Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Save the Dramatic Play! {Part 1}

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!


Jessica F said...

Hi Erin!

I'm so glad you decided to keep it! Those are great questions to ask. You are such an awesome and reflective teacher. :) I know a lot of teachers that let dramatic play just fall by the wayside or keep it a kitchen all year and it never realizes its full potential... you have some GREAT ideas for keeping it fresh, purposeful and engaging. I really liked the book Prop Box Play by Ann Barbour for getting ideas and getting organized. I think incorporating visual "I Can" charts for different tasks might help too. Good luck!

Fun in PreK-1 & Kinder

Sarah said...

I feel that dramatic play center is important, however, I struggle to keep it fresh and exciting!! I cant wait to go back and re-read some of your posts and see if you have given any tips or suggestions. I feel that the "house" area gets "old" and I get that. So my challenge this year as its COMING BACK to our classrooms how to make it also a place that can be exciting to learn a and demonstrate real life.

I think its GREAT that you are re-looking at how things are done within a classroom. Many of our students we also have had in the building for preschool / jr. k program.

I hope that you can wiggle in the listening location too. I feel that can be such a nice outlet for students and foster that listening comprehension.

I have also worked over the past several years w/ some extreme non-verbal students ....its an exciting challenge -- be sure to pull in your SLP we also have gotten a lot of training on the PODD communication system for students. Let me know if you wanta chat :)

I cant wait to follow along as you continue to share what you have figured out that works for your students. :)

one of your quietest followers ....

Kate said...

I can't wait to see the changes that you make! I am changing this center this year too. What I am doing that may help your little ones too is having my aid show the students how to use the work task boxes on Wed. and Fri. the week before we are to use the center. I am also considering keeping the task boxes back in my area for when my center activity is finished or if I have students that finish early. That way I can show them how to use it and then it will go into the dramatic play area that following week. So lots of practice before it is independent! DO you happen to have a sample of your daily schedule. I am looking at revamping and changing the schedule and am trying to get other ECSE teachers schedules to see what I can shorten or take out, etc. I'd love to see how you go about your day! Good luck with getting your dramatic play area all ready for next year!
Fun in ECSE

Unknown said...

I miss dramatic play!
First Grade Blue SKies

Erin said...

I'm glad to hear you say that you're keeping the Dramatic Play center in your classroom! I'm not sure how you usually introduce your play area, but when I worked with pre-k students we always read aloud books that coincided with the theme. I felt that my students could connect with the characters in the story and became more comfortable using the center as it was proposed. I even had students recreating scenes and dialogue from the story. Perhaps that could help some of your future students? Best of luck!!!
Short and Sassy Teacher

Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas said...

I've never taught lower than first grade and I couldn't read this post fast enough. You are an amazing teacher and I can wait to read more about the success of your Dramatic Play area this year.
Fern Smith's Classroom Ideas!
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Sam said...

I've been battling this question all summer! I have a self-contained preschool autism unit and with my non or low verbal kids and those still needing functional play skills, I just didn't have kids engaged in the area. There was a need for a lot of adult facilitation and we couldn't always have someone exclusively there to support. My trial this year is to keep dramatic play materials and themes but move those materials into our block area and free choice toy area so that we can support the kids and facilitate some of the play and social skills. Always a work in progress to try and best meet our kids needs! Good luck this year, looking forward to hearing about how it works with your group.

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