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Chapter 4 Children’s play Dr. Antar Abdellah. The Art of English. introduction. This chapter examines different approaches to children’s creativity with language, and aims to provide a sense of the challenges which children embrace in order to become shapers of language.

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Chapter 4 children s play dr antar abdellah

Chapter 4

Children’s play

Dr. AntarAbdellah

The Art of English


  • This chapter examines different approaches to children’s creativity with language, and aims to provide a sense of the challenges which children embrace in order to become shapers of language.

  • Basically, children’s creative play with language is ‘practice’ in a dual sense and a rehearsal for adult life.

  • Investigations that draw on folklore or social anthropology emphasize children’s culture. Anthropologists may be concerned with children as learners, but childhood practices, including language practices, can also be studied in their own right.

  • A classic study by the folkloristsJona and Peter Opie (1959) celebrated children’s artful language play as a significant tradition, emphasizing the ‘part played by children in preserving certain rituals, customs and beliefs on behalf of the community as a whole’ (Sealey 2000, p. 77).

  • It is therefore important to recognize that there are different views of childhood which may considerably influence ideas and conceptions about creativity in children’s language. This unit is, then, confined to these varied views.

1 origins of creative speech
1- Origins of creative speech

  • Playfulness starts in infancy, even before language is acquired. certain qualities of playfulness are demonstrable in infancy.

  • In fact, children are born with a genetic predisposition not only to be able to learn language but to engage actively, to take the initiative as well as respond, within meaning-making practices.

  • This has been demonstrated in research carried out by the psychologist ColwynTrevarthen into what he termed, protoconversationsbetween infants and caregivers. So what’s protoconversations in infancy?

A protoconversations in infancy
A- Protoconversations in infancy

  • According to Trevarthen and Aitken,[ 2001, p. 6], infant look at the eyes and mouth of the person addressing them while listening to the voice.

  • In measured and predictable cycles of response to regular time patterns in the adult’s behavior, the infant moves its face, which it can’t see and hear, and reacts with movements of face.

  • The communicatively active hands of young infants may make expressive movements in rhythmic coordination with a person’s speech ...

  • and this can occur when the baby has been blind from birth, and thus never seen its hands or anyone else’s hands. Therefore, we may conclude that the infant has a coherentpsychoneural organization that specifies the timing and form of body movements.

  • See video one here.

  • Although immature in relation to adults in comparison with some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In rhythmic cycles of response, the infant can move its own face and hands and make sounds that are similar to those that an adult makes when engaged in such a dydadic (two-way) ‘protoconversation’.

  • The term ‘protoconversation’ draws attention to the extraordinary phenomenon that before the child can possibly engage in language, many features of a conversation are nevertheless present. See video 2 here.

  • Possibly the most essential element of conversations and some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In protoconversations is sensitivity at turn-taking.

  • In view of Trevarthen [2001], infant-caregiver exchanges suggest firstly that the human baby is innately equipped to communicate, well before the onset of language; and secondly that this innate capacity consists of both the ability to respond and to take an initiating part.

  • Trevarthen terms this ‘purposeful intersubjectivity’: we are programmed to use a common metaphor, to communicate effectively with others, to draw them into interactions so that we can better understand and engage with their own motives and needs.

Findings some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In

  • These findings about infants and early interactions are significant for an exploration of creativity in children’s language for a number of reasons:

  • Nobody can construct creative language without having learned to use language. So infants learn in an active way ; and they don’t only respond and imitate, they have something of their own to contribute as well.

  • Infants have a capacity to innovate; this is shown to be an innate human characteristic.

  • Playfulness is a intrinsic quality of human communication.

  • Protoconversations reveal the continuity of multimodal aspects of communicative practices.

  • The interaction between baby and adult is also characterized by considerable repetition, -a marker of linguistic creativity.

B early storytelling
B-Early storytelling some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In

  • Organization of talk, with considerable reliance on repetition and routine , occurs at a number of language levels as the child develops into a language user.

  • For instance, the pre-sleep monologues recorded by Nelson (1989), discussed by Levy (2003). These are extracts from two-year-old Emily’s speech to herself while in bed, before sleep: p. 162

  • Levy [ some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In 2003, p. 171) is interested in the development of coherence in children’s discourse. Emily’s ‘making sense of the world’ was without an audience; yet; it is creative in the sense that she is playing with different ways of expressing something.

  • Therefore , Emily’s text is social depending on the views of Vygotsky, (1987, p.90) who claim that ‘In the home environment ... the process through which the child learns speech is social from start to finish.’

