Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Education

First Advisor

Susan Jurow

Second Advisor

Ben Kirshner

Third Advisor

Margaret Eisenhart

Abstract

As much as play is researched and discussed by people interested in children and childhood, studies often fail to examine closely the ways that kids accomplish their play. This study sought to answer the question of how children sustain their play interactions. By making use of qualitative methods to collect and analyze data, the play of elementary-age children was studied in the summer camp and school recess settings. In these settings, children were less closely supervised by adults and were freer to make their own decisions about their interactions, in comparison to more structured settings such as school classrooms or organized sports. Findings from this study revealed that kids worked to sustain their play interactions by creating a participation framework that included one participant being in charge within each interaction. The kid in charge played the role of the boss and managed the play activity. The other kids followed and took on support roles. In addition, findings revealed that unwritten rules around social interactions were important to the ways kids interacted with each other. Play activities were found to be made up of nuanced communication that was evidence of the work kids did to sustain their interactions. By managing their own play activity, kids worked to sustain interactions without the guidance of adults in the moment.

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