Playing school

The subject of children playing school came up today in a lecture in the context of how children acquire literacy. The study we were discussing focused on literacy in monolingual English families and polyglot Bangladeshi families in a poor area of London. The researchers found that in the Bangladeshi families it was almost always the older siblings helped their younger siblings with reading, while in the monolingual English families, it was often the parents who helped with reading.

The Bangladeshi children saw reading as something very serious and they all went to classes almost every day after school to learn to read Bengali and Arabic, while the English children saw reading outside school as a fun activity that they enjoyed doing, but didn’t take seriously.

When playing school the Bangladeshi children took it seriously, were strict and imitated their teachers both from their day schools and their evening classes. This involved the younger children reading aloud until they came to a word they didn’t know, which the older children would tell them. The older children also corrected their mistakes. As the younger children became more confident in their reading skills, the older ones gradually removed this supportive scaffolding. This is a technique used in their Bengali and Arabic classes, but quite different to the methods used in the day schools, where the teachers will often simply repeat the words the children have read rather than helping with the next ones.

For the English kids the emphasis when playing school was on the play rather than the school, and it was more popular with the girls than the boys.

Did you play school when you were a kid? Do your children do this? How seriously did you/do they take it?

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