There are many different ways to study how children learn through play. Our lab is currently interested in assessing how children learn Executive Functioning skills through drama games.
Executive Function (EF): EF is an umbrella term that encompasses inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, and working memory. Inhibitory control is the ability to avoid acting on your initial impulse in order to reach a better outcome. Cognitive flexibility is the ability to consciously shift your attention to different perspectives, rules, or goals. Working memory is defined as holding information in mind and concurrently using that information for different tasks.
Drama Games: Drama games are social, embodied, and incorporate make-believe by behaving “as if.” An example of one of our favorite games that we play in the classroom is “Suitcase.” In the game Suitcase, everyone gets in a big circle and takes turns adding imaginary objects into a “suitcase” for a pretend trip. This could be a camping trip, a beach trip, or even just a trip to Grandma’s. Students must practice cognitive flexibility to shift from real life into the imaginary scenario. They practice inhibitory control in waiting their turn to pack their own item in the suitcase, and in inhibiting their responses to the reality of the classroom rather than the “as if” of the game. Finally, they practice working memory as they add their new item to the suitcase while remembering and naming what their peers have already contributed.
Learning Executive Function Skills through Applied Play (LEAP)
This project is designed to assess the impact of Drama Games on the development of Executive Function (EF) skills for preschool children. The intervention brings half hour drama sessions to classrooms twice a week for 8-weeks. We assess students’ EF skills both before and after the intervention to determine the impact of the LEAP program. Research has shown that early childhood capacity in EF skills is a reliable predictor of kindergarten readiness, long-term academic achievement, and positive life outcomes. Supporting foundational cognitive skills in preschool may have cascading positive effects throughout life.
For more information: If you would like to learn more about the LEAP Drama Study, or if you are a preschool interested in bringing LEAP to your classrooms, please contact graduate student Katherine E. Norman at email@example.com.
*Thank you to the Baldwin Wisconsin Idea Endowment for funding this study in Dane County*
Electronic versions are provided as a professional courtesy to ensure timely dissemination of academic work for individual, noncommercial purposes. Copyright and all rights therein reside with the respective copyright holders, as stated within each paper. These files may not be reposted without permission.
This study is still relatively new and we haven’t published any results yet. Check back soon!
See Our Publications for a chronological list of all of our published articles/books.