representation, the child attends to and interprets certain cues. As she or he develops, the child must learn how to attend to relevant cues, integrate them into previous knowledge, and interpret them accurately. The child may also search for added information to test his interpretation. A nonaggressive child may notice that the children's ball throws are not very accurate and conclude that the "aggressor" had unintentionally overthrown the ball. Next the child searches his repertoire for possible responses, thinks through the consequence of each, selects a response, and carries it out (Dodge, 1986).

If a child believes he is the victim of an intentional, aggressive act, he is likely to retaliate and not consider more workable solutions. Children differ in the number of responses they have available and how they are likely to use each one. A highly aggressive child may conduct a biased search and consider only deviant responses. Similarly, maltreated children are less able to withhold attention from distracting, aggressive stimuli than are nonmaltreated children (Dodge, 1986). In addition, a child's emotional state affects and is affected by each step in the process of social thinking. An upset child may attend to a narrow range of social cues, and this new information









increases arousal which, in turn, stimulates the child to choose an aggressive response very quickly (Dodge, 1991).

Dodge's model suggests that socially inappropriate behavior may have many different causes, ranging from biased encoding to faulty translation of a decision into behavior. Secondly, a child's lack of social competence may be restricted to certain situations--Stanley blowing up, Stanley calm. A child may be skilled at entering play, but unable to deal with an aggressive situation. There may be inconsistencies between social cognitive measures and actual child behavior and among situations. Thirdly, each processing step has a developmental history. Thus, there are many sources of developmental change. Finally, the child's thinking described in the model often is nonconscious. Conscious processing is most likely to occur when a novel response is necessary or when children are asked to think before they act or to justify their behavior. These research findings and Dodge's model are presented here because they offer possible explanations for the behaviors exhibited by children like Leonard, Lincoln, Stanley, David, and Jake in response to stimuli in play situations.

One can, therefore, reasonably conclude that a lack of prosocial skills can restrict a child's ability to respond appropriately in social situations such as play. Raoul, the child mentioned in the introduction to this dissertation, had a problem that plagued him throughout the entire school year. Like all young children, he wanted to play and could not understand why he was repeatedly rejected by his classmates.

Raoul sits alone at a table, emptying and refilling a box of magnetized
pieces called "magicstics." After three minutes, he packs up the pieces
and places the box at the center of the table top. He props his chin on
his open palms. Donald, a new student, comes to the table, reaches for
the package, opens it, and begins to manipulate the pieces.

Teacher: Seems to me you packed it up.
Raoul: Ah wan' it back. Give it back.
Can ah have it back, Dennis?








Donald: I'm not Dennis. Why are you calling me Dennis?
Raoul: Can ah have it back, Donald?

For several minutes, Raoul continues to whine as Donald plays with the pieces.
Suddenly Raoul's eyes light up.

Raoul: Look at dee box cover.
Do you know how to do dat?
[He points to an object on the cover]
Donald: No.
Raoul: Here, lemme show you how.

Raoul grabs the box, draws all the pieces to himself, and ignores Donald's
presence at the table. Donald walks away. Left alone with the "magicstics,"
Raoul leaves the table and moves to another area where two boys are
building a track (Observation, 4/14/97).

Raoul had difficulty entering an on-going activity. He devised a strategem that

accorded him tacit permission to enter the play situation. Once he was in, Raoul sought to control the situation to the point that he excluded his playmate. Each time this child was rejected from a play situation, he whined and complained to the teacher. But he stuck to his strategy although it proved unsuccessful every time he applied it.

Unless a child can recognize and interact with peers in a social situation, that child is at a distinct disadvantage (Dodge, 1986). For example, facial characteristics, sound of voice and footsteps, smell, and touch all help an infant to recognize his caregivers, and the infant can pretty much determine what the specific caregiver will provide for him. The result can be a happy, well-adjusted infant whose needs are well met. A preschooler who is able to perceive and interpret facial, physical, and environmental cues will understand the mental state of others in a play situation. Using this knowledge, the child is better equipped to initiate a successful interaction with peers. Raoul was not reading and interpreting the cues available to him in the play situation with Donald. A successful play experience is only possible when playmates demonstrate prosocial skills that facilitate getting along with peers and the formation of friendships.









How Does Play Advance The Self Competence Of At-Risk Preschoolers?

Vygotsky (1933/1978) theorized that play is a social situation, and the learnings

derived from it are obtained through dialogue with others. He called this dialogue cultural transmission. And he emphasized mother-child interactions in play as crucial to the transmission of ideas and attitudes--as values--and behaviors that characterize the social group to which mother and child belong, as well as the manifestation of those behaviors in the home environment. For from them, the young child acquires an understanding of basic human feelings and a sense of what is or is not acceptable behavior. Generally one perceives social learning experiences as interactions from which young children understand what is or is not acceptable behavior. One also believes that children learn these behaviors through repetition and feedback which make possible the internalization or assimilation of behaviors, acceptable or unacceptable. According to Tomasello et al (1993), such learning constitutes early social cognition and comes "from" another, while cultural transmission comes "through" another. These researchers distinguished three kinds of cultural learnings that, successively, result in cultural transmission and the acquisition of social competence: imitative learning, instructed learning, and collaborative learning. Imitative Learning

Imitative learning and empathy are interrelated. Empathy is the ability to relate to the mental or emotional state of the other to the point that one experiences anew or has a vicarious experience of the same state. Empathy suggests that the young child is in tune with the feelings of the other, such that she or he understands the feeling the other is expressing, that the other may feel differently in similar situations, and that the other may feel different from still others in a given situation. In play situations, the ability to empathize with others motivates a child to demonstrate behaviors like helping, sharing, taking turns, comforting, and cooperating.









As they approached the end of the first semester, some of the children showed no progress in their ability to empathize in a social situation. For example, In a small group stencilling activity, Raoul grabs all the highlighters and refuses to share or cooperate with his playmates. When the teacher asks that he share, he gives up all of the highlighters and moves on to another table (11/13/96). Angela refuses to help clean up after pretend play (12/9/96). Roslyn is crying because she wants the bean bag with which another girl is playing (12/16/96), and Charlissa calls Judith an ugly name (12/16/96). Others were beginning to demonstrate empathetic behavior: Jake helps by collecting leaves which he gives to the teacher (11/4/96), and they are later used in a leaf etching activity. Two boys and two girls share and cooperate in the use of materials as they engage in rock painting 11/8/96).

In time there were further manifestations of the children's ability to empathize with each other. Darla hugs her classmate and asks, "What's wrong, Jacquita?" "Dey laffin' at me," Jacquita sobs (1/24/97). Judith and Mark share a cassette and book during a listenand-read activity (4/23/97), and so do Jake and Cynthia (4/21/97). Donald broke his arm, and Stanley is making a bracelet which Donald will present to his Mom on Mother's Day (5/9/97). And Margaret approaches Jake, who is busily putting up the Lego manipulatives, and pats his head. Then she kneels beside him and continues to pat his head and shoulders while she talks to him (5/22/97).

Their ability to empathize with the feelings of the other is further substantiated in one-on-one interviews. All of the children interviewed quickly recognized pictorial representations of feelings like happy, sad, anger, fear, and disgust (Appendix C, 1-5). Sometimes a child verbalized an association of a direct experience with the feeling expressed in the picture. In discussing the feeling of anger, Jacquita recalls her anger and hurt at being pushed down, and the hurt stayed on because the boy did not say "sorry"; the teacher said it for him (5/23/97).









As the children engaged in the play situation before them, some added physical cues that were not present in the picture. Recognizing the girl's look of revulsion, Margaret's face mirrors the look as she screams, "There's a spider on that sandwich" (5/28/97). Others assumed the role of the character in the picture and projected their own direct experience. When angry, Flora goes to her room to think things over (5/19/97). And Charlissa recalls her feeling of disgust when her mother made her eat peas, which she hates (5/19/97). On seeing the representation of fear on a young boy's face, Mark responds this way:

Mark: Thundle, thundle. Oh, thundle
[He hugs his head and cries out]!
Noise, noise, noise. Oooh! (Interview, 5/27/97) It was evident that the children were reading facial, physical, and environmental cues and interpreting them accurately.

The children also understood that people may have different feelings about the
same situation (Appendix C, 8). Responding to a picture of two children in a tree, they all recognized that the girl was happy and the boy was sad. Charlissa believes the girl is happy because she is watching a mother bird feeding her babies--this cue is not physically present--and she likes the sound of the birds; the boy is sad because he is afraid to go higher; but if he tells his sister, she will laugh at him (5/19/97). Mark suggests that the boy's foot is stuck, and the girl is so happy she does not see that her brother is in trouble (5/27/97).

The children had difficulty distinguishing between accidents and things that are

done on purpose (Appendix C, 12). Dennis understood that the boy in the picture is hurt, and that the girl is trying to comfort him. However, he also believes that the boy is not badly hurt and does not require any help (5/28/97). Roslyn suggests that the girl hit the boy on his arm, and now she is telling him she's sorry. And that is all there is to it (5/18/97). Charlissa says the boy is hurt, but it is his own fault. "He ought to know better









than to run too fast on the playground" (5/19/97). If a child falls, observations indicate that she or he will blame the person closest in proximity. It is interesting to note that it never occurred to any of the children that the girl could have accidently knocked the boy over.
The children demonstrated the ability to feel concern and caring for another

(Appendix C, 16). They recognized that the boy on the left was sad, but differed as to why he was sad, and what could be done about his state of mind. Jacquita believes that the sad boy wants to be alone and is being bothered by the other boy, which makes him more sad (5/23/97). Charlissa responded this way:

Interviewer: Does anyone have a problem?
Charlissa: He does [pointing to the boy on the left].
Interviewer: What is his problem?
Charlissa: That boy [on the right] is trying to make him feel better, because someone make him [on the left] feeling bad. Interviewer: What do you think happened to him?
Charlissa: Someone hit him on the head.
Interviewer: What do you think the other boy is saying to him?
Charlissa: Don't feel bad 'cause I can feel you better. And put a bandaid on his head. (Interview, 5/19/97)


The observer noted Charlissa's speech pattern. At times she was quite articulate; at other times, she talked like an infant. This was particularly true if she was emotional about a situation.

A child may have an awareness of what is acceptable behavior, yet her or his demonstrated behavior does not mirror that awareness. Perhaps, this happens because four-to five-year-old children live in a world where, based on their experiences, things are right or wrong, black or white, with no shades of grey in between. The teacher is conducting a large group discussion of classroom behavior.

Teacher: What do we do about hitting?
Children: Keep your hands to yourself
Teacher: Should we call each other names?








Children: No, that's not nice.
Teacher: If I call you a name, how does that make you feel?
Judith: I feel bad. I want to cry.
Stanley: I get mad, and I punch the person who call me a name.
Teacher: [To Stanley] How else could you deal with the person who called you a name?
Stanley: He shouldn't call me no name [at this point, he gets up,
walks over to David, and punches him in the face, because David had called him a name earlier in the morning]. (Observation, 11/22/96)

Stanley knows that his behavior is unacceptable. However, he demonstrated an emotional response, as opposed to a reasoned response. Dodge (1991) found that aggressive children have difficulty thinking through an interaction, because they apply a biased, emotional approach to processing the cues available in the social situation. Instructive Learning

It appears that instructed learning helps the children to accept the existence of the grey areas and learn to deal with them more constructively. Tomasello et al (1993) stated that by four to six years of age, a child's social cognition is operating at the level of instructed learning. Instructed learning enables children to understand how an adult or other person views a given situation or task. To accomplish this, it seems that a child places greater reliance on inferencing her or his earlier direct experiences and on feedback during the process of perspective taking. Ideas, attitudes, and behaviors internalized to this point of development are combined with instructed learnings, and overtones of cultural transmission are evident in the children's responses during peer interactions. The following examples demonstrate some effects of instructed learning.

The children are reviewing numbers. They sing "Roll Over," which enables
them to count backward from ten to one. As they come to the end of the
verse, Cynthia anticipates the next number and yells it out. Stanley corrects
her behavior: "Stop yelling!. You don't have to yell." (Observation, 4/13/97) Overheard while conferencing with the teacher at lunch time:


Don't eat with food in your mouth.


Jake:








Flora: Don't talk with food in your mouth.
(Observation, 4/29/97)

The children are engaged in small group play activities indoors:

Roslyn: My brother is a girl now.
[Her playmates roar with laughter. Then they stare at her with a look of amazement.] Jake: Oh, ho, ho! My brother is a boy.
(Observation, 4/29/97)

Darla: Ma cousin, she never listens to her Mama.
She never do [she shakes her head as if bewildered]. (Observation, 5/12/97) As these children played, they were actively correcting each other's behavior and speech by appealing to rules learned at home or in the classroom, as well as to their understanding of what constitutes good manners. These young children, who are in the process of establishing their own sense of gender identity, are confused by the concept of a boy suddenly becoming a girl. And children understand that they must obey their parents. The children's interchanges express ideas and attitudes that are common to the culture to which they belong.

Entering play was the most difficult task for the children in this study. And it was doubly difficult for those children who exhibited impulsive, compulsive, and aggressive behaviors throughout the school year. There was a transition period for each child as she or he worked at mastering their perspective taking skills. For example, Flora is having an ongoing conversation with and giving instructions to "Trina" and "Vernie," two imaginary characters in a show she is creating. Raoul observes and listens carefully.

Flora: Say "hello, Trina." Say "hello" to Vernie.
Trina: [Voice change] Hi Vernie, how are you?
Veernie: I'm O.K. Do you want to play?
Trina: Sure. What will we play?
Vernie: We can play sisters going to school.
Raoul: [Using a falsetto voice] Sisters, sisters, so
nice to see you. Hurry or we be late for school








[Flora scowls at him, and he quietly exits the scene]. (Observation, 3/28/97)

David, Dennis, and Anton are playing a game of football. Dennis throws
an imaginary ball, David catches it and runs with it, and Anton tackles him
to the ground, where Anton tries to wrestle the ball away from him.
The two boys stand up and, facing each other, they laugh as David
moves forward and hugs Anton hard around the neck. Anton backs away
from the interaction. (Observation, 3/28/97)

Both Raoul and David were unsuccessful at entering play and/or sustaining peer

interaction. Raoul did not seek entry politely. The children's experience of him was that

he did not request entry to a play situation and, once he was in, he proceeded to control

the course of the play. Consequently, he was always rejected by his playmates. David

was becoming less aggressive in his approach to play. And even though most of the boys

in this class continually reinforced each other's negative behaviors, thereby prolonging the

period of adjustment to acceptable social behaviors, there were several instances of

positive behavior changes during peer interactions.

Using "towerifics," Jake and Stanley build a tower taller than themselves.
They work quietly and efficiently. Finally, they look at their task and smile
at each other. Stanley accidently knocks over the tower. Jake's face mirrors disappointment, but he simply shrugs his shoulders and walks
away (2/3/97).
Stanley tries to control his temper by counting from one to ten (1/24/97).
Jake helps Cynthia clean up milk she accidently spills on a table (1/22/97).
Joseph shares his tricycle with Jake (1/13/97).
Jake politely requests of another child, "Will you please get away from me"
(1/29/97), and later he gets the teacher's attention by saying "Ecuse me"
(5/22/97).
Stanley engages in play with cars and trucks and demonstrates an ability to
share and take turns (1/13/97).

The context of the children's play continually enhanced the development of their

prosocial skills. And in that process, the children acquired a positive view of themselves.

This newly acquired outlook enabled them to engage in new experiences with exuberance

and they began to describe themselves and their accomplishments with pride. They were









self-assured. Some of the children acquired a positive self esteem, others enhanced their self esteem.


Judith: You know what?
Angela: No. What?
Judith: When I go to the computer room, I don't need a big buddy anymore. Angela: How come?
Judith: 'Cause I know the room now.
I go there a lot. Isn't that neat? (Observation, (2/24/97)

Flora discusses her nuclear and extended families:

Flora: Ma Mama luves me.
Princess: Hah. How do you know [with a smirk]?
Flora: Ah know it. 'Cause ah jest know it. An ah gat me two daddies, an' two mommies, a big brodda, and two sisters. An' ah gat me two grammas an' two grampas. Ain't dat nice? (Observation, 5/9/97)

Margaret was shy and retiring, and she had developed a codependence with

Roberta who was strong and controlling. However, Margaret received counseling and, in time, became less dependent on Roberta. By mid-April, Margaret could manipulate the rings on the horizontal bars better than anyone else in the class. She had adopted a swinging technique that made her the envy of all the children. Even kindergarteners tried to imitate her technique and found it too difficult. And she crossed the bars faster than the boys could (4/23/97). The adulation of her peers did much to improve her sense of self esteem and before the school year ended, she was demonstrating a sense of leadership that her peers did not find offensive.

The acquisition of self knowledge enables at-risk preschoolers to feel better about themselves in different ways. The realization that she can find her way on campus without adult supervision assured Judith that she had gained in independence, and her newfound self confidence added to her sense of self efficacy. Some children find themselves through









family interactions that bolster their self esteem; others derive the same benefits from mastery of motor skills on the playground, which places the focus on them and their ability to do something the others cannot do as well. All of this helps the children to build leadership skills that further facilitate initiating and maintaining friendships among peers.

In early January, some of the children were exhibiting their perceived readiness to form friendships. Five-year-old Mark was quiet and bright. From the start, he showed a preference for being alone and often engaged in solitary play. He spoke to no one and merely did whatever he was asked to do. He also observed others, but kept his opinions to himself Occasionally, he got into an altercation with another boy and he became defiant. As the second semester of the school year began, Mark was more communicative with his classmates and teacher. He had come a long way, and the children were receptive of him.

When Donald joined the class in early February, David voluntarily undertook his mentoring. David's buddies were not happy. Jake and Stanley observed the growing friendship, but said nothing. A few days later, Jake provoked a conflict with Donald, but it quickly fizzled. David, Jake, and Stanley were close friends, and the inclusion of Donald was a threat to their sense of who they were. However, David continued mentoring Donald. This behavior on David's part astonished the adults in the classroom.

For most of the children, the enhanced ability to form friendships paved the way for meaningful peer interactions, and it was far, far easier to initiate a play event or enter an ongoing play situation. This was well brought out in the interview process. Situation: A boy and a girl are playing in a sandbox. Another boy observes them from a distance. With few exceptions, each child recognized that the boy in the distance had a problem. He wanted to play. But opinions differed as to the problem solving strategy he might use to achieve that goal and why the strategy might work.









Cynthia is five years old. This was her perception of the situation:


Interviewer: Cynthia: Interviewer: Cynthia:

Interviewer: Cynthia:


Interviewer: Cynthia: Interviewer: Cynthia: Interviewer: Cynthia:


(Poster 19)


In responding to the play situation, Cynthia seemed to become engaged in it to the point that she was projecting her own personal response to attempts at entering play. In the classroom, she is the smallest, although she is not the youngest. She is not very communicative, and she becomes feisty when she is thwarted in her attempts to achieve a personal goal, like entering play. By inferencing her own experience, she believes that Jinga has a bad attitude, and that she is unnecessarily mean to Brian.


Margaret:

Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret:


Those two [in the sandbox] won't let him play. They know he's standing there. Why do you think they won't let him play? I'm not sure.
Is there a difference in these two pictures? Yes. He's standing closer. Maybe he.... What can the boy do or say? Well, he's looking at her, but he's not talking. How do you know that? Because his mouth is not open. You can't


Do you think there's a problem here? Uh huh. Dey not playin' wid him. Shall we give them names? [she points to the boy who observes play] He is Brian, and she [the girl in the sandbox] is Jinga. Which one of them do you think has a problem? Jinga. Dey playin' in the sanbox and not lettin' him play. Dey say 'No, you can't play 'cause you not goin' to be our frin.' He say 'Yes, Am is.' But dey still won' let him play.

Is there a difference in these two pictures? Um, I see dem move. He [Brian] move closer. What can Brian do or say to play? He could axe. If dey say 'No,' he could tell the teacher. How can Brian ask, what can he say? He say, 'Can I play?' An' she say 'Yeh.' [She stares at the two pictures for some time.] She say 'I be sorry for not lettin' you play.' (Interview, 5/23/97)


(Poster 20)


(Poster 19) (Poster 20) (Poster 21)








talk that way.
(Poster 22) Interviewer: What is happening now?
Margaret: Maybe he could join in, because he is close, close, close now. Besides, she let that other boy play. He's having fun.
Interviewer: But that other boy does not have a problem.
Margaret: I know that. Let's see....
Umrn, I can see his mouth opening. And I can see his mouth moving. And they are looking at each other. That's how we know they are talking to each other. Interviewer: If you were this boy, what would you say to the girl?
Margaret: Nothing. I would not want to play with her. (Interview, 5/28/97)

Margaret, described earlier in this report, had become more assertive with her

classmates, and this is reflected in her interpretation of the play situation. She understood

that the boy observing play had a problem, but she held the girl responsible for his problem

because she was aware of the boy's presence and should have invited him to play. After

all, she had invited "that other boy" to play, and "he was having fun." Unlike Cynthia,

Margaret was fully aware of the facial, physical, and situational cues in the play situation

and, by association or inferencing her own experience, she added two cues not present:

(1) the children in the sandbox knew that the boy was standing there, (2) and she saw

their lips moving. Therefore, she concluded that they were impolite in not inviting him to

play. An invitation to play was a viable strategy. However, Margaret never accorded the

girl in the sandbox the opportunity to use it. In fact, she would never choose this girl as a

playmate.

Charlissa had a different approach to the play situation.

(Poster 21) Charlissa: He's asking that girl can he play?
Interviewer: What do you think the girl might say?
Charlissa: She might say 'Yes,' or she might say 'No.'
Interviewer: If you were the boy who wants to play, what would you do or say to the girl in the sandbox? Charlissa: I would tell her 'You are pretty!' (Interview, 5/19/97)









Charlissa is four years old, and she is the youngest child in the classroom. She is Latina. Traditionally, the women in such families are frequently complimented by their male counterparts. Like the other children, she believed that the boy in the distance had a problem. He wanted to play, but did not know how to achieve his goal. For her, a verbal cue, in the form of a compliment or praise, would appeal to the girl's sense of who she is. The compliment would please her, and she would invite the boy to play.

The interview excerpts cited above illustrate the influence of cultural learnings. It has been said that when children play, they emulate adult behaviors. Adult behaviors are rooted in the ideas and attitudes of a given social group. Children derive these ideas and attitudes from their home environment. And these ideas and attitudes are enhanced or modified in the environment of the classroom. Collaborative Learning

The third kind of cultural learning is expressed in the theory of co-construction, which calls for collaboration with others (Tomasello et al, 1993). Co-construction requires the active participation of all group members. In the process, there is social interaction that triggers an exchange of ideas and, it sometimes happens that, the participants share certain ideas in common. Tomasello et al referred to this phenomenon as the co-construction of similar conceptualizations, which contribute to cultural transmission.

Vygotsky (1933/1978) explained co-construction this way. He theorized that play is a zone of proximal development. A zone of proximal development is the difference between a child's present problem solving abilities and his potential problem solving capabilities under adult guidance and the collaboration of her or his more capable peers. Berk (1994) noted that adult and peer scaffolding--or collaboration--of young children's play nurtures the transition to pretend play and its elaboration throughout the preschool years. This pretend or representational play serves as a unique, broadly influential zone of proximal development within which children advance themselves to ever higher levels of









psychological functioning. Thus, the theory of the zone of proximal development has much to say to teachers about the importance of promoting make-believe play in preschool programs.

The children in this study entered the collaborative phase of cultural learning

through play in the second week of February when mixed-age grouping was established and continued to the end of the school year in May, 1997. On four days of each week, four preschoolers were escorted to each of two kindergarten classrooms for a total of eight mixed-age play experiences each day. These play experiences were limited to one hour each day, four hours each week. On the first day of collaborative play, there were 18 children in the preschool program, and in the last two months of the school year, two more children joined the program. So that the ratio of mixed-age play experiences for preschoolers remained constant, but the ratio of each preschooler's mixed-age play experiences shifted. Some of the children had four experiences each week; some had fewer experiences each week.

At the start of mixed-age collaborative play, the preschoolers were told that they are visitors in the kindergarten classrooms, and that kindergarten teachers will not tolerate unacceptable behaviors and bad attitudes. They will have to share, take turns, and cooperate during "Center Time." Center Time is indoor play time when the children egage in pretend/sociodramatic play. During this time a number of play centers are open to the children, who determine for themselves where they want to play and with whom they wish to play. The at-risk preschoolers' response was anticipation tinged with apprehension. The investigator was not aware of what specific instructions were given to the kindergarteners. For the first three weeks of collaborative play, the preschoolers were quiet. They observed everyone and everything, but said very little. Also, at this time the kindergarten teachers decided to which play group each preschooler would go. No two preschoolers were assigned to the same group. This was the children's orientation to









mixed-age collaborative play (2/10/97-2/28/97). Later, the preschoolers were allowed to choose their own play groups.

Initially, preschool interaction was minimal, at best. They tended to engage in

solitary or parallel play. Raoul sits at a table alone. He makes circles on a sheet of paper then crosses them out with markers.. In a few minutes, he covers the markers and observes the other children at play. And Flora rocks a doll in a baby buggy, while the other girls in her play group decide who is mother, daughter, and neighbor, as they prepare to go shopping at the Mall (2/13/97).

Vygotsky stressed the importance of representational play. This is the makebelieve or pretense that characterizes the play of young children throughout the preschool years and evolves into games with rules that dominate middle childhood. He granted this kind of play the status of a "leading factor in development" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p.101).

As the children engaged in sociodramatic play, they combined aspects of the real world with aspects of a world of fantasy. And they slipped in and out of each with ease, sometimes bending the rules of play and requesting teacher intervention, as they skillfully manipulated the behavior of others to achieve their purpose.

Gena and Tammy are two kindergarteners who, together with Jacqueline, choose to play at the large block center. They decide to construct a house which they will attach to one outside wall of the classroom. The two kindergarteners sit on the ground facing each other, and Jacqueline passes blocks to them. Together, they start to build the house around Gena and Tammy. When the house is head high, Jacqueline voices a concern:

Jacqueline: Now, I need to get in the house, too.
Gena: You can't. There's no room.
Jacqueline: I help build the house. I have to get in.
Tammy: You can't. We will clean the house.
You do the yardwork.
Jacqueline: I don't want to do yardwork. I want in.
Gena: [Angrily] Can't you see there is no room?
Jacqueline: You fatheads. I don't want to play with you anymore.








You won't share.
Gena: Oooh! Oooh! I'm going to tell.

Gena jumps up, knocking over a few of the blocks and, striding towards the classroom door, she glances over her shoulder, her eyes rolling menacingly.
Meanwhile, Tammy exits the house and looks at Jacqueline with an air of
concern. In less than a minute, Gena returns.

Gena: O.K. You can be in the house.

The house-building project continues as before with Jacqueline on the inside, and
Gena and Tammy on the outside. Again, the structure is head high.

Jacqueline: Hey, why am I alone in the house?
Gena: Silly, there is no room. You just stay in there until we tell you you to come out.
Jacqueline: How long do I have to stay in here?

Jacqueline is angry and tries to stand up, but the two girls place blocks over her
head and force her down in the house.

Gena: You have to stay there until it's time to go to the playground.

That is 45 minutes away (Observation, 3/17/97).

Gena and Tammy devised a strategy that would eliminate Jacqueline from the play group. However, Jacqueline was younger and less mature. She was not reading and intepreting the available cues accurately. Aware that things were not working out as planned, Jacqueline voices her frustration. Gena is rude to her, but objects when she is called a nasty name. She seeks teacher intervention, but is told that she must share, and take turns. Gena is not defeated. Jacqueline got what she wanted. She is in the house. And once more, she is alone. And she will remain that way until the end of center time. This episode was intriguing because there was never a verbal agreement to eliminate Jacqueline from the play interaction.

Vygotsky concluded that play has two critical features that, when combined,

illustrate the essential nature of the phenomenon and clarify its role in development. First, all representational or symbolic play creates an imaginary situation that permits the child to









grapple with unrealizable desires. Vygotsky pointed out that fantasy play first appears at a time when children must learn to postpone gratification of impulses and accept the fact that certain desires will remain unsatisfied. During the second year, care-givers begin to insisit that toddlers delay gratification--taking turns--and acquire socially approved behaviors involving safety, respect for property, care of self--washing hands, and everyday routines--putting away the toys (Gralinski & Knopp, 1993).

A second feature of all representational play is that it contains rules of behavior

that children must follow to successfully act out the play scene. Games that appear in the late preschool period and flourish during the school years are clearly rule based. Even the simplest imaginative situations created by very young children proceed in accord with social rules that may be implicit within the context of the play situation. A child pretending to go to sleep follows the rules of bedtime behavior. Another child imagining herself to be a mother--or himself to be a father--and a doll to be a child, conforms to the rules of parental behavior. Yet a third child playing doctor observes the rules of the doctor-patient relationship. "Whenever there is an imaginary situation, there are rules" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 95).

These two features are significant elements present in all forms of children's play-an imaginary situation and rules that are implicit in the imaginary situation. It must be remembered that the imaginary component may not always be apparent in all play situations. However, the rules establish the game or play situation, while the rule and actions based on those rules derive their meaning from the play situation. In other words, the context of the play sitution determines the form of play in which children engage and their ensuing peer interactions.

By the end of March, the two groups of children were interacting more fully.

Douglas, a kindergartener, is a photographer doing a shoot with the model, Flora. She twists, spins around, flips her hair, and assumes model-like postures as Douglas moves around her, bending low and then standing on his toes, clicking his camera (3/28/97).









Margo, a kindergartener, and Cynthia are sitting in a make-believe restaurant. An imaginary waitress places a pitcher of coffee on the table.

Margo: Umm! That smells good. Dear Cynthia, would you like to have some coffee?
Cynthia: Thank you, Margo. Tell me, how are the kids?
Margo: Oh, my...[Their voices fade as they move their heads closer. They chat and laugh out loud from time to time]. (Observation, 3/25/97) In emphasizing the importance of rules in children's play, Vygotsky made an

interesting observation. When one watches children at play, one sees spontaneity in their peer reactions. However, Vygotsky claimed that there can be no play without rules, even when a child is engaged in solitary play. Free play is not free and requires that children follow social rules. Subsequently, the child's social behaviors "become his basic level of real action and morality" as she or he grows older (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 100).

