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ERIC Number: EJ763429
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-Jun
Pages: 15
Abstractor: Author
Reference Count: 46
ISSN: ISSN-0013-1881
Rethinking Role Play in the Reception Class
Rogers, Sue; Evans, Julie
Educational Research, v49 n2 p153-167 Jun 2007
Background: In 2000 the so-called "Reception" class was re-conceived (in curricular terms, at least) as the second and final year of the Foundation Stage, a distinctive educational phase for children aged 3 until entry to key stage 1 at 5 or 6 years old. The "Curriculum guidance for the Foundation Stage" endorses a play-based, informal curriculum that is responsive to the developmental, social and physical needs of children in this age group. Against this background, the paper reports the findings of a small-scale qualitative study of role play in Reception classes, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Purpose: The aim of the research was to undertake an empirical study of children's role-play activity in order to better understand the relationship between teachers' provision (the "offered" curriculum) on the one hand, and children's responses to that provision (the "received" curriculum) on the other hand. How, for example, do teachers organize this type of play in terms of thematic and material structures, grouping practices, modes of access and adult intervention? In what ways does such provision impact on the nature of children's role-play activity in terms of the generic characteristics of role play (e.g. make-believe, imitation), thematic content and levels of social interaction? Sample: The focus is on children aged 4-5 years. The sample consisted of: a Reception and Year 1 mixed class in a rural primary school; a Reception class in a primary school in a small town; and an early years unit in a large, urban first school. Eighty children participated in the study in term 1, rising to 144 in term 2. The number of adults who participated consisted of 6 teachers and 6 teaching assistants. A total of 71 visits were made over the school year, each lasting half a school day. Design and methods: The research is qualitative, drawing upon the principles of ethnography. Data were collected in the following ways: in-depth, semi-structured interviews; participant and non-participant observations; and video taped episodes of role play. To elicit the children's perspectives we developed a range of child-focused methods, taking into account their age and ability to communicate, including: participant and non-participant observation of role play; photographs taken by children; conversations with children; children's drawings of favourite role-play themes; and role-play scenarios and stories. Results: Role-play activity was severely affected by a lack of indoor space and interruptions suggesting that Reception classes are ill-equipped to cater for the needs of 4- and 5-year-olds. Teachers contain play through a range of pedagogical strategies, and children find forms of resistance with which to meet their play needs. We suggest also that the "poverty of space" within Reception classes may be inadvertently disadvantaging boys, as they are often unable to express their role-play interests in the confines of the classroom. Conclusions: Role play is valued highly by both children and adults and it can make a significant contribution to the development of young children. However, the intervention of certain pedagogical practices prevents children from realizing its potential. Moreover, in spite of major developments in early years education at the level of curriculum and policy, Reception classes have not been adequately conceptualized in ways that determine the most appropriate provision for children aged 4 and 5. Thus we argue for the development of a more critical pedagogy of play--one which takes into account the forms of resistance observed in children's play, and which encourages children's participation in the construction of pedagogical practice. (Contains 1 note.)
Routledge. Available from: Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 325 Chestnut Street Suite 800, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 800-354-1420; Fax: 215-625-2940; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Early Childhood Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: United Kingdom