Do you have a playhouse or dramatic play center in your room? Many principals, as well as parents and even kindergarten teachers, don’t understand the purpose of a playhouse. They hear the word play and understanding ends there!
The value of a dramatic play center cannot be overstated. In this center, students can take on the role of mom, dad, baby bear, chef, doctor, teacher, or post master. Shy students are often more willing to participate when they can “be” someone else. Students have multiple opportunities to take turns, share, and negotiate as they play together. Language and vocabulary development are increased through speaking and listening in the center, especially if it is changed throughout the year to be a hospital, restaurant, a 3 Bears’ cottage, etc.
Reading and writing skills can be practiced in the playhouse. Students can write restaurant orders, grocery lists, or letters to mail. They can read in a hospital room or a playhouse kitchen. With alphabet or number flashcards Baby bear or Goldilocks as well as students in a school room can review letters, sounds, or numbers.
In order to capitalize on the benefits of a dramatic play center, include a variety of materials for students to use, change the “scene” occasionally, and determine which standards are best addressed by the activities that you anticipate in the playhouse area. Check out the standards for Speaking and Listening, Reading Literature and/or Informational Text, Reading Foundations, Writing, and Counting and Cardinality. Post some of the specific standards that are being met or include the standards in your lesson plans. In addition, or as an alternate, post an explanation of the learning benefits of the dramatic play center.
Whether you have an actual playhouse or a defined area in your room, students can thrive in a dramatic play center. Deliberately incorporate this center in your weekly plans to meet learning objectives and state standards.
Here is my learning center poster that is posted by my playhouse.
Want to learn more about why play is so essential to learning in the early grades? Listen to our interview with Kristi Mraz, author of the book Purposeful Play.