By adhering to rules in pretend play, young children achieve a better understanding of social norms and expectations, and they act in a manner that sustains those norms and expectations (Haight & Miller, 1993). When Douglas did his photo shoot, and Margo and Cynthia discussed their children, they were role playing. And through their enactments, these children were gaining an awareness of the responsibilities of real life situations. In addition, Douglas and Flora were gaining insight into the rule-governed nature of a business relationship, while Margo and Cynthia were beginning to understand, intuitively, the nature of the parent-child relationship.

Berk (1994) pointed out that pretend play affords the young child other opportunities for exercising symbolic schemes. It strengthens a variety of specific mental abilities. It promotes memory, and language is greatly enriched. When the children played Bingo, it was a rule-based activity that enhanced information processing abilities. It enabled the children to recall numbers, letters, colors, or shapes, as the game required. Similarly, the game called "Simon Says" helped the children recall the name of body parts. And when









Jake exhorted his lunchmates not to "eat with food in your mouth," Flora promptly corrected him by exclaiming, "Don't talk with food in your mouth" (4/29/97), thereby helping him to improve the manner in which he expresses his ideas.

The highlighting of symbolism further enhances the meaning of children's play. Piaget (1945/1951) did this in his description of pretend play as a means through which children practice representational schemes. And both Piaget and Vygotsky noted that symbolism also characterized non-interactive activities like writing and drawing. Writings
Writing aided literacy and cognitive development. The children's language skills were enhanced in the form of extended vocabularies and sentence structure. Jake went from "Ah doh wanna read dat" (10/15/96) to "I want that book. I want the pretty one over there (4/21/97). Not only did he improve his syntax, he was using complete, descriptive sentences. Writing also enhanced concept building and the recognition of small sight words with pictures. By mid-May, Mark had become more verbal and was reading simple books. He could also write his name. Judith and Roslyn were also reading simple books; writing their names, the names of their siblings, and small sight words like "mat," "book," and other simple object names with which they had become familiar in the environment of the classroom.

The children's proudest achievements were the books they made and took home to their parents. In one activity, they cut animal pictures from magazines or created their own pictures which they highlighted with markers. All the children dictated discriptive sentences which the teacher wrote in their respective books. Roberta's book had the following sentences: "This is a lion. The lion is a big cat. He has long hair in his face." A similar strategy was used for drawings.

Artifacts
Through their drawings, children attempt to organize and make sense of their

experiences, and they use symbols to provide meaning.. As they learn language, they learn









about the objects, people, and events in their environment, and they try to communicate their perceptions of that environment (Brown, 1973; Nelson 1973; Vygotsky, 1934/1986). Children also learn about the visual qualities of objects, and about the graphic properties of line, color, and shape. Like language, drawing provides children with opportunities to reflect upon, organize, and share their experiences (Dyson, 1988; Hubbard, 1988). For the purpose of this study, the products of the "Draw A Person" activity were obtained from the teacher and used as examples of the use of symbolic representations. Twenty drawings were collected. Two of the drawings were selected for interpretation because they are representative of what the children accomplished through this medium.

In the first drawing, the central figure appears to be a women, indicated by the

arrangement of the hair. She has a large round head, large eyes, and a wide smile. There are three children. The oldest is to the woman's right. This child's left hand is extended so that she or he touches the woman's face. The other two children are positioned to the left of the woman's body. The middle child, sizewise, is also smiling. This child stands close to the woman, and the child's right hand is extended and touches the woman's left cheek. The third child appears to be a baby wrapped in covers. The woman's left arm reaches out and embraces the baby, while her right hand hovers over the child to her right. The sun is shining from the upper left corner of the picture, and its rays are intensified as they touch the woman's head. The woman and the two older children have torsos but no feet. There are no adult males in the picture (drawn by four-year-old Cynthia 5/20/97).

De Lio (1983) explained that a circle often symbolizes a young child's representation of a person. The child readily identifies the circle, often large, as a person or, more specifically, a head. By age four, the child adds eyes, mouth and nose. Eyes assume grave importance in mother-child interactions, in which eye contact establishes social rapport. And in their attempts to portray the human figure, young children choose the eyes as the first and most prominent feature to be added to the primordial circle of the head. Accord-









ing to DeLio, huge eyes are commonly seen in the drawings of young children who are securely attached.

For most of us, a mother's kiss is the first tactile stimulus that engages us positively in the world outside of the womb. Therefore, hands and arms become the agents of direct contact and communication. We use touch to demonstrate affection and to administer punishment. Arms and hands give freely and take away purposefully. Thus, symbolism of hands and arms is often manifest in the form, dimension, or absence of interconnectedness to others. Accordingly, attention to how arms, hands, and fingers are portrayed may help us understand behavior that expresses the innermost sentiments of the child. Consequently, one does not expect to see anatomically correct arms and hands at age four (DeLio, 1983).

Cynthia is a follower, who talks a lot. She is friendly, interacts well with her peers, but never says "No." She lives with her mother and siblings. Her father is in the military and often is gone for long periods of time. Her work is representative of that produced by most of the children who drew what appears to be family groupings. As such, this observer believes that Cynthia was attempting to convey her feelings toward her family. Her mother is the anchor within the family. In their reaching out, the children express their love and need of her. Through her embrace and extended arm, the mother showers her children with love and attention in the same way that the sun caresses her head and warms her. And mother and children are happy together. The absence of torsos and feet do not seem to hold significance for a four-year-old (DiLeo,1983)..

The second drawing is of a young girl. She is centered on the page, and she is

very detailed and well proportioned. She has a large round face, eyes set far apart, a nose, and wide smile. Her hair is long and extends to her shoulers. A fancy, heart-shaped barret holds her hair in place over her right eye. She has a long slim neck. Her arms are extended outward, and her fingers are defined. She wears purple trousers and a matching jacket with long sleeves. The jacket is open at the front and reveals four even-sized









buttons down the front of her pink blouse. She is wearing shoes that fit above the ankle (drawn by five-year-old Roberta 5/16/97).

Children are meaning-makers, and drawing, as a literacy activity, provides them with opportunities to reflect upon, organize, and share their experiences. Citing Hipple (1985), Dyson noted that teachers of young children refer to young children's drawings as "writings," viewing the drawings as "the communication of thoughts rather than the production of pleasing visual images" (Dyson, 1988, p. 26). From this perspective, the importance of children's drawings is in their developing ability to communicate a message independently of the pictures. Children's drawings are not simply communications about their experiences; they may also be attempts at visual problem solving as well.

Roberta is intelligent, but bossy and complains a lot. Her mother is an artist. It is difficult to surmise who the girl in her drawing might be. DeLio (1973) claimed that, in his practice, the youngest child to spontaneously identify the drawn figure as a self-image was six years of age. It is more likely that Roberta was engaged in visual problem solving. This opinion results from observation. Each time Roberta was asked to draw a person, she produced the same drawing. And each time, she changed one feature of the drawing, apparently directing her energies at solving the visual and motor problems the drawing posed for her. Sometimes the change was noted in the position of an arm, the styling of the hair, the presence or absence of shoes. It is also possible that the drawing represents a story, since she demonstrated the same level of persistence and attention to detail when she worked on her Easter Egg story.

These drawings exemplify the power of symbols to young children. As four- and five-year-olds, drawing provided them the means of vividly communicating their ideas, feelings, and concerns, and may have even contributed to problem solving.

As the children entered the final week of the school year, it was most gratifying to see Angela and Charlissa sitting side-by-side in friendly conversation, and Angela standing before her friend with the spontaneous request, "Gimme a hug" (5/27/97)! The girls









embraced each other, then reclaimed their seats to continue the conversation. That same day, a grandmother visiting the classroom exclaimed, "I cannot believe these are the same children I fist saw in early September. What a difference."

In this study, imitative, instructed, and collaborative learning were inseparable

from play. Imitative learning is derived "from" social dialogues with others. From it, the children demonstrated their understanding of the relevance of another's feelings and behaviors. Instructed learning began before and continued after the children entered the learning environment of the preschool classroom. From it, the children displayed an ability to recognize and understand how an adult or peer views a given situation or task. To do this, the children got into the other's skin, figuratively speaking. Collaborative learning relied on the concept of reflective agent and involved integrated perspective taking or relective intersubjectivity. Imitative and instructed learnings constituted social knowledge or social cognition and prepared the children for collaborative learning from which they derived cultural transmission.

Social cognition and cultural transmission are, therefore, fundamental to the

acquisition of positive prosocial skills and social problem-solving strategies that enhance successful peer interactions and foster the formation of friendships, all within the social context of play. In addition, play offers young children opportunities to acquire linguistic skills that facilitate different points of view, resolve disputes, and persuade peers to collaborate. Pretend play contributes a powerful zone of proximal development. These findings have shown that play, by its very nature, is indispensable in the lives of at-risk preschoolers.













CHAPTER FIVE
FINDINGS: The Components of Play

The third research questions asked: "What are the components of play?" And the fourth posed the question, "How does the classroom influence the play of at-risk preschoolers?" This chapter reports and interprets findings from observations that relate to the components of play.

What AreThe Components of Play?
In the Piagetian scheme of development, play is the incorporation of the world to match a child's personal concepts. When a young child uses a frisbee as the steering wheel of a car, that is assimilation. Through play, the child assimilates newly learned concepts such as the shape of a circle. The child then generalizes this new concept to new objects and configurations like small plastic disks--as in bingo--for circles. In other words, work precedes play (Elkind, 1988). There is no question that work and play are interrelated, and Vygotsky places them both within a sociocultural context. The children learn through collaborative play, and new learnings are reflected in their play as they interact with adults and peers. From these interactions, children derive new insights or knowledge. Both Piaget and Vygotsky have stated that play facilitates the total development of young children (Piaget, 1972; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). Play comprises five components: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive development (Cartwright, 1988). Physical Development
For at-risk preschoolers, physical development emphasizes motor skills such as catching, jumping, hopping and skipping; building structures from pictorial representaions; touching fingers; cutting within defined parameters; matching objects; copying letters, numbers, shapes, and writing one's name. These skills are enhanced in play









situations and the children derive many added benefits to their overall development (Cartwright, 1988).

Outside play incorporates the coordination and enhancement of motor skills. Jumping, hopping, running, skipping, kicking, throwing, and catching all enhance fine motor skills and abilities that boost self confidence and social competence. Five of the boys engage in a pretend football game. Dennis is the kicker, but he can only make very short kicks.

Mr. Don: Hold the ball for him.
Wow! What a kick [He high-five's Dennis]. Dennis: Am I good, or what?

Mark kicks the ball, and David catches it.

Mr. Don: David, David, Wow!
The crowd is going wild!

David's face is beaming, but he says nothing. The boys continue to get a good
work out on spatial concepts with the ball (Observation, 3/17/97).

When Mr. Don entered the children's fantasy, he expanded it and, in the blending of reality and fantasy, he helped the boys to transform what was a pretend game into an opportunity to grapple with the reality of their physical skills and motivated them to try harder. The more they tried, the better they became at it. And the experience appeared to be totally satisfying to the five boys. By the end of play, each boy was able to do better that which he could not do well before. In the process, the boys had significantly enhanced their eye-hand coordination, depth perception, spatial awareness, balance, and sense of direction.
The same can be said of small group play with unit blocks, which facilitates a progression from the simple to the complex in motor development (Cartwright, 1988). The children erected buildings and bridges. They worked consistently and perseveringly as they maneuvered themselves around the structures they created as they discussed,









praised, and swapped ideas about each other's work. They were also very careful about not destroying another child's structure (2/10/97). Play with unit blocks contributed to the development of large and small motor coordination and sensitive eye-hand integration. It improved their spatial awareness, sense of balance, and body control. As an added bonus, the children were developing their langauge skills as they communicated in the course of play, and they learned to respect the contribution others made to the play situation. All of these skills enhance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. Social Development

Play is a group activity in which the children pool their resources. This is evident in pretend or sociodramatic play, where children grapple with the reality of the world as they try to make sense of their experiences. In the process, they emulate adult behaviors from which they derive social and cultural learning. Through adult scaffolding, a boy learns the need for self-reliance. Mr. Dunn, a substitute teacher, is supervising outdoor play. David and two male friends are riding tricycles, and they pretend that the tricycles are cars. David drives up to an imaginary pump, where an attendant--Mr. Dunn--is standing.

David: Hey, Bro'! Can you gimme a fill up?
Mr. Don: It's self service. Help yourself David: Ah know it, but Am in a hurry.
Mr. Dunn: That's O.K. Just help yourself
David: Man' o' Man. O.K.!

David moves the car closer to the pump, gets out of the car, and goes
through the motions of filling his tank with gas (3/17/97). Emotional Development

When the learning environment is consistent, predictable, and non-threatening to young children, they are free to be themselves, and their creativity will flourish. Favorable regard from the others in the environment affords them a sense of deep satisfaction about what they accomplish, and encourages openess to new experiences. Stanley accidently









walks on Charlissa's picture of a turkey. She kicks him. He turns around, looks at her and says, "Am sorry! Am sorry!" Then he hugs her, and she kisses him on the cheek (2/13/97). The behavior of both children surprised those who witnessed the emerging conflict. Charlissa displays impulsive behavior; Stanley is aggressive. Yet these two atrisk children used strategies that facilitated a win-win outcome. He offered a verbal cue; she offered a physical cue. The psychologist Daniel Goleman (1995) argued that, in information processing, an individual's response to a situation addresses the area of the brain that controls emotions seconds before it reaches the area that controls reasoned responses. Subsequently, he concluded that the development of emotional intelligence was equally significant to the development of cognitive intelligence. Intellectual Development

Intellectual development is cognitive development achieved through concept

formation. The at-risk preschoolers demonstrate their intellectual development by naming colors; identifying body parts; counting numbers--one to ten; identifying coin currency; identifying concepts on the basis of ability to categorize, make comparisons, and understand opposites; naming letters; and sorting items by color, shape, and size. These skills are the basis of reading readiness, and they are introduced in language learning activities, reinforced in whole group reading of related materials, and internalized in games and songs, with adult scaffolding.

Stanley and David are interacting positively. They share a book.

Stanley: Oh! Ah know what dis is.
David: My name [he recognizes the first letter of his name].
Mr. Dunn: What is the sound at the start of your name?
David: David, Da.
Mr. Dunn: Good. That's a D. That's the letter D.

The boys continue to interact.

Stanley: Oh, ah know this one. That's a E.
Mr. Dunn: That's very good.








David: I know this one. Um, Urn.
Mr. Dunn: What's in the picture?
David: Fedders.
Mr. Dunn: What's the first sound you hear in "feathers"?
Both Boys: Fa.
Mr. Dunn: Good. The letter is...F. (Observation, 3/17/97)

Play with unit blocks and large blocks is also instrumental in intellectual or

cognitive development (Cartwright, 1988, 1990). It is, perhaps, one of the most useful play items in the preschool classroom. Play involves concrete operations such as one-onone correspondence, counting, matching, sorting, fitting blocks to spaces, and using fractional parts of a whole in meaningful relationships. Unit blocks also encourage productive thinking and experimentation. The children build and rebuild until they are satisfied. Finally, unit blocks encourage problem solving. Joseph is building a bridge, but he is not happy with its appearance. Charlissa suggests that he use even-sized blocks at both ends of the bridge. He looks at it and concludes that the bridge is off-center because a great big truck ran into it. Play with blocks requires verbal representation and interchange among the children; it encourages successful language usage and reading readiness.

Intuitive Development

Pretend play offers the best opportunities for exercising symbolic schemes that

foster creativity and new insights. Charissa is decorating the pages of a book. She makes a scrawl in red. Then she makes swirls in the same color over the page. The swirls crisscross heavily in areas of the page and lightly in other areas. She shows it to the teacher.

Charlissa: Look what I did.
Teacher: Oh, what is it?
Charlissa: It's my heart. It's beating fast and hard.
I think I'm going to die
[She closes the book and moves away].
(Observation, 11/22/97)
An examination of Vygotsky's theory reveals that the benefits of play are complex and may take years to be realized (Nicolopoulou, 1991), and support exists for Vygotsky's









view that play contributes to the development of a diverse array of capacities in young children.

Sociodramatic play is the coordinated and reciprocal pretending with peers that

emerges when children are approximately two and one-half years old and increases rapidly until ages four and five. During pretend play, preschoolers interact longer, show more involvement, draw larger numbers of children into the activity, and are more cooperative (Connolly, Doyle, & Reznick, 1988; Petrakos and Howe, 1996). Judith engages in problem solving. Dressed in high heels, she walks slowly around the room. Finally she sits at a table.

Judith: What should I say?
Should I say "Yes" or should I say "No." Judith repeats the question twice, and very slowly each time. Then she
approaches Stanley.

Judith: Stanley, what do you think?
Should I be friends with Dennis?
Stanley: Yes.

Judith and Stanley whisper in each other's ear. Dennis observes the interaction and walks toward them, but Judith avoids him and seeks out Jacquita, who has
her baby in a hamper on her back as she goes about her motherly tasks. She
asks the same question of Jacquita as she had of Stanley. Jacquita's response is negative. The two girls discuss the matter quietly for some time, then they walk
over to Dennis. Others are within hearing distance, and Judith hesitates.

Jacquita: Go on. Tell him.
Judith: Dennis, we've decided to make it up.
(Observation, 3/17/97)
Judith wanted to cultivate a friendship with Dennis, but she was being coy.

Jacquita and Stanley's responses indicated that she had already discussed the problem with them. Judith liked order. And she contrived to achieve her goal and, at the same time, avoid confusion. Stanley's response complicated matters somewhat, and she decided to use Jacquita as an intermediary. However, Jacquita preferred that Judith should speak for









herself and forced her to address Dennis, directly. Judith does so, but chooses her words very carefully, intimating that it is Dennis who wishes to reestablish an old friendship. For a five-year-old girl, this was surely a creative solution to a ticklish problem.

When one considers these findings from the standpoint of Vygotsky's emphasis on the social origins of cognition, it is not surprising that preschoolers who spend more time at sociodramatic play are advanced in general intellectual development and show an enhanced ability to understand the feelings of others. They are also seen as more socially competent by their teachers (Berk, 1994; Connolly & Doyle, 1984).

The components of play are the activities that promote learning and facilitate

physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive development of the children. These components are indispensible to the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers. Each component contributes in its own special way to the total development of the child and, together, they encourage creativity and disciplined independence in these young children.

How Does the Classroom Influence Play?

To facilitate the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers, it

appears that a number of variables coalesce and, in so doing, provide an environment that is conducive to the children's getting along and creating friendships, key factors in children's play. These variables include the arrangement of the learning environment, making choices, and adult-child interaction. Arrangement of the Classroom

Upon first entering the classroom, one immediately made two observations: (a) one did not have a clear view of the entire room from any given point, (b) and there was an air of confusion in the room. It appeared that the physical arrangement of the room contributed, significantly, to the sense of chaos that once existed. There was a large, metal teacher's desk. It was cluttered with papers piled high. Next to it were a large bookcase and a tall plant. These three items were grouped in the middle of the classroom.









And child-sized chairs and tables and other items of furniture were positioned so that they added to the confusion. For the children, the environment stimulated the enactment of games like "Tag" or "Catch Me If You Can" and effectively hindered the progress of any adult who sought to terminate an unacceptable behavior in the classroom.

This, then, was the social setting of the classroom for peer interaction in the first

week of observations, and the children's behaviors precipitated the ensuing "shut down" of the classroom. Scales (1984) argued that, in play situations, meaning for children is situated. In other words, the social features of the preschool play settings represent an implied curriculum. Children's play interactions provide evidence of their understanding of the implied expectations of play settings, and the strategies they come to use in advancing their social goals demonstrate their levels of communicative and social competence.

Following the shut down, the appearance of the classroom was modified. All

physical obstacles to classroom management had been removed. The room was spacious, and the walls bore colorful posters and examples of the children's art work, as well as classroom basics like an attendance board, the daily schedule, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and so on. Each item in the room was identified by a tag bearing its name. The daily schedule had been modified, too. In lieu of one outside play period, there were two. This added outdoor time was particularly advantageous to aggressive children who described themselves as "hyper," and for whom all attempts at "rough and tumble" play were immediately terminated.

Pelligrini and Perlmutter (1988) reported that children who engage in aggressive behaviors tend to be disliked by their peers, are poor at social problem solving, and unable to discriminate between accident and intentional behavior. These researchers also reported that rough and tumble play is positively related to social competence, since rough and tumble interaction leads to games that are rule-governed, a highly desirable and prosocial form of play. And boys who engage in rough and tumble play become good problem solvers. These children learn to use and practice skills that are important for the









development of social competence: reciprocal role taking, sharing, social perspective taking, entering on-going play events, and distinguishing between real and play fighting. These findings supported work done by Oden and Asher (1977), who designed a program that enables aggressive children to distinguish between rough-and-tumble play and aggression and, at the same time, acquire social competence.

Another program change was the addition of play centers. Initially there were five identifiable centers: housekeeping, village, literacy, unit blocks, and science/math. From time to time, the units blocks and science/math areas were adapted to meet the needs of small interest groups at free play time. By late January, four new centers had been added: sandbox, large blocks, gravel table, and an outside table for writing or impromptu play. Music in the Classroom

Music helped to create an atmosphere that fostered positive interactions like sharing, taking turns, and cooperating during play. Musical selections included Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," Gounod's "Ave Maria," Anderson's "Toyland," and "All Through the Night." This kind of music was soothing and helped to calm the children after outside play. At other times, music served to enhance information processing by reinforcing earlier learnings. "The Alphabet Song, "Roll Over," and "The Numbers Rock" aided review and recall of letters and numbers from one to twenty and counting backward from one to ten. "Simon Says," and "If You're Happy and You Know It" helped the children recall the names of body parts; "The Cookie Jar Song" and "Doggie, Doggie, Where's Your Bone" encouraged turn taking; and "The Macarena" stimulated everone's desire to move their bodies in dance. Decorations and holiday music created a festive atmosphere for the children and motivated in them a desire to prepare gifts and cards for parents and friends.

The children's responses to the new environment of the classroom were positive. They did not all demonstrate acceptable play interactions, but the frequency and degree of unacceptable responses had noticeably decreased and facilitated classroom management.









The children hummed and sang as they played. Sometimes, Mark, Jacqueline, and Charlissa could be seen moving their bodies in time to the music without a conscious awareness of doing so. Another contributing factor may have been the absence of Leonard and Lincoln, who were no longer enrolled in the program. Making Choices
For at-risk preschoolers, an essential element in acquiring social competence is the ability to make choices. In tandem with making choices is the acceptance of responsibility for one's behavior. Making choices helps young children to feel that they have a measure of control, and that they are responsible beings (Kelman, 1990). Judith demonstrated this when she expressed her feelings about finding the computer room on her own (2/24/97).

At the start of the study, some things were done for the children. Their food was placed before them, and drinks were poured at the table, or the children were provided with individual cartons of milk. By the second semester, they were allowed to go to the food table and choose their own plate, table by table, one at a time. The children learned that the choices they made affected others as well as themselves. David shouts out, "I want more chicken," and he gets a second helping. However, the teacher got none (1/24/97). And although each plate contained a balanced meal, Raoul tries to find the plate with the most food on it. By the time he finds it, someone else is walking away with it (2/17/97).

For the first hour each morning, the children were asked to choose a play activity until it was time for breakfast. At sociodramatic/pretend play time, each child chose the center at which she or he wanted to play and explained why she or he had chosen thusly. They also made choices for art and drawing and individual reading and writing. For outdoor play each child was again asked to choose a playmate, then join the line.

Early in the second semester, a routine was developed to encourage individual

acceptance of responsibility. A nylon folder with 16 plastic pockets was taped to one wall in the classroom. Over the folder were the words "CLASS JOBS." Each pocket was









approximately two inches wide. There were 15 small manila envelopes, each placed in a separate pocket. On the front of each envelope, there was a picture of a child with her or his name typed below the picture, and the child's first name, written by the teacher, below the printed name. Protruding from each envelope was a small white card. On the card there was a picture about a task, and under it were words describing the given task. For example, "Straighten Books" is written under a picture of a book. One by one, each child was asked to go to her or his pocket, remove the card, tell the group what the card said, then replace it and return to her or his seat. The children were not able to read the words, but read the cues provided in the picture (1/24/97). Each Friday afternoon, the cards were rotated, so that each child had an opportunity to perform each task. The children responded positively to this challenge. This was an invaluable experience: (a) it enabled each child to identify her or his name in print and encouraged turn taking, trading, and cooperating; (b) it provided an exercise in democracy. The children learned that one cannot alway get away with what one wants but must be prepared to make compromises or make alternative choices. By doing these things, they were contributing to the smooth flow of classroom activities.

As the children learned to make choices, they also learned that there are clearly defined limits to what they could and could not do; and that some choices are spelled out by the adult in charge. A child did not have a choice of verbally or physically attacking another child. At group time, each child had to sit and listen quietly until it was her or his turn to talk. Children sat at meal time, they ran outdoors, and they used "inside" and "outside" voices. The children sometimes expressed resentment of the "teacher rules" which they interpreted as infringements on their freedom to do as they wish. However, they also resorted to those same rules when it became expedient to their personal goals. From time to time, a child sought to circumvent her or his responsibility by practicing deception. Jake, Raoul, and Stanley are riding tricycles. They race each other along a paved path. Stanley runs into the back of Raoul's tricycle, and the force of the blow









throws Raoul off the bike and onto the concrete, causing bruising on his left elbow. The teacher confronts Stanley:

Teacher: Stanley, why do you have to ride so fast and so close to Raoul?
Stanley: I wasn' ridin' fas'. He was racin' and he hit me
[although Raoul was in front of him as they rode]. Teacher: Stanley, you caused Raoul to get hurt; you should apologize to him.

Stanley refuses to apologize. He loses the rest of his play time and must return to
the classroom and a nap. (Observation, 2/11/97)

To his chagrin, Stanley learned that every behavior results from a choice one makes, and that for every choice there is a consequence, sometimes severe.

For these at-risk preschoolers, learning to make choices and recognizing that each one is responsible for her or his action took time. The classroom is a microcosm of the real world and, in that world, children sometimes have choices; and sometimes, they do not. The context of the situation determines the presence or absence of choices. It is important that at-risk preschoolers know what is and what is not a choice and when there is a choice. At the same time, children can handle complexity, if they are helped to understand it (Kelman, 1990).

Adult-Child Interaction

The children interacted in an environment that nurtured growth and development. Throughout the observations, there were three and, later, four adults who interacted with them on a daily basis. Support staff did the same at regular intervals. However, the primary adults in the children's lives were the teacher, teacher-aides, and language specialist.

Mrs. White, the teacher, was gentle and caring, and she never swerved from her commitment to the children, not even when Leonard lost control and punched her in the face (10/17/96). She was a professional for whom the children came first. In discussing this incident later that day, Mrs. White declared, "If I can bring about a significant change









in the life of just one of these children, I would feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile" (10/17/96). Mrs. White was a graduate of the local community college, where she earned an associate degree in child development. The school where the study was conducted was the last in the county to institute a Head Start program, and this was Mrs. White's first year at the school. Initially, she was assisted by one teacher-aide, Mrs. Weems, who left the program after six weeks "because the children were too difficult and too wild, and she had had enough of them" (10/18/96).

Following the modification of the classroom and the departure of Mrs. Weems,

there were two new aides: Consuela Diego and Ella Sharpe (11/4/96). In addition, one of the mothers, Martha Wates, volunteered her services in the classroom. There were then four adults in daily interaction with the children, all females. Two of them were AfricanAmericans, one was Latina, and one was white. Early impressions are important in the development of young children, and this investigator believes that it was advantageous for these at-risk preschoolers to see that people of diverse backgrounds can work together.

Consuela Diego came from a family in South America. She is married and the mother of a young child enrolled at this school. She, too, holds an associate degree in child development. Miss Consuela, as the children called her, is petite, and she exuded warmth and love. The children could not get enough of her. They frequently made requests like, "Miss Consuela, gimme a hug," or "Miss Consuela, tell us a story." In response to such a request, she would tell them a Latin-American folk tale to which they could relate. Often there would be peels of laughter coming from the group of four or five children around her. Sometimes, that laughter drew others to the group as well. At other times, she would teach them one of their favorite songs in Spanish. They liked that a lot. Miss Consuela left the program at the end of March because of complications with pregnancy.

For four years Ella Sharpe was a volunteer worker for the county school board. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology; in her own words, it








focused my energies in working with children. This was a very personal
choice for me because I saw the need to have loving and caring adults
work with young children. I also believe that I could always learn something from my experiences with the children, and I feel that success
depends on cooperation and understanding among adult participants in the
program. (Interview, 5/2/97)

Martha Wates was an untrained helper whose contribution to classroom

management was deeply appreciated. To the children she was Miss Martha. As the school year was coming to a close, Miss Martha was hired as a teacher-aide for the coming school year with the expectation that she would complete the requirements for her new position.

Finally, there was the language specialist, Joy Garland, whose focus was those children with speech or language problems. Miss Garland was warm and engaging with the children. And unless the observer was apprised of the target children in this classroom, she was everybody's language teacher. She came in one day of each week.

These were the individuals who exercised control in the classroom, thereby influencing the play activities of the children. And, as Miss Sharpe succinctly stated, success depends on understanding and cooperation among those in charge. These adults worked as a team, and their efforts were bolstered by the teacher specialist, Anima Good, whose frequent visits to the classroom assured the advancement of the curriculum. Miss Good interacted with the children on a limited basis. She is a gentle person with a soft voice and a ready smile. She is well-experienced in working with young children and is herself a grandmother. She was instrumental in the modification of the classroom and the curriculum. Her main function was that of guiding the adults and, through them, the advancement of developmental skills of these at-risk preschoolers.