  • He argued that young children take note of speech going on around them, participate and internalizecultural shapings of language.

  • Through telling stories that imply evaluations of diverse behaviors, we come to sufficiently share a cultural and moral scope that facilitates the interpretation of narratives whether literary or everyday.

  • Such judgments are culture specific. What counts as a coherent narrative will vary in different cultural contexts

2 word play and everyday poetics
2- Word play and everyday poetics some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In

  • The connections which can be made between literary language and everyday talk may be extended to young children’s sound play even from the time of their earliest utterances.

  • Phonologically, children show preferences for certain patterns in their early words. The most noticeable preference is for reduplication[dada and mama.]

  • Repetition is a characteristic of adults' everyday conversation too, although generally in different settings.

  • Julia Gillen some species, infant is nevertheless capable of some remarkable achievements . In was researching children’s language in a nursery school when Charlie, aged years, 8 months stepped inside a toy telephone box and spoke into the receiver, in which there was a microphone linked to a tape recorder and uttered the statement below: p. 164

  • In Language Play, into young children’s play and languageDavid Crystal [ 1998] analyzed the conversation above and found out that it includes:

  • the use of nonsense words motivated by their sound;

  • repetition again for pleasurable effect;

  • modification of sounds within a word;

  • use of alliteration;

  • use of rhyme.

  • Julia Gillenstresses that Wordplay does not diminish as the nature of playful activities develop with maturity , and playful talk does not only occur in the domains in which children are ‘supposed’ to engage in play.

Examples of child s play
Examples of child’s play into young children’s play and language

  • P. 189

  • In this extract children are adopting different forms of word play alongside the task they are doing .

  • P. 193

  • Children draw on metaphor to solve a reasoning problem. It has been confirmed that metaphor is commonly used to explain ideas to others, in this case by teachers and doctors.

3 make believe story and performance
3- Make-believe: story and performance into young children’s play and language

  • In view of Guy Cook , children are preoccupied with fictional activity, in the sense that they are engaged with computer games, story and also their creation of imaginary worlds.

  • Pretend play may also, however, be of interest in its own right, as an aspect of children’s creative meaning-making. Pretence may occur briefly and spontaneously in the course of everyday activities. Consider the text below : p. 170, and the video here.

Intertxtuality into young children’s play and language

  • P. 171

  • So children narratives can be associated with intertextuality similar to texts uttered or written by adults. Basically, the concept ‘Intertextuality’ refers to “the ways in which all utterances form part of a ‘chain of speech communication’.

  • This concept implies that all utterances or texts are inherently intertextual, i.e. made up of words and meanings from other texts. An obvious example is direct quotation from others.

  • The concept can be related to Bakhtin’s notion of ‘doublevoices’.

  • Vygotsky into young children’s play and language [1967, P. 16] suggested that the activity of engaging in cooperative pretenceplay facilitates socialization and helps children learn how to take part in the cultural practices of the particular society in

  • which they live. Julia Gillenclaimed that child’s play is practice in a dual sense. In their use of code-switching between different languages, and the associated taking on of roles we see the sense in which play is rehearsal for future interactions and development of identity. But we also see here a practice, particular to childhood, of immersion into sociodramaticplay.

A sociodramatic play in a multilingual society reading c
A- into young children’s play and languageSociodramatic play in a multilingual society (Reading C)

  • In view of Fraser Gupta, children take on the voices of different characters in dramatic performances, they show considerable sensitivity to language.

  • They select an appropriate language (English, Malay or Mandarin) for particular speakers and contexts, reflecting the language patterns that are likely to obtain in the school they attend.

  • Although she does not yet have a full command of standard English, Sunita, the older girl, also seems able to style-switch. She use standard forms in the role of teacher but switches to Singlish when the teacher expresses her anger towards a pupil.

  • Therefore, it is important to consider language use in into young children’s play and languagemultilingual environments.

  • In relation to sociodramatic play among monolingual children , there are many analyses which reveal children’s sensitivity in the use of style-shifting.

  • Andersen(1990), for instance , demonstrated that even four-year-old children can play various roles in experimental settings, differentiating in systematic ways in the language they use to perform ‘nurse’ for example in comparison with ‘patient’ and ‘doctor’.

4 children s lore
4 Children’s lore into young children’s play and language

  • In relation to children’s lore , lonaand Peter Opie have studied a range of children’s rhymes, riddles and other language games in playgrounds and other contexts, and recorded the historical and geographical spread of children’s lore.

