This week my assistant and I have been more focused on asking questions of the children about their war play this week after reading and discussing the book I mentioned in my last post.
Some of the conversations have gone like this:
Boy 1 : Yeah, we’re gonna kill the girls!
Boy 2: Yeah! Kill the girls!
Me: Why do you want to kill the girls?
Boy 1: Because they are mean.
Me: What have they done that is mean?
Boy 1: They won’t play with us?
Me: Why do you think they won’t play with you?
Boy 1: Because we keep saying we want to kill them.
Me: What do you think you could do about that?
Smiles and shrugs…
Me: Do you want me to help you play with them? I will go with you to talk to them.
We did walk over, and Boy 1 asked if they would play with them, but the couple of girls they asked did not want to play their game. The girls did invite them to join in their game that they had already established, but the boys declined. They went off without mentioning killing the girls for the rest of that outside time.
Is this a case of this boy clearly wanting to play with the other girls? Or is he just astute enough to know what the “teacher wanted to hear”? The other boys seem to find solidarity centered on this topic that seems very bonding. Boy1 was back at discussing the killing of the girls later that day with a couple of other boys. I repeated a similar conversation with this group. I think it is a good strategy and am hoping to see some results from it.
The next day on the playground, they were playing a superhero game that did not involve killing the girls. In fact, it did have some interaction with a couple of girls who were being chased, chasing back and capturing each other. We made metion of this at our morning meeting.
The other thing we did all week is focus our morning graph question on toys with which they like to play. Following the examining of the graph and the counting and seeing which group had more, etc. I asked the questions, so is this toy a boy toy or a girl toy? The evidence was there each time, both played with the same toy. It was a good opener for discussions of how girls and boys play alike. By the end of the week the kids were saying, there are no boy toys or girl toys. Progress, I hope.
We also spent some time putting them in boy/girl pairs to complete large puzzles. This way they had to work as a team with someone with which they do not normally choose to play. Afterwards we talked about what it was like to play with this person and how the activity felt.
My assistant made a great point as well which we will try to be more cognizant of and that is that we do tend to answer them when they say “the boys” and “the girls” with similar terms. Often the situation is only referring to a few boys or a few girls. We need to be careful to use names and be more specific or we are fueling the generalizing ourselves.
Lastly, I did want to comment on the fact that the amount of negotiating and problem solving that is going on in this type of play as they decide which characters are allowed, which powers belong to whom, how their powers work, and so on, is quite elaborate. I know as I reflect upon my own feelings, I can tend to view this more negatively than it merits. Following these groups around and deeply observing and questioning is helping me to adjust my own feelings and prejudices and helping me to respond much more appropriately.
I appreciate the feedback that I have been receiving. I hope it will continue as this attempt to respond to war play appropriately is a constant “battle”. J
The photo chosen for this post is from an interesting blog post on the site Get More Out of Life about a forest school.