The Classrooms All Young Children Need Lessons in Teaching from Vivian Paley
by Patricia M. Cooper
University of Chicago Press, 2009
Cloth: 978-0-226-11523-8 | Paper: 978-0-226-11524-5 | Electronic: 978-0-226-11525-2
ABOUT THIS BOOKAUTHOR BIOGRAPHYREVIEWSTABLE OF CONTENTS

ABOUT THIS BOOK

Teacher and author Vivian Paley is highly regarded by parents, educators, and other professionals for her original insights into such seemingly everyday issues as play, story, gender, and how young children think. In The Classrooms All Young Children Need, Patricia M. Cooper takes a synoptic view of Paley’s many books and articles, charting the evolution of Paley’s thinking while revealing the seminal characteristics of her teaching philosophy. This careful analysis leads Cooper to identify a pedagogical model organized around two complementary principles: a curriculum that promotes play and imagination, and the idea of classrooms as fair places where young children of every color, ability, and disposition are welcome.

With timely attention paid to debates about the reduction in time for play in the early childhood classroom, the role of race in education, and No Child Left Behind, The Classrooms All Young Children Need will be embraced by anyone tasked with teaching our youngest pupils.

AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY

Patricia M. Cooper is assistant professor of early childhood education at Queens College, CUNY, and the author of When Stories Come to School: Telling, Writing, and Performing Stories in the Early Childhood Classroom.

REVIEWS

“A book focusing on how Vivian Paley’s pedagogical approach has informed her practice as a teacher is long overdue and sorely needed. Now we have Cooper’s book, which is a real pleasure to read and will benefit a wide range of readers, especially educators dissatisfied with the current overemphasis on teaching young children specific academic skills.”

— Ageliki Nicolopoulou, Lehigh University

“In her unique book Patricia Cooper casts a clear interpretive light, at once theoretical and practical, on the work of Vivian Paley, master teacher and writer. This is not primarily a ‘how-to’ book, although readers do learn how-tos; it is more importantly a focus on how to think about what matters to young children within their classroom communities. We learn much about how and why Paley engages children in telling their stories, playing, and expressing through words and actions how they come to understand their worlds. In short, this is a beautifully constructed and written work for teachers, teacher educators, and those interested in early childhood education. In tandem with Paley’s books, the author offers elaborated and thought-provoking signposts toward an unscripted curriculum open to all young children.”

— Celia Genishi, Teachers College, Columbia University

"Still actively writing, Vivian Paley has an impressive legacy, and Cooper captures it in this book. . . . This thought-provoking volume can be used in teacher education classes to stimulate important discussions about teaching."
— Young Children

“Cooper . . . analyzes Paley’s work with balance and insight. Cooper makes valid and useful connections among Paley, Vygotsky, Dewey, and Erikson. After reading this book, readers will go back to Paley’s work with a greater appreciation of what she offers."

— Choice

TABLE OF CONTENTS

Acknowledgments

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0001
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0002
[Vivian Paley, classroom, young children, pedagogy of meaning, pedagogy of fairness, educational philosophy]
Vivian Paley's work is based on her classroom investigations and this analysis implies her educational philosophy and pedagogy, that is, what kind of classrooms do young children need? This book has judiciously selected concepts from the range of Paley's classroom investigations that present a true dilemma regarding the best use of supporting literature on any given topic from a scholarly perspective. The book also tries to illuminate Paley's seminal concepts and practices and their place in the evolution of her thinking from a critical perspective. Paley's pedagogy of meaning is focused and her views on the role of fantasy play, storytelling, and story acting in early childhood education are also highlighted. This chapter addresses Paley's vision of psychologically safe classrooms by presenting Paley's pedagogy of fairness in which children are not divided by the insidious categories of race, difference, gender, or talent. (pages 5 - 12)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Part I: Curricular Matters: A Pedagogy of Meaning

