How many out there remembers the game of ‘Playing School’? This was a game that I played whether pretending myself or playing with some friends. One was the teacher and the rest of us were the students. The classroom was usually outside or in an old shed or just out in the yard with a collection of folding chairs and odd tables. The materials were old magazines, newspapers and, if we were lucky, some old papers and books from our school classroom that the real teacher was throwing away.
The game usually lasted for a few hours that would consist of maybe a pretend reading or math lesson or even making a craft of sorts. Depending on who was the teacher the activities would vary from the more strict to the more laid back. I remember when I played this game with my cousins where one is now a principal for a high school she would actually have classroom rules to play by and even have discipline guidelines from writing assignments to sitting in the corner.
Playing school for me was a way to pass the time and it was fun for it gave me a chance to play with my cousins, and who knew maybe this was why I became a teacher of young children. Before I began to play this with my cousins though, me and my mom would play and I remember that my ‘play classroom’ also had one of those magnetic letter boards where I could practice my letters, numbers, and spelling. I could even have ‘magic’ markers and practice writing them on the board. Every once in awhile a math problem and numbers would be added to the mix. My mom and I would also read some of my old storybooks for reading practice for she would join in once her work was done.
Playing school is an activity that increases social skills, but is usually just to make learning more fun and not so structured as in the school classroom and seems to be a right of passage for many generations. It just seemed that ‘playing school’ entailed reviewing the basics of letters, numbers, spelling, and reading.
As I grew up and starting helping to ‘babysit’ my nieces and nephew I would ‘play school’ with them and gather some picture books and blank writing paper for at this time they were only four and two. I was also a student in an Early Childhood Education program and had some chart paper where these two kids would tell me stories and I would write them down as they told me. After they finished telling me the story I would have them try and read their words to the best of their ability at the time. I would usually have my two-year-old nephew ‘draw’ some pictures, even though he was at the scribble stage of drawing. After a little while, our ‘playing school’ was mainly arts and crafts and nature walks.
To me playing school is a necessary game to play as kids for it does develop discussion and communication skills. In many ways and it is a time to experiment with how we learn and what we need to know to practice the rules of the classroom. Now, if I am playing school with my youngest grandnephew I usually have him write stories using real words using paper and pencil to practice forming his letters and numbers. Sometimes, I would have him write stories and draw pictures on my computer where he has have the story and picture go together. We would also practice ‘cursive writing’ every once in a while, and then moving out for ‘PE’ with a lot of running and kicking a ball around the yard.
Playing school is an activity that we all have participated in either as a ‘student’ or as a ‘teacher’ that could have lead us to this profession of teaching. This is an activity that allowed us to use our imaginations that lead us, maybe, in figuring out what we wanted to be when we grew up and sharing interests when we were playing school. If you were to ‘play school’ now, what would your classroom look like and what would you be ‘teaching’?
In a world of online education does playing school mean the same thing today as it did in the past? And how has the world of homeschooling taken over the activity of ‘playing school’? I will always remember my classroom when I was a daycare teacher there were learning centers from housekeeping to construction to library to art and music. These centers were to give young children an array of interests to ‘work’ with deciding even more possible interests.
Playing school is or was an activity that we all have done and probably enjoyed playing as a child or even as a grownup just keeping a child or children occupied and sharing their many ideas. Remember playing school does not have to be too structured it is just to be fun and if learning happens so be it for those basic skills practiced will lead to something better.