Metaplay 3

July 17, 2009

Turns out, I’m not quite ready to do the play vocab list yet. I haven’t introduced the whole framework. I should explain the framework before I fill it in. There’s a bunch of categories I need to outline and define.

The whole thing makes something of a matrix when it is done. This is a rough draft: you are seeing it pretty much at the same time as I am so wish me luck.

Here we go.


We can improve on this.

Level #1 Play-Not Play

There are three levels of speech on this axis. The meanings are implied, not explicitly stated but are very important to getting it right.

  1. Not-Play
  2. Metaplay (playful talk about play)
  3. Pretend speech (in-frame, in-character)

Kids typically differentiate between Not-Play and Play naturally using suprasegmentals: body posture, facial expressions, vocal intonation, etc. Keep in mind that some, perhaps all, of these may not be available to your AAC user.

Think about the difference between a casually stated “Hey, kick that ball over here.” versus an excited and inviting “Hey! Kick that ball over here!” Listen to the output of a VOCA and tell me whether you think it encourages a playful response to the words it says.

(This is one idea that the Tango started to figure out. However, this process is not explicitly metacognitive or metalinguistic in natural speech or action. The Tango requires way too many keypresses to toggle into a modified vocal register. I would try to make it much simpler.)

At the same time, Not-Play is important to have available at all times, because “I’m thirsty” could mean “I want to go through the pretend drive-through and get a pretend Coke.” and it could mean “I don’t want to play anymore, I need a drink.”

Metaplay is the frame-building speech that I’ve been talking about in other posts. There is more of this than in-frame, in-character speech.

Pretend is in-frame speech.

Kids shift from one level to the other seamlessly without knowing that they are doing anything. There is no reason for us to agonize over the metacognitive complexity of this nor is there any reason to explicitly teach this to anyone. The responses of the peers should be enough. And if the peers don’t respond, the AAC output is designed or programmed improperly or inadequately.

Small-Miracles-Lets-Pretend-Fire-Fighter-40000Level #2 The Pentad

This is the metaplay communication of frame-building. Here, kids discuss rules, roles, and the events that occur in the pretend narrative.

  1. Actors (who. Roles of the players, toys, or imaginary people in the game.)
  2. Actions (what. Predominantly verbs, things the actors do.)
  3. Scene (where/when. This helps set the edges of the play frame. Certain places and times imply certain things.)
  4. Goals (why. What are we trying to accomplish? More on this in Level #3.)
  5. Props (how. What are the implements we need to accomplish our goals? What is this toy supposed to be?)

(Note that I’ve changed some of the names from Kenneth Burke’s Dramatistic Pentad because a) he’s dead and won’t mind, and b) this is for a specific, pragmatic purpose and I don’t need pretentious words getting in the way)

If we think in these categories, we are much more likely to include more useful vocabulary than we would have come up with in the absence of the framework. And until we have a VOCA that self-programs based on what peers say and what play-center the kid is in, we are stuck providing their every word. Use the categories! They will help.

Improv acting is pretend play

Improv acting is pretend play

Level #3 The Narrative

Stories have a beginning, middle, and end. Improv actors think of scenes in these terms:

  1. Setting the scene
  2. Encountering an obstacle (Here’s where your goals are decided on.)
  3. Finding a resolution

Note that there isn’t a hard-and-fast mark of which phase you are in. We shift gradually from one to the next. But the types of language that you need in one chapter isn’t as important in another. But you don’t want to bury them too deeply because sometimes scene-setting is part of a resolution.

Someday soon

Someday soon

Conclusion: So there it is. A framework for play that is the result of 3 years of doctoral level study and the reading of — I just was backing up my hard drive so I have an exact count—  over 630 peer-reviewed scientific papers.

It should go without saying, but this stuff above is ©2009 Adam Bowker. You are welcome to use this in your practice as much as you want, but please don’t go rushing off to submit it to JSLHR or LSHSS without me, okay? I’m probably going to release this thing as a Creative Commons document when it is all done, but I wasn’t kidding about this being the first draft. Today is literally the first time I’ve put this down in one place like this.

Any comments on the framework and how it might be verified in a scientific way to contibute to evidence-based practice are appreciated.

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