Full Text

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THE ROLE OF PLAY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE OF AT-RISK PRESCHOOLERS; AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY By GERMAINE J. PHILLIP A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 1998

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I dedicate this enlightening journey to my grandchildren: Chelsea Marie, Nathan Michael, and Erik Maxwell

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ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS This research project could not have been completed without the cooperation of Dr. JoAnn Pohlman, the elementary school principal, and Audrea Baker, the prekindergarten classroom teacher, who graciously consented to my frequent observations in the classroom, and, in general, facilitated my data collection. I would like to extend my gratitude to others who have been there for me while I worked on my research project and dissertation. I particularly wish to thank Dr. H. Thompson Fillmer, the chairperson of my committee, who dispelled my doubts with anecdotes of his days as a doctoral candidate. He helped me to understand that my experiences were being shared by all doctoral candidates. I also thank Dr. Simon O. Johnson, whose initial encouragement motivated me to create and work toward the realization of my dream. Utilizing his wry sense of humor, he taught me that it was entirely up to me to make all the rough edges smooth. Dr. Robert R. Sherman deserves special recognition. He was always ready to listen and to help me when I needed it. I have derived much benefit from his counsel and meaningftil criticisms of my work. He also enabled me to stay focused even though I may have been viewing the world from a different perspective. In addition, I thank Dr. Harry B. Shaw for his advice and encouragement along the way. I also thank Sherman Martin for many hours of technical support in the preparation of this dissertation. Lastly, I offer my deepest appreciation for my husband Michael, who never waivered in expressing his confidence in me and my ability to complete this project. Without his understanding and moral support, none of this would have been possible. Thank you all for your patience, your support, and your caring.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS Pag e DEDICATION ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT CHAPTERS ONE INTRODUCTION Background Statement of the Problem Purpose of the Study Significance of the Study Organization of the Study TWO DISCUSSION OF RELATED LITERATURE 21 Parental Influences on Social Competence 2 1 Sociodramatic Play 26 Play and Children's Conflicts 29 Play and Social Competence 32 Young Children and Rules in Play 34 Summary 38 THREE METHODOLOGY 40 Access 40 The School 41 The Participants 43 The Head Start Program 44 Research Procedure 45 Data Collection 45 Observations 45 Interviews 46 Writings 47 Artifacts 47 ui IV VI 1 1 16 17 17 20 iv

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Data Analysis 48 Validity and Reliability 49 Bias, Control, and Researcher Qualification 49 FOUR FINDINGS: The Role of Play 51 What is the Role of Play'' 53 How Does Play Advance the Self Competence of At-Risk Preschoolers? 5 8 Imitative Learning 58 Instructive Learning 62 Collaborative Learning 69 Writings 75 Artifacts 75 FIVE FINDINGS: The Components of Play 80 What Are the Components of Play? 80 Physical Development 80 Social Development 82 Emotional Development 82 Intellectual Development 83 Intuitive Development 84 How Does the Classroom Influence Play? 86 Arrangement of the Classroom 86 Music in the Classroom 88 Making Choices 89 Adult-Child Interaction 91 SIX CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS 94 Summary 94 Conclusions 97 Recommendations 99 REFERENCES 101 APPENDIX A INTERVIEW PERMISSION FORM 1 1 1 APPENDIX B PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE MATERIALS 114 APPENDIX C INTERVIEW PICTURES 117 BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 123

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Absract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy THE ROLE OF PLAY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIAL COMPETENCE OF AT-RISK PRESCHOOLERS; AN OBSERVATIONAL STUDY By Germaine J. Phillip August, 1998 Chairman: H. Thompson Fillmer Major Department; Instruction and Curriculum The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. The study was guided by four research questions; What is the role of play? How does play advance the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers? What are the components of play'' How does the classroom influence play'' Initially there were 19 preschool children in the study. Their ages ranged from 48 months to 66 months. The group was comprised of eleven girls and eight boys. The girls ranged in age from four years to five years and three months, having a mean age of four years and nine months. The boys ranged in age from four years to four years and eleven months, having a mean age of four years and seven months. Thirteen of the children were African-American, five were white, and one was Latina. Three of the children were classified as having speech and language problems, and seven of the children were enrolled in the program for other unspecified circumstances. By the end of the school year, there were 20 children in the study. All of the children were from low income families, all had

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been recmited from the county's Head Start waiting list, and all had been enrolled in the Head Start program on a full-time basis. All of the children were considered to be at risk of failure. Observation, interview, documents, and artifacts were used to address the four research questions. The children's social behaviors were observed as they interacted in the course of indoor and outdoor play. Social problem solving skills were assessed in an interview with each child. Hypothetical play situations were presented to the children in photographic representations and discussion. The children were questioned about their interpretations of each play situation and what ideas they had to resolve the problem they perceived in the picture. The collected data were examined using domain analysis procedures. Vygotsky's theory of play provided the framework for interpreting the findings. The study's findings indicated that, for at-risk preschoolers, social information processing is fiandamental to social competence; aggressive strategies lead to noncompliance and conflict situations, mixed-age collaborative play enhances prosocial skills and problem solving strategies, components of play advance total development; the social context of play influences peer interaction; music enhances the ambiance of the classroom; making choices promotes self control and an acceptance of responsibility for one's actions, and caring and supportive adults in the play environment promote positive peer interaction and enhance social competence.

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CHAPTER ONE INTRODUCTION Four-year-old Judith's Mom accompanies her to the classroom. Judith runs to greet her teacher at the door and hugs her tightly around the waist as she nestles her head on the teacher's bossom. She releases her hug on the teacher, bids her Mom good-bye, then walks over to a group of three classmates whom she joins in an ongoing activity (Observation, 10/14/1996). Darla and Cynthia are engaged in pouring and measuring at the gravel table outdoors Raoul, observing the girls at play, saunters over and grabs the small plastic spade from Cynthia, while he comments: "That's not how you do that, that's all wrong. Lemme me show you . " The girls stop their play and silently walk away from the table (Observation, 1/24/1997). Each of these vignettes demonstrates vividly the complexities of social competence among preschoolers. Some young children are socially at ease with their peers and can initiate or maintain positive prosocial interactions with them, while others are rebuffed. A number of studies have focused on the development of social competence in young children, and findings have indicated that play is an essential component of that development (Farver, 1996; Petrakos & Howe, 1996). What is play? Over time there have been many theories of play, and each was presented within the context of early childhood development. BackgrniinH Approximately three hundred years ago, the Czech thinker and educator Jon Amos Comenius (1858/1977) created a methodology that he called The Great DiHantir One essay entitled "School of Infancy" detailed the education of young children from birth to age six. Comenius theorized that play was an essential feature of educating young children. He declared that the mother is the child's first teacher. Through her patient nurturing, the child becomes the beneficiary of early sensory-motor experiences that are 1

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2 manifested as play and which effectively prepare the child for later learning. He advocated that during these episodes of play, the child should move around at will and be not fettered by physical or other constraints. Comenius distinguished between physical exercise and play. Physical exericise energizes the body and the mind and should be presented as forms of amusement. If children enjoy the activity, they will learn from it. Play, as self-activity, is associated with psychological development, and Comenius believed that, after receiving instructions, young children had to be provided opportunities for engaging in selfregulated activities that facilitated imitation and assimilation of all new learnings. Further, Comenius noted that, in the process of play or self-activity, children develop langauge skills. Thus he advocated that all new learnings should appeal to the senses, since this made learning easier to remember and to imitate, and those who instruct young children should "make learning fun by allowing hands-on experiences that afford opportunities for utilizing language" (Laurie, 1904, p. 133). Morning classes exercised understanding and memory, while afternoon classes engaged voice and hand. Afternoon activities attempted nothing new, but repeated the morning lessons through play, including songs, writing, and counting. Thus, new learning was impressed upon the mind through occupying the senses with it. In short, the children practiced through play. Dubbed the father of educational psychology, the eighteenth-century French philosopher JeanJacques Rousseau was considered a thinker ahead of his time. His theory of play is found in Book II of Emile (Worthington, 1896), which he devoted to the development of children under age twelve, a phase he emphasized as the most important because it is the basis on which all subsequent mental and emotional development are buih. The purpose of an education was to teach the child in such a manner that he would learn through his own efforts to be as free as possible within society. To achieve this goal, Emile, who symbolized all young children, was educated in the country where, under the watchful guidance of a parent/tutor, he was encouraged to experience nature without constraints. Emile achieved the free development of his own nature, his own powers, and

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3 his own natural inclinations. From a hands-on knowledge of nature, Emile developed cognitive skills as he learned to reason and to categorize what he observeed in nature. Using paradox, sarcasm, and exaggeration, Rousseau enunctiated what he considered to be in the best interest of the children of his day. The underlying theme of Emile is the wisdom of nature and the need for young children, engaged in free play, to follow the dictates of nature if they are to grow up with balanced social reactions. Subsequently, Rousseau's psychological observations greatly influenced the work of other educators who also were concerned with the education of young children. In Europe, the late eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries were marked by social and political activities that created philosophical trauma in some, as much as it assuaged a sense of security in others. The field of education was not immune. By the start of the nineteenth century, there were strong tensions between nationalism and brotherhood, freedom and moral purpose, scientific materialism and the human spirit, commercialism and naturalism, and all were bound up in what was to become the "Spirit of the Age." Johann Heinrich Pestalozzi of Zurich survived the political and philosophical upheaval of this era. In How Gertrude Teaches Her Children , Pestalozzi (1894/1977) advocated that education should respond to the differences in background, prospect, native ability, and personal inclinations of the individuals being taught. He also held that psychological development was a matter of sensory-motor integration, and that early manipulative training was essential to the ultimate development of cognitive skills. He observed that nature is our school, and life is our tutor, and we know all that we know through the mechanisms of sensation. However, the senses only conveyed showers of disconnected and chaotic experiences. Like Rousseau, Pestalozzi held that sensory-motor experiences must be carefiilly guided by the mother or earliest instructor because language development is a by-product of play. Language is the means by which mere sense impressions are converted into thought and organized into coherent concepts and memories. Thus, through prolonged

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4 and carefully-guided exposure to sensory-motor experiences, Pestalozzi hoped to overcome the passivity that characterized education of young children by promoting a theory of play as "self-activity" or "spontaneity," the creative manifestations of what young children have assimilated and interiorized. Work should be transformed into play whenever possible. And spontaneous self-activity connoted self-engagement that required total freedom to express oneself through action. It is this aspect of play that transforms learning into human potential. To enhance the play or self-activity of very young children, Pestalozzi created a series of "object lessons" which he called his Book for Mothers . It consisted of songs and games constructed around natural objects found in and around the home environment. The idea was that in guiding the play of children, mothers would use these songs and games to heighten sensory-motor experiences which he believed were fundamental to all future development. Many others, before and after Comenius, Rousseau, and Pestalozzi, recognized the value of play in early childhood. Plato, Quintilian, Luther, Fenelon, Locke, and Richter, all noticed some of its beneficial affects. However, it was Friedrich Wilhelm August Froebel, a student and avid follower of Pestalozzi, who seemed to uncover the evolutionary meaning of play and the role it should have in education (Bowen, 1909), Froebel was credited with establishing the first known "children's garden" for educating young children. He theorized that play was central to all activities in kindergarten; it was the connector that unified the entire program. Thus the name "kindergarten" which means child's garden. Like Comenius and Pestalozzi, Froebel conceived of play as self-activity. But for him play was more than a means of assimilating new actions and experiences. A basic principle was that self-activity is of the whole mind; the mind must be considered in terms of its three activities: knowing, feeling, and willing. In The Kindergarten (Bowen, 1909; Downs, 1978), Froebel tells us that children always are eager to demonstrate what they know and that knowledge is important to them

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5 only in terms of their ability to think at any given time. The act of expressing or using knowledge exercises the mind and furthers the development of mental powers. A child's play or expressive behavior illustrates to parents, teachers, and others the nature and/or level of the child's knowing; enhances cognitive skills; and encourages the creation, development, and effectiveness of other skills; all training the muscles, nerves, and organs of sense to be willing and effective servants of the mind. This is the substance of Froebel's principle of "connectedness." So that in the process of taking in, assimilating and expressing, the child's self is called into action, and more particularly, by expressing, the child's self-activity is produced. For Froebel, a major objective of the kindergarten was to help young children use their knowledge to express themselves by utilizing each and every mode and means of expression that lie within their powers and are most natural to them, as in play. One might say that Froebel's key concepts of the kindergarten were self-activity,connectedness, expressive activity, and a happy and harmonious environment. And play is the vehicle through which all of this may be achieved. Another core feature of The Kindergarten was Froebel's "gifts" and "occupations." These appear to be an extention of Pestalozzi's "object lessons" and emphasize the theme of "connectedness" that runs through all aspects of Froebel's methodology. According to Froebel, knowledge is information taken in and assimilated. In mastering the meaning of new facts or experiences, a child observes likenesses or differences in relation to other facts or experiences already internalized. It is in stressing the differences of facts and experiences that Froebel introduced his "doctrine of contrasts". By their contrasts, each fact or experience is rendered more noticeable and more intelligible. This is followed by the process of "synthesis," or the bringing together of things again in intelligible relations. To this end, Froebel compiled a book that he called A Complete Series of Gifts for Play (Bowen, 1909).

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6 The "gifts" were fundamental forms as found in nature and designed to show the general qualities of things. They included soft balls and wooden spheres; cubes and cylinders; round, square, and oblong objects; large cubes divisible into halves, quarters, eights, and sixteenths, a large cube divided into eighteen whole oblongs, some divided lengthwise, some, breadthwise, quadrangular and triangular tablets, sticks and wands, whole and half wire rings—all designed for laying figures; materials for drawing, perforating, embroidering, paper cutting, weaving or braiding, paper folding, pea work, modeling, and slats for interlacing (Downs, 1978). These materials promote categorizing, they range fi"om simple to complex, and they follow a developmental sequence. They also include different colors, shapes or forms, sizes, and textures. The "occupations" were the children's self-produced activities, which they creatively expressed in physical activity like drawings, songs, games, and so on. According to Froebel, the "occupations" of the kindergarten represented an anticipated progression of behaviors or activities that corresponded to the children's physical and mental development. For Froebel, play was more than mere recreation. It was the most important phase in the spontaneous development of young children because it allowed them to exercise harmoniously all their physical, emotional, and intellectual qualities. This idea of play as self-produced activity resurfaced in John Dewey (1916), who seemed to have been influenced by Froebel, although he disagreed with some of the latter's ideas about child development. He agreed with Froebel that children should be able to move about the classroom freely, learn by doing and thinking, and interact freely with their peers in the process of learning and developing. Dewey also defended Froebel's use of play as merely a learning device. In Democracy and Education he stated: Doubtless the fact that children normally engage in play and work out of school has seemed to many educators a reason why they should concern themselves in school with things radically different. School time seemed too precious to spend in doing over again what children were sure to do anyway. (Dewey, 1916, p. 195)

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7 Dewey also agreed with Froebel's "gifts" and "occupations," although he did not accept the narrow scope of Froebel's thinking on child development. He extended Froebel's "occupations" to include work with paper, cardboard, wood, leather, cloth, yams, clay and sand, and metals, with or without tools; processes such as folding, cutting, pricking, measuring, molding, modeling, pattern-making, heating and cooling, and the use of the hammer, saw, file, and other tools; outdoor excursions, gardening, cookng, sewing, printing, bookbinding, weaving painting, drawing, singing, dramatization, story-telling, reading and writing, as well as a variety of plays and games. (Dewey, 1916, p. 196) For Dewey, it was not enough to introduce play and games, handwork and manual exercises in the classroom. The aim of such activities should be to generate intellectual results and encourage socialized dispositions as well as manual skills and technical efficiency. He believed that a child lives through his play, and if suitably directed, derives many benefits fi'om play activities. And then there is the psychoanalytic perspective on play. Peller (1978) has offered the following composite of Freud's theory of play and psychoanalytic insight; Play is therapy in the lives of young children. Play helps children deal with traumatic events which would otherwise devastate them. The playfiil repetition of a traumatic event enables children to move fi'om passivity to activity by engaging in role playing. This affords children opportunities to change the outcome of painfiil events and to give a happy ending to what was once distressing to them. Thus play is a means of confi-onting one's emotional state when that state has the potential for creating debilitation. The progression fi-om passivity to activity can also be viewed fi'om another point of view. A child may witness harm perpetrated on another with whom he identifies. He reverses the passivity with which he witnessed the event with activity through play. Because the child can initiate, vary, or terminate play at will, play can enable him to overcome the anxieties engendered by the original experience. This kind of play enables the child to move fi'om pain to pleasure.

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8 However, not all play mirrors the repetition of a painftil experience. Play supports fantasies that are pleasurable or engenders imagery that compensates for perceived limitations, anxieties, and deprivations. Play permits children to return, again and again, to an experience that was pleasurable, or seen as pleasurable in retrospect. Play makes possible the anticipatory enjoyment of what is to come. Play transcends time to overcome the destructive impact of shattering emotional experience. According to Freud, early play is the antecedent of, and the prerequisite for, conceptual thinking. As precursor of conceptual thought, play is not bounded by the acquisition of immediate goals; thus the child can immerse himself freely in the activity with utmost abandon, and the materials of the play are enjoyed in terms of the roles, functions, and meanings with which the child has endowed them. While imagination is crucial to both play and conceptual thought, play is kept in motion by fantasies and their accompanying effects. In conceptual thought, imagery is constantly referred back to reality and/or to the conceptual structures of others. Play involves interaction with others and with the environment, which may be complex and varied and is pleasurable to the participants even in the absense of specific goals. Finally, children take play seriously and invest intense emotion in this activity. As they structure their play, it is marked by exuberance, sequence, fluidity and consciousness. Freud's theory of play becomes relevant in the discussion of Piaget's work. Jean Piaget's psychological and developmental theories dominated the first half of the twentieth century, and his approach to play was essential to his larger theory of cognitive development. Every act of intelligence is characterized by an equilibrium between two poles, assimilation and accommodation. In assimilation, the child incorporates events, objects, or situations into existing ways of thinking, which constitute organized mental structures. In accommodation, the existing mental structures reorganize to incorporate new aspects of the external environment. During an act of intelligence, the child adapts to the requirements of external reality, while maintaining mental structures

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9 intact. On the other hand, play is characterized by the primacy of assimilation over accommodation. Piaget (1945/1951) described the unfolding of children's play as consisting of three phases: Practice Play, Symbolic Play, and Play with Rules. Each phase corresponds to a given stage of child development. The infant engages in Practice Play during the sensorymotor or preverbal stage— birth to two years—and this play is characterized by the repetition of actions and manipulations of objects. The infant engages in this activity solely for the pleasure he derives from mastering motor skills— grasping his foot and putting his toe in his mouth. Gradually the infant understands that certain actions on his part will lead to specific results, swatting the mobile produces pleasant sounds, and a certain cry will bring his mother to his side. Thus, through actions and manipulations the infant constructs scripts and schemas. As this practice play continues, the schemas or sequences of actions performed become symbolic, and objects and actions assume meanings of their own. As the infant becomes socialized, he may manipulate schemas in combinations that, while pleasurable, require rules. At this point, practice play begins a progression towards games with rules. Symbolic Play corresponds to the preoperational stage— two to fours years— and is characterized by make-believe or pretend play. Schemas formerly ritualized in practice play now become representations or ludic symbols that the young child accesses and uses for pleasure; thus the use of the term "pretend play." The ludic symbolism of a pillow for sleep may be extended to a small blanket or to a personal toy, which provides pleasure similar to that from the original symbol, the pillow. Eventually, the child uses the blanket or his hands to symbolize the spreading of a blanket to put another child or object, like a teddy bear, to sleep. Or the child creates combinations, like eating from an empty box or imaginary plate, drinking from an empty or imaginary cup while producing the lip and throat sounds that accompany these activities in real life, or sleeping with an imaginary pillow. In this way, the child creates an entire episode in make-believe.

PAGE 17

10 To explain the connection between the early ludic symbols and the representational imitation of them, Piaget demonstrated that every schema includes both assimilation and accommodation, since these two processes are inseparable. The difference between ludic symbol and adapted representation is that in the act of intelligence assimilation and accommodation are constantly synchronized in equilibrium. However, in the ludic symbol, a present object is assimilated with an earlier schema not objectively related to it and it is to evoke this schema and the absent objects related to it that imitation comes into play and provides the "signifier". So far as intelligence, imitation, and play are considered in sensory-motor experiences, imitation is a continuation of accommodation, play is a continuation of assimilation, and intelligence is a harmonious combination of the two. According to Piaget, Symbolic Play is closely followed by Dramatic Play. Dramatic Play is socialized play involving two or more children and consists of games constructed on themes from daily living: school life, weddings, child rearing, and so on. Here ludic symbols gradually become adapted representations. According to Piaget, the child goes beyond the physical manipulation of reality. Through symbolic distortions as described earlier, children gradually come to assimilate the world of reality into their world of fantasy. Lastly, Symbolic Play develops into Games with Rules. This kind of play correlates with the upper range of the preoperational stage and the stage of operational intelligence, that is, concrete-seven to eleven years~and abstract-after eleven years, and it is fiirther characterized by social behaviors involving verbal and intuitive thought. The play participants determine the structure of the game and the rules that will control participant behaviors. Although sensory-motor and symbolic content are present, this play differs from earlier play in that rules are added and result from a "collective organization of ludic activities" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 113). Piaget (1945/1951) posited that the three classifications of play correspond to three successive forms of intelligence: sensory-motor, representational, and reflective; and

PAGE 18

11 constructional games occupy, at the third level, a position half-way between play and intelligent work, or between play and imitation. He showed that play progresses from purely individual processes and idiosyncratic private symbols to social play and collective symbolism, that play derives from a child's mental structure and can be explained only by that structure, and that play is a mode of activity that starts with the differentiation of assimilation from accommodation and, in particular, emerges when assimilation can function on its own. With the development of the capacity for representation, assimilation for the sake of assimilation becomes not only distorting, but also a source of deliberate makebelieve. Thus, pretend play recalls a Freudian psychoanalytic dynamic in that it enables the child to relive past experiences for the ego's satisfaction, rather than for the ego's subordination to reality. In this sense, play reflects the need for sympathetic understanding rather than the need for an objective grasping of reality. Piaget (1945/1951) theorized that, ahhough there is a clear distinction between practice play and symbolic play, still there is an undeniable relationship between them: "Symbolic play is to practice play as representational intelligence is to sensory-motor intelligence" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 163). At the same level, he ftirther theorized that "Symbolic play is to representational intelligence as practice play is to sensory-motor intelligence" (Piaget, 1945/1951, p. 163). It appears that the active agent is the exercise of intelligence, for Piaget posited that intelligence is the only activity that achieves the coordination of assimilation and accommodation. Although Piaget (1948) acknowledged that there is a sociocultural influence on the development of young children, he never related any of this to his theory of play. This omission facilitated, possibly, the later influence of Vygotsky, for whom this dimension was fundamental. Unlike Piaget, Vygotsky did not offer a comprehensive theory of play. Instead, he offered a number of concepts that, taken together, resulted in a new way of viewing the psychological development of young children.

PAGE 19

12 For Vygotsky, play begins at about age three. This is pretense play and is characterized by its sociocultural overtones. Social in nature, this play involves two or more children, and the themes, stories, and roles enacted express the children's understanding and acceptance of the sociocultural underpinnings of their society. Even solitary play expresses sociocultural elements. Vygotsky held that, although young children have innate physiological and psychological proclivities for dealing with the reality of their world, it is the cultural practices and systems of ideas within their environment that define their abilities as individuals within the given community. Unlike Piaget's child who creates a conceptual world from scratch, for Vygotsky the community's conceptual resources are inculcated by parents, siblings, relatives, fiiends, and peers. Social interaction and communication become important factors in the development of higher psychological functions and represent two key elements of society; (a) social relationships and interactions shaped by society's organizations and institutions --home, school, church, and the wider community; and (b) the collectively elaborated conceptual and symbolic systems that are the cultural heritage of the society-customs, traditions, religious practices and icons, myths and legends, and politics. It is interesting to note that decades eariier Dewey (1916) also emphasized this concept of social transmission as the primary means through which a community renews itself "The grounds for assigning to play and active work a definite place in the curriculum are intellectual and social" (Dewey, 1916, p. 195). Therefore, play is educative and education is . . . the means of . . . social continuity. Society exists through a process of transmission . . . This transmission occurs by means of communication of habits of doing, thinking, and feeling fi-om the older to the younger. Without this communication of ideals, hopes, expectations, standards, opinions, . , . social life could not survive. (Dewey, 1916, p. 3) A child learns and develops in a social context that includes more knowledgeable and capable peers and adults who pass on the cultural heritage. This transmission is accomplished primarily through the use of language and communication, buttressed by the

PAGE 20

13 use of cultural artifacts such as written documents or other physical, mechanical, or symbolic representations. Thus, the child's psychological development proceeds from the social— interpsychological~to the individual—intrapsychological plane (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, 1934/1986,1934/1987), Central to Vygotsky's theory of cognitive development is his concept of the "zone of proximal development": The zone of proximal development of the child is the distance between his actual development, determined with the help of independently solved tasks, and the level of the potential development of the child, determined with the help of tasks solved by the child under the guidance of adults and in cooperation with his more intelligent partners, (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993, p. 337) "Actual" development is equivalent to what has been accomplished as of today; "potential" development is equated with what it is possible to achieve with aduh guidance and the collaboration of more capable peers "because of [the child's] singular ability to imitate the activities of their more able partners" (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993, p. 342). Organisms in general are limited in their capacity for imitation. However, children are far less limited than other species because they can, to a point, profit from instruction. In contrast to other species, children are capable of intellectual, insightfiil imitation. In the case of children, teaching can invoke and promote their cognitive development (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993). According to Vygotsky (1933/1967), significant others in the life of a childparents, teachers, and community leaders-are actively involved in the transmission of the society's cultural resources, which include linguistic and other symbolic systems, cognitive frameworks and concrete knowledge. These resources guide children's interpretations of the world and help them to systematize the diverse physical and social phenomena they encounter. Thus, the actualization of the "zone of proximal development" depends on social interaction within a shared cultural framework. This interaction may consist of both

PAGE 21

14 instmction and other forms of joint activity. Further, Vygotsky held that a child benefits most fi"om such interaction when it is geared appropriately to his or her level of "potential" development, thereby advancing "actual" development (Vygotsky, 1933/1967). It is within this theoretical context that Vygotsky posits his analysis of play. Play is a social activity; and rather than reflect cognitive development, play actively contributes to that development. Further, Vygotsky himself suggested that play can create the "zone of proximal development": play also creates the zone of proximal development of the child. In play the child is always behaving beyond his age, above his usual everyday behavior; in play he is, as it were, a head above himself Play contains in a concentrated form, as in the focus of a magnifying glass, all developmental tendencies; it is as if the child tries to jump above his usual level. The relation of play to development should be compared to the relation between instruction and development. . . . Play is a source of development and creates the zone of proximal development, (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993, p. 345) According to Vygotsky, two significant elements are present in all play: an imaginary situation and rules that are implicit in the imaginary situation. However, the imaginary element may not always be readily discernible in all forms of play. The rules constitute the game or play situation, while the rules and actions based on those rules derive their meaning fi-om the play situation. Thus, rules define play, even when they are implicit. For example, implicit rules are embedded when young children play house. The roles of "mother" and "father" are locked in by unstated rules, and the children cannot adopt behaviors that lie outside of what is known and understood about the role of mother and father in the real world. An important cognitive eflfort is involved here: "What passes unnoticed by the child becomes a rule of behavior in play" (Vygotsky, 1933/1967, p. 9). In short, pretend play and games with rules are two poles of a single continuum, and Vygotsky sees the long-term development of play as a gradual movement between them, fi-om an explicit imaginary situation with implicit rules-pretend play~to an implicit imaginary situation wdth explicit rules—games with rules.

PAGE 22

15 In early childhood, play is a source of development and creates a zone of proximal development. By providing an imaginary opportunity for self-empowering internalization of social rules, play contributes to the development of a capacity for "the creation of voluntary intentions and the formation of real-life plans and volitional motives. All appear in play and make it the highest level of preschool development (Vygotsky, 1933/1967, p. 16). During the preschool years, play takes on the role of a "leading activity," an activity that, during a particular phase of a child's sociopsychological development, becomes a major source of new developmental advances. This role does not imply that play is the most frequent form of activity among preschoolers, or the only one that contributes to their development, but it is the source of major advances that, in turn, force the recognition of existing psychological functions. Several implications can be drawn from this discussion of theories of play. First, mother is the first and most important teacher a child will ever have. It is she who promotes the acquisition of early sensory-motor experiences that are crucial to the child's cognitive development. Second, infants and toddlers need an unfettered environment in which to observe and explore the world of nature. These early experiences bring the child in tune with her or his surroundings, familiarizes her or him with ideas and patterns of behavior, and enables the primary stages of cognitive development. Third, those in the position of instructing young children should ensure that the child is in an environment that is conducive to learning, that the guide/instructor is ever cognizant of the child's present capabilities, and that the child should never be required to work at tasks for which he has not been prepared adequately. Lastly, play is the vehicle that makes possible all phases of early development in children. In play, children learn fi-om instruction as well as fi-om more capable others. Play is a social phenomenon through which children learn what is or is not acceptable behavior. This early grounding through play becomes fundamental to future learnings.

