I love the Dramatic play center and all of the authentic learning that takes place there. In the playhouse, children are role playing, using materials, pretending, building attention spans, practicing social skills, negotiating, communicating, solving problems, and on and on. I love to extend the learning even further by using the dramatic play area in a way that builds important reading skills like story elements, comprehension, and fluency.
One fable I like to use early in the year is “The Three Bears!” (It is amazing how many students have never heard this story-- All the more reason to do it) After reading a version or two of the traditional tale, and doing a compare and contrast activity, we make a collaborative story map (I love how they always look so different each year, representing my students personalities). Using this map, we developed our story element wall using cooperative efforts! The children are very proud, especially this group that made the Goldilocks below. They made her so large because she was such a big problem in the story.
Next, we used the elements of the story to design the 3 Bear Cottage in our playhouse. And the poster displayed at its entrance that help students choose the character they want to represent.
Inside the house students reconstruct the sequence of the story, retell the story, use the vocabulary in the story, and more as they learn in a child’s authentic way--play!
My playhouse changes into something new about every three weeks, the children love it! In fact, recently I received a great thank you from a student that had moved across the country following his kindergarten year. He was writing the letter as a college essay for teacher appreciation week (thank you to that college professor)! The letter was very touching as he listed the things he would never forget about kindergarten. Yes, you guessed it, the playhouse changing into new things was number 1 (He even listed them all).
There has been a trend for the last 10 years or so to throw out the dramatic play in kindergarten. Please do not give in! The house is critical to a child’s development and a great place to practice academic, social, emotional, verbal, and cognitive skills. And as a bonus, it is a great place your students can develop important reading skills and develop important vocabulary words.
Here is a peek at my students fulfilling Common Core Standards through play.