Signalling playfulness: disguising work as play in the early years’ classroom

Liz Sproule, Glenda Walsh, Carol McGuinness

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Play has been widely investigated from a practice-based perspective; playfulness as an effective pedagogical tool has received less attention. Over an 8-year evaluation of a play-based curriculum, we ascertained that some practitioners found it difficult to captivate and maintain children's interests through the provision of a play-based experience while ensuring that effective learning took place. Drawing on lessons learned, we argue that in order to enhance the quality of the learning experience, playfulness, conceived as a characteristic of the interaction between teacher and child, must be infused across the school day, even within activities focused on traditional curriculum goals. For this paper, we revisit the observational study previously conducted, in particular, an intensive video study of teachers observed to be highly playful, in order to unravel key playful signals useful to frame non-play activities as play, thus disguising the serious pursuit of learning.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Play
Early online date09 Aug 2021
Publication statusEarly online date - 09 Aug 2021


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