PAGE 23

16 The investigator concludes that play is an essential feature in the lives of young children because it is a significant means of promoting their overall development. It is, therefore, reasonable to deduce that play can promote social competence in young children. Piaget (1972) declared that play, language and cognitive development, and social competence were intricately interwoven. Play enhanced language skills and cognitive development, language skills and cognition enhanced the child's ability to communicate adequately with peers, and this ability fiirther enhanced the play of children. However, Vygotsky extended Piaget's theory to include the role of a sociocultural/historical perspective. Vygotsky (1933/1978, 1934/1986) suggested that specific social contexts facilitate the enhancement of intrapersonal competence in social and individual fiinctioning. These contexts—pretend play, interactions with more competent others-facilitate children's ongoing construction of new ideas and competencies fi-om imitations of external information and experience (van der Veer & Valsiner, 1993). For some toddlers, important issues impinge on the social context for play and the capabilities of the more competent others, in particular, the mother. Studies have shown that security attachment and maternal acceptance (Baruch, 1991; Rosenberg, 1984; Ventura-Cook, 1995), the mothers' level of education and socioeconomic status (Kavesh, 1991), as well as parenting behaviors seriously influence the prosocial skills of young children, positively or negatively (Booth, Rose-Krasnor, & Robin, 1991; Kuhns, 1993). As preschoolers, these children may be considered at-risk for failure in school and in life. The purpose of this study is to explore and describe the development of social competence of these at-risk preschoolers within the social context of play. Statement of t he Problem At-risk preschoolers are young children whose life experiences place them in one or more categories that pose a serious threat to their possibilities for future social and academic success. Like typically developing young children, at-risk preschoolers derive a sense of who they are fi-om their relationships with their parents, siblings, and peers, as

PAGE 24

17 well as from exposure to the various aspects of the larger community of which they are a part (Glasner, 1961). Many of these experiences hinder the development of positive prosocial behaviors and do not facilitate readiness for the learning environment of the classroom. Consequently, teachers spend more and more time dealing with the effects of these experiences that are manifested in disruptive and angry outbursts, interpersonal conflicts, and off-task behaviors. These young children are going to fail socially and academically. Purpose of the Study This study examines and describes the role of play in the development of prosocial behaviors of at-risk learners in a model preschool intervention program. These behaviors are empathy, impulse control and problem solving, and anger management. Because of the exploratory nature of the problem, questions rather than hypotheses have been formulated. The research questions are: (a) What is the role of play? (b) How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers'^ (c) What are the components of play'' (d) How does the classroom influence play? These questions can best be addressed in a qualitative study utilizing ethnographic-type techniques: observation, interview, domain analysis, and interpretation. Accordingly, this investigation is an exploratory, observational study. Significance of the Study At-risk preschoolers are young children whose families live at or below the poverty line, and they bring to the prekindergarten classroom their own perceptions and world views. Often their experiences within their immediate environment are such that a number of these young children enter the learning environment of the classroom at a disadvantage when compared to their peers. While these experiences may be many and varied, many of the children never really benefit fi-om them. In the school environment, these children may lack the kinds of reciprocal interactions that facilitate the development of skills that are deemed necessary for readiness to enter kindergarten and to benefit from a public school

PAGE 25

18 education (Baruch, 1991; Green, 1989; Rosenberg, 1984). For example, learning may not be a priority for a child who comes from an environment that is characterized by frequent moves of the parents and a lack of employment (Sikora, 1989). Some children identified as "at-risk for failure" may exhibit attitudes and extremes of behaviors that seriously disrupt the process of learning (Spivak & Cianci, 1987). Often they are unable to share, take turns, follow rules, and be considerate of others. They may be highly aggressive, intolerant of others, and highly distractable (Chess & Thomas, 1991). These young children may then be labeled trouble-makers and/or slow learners. The basic problems are overlooked and the children are further at risk of failure. The inabilities to understand, to respond to the feelings of others, to show compassion, and to empathize seriously impinge on these children's ability to initiate and maintain friendships among their peers. The children must be helped to see themselves and their world from a new perspective, and that perspective comes through learning. According to Combs, Avila, and Purkey (1971), learning is an active process, and every child is motivated to learn. The teacher creates problem situations that provide children with opportunities to explore and discover new goals, new values, and new ways of seeing themselves as they actively seek solutions. Thus, behavior change takes place over time. The acquisition of prosocial behaviors or social competence boosts self esteem, and a positive view of the self promotes effective behavior. It engenders selfconfidence and a genuine openess to new experiences. Researchers suggest that individuals behave in accordance with their perception of themselves (Combs, 1991; Rogers, 1951). Others see a connection between prosocial behaviors and the child's ability to engage in perspective taking and empathy. Children who see themselves positively are more likely to display positive behaviors toward others during social interactions (Cauley & Tyler, 1989; Larrieu & Mussen, 1985). Other individuals who perceive themselves in a negative manner have a tendency to interact more negatively with others, and in extreme cases display signs of delinquency (Meadow,

PAGE 26

19 Abramowitz, Cmz, & Bay, 1981). Therefore, the study also examines the children's positive behaviors such as helping, sharing, comforting, cooperating, problem solving, and dealing with anger. Some studies have elucidated new and interesting perspectives on Vygotsky's "zone of proximal development" (Smolucha, 1989). One such perspective is collaborative multi-age grouping of typically developing children, which is designed to promote crossage interactions, cooperative activities, and modeled learning. The present investigation is an exploratory, observational study that uses the Vygotskyan theory to frame its analysis and interpretation. Play is a social activity, and the context of that play is heavily influenced by the cultural interactions within the play environment, wherever that may be. Play is a "zone of proximal development" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978), and research indicates that it enhances the cognition and language skills and social development of young children (Howe, 1993, Petrakos & Howe, 1996). The "zone of proximal development" is the difference between a child's "actual" development and her or his "potential" development in terms of her or his ability to problem solve. The child can realize her or his "potential" development under adult (teacher, parent, or other) guidance and/or in collaborative activities with more capable peers (Vygotsky (1933/1978). The child achieves "potential" development when instruction and collaborative activities are tailored to her or his level of "potential" development. Thus, Vygotsky emphasizes the significance of social interactions within a shared, cultural framework. In play, children learn the importance of rules. A game or play event will not advance in the absence of rules-this includes possible modification of existing rules or the children's creation of their own rules. "Wherever there is an imaginary situation, there are rules" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 95). The children learn to follow the rules of the game played and later, those of the classroom and the larger society. Rules are the means by which society structures behavior. Therefore, play as a social activity helps children to

PAGE 27

20 discern those behaviors and attitudes that are or are not socially appropriate. Preschoolers who do not acquire prosocial skills might find it difficult to adapt to life at school. As young children learn to accept the rules of play, they also learn to appreciate the necessity for rules in other aspects of the classroom. This acceptance and adherence to rules facilitate the development of prosocial skills and enable the children to engage in group activity of any kind. For at-risk preschoolers, this can carry over to collaborative, multi-age (preschool-kindergarten) play activities, with their generally more capable peers. No other studies have yet extended this theory as a significant means for bringing about an effective transformation in the behavior of at-risk preschoolers, and addressing the needs of children who fit into this classification throughout the state and nation. Organization of the Study Chapter One presents an introduction and background of theories of play. Chapter Two reviews the related Hterature. Chapter Three, Methodology, describes the process of gaining access to the school, the social environment of the study site, the preschool program, and the design of the study. The design of the study includes the procedures used for data collection and a description of the instrument used for evaluating the children's social competence, as well as the procedure used for evaluating documents (writing) and artifacts (drawings). Chapters Four and Five report and interpret the findings fi-om observations, interviews, documents, and artifacts. Chapter Six presents a summary of the findings, draws conclusions, and makes recommendations for practice and fiirther research.

PAGE 28

CHAPTER TWO DISCUSSION OF RELATED LITERATURE The puqjose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. Research establishing the value of play is plentiful but somewhat ambiguous, and information, particularly on the mechanisms by which socialization occurs through play, is sparse. In addition, few studies deal with the development of social competence of at-risk learners, and these studies tend to focus on the handicapped and children with learning disabilities. This discussion of literature presents information regarding the relationship between security attachment and mother's acceptance, mother's beliefs about child rearing, and mother's education as parental influences on the social competence of young children. It also describes the influence of sociodramatic play, play and conflict, play and social competence, and rules in play on the social behaviors of young children. Parental Influences on Social Competence Ford and Thompson (1985) observed that people must simuhaneously function independently as autonomous systems and also function interdependently as cooperative parts of the larger social system. Therefore, the values and practices of the culture and the developmental status of the target individuals must be considered. Spivak & Shure (1974) and Shure (1994) viewed social competence from a problem-solving perspective, in that social competence is not only how individuals act, but also how they think. They envisioned social competence as a problem-solving skill, not only in adults, but in children as young as four-years-old. For young children, the ability to relate positively in peer encounters is crucial to success in the school environment. Those who lack social 21

PAGE 29

22 competence or those who fail to achieve the necessary prosocial skills are likely to experience difficulty in school and, possibly, in life as well. Ventura-Cook (1995) examined the socioemotional attributes of two groups of socially withdrawn children and investigated the quality of their attachment representations. In addition, the study compared these children with a group of non-withdrawn children on the same measures. Participants were 29 preschool children from low income families who lived in a semi-urban community and were registered in a Head Start program. The findings showed that 22 % of the children were classified as non-withdrawn, 78 % as withdrawn. Based on the children's quality of attachment responses, the nonwithdrawn children showed significantly more secure attachment representations-76 %~ than the withdrawn children did~24 %. There were no significant differences on any of the socioemotional characteristics-social competence, internalizing, and externalizing, suggesting that the socioemotional characteristics of securely attached at-risk preschool children do not differ significantly from those who are insecurely attached. The findings also indicated that anxiety levels of withdrawn and non-withdrawn children, as well as those of insecurely and securely attached children, do not vary from each other. The mothers' education was not significant to either the children's attachment security nor their socio-emotional attributes. This finding reinforced the theory of cultural transmission as well as the findings of Ford and Thompson (1985) and Shure (1994). Other studies based on the attachment theory have established that the quality of the attachment relationship between mother and infant influences numerous aspects of the child's later functioning, including social interactions. Such studies focus on the quality of the mother-infant attachment and the mother's education (Dissinger, 1991; Kavesh, 1991) and parenting behaviors as they relate to the child's ability to demonstrate social problemsolving skills (Kuhns, 1993).

PAGE 30

23 In a related longitudinal study, Kavesh (1991) explored the association between early socioemotional variables of attachment and maternal parenting attitudes and the quality of peer interactions of children at age six or seven years. This study is included in this discussion because it is multifaceted and its findings offer a comprehensive overview of the influence of mother-child interactions. Kavesh found that children who were securely attached in infancy were better able to engage with a new child in an unstructured play environment that required the modulation of affect behavior and the use of cognitive strategies with a new acquaintance after separation fi-om the mother. The finding suggests that in a fi-ee play environment, children who earlier in life had enjoyed a secure relationship with their mothers are better able to engage in positive, prosocial interactions with others; to enter a new, potentially stressfijl situation with a strange child; and to adapt quickly through the use of initiations, engagement in mutual tasks, enthusiasm, conversation, sharing, and appropriate affect. The study also found that children of well-educated mothers were better able to generate strategies that helped them maneuver through this new and potentially stressfial play period, suggesting that mothers who are well-educated may provide greater and more opportunities and environments for their children to interact with both fiiends and strangers. In addition, contextual variables proved to be more important than the predictor variables of temperament and intelligence in relation to the children's behavior. This finding supports the work of Vaughn, LeFever, Seifer, and Barlow (1989) who concluded that attachment and temperament at age one year are not correlated and are two separate constructs when measured early in life. Finally, mothering styles were related to the childrens' demonstrated levels of social competence. Children of mothers who were overly directive in providing verbal instructions did less well in fi-ee play interactions, children of less directive mothers were less socially motivated, and mothers who acknowledged a preference for a permissive style perceived their children as having fewer behavior problems. Thus, it seems that permissive

PAGE 31

24 mothers may be distorting their children's behavior. Because these mothers are responsive but less demanding, it may be that their standards of problematic behavior differ from those of overly directive and less directive mothers. Children of less responsive mothers had more behavior problems. According to Roberts (1986), responsiveness, a component of parental warmth, may constitute a child's primary experience of herself or himself as affective and agential. He adds that both overcontrol and under-control by parents—the latter representing the permissive parent—may contribute to learned helplessness. These findings on mothers' beliefs and child competence suggest that responsiveness results not only in a sense of agency, as Roberts puts it, but also in a child's ability to act appropriately with peers. Finally, Kuhns (1993) investigated the relationship of mothers' modeling and coaching behaviors and provision of peer experiences to children's social problem-solving skills or social competence. The participants were 32 four-year-olds and their mothers. The teachers rated the social competence of the children on the basis of their behaviors, and the children were observed as they interacted with their mothers in a problem-solving task. In addition, hypothetical vignettes of peer dilemmas were presented to the children through drawing and discussion, and the children were asked to tell their interpretation of the situation and the ideas they had to resolve the problem. Findings showed that mothers who believed adult modeling of appropriate behaviors was helpful to children were not likely to provide structured peer play, but provided high quality instructions to their children in the problemsolving task. To accomplish this, a mother would have to demonstrate flexibility in her interpretation of her child's responses and adapt her efforts to her child's abilities. In short, the mother would be problem-solving while interacting with her child. Thus, problem-solving would become a collaborative activity. This particular finding suggests that mothers who believe that provision of directions helps children learn are more directive in their interactions with their children, and mothers who value compliant behavior are more likely to set limits on

PAGE 32

25 their children's behavior. This is consistent with work done by Booth, Rose-Krasnor, and Rubin (1991), who found that mothers who emphasized directiveness as a means for teaching social skills were more directive as they interacted with their child. And Kochanska, Kuczynski, and RadkeYarrow (1989) found that mothers' endorsement of specific child-rearing practices was related to the mothers' actual use of those practices. Another finding showed that there were significant relationships between the mothers' socialization practices and the children's social problem-solving skills. Mothers' belief in modeling behavior as an effective strategy for teaching social skills did not relate either to the children's problem-solving or to their social competence. But modeling appropriate social skills in the maternal-child interaction related negatively to children's expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies as the means to resolve peer problems. This finding supported the conclusions of Boldizar, Khatri, and Jones, (1991); Hart, DeWolf, Burts, Charlesworth, and Bourque (1991); and Lochman, Cohen, and Wayland (1991). In each of these studies, parents' behavior in discipline situations was related to the children's outcome expectations for aggressive strategies. Parents who used power assertive discipline strategies had children who expected positive outcomes for aggressive strategies, whereas parental use of induction was negatively related to the children's expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies. Supportive mothers demonstrated respect for their children's autonomy, were effective in the instructions they gave, and set limits to provide some direction for the children's efforts. They praised the children fi-equently and were less directive in their verbal behavior. They praised their children and provided more peer play opportunities for them. These findings suggest that mothers who are supportive and guiding, but do not demonstrate overly controlling behavior, rear children who are better able to interact positively among peers. Mothers who were less controlling in interactions with their children and better able to coordinate their behavior to the children's ability had children who were less likely

PAGE 33

26 to suggest aggressive strategies and more likely to expect positive outcomes for prosocial strategies and for appeals to authority strategies. In contrast, mothers who were more controlling and had more directive behavior were associated with children expectations for positive outcomes of aggressive strategies and expectations for less positive resuhs for prosocial strategies. These findings seem to reflect the scaffolding concept of Vygotsky's cognitive development. Mothers who provide too little guidance to their children or are too directive may not be challenging the children's higher levels of development. Mothers who use scaffolding lead their children to think through the situation and consider alternatives; that is, they give their children practice in problem-solving and reinforcing their children's success at problem-solving. There was a significant relationship between mothers' provision of peer play and child outcomes. For example, the relationship of non-school peer contacts to children's social competence is clear. The less exposure children have to peers, the more aggressive strategies they suggest, the more likely they are to expect positive outcomes for give-up strategies, and the more distractible and hostile they behave in the classroom. The more children interact with peers, the more considerate they are and the fewer aggressive strategies they suggest to resolve peer problems. The children's sense of competence with peers was related to their social problem-solving skills. Children who lacked confidence in their social skills suggested aggressive strategies in response to hypothetical peer problems. These studies of parental influence and mothers' education and socioeconomic status emphasize the importance of secure attachments in the first year of life, as well as the extent to which a mother's education influences her child's ability to initiate and maintain positive interactions with peers by age four and beyond. Sociodramatic Play Sociodramatic play is the coordinated and reciprocal make-believe with peers that emerges around two and one-half years and increases rapidly until age four or five, and

PAGE 34

27 experts agree that it is an integral aspect of preschool activities (Beaty, 1992; Hendrick, 1988). The dramatic play center is a housekeeping area, which includes props for engaging in work and family roles. Some classrooms also may include other thematic centers like a grocery store, restaurant, airport, or doctor's office. Using traditional housekeeping and novel dramatic play centers, Howe (1993) compared the effects of theme and novelty on the social and cognitive play of twoto five-year-old children and reported that more dramatic play was observed in centers that used familiar rather than unfamiliar themes. Other studies have shown that such thematic centers enhance children's active involvement in their play (Woodard, 1984) and facilitate their social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. Further, the arrangement or design of these centers may significantly influence the children's play (Howe, Moller, & Chambers, 1994). Petrakos and Howe (1996) investigated the influence of the physical design and the theme of dramatic play centers on young children's social and cognitive play. The participants in this study were fourto five-year-old children fi-om middle-class families. The children attended two preschool classrooms in the same urban day care center. The program's goal was to promote the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of the children. There was a balance of teacher-directed story reading and child-directed play activities. During play, the children were encouraged to be active explorers in their environment. Teachers were mainly observers and intervened only when a child requested assistance or required help in a conflict situation. The dramatic play centers of both classrooms were altered weekly in themeextended housekeeping area or train station, and in the design of the equipment-solitary versus group design. The participants were assigned to groups of four, each group comprising children with low, medium, and high levels of dramatic play and balanced for gender. Groups remained constant throughout the study. The findings showed that group designed centers facilitated children's social interactions by allowing them to focus on each other and to engage in complimentary role

PAGE 35

28 play. Conversely, solitary designed centers facilitated individual use of materials and limited social exchanges and role play behaviors. In addition, the study's findings showed that in social play, group play was more fi^equent, followed by solitary play and parallel play. Dramatic play was the most fi^equent cognitive play. In the non-play categories, peer conversation occurred most often. These findings supported those of Howe (1993), and served to emphasize the importance of play. New play experiences enhance child development and promote social understandings through peer interaction. Both of these studies also supported the findings of Woodard (1984). The teachers' goal in designing dramatic play centers can have a direct influence on the content of children's play. Meanwhile, some studies have shown that moderately realistic materials like dress-up clothes and vehicles facilitate higher levels of pretend play than do materials of high or low degrees of realism (Elder & Pederson, 1978; Overton & Jackson, 1973; Pulaski, 1973). Depending on their interests and ability to use their imaginations, children can elect to play bus driver, race car driver, fire fighter, astronaut, or any other role. Make-believe play also can enhance mental abilities. Newman (1990) explored some of the ways in which this kind of play promotes memory recall in preschool aged children. Fourand five-year-olds were asked to remember a set of toys or to play with them. The play condition was more fiaiitfial. Some of the children were asked to name and touch toys as a strategy for later recall of the objects. Others were allowed to play at will with the toys. This latter group was better able to remember the toys and seemed to do so with little effort. This finding suggests that play is a viable strategy for facilitating the recall of information already processed and stored. More, make-believe play enhances the development of language skills. ErvinTripp (1991) and Winton (1991) found that in group play, children made active use of verbal communication. In the process, they shared and exchanged ideas and vocabularies, they corrected each other's speech, and came away fi-om the play experience richer in

PAGE 36

29 language experience. This is particulariy true in play situations where children represent diverse backgrounds and different ways of thinking and doing. Thus, play can and does contribute to the overall development of young children. Play provides personal expression and catharsis of inner desires, helps the child to distinguish between reality and fantasy, provides for social adaptation, provides a dynamic for learning, and enhances creativity through interactions, transformation, and imagination. Play and Children's Conflicts Play and behavior complement each other in children's social interactions which may be positive or negative. An interaction is negative when the outcome is a conflict. Hay (1984) and Shantz (1987) defined a conflict as a relationship in which two people have incompatible goals and use a variety of prosocial and antisocial strategies to influence each other's behavior. Conflicts arise when chosen strategies fail to achieve a desired goal and may continue if persistent attempts or alternative strategies are unsuccessful (Krasnor & Rubin, 1983). Some researchers have studied conflict by observing typically developing children. Sackin and Thelen (1984) found that the type of behavior or strategy used affected the outcome of typically developing children's conflicts. A conciliatory solution was found when a satisfactory outcome of the conflict was obtained and play continued among members of the preceding conflict. Laursen and Hartup (1989) found that conflicts were most commonly resolved by teacher intervention, resulting in a win-lose outcome and separation after the conflict. Both children losing in a conflict was rarely observed. When it did occur, it was usually the result of a teacher intervention. The interaction between the children ceased and each child went her or his separate way. However, in at least twenty percent of the conflicts, adult intervention helped to maintain play (Wilson, 1988). Sometimes conflict leads to aggression. In a related study, Shantz (1986) examined the relationship between conflict and aggression in typically developing children. The participants were firstand second-grade boys and giris from two suburban schools

PAGE 37

30 that served working-class to upper-middle-class families in predominantly white neighborhoods. The children were observed in the after-school fi^ee play period. A major finding of this study was that children who frequently engaged in conflict with peers used a higher percentage of physical aggression in resolving disputes than did children with fewer conflicts. This finding suggested that grade-school children may be disposed to resist peer influence by using some form of force in the resolution of a conflict. The force may be expressed as assertiveness, aggressiveness, competitiveness, and stubbomess. It also suggested that children who have a high concern for themselves and a low concern for others are more likely to be confrontational and enter into conflict with others, rather than to avoid fights and/or immediately defer to the wishes of another. Having a strong desire to win at all times, such children resort to aggression during the course of conflct episodes. The study also showed that for both both boys and girls, the rate of conflict and measures of aggressive behavior displayed during conflict were related to being disliked. Studies have shown that aversive treatment elicits hostility and dislike when it is viewed as unjustified and unfair (Bumstein & Worchel, 1962; Mallick & McCandless, 1966). Some studies suggested that the behavior patterns associated with aggression among grade school children and adolescents originate in early childhood and tend to remain stable over time. These studies also showed that as long as a child's environmental conditions remain relatively the same, an aggressive toddler is likely to become an aggressive five-year-old (Cummings, lannotti & ZahnWaxier, 1989), and the amount of verbal and physical aggression a child displays at ages five to twelve is a fairly good predictor of aggressive behavior in adolescence (Cairns, Cairns & Neckerman, 1989; Caspi, Elder & Bem, 1987; Huesmann, Eron, Leflcowitz & Walder, 1984; Olweus, 1987). Aggressive children are more active, more irregular in their behavior, have lower thresholds for tolerating differences, are lower on adaptability, and are rated high on intensity, persistence, and

PAGE 38

31 distractibility (Thomas, Chess, & Birch, 1968). Thus, difficuh children elicit negative responses from their peers, and this, in turn, engenders hostility and aggression. Malloy and McMurray (1996) investigated the peer conflicts of preschool boys and girls in an ethnically diverse prekindergarten classroom at a midwestem university's laboratory school. The participants were fourto five-year-old children from lowerand middle-class families. Some of the participants were considered to be typically developing children, while the others were considered to be at-risk learners. The findings revealed that the at-risk children sought to achieve social goals that were associated with conflict: object acquisition, annoyance, group entry, change in the course of play, invasion of space, defying school rules, and stopping the actions of others. The children chose goals and strategies associated with conflict according to their cognitive, social, verbal, and physical abilities; and teacher interventions were necessary to facilitate conflict resolutions. Object acquisition was the most frequently sought goal of children in conflict. All of the children used a variety of verbal strategies during conflicts, but typically developing children used more verbal skills, while at-risk children demonstrated a lack of effective verbal skills necessary to resolve conflicts successfully. The latter used more aggressive strategies such as pushing, hitting, kicking, taunting, name calling, pulling hair, and hostile gestures than did the typically developing children, whose strategies involved affection and removing the object of conflct. The study's findings also revealed that boys had more frequent and aggressive conflicts than did giris. This finding supported one finding of Shantz's study (1986); however, another study contradicts it. Sheldon (1992) questioned the cultural stereotypes that interpret girls as less forcefiil or less assertive than boys in pursuing their own agendas, particulariy during conflict episodes, and found that at-risk giris were just as forceful and aggressive as were boys.

PAGE 39

32 Often conflicts arise when unpopular preschoolers decide who will play and what roles each will assume during group play. Black (1992) examined the communication strategies that preschoolers used to negotiate themes and roles in social pretend play and reported that the disliked group used higher proportions of suggestion and demands than did children in the liked group, while disliked girls used the highest proportion of suggestions. This finding seems to suggest that unpopular preschoolers are disliked and/or rejected by their peers. However, other studies have shown that the opposite is true (Dodge, Pettit, McClaskey & Brown, 1986; Farver, 1996). Play and Social Competence Children's aggressive behaviors have been related to poor social competence with peers (Kavesh, 1991), Children who lack prosocial skills often behave negatively with peers, experience difficulty in initiating and maintaining interactions, and may use aggression to resolve their conflicts (Dodge, et al, 1986). Conversely, aggressive behavior also may be a contributor to children's poor social competence (Kuhns, 1993). Children who behave aggressively with peers have problems forming close mutual friendships; display characteristics that annoy and anger their peers, and often are socially rejected by their peer group (Dodge, 1983; Dodge, Coie, Pettit & Price, 1990; Coie, Dodge & Kupersmidt, 1990, Coie & Kupersmidt, 1983; Parkhurst & Asher, 1992). Research supports the notion that throughout middle childhood and adolescence children tend to form fiiendships with those who are similar to themselves in age, gender (Bemdt, 1982; Eppstein, 1989), social status, popularity, and behavior style (Kandel, 1978; Ladd, 1983). These associations result in the formation of cliques whose members generally reinforce certain patterns of behavior. Farver (1996) examined the role of social cliques in manifested behaviors of aggression among preschoolers. The participants were four-year-old white and Hispanic boys and giris enrolled in a preschool program that served a low income community in a large west coast city. All of the children had attended the program regulariy for at least

PAGE 40

33 four months before the study began. The investigator observed naturally-occurring aggressive behaviors among well-acquainted and socially-experienced preschoolers during indoor free play periods. The teachers rated the children's social competence and behavior style within an educational setting and also named their friends. Aggression was defined as an incident in which a child engaged in name calling, teasing, taunting or quarreling, pinching, hitting, pushing, poking, or grabbing another child with the intent to hurt, annoy, or harass the other child, or to obtain an object or access to territory or privilege. Narratives of aggressive behaviors were coded for how the aggressive behavior got started, the behavior displayed by each child involved in the conflict, peer and teacher responses, and the outcome of the conflict. The findings of this study showed that at-risk preschoolers formed reciprocated friendships within social networks of aggressive peers. The findings support work done by Cairns and Cairns (1984) and Cairns, Cairns, Neckerman, Gest and Gariepy (1988), which showed that aggressive school age children and adolescents are not necessarily rejected by their peers, but tend to form social cliques of other aggressive individuals and reciprocated fiiendships with children similar to themselves. The relationship of the children's behavior style and social competence showed that, for both boys and girls, aggressive behavior was negatively associated with personal, social adaptability and positively correlated with difficult social fimctioning with peers. The children organized themselves into cliques, and there were significant effects of clique status on total aggressive behavior. The social cliques were characterized by moderately high levels of similarities in total aggression. However, similarities based on behavior style and social competence varied from clique to clique. The frequency of aggressive behavior observed in this study support the findings of other investigations. Cairns, Gariepy & Kinderman (1990) reported that aggression is an infrequent event and generally accounts for 3 to 6% of children's total interactions. This finding also supports studies of aggressive grade-school children and adolescents in which

PAGE 41

34 a minority of children in each classroom are often found to be involved in a majority of the incidents (Perry, Kussel & Perry, (1988). In the Farver (1996) study, 33% of the children accounted for the majority of aggressive incidents. These studies challenge the long held assumption that friendships among preschoolers are so tenuous that it is difficult to tell from day to day who is whose friend. In the life of preschoolers, play and friends go together. Friendship is the key factor in who gets to play in whose group, who is accepted into which group, and the duration of a child's participation in a given play group. Young Children and Rules in Play Another aspect of social competence and the acquisition of prosocial skills also touching on the variables of play and friendship is the preschoolers' attitude to classroom rules and moral development. Rule following has been established as a stage in children's moral development and in their play, although scholars have noted that children both respond to and resist aduh-imposed rules. In the developmental literature, the recognition and internalization of rules is seen as one of the major stages in moral development and play. Both Piaget (1945/1951) and Kohlberg (1969) have established that an important phase in children's moral development, the second level in most schematic representations of their work, is reached when they accept that society should be rule governed. Furthermore, the third and final stage in Piaget's stages of play is the children's move to playing games with cleariy defined rules. For researchers with a sociocultural rather than a developmental approach, the focus is on rules as an artifact of the society into which children are bom, an artifact they must learn to handle. Vygotsky (1934/1987) declared that all forms of play are rule governed and that the rules, implicitly or explicitly stated, are understood and accepted by children. Garvey (1990) argued that children are taught the art of playing in accordance with rules from the eariiest games of peek-a-boo with their mothers, and that Piaget's games stage is simply a final formulization of this learned process. In addition, Garvey

PAGE 42

35 also noted that these are not the only rules children encounter. They are constantly met by definitions of appropriate use of objects and appropriate forms of interpersonal relations. Children, it seems, are continually testing the limits of these rules, taking chances, running risks, and finding humor in the unconventional use of objects. Cosaro (1985), looking at the same phenomenon, has analyzed it in terms of secondary adjustments, a covert, ofl:en mocking, resistance to the rules that demonstrates the individual's determination not to be coerced, but also to avoid the overt resistance that would provoke sanctions. Jordan, Cowan & Roberts (1995) investigated this aspect of the use of rules among fourto six-year-old children who were enrolled in prekindergarten and kindergarten classrooms. The children were predominantly white and English-speaking and came fi-om socioeconomic backgrounds that ranged fi-om professionals to welfare recipients. The children peer interactions were observed during after-school fi-ee play time for the kindergarteners and during outside play time for the prekindergarteners. The investigators focused their attention on the children's knowledge of rules and their ability to use this knowledge strategically as a way of attaining power. Paraphrasing Weber (1922/1978), the investigators defined rules as every possibility within a social relationship of imposing one's will, even against opposition. In conversation, such rules may have semantic markers like "must," "got to," and "not allowed." However, they often must be deduced from less specific wording that can be seen as referring back to a rule, unstated in the particular context, but familiar to all those engaged in the interaction. Jordan et al (1995) also relied on the conceptualization of power first elaborated by Michel Foucault (1984), who distinguished between a relationship of violence, which acts upon the body of the other, and one that determines the action of the other. Foucault argued that power is wielded by those who can best manipulate the definition of truth. Truth is produced by society, and it induces regular effects of power. Each society has its regime of truth or types of discourse that it accepts and makes fiinction as true.

