Carol Fox (1993) has shown how young children can tell imaginative fantasy stories playing themselves into the discourses of literature and literacy. They make maximal use of written stories heard from books, long before they can read and write themselves. This chapter looks at another context for language learning—the point at which the child becomes a pupil and has to ‘read’ the discourses of the classroom. Margaret Meek (1989) has used the term, ‘what goes here?’ to describe the way in which children are encultured into different social contexts, in this case the classroom culture. As part of these learning processes, I want to argue for the importance of creative play in the infant classroom, and emphasise the benefits of children using narrative play with the encouragement and support of an actively involved educator.
Sixty or so faces looked intently at the brightly striped puppet theatre standing in the corner of the classroom. The afternoon was hot and sticky, the children wriggled and shuffled to make themselves cooler and more comfortable. A teacher looked on indulgently from the doorway. There was no need for her intervention, they were all absorbed in the puppet play. She went off to join her colleagues, preparing for the school fete at the weekend.
A typical event in the life of an infant school. Nothing remarkable, the children enjoying the entertainment provided by the puppet plays. I was there with a group of nursery nurses from the local college, helping them to