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Under Deadman's Skin

Discovering the Meaning of Children's Violent Play

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Paperback published by Beacon Press (Beacon Press)

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About This Book
The five-and six-year-olds in my class have invented a new game they call suicide. I have never seen a game I hate so much in which all the children involved are so happy.

So begins Under Deadman's Skin, a deceptively simple-and compellingly readable-teachers' tale. Jane Katch, in the tradition of Vivian Paley and Jonathan Kozol, uses her student's own vocabulary and storytelling to set the scene: a class of five-and six-year-olds obsessed with what is to their teacher hatefully violent fantasy play. Katch asks, 'Can I make a place in school for understanding these fantasies, instead of shutting them out?'

Over the course of the year she holds group discussions to determine what kind of play creates or calms turmoil; she illustrates (or rather the children illustrate) the phenomenon of very young children needing to make sense of exceptionally violent imagery; and she consults with older grade-school boys who remember what it was like to be obsessed by violence and tell Katch what she can do to help. Katch's classroom journey-one that leads her to rules and limits that keep children secure-is an enabling blueprint for any teacher or parent disturbed by violent children's play.
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The five-and six-year-olds in my class have invented a new game they call suicide. I have never seen a game I hate so much in which all the children involved are so happy.

So begins Under Deadman's Skin, a deceptively simple-and compellingly readable-teachers' tale. Jane Katch, in the tradition of Vivian Paley and Jonathan Kozol, uses her student's own vocabulary and storytelling to set the scene: a class of five-and six-year-olds obsessed with what is to their teacher hatefully violent fantasy play. Katch asks, 'Can I make a place in school for understanding these fantasies, instead of shutting them out?'

Over the course of the year she holds group discussions to determine what kind of play creates or calms turmoil; she illustrates (or rather the children illustrate) the phenomenon of very young children needing to make sense of exceptionally violent imagery; and she consults with older grade-school boys who remember what it was like to be obsessed by violence and tell Katch what she can do to help. Katch's classroom journey-one that leads her to rules and limits that keep children secure-is an enabling blueprint for any teacher or parent disturbed by violent children's play.
Product Details
Paperback (144 pages)
Published: February 18, 2002
Publisher: Beacon Press
Imprint: Beacon Press
ISBN: 9780807031292
Other books byJane Katch
  • Far Away from the Tigers

    Far Away from the Tigers
    A Year in the Classroom with Internationally...
    Over the past three decades, more than a quarter of a million children have become citizens of the United States through international adoption. Kindergarten teacher Jane Katch recently found herself with three such children in her class: Katya, born in Russia, Jasper, from Cambodia, and Caleb, from Romania. Each child had spent early years in an orphanage, and each had unique educational and emotional needs. How Katch came to recognize and respond to those needs makes up the journey of discovery in this moving and insightful book. Interspersing vignettes from the classroom and conversations with the children’s parents,Far Away from the Tigersfirst explores Katch’s misunderstandings and mistakes as she struggles to help the children adjust to school. As Katch learns more about each child’s preadoption past, she gradually realizes that they were deprived of some basic learning experiences and she needs to find ways to fill those gaps. Before Caleb can learn to read or write, he must improve his verbal skills by learning nursery rhymes, stories, and songs. Katya, who came from an overcrowded orphanage, now needs to be the center of attention; before learning how to form real friendships, she first must gain control over more basic functions such as eating and sleeping. And the youngest, Jasper, needs steady encouragement to play with classmates instead of sitting alone practicing his handwriting. Slowly, through trial and error and by drawing on the deep understanding and intense commitment of the children’s parents, Katch discovers the importance—and joy—of allowing each child time to develop in his or her own way. Beautifully told, wise, and candid,Far Away from the Tigersis a gift for parents, teachers, and anyone who cares for children growing up in a new home.

    They Don't Like Me

    They Don't Like Me
    Lessons on Bullying and Teasing from a...
    In her new book, Jane Katch explores the painful problems of bullying, teasing, and exclusion. Why, she wonders, does a young child, just becoming aware of the existence of the group, feel such a strong need to keep another child out? And is it possible to teach children to create social groups that aren't defined by excluding others? With her acute eye and deft pen, Katch watches her class of four- and five-year-olds begin to form exclusionary groups and tells us what happens as she tries to intervene. Talking with her brother, who teased her as a child; with high school kids; and, as always, with her class, Katch comes to new understandings of why some kids bully and scapegoat, how other kids get through the experience, and how she as a teacher might intervene. They Don't Like Me is at once a fascinating, absorbing look into the social lives of children and a book for teachers and parents who are trying to understand how to prevent exclusion and how to support children who are being teased and bullied.

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