  • Children may be seen as the preservers of tradition, and do not simply reproduce traditional language practices. There has also been a major focus of interest in how children adapt rhymes and riddles creatively, introducing contemporary resonances into traditional forms.

Characteristics of children s lore
Characteristics of children’s lore into young children’s play and language

  • Children’s lore is characterized by

  • striking forms of intertextuality, incorporating themes from several different sources.

  • children’s lore also reflect shifting sets of values.


  • Some elements of children’s rhymes have crossed extraordinary passages of time and space , countries and centuries. As an example. At the same time, elements of new popular culture references have always pervaded games and rhymes. See video 1, 2, 3 and 4 (

  • The into young children’s play and languageintertextuality of children’s lore clearly means that this draws both on long traditions and elements of individual, additive creative modifications that will always remain anonymous.

  • At any one time rhymes may have layered resonances while being experienced as fresh at the first point of contact. Consider the example below recorded Janice Ackerley: p. 174-176

  • P. 203- 208 into young children’s play and language

  • Janice Ackerley provides an example of a contemporary study of children’s playground rhymes, focusing particularly on the range of intertextual references evident in these. There is repetition in these rhymes, a strong sense of rhythm and simple end rhymes. All of these are likely to make the rhymes easy to remember and to chant or sing out loud

  • There are diverse into young children’s play and languageintertextual references : children’s nursery songs, TV programmes, popular brand names and the national anthem!

  • The rhymes also incorporate a range of themes and issues, from a foot and mouth epidemic in Britain to cultural and national rivalries, They tend to be playful, sometimes parodying other songs and rhymes, playing with taboos and subverting cultural norms.

  • For Janice Ackerley, this provides evidence that children’s lore is ‘alive and well’ and adapting to contemporary life.

  • Children’s rhymes and language games, then, show both a source of extraordinarycontinuity and many examples of creative innovation.

  • The social themes and issues addressed are of interest, but rather less so the local contexts of use: how particular children draw on these rhymes in certain contexts and to particular effects.

  • Anne Haas Dyson source of [2003] studied a group of six to seven-year-old children in a school in a socially and culturally diverse area. She was interested in children’s creative use of song in these different contexts, and particularly in their playful appropriation and adaptation of material from a range of sources.

  • These included children’s lore in the traditional sense (e.g. playground rhymes) but also media and other genres: raps, R&B, hymns and folk songs. For Dyson these represent a ‘landscape of voices’ that allow children to assume various stances and roles.

  • Singing a hymn, for instance, allowed two girls to evoke their roles as church members.

4 6 conclusion
4.6 Conclusion source of

  • According to Vygotsky [1993, p 161], ‘Play is the natural means of a child’s self-education, an exercise oriented toward the future’ and , he suggested that a child’s personality is not so much as a ‘passive unfolding of innate primary abilities’ but rather that the ‘process of emergence of character is not unfolding hut enculturation’. In other words, through play the developing child actively learns to adopt cultural nouns, and is

  • shaped as a person in the process.

  • Therefore, this chapter has tried to illustrate that that passive ‘unfolding’ certainly does not create children's character . In addition, research into ‘protoconversations’ has strengthened the argument that playfulness, in the sense of enjoyable exchange of affect, where informational content is absent or ‘not the point’, is a quality of the species. However, a behavior is restricted to more intelligent animals, actually increases children’s potential for learning, and the neuroscientist Siviy claims that 'Play just lights everything up,' , Siviy speculates that by allowing connections between brain areas that might not normally be connected, play may be enhancing

  • creativity. (Furlow, 2001, p. 30).

  • Furthermore, this chapter one of the main aims of this chapter has been to probe children’s linguistic creativity for its own sake, and also to illustrate something of the practices and relationships in which it flourishes. Artistry in the English language is always related to a wealth of cultural resources, whether or not the breadth and depth of their origins is appreciated consciously. Enculturation is a notion that can perhaps bridge the two different perspectives on child’s creativity that dominate most previous views of the topic. From anthropology this chapter has emphasized on children's practices, children’s lore and the sense of a continuing children’s culture. From developmental psychology, this chapter has emphasized on children’s learning in and it is chiefly regarded as rehearsal, as learning on the way to maturity. Eventually, child’s play can be viewed as an instance of enculturation: the active engagement with resources made available to the child in her or his society. Re-use, in new circumstances, leads to opportunities for transformations. The child as an individual, or collaborator, brings imagination to weave a new text.