This week, I was in the art area where most attention was around drawings of the chickens. We put Fluffly and Sparkles into a box on the table, where the children could make observational drawings. A. was one of the first to draw, and she drew and finished quickly without getting stuck on any particular details. After getting the letters to spell out Sparkles, she began to look around for some sort of cue or acknowledgement of her work. Curious to see what she would do on her own, I continued to talk to other children and watched her out of the corner of my eye. She briefly went back to add a beak, then appeared to be done with it. She then pulled out another piece of paper and traced over her previous drawing in a different color, labeling it as Fluffy. Afterwards, she went over to paint and ended up with 2 very similar paintings, both with large vertical bars of colors covering the entire canvas. The biggest difference between them was that the second painting used fewer colors than the first.
My sense of A.’s development at this point is that she’s perfecting the skills she has developed so far into specific conceptions of her art. Whereas other children were working hard on the fine motor skills to control the pencils or were looking for confirmation that they had indeed drawn a chicken, A. worked swiftly without difficulty. Although she did pause briefly for approval, she continued on without it and repeated the same activity again. The reduction of the color palette for her second painting suggested to me that she had developed particular preferences. Although this feels like a narrowing of creativity, her choice to use more colors in the first painting makes me think that she is still willing to explore various mediums. To summarize, I was impressed to see A. work towards a goal in her art across drafts and show greater persistence and control than most of what I observe in the classroom. In future interactions, I feel as though I can explore her goals more than I do with most children; we’re mostly told not to ask questions such as, “What are you drawing?”, but perhaps a situation will come up where I can discuss these ideas with her and put words to her goals and actions.
After snack time, I went outside, where I saw four or five children playing in the back near a tree. Without prompting, one of them came over to see and asked if I wanted to know what they were doing. Going to look, they placing strands and wads of tape on the tree, which was explained to me as a “trap.” Even now, it’s not clear to me how sitting on some tape would be anything more than annoying, and given how tenuous I thought the idea was, I decided not to ask them about it. Instead, I asked them who the trap was for and proposed that maybe it was for the teachers. This idea initially gained no traction, but over the next few minutes, their story turned into one of trapping the teachers.
The potential different effects of these two questions (what the trap did and who the trap was for) revealed to me the difficulty in furthering fictional play without hijacking or breaking it. Had I asked how the trap worked, I’m skeptical about whether they could have given me a sufficient answer. Later, when Jasmine asked one of them how a piece of tape along the railing of the bridge would trap the teachers, Jasmine ended up providing most of the details of how the tape was a sensor for whether the moving agent was a student or a teacher. This detail, although more complete, did little to further their play and closed off their imagination in what it could be. Going back to how the trap worked, I felt that I could have provided some interesting story for them, but that wouldn’t motivate further activity, and if they were unsatisfied with it, they might find their play pointless and move on. On the other hand, providing a target for the trap seemed to give them something concrete to work towards in unifying their efforts towards a common goal (trapping me).
I was particularly impressed by how the play developed socially. K. and S. came over expressing concern that they were hurting the tree. When Nandini articulated their concerns and asked for a solution, Daniel proposed they instead setup the trap on the bridge, which they all enthusiastically went over to build the trap together, K. and S. included. From there, trap making accumulated several other children as they worked towards a common goal. Although they weren’t coordinated, their work did require specific interactions, such as having one child hold the tape, another pull the tape, and another cut the tape. Asking around for tape or scissors and trying to avoid trapping each other (while keeping me in) all required that the children engage with each other. Overall, their play required little encouragement, and my role as a target allowed me to stay involved while passive and “trapped” by them. As Stephens describes, “… children learn to internally ‘police’ their own behavior so others don’t have to do it for them” (181). Although this fictional play didn’t obviously have the same dramatic characters as most described in the reading, all of the children did accept roles as “trapmakers,” and these roles required cooperation without any input from me.