A Rhizomatic Exploration of Adolescent Girls’ Rough-and-Tumble Play as Embodied Literacy
As a teacher-researcher in a public charter middle school in the northeast United States, I simultaneously led a sixteen-month qualitative study and hosted an after-school beading class to investigate a group of adolescent girls’ self-selected, spontaneous intersections of literacy, play, and art. Between two and eight eleven- to thirteen-year-old girls agreed to participate in each meeting. Drawing on case study methods, I worked flexibly through participant observation to support adolescents with their self-selected projects, I video recorded this activity, and then I analyzed the resulting data using a rhizomatic approach in order to identify intense moments of affect. While play continuance seemed to be the girls’ main objective, they also voluntarily engaged in academic literacy activities that supported play. Further, rough-and-tumble play offered the girls opportunities to engage in low-risk heterosexual/heteronormative role play, unintentionally rupturing expectations of female passivity and pursuing positive affects as additional rewards of play. This study demonstrates how youth-centered play can provide access points to child-driven academic and embodied literacies.