You Can't Say You Can't Play (Another Book Review) : Implications for Today's Teacher and Parent Too!!
“I want it!! It is mine!” This was my 2 year old, Lily screaming as her sister and her cousin were playing with our IPhones (mine and my sister-in-law's) they had been using to make cupcakes and cookies too on the Easy Bake App. Lily was not being included because first the two girls are both three and she isn’t even 2 years old yet and second there were only two IPhones (yes even at this young age they love this technology), not three so the two girls were not including her and not wanting to share either. Two bigs issues with toddlers and pre-schoolers alike.
So guess what as a teacher who went to school and read countless books on these very timely and important subjects, I recalled a book that I did indeed read called, “,” by Vivian Gussin Paley on how young children will indeed exclude others during play and not share either, because in this very book the teacher had just that experience and came up with an ingenious way to deal with this. You Can’t Say You Can’t Play
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Read More About My Children's Daily Shenanigans Here:
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The Actual Book:
From her experiences with her kindergarten class Gussin Paley implemented the rule, “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” for her all students to follow and even posted this on a sign in her classroom. In the beginning her students are still unsure, but for the most part are willing to try and obey this rule. They seem to still challenge it from time-to time, but when they do there is no indecision on the teacher’s part or her assistant’s part either. Now, when a student tries to exclude another student, the teacher or her assistant will tell the children they forgot the rule, point out to remind them and it seems to make these situations somewhat easier.
As the book continues, the teacher incorporates a cute fairy tale to drive her point home. The fairy tale the children are told is called Magpie. These stories seem to revolve around the character of Raymond and why he has been acting so mean to the other children in his class. It turns out Raymond’s mom is ill, his dad has been missing for a few years, and because of all this he was sent to live with his uncle. But Raymond didn’t want to live with his uncle so he ran away. The children are then treated to a story about Raymond and company’s adventure to find Raymond’s dad. They find his dad, rescue him and they all seem to live happily ever after.
In the midst of telling this story to these same children, they asked the teacher why Raymond’s schoolmistress never executed the rule of “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play”. The teacher, then decided to go back and rewrite that into the story from what her students now taught her (showing that teachers are constantly learning and evolving from and with their students). So now, everyone in the fairy tale also had to play with each other and could not exclude any of the children.
The teacher also extended this rule into the children’s storytelling exercises. Each time the children got up and made up a story with characters in it, they had to use anyone of the children for the characters, instead of just those students they would want to select. Once again, the initial reaction of the students was to try and resist having to do this, but in the end they all seemed to obey this rule for storytelling as well.
The latter part of the book actually deals with the implementation and the aftermath of “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play.” The kindergarten students seem to have accepted the rule for the most part and have adapted quite nicely to it. Also, in the Magpie fairy tale, all ends well, because the schoolmistress incorporates the rule “You Can’t Say You Can’t Play” into her classroom too. So now Raymond, Alexandra, Annabella and all the other children in the story too all play with each other and don’t exclude anyone also.
The final summation of the teacher is that she will in fact use this rule for years to come with her future classes too, but that it will be used from the beginning of each year now, even though she will not be able to see how the children change from not using the rule to actually following and obeying it like she did will this past year’s class.
In retrospect, this book really teaches such an important and valuable message whether you are a teacher, parent or both. As a teacher in the middle school, I have encountered this countless times, because kids will always try to not include each other and try to make someone feel as though they are on the outside looking in.
As a teacher, you just have to anticipate this and do your best to make sure that all students are included, especially during group work. I never let the kids pick there own groups and would work painstakingly hard to pick the groups beforehand.
From day one (at the beginning of the school year) I also always laid out my ground rules for my class and stipulated that this would not in fact be tolerated in my classroom. I would pretty much tell them they needed to leave it at the door, before they walked into my classroom.
Trust me, nothing is perfect, but as a teacher you have to do everything you can to make all of your students feel safe and comfortable in your classroom.
For Parents Too:
As a parent, I have now learned that this important lesson from this book can indeed be extended to my own children and nieces or nephews too. From the earlier issue with Lily, Emma and their cousin too, I realized that even at this young age that sharing and not including one of their own did indeed happen from time to time.
This time it just so happened to be Lily, who was on the outside looking in so to speak. I immediately told the girls to either share the phones or no one was playing with them. I sat down on the floor at their level and asked them how they would indeed feel if I took the phone from one of them and gave it to someone else to play with while making them watch. I was told "sad" and "mad" too!! I then told them that is just how Lily feels and she pretty much told them by her words of “I want it” and “It is mine”. I explained that they need to take turns until their father (Emma and Lily’s) showed up and would let them use his phone too only if they were sharing nicely now. They were told they were each allowed two minutes before someone needed to switch off and I was setting the timer for this. The child that didn’t have the phone got to hold the timer to want for it to ring.
Read My Other Book Review for Teachers and Parents:
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Believe it or not with me being there and making sure that all went smoothly, they were fine. Thankfully, Kevin (my husband) got home quickly and we then had the third phone to play with too. But even at this early and young age the lesson needs to taught and instilled in them, because it truly is such a valuable one that they need to use in their little lives and in the future too, because they will be in school themselves in the not so far off future and indeed need to share and include all their future classmates too, as well as want to be treated the same way by these same future classmates.
About the Author:
Janine is a freelance writer and mom of two. She is known for being a certified and licensed professional Math Teacher through NY State and has taught in both the middle and high school levels. She is also currently a stay at home mom of two beautiful little girls. You can checkout her profile and more real-life Math articles and her other family articles too here.
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© 2012 Janine Huldie