PAGE 43

36 Jordan et al (1995) also found that there were no gender differences in children's attempts to gain control of space, equipment, and materials by excluding other children. Both boys and girls used physical and discursive strategies, and the boys relied more than girls did on the physical, corroborating the finding of work done by Malloy and McMurray (1996) and Shantz (1986). Nor were there differences in the discourses the children used. However, a persistent pattern emerged in almost every incident showing children invoking classroom rules to impose their wills, sometimes implicitly but often clearly stated. This was often supported by other strategies although not always successfiilly. Due to the emergence of this finding, Jordan et al (1995) replicated this study at three more schools, using the same classroom groupings. The findings of each study supported the others. The study also showed that while physical interactions were intense, they were brief and unmarked by violence. In the prekindergarten classrooms, hitting, scratching, pushing, and snatching were brief and were followed by appeals to adult intervention. In the kindergarten classrooms such behaviors were rare and children use their "inside voices." In all study settings, violence was not condoned, and the children were neither allowed to fashion guns fi-om classroom materials like construction paper nor engage in games that emulated TV's Captain Planet and Power Rangers. The study suggests that these structural conditions caused the children who wanted to have their own way or to resist the dominance of others, to learn quickly alternative strategies that could not be categorized as violence and, therefore, be forbidden. In the prekindergarten classrooms, children learned to invoke the rules to defend their own activities and exclude others. For example, two girls built a tower while two boys watched. One of the watchers destroyed the top of the tower. The other watcher supported the girls by claiming ownership of the tower. When another boy came along and wanted to join the construction crew, the builders quickly invoked another rule, which previously had been ignored, about the permitted height of buildings, to position him as a watcher rather than a builder.

PAGE 44

37 Prekindergarten sociodramatic play was often characterized by slippages between discourse referring to the real world in which they found themselves and those that assume they are operating in a shared fantasy world and their shared awareness of the difference between the two worlds. Although rules played a significant role in these fantasy worlds, they were seldom used as weapons within a power struggle. When a struggle arose, the children tended to slip outside the fantasy world and invoke the classroom rules. These findings suggest that young children view rules of the real world as more usefiil than those of fantasy games. A major source of power for children seeking it seems to lie in the ability to invoke, selectively, rules whose truth is unchallenged within the shared discursive knowledge of the group, but which legitimizes their own personal requirements and desires at a particular moment. The findings also suggest that these children have found that the safest discourses to refer to, the ones where there is the least chance that the truth of the rule will be challenged, are those fi^om which rules imposed by the teacher are derived, rules established by her to create a classroom environment for fostering the children's learning and development, but used by them for the exercise of power. It appears that four-year-old children become increasingly skilled at the manipulations of this knowledge. To adults, the invocation of rules in this age group seems helter-skelter and sometimes inappropriate. Meanwhile, the children manipulate their knowledge of the classroom rules with sophistication and ingenuity. Ultimately the children see these rules as significant not only for the control of their own behavior but also for that of others. Of interest are the children's effective utilization of the rules. This may indicate that they sought to gain or resist power without resorting to physical violence. And, as Garvey (1990) and Corsaro (1985) have shown, the children may have explored, resisted, and played comic tricks with the rules imposed on them by adults. In addition, the

PAGE 45

38 children may have used the rules as a form of knowledge in the Foucaudian sense to impose their will on others or gain control of valued resources. Summary The studies cited in this review of the current literature reinforce the theory of cultural transmission through mother-child interactions and show that parental attitudes can and do influence the prosocial skills of young children. In some cases, the influence is positive; in others, the influence is negative. As the child enters the school environment, play takes on a new significance. To a child, play is just that, play. To researchers and educators, it is a lot more. Mellou (1994) stressed the importance of this essential activity. Nowhere is this more apparent than in sociodramatic play, where interactive events facilitate the children's social, emotional, cognitive, and language development. For many young children, a preschool classroom is their first systematic experience and opportunity to form new relationships with other children their own age. Not all children enter the environment of the classroom with the social competencies to embark upon this challenge. The literature shows, through repeated incidents, that in the process of acquiring social competence, at-risk preschoolers must encounter and learn to cope with conflict and, sometimes, with verbal and physical aggression. It is essential that young children learn the appropriate strategies that would equip them to avoid or handle confi-ontations adequately when such arise. An important variable is behavior, but the most important variable is the teacher. This is especially true of the preschool experience of at-risk learners. The teacher has a significant force and effect on the children in terms of how behaviors are dealt vAth. An advantage is that the setting of the preschool classroom affords more opportunities for at-risk children to arrive at generalizations for behaviors and attitudes than they do at home. A proactive approach to promoting social understandings among preschoolers would help those children considered to be at-risk for social and academic failure to self-adapt and self-adjust their thinking and their attitudes as they learn to control their own behaviors and coexist within

PAGE 46

39 the framework of the rules that govern the classroom. In the process, these children will learn to be self-reliant, self-confident, assertive, show initiative, and solve problems on their own. At-risk children will have developed prosocial skills, that enable them to initiate and maintain positive interactions with both fiiends and new acquaintances.

PAGE 47

CHAPTER THREE METHODOLOGY The purpose of this study was to explore and describe the role of play in the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. This chapter provides details about how the study was conducted. This includes information about access, the school, the Head Start program, the participants, and the research procedure. It also includes the procedure used for data collection, interview, and access to the children's writings and artifacts, as well as the procedure used for data analysis, validity and reliability, and bias, control, and researcher qualification. Access In the fall of 1995, a laboratory school in a southeastern state had initiated a Head Start program to serve the needs of preschoolers who were considered at risk for social and academic failure. The criterion for inclusion in the program was that the child must be fi-om a low income family or fi-om a family that receives public assistance. I was keenly interested in the social and academic welfare of such children. At the same time, I was aware of the many commonly held assumptions about children fi-om low income families. I believed that, upon completion of the study, I would be better equipped to work with such children. This school is well-known throughout the community and state, and one of its main fiinctions is the promotion of research in education, which may be usefijl to members of the teaching profession, such that students may be the beneficiaries of studies conducted there. Accordingly, I arranged to meet with the school's director in the spring of 1996. I outlined to him my proposed study in terms of its purpose, participants, methodology, and duration. By this time, I already had obtained permission fi-om the university's institu40

PAGE 48

41 tional review board to conduct an observational study. The director seemed pleased that I had chosen his school as the proposed site for my study and readily granted me permission to do the study. The elementary school principal was out-of-town and could not participate in this meeting; therefore, I scheduled another meeting where she and I could discuss my proposed study. That opportunity came one week later. The discussion was similar to that which I had had with the director. The principal reiterated that I had permission to conduct the proposed study at this school, and I was given the option to observe children in a prekindergarten-kindergarten combination classroom or children in a prekindergarten classroom that served young children considered to be at-risk for social and academic failure. I chose the latter. The fact that I am a former teacher at the school also may have facilitated my entry to the study site. The School The setting for this study is a laboratory school located on the campus of a large university in a southern state. There are three schools combined to serve children in prekindergarten through the 12th grade. The elementary school has its own administrative and teaching staff, while the middleand upper-schools share administrative and teaching staff, with a director at the helm. In order to provide some background information about the study site, here is a brief historical perspective on the school. Founded in 1934, the school was once a part of the main university campus and served children whose parents were on the university's faculty. By 1958, increased registration and space requirements necessitated a move to a new 34 acre site not far from the main campus. The school consists of a series of onestory buildings that, on one end, open onto parking areas, and at the other end they open onto open grassy areas decorated with flowering trees, a football stadium, and large play areas. All of the classrooms are large, well-lighted, and well-ventilated; and all classrooms are accessible to students.

PAGE 49

42 The elementary classrooms are at one end of the campus and are separated from the middle and upper schools by a ravine that traverses the campus. This ravine is significant because three to four weeks before the end of the school year, fifth-graders are given an orientation to the middle school which they will attend the following school year. At this time, there is the traditional "crossing of the bridge" and entry into the world of the middle-schoolers. There are no physical barriers between the middleand upper-schools. To attend this school, parents must apply for their child's admission; the waiting list is very long, particularly for the elementary school. In fact, there is a commonly held belief that parents apply for admission of children who are yet unborn. There also is an annual tuition fee. The application process and annual fee set this school apart from the public schools, and the local residents refer to it as a "private school," However, this fee is not applicable to participants of the Head Start program, which is federally funded. The primary criterion for inclusion in this program is that the child is a member of a low income family or a family on public assistance. Because of the school's commitment to the education process, the academic success of its students, its emphasis on maintaining a diverse student body that mirrors the ethnic make-up of the state, and its affiliation to the university, many parents want their children enrolled there. Some children are known as "lifers" because they have completed all of their formal education in this one school. The parents are very much involved in the life of the school, and they serve it in many capacities. Some parents function as chaperones on field trips, some are teacheraides, some offer presentations before student assemblies, some participate on school committees, some help in the library. Their involvement serves two purposes: it helps the school, and it motivates their children. Parents are welcome to visit classrooms at any time, as long as they do not disrupt the normal flow of classroom activity. In fact, the classrooms are afflicted by a "fish bowl syndrome," for in addition to parents, there are always visitors from other counties, states, and countries wanting to see what takes place at the school and how things are done there.

PAGE 50

43 The Participants Initially there were 1 9 preschool children in the study. Their ages ranged from 48 months to 66 months. The group was comprised of eleven girls and eight boys. The girls ranged in age from four years to five years and three months, having a mean age of four years and nine months. The boys ranged in age from four years to four years and eleven months, having a mean age of four years and seven months. This included two sets of fraternal twins: two boys and a girl and a boy. Thirteen of the children were AfricanAmerican, five were white, and one was Latina. Three of the children were classified as having speech and language problems, and seven of the children were enrolled in the program for other unspecified circumstances. By the middle of the first semester, one of the girls was taken out of the program because of transportation problems, and by the end of November the twin brothers no longer participated in the program. Reasons for their absence were never divulged to the investigator. During the seventh and eighth months of the school year, three boys and one girl were admitted to the program. At the end of the school year, there were 20 children in the program. All of the children were from low income families, all had been recruited from the county's Head Start waiting list, and all had been enrolled in the program on a fijll-time basis for six weeks prior to the start of this study. Two of the families lived in an area of the city that is generally considered affluent. Eight families lived in middle-class neighborhoods. Five families lived in working class neighborhoods. There were three families, each living in a different outlying area of the county. One family's domicile was unknown to this investigator. Information about the families was derived from teacher information and items on display in the classroom and demonstrated an effort to maintain the demographic diversity that characterizes this school. This Head Start program was chosen for the study because all of the students were from families that shared a common economic status, both genders were represented, and there was cultural diversity. In particular, all of the children were considered to be at risk of failure.

PAGE 51

44 The Head Start Program Head Start is a prekindergarten intervention program that is specifically designed to meet the needs of young children fi-om low income families. This program was important to this study because all of the children enrolled in it were considered at-risk of failure. On average, the children spent at least seven hours a day, five days a week at the school. The after-school program lasted fi"om 2:30 p.m. to 6:00 p. m. A teacher and one teacher-aide were assigned to the classroom with a maximum of 20 children in the classroom. Incorporated into the program were educational activities that included classroom fi"ee play to promote the social, affective, and academic development of the preschool child. The teacher and teacher-aide(s) were required to attend weekly Head Start workshops, where they were instructed in the use of the High Scope, a program grounded in the interest of at-risk learners. The Head Start program was comprehensive in that it addressed the total development of the children considered to be at-risk of failure. It was a child-centered, child-directed program. The classroom was self-contained, and the teacher and teacheraide(s) ate their meals with the children in a family-style setting. Accordingly, there was a number of support personnel available to the children who benefited from the services they provided. There was a teacher specialist, a speech therapist, a mental health counselor, and a liaison person. The liaison person was hired into the Title One program at the school and maintained continual contact with the Head Start program. She and the teacher made home visits at regular intervals. Together, the teacher and the liaison processed the needs assessment of the families: Did the child need shoes? Were the utilities turned on? Was there enough food in the house? Did the parent(s) need educational, social, or metal health support? This information was added to the database, and Family Services-through the Head Start program-was contacted to accommodate these needs.

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45 All parents were encouraged to become actively involved in their children's school life. There were monthly parent meetings where business and other concerns were discussed. These meetings were held in the evening in the classroom. Parents took turns in the roles of secretary and policy counselor. The secretary prepared and presented the minutes of the monthly meetings; the policy counselor attended school board meetings and shared pertinent information with the others at the monthly meetings. Research Procedure This section of the chapter includes the procedure used for data collection, interview, and access to the children's writings and artifacts. It also includes the procedure used for data analysis; validity and reliability; and bias, control, and researcher qualification. Data Collection All of the children had been classified as at-risk learners. The children were observed in the natural setting of the preschool environment while at play. Observations The investigator observed the children at play, both indoors and outdoors. Observations of their naturally-occurring interactions were recorded in writing. The study was initiated in mid-October, 1996, and continued until the end of the school year in May, 1997. Permission to observe the children was granted by the university's institutional review board. During the first week of the study, the children were observed every day for two hours a day. All of the children had been enrolled in the Head Start program on a fiill-time basis, and the investigator believed that this initial phase of observations would facilitate the early identification of each child by name and provide some sense of already existing social relationships. The investigator also believed that this period would accustom the children to her presence in the classroom. After the first week, observations took place three days a week for two hours a day. Observations took place in the mornings during indoor sociodramatic/pretend play and outdoor fi-ee play. These observations provided

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46 first-hand information about the children's ability to utilize prosocial skills and appropriate problem-solving strategies. The findings are presented in the form of a narrative report that is interesting and informative. To protect the rights of those involved in the study, the investigator has assigned fictitious names to all participants. Interviews To evaluate the children's prosocial skills, an in-depth, one-on-one interview was conducted during the month of May, 1997. The investigator sought parental permission to conduct the interviews. A letter providing the details of the interview process and consent form were included in the weekly package sent home to parents. Both the letter and the consent form were prepared by the investigator ( Appendix A). The following Wednesday, another copy of the letter and consent form were again sent to those parents who had not responded to the first request. Forty percent of the parents returned the signed consent form. Social competence is the development of adequate social skills that lead to the ability to initiate and sustain nondisruptive social interactions. Asher and Renshaw (1981) stated that if social competence is not demonstrated through performance in a behavioral situation, it can be evaluated through responses to hypothetical, problematic social situations. Play is a social event, and hypothetical, problematic social situations provided the background for the interview process. Problematic social situations were derived fi-om the Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum (1990) published by the Committee for Children, Seattle, WA (Appendix B). Second Step was designed, specifically, to speak to the social competence needs of young children, who have been classified as at-risk learners. The interview instrument was a series of large photographic posters. Each poster was approximately 18 inches by 12 inches and represented a social situation that is common in the daily experience of at-risk preschoolers (Appendix C).

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47 Each interview took place in a quiet, shaded comer of the play area outside of and behind the classroom. Each participant was escorted from the classroom and led to the interview area by the investigator. The participant was told that she or he was going to have a conversation with the investigator about playing with other children. The participant also was told that she or he did not have to answer a question if the question was too difficult or made the child uncomfortable. Lastly, the participant was told that she or he could end the conversation at any time and for any reason. The children responded to 20 play situations that were divided into three phases. Phase one focused on the child's ability to empathize or recognize the feelings of others. Phase two emphasized the child's ability to problem solve through perspective taking. Phase three stressed the child's ability to decrease and, if possible, eliminate the anger of another child by using verbal and physical cues. The progression of interviewer questions depended on the answers the interviewee provided to the previous question. Interviews were conducted in the second half of the month of May, and took place at the rate of one a day during the children's nap time. Each interview lasted approximately 45 minutes. All interviews were recorded on audiotape and transcribed later. Writin gs Examples of the children's writings were obtained from the classroom teacher. The purpose was to ascertain if the writings contributed to the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. These items included writings the children produced on their own as well as their dictated writings in the form of book-making. Artifacts The children were asked by their teacher to draw a person, but were not told who to draw. Each child was given a sheet of paper, crayons, and markers. A mirror was placed at each table. The children could have used it if they chose to do so. This activity was repeated at regular intervals, and the products of the children's engagement in it were collected and filed away. The Head Start program evaluated the first and final drawings

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48 for each child for evidence of social growth. The investigator had access to the final drawings. Data Analysis Data analysis was conducted on 1 72 hours of observations fi-om field notes taken and then transcribed by the investigator. The measure used was Domain Analysis (Dodge & Price, 1994). The collected data were coded to determine the existence of patterns. When patterns were found, they were recoded and categories were established. This process of coding and recoding was done until saturation had been achieved. In Phase One of the interview, the child was shown a picture of a young child's face and asked: "What do you think this child is feeling? How can you tell that she --or he~feels...? What makes you feel...? Do you often feel this way? What do you do when you feel...? Attention was given to whether the child was able to read and interpret accurately facial cues that indicate feelings like happy, sad, angry or mad, afi-aid or scared, and disgusted, and how well the child empathized with the feelings of another child. In Phase Two, the child was asked to look at a representation of a play situation and respond to the following questions: "Do you think someone has a problem?" "Who has a problem?" "What is the girl's-or boy's-problem?" What can she~or he~say or do to solve this problem?" "Do you think that will work?" If you were this girl~or boy, what would you say or do?" "Why would you say~or do-that?" Responses were evaluated as to (1) how well the child was able to read and interpret facial, physical, and environmental clues, together; (2) her or his ability to choose appropriate problem solving strategies; (3) her or his rationale for the strategy chosen; (4) and her or his ability to find and explain the choice of alternative strategies, if any. In Phase Three, each participant was shown pictorial representations of an angry young child and asked to respond to the following questions: "How do you think this girl~or boyfeels?" "Why do you think she-or he-is angry?" "If you were the girl-or boy-in this picture, what would you say or do to help her-or him?" Why would you say

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49 —or do— that?" Responses were evaluated as to whether the participant was able to sugguest a verbal cue— "I'm sorry," "Would you like to play with me? "--or a physical cue~"Do you want to play with my toy?" The children's writings and drawings were evaluated for evidence of physical, cognitive, and social growth. Validity and Reliability To provide validity of the data collected, every attempt was made to capture the children's interactions as they happened, thereby providing as faithful an account as possible of how the interaction started, the reactions of those involved in the interaction, and the outcome of the interaction. The data included replications of play situations and participants' responses to those situations. Further, the interview posters offered multiple representations of play situations, which contribute to the reliability of the assessment. Reliability was also achieved through triangulation. This is a process that required the input of at least three individuals in analyzing the collected data. The data were analyzed by the investigator with the assistance of two graduate students. After the coding, categorizing, and domaining of the collected data, the investigator and the two assistants compared their resulting patterns, categories, and domains. There was only one area of disagreement, and this was settled after a group discussion. Thus triangulation had been achieved. Bias, control, and rese archer q nalificatinn The investigator for this study was a teacher, who has had 28 years of classroom experience at the middle and high school levels. And although she never was a teacher of young children, her role as parent and grandparent have afforded her a considerable measure of experiences with young children. In addition, the investigator's concern for young children who are considered at risk of social and academic failure provided a depth and motivation to carry out this study. In readying herself for conducting this study, the investigator has successfully completed the necessary coursework in this area of inquiry. In the course of the study, the investigator assumed the role of observer in the play

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50 environment, both indoor and outdoor. The children were accustomed to her presence in the natural setting of the classroom and outdoor play, and they were familiar to her. She did not participate in any of the children's play activities, indoor or outdoor. And on one occasion when the teacher asked her to supervise the children for 30 minutes, the investigator reminded the teacher that her role in the environment was that of observer. This supports what she was able to do to control for bias.

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CHAPTER FOUR FINDINGS: The Role of Play The study posed four research questions. The first question asked; "What is the role of play?" The second posed the question, "How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers?" This chapter reports and interprets the findings from observations, interviews, writings, and artifacts that speak to these questions within the fi-amework of Vygotsky's theory of play. Leonard is kicking the mother of another child. He walks up to her and kicks her on the outside left ankle. She shakes a finger at him as though admonishing him. He listens quietly. She stops talking. He approaches her and kicks her again on the same ankle. She seems to be scolding him once more. She stops. He kicks her a third time. She scoops him up and tucks him under her arm. He is kicking his legs, flailing his arms, and screaming loudly, as he tries to fi'ee himself (Observation, 10/14/96). Leonard exemplified the behavior of children in this study who were violently aggressive, even toward adults. Two of these children displayed compulsive behaviors. Five of them demonstrated aggressive behaviors. For the purpose of this study, a compulsive behavior is a sudden and irresistible urge to display a "fixed" response to a social situation, regardless of the circumstances. One example of this behavior is the desire to totally control the behavior of others in every play situation. An aggressive behavior is an unprovoked response to a social situation and involves the use of strategies that are demanding, offensive, coercive, and intended to produce a positive outcome for the aggressor. For these children behavior modification was not effective at the start of the study. An observed behavior checklist was compiled on each of three boys, and they yielded the following results: (a) In one hour, Jake had demonstrated nine acts of non-compliance 51

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52 and eight acts of physical aggression with no time outs (10/1 5/96). (b) Stanley was noncompliant on three occasions, created six serious disruptions, was verbally agressive twice and physically aggressive six times. He had six time outs (10/16/96). (c) David had five acts of non-compliance and was verbally aggressive five times. He had no time outs (10/17/96). These behaviors escalated, and there were threats of physical violence. Leonard runs after some of his classmates with a broomstick poised over his head, while his brother Lincoln is yelling and weaving in and out among the classroom furniture and purposely throws a wooden toy at one of the girls. Jake climbs on a table and snatches a toy from another girl. The teacher stops him. He responds by vigorously kicking the breakfast carrier, twice. Then he grabs a pair of cutting shears from the teacher's hand and stands poised, as if ready to fight. Minutes later, Jake snatches a plastic cup fi-om Stanley, who punches him on the nose, which bleeds profusely (10/15/96). By mid-week a crisis was building up. Upon the investigator's arrival in the classroom, Leonard accosted her in the following maimer: Leonard: Ah doh like you. You stupid an' you fat [He walks away, but promptly returns]. You hear me? Ah say ah doh like you 'cause you stupid, an' you fat, an' you u-u-ugly! Precisely four minutes later,an object whizzes by her face. She feels the current of air against her left cheek (Observation, 10/16/96). Leonard was an angry and violent child. He was initiating a confi-ontation and, when it did not happen, he became angry. He was very physical in his response to classroom experiences, and he easily hurt other children. On the playground, Leonard dropkicks a girl (10/15/96), and he stands on the face of another girl during play (10/16/96). The teacher-aide confides that she is leaving the program as of today because Leonard has punched her in the face three times since the start of the school year and, on one of those occasions, he has broken her nose (10/18/96). Leonard punches the teacher

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53 in her face and later strikes the mental health counselor on the left temple with a small wooden instrument (10/17/96). This child, and others who exhibit like behaviors, are at risk of failure because they lack the necessary prosocial skills that characterize successful interactions with adults and peers. Because of Leonard's behavior, the question of personal safety became a topic of discussion; however, the issue was never resolved. At the end of the first week, the classroom had become unmanageable. The behaviors exhibited by Leonard, Lincoln, Stanley, David, and Jake do not represent that of all the children in the classroom. However, 20% of the children consumed the teacher's time and succeeded in creating a chaotic atmosphere in the learning environment The events of this week led to a complete shut down of the classroom for a period of two weeks, during which only the teacher and support staff were allowed in the room. And yet, these behaviors of the children were not intentional, although they seemed to be such. What Is The Role of Play-^ Information processing is fundamental to the at-risk child's acquisition of social competence. In information processing, the human mind is likened to a computer. Incoming information is processed and integrated into information already stored within the cortex of the brain. Processing includes encoding, recoding, and decoding of information; comparing or combining it with other information; storing it in memory; and bringing it into conscious awareness. "The quality of children's thinking at any age depends on what information they represent in a particular situation, how they operate on the information to achieve their goal, and how much information they can keep in mind at one time (Siegler, 1991, p. 59). Different kinds of information are processed and organized into units of various sizes and levels of complexity before it is stored. Also, there are limitations on how much information can be attended to and processed simultaneously, and cognitive operations such as encoding, comparing, and retrieving information from memory require time to

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54 execute. In a social situation, a child must encode the problem, manipulate the information that is readily available, and retrieve one or more strategies to handle the situation at hand (Flavell, Miller, & Miller, 1993), Social knowledge or cognition includes a child's inferences and beliefs about the inner psychological attributes of human beings. It also includes visible social acts One child may be able to infer what another child is thinking if given adequate cues—social cognition—but may only be able to act on the cues at a superficial level— social act (Flavell, et al, 1993). Researchers have noted that the successful execution of an act of social thinking requires three general preconditions: existence, need, and inferences. (Flavell, Botkin, Fry, Wright, & Jaivis, 1968/1975). Existence refers to a child's basic knowledge that a phenomenon of the social world exists. For example, to think about something in the social world requires an individual's awareness of its existence as a possible object of social cognition. If children are not aware that, psychologically, people think and behave in certain ways, they cannot infer the presence of those thoughts and behaviors within particular people and in particular situations. Need refers to a child's understanding of the necessity to look for cues. A child may know that all humans have experiences called feelings— existence— but may not think to look for the cause of the feelings-need. Inferencing is the skill or capacity to carry out a given form of social thinking successfully. The acquisition of social cognition is the child's developing knowledge— existence— of the variety of possible social cognitive objects available to her or him, the developing awareness~need-of when and why one might or should try to take readings of such objects, and the development of a wide variety of cognitive skills-inference-with which to take these readings (Flavell, et al, 1968/1975). It should be noted that children do not always make use of the knowledge and cognitive skills they possess, because they do not think to, do not want to, or do not see the need to do so.

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55 Kenneth Dodge (1986) provided a model of the processing of social information during social interactions. In general, children process social information the same as they do physical information. A child is hit with a ball from behind. To most children, this would be an ambiguous event. The act could be intentional or an accident. However, a highly aggressive boy would interpret the incident as an intentional act against him (Dodge, Murphy, & Buchsbaum, 1984). A child comes to a situation with a set of relevant, biologically determined capabilities and predispositions, such as motor skills, temperament, and a data base of remembered, similar, past experiences. There are social cues such as peers' facial expressions, the event leading up to the act, and the reaction of observers (Flavell, et al, 1993; Tomasello, Kruger, & Ratner, 1993; Tudge, 1992; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). During encoding and representation, the child attends to and interprets certain cues. As she or he develops, the child must learn how to attend to relevant cues, integrate them into previous knowledge, and interpret them accurately. The child may also search for added information to test his interpretation. A nonaggressive child may notice that the children's ball throws are not very accurate and conclude that the "aggressor" had unintentionally overthrown the ball. Next the child searches his repertoire for possible responses, thinks through the consequence of each, selects a response, and carries it out (Dodge, 1986). If a child believes he is the victim of an intentional, aggressive act, he is likely to retaliate and not consider more workable solutions. Children differ in the number of responses they have available and how they are likely to use each one. A highly aggressive child may conduct a biased search and consider only deviant responses. Similarly, maltreated children are less able to withhold attention from distracting, aggressive stimuli than are nonmaltreated children (Dodge, 1986). In addition, a child's emotional state affects and is affected by each step in the process of social thinking. An upset child may attend to a narrow range of social cues, and this new information

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56 increases arousal which, in turn, stimulates the child to choose an aggressive response very quickly (Dodge, 1991). Dodge's model suggests that socially inappropriate behavior may have many different causes, ranging from biased encoding to faulty translation of a decision into behavior. Secondly, a child's lack of social competence may be restricted to certain situations-Stanley blowing up, Stanley calm. A child may be skilled at entering play, but unable to deal with an aggressive situation. There may be inconsistencies between social cognitive measures and actual child behavior and among situations. Thirdly, each processing step has a developmental history. Thus, there are many sources of developmental change. Finally, the child's thinking described in the model often is nonconscious. Conscious processing is most likely to occur when a novel response is necessary or when children are asked to think before they act or to justify their behavior. These research findings and Dodge's model are presented here because they offer possible explanations for the behaviors exhibited by children like Leonard, Lincoln, Stanley, David, and Jake in response to stimuli in play situations. One can, therefore, reasonably conclude that a lack of prosocial skills can restrict a child's ability to respond appropriately in social situations such as play. Raoul, the child mentioned in the introduction to this dissertation, had a problem that plagued him throughout the entire school year. Like all young children, he wanted to play and could not understand why he was repeatedly rejected by his classmates. Raoul sits alone at a table, emptying and refilling a box of magnetized pieces called "magicstics. " After three minutes, he packs up the pieces and places the box at the center of the table top. He props his chin on his open palms. Donald, a new student, comes to the table, reaches for the package, opens it, and begins to manipulate the pieces. Teacher: Seems to me you packed it up. Raoul: Ah wan' it back. Give it back. Can ah have it back, Dennis?

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57 Donald: I'm not Dennis. Why are you calling me Dennis? Raoul; Can ah have it back, Donald? For several minutes, Raoul continues to whine as Donald plays with the pieces. Suddenly Raoul's eyes light up. Raoul: Look at dee box cover. Do you know how to do dat? [He points to an object on the cover] Donald: No. Raoul: Here, lemme show you how. Raoul grabs the box, draws all the pieces to himself, and ignores Donald's presence at the table. Donald walks away. Left alone with the "magicstics," Raoul leaves the table and moves to another area where two boys are building a track (Observation, 4/14/97), Raoul had difficulty entering an on-going activity. He devised a strategem that accorded him tacit permission to enter the play situation. Once he was in, Raoul sought to control the situation to the point that he excluded his playmate. Each time this child was rejected fi-om a play situation, he whined and complained to the teacher. But he stuck to his strategy although it proved unsuccessfiil every time he applied it. Unless a child can recognize and interact with peers in a social situation, that child is at a distinct disadvantage (Dodge, 1986). For example, facial characteristics, sound of voice and footsteps, smell, and touch all help an infant to recognize his caregivers, and the infant can pretty much determine what the specific caregiver will provide for him. The result can be a happy, well-adjusted infant whose needs are well met. A preschooler who is able to perceive and interpret facial, physical, and environmental cues will understand the mental state of others in a play situation. Using this knowledge, the child is better equipped to initiate a successful interaction with peers. Raoul was not reading and interpreting the cues available to him in the play situation with Donald. A successfijl play experience is only possible when playmates demonstrate prosocial skills that facilitate getting along with peers and the formation of fiiendships.

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58 How Does Play Advance The Self Competence Of At-Risk Preschoolers? Vygotsky (1933/1978) theorized that play is a social situation, and the learnings derived from it are obtained through dialogue with others. He called this dialogue cultural transmission. And he emphasized mother-child interactions in play as crucial to the transmission of ideas and attitudes—as values—and behaviors that characterize the social group to which mother and child belong, as well as the manifestation of those behaviors in the home environment. For from them, the young child acquires an understanding of basic human feelings and a sense of what is or is not acceptable behavior. Generally one perceives social learning experiences as interactions from which young children understand what is or is not acceptable behavior. One also believes that children learn these behaviors through repetition and feedback which make possible the internalization or assimilation of behaviors, acceptable or unacceptable. According to Tomasello et al (1993), such learning constitutes early social cognition and comes "from" another, while cultural transmission comes "through" another. These researchers distinguished three kinds of cultural learnings that, successively, result in cuhural transmission and the acquisition of social competence: imitative learning, instructed learning, and collaborative learning. Imitative Learning Imitative learning and empathy are interrelated. Empathy is the ability to relate to the mental or emotional state of the other to the point that one experiences anew or has a vicarious experience of the same state. Empathy suggests that the young child is in tune with the feelings of the other, such that she or he understands the feeling the other is expressing, that the other may feel differently in similar situations, and that the other may feel different from still others in a given situation. In play situations, the ability to empathize wdth others motivates a child to demonstrate behaviors like helping, sharing, taking turns, comforting, and cooperating .

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59 As they approached the end of the first semester, some of the children showed no progress in their ability to empathize in a social situation. For example. In a small group stencilling activity, Raoul grabs all the highlighters and refuses to share or cooperate with his playmates. When the teacher asks that he share, he gives up all of the highlighters and moves on to another table (1 1/13/96). Angela refuses to help clean up after pretend play (12/9/96). Roslyn is crying because she wants the bean bag with which another girl is playing (12/16/96), and Charlissa calls Judith an ugly name (12/16/96). Others were beginning to demonstrate empathetic behavior: Jake helps by collecting leaves which he gives to the teacher (1 1/4/96), and they are later used in a leaf etching activity. Two boys and two girls share and cooperate in the use of materials as they engage in rock painting 1 1/8/96). In time there were further manifestations of the children's ability to empathize with each other. Dark hugs her classmate and asks, "What's wrong, Jacquita?" "Dey laffin' at me," Jacquita sobs (1/24/97). Judith and Mark share a cassette and book during a listenand-read activity (4/23/97), and so do Jake and Cynthia (4/21/97). Donald broke his arm, and Stanley is making a bracelet which Donald will present to his Mom on Mother's Day (5/9/97). And Margaret approaches Jake, who is busily putting up the Lego manipulatives, and pats his head. Then she kneels beside him and continues to pat his head and shoulders while she talks to him (5/22/97). Their ability to empathize with the feelings of the other is further substantiated in one-on-one interviews. All of the children interviewed quickly recognized pictorial representations of feelings like happy, sad, anger, fear, and disgust (Appendix C, 1-5). Sometimes a child verbalized an association of a direct experience with the feeling expressed in the picture. In discussing the feeling of anger, Jacquita recalls her anger and hurt at being pushed down, and the hurt stayed on because the boy did not say "sorry"; the teacher said it for him (5/23/97).

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60 As the children engaged in the play situation before them, some added physical cues that were not present in the picture. Recognizing the girl's look of revulsion, Margaret's face mirrors the look as she screams, "There's a spider on that sandwich" (5/28/97). Others assumed the role of the character in the picture and projected their own direct experience. When angry. Flora goes to her room to think things over (5/19/97). And Charlissa recalls her feeling of disgust when her mother made her eat peas, which she hates (5/19/97). On seeing the representation of fear on a young boy's face, Mark responds this way: Mark; Thundle, thundle. Oh, thundle [He hugs his head and cries out] ! Noise, noise, noise. Oooh! (Interview, 5/27/97) It was evident that the children were reading facial, physical, and environmental cues and interpreting them accurately. The children also understood that people may have different feelings about the same situation (Appendix C, 8). Responding to a picture of two children in a tree, they all recognized that the girl was happy and the boy was sad. Charlissa believes the girl is happy because she is watching a mother bird feeding her babies-this cue is not physically present--and she likes the sound of the birds; the boy is sad because he is afraid to go higher; but if he tells his sister, she will laugh at him (5/19/97). Mark suggests that the boy's foot is stuck, and the girl is so happy she does not see that her brother is in trouble (5/27/97). The children had difficulty distinguishing between accidents and things that are done on purpose (Appendix C, 12). Dennis understood that the boy in the picture is hurt, and that the girl is trying to comfort him. However, he also believes that the boy is not badly hurt and does not require any help (5/28/97). Roslyn suggests that the girl hit the boy on his arm, and now she is telling him she's sorry. And that is all there is to it (5/18/97). Charlissa says the boy is hurt, but it is his own fauh. "He ought to know better

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61 than to run too fast on the playground" (5/19/97). If a child falls, observations indicate that she or he will blame the person closest in proximity. It is interesting to note that it never occurred to any of the children that the girl could have accidently knocked the boy The children demonstrated the ability to feel concern and caring for another (Appendix C, 16). They recognized that the boy on the left was sad, but differed as to why he was sad, and what could be done about his state of mind. Jacquita believes that the sad boy wants to be alone and is being bothered by the other boy, which makes him more sad (5/23/97). Charlissa responded this way: The observer noted Charlissa's speech pattern. At times she was quite articulate; at other times, she talked like an infant. This was particularly true if she was emotional about a situation. A child may have an awareness of what is acceptable behavior, yet her or his demonstrated behavior does not mirror that awareness. Perhaps, this happens because four-to five-year-old children live in a world where, based on their experiences, things are right or wrong, black or white, with no shades of grey in between. The teacher is conducting a large group discussion of classroom behavior. over. Interviewer: Charlissa: Interviewer: CharHssa: Does anyone have a problem? He does [pointing to the boy on the left]. What is his problem? That boy [on the right] is trying to make him feel better, because someone make him [on the left] feeling bad. What do you think happened to him? Someone hit him on the head. What do you think the other boy is saying to him? Don't feel bad 'cause I can feel you better. And put a bandaid on his head. (Interview, 5/19/97) Interviewer: Charlissa: Interviewer: CharHssa: Teacher: Children: Teacher: What do we do about hitting? Keep your hands to yourself Should we call each other names?

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62 Children: Teacher; Judith: Stanley: Teacher: Stanley: No, that's not nice. If I call you a name, how does that make you feel? I feel bad. I want to cry. I get mad, and I punch the person who call me a name. [To Stanley] How else could you deal with the person who called you a name? He shouldn't call me no name [at this point, he gets up, walks over to David, and punches him in the face, because David had called him a name earlier in the morning], (Observation, 1 1/22/96) Stanley knows that his behavior is unacceptable. However, he demonstrated an emotional response, as opposed to a reasoned response. Dodge (1991) found that aggressive children have difficulty thinking through an interaction, because they apply a biased, emotional approach to processing the cues available in the social situation. Instructive Learning It appears that instructed learning helps the children to accept the existence of the grey areas and learn to deal with them more constructively. Tomasello et al (1993) stated that by four to six years of age, a child's social cognition is operating at the level of instructed learning. Instructed learning enables children to understand how an adult or other person views a given situation or task. To accomplish this, it seems that a child places greater reliance on inferencing her or his earlier direct experiences and on feedback during the process of perspective taking. Ideas, attitudes, and behaviors internalized to this point of development are combined with instructed learnings, and overtones of cultural transmission are evident in the children's responses during peer interactions. The following examples demonstrate some effects of instructed learning. The children are reviewing numbers. They sing "Roll Over," which enables them to count backward from ten to one. As they come to the end of the verse, Cynthia anticipates the next number and yells it out. Stanley corrects her behavior: "Stop yelling!. You don't have to yell." (Observation, 4/13/97) Overheard while conferencing with the teacher at lunch time: Jake: Don't eat with food in your mouth.

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63 Flora: Don't talk with food in your mouth. (Observation, 4/29/97) The children are engaged in small group play activities indoors: Roslyn: My brother is a girl now. [Her playmates roar with laughter. Then they stare at her with a look of amazement.] Oh, ho, ho! My brother is a boy. (Observation, 4/29/97) Jake: Dark: Ma cousin, she never listens to her Mama. She never do [she shakes her head as if bewildered]. (Observation, 5/12/97) As these children played, they were actively correcting each other's behavior and speech by appealing to rules learned at home or in the classroom, as well as to their understanding of what constitutes good manners. These young children, who are in the process of establishing their own sense of gender identity, are contused by the concept of a boy suddenly becoming a girl. And children understand that they must obey their parents. The children's interchanges express ideas and attitudes that are common to the culture to which they belong. Entering play was the most diflficuh task for the children in this study. And it was doubly difficult for those children who exhibited impulsive, compulsive, and aggressive behaviors throughout the school year. There was a transition period for each child as she or he worked at mastering their perspective taking skills. For example. Flora is having an ongoing conversation with and giving instructions to "Trina" and "Vemie," two imaginary characters in a show she is creating. Raoul observes and listens carefully. Flora: Trina: Say "hello, Trina." Say "hello" to Vemie. [Voice change] Hi Vemie, how are you? I'm O.K. Do you want to play? Sure. What will we play? We can play sisters going to school. [Using a falsetto voice] Sisters, sisters, so nice to see you. Hurry or we be late for school Veemie: Trina: Vemie: Raoul:

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64 [Flora scowls at him, and he quietly exits the scene]. (Observation, 3/28/97) David, Dennis, and Anton are playing a game of football. Dermis throws an imaginary ball, David catches it and runs with it, and Anton tackles him to the ground, where Anton tries to wrestle the ball away from him. The two boys stand up and, facing each other, they laugh as David moves forward and hugs Anton hard around the neck. Anton backs away from the interaction. (Observation, 3/28/97) Both Raoul and David were unsuccessful at entering play and/or sustaining peer interaction. Raoul did not seek entry politely. The children's experience of him was that he did not request entry to a play situation and, once he was in, he proceeded to control the course of the play. Consequently, he was always rejected by his playmates. David was becoming less aggressive in his approach to play. And even though most of the boys in this class continually reinforced each other's negative behaviors, thereby prolonging the period of adjustment to acceptable social behaviors, there were several instances of positive behavior changes during peer interactions. Using "towerifics," Jake and Stanley build a tower taller than themselves. They work quietly and efficiently. Finally, they look at their task and smile at each other. Stanley accidently knocks over the tower. Jake's face mirrors disappointment, but he simply shrugs his shoulders and walks away (2/3/97). Stanley tries to control his temper by counting from one to ten (1/24/97). Jake helps Cynthia clean up milk she accidently spills on a table (1/22/97). Joseph shares his tricycle with Jake (1/13/97). Jake politely requests of another child, "Will you please get away from me" (1/29/97), and later he gets the teacher's attention by saying "Ecuse me" (5/22/97). Stanley engages in play with cars and trucks and demonstrates an ability to share and take turns (1/13/97). The context of the children's play continually enhanced the development of their prosocial skills. And in that process, the children acquired a positive view of themselves. This newly acquired outlook enabled them to engage in new experiences with exuberance and they began to describe themselves and their accomplishments with pride. They were

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65 self-assured. Some of the children acquired a positive self esteem, others enhanced their self esteem. Judith: You know what? Angela: No. What? Judith: When I go to the computer room. I don't need a big buddy anymore. Angela: How come? Judith: 'Cause I know the room now. I go there a lot. Isn't that neat? (Observation, (2/24/97) Flora discusses her nuclear and extended families: Flora: Ma Mama luves me. Princess: Hah. How do you know [with a smirk]? Flora: Ah know it. 'Cause ah jest know it. An ah gat me two daddies, an' two mommies, a big brodda, and two sisters. An' ah gat me two grammas an' two grampas. Ain't dat nice? (Observation, 5/9/97) Margaret was shy and retiring, and she had developed a codependence with Roberta who was strong and controlling. However, Margaret received counseling and, in time, became less dependent on Roberta. By mid-April, Margaret could manipulate the rings on the horizontal bars better than anyone else in the class. She had adopted a swinging technique that made her the envy of all the children. Even kindergarteners tried to imitate her technique and found it too difficult. And she crossed the bars faster than the boys could (4/23/97). The adulation of her peers did much to improve her sense of self esteem and before the school year ended, she was demonstrating a sense of leadership that her peers did not find offensive. The acquisition of self knowledge enables at-risk preschoolers to feel better about themselves in different ways. The realization that she can find her way on campus without adult supervision assured Judith that she had gained in independence, and her newfound self confidence added to her sense of self efficacy. Some children Gxid themselves through

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66 family interactions that bolster their self esteem; others derive the same benefits fi'om mastery of motor skills on the playground, which places the focus on them and their ability to do something the others cannot do as well. All of this helps the children to build leadership skills that fiarther facilitate initiating and maintaining fiiendships among peers. In early January, some of the children were exhibiting their perceived readiness to form fiiendships. Five-year-old Mark was quiet and bright. From the start, he showed a preference for being alone and often engaged in solitary play. He spoke to no one and merely did whatever he was asked to do. He also observed others, but kept his opinions to himself Occasionally, he got into an altercation with another boy and he became defiant. As the second semester of the school year began, Mark was more communicative with his classmates and teacher. He had come a long way, and the children were receptive of him. When Donald joined the class in early February, David voluntarily undertook his mentoring, David's buddies were not happy, Jake and Stanley observed the growing fiiendship, but said nothing, A few days later, Jake provoked a conflict with Donald, but it quickly fizzled, David, Jake, and Stanley were close fiiends, and the inclusion of Donald was a threat to their sense of who they were. However, David continued mentoring Donald, This behavior on David's part astonished the aduhs in the classroom. For most of the children, the enhanced ability to form fiiendships paved the way for meaningfial peer interactions, and it was far, far easier to initiate a play event or enter an ongoing play situation. This was well brought out in the interview process. Situation: A boy and a girl are playing in a sandbox. Another boy observes them fi-om a distance. With few exceptions, each child recognized that the boy in the distance had a problem. He wanted to play. But opinions differed as to the problem solving strategy he might use to achieve that goal and why the strategy might work.

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67 Cynthia is five years old This was her perception of the situation: (Poster 19) Interviewer; Do you think there's a problem here? Cynthia: Uh huh. Dey not playin' wid him. Interviewer: Shall we give them names? Cynthia: [she points to the boy who observes play] He is Brian, and she [the girl in the sandbox] is Jinga. Interviewer: Which one of them do you think has a problem? Cynthia: Jinga. Dey playin' in the sanbox and not lettin' him play. Dey say "No, you can't play 'cause you not goin' to be our fiin.' He say 'Yes, Am is.' But dey still won' let him play. (Poster 20) Interviewer: Is there a difference in these two pictures? Cynthia: Um, I see dem move. He [Brian] move closer. Interviewer: What can Brian do or say to play? Cynthia: He could axe. If dey say "No,' he could tell the teacher. Interviewer: How can Brian ask, what can he say? Cynthia: He say, 'Can I play?' An' she say 'Yeh.' [She stares at the two pictures for some time ] She say 'I be sorry for not lettin' you play.' (Interview, 5/23/97) In responding to the play situation, Cynthia seemed to become engaged in it to the point that she was projecting her own personal response to attempts at entering play. In the classroom, she is the smallest, ahhough she is not the youngest. She is not very communicative, and she becomes feisty when she is thwarted in her attempts to achieve a personal goal, like entering play. By inferencing her own experience, she believes that Jinga has a bad attitude, and that she is urmecessarily mean to Brian. (Poster 19) Margaret: (Poster 20) (Poster 21) Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: Those two [in the sandbox] won't let him play. They know he's standing there. Why do you think they won't let him play? I'm not sure. Is there a difference in these two pictures? Yes. He's standing closer. Maybe he.... What can the boy do or say? Well, he's looking at her, but he's not talking. How do you know that? Because his mouth is not open. You can't

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6S (Poster 22) Interviewer Margaret: Interviewer: Margaret: talk that way. What is happening now? Maybe he could join in, because he is close, close, close now. Besides, she let that other boy play. He's having fun. But that other boy does not have a problem. I know that. Let's see ... Um, I can see his mouth opening. And I can see his mouth moving. And they are looking at each other. That's how we know they are talking to each other. Interviewer: If you were this boy, what would you say to the girl'' Margaret: Nothing. I would not want to play with her. (Interview, 5/28/97) Margaret, described earlier in this report, had become more assertive with her classmates, and this is reflected in her interpretation of the play situation. She understood that the boy observing play had a problem, but she held the girl responsible for his problem because she was aware of the boy's presence and should have invited him to play. After all, she had invited "that other boy" to play, and "he was having fun." Unlike Cynthia, Margaret was fully aware of the facial, physical, and situational cues in the play situation and, by association or inferencing her own experience, she added two cues not present: (1) the children in the sandbox knew that the boy was standing there, (2) and she saw their lips moving. Therefore, she concluded that they were impolite in not inviting him to play. An invitation to play was a viable strategy. However, Margaret never accorded the girl in the sandbox the opportunity to use it. In fact, she would never choose this girl as a playmate. Charlissa had a different approach to the play situation. (Poster 21) Charlissa: He's asking that girl can he play? Interviewer: What do you think the girl might say? Charlissa: She might say 'Yes,' or she might say TSlo.' Interviewer: If you were the boy who wants to play, what would you do or say to the girl in the sandbox? Charlissa: I would tell her 'You are pretty!' (Interview, 5/19/97)

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69 Charlissa is four years old, and she is the youngest child in the classroom. She is Latina. Traditionally, the women in such families are frequently complimented by their male counterparts. Like the other children, she believed that the boy in the distance had a problem. He wanted to play, but did not know how to achieve his goal. For her, a verbal cue, in the form of a compliment or praise, would appeal to the girl's sense of who she is. The compliment would please her, and she would invite the boy to play. The interview excerpts cited above illustrate the influence of cultural learnings. It has been said that when children play, they emulate adult behaviors. Adult behaviors are rooted in the ideas and attitudes of a given social group. Children derive these ideas and attitudes from their home environment. And these ideas and attitudes are enhanced or modified in the environment of the classroom. Collaborative Learning The third kind of cultural learning is expressed in the theory of co-construction, which calls for collaboration with others (Tomasello et al, 1993). Co-construction requires the active participation of all group members. In the process, there is social interaction that triggers an exchange of ideas and, it sometimes happens that, the participants share certain ideas in common. Tomasello et al referred to this phenomenon as the co-construction of similar conceptualizations, which contribute to cultural transmission. Vygotsky (1933/1978) explained co-construction this way. He theorized that play is a zone of proximal development. A zone of proximal development is the difference between a child's present problem solving abilities and his potential problem solving capabilities under adult guidance and the collaboration of her or his more capable peers. Berk (1994) noted that adult and peer scafifolding-or collaboration~of young children's play nurtures the transition to pretend play and its elaboration throughout the preschool years. This pretend or representational play serves as a unique, broadly influential zone of proximal development within which children advance themselves to ever higher levels of

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70 psychological functioning. Thus, the theory of the zone of proximal development has much to say to teachers about the importance of promoting make-believe play in preschool programs. The children in this study entered the collaborative phase of cultural learning through play in the second week of February when mixed-age grouping was established and continued to the end of the school year in May, 1997. On four days of each week, four preschoolers were escorted to each of two kindergarten classrooms for a total of eight mixed-age play experiences each day. These play experiences were limited to one hour each day, four hours each week. On the first day of collaborative play, there were 1 8 children in the preschool program, and in the last two months of the school year, two more children joined the program. So that the ratio of mixed-age play experiences for preschoolers remained constant, but the ratio of each preschooler's mixed-age play experiences shifted. Some of the children had four experiences each week; some had fewer experiences each week. At the start of mixed-age collaborative play, the preschoolers were told that they are visitors in the kindergarten classrooms, and that kindergarten teachers will not tolerate unacceptable behaviors and bad attitudes. They will have to share, take turns, and cooperate during "Center Time." Center Time is indoor play time when the children egage in pretend/sociodramatic play. During this time a number of play centers are open to the children, who determine for themselves where they want to play and with whom they wish to play. The at-risk preschoolers' response was anticipation tinged with apprehension. The investigator was not aware of what specific instructions were given to the kindergarteners. For the first three weeks of collaborative play, the preschoolers were quiet. They observed everyone and everything, but said very little. Also, at this time the kindergarten teachers decided to which play group each preschooler would go. No two preschoolers were assigned to the same group. This was the children's orientation to

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71 mixed-age collaborative play (2/10/97-2/28/97). Later, the preschoolers were allowed to choose their own play groups. Initially, preschool interaction was minimal, at best. They tended to engage in solitary or parallel play. Raoul sits at a table alone. He makes circles on a sheet of paper then crosses them out with markers. . In a few minutes, he covers the markers and observes the other children at play. And Flora rocks a doll in a baby buggy, while the other girls in her play group decide who is mother, daughter, and neighbor, as they prepare to go shopping at the Mall (2/13/97). Vygotsky stressed the importance of representational play. This is the makebelieve or pretense that characterizes the play of young children throughout the preschool years and evolves into games with rules that dominate middle childhood. He granted this kind of play the status of a "leading factor in development" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 101). As the children engaged in sociodramatic play, they combined aspects of the real world with aspects of a world of fantasy. And they slipped in and out of each with ease, sometimes bending the rules of play and requesting teacher intervention, as they skillfully manipulated the behavior of others to achieve their purpose. Gena and Tammy are two kindergarteners who, together with Jacqueline, choose to play at the large block center. They decide to construct a house which they will attach to one outside wall of the classroom. The two kindergarteners sit on the ground facing each other, and Jacqueline passes blocks to them. Together, they start to build the house around Gena and Tammy. When the house is head high, Jacqueline voices a concern: Jacqueline: Gena: Jacqueline: Tammy: Now, I need to get in the house, too. You can't. There's no room. I help build the house. I have to get in. You can't. We will clean the house. You do the yardwork. I don't want to do yardwork. I want in. [Angrily] Can't you see there is no room? You fatheads. I don't want to play with you anymore. Jacqueline: Gena: Jacqueline:

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72 You won't share. Gena. Oooh! Oooh! I'm going to tell. Gena jumps up, knocking over a few of the blocks and, striding towards the classroom door, she glances over her shoulder, her eyes rolling menacingly. Meanwhile, Tammy exits the house and looks at Jacqueline with an air of concern. In less than a minute, Gena returns. Gena: O.K. You can be in the house. The house-building project continues as before with Jacqueline on the inside, and Gena and Tammy on the outside. Again, the structure is head high. Jacqueline: Hey, why am I alone in the house? Gena: Silly, there is no room. You just stay in there until we tell you you to come out. Jacqueline: How long do I have to stay in here? Jacqueline is angry and tries to stand up, but the two girls place blocks over her head and force her down in the house. Gena: You have to stay there until it's time to go to the playground. That is 45 minutes away (Observation, 3/17/97). Gena and Tammy devised a strategy that would eliminate Jacqueline from the play group. However, Jacqueline was younger and less mature. She was not reading and intepreting the available cues accurately. Aware that things were not working out as planned, Jacqueline voices her frustration. Gena is rude to her, but objects when she is called a nasty name. She seeks teacher intervention, but is told that she must share, and take turns. Gena is not defeated. Jacqueline got what she wanted. She is in the house. And once more, she is alone. And she will remain that way until the end of center time. This episode was intriguing because there was never a verbal agreement to eliminate Jacqueline from the play interaction. Vygotsky concluded that play has two critical features that, when combined, illustrate the essential nature of the phenomenon and clarify its role in development. First, all representational or symbolic play creates an imaginary situation that permits the child to

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73 grapple with unrealizable desires. Vygotsky pointed out that fantasy play first appears at a time when children must learn to postpone gratification of impulses and accept the fact that certain desires will remain unsatisfied. During the second year, care-givers begin to insisit that toddlers delay gratification-taking turns—and acquire socially approved behaviors involving safety, respect for property, care of self— washing hands, and everyday routines— putting away the toys (Gralinski & Knopp, 1993). A second feature of all representational play is that it contains rules of behavior that children must follow to successfully act out the play scene. Games that appear in the late preschool period and flourish during the school years are clearly rule based. Even the simplest imaginative situations created by very young children proceed in accord with social rules that may be implicit within the context of the play situation. A child pretending to go to sleep follows the rules of bedtime behavior. Another child imagining herself to be a mother~or himself to be a father-and a doll to be a child, conforms to the rules of parental behavior. Yet a third child playing doctor observes the rules of the doctor-patient relationship. "Whenever there is an imaginary situation, there are rules" (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 95). These two features are significant elements present in all forms of children's playan imaginary situation and rules that are implicit in the imaginary situation. It must be remembered that the imaginary component may not always be apparent in all play situations. However, the rules establish the game or play situation, while the rule and actions based on those rules derive their meaning fi-om the play situation. In other words, the context of the play sitution determines the form of play in which children engage and their ensuing peer interactions. By the end of March, the two groups of children were interacting more fiilly. Douglas, a kindergartener, is a photographer doing a shoot with the model. Flora. She twists, spins around, flips her hair, and assumes model-like postures as Douglas moves around her, bending low and then standing on his toes, clicking his camera (3/28/97).

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74 Margo, a kindergartener, and Cynthia are sitting in a make-believe restaurant. An imaginary waitress places a pitcher of coffee on the table. In emphasizing the importance of rules in children's play, Vygotsky made an interesting observation. When one watches children at play, one sees spontaneity in their peer reactions. However, Vygotsky claimed that there can be no play without rules, even when a child is engaged in solitary play. Free play is not free and requires that children follow social rules. Subsequently, the child's social behaviors "become his basic level of real action and morality" as she or he grows older (Vygotsky, 1933/1978, p. 100). By adhering to rules in pretend play, young children achieve a better understanding of social norms and expectations, and they act in a manner that sustains those norms and expectations (Haight & Miller, 1993). When Douglas did his photo shoot, and Margo and Cynthia discussed their children, they were role playing. And through their enactments, these children were gaining an awareness of the responsibilities of real life situations. In addition, Douglas and Flora were gaining insight into the rule-governed nature of a business relationship, while Margo and Cynthia were beginning to understand, intuitively, the nature of the parent-child relationship. Berk (1994) pointed out that pretend play affords the young child other opportunities for exercising symbolic schemes. It strengthens a variety of specific mental abilities. It promotes memory, and language is greatly enriched. When the children played Bingo, it was a rule-based activity that enhanced information processing abilities. It enabled the children to recall numbers, letters, colors, or shapes, as the game required. Similarly, the game called "Simon Says" helped the children recall the name of body parts. And when Cynthia; Margo: Margo: Umm! That smells good. Dear Cynthia, would you like to have some coffee? Thank you, Margo. Tell me, how are the kids? Oh, my... [Their voices fade as they move their heads closer. They chat and laugh out loud from time to time]. (Observation, 3/25/97)

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75 Jake exhorted his lunchmates not to "eat with food in your mouth," Flora promptly corrected him by exclaiming, "Don't talk with food in your mouth" (4/29/97), thereby helping him to improve the manner in which he expresses his ideas. The highlighting of symbolism further enhances the meaning of children's play. Piaget (1945/1951) did this in his description of pretend play as a means through which children practice representational schemes. And both Piaget and Vygotsky noted that symbolism also characterized non-interactive activities like writing and drawing. Writings Writing aided literacy and cognitive development. The children's language skills were enhanced in the form of extended vocabularies and sentence structure. Jake went from "Ah doh wanna read dat" (10/15/96) to "I want that book. I want the pretty one over there (4/21/97). Not only did he improve his syntax, he was using complete, descriptive sentences. Writing also enhanced concept building and the recognition of small sight words with pictures. By mid-May, Mark had become more verbal and was reading simple books. He could also write his name. Judith and Roslyn were also reading simple books; writing their names, the names of their siblings, and small sight words like "mat," "book," and other simple object names with which they had become famiHar in the environment of the classroom. The children's proudest achievements were the books they made and took home to their parents. In one activity, they cut animal pictures from magazines or created their own pictures which they highlighted with markers. All the children dictated discriptive sentences which the teacher wrote in their respective books. Roberta's book had the following sentences: "This is a lion. The lion is a big cat. He has long hair in his face. " A similar strategy was used for drawings. Artifacts Through their drawings, children attempt to organize and make sense of their experiences, and they use symbols to provide meaning.. As they learn language, they learn

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76 about the objects, people, and events in their environment, and they try to communicate their perceptions of that environment (Brown, 1973, Nelson 1973; Vygotsky, 1934/1986). Children also learn about the visual qualities of objects, and about the graphic properties of line, color, and shape. Like language, drawing provides children with opportunities to reflect upon, organize, and share their experiences (Dyson, 1988; Hubbard, 1988). For the purpose of this study, the products of the "Draw A Person" activity were obtained from the teacher and used as examples of the use of symbolic representations. Twenty drawings were collected. Two of the drawings were selected for interpretation because they are representative of what the children accomplished through this medium. In the first drawing, the central figure appears to be a women, indicated by the arrangement of the hair. She has a large round head, large eyes, and a wide smile. There are three children. The oldest is to the woman's right. This child's left hand is extended so that she or he touches the woman's face. The other two children are positioned to the left of the woman's body. The middle child, sizewise, is also smiling. This child stands close to the woman, and the child's right hand is extended and touches the woman's left cheek. The third child appears to be a baby wrapped in covers. The woman's left arm reaches out and embraces the baby, while her right hand hovers over the child to her right. The sun is shining from the upper left comer of the picture, and its rays are intensified as they touch the woman's head. The woman and the two older children have torsos but no feet. There are no adult males in the picture (drawn by four-year-old Cynthia 5/20/97). De Lio (1983) explained that a circle often symbolizes a young child's representation of a person. The child readily identifies the circle, often large, as a person or, more specifically, a head. By age four, the child adds eyes, mouth and nose. Eyes assume grave importance in mother-child interactions, in which eye contact establishes social rapport. And in their attempts to portray the human figure, young children choose the eyes as the first and most prominent feature to be added to the primordial circle of the head. Accord-

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77 ing to DeLio, huge eyes are commonly seen in the drawings of young children who are securely attached. For most of us, a mother's kiss is the first tactile stimulus that engages us positively in the world outside of the womb. Therefore, hands and arms become the agents of direct contact and communication. We use touch to demonstrate affection and to administer punishment Arms and hands give fi-eely and take away purposefully. Thus, symbolism of hands and arms is often manifest in the form, dimension, or absence of interconnectedness to others. Accordingly, attention to how arms, hands, and fingers are portrayed may help us understand behavior that expresses the innermost sentiments of the child. Consequently, one does not expect to see anatomically correct arms and hands at age four (DeLio, 1983). Cynthia is a follower, who talks a lot. She is fiiendly, interacts well with her peers, but never says "No." She lives with her mother and siblings. Her father is in the military and often is gone for long periods of time. Her work is representative of that produced by most of the children who drew what appears to be family groupings. As such, this observer believes that Cynthia was attempting to convey her feelings toward her family. Her mother is the anchor within the family. In their reaching out, the children express their love and need of her. Through her embrace and extended arm, the mother showers her children with love and attention in the same way that the sun caresses her head and warms her. And mother and children are happy together. The absence of torsos and feet do not seem to hold significance for a four-year-old (DiLeo,1983).. The second drawing is of a young girl. She is centered on the page, and she is very detailed and well proportioned. She has a large round face, eyes set far apart, a nose, and wide smile. Her hair is long and extends to her shoulers. A fancy, heart-shaped barret holds her hair in place over her right eye. She has a long slim neck. Her arms are extended outward, and her fingers are defined. She wears purple trousers and a matching jacket with long sleeves. The jacket is open at the front and reveals four even-sized

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78 buttons down the front of her pink blouse. She is wearing shoes that fit above the ankle (drawn by five-year-old Roberta 5/16/97). Children are meaning-makers, and drawing, as a literacy activity, provides them v^th opportunities to reflect upon, organize, and share their experiences. Citing Hippie (1985), Dyson noted that teachers of young children refer to young children's drawings as "writings," viewing the drawings as "the communication of thoughts rather than the production of pleasing visual images" (Dyson, 1988, p. 26). From this perspective, the importance of children's drawings is in their developing ability to communicate a message independently of the pictures. Children's drawings are not simply communications about their experiences; they may also be attempts at visual problem solving as well. Roberta is intelligent, but bossy and complains a lot. Her mother is an artist. It is difficult to surmise who the giri in her drawing might be. DeLio (1973) claimed that, in his practice, the youngest child to spontaneously identify the drawn figure as a self-image was six years of age. It is more likely that Roberta was engaged in visual problem solving. This opinion results from observation. Each time Roberta was asked to draw a person, she produced the same drawing. And each time, she changed one feature of the drawing, apparently directing her energies at solving the visual and motor problems the drawing posed for her. Sometimes the change was noted in the position of an arm, the styling of the hair, the presence or absence of shoes. It is also possible that the drawing represents a story, since she demonstrated the same level of persistence and attention to detail when she worked on her Easter Egg story. These drawings exemplify the power of symbols to young children. As fourand five-year-olds, drawing provided them the means of vividly communicating their ideas, feelings, and concerns, and may have even contributed to problem solving. As the children entered the final week of the school year, it was most gratifying to see Angela and Chariissa sitting side-by-side in friendly conversation, and Angela standing before her friend with the spontaneous request, "Gimme a hug" (5/27/97)! The giris

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79 embraced each other, then reclaimed their seats to continue the conversation. That same day, a grandmother visiting the classroom exclaimed, "I cannot believe these are the same children I fist saw in early September. What a difference." In this study, imitative, instructed, and collaborative learning were inseparable fi-om play. Imitative learning is derived "from" social dialogues with others. From it, the children demonstrated their understanding of the relevance of another's feelings and behaviors. Instructed learning began before and continued after the children entered the learning environment of the preschool classroom. From it, the children displayed an ability to recognize and understand how an adult or peer views a given situation or task. To do this, the children got into the other's skin, figuratively speaking. Collaborative learning relied on the concept of reflective agent and involved integrated perspective taking or relective intersubjectivity. Imitative and instructed learnings constituted social knowledge or social cognition and prepared the children for collaborative learning fi-om which they derived cultural transmission. Social cognition and cultural transmission are, therefore, ftindamental to the acquisition of positive prosocial skills and social problem-solving strategies that enhance successfiil peer interactions and foster the formation of fiiendships, all within the social context of play. In addition, play offers young children opportunities to acquire linguistic skills that facilitate different points of view, resolve disputes, and persuade peers to collaborate. Pretend play contributes a powerful zone of proximal development. These findings have shovm that play, by its very nature, is indispensable in the lives of at-risk preschoolers.

