Why I Don't Have a Dramatic Play Center in My Kindergarten Classroom

Sunