Pretend Play as Improvisation: Conversation in the Preschool Classroom

Published by Lawrence Erlbaum Associates in 1997

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Everyday conversations including gossip, boasting, flirting, teaching, and informative discussions are highly creative, improvised interactions. Children's play is also an important, often improvisational activity. One of the most improvisational games among three- to five-year-olds is social pretend play — also called fantasy play, sociodramatic play, or role play. Children's imaginations have free reign during pretend play. Conversations in these play episodes are far more improvisational than the average adult conversation. Because pretend play occurs in a dramatized, fantasy world, it is less constrained by social and physical reality.

This book adds to our understanding of preschoolers' pretend play by examining it in the context of a theory of improvisational performance genres. Sawyer draws on his experience with improvisational theater in Chicago to develop a theory of conversation as improvisation. Children's improvisational abilities develop rapidly during the preschool years. This book argues that adult conversational skills are based on the child's developing ability to improvise with other creative performers.

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