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CHAPTER FIVE FINDINGS: The Components of Play The third research questions asked; "What are the components of play?" And the fourth posed the question, "How does the classroom influence the play of at-risk preschoolers'^" This chapter reports and interprets findings from observations that relate to the components of play. What AreThe Components of Play *^ In the Piagetian scheme of development, play is the incorporation of the world to match a child's personal concepts. When a young child uses a fiisbee as the steering wheel of a car, that is assimilation. Through play, the child assimilates newly learned concepts such as the shape of a circle. The child then generalizes this new concept to new objects and configurations like small plastic disks~as in bingo-for circles. In other words, work precedes play (Elkind, 1988). There is no question that work and play are interrelated, and Vygotsky places them both within a sociocultural context. The children learn through collaborative play, and new learnings are reflected in their play as they interact with adults and peers. From these interactions, children derive new insights or knowledge. Both Piaget and Vygotsky have stated that play facilitates the total development of young children (Piaget, 1972; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). Play comprises five components: physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive development (Cartwright, 1988). Physical Development For at-risk preschoolers, physical development emphasizes motor skills such as catching, jumping, hopping and skipping; building structures fi-om pictorial representaions; touching fingers; cutting within defined parameters; matching objects, copying letters, numbers, shapes, and writing one's name. These skills are enhanced in play 80

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81 situations and the children derive many added benefits to their overall development (Cartwright, 1988). Outside play incorporates the coordination and enhancement of motor skills. Jumping, hopping, running, skipping, kicking, throwing, and catching all enhance fine motor skills and abilities that boost self confidence and social competence. Five of the boys engage in a pretend football game. Dennis is the kicker, but he can only make very short kicks. Mr. Don: Hold the ball for him. Wow! What a kick [He high-five's Dennis]. Dennis: Am I good, or what? Mark kicks the ball, and David catches it. Mr. Don: David, David, Wow! The crowd is going wild! David's face is beaming, but he says nothing. The boys continue to get a good work out on spatial concepts with the ball (Observation, 3/17/97). When Mr. Don entered the children's fantasy, he expanded it and, in the blending of reality and fantasy, he helped the boys to transform what was a pretend game into an opportunity to grapple with the reality of their physical skills and motivated them to try harder. The more they tried, the better they became at it. And the experience appeared to be totally satisfying to the five boys. By the end of play, each boy was able to do better that which he could not do well before. In the process, the boys had significantly enhanced their eye-hand coordination, depth perception, spatial awareness, balance, and sense of direction. The same can be said of small group play with unit blocks, which facilitates a progression fi-om the simple to the complex in motor development (Cartwright, 1988). The children erected buildings and bridges. They worked consistently and perseveringly as they maneuvered themselves around the structures they created as they discussed.

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82 praised, and swapped ideas about each other's work. They were also very careful about not destroying another child's structure (2/10/97). Play with unit blocks contributed to the development of large and small motor coordination and sensitive eye-hand integration. It improved their spatial awareness, sense of balance, and body control. As an added bonus, the children were developing their langauge skills as they communicated in the course of play, and they learned to respect the contribution others made to the play situation. All of these skills enhance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers. Social Development Play is a group activity in which the children pool their resources. This is evident in pretend or sociodramatic play, where children grapple with the reality of the world as they try to make sense of their experiences. In the process, they emulate adult behaviors from which they derive social and cultural learning. Through adult scaffolding, a boy learns the need for self-reliance. Mr. Dunn, a substitute teacher, is supervising outdoor play. David and two male friends are riding tricycles, and they pretend that the tricycles are cars. David drives up to an imaginary pump, where an attendant—Mr. Dunn—is standing. David moves the car closer to the pump, gets out of the car, and goes through the motions of filling his tank with gas (3/17/97). Emotional Development When the learning environment is consistent, predictable, and non-threatening to young children, they are free to be themselves, and their creativity will flourish. Favorable regard from the others in the environment affords them a sense of deep satisfaction about what they accomplish, and encourages openess to new experiences. Stanley accidently David: Mr. Don: David: Mr. Dunn David: It's self service. Help yourself Ah know it, but Am in a hurry. That's O.K. Just help yourself Man' o' Man. O.K.! Hey, Bro'! Can you gimme a fill up?

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83 walks on Charlissa's picture of a turkey. She kicks him. He turns around, looks at her and says, "Am sorry! Am sorry!" Then he hugs her, and she kisses him on the cheek (2/13/97). The behavior of both children surprised those who witnessed the emerging conflict. Charlissa displays impulsive behavior; Stanley is aggressive. Yet these two atrisk children used strategies that facilitated a win-win outcome. He offered a verbal cue; she offered a physical cue. The psychologist Daniel Goleman (1995) argued that, in information processing, an individual's response to a situation addresses the area of the brain that controls emotions seconds before it reaches the area that controls reasoned responses. Subsequently, he concluded that the development of emotional intelligence was equally significant to the development of cognitive intelligence. Intellectual Development Intellectual development is cognitive development achieved through concept formation. The at-risk preschoolers demonstrate their intellectual development by naming colors; identifying body parts; counting numbers-one to ten; identifying coin currency; identifying concepts on the basis of ability to categorize, make comparisons, and understand opposites; naming letters; and sorting items by color, shape, and size. These skills are the basis of reading readiness, and they are introduced in language learning activities, reinforced in whole group reading of related materials, and internalized in games and songs, with adult scaffolding. Stanley and David are interacting positively. They share a book. Stanley: David: Oh! Ah know what dis is. My name [he recognizes the first letter of his name]. What is the sound at the start of your name? David, Da. Good. That's a D. That's the letter D. Mr. Dunn: David: Mr. Dunn: The boys continue to interact. Stanley: Oh, ah know this one. That's a E. Mr. Durm: That's very good.

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84 David: I know this one. Um, Um. Mr. Dunn; What's in the picture? David: Fedders. Mr. Dunn: What's the first sound you hear in "feathers"? Both Boys: Fa. Mr. Dunn: Good. The letter is... F. (Observation, 3/17/97) Play with unit blocks and large blocks is also instrumental in intellectual or cognitive development (Cartwright, 1988, 1990). It is, perhaps, one of the most usefiil play items in the preschool classroom. Play involves concrete operations such as one-onone correspondence, counting, matching, sorting, fitting blocks to spaces, and using fi-actional parts of a whole m meaningfiil relationships. Unit blocks also encourage productive thinking and experimentation. The children build and rebuild until they are satisfied. Finally, unit blocks encourage problem solving. Joseph is building a bridge, but he is not happy with its appearance. Charlissa suggests that he use even-sized blocks at both ends of the bridge. He looks at it and concludes that the bridge is off-center because a great big truck ran into it. Play vAth blocks requires verbal representation and interchange among the children; it encourages successful language usage and reading readiness. Intuitive Development Pretend play offers the best opportunities for exercising symbolic schemes that foster creativity and new insights. Charissa is decorating the pages of a book. She makes a scrawl in red. Then she makes swirls in the same color over the page. The swirls crisscross heavily in areas of the page and lightly in other areas. She shows it to the teacher. An examination of Vygotsky's theory reveals that the benefits of play are complex and may take years to be realized (Nicolopoulou, 1991), and support exists for Vygotsky's Charlissa: Teacher: Charlissa: Look what I did. Oh, what is it? It's my heart. It's beating fast and hard. I think I'm going to die [She closes the book and moves away]. (Observation, 1 1/22/97)

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85 view that play contributes to the development of a diverse array of capacities in young children. Sociodramatic play is the coordinated and reciprocal pretending with peers that emerges when children are approximately two and one-half years old and increases rapidly until ages four and five. During pretend play, preschoolers interact longer, show more involvement, draw larger numbers of children into the activity, and are more cooperative (Connolly, Doyle, & Reznick, 1988; Petrakos and Howe, 1996). Judith engages in problem solving. Dressed in high heels, she walks slowly around the room. Finally she sits at a table. Judith: What should I say? Should I say "Yes" or should I say "No." Judith repeats the question twice, and very slowly each time. Then she approaches Stanley. Judith: Stanley, what do you think? Should I be friends with Dennis? Stanley: Yes. Judith and Stanley whisper in each other's ear. Dennis observes the interaction and walks toward them, but Judith avoids him and seeks out Jacquita, who has her baby in a hamper on her back as she goes about her motheriy tasks. She asks the same question of Jacquita as she had of Stanley. Jacquita's response is negative. The two giris discuss the matter quietly for some time, then they walk over to Dennis. Others are within hearing distance, and Judith hesitates. Jacquita: Go on. Tell him. Judith: Dennis, we've decided to make it up. (Observation, 3/17/97) Judith wanted to cultivate a friendship with Dennis, but she was being coy. Jacquita and Stanley's responses indicated that she had already discussed the problem with them. Judith liked order. And she contrived to achieve her goal and, at the same time, avoid confusion. Stanley's response complicated matters somewhat, and she decided to use Jacquita as an intermediary. However, Jacquita preferred that Judith should speak for

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86 herself and forced her to address Dennis, directly. Judith does so, but chooses her words very carefully, intimating that it is Dennis who wishes to reestablish an old friendship. For a five-year-old girl, this was surely a creative solution to a ticklish problem. When one considers these findings from the standpoint of Vygotsky's emphasis on the social origins of cognition, it is not surprising that preschoolers who spend more time at sociodramatic play are advanced in general intellectual development and show an enhanced ability to understand the feelings of others. They are also seen as more socially competent by their teachers (Berk, 1994; Connolly & Doyle, 1984). The components of play are the activities that promote learning and facilitate physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive development of the children. These components are indispensible to the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers. Each component contributes in its own special way to the total development of the child and, together, they encourage creativity and disciplined independence in these young children. How Does the Classroom Influence Play ? To facilitate the development of social competence in at-risk preschoolers, it appears that a number of variables coalesce and, in so doing, provide an environment that is conducive to the children's getting along and creating friendships, key factors in children's play. These variables include the arrangement of the learning environment, making choices, and adult-child interaction. Arrangement of the Cla ssrnnm Upon first entering the classroom, one immediately made two observations: (a) one did not have a clear view of the entire room from any given point, (b) and there was an air of confijsion in the room. It appeared that the physical arrangement of the room contributed, significantly, to the sense of chaos that once existed. There was a large, metal teacher's desk. It was cluttered with papers piled high. Next to it were a large bookcase and a tall plant. These three items were grouped in the middle of the classroom.

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87 And child-sized chairs and tables and other items of furniture were positioned so that they added to the confusion. For the children, the environment stimulated the enactment of games like "Tag" or "Catch Me If You Can" and effectively hindered the progress of any adult who sought to terminate an unacceptable behavior in the classroom. This, then, was the social setting of the classroom for peer interaction in the first week of observations, and the children's behaviors precipitated the ensuing "shut down" of the classroom. Scales (1984) argued that, in play situations, meaning for children is situated. In other words, the social features of the preschool play settings represent an implied curriculum. Children's play interactions provide evidence of their understanding of the implied expectations of play settings, and the strategies they come to use in advancing their social goals demonstrate their levels of communicative and social competence. Following the shut down, the appearance of the classroom was modified. All physical obstacles to classroom management had been removed. The room was spacious, and the walls bore colorful posters and examples of the children's art work, as well as classroom basics like an attendance board, the daily schedule, letters of the alphabet, numbers, and so on. Each item in the room was identified by a tag bearing its name. The daily schedule had been modified, too. In lieu of one outside play period, there were two. This added outdoor time was particularly advantageous to aggressive children who described themselves as "hyper," and for whom all attempts at "rough and tumble" play were immediately terminated. Pelligrini and Perlmutter (1988) reported that children who engage in aggressive behaviors tend to be disliked by their peers, are poor at social problem solving, and unable to discriminate between accident and intentional behavior. These researchers also reported that rough and tumble play is positively related to social competence, since rough and tumble interaction leads to games that are rule-governed, a highly desirable and prosocial form of play. And boys who engage in rough and tumble play become good problem solvers. These children learn to use and practice skills that are important for the

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88 development of social competence: reciprocal role taking, sharing, social perspective taking, entering on-going play events, and distinguishing between real and play fighting. These findings supported work done by Oden and Asher (1977), who designed a program that enables aggressive children to distinguish between rough-and-tumble play and aggression and, at the same time, acquire social competence. Another program change was the addition of play centers. Initially there were five identifiable centers: housekeeping, village, literacy, unit blocks, and science/math. From time to time, the units blocks and science/math areas were adapted to meet the needs of small interest groups at fi-ee play time. By late January, four new centers had been added: sandbox, large blocks, gravel table, and an outside table for writing or impromptu play. Music in the Classroom Music helped to create an atmosphere that fostered positive interactions like sharing, taking turns, and cooperating during play. Musical selections included Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," Gounod's "Ave Maria," Anderson's "Toyland," and "All Through the Night." This kind of music was soothing and helped to calm the children after outside play. At other times, music served to enhance information processing by reinforcing earlier learnings. "The Alphabet Song, "Roll Over," and "The Numbers Rock" aided review and recall of letters and numbers fi-om one to twenty and counting backward fi-om one to ten. "Simon Says," and "If You're Happy and You Know It" helped the children recall the names of body parts; "The Cookie Jar Song" and "Doggie, Doggie, Where's Your Bone" encouraged turn taking; and "The Macarena" stimulated everone's desire to move their bodies in dance. Decorations and holiday music created a festive atmosphere for the children and motivated in them a desire to prepare gifts and cards for parents and fiiends. The children's responses to the new environment of the classroom were positive. They did not all demonstrate acceptable play interactions, but the fi-equency and degree of unacceptable responses had noticeably decreased and facilitated classroom management.

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89 The children hummed and sang as they played. Sometimes, Mark, Jacqueline, and Charlissa could be seen moving their bodies in time to the music without a conscious awareness of doing so. Another contributing factor may have been the absence of Leonard and Lincoln, who were no longer enrolled in the program. Making Choices For at-risk preschoolers, an essential element in acquiring social competence is the ability to make choices. In tandem with making choices is the acceptance of responsibility for one's behavior. Making choices helps young children to feel that they have a measure of control, and that they are responsible beings (Kelman, 1990). Judith demonstrated this when she expressed her feelings about finding the computer room on her own (2/24/97). At the start of the study, some things were done for the children. Their food was placed before them, and drinks were poured at the table, or the children were provided with individual cartons of milk. By the second semester, they were allowed to go to the food table and choose their own plate, table by table, one at a time. The children learned that the choices they made affected others as well as themselves. David shouts out, "I want more chicken," and he gets a second helping. However, the teacher got none (1/24/97). And ahhough each plate contained a balanced meal, Raoul tries to find the plate with the most food on it. By the time he finds it, someone else is walking away with it (2/17/97). For the first hour each morning, the children were asked to choose a play activity until it was time for breakfast. At sociodramatic/pretend play time, each child chose the center at which she or he wanted to play and explained why she or he had chosen thusly. They also made choices for art and drawing and individual reading and writing. For outdoor play each child was again asked to choose a playmate, then join the line. Early in the second semester, a routine was developed to encourage individual acceptance of responsibility. A nylon folder with 16 plastic pockets was taped to one wall in the classroom. Over the folder were the words "CLASS JOBS." Each pocket was

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90 approximately two inches wide. There were 1 5 small manila envelopes, each placed in a separate pocket. On the front of each envelope, there was a picture of a child with her or his name typed below the picture, and the child's first name, written by the teacher, below the printed name. Protruding from each envelope was a small white card. On the card there was a picture about a task, and under it were words describing the given task. For example, "Straighten Books" is written under a picture of a book. One by one, each child was asked to go to her or his pocket, remove the card, tell the group what the card said, then replace it and return to her or his seat. The children were not able to read the words, but read the cues provided in the picture (1/24/97). Each Friday afternoon, the cards were rotated, so that each child had an opportunity to perform each task. The children responded positively to this challenge. This was an invaluable experience: (a) it enabled each child to identify her or his name in print and encouraged turn taking , trading, and cooperating; (b) it provided an exercise in democracy. The children learned that one cannot alway get away with what one wants but must be prepared to make compromises or make alternative choices. By doing these things, they were contributing to the smooth flow of classroom activities. As the children learned to make choices, they also learned that there are clearly defined limits to what they could and could not do; and that some choices are spelled out by the adult in charge. A child did not have a choice of verbally or physically attacking another child. At group time, each child had to sit and listen quietly until it was her or his turn to talk. Children sat at meal time, they ran outdoors, and they used "inside" and "outside" voices. The children sometimes expressed resentment of the "teacher rules" which they interpreted as infringements on their freedom to do as they wish. However, they also resorted to those same rules when it became expedient to their personal goals. From time to time, a child sought to circumvent her or his responsibility by practicing deception. Jake, Raoul, and Stanley are riding tricycles. They race each other along a paved path. Stanley runs into the back of Raoul's tricycle, and the force of the blow

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91 throws Raoul off the bike and onto the concrete, causing bruising on his left elbow. The teacher confronts Stanley: Teacher. Stanley, why do you have to ride so fast and so close to Raoul? Stanley: I wasn' ridin' fas'. He was racin' and he hit me [ahhough Raoul was in front of him as they rode]. Teacher: Stanley, you caused Raoul to get hurt; you should apologize to him. Stanley refuses to apologize. He loses the rest of his play time and must return to the classroom and a nap. (Observation, 2/1 1/97) To his chagrin, Stanley learned that every behavior results from a choice one makes, and that for every choice there is a consequence, sometimes severe. For these at-risk preschoolers, learning to make choices and recognizing that each one is responsible for her or his action took time. The classroom is a microcosm of the real world and, in that world, children sometimes have choices, and sometimes, they do not. The context of the situation determines the presence or absence of choices. It is important that at-risk preschoolers know what is and what is not a choice and when there is a choice. At the same time, children can handle complexity, if they are helped to understand it (Kelman, 1990). Adult-Child Interaction The children interacted in an environment that nurtured growth and development. Throughout the observations, there were three and, later, four adults who interacted with them on a daily basis. Support staff did the same at regular intervals. However, the primary adults in the children's lives were the teacher, teacher-aides, and language specialist. Mrs. White, the teacher, was gentle and caring, and she never swerved from her commitment to the children, not even when Leonard lost control and punched her in the face (10/17/96). She was a professional for whom the children came first. In discussing this incident later that day, Mrs. White declared, "If I can bring about a significant change

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92 in the life of just one of these children, I would feel that I have accomplished something worthwhile" (10/17/96). Mrs. White was a graduate of the local community college, where she earned an associate degree in child development. The school where the study was conducted was the last in the county to institute a Head Start program, and this was Mrs. White's first year at the school. Initially, she was assisted by one teacher-aide, Mrs. Weems, who left the program after six weeks "because the children were too difficult and too wild, and she had had enough of them" (10/18/96). Following the modification of the classroom and the departure of Mrs. Weems, there were two new aides: Consuela Diego and Ella Sharpe (1 1/4/96). In addition, one of the mothers, Martha Wates, volunteered her services in the classroom. There were then four adults in daily interaction with the children, all females. Two of them were AfiicanAmericans, one was Latina, and one was white. Early impressions are important in the development of young children, and this investigator believes that it was advantageous for these at-risk preschoolers to see that people of diverse backgrounds can work together. Consuela Diego came fi-om a family in South America. She is married and the mother of a young child enrolled at this school. She, too, holds an associate degree in child development. Miss Consuela, as the children called her, is petite, and she exuded warmth and love. The children could not get enough of her. They fi-equently made requests like, "Miss Consuela, gimme a hug," or "Miss Consuela, tell us a story." In response to such a request, she would tell them a LatinAmerican folk tale to which they could relate. Often there would be peels of laughter coming fi-om the group of four or five children around her. Sometimes, that laughter drew others to the group as well. At other times, she would teach them one of their favorite songs in Spanish. They liked that a lot. Miss Consuela left the program at the end of March because of complications with pregnancy. For four years Ella Sharpe was a volunteer worker for the county school board. She holds a bachelor's degree in sociology; in her own words, it

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93 focused my energies in working with children. This was a very personal choice for me because I saw the need to have loving and caring adults work with young children. I also believe that I could always learn something from my experiences with the children, and I feel that success depends on cooperation and understanding among aduh participants in the program. (Interview, 5/2/97) Martha Wates was an untrained helper whose contribution to classroom management was deeply appreciated. To the children she was Miss Martha. As the school year was coming to a close. Miss Martha was hired as a teacher-aide for the coming school year with the expectation that she would complete the requirements for her new position. Finally, there was the language specialist, Joy Garland, whose focus was those children with speech or language problems. Miss Garland was warm and engaging with the children. And unless the observer was apprised of the target children in this classroom, she was everybody's language teacher. She came in one day of each week. These were the individuals who exercised control in the classroom, thereby influencing the play activities of the children. And, as Miss Sharpe succinctly stated, success depends on understanding and cooperation among those in charge. These adults worked as a team, and their efforts were bolstered by the teacher specialist, Anima Good, whose frequent visits to the classroom assured the advancement of the curriculum. Miss Good interacted with the children on a limited basis. She is a gentle person with a soft voice and a ready smile. She is well-experienced in working with young children and is herself a grandmother. She was instrumental in the modification of the classroom and the curriculum. Her main function was that of guiding the adults and, through them, the advancement of developmental skills of these at-risk preschoolers.

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CHAPTER SIX CONCLUSSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The study was guided by four questions. What is the role of play? How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers? What are the components of play'' How does the classroom influence play? This chapter presents a summary of the findings that respond to these questions. The chapter also draws some conclusions and gives recommendations for practice and for future investigations. Summary The first question asked, "What is the role of play?" A finding indicated that social information processing is fiindamental to the social competence of at-risk preschoolers. This finding is consistent with eariier research. A child brings to the play situation a set of relevant social skills and dispositions, as well as a data base of remembered, similar, past experiences. These past experiences contain social cues such as facial expressions, specific events that led to the creation of those expressions, and the reaction of observers. These social learnings are derived fi-om dialogue with others (Flavell, et al, 1993; Tomasello, et al, 1993, Tudge, 1992; Vygotsky, 1933/1978). During encoding representation, the child attends to and interprets the social cues present in the situation. As the child matures, she or he must learn to discriminate as to which cues are relevant and which are not, associate them into previous social knowledge, and interpret them accurately. Depending on the child's social awareness, she or he may search for added information to test her or his interpretation. The child then searches fijrther for possible responses to the present situation, considers the pros and cons of each, selects an appropriate response, and carries it out (Dodge, 1986). 94

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95 A second finding showed that aggressive strategies of at-risk preschoolers lead to noncompliance and conflict situations. This finding is consistent with previous research. A number of studies have shown that children who suggest more aggressive strategies tend to act more aggressively. The aggressive child has difficulty distinguishing between accident and purposeful behavior and, in general, considers an accident as an intentional act against his person (Dodge, et al, 1984; Malloy & McMurray, 1996, Ventura-Cook, 1995). Such a child tends to strike back without any consideration of a workable solution (Dodge, et al, 1986; Krasnor & Rubin, 1983; Shantz, 1987). Dodge (1986) also found that a highly aggressive child may conduct a biased search, consider only deviant responses, and react on a purely emotional basis. A child's emotional state affects and is affected by each step in the process of social thinking. An upset child may attend to a restricted range of social cues, and the information obtained merely serves to provide fiirther stimulation to an aggressive response (Dodge, 1991). The second study question asked, "How does play advance the development of social competence of at-risk preschoolers?" A finding showed that mixed-age collaborative play enhances prosocial skills and problem solving strategies of at-risk preschoolers. Vygotsky (1933/1988) theorized that play is a zone of proximal development. The zone of proximal development is the difference between the child's present problem solving abilities and his potential problem solving capabilities under adult guidance and the collaboration of her or his more capable peers. Earlier studies have shown that preschoolers benefit fi-om the social interaction and subsequent insights derived from adult and peer scaffolding (Wood, 1989). Social play with peers requires intersubjectivity, a process in which children involved in the same activity begin with different perspectives and arrive at shared understandings. Goncu (1993) found that children achieve a high level of intersubjectivity or psychological fianctioning as they coordinate several roles in an elaborate plot and respond in a complementary manner to each other's contribution. Ervin-Tripp (1991) found that language is greatly enhanced by

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96 play experiences, during which chidren correct each other's speech directly or demonstrate acceptable ways to speak. However, not all studies show consistent findings. Vygotsky declared that more competent peers may be effective in assisting a less competent child's development, but he did not discuss the impact of such collaboration on the more competent child's thinking (Vygotsky, 1933/1978). Tudge (1992) found that regression in thinking was as likely a consequence as improvement, both proving stable. The younger children in the study gained fi-om the collaborative experience, the older, more capable peers did not. The third question asked, "What are the components of play''" The study found that the components of play are the activities that become the building blocks for the enhancement of physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitive development of young children. These components advance the total development of at-risk prechoolers. This finding is consistent vAth earlier research. A child's total development requires that the curriculum speaks to her or his physical, social, emotional, intellectual, and intuitional development. For the at-risk preschooler, all of these requirements are satisfied in the process of collaborative play interaction. Play equates to total development. Cartwright (1988,1990) found that collaborative play provides significantly meaningfiil opportunities for the development of readiness skills that promote fijture learning and school success. The fourth question asked, "How does the classroom influence play?" The study showed that the social context of play influences peer interactions of at-risk preschoolers. This finding is consistent with previous research. Scales (1984) found that the play of preschoolers was consistent with the children's understanding of the implied expectations of the play environment. Other studies found that the physical design and thematic arrangement of play centers stimulated higher levels of peer interaction and attracted more children to the play situation (Howe, 1993; Howe, et al, 1994; Petrakos & Howe, 1996 ). A finding showed that music enhances the ambiance of the classroom. Music calmed the children after outside play and predisposed them to approach new experiences

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97 with a positive attitude. The music ranged from classical selections to songs that reinforced knowledge of and facilitated recall of letter names, numbers, colors, and body parts. Another finding indicated that the ability to make choices promotes self control and an acceptance of responsibility for one's actions in at-risk preschoolers. This finding is consistent with earlier research. Kelman (1990) found that making choices was a key factor in the acquisition of social competence of preschoolers. In the availability of making choices, children acquire self confidence, and the knowledge that they have a measure of control within the learning environment. Control fosters an acceptance of personal responsibility. A finding showed that caring and supportive adults in the play environment promote positive peer interaction and enhance social competence of at-risk preschoolers. This finding is consistent with earlier research. Lucariello (1987) found aduh scaffolding of children's interactions is most successful in involving children further in play and boosts the children's social competence. And O'Keefe and Johnston (1989) found that the teacher and the curriculum are catalysts for social success in the preschool classroom Perspective taking is the common thread, and caring, supportive adults promote cognitive development via adaptive communicative behaviors that support the advancement of the children's social competence. Conclusions Each participant in this study brought to the preschool classroom her or his cultural background or world view. For many of the children, their past individual experiences placed them at a disadvantage when compared to their peers. In the school environment, they lacked the kinds of reciprocal interactions that would facilitate the development of skills that predict readiness for the kindergarten experience. Because the realities of the learning environment did not fit into many of the world views, much learning was necessary.

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98 Play is everything to a young child. To play one must have friends. To have friends one must be able to demonstrate prosocial skills that make possible getting along with one's peers. Prosocial skills enhance a young child's social competence. And social competence facilitates positive interactions with adults and peers in the learning environment. Social competence includes the ability to empathize with others. That is, the young child must recognize and understand the feelings of others and why they feel as they do. To accomplish this, the child must recognize the social markers or cues that are present in the play situation. These cues include facial, physical, and environmental clues. The child must experience the need to read these cues, associate them with remembered past experiences, recognize them for what they are and choose an appropriate problemsolving strategy that would enable her or him to deal adequately with the existing play situation. The at-risk preschooler cannot do this very well. She or he recognizes the social cues, but may not read them because she or he fails to understand their significance, does not see the need to look for them, or simply does not wish to look for them. Therefore, her or his response to stimuli in the play situation is, most oflen, inappropriate to the existing situation. She or he is not making use of the social knowledge derived from mother-child play interactions. This study was an in-depth inquiry of an early intervention program for at-risk preschoolers. In this investigator's humble opinion, the program was successful. And many factors contributed to that success. The learning environment; the provision of many, many opportunities for play, particulariy for mixed-age collaborative play; and the adults who caringly and lovingly nurtured the children through their preschool experience. At-risk preschoolers do not have to fail! Recommendation*; The focus of this study was the role of play in advancing the social competence of at-risk preschoolers. An outcome of the study was that play is a vehicle for the total development of at-risk preschoolers and fosters the development and enhancement of

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99 prosocial skills and problem solving strategies that, together, promote social competence in these young children. From this perspective of play, there are several implications that follow: 1. Every at-risk preschooler should have access to a play-rich environment. This necessitates the need for well thought out intervention programs. 2. Support programs for teachers of young children should be set up. These programs would help teachers to understand what makes a young child at-risk of failure, and how play can help that child develop. 3. These programs should also introduce teachers to imitative, instructive and collaborative learning techniques that can bring about an affective transformation in the behavior of at-risk preschoolers and can address the needs of young children throughout the state and nation who fit into this classification. 4. Teachers of at-risk preschoolers must be able to function in a play-rich curriculum. 5. The adults who interact with at-risk preschoolers should represent a diversity of backgrounds and outlooks. This enables the children to bond easily with the adults who guide their learning. And the diversity within the learning environment enhances the insights that the children derive from collaborative play situations. 6. Teachers should introduce conflict resolution techniques early in the school year. This would enable at-risk preschoolers to talk about their feelings with each other instead of using other less desirable means of settling differences. This interaction would also help at-risk preschoolers to recognize and understand the importance of other people's feelings. In this study, conflict acted as a barier to the development of social competence. 7. There should be music in the play environment. Music calms the children after outside play and predisposes them to approach new experiences with a positive attitude.

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100 8. Finally, this was an exploratory study and, although the resuhs comprise findings that are consistent with previous research on typically developing young children, they suggest a need for fiarther investigation. The study could be broadened to incorporate the development of prosocial skills and problem-solving strategies of similar groups of at-risk preschoolers and typically developing young children in a play-rich curriculum.

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REFERENCES Asher, S R., & Renshaw, P.D. (1981). Children without friends: social knowledge and social skill training. In S R. Asher and J.M. Gottman (Eds.), The development of children's friendships (273-296). New York; Cambridge University Press. Baruch, C. (1991). The Influence of the Mother-Child Relationship on the Emergence of Symbolic Play. ERIC Microfiche. ED 340465. Beaty, J. (1992). Skills for preschool teachers New York: Merrill. Berk, L.E. (1994, Nov.). Vygotsky's theory: The importance of make-believe play. Young Children . 50 (1), 30-39. Bemdt, T. (1982). The features and effects of friendship in early adolescence. Child Develop ment 53, 1447-1460. Black, B. (1992). Negotiating social pretend play: Communication differences related to social status and sex. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 38,2,212-232. Boldizar, J., Khatri, P., & Jones, E. (1991, April). Parents' Disciplinary Strategies, Children's Outcome Cognitions, and Aggression. Paper presented at the Biennal Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. Booth, C, Rose-Krasnor, L., «& Rubin, K. (1991, April). How do children learn skills: Relating maternal beliefs to mother and child behavior. Paper presented at the Biennal Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. Bowen,H.C. (1909). Froebel and Education Throug h Self-Activity New York: Charles Scribner Sons. Brown, R. (1973). A First Language The Early StagPQ Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Bumstein, E., & Worchel, P. (1962). Arbitrariness of frustration and its consequences for aggression in a social situation. Journal nf Personality 30, 528-540. Cairns, R., «S: Cairns, B. (1984). Lifelines and risks Pathways of vonth in m.r timf> «^ Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 101

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102 Cairns, R., Cairns, B , & Neckerman, H. (1989). Early school drop out: Configurations and determinants. Child Development , 60, 1437-1452. Cairns, R., Cairns, B., Neckerman, H., Gest, S., & Gariepy, J. (1988). Social networks and aggressive behavior: Peer support or peer rejection? Developmental Psychology . 24, 815-823. Cairns, R., Gariepy, J., & Kinderman, T. (1990). Identifying social clusters in natural settings. Unpublished manuscript. Cartwright, S. (1988) Play can be the building blocks of learning. Young Children , 43 (5), 44-47. Cartwright, S. (1990, Mar ). Learning with large blocks. Young Children , 45 (3), 38-41. Caspi, A., Elder, G., & Bem, D. (1989). Moving against the world: Life course patterns of explosive children. Developmental Psychology 23, 308-313. V Cauley, K.L., & Tyler, B. (1989). The relationship of self-concept to prosocial behavior in children. Early Childhood Research Quarterly , 4, 5 1 -60. Coie, J., Dodge, K , & Kupersmidt, J. (1990). Peer group behavior and social status. In S. R. Asher & J. D. Coie (Eds ), The rejected child (389-409). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Coie, J., & Kupersmidt, J. (1983). A behavioral analysis of emerging social status in boys' play groups. Child Develop ment 54, 1400-1416. Combs, A.W. (1991). The Schools We Need New As.sumptions for Rdiicatinnal Reform . New York: University Press of America. Combs, A.W., Avila, D.L., & Purkey, W.W. (1971). Helping Relationship.s Basic Concents for the Helping Professions Boston, MA: Allyn and Bacon, Inc. Comenius, J.A. (1977). School of Infancy: An essay on the education of youth during the first six years (W. S. Monroe, Ed ). Boston: D C. Heath & Company (first German publication 163 3, first English translation 1858). Connolly, J. A., & Doyle, A.B. (1984). Relations of social fantasy play to social competence in preschoolers. Developmental Psychnlngy 20, 797-806. ^ Connolly, J.A., Doyle, A.B , «& Reznick, E. (1988). Social pretend play and social interaction in preschoolers. Journal of A pplied Developmental Psy rholopy 9,301-313.

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103 Cosaro, W.A. (1985). Friendship and peer culture in the early years . Norwood, N.J.: Ablex. Cummings, E., lannotti, R., & Zahn-waxler, C. (1989). Aggression between peers in early childhood: Individual continuity and developmental change. Child Development , 60, 887-895. DiLeo, J.H. (1983). Interpreting Children's Drawings . New York: Brunner/Mazel. DiLeo, J R. (1973). Children's Drawings as Diagnostic Aids . New York: Brunner/Mazel. Dewey, J. (1916). Democracy and Education : An introduction to the philosophy of education. New York: The Macmillan Company. Dissinger, L.G. (1991). The Relationship of Eariy Home Environment and Later Cognitive and Social Competence in High Risk Infants Doctoral Dissertation. Temple University. Dodge, K. A. (1991). Emotion and social information processing. In J. Garber and K.A. Dodge (Eds ), The Development of E motion Regulation and Disregulation (220-295). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Dodge, K.A. (1986). A social information processin model of social competence in children. In M. Perimutter (Ed ), Cognitive perspectives on children's social and behavioral development The Minnesota Symposia on Child Psychology (Vol. 18. 77-125). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Dodge, K.A. (1983). Behavioral antecedents of peer social status. Child Development , 54, 1386-1399. Dodge, K. A., Coie, J. D., Pettit, G. S., & Price, J. M. (1990). Peer status and aggression in boys' groups: Developmental and contextual analyses. Child Development 61, 1289-1309. Dodge, K.A., Murphy, R.M., & Buchsbaum, K. (1984). The assessment of intention-cue discrimination cues in children: Implications for developmental psychopathology. Child Develop ment 55, 163-173. V Dodge,K.A.,Pettit,G.S.,McClaskey,C.L.,& Brown, M M. (1986). Social competence in children. Monograph of the Society for Research in Child Development 51 (2, Serial No. 213).

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104 Dodge, K.A. & Price, J.M. (1994, Oct.). On the relation between social information processing and socially competent behavior in early school-aged children. Child Development , 65 (5), 1385-1397. Downs, R.B. (1978). Friederich Froebel . Boston: Twayne Publishers. Dyson, A.H (1988, Mar ). Appreciate the drawing and dictating of young children. Yo ung C h ildren, 43 (3), 25-32. Elder, J., & Pederson, D. (1978). Preschool children's use of objects in symbolic play. Child Development , 49, 500-504. Elkin, D. (1988, Jul ). Play. Young Children 43 (5), 2. Epstein, J.L. (1989). The selection of friends: Changes across grades and in different school environments. In T.J. Bemdt and G.W. Ladd (Eds ), Peer relationships in child development (1 58-1 87). New York: Wiley. Ervin-Tripp, S. (1991). Play in language development. In B. Scales, M. Almy, A. Nicolopoulou, & S. Ervin-Tripp (Eds ), Play and the social context of development in early c are and education r84-97;> New York: Teachers College Press. Farver, J. A. M. (1996). Aggressive behavior in preschoolers' social networks: Do birds of a feather flock together? Early Childhood Research Quarterly 1 1, 333-350. Flavell, J.H., Miller, P.H., & Miller, S.A. (1993). Cognitive Develop ment Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Flavell, J.H., Botkin, P.T., Fry, C.L., Wright, J.W., & Jarvis, P.E. (1975). The developmen t of rol e-ta kin g a n d c omm unication .skills in children Huntington, NY: Robert E. Krieger Publishing Company (First published, NY: John Wiley, 1968). Ford, M.E., & Thompson, R.A. (1985). Perceptions of personal agency and infant attachment: Toward a life-span perspective on competence and development. Int ernational Journal of Behavioral Develop ment, 8 (4), 377-406. Foreman, E. A. (1987). Learning through peer interaction: A Vygotskian perspective. Genetic Epi stemologist 15, 6-15. Foucault, M. (1984). Truth and power. In P. Rainbow (EdX The Foucanlt Reader (51-75). New York: Pantheon. Garvey, C. (1990). Eky. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

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105 Glasner, Rabbi S. (1961). Family religion as a matrix of personal growth. Marriage and Family Living , 23, 29-293. Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional Intelligence . New York: Bantam Books. Goncu, A. (1993). Development of intersubjectivity in the dyadic play of preschoolers. Eariy Childhood Research Quarterly , 8, 99-1 16. Gralinski, J.H., & Kopp, C.B. (1993). Everyday rules for behavior: Mothers' requests to young children. Developmental Psychology , 29, 573-584. Green, G.M. (1989). Preschool AfricanAmerican Children's Self-Esteem : A Field Study of FourYear-Olds in a Southern Rural head Start Program Doctoral Dissertation. Mississippi State University. Haight, W.L., & Miller, P.J. (1993). Pretending at home: Early development in a sociocultural context . Albany, NY: State University of New York Press. Hart, C, DeWolf, D., Burts, D., Charlesworth, R., & Bourque, K. (1991, April). Preschoolers outcome expectations and playground behavior: Relations with maternal and paternal disciplinary styles. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA. Hay, D.F. (1984). Social conflict in early childhood. In G. Whitehurst (Ed ), Annals of child develop ment rVnl 1 1 -44) Greenwich, CT: JAI. Hendrick,J. (1988). The Whole Child: New Trends in Eariy Education Toronto: Mosby. Hippie, M.L. (1985). Journal waiting in kindergarten. Language Arts 62, 255-261. Howe, N. (1993). The ecology of dramatic play centers and children's social and cognitive play. Eariy Childh ood Research Ouarteriy 8 (2), 23 5-25 1 . Howe, N., Moller, L , & Chambers, B. (1994). Dramatic play in day care: What happens when doctors, cooks, bakers, pirates, and pharmacists invade the classroom? In H. Geolman and E. VinebergJacobs (Eds ), Plav and Child Care (102-1 18). New York: SUNY Press. Hubbard, R. (1988, Mar ). Allow Children's Individuality to emerge in their writing: Let their voices through. Young Children 43 (3), 33-38. Huesmann, L.R., Eron, L.D., Lefkowitz, M M., & Walder, L.O. (1984). Stability of aggression over time and generations. Developmental Psychology 20, 1 120-1 134.

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106 Jordan, E , Cowan, A , & Roberts, J. (1995). Knowing the rules. Discursive strategies in young children's power struggles. Early Childhood Research Quarterly , 10, 339-358. Kandel, D.B. (1978). Homophily, selection, and socialization in adolescent friendships. American Journal of Sociology , 84, 427-436. Kavesh, L.B. (1991). Antecedents of Peer Competence in Childhood . Doctoral Dissertation. University of Illinois at Chicago. Kelman, A. (1990). Choices for children. Young Children , 45 (3), 42-45 Kochanska, G., Kuczynski, L., & RadkeYarrow, M, (1989). Correspondence between mothers' self-reported and observed child-rearing practices. Child Development , 60, 56-63. Krasnor, L.R., & Rubin, K.H. (1983). Preschool social problem solving: Attempts and outcomes in naturalistic interaction. Child Development , 54, 1545-1558. Kohlberg, L (1969). Stage and sequence: The cognitive-developmental approach to socialization. In D A. Goslin (Ed ), Handbook of socialization theory and research (347-480). Chicago: Rand McNally. V Kuhns, C.L. (1993). Maternal Socialization Practices Relationship to Children's Social Problem Solving and Social Competence Doctoral Dissertation. The University of Maryland. Ladd, G. (1983). Social networks of popular, average, and rejected children in school settings. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly 29, 283-307. Larrieu, J., & Mussen, P. (1985). Some personality and motivational correlates of children's prosocial behavior. The Journal of Genetic P.sychnlngy 147, 529-542. Laurie, S.S. (1904). John Amos Comenius His Life and Educational Work.s Cambridge, MA: University Press. Laursen, B ., & Hartup, W.M. (1989). The dynamics of preschool children's conflicts. Merrill -Pal mer Quarterly 35, 281-297. Lochman, J., Cohen, C, & Wayland, K. (1991, April). Outcome expectations for aggressive boys: Developmental effects and parents' child-rearing style. Paper presented at the Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development, Seattle, WA.

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107 Lucariello, J. (1987). Spinning fantasy: Themes, stnicture, and the knowledge base. Child Development , 58, 434-442. McGrew, W. (1972). An ethological study of children's behavior . New York: Academic Press. Mallick, S.K., & McCandless, B.R. (1966). A study of catharsis of aggression. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology , 4, 591-596. Malloy, H. L , & McMurray, P. (1996). Conflict strategies and resolutions: Peer conflict in an integrated early childhood classroom. Early Childhood Research Quarterly 11, 185-206. Meadows, A., Abramowitz, S.I., Cruz, A., & Bay, G. (1981). Self-concept, negative family effect, and delinquency. Criminology 19, 434-448. Mellou, E. (1994). The values of dramatic play in children. Early Child Develop ment and Care , 104, 105-114. Nelson, K. (1973). Structure and strategy in learning to talk. Monographs of the Societv for Research in Child Develop ment 38(1-2, Serial No. 149). Newman, L.S. (1990). Intentional versus unintentional memory in young children: Remembering versus playing. Journal of Experimental Child P.sychology 50, 243-258. Nicolopoulou, A. (1993). Play, cognitive development, and the social world: Piaget, Vygotsky, and beyond. Human Develop ment 36 (1), 1-23. y Oden. S, & Asher, S. (1977). Coaching children in social skills for friendship making. Child Develop ment 48, 495-506. O'Keefe, P., & Johnston, M. (1989, May-Jun ). Perspective taking and teacher effectiveness: A connecting thread through three developmental literatures. Journal of Teacher F.diicatinn 20-26. Olweus, D. (1987, Fall). School yard bullying: Ground for intervention. Schoo l Safety 4-11. Overton, W., & Jackson, J. (1973). The representation of imagined objects in action sequences. Child Develop ment 44 Parkhurst, J.T., & Asher, S.R. (1992). Peer rejection in middle school: Subgroup diflFerences in behavior, loneliness and interpersonal concerns. Develop mental Psychology 7.8 231-241.

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108 Pellegrini, A.D., & Perlmutter, J.C. (1988, Jan.). Rough-and-tumble play on the elementary school playground. Young Children . 43 (2), 14-17. Feller, L.E. (1978). Children's play. On Development and Education of Young Children (128-204). New York: Philosophical Library, Inc. Perry, D.G., Kussel, S.J., & Perry, L.C. (1988). Victims of peer aggression. Developmental Psychology , 24, 807-814. Pestalozzi, J.H. (1977). How Gertrude Teaches Her Children. In D.N. Robinson (Ed ), Significant Contributions to the History of Psychology ( ] 7S0-1 920) Washington, D.C.: University Publications of America, Inc (first English publication 1894). Petrakos, H., & Howe, N. (1996). The influence of the physical design of the dramatic play center on children's play. Eariy Childhood Research Ouarteriy , 1 1, 63-77. Piaget, J. (1972). Some Aspects of Operations. In Maria W. Piers (Ed ), Play and Development : A symposium with contributions by Piaget and others. New York: W.W. Norton and Company. Piaget, J. (1951). Plav. Dreams and Imitation in Childhood (C rrattppno and F M Hodgson, Trans). New York: W.W. Norton and Company (first published 1945) Piaget, J. (1948), The Moral ludgment of the Child Glencoe, 111: The Free Press (first published 1932). Pulaski, M A. (1973). Toys and imaginative play. In J.L. Singer (Ed ). The child's worid of make-b eliev e: Ex pe rim e n ta l s tudies of imaginative play (74-103). New York: Academic Press. Roberts, W.L. (1986). Nonlinear models of development: An example fi-om the socialization of competence. Child develop ment 57, 1 166-1 178. Rogers, C.R. (1951). CHent Centered Therapy Its Current Practice, Imp lic ations, and Theory. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. Rosenberg, D M. (1984). The Quality and Content of Pr eschool Fantasy Pipy Correlates in Concurrent Social-Personalit y Function and Rarlv Mnther-Child Attachment Relationships. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Minnesota. Rousseau, J-J. (1962). Emile or Concerning Fdnnatinn Extracts (E. Worthington, Trans.). Boston: D C. Heath and Company (first published 1896). Sackin, S., & Thelen, E. (1984). An ethological study of peacefiil associative outcomes to conflict in preschool children. Child Develnp ment. 55, 1098-1 102.

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109 Scales, B.J. (1984). Strategies for Assessment of the Social Ecolog y of a Preschool Play Environment . Doctoral Dissertation. University of California, Berkeley. Second Step: A Violence Prevention Curriculum (1990). Published by the Committee for Children, Seattle, WA. Shantz, C.U. (1987). Conflicts between children. Child Development , 58, 283-305. Shantz, D.W. (1986). Conflict, aggression, and peer status: An observational study. Child Development , 57, 1322-1332. Sheldon, A. (1992). Conflict Talk: Sociolinguistic Challenges to Self-Assertion and How Young Girls Meet Them. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly , 38, 1, 95-1 17. Shure, M B. (1994). Raising a thinking child: Help your young child to resolve everyday conflicts and get along with others . New York: H. Hoh. Siegler,R.S. (1991). Children's thinking (2nd, ed.) Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, Inc. Sikora, D M, (1989). Divorce, Environmental Change, Parental Conflict, and Peer Relations of PreschoolAged Children Doctoral Dissertation. West Virginia University. Smolucha, F. (1989). The Relevance of Vygotsky's Theory of Creative Imagination for Contemporary Research on Play. ERIC Microfiche: ED 3 14168. Paper presented at the national Biennial Meeting of the Society for Research in Child Development (Kansas City, MO, April 27-30). Spivack, G., & Cianci, N. (1987). High-risk early behavior pattern and later delinquency. In J.D. Burchard & S.N. Burchard (Eds ), Prevention of Delinq uent Behavior (44-74). Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications. Spivack, G., & Shure, M B. (1974). Social Adjustment of Young Children San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Thomas, A., Chess, S., & Birch, H.G. (1968). Temperament and Behavior Disorder.; in Children . New York: New York University Press. Tomasello, M, Kruger, AC, & Ratner, H.H. (1993). Culturalleaming. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 16, 495-552. Tudge, J.R.H. (1992). Processes and consequences of peer collaboration: AVygotskian analysis. Child Develop ment 63 1364-1379.

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110 Tudge, J.R.H., & Winterhoff, P A. (1993). Vygotsky, Piaget, and Bandura: Perspectives on the relations between the social world and cognitive development. Human Development , 36, 61-81. van der Veer, R , & Valsiner J. (1993) Understanding Vygotsky : A Quest for Synthesis. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell Publishers. Vaughn, B., LeFever, G., Seifer, R., & Barglow, P. (1989). Attachment behavior, attachment security, and temperament during infancy. Child Development , 60, 728-737. Ventura-Cook, E.E. (1995). Attachment Representations and Socio-emotional Characteristics of Low Income. Solitary-Passive, Solitary-Nonpassive, and Nonwithdrawn Preschool Children . Doctoral Dissertation. University of New Orleans. Vygotsky, L.S. (1987). Thinking and Speech. In R.W.Rieber and A S. Carton (Eds ), The Collected Works of L S Vygotsky: Vol 1, Problems of general psychology (37-285). New York: Plenum Press (first published 1934). Vygotsky, L. (1986). Thought and Languag e (A. Kozulin,Trans.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press (abridged fi-om 1934). Vygotsky, L. (1978). The role of play in development. In M. Cole, V. J. Steiner, S. Scribner, & E. Souberman (Eds ), Mind in Society The development of higher psychological processes (92-104). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press (first published 1933). Vygotsky, L.S. (1967). Play and its role in the mental development of the child. Soviet Psychology 12, 6-18 (A lecture given in 1933). Weber, M. (1978). Selections in translation (E. Matthews, Trans ). Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press (original work published 1922). Wilson, K.E. (1988). Development of conflict and conflict resolution among preschool children. Unpublished masters thesis. Pacific Oaks College, Pasadena, CA. Winton, M.A. (1991). Language use in Imaginative/Pretend Play. Masters Thesis. University of Alberta, Canada. Wood, D.J. (1989). Social interactions as tutoring. In M.H. Bomstein and J.S. Bruner (Eds.), Interaction in human development <;59-8n) Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum. Woodard, C.Y. (1984). Guidelines for facilitating sociodramatic play. Childhood Educalion, 60, 172-177.

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APPENDIX A INTERVIEW PERMISSION FORM

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112 Dear Parent/Guardian: I am a graduate student in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and I am conducting a study of the development of social competence of at-risk learners in a prekindergarten classroom. My research supervisor is Dr. H. Thompson Fillmer, Professor of Education. The purpose of this study is to examine peer group interactions among preschoolers. One aspect of this study is the interviewing of participants, preschoolers enrolled in the prekindergarten program. The interview may not be of direct benefit to your child, but may benefit future preschoolers. Your child's participation in this study is voluntary with no compensation for participation. Participation involves responding to questions regarding peer group relationships and will last approximately 30 minutes. For example, your child will be shown a picture and will be told: "This is a picture of children at play and there is a boy/girl looking on as if wanting to join in the play." Your child would then be asked: "If you were this boy/girl, what would you do to join in the play?" All questions will follow the same format. Your child does not have to answer a question she/he does not want to answer. You or your child are free to withdraw permission for participation at any time without consequences. Participation will not involve any risk or discomfort to your child. With your permission, your child's interview will be audiotaped. The tape will be accessible only to the research team for verification purposes. To protect your child's identity, the transcribed data will be given a fictitious name. At the end of the study the tape will be erased. There will only be one interview. That interview will take place during the after-lunch rest time on a day towards the end of May, 1997. The information provided in your child's interview may help us to better understand how preschoolers perceive themselves and their abilities to interact with their peers. Subsequently, the study will be written and may include information obtained from your child's interview. In addition, the study might eventually be published for teacher education purposes. Please feel free to contact me by telephone if you have any questions. My telephone number is 378-3 113. Questions or concerns about research participant's rights may be directed to the UFIRB office. University of Florida, Box 1 12250, Gainesville, FL 326 11, (352) 392-0433. Thank you for your consideration. Sincerely Germaine J. Phillip

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113 Consent Form The purpose of interviewing my child has been explained to me. A study will be written and may include information obtained from the interview. It has further been explained to me that my child's data will be given a fictitious name to guarantee confidentiality and that the study might eventually be published for teacher education purposes. I give my permission for my child's interview to be used for this purpose. (Parent/Guardian's signature) (Date) (Parent/Guardian's signature) (Date) (Child's name) (Investigator's signature) Germaine Phillip Curriculum & Instruction University of Florida

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APPENDIX B PERMISSION TO REPRODUCE MATERIALS

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June 28, 1997 Joan Duffell Committee for Children 2203 Airport Way South, Suite 500 Seattle, Washington 98134-2027 Dear Joan Duffell Reference: Second Step: A Violence-Prevention Curriculum I am a doctoral student in the College of Education at the University of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, and I have just completed my research project at the P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School, the university's lab school in Gainesville. I am requesting your written permission to copy some of the Second Step Pictures, published by the Committee for Children. I used the larger, glossy, black and white pictures in an open-ended, in-depth interview of the children. My purpose was to ascertain to what degree the children, identified as atrisk preschoolers, are able to a) empathize and b) extrapolate and apply workable behavior strategies during peer interaction I would like to create an appendix that would contain the pictures used in the interview. These pictures, I believe, would be advantageous to anyone who must read and evaluate the merit and content of the interview. I refer, specifically, to the pictures on the fi-ont of cards numbered 2 through 12, 14, 16, 19 through 25, 27, 31, and 32. With your written permission, I will copy each of these pictures, reducing them in size, so that four pictures will fit on a page with three pictures on the last page Thank you for considering my request. I look forward to hearing fi-om you. Yours truly Germaine Phillip 4401 NW 19th Avenue Gainesville, FL 32605-3474 Phone:

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COMMnTEE /»t€HILDREI\ leaders in prevention education Ms. Germaine Phillip 4401 NW 19th Ave. Gainesville, FL 32605-3474 July 7, 1997 Dear Ms. Phillip, Thank you for your request to reproduce pictures from the Second Step curriculum for inclusion in your research appendix. I am happy to grant you a limited release of copyright for this request. This release permits you only to reproduce the lessons identified in your letter dated June 28, 1997, for the purpose you described. No other reproduction or use of the photo cards is permitted. We would be most interested in receiving a copy of your research summary when it is completed. Thank you for your request, and for your commitment to research in the field of social skills education. Sincerely, Joan Cole Duffell Director of Marketing and Community Education 2203 Airpon Way South Suite 500 Seanle. WA 98 1 34-2027 (800)634-4449 (206)343-1223 FAX (206) 343-1445

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APPENDIX C INTERVIEW PICTURES

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Germaine Joan Phillip was bom on February 1, 1933, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. She was reared in Port of Spain and attended private schools there In 1956, Germaine moved to Canada, where she lived for six years. In 1962, she and her family moved to the United States and settled in the state of Ohio. In August, 1970, Germaine graduated, magna cum laude, from John Carroll University with a Bachelor of Arts in Education and a major in secondary school French. Germaine served for two years as Chairperson of the Department of Modem Languages and taught French at Glen Oak School, a Sacred Heart academy for girls in Gates Mills, Ohio. In the summer of 1972, Germaine and her family moved to Detroit, Michigan, where she again served as departmental chairperson and taught French at the Friends School In Detroit, a Quaker school, for the next nine years. In the Fall of 1972, Germaine enrolled as a graduate student in the Department of English at the University of Detroit. She received the Master of Arts in Humanities/English in December, 1975. Seven years later, Germaine entered the graduate program in Education at the University of Detroit. She received the degree of Specialist in Education in May, 1983, specializing in reading education. After two years of substitute teaching in the Detroit Pulic Schools and one year of teaching French at Roeper, a school for gifted children in Birmingham, Michigan, Germaine was a computer programmer and trouble shooter at Control Data Institute until August, 1970, when she accompanied her husband to Gainesville, Florida, and taught middle school social studies at the P. K. Yonge School for two years. In 1994, Germaine entered graduate school at the University of Florida's College of Education, where she eamed the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in August, 1998. 123

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I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. H. Thompson Fillmer, Chair Professor of Instruction and Curriculum I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Simon O. Johnson^ Cochair Professor of Instruction and Curriculum I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Robert R. Sherman Professor of Foundations of Education I certify that I have read this study and that in my opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality, as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. ^ Harry B. Sl^ Associate Professor of English This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the College of Education and to the Graduate School and was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy. August, 1998 Dean, Graduate School