© Copyright M. Worthington & E. Carruthers 2012
Redcliffe Children's Centre
and Maintained Nursery
and meaning making are highly significant
aspects of semiotics and young children
benefit from using their graphics to
communicate personal ideas in authentic and
personally meaningful contexts.
playing on the hill; wanting to stop another
child pushing him he asked his teacher to
write ‘Help me go on the hill – Romy is
stopping me’. He showed the sign to Romy but
as the play pushing continued, David decided
to write his own message, using his own
marks to convey what he wanted to say. This
time both David’s spoken words and his
written message had the desired effect and
their play continued without incident.
meanings in play: drawing, maps and
writing - attaching meanings.
These lovely examples shows how observations of children’s rich play
can reveal their personal interests and knowledge, which in turn,
can inform pedagogy.
Timothy - 3
years 11 months: ‘Rockets and trains’
‘This is the
space shuttle. The space station is here -
the rocket blasts off!’ Timothy drew a
slender vertical form and made large
circular movements with his pen to show this
in action, following this by drawing further
rocket-like shapes beside his original.
Later he drew a circle that he divided into
smaller compartments, with a line bisecting
the shape. He wrote in each space, using
letters that are in his name.
various features he explained, ‘This is my
house - this is at Bristol. This is Harry’s
house – Harry is my friend. I think this is
little London. This is little London bridge,
this is Victoria Park.’ His teacher asked if
her house was there and Timothy replied,
‘Oh, sorry about that, but it’s on the other
side [perhaps drawing on his knowledge of a
globe], so you cannot see.’ Pointing to a
much smaller circle above this he added,
‘This is the moon, the moon is very small,
the earth is bigger.’
turned to another sketch he was in the
process of drawing, which showed a long
narrow rectangle across the width of the
paper. Above it were 3 circles and inside
each were abstract symbols, each attached to
a long vertical line in the manner of a
traffic sign. Referring to the two figures
he had drawn beside them, Timothy explained,
‘These are the bus stops here. That’s my
Dad, that’s my Mum at the bus stops’.
narrow box beneath he added a long tube
shape with circles extending along its
length, ‘Over here, this is the underground
train. They have lights inside, tow lights.
It goes through the tunnel.’ To illustrate
his point Timothy drew a series of short
horizontal lines to show the rays of light
at the end of his train.
drawing consisted of an enclosed arc filled
with black pen and with a circular enclosure
on top: ‘These are the tunnels. It is very
dark but there’s a light on top’ he
meanings in pretence, imagination and
role-play: including gestures and
actions; speech and vocal sounds; found and
made artefacts; drawing, maps and writing.
At this age
children explore their cultural knowledge
holistically rather than treating
mathematics as something they address
mathematics: numbers for ages
Commenting on her drawing, Sameeha
said ‘That’s trampoline and it’s wet
‘cos it’s been raining. That’s in
case they fall off.’ She wrote a
series of numerals ‘3’ explaining
‘Cos they have to be three, ‘cos I’m
three. This is the chair in case
they get tired. My mummy’s thirty
three, no - thirty six.’
Sameeha added green pen marks,
‘That’s a green trampoline for my
brother. Only girls allowed on this
one and boys on this one.’ She then
went on to explain other features
she’d drawn, ‘These are all the
clouds and all the rain falling to
the ground. It’s snowing now. It
snowed yesterday. My mummy said it
will snow tomorrow.’
In their play
and graphics young children draw on their
personal cultural knowledge. Here Sameeha
included references to her experiences of
playing on a trampoline, the rain and snow,
her knowledge of ages in her family and
imagined different cultural ‘rules’ for boys
number and quantities: numerals as
‘cash point’ in the forest
Children aged 3 years 7 months – 4 years 0 months
numbers and counting; pin number codes; money: withdrawing money
from a cash point; debit cards; ‘buying ice creams from a
machine; using a pre-loaded card to watch TV.
Making meanings in pretence and imagination:
early explorations with marks for writing.
had arrived at an interesting cluster of fallen trees in the
forest; one part had a hollow space where children could stand
either side. Ayman had looked through and saw potential for it
to be a place to get ‘cash’ other children bought into his idea
and they were using pieces of bark to represent cards to fit
said after entering his piece of bark into the a slot.
Samira had added to this by using
pieces of ivy to exchange through the hollow as ice creams.
Children would come up to the machine asking for cash or ice
cream then go off to other parts of woods, later returning,
rather like a real cash machine!
Later, Cordelia was keen to try out
the popular cash machine for herself “I want a go” she declared.
“How many money you want, put your card in there and I can get
your money”. “I have to put the special numbers in first...4,
5,6,7, 8 four moneys please” Phoebe said “Okay, I’ll just get
them... here you go, thank you bye”. Cordelia exchanged pieces
of leaf and bark through the hollow in the trunk.
The children had been asking for pieces of their teacher’s
notepad and this seemed to change the function of the machine
for Cordelia “your passports can come out, put your card in
there and give me your passport” (piece of paper). “I need a
pen” Cordelia said and the teacher gave her one and she wrote
all over the piece of paper “this is your passport, I have to
put it in here” (slot in the tree trunk) “it’s to let people
test it otherwise it will be squashed and it wouldn’t work. If
you don’t get a passport ticket...you need a passport ticket”.
Phoebe came back hearing the familiar context of passports (they
have both got passports for an upcoming holiday to Paris). “I
need five passports please” Phoebe asked Cordelia “okay, give me
your passport” (paper) again she wrote on the paper, “I need to
test it so that it works”.
Cordelia then transformed the meanings attached to this hollow
space “it a television on holiday...put your card in there to
make it work on holiday TV” Cayden put his piece of bark into
the slot and Cordelia preceded to dance around so that she could
be seen by Cayden on the other side. ”I’m on TV look at me.’ as
Antoni took the card out Cordelia said “It stopped now”, then
walked away so that she was no longer on TV. Antoni put the
‘card’ back in and Cordelia continued to dance around “It’s a
funny programme” Antoni said and they all laughed.