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For the past two weeks, my students dress up and play every day after school. They pull out clothes from our colonial costume closet: vests, blousy shirts, mop caps, aprons, and jackets. They pull out the props: plates, tin cups, brass candle sticks and set the table in the back of the classroom.
J. who traditional plays Benjamin Rush, sets up a silversmith’s workshop for Paul Revere always played by T. It’s V’s turn to be the redcoat so she grabs the wooden stick shaped like a musket, a red jacket, and steps outside. S. pulls on a mop cap and skirt over her jeans and M. tries out her British accent. K. pulls out the iPad and shouts action.
The play ensues. Betsy Ross joins Dr. Rush at the table and comments on the abundance of corn in her diet. She’s really quite sick of it. (Imagine a British accent here.) Deborah Sampson limps in and tells of her recent battle wounds. Dr. Rush’s good fried Paul Revere joins them and talks of his desire to join the militia. All of a sudden, there is a loud knock on the door. A redcoat bursts into the “dining room” and the colonial heroes scatter for cover.
I sit at my desk, working (notice the Two Writing Teachers post I’m reading – ha!) and watching my students internalize history. As far as they are concerned this is pure play. Dress up simply rocks.
All of this “play” is the culmination of analyzing videos and primary documents; reading and writing informational text; field trips, group work, and lots of costumes and props. They just do it for the fun of it and to practice for our school-wide journey back to colonial days on Thursday.
Fifth graders are in charge of learning on that day and they are nervous. Afraid the kindergarteners won’t listen. Worried that the fourth graders will give them attitude.
I just say how impressed I am with them and how they will be great. Just teach one thing I tell them.
Not so far from what I often tell myself as I face a daunting lesson. Just one thing.
So they play dress up. They say “lad” and “lass.” They curtsy and bow and talk about the cost of tea.
Five pm and parents pick up kids.
I pick up the costumes, the props, and put away the iPad for tomorrow.
Here’s to the power of play.