I found myself faced with a dilemma. Keep my dramatic play center or let it go? I posted this question to my facebook fans with a brief explanation of why I was thinking of letting it go. I think I even gave a few of my fans heart palpitations with simply the thought of letting a center like dramatic play go to the way side.
Don't worry. I get it. Dramatic play is SUPER important. There are so many social skills that are learned in dramatic play. In fact I LOVE dramatic play and have been known to get pretty darn creative with changing out my dramatic center to so many different things: apple pie bakery, pumpkin patch, kitchen, gingerbread house, dinosaurs, pirates, farm, BBQ, the list goes on.
Reflecting back on this past school year, dramatic play was not a hugely popular center. I was spending so much extra time after school switching out my dramatic play center only to see the interest wasn't there. My typical peers would be interested in it- sure. And they did well modeling appropriate play in D.P. for students with autism--who chose to go there. But thinking ahead to my class group for next year (I'm fortunate to know most of them already) I don't see this being a play area they chose without adult support.
I'm doing a "trial" if you will for the 2014-2015 school year and not having typical peers in my room. My group of students for next year is going to have very low expressive communication as a whole. We usually have 2 typical peers in our classrooms in addition to our special education students. I want to trial a year, focusing solely on my special education students. I can easily bring in more verbal students from other pre-school classrooms for language role models as needed. This will also help keep my class size down. Granted our typical peers usually have superb behavior, they are still 2 more children in the room.
Given all of this I was forced to think that my D.P. center would be a waste of space in my classroom for the 2014-2015 school year. We can promote social interactions, turn taking, communication, sharing, etc. so easily in all of our other centers as well.
So this was me. Right on the verge of saying no dramatic play next year. Bring on the music and listening centers instead.
I had just crossed over the line. Then that's where you all stepped in. I wanted your opinion. Let me ask other people teaching pre-schoolers with autism what play centers do they have? How do they do dramatic play with their students?
I learned A LOT. You guys rock. You so quickly pushed that foot back over the line and dramatic play is here to stay! I realized I need to re-create my dramatic play center if you will. Make it more simple and more structured. Include work box tasks that relate to dramatic play. I think this is going to be so huge in my classroom. My students love their work boxes. They want to take them off the shelves to complete even when it's not time too. Creating work tasks that ARE a choice at that time will really help scaffold students to spending more time in dramatic play. Then we can work on some of the other parts of being in dramatic play.
Along with simplifying it, I'm going to reduce it in size. This should hopefully help make way to still have space to include a listening center.
So now I have a project to focus on.
#1. Re-arranging the space. Do I need any new shelving? What will I use to accommodate for the work tasks in that center?
#2. What will I do to simplify? What is coming out, what is going to stay?
#3. What work box tasks to include?
I hope to create some dramatic play supports that you can use in your classrooms as well. So stay with me on this. I plan to post more soon. That's an added bonus of teaching summer school when you work in a building that doesn't allow teachers in their room over the summer-- classroom access! woo hoo!