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0003
[Vivian Paley, play-based approach, childhood curriculum, Vygotsky's theory, professional development, young children]
This chapter sets the parameters for discussion with respect to the significance of Vivian Paley's play-based approach to the early childhood curriculum by examining the current opposition to it. The chapter explores the theoretical underpinnings of Paley's philosophy of education relevant to play, story, and early literacy, giving attention to Vygotsky's theory of the role of play in development and Dewey's view of play as meaningful activity. The chapter also considers the hidden effect this change has wrought on the professional development of teachers. The application of Vygotsky's theory of the role of play in development to Paley's work differs in one respect, that is, Paley's consistent use of the metaphor of work to describe young children's play. This book's author states that she learnt lot of lessons as a young teacher from observing young children on playground that transferred into the classroom and this made her better at early literacy instruction. (pages 15 - 34)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0004
[pedagogy of meaning, fanstasy, classrooms, Vivian Paley, young children, literacy development]
This chapter considers Vivian Paley's discovery of the deeper, psychological significance of children's fantasy play. The chapter pays attention to the general functions of play in young children's development as depicted in Paley's classroom observations. Much focus is given on Paley's pedagogy of meaning of observations on young children at play that have proven an incredible resource for teachers. Theoretically, fantasy play emerges between symbolic explorations of toddlerhood and peaks before the mastery of games with rules in middle childhood. Vivian Paley describes fantasy play as the young child's “curriculum in its natural form.” According to Paley's pedagogy of meaning, teacher must inhabit the zone of proximal development created by fantasy play. It also means that the teacher must relinquish control over what the children should be thinking and actively embrace what they are thinking. Hence, the chapter also tries to make links between fantasy play and early literacy development. (pages 35 - 52)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0005
[storytelling curriculum, fantasy play, storytelling, written language, literacy development, young children]
This chapter explores Vivian Paley's signature “storytelling curriculum” from various viewpoints by delineating its essential components and reflecting on its similarities and differences with respect to fantasy play. The chapter describes the significance of the storytelling curriculum and talks about what it has meant to her own identity as a teacher of young children, and to her work with a teacher who has only recently become a teacher of storytelling. In Mrs. Tully's Room: A Childcare Portrait (2001), Paley suggests ways “to take” stories in a group where the age of the children, time, or classroom dynamics do not permit an individual child's dictation. The chapter details the power of the storytelling curriculum to early literacy development, including its usefulness in teaching young children “written language.” The chapter also contrasts the storytelling curriculum in this regard with the writing workshop approach. (pages 53 - 90)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Part II: Relational Matters: A Pedagogy of Fairness

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0006
[teaching, classrooms, pedagogy of fairness, schooling, teachers, human interactions]
This chapter examines the concept of fairness as a legitimate pedagogical concern as its focus is not the curricular, but the relational aspects of pedagogy, the framework for the unscheduled but inevitable human interactions in all classrooms. From a methodological perspective, pedagogy of fairness is, simply, teaching to include within and between all of these relationships. Three issues are introduced in this chapter that underscores the need for a pedagogy of fairness — the impact of separation from home (and departure from toddlerhood) on young children's adjustment to preschool and kindergarten; the insidious prevalence of bias toward some children by teachers and other children; and the purpose and potential of early schooling in a democratic society. If there is a hierarchy to Paley's pedagogy of fairness, it is likely that the purpose and potential of early schooling will be topped by the assumptions of the teachers. (pages 93 - 106)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0007
[black children, self-examination, personal development, white teacher, community members, classroom]
This chapter elaborates the author's approach on Paley's practice as a white teacher of children of color, of black children in particular, through the three books that focus on the subject. The book White Teacher [(1979) 2000] centers on self-examination and the chapter observes the significance of this book on Paley's personal development and in the white teacher studies movement. Paley's second investigation into race in the classroom cedes center stage to community members in her book Kwanzaa and Me: A Teacher's Story (1995). The five-year-old Reeny tells the story in Paley's third work, The Girl with the Brown Crayon (1997). The chapter finds that in all these three books, Paley evolved as a fair teacher of children of color in the context of the many complex issues that accompany her efforts to recognize race and ethnic differences in the classroom. (pages 107 - 128)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0008
[gender, developmental difference, pedagogy of fairness, race, childhood classroom]
This chapter presents the author's change of viewpoint from race to gender, developmental difference, and popularity as sources of exclusion in the preschool and kindergarten, which Paley exposes in Boys and Girls: Superheroes in the Doll Corner (1984), The Boy Who Would Be a Helicopter: The Uses of Storytelling in the Classroom (1990), and You Can't Say You Can't Play (1992). All the works of Paley contributes to our understanding that Paley' pedagogy of fairness works as a safeguard for her young charges against the unexpected, and often ignored, sources of exclusion in the early childhood classroom. By reviewing the studies of Paley, we find that from the gender viewpoint, the developmental difference and popularity requires that teachers should be equally direct about exclusion on race. (pages 129 - 154)
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

- Patricia M. Cooper
DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226115252.003.0009
This chapter is available at:
    University Press Scholarship Online

Appendix A: Guide to Implementation of Paley’s Storytelling Curriculum

Appendix B: Sample Stories

Appendix C: Sample Transcript of Child Dictation

Appendix D: Becoming a Teacher of Stories

Notes

References

Index