The Role of Play in Literacy Learning

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Explain the role of play in literacy learning and examine its position in relation to society, the National Curriculum, and cultural issues. In what ways should early playful learning encounters be built upon in the context of schooling?

Within this essay, I shall explain the following;
• a definition of play,
• the role of culture,
• play interactions within a classroom setting,
• the predominant focus on speaking and listening within a play literate environment, • examples of playful opportunities that arise within such a setting, • the introduction of making childrens into storytelling through using their own experiences, and lastly, • the oppositional views voiced regarding the ‘play versus work’ debate. Throughout, I shall examine plays position in relation to society, culture and within the National Curriculum. In addition, the ways that early playful learning encounters can be developed within the school learning context shall be analysed, examples illustrated and reasoning discussed. But the principal question of why play has become such an important factor within a child’s learning, and thus be deemed to need building upon and fostered within the school environment will be clarified and discussed.

What is Play?
Children's play has been acknowledged by many early years’ practitioners, educational researchers and Key Stage One teachers such as myself, as being the foremost important learning stimulus in a young child’s social, cultural and linguistic development and education. I strongly

believe that it is through play that one could consider that children learn about all of the roles of society; its norms, its irregularities and, its values. Whilst undertaking research for this essay, I found it increasingly obvious, particularly within the early years education, that the recognition of the importance of a child's need to play and that this need is the most inherent way in which children learn; one that overrides all other activities. It has long been acknowledged that play has not only an important role in the social, emotional and physical but also in the linguistic and cognitive development of children. For example, studies have formulated that play is seen as “the medium through which a child comes to understand his or her world and, as such, is an integral part of learning”. (Isaacs 1933, p.3). Amongst many other descriptions, play has been depicted as an “enculturative mechanism” (Schwartzman, 1978, p.49), meaning that it is an inbuilt methodology for children to master, no matter what their culture or ethnicity. Play is significant to every child in every society, but it differs slightly dependant on cultural ethnicity and economic status. Roopnarine & Johnson (1994, p. 4) proposed that play is “‘biologically based” and flourishes as an evolutionary contribution to human development. One could state that it is a dominant activity of a child's daily life, no matter what cultural background they belong to. Children's play continually portrays and reflects their own social values and family ethnic practices. As a vital concept for developmental practice, teachers like myself and other practitioners, need to understand the dynamics of influence and child development on children's play, particularly in the contexts of a child’s culture. As an introduction to these ideals, I shall firstly define what I believe a culture is, and then discuss the inseparable and culturally bound relation between childrens’ development and their play connecting these issues through looking at the aspects of play, its position within the school society and its relationship to learning particularly in terms of literacy curricula philosophy within the current educational climate.

A definition of Culture.
I believe that Culture, is the basis of many aspects which shapes an individual. Culture, may be defined as the product of socially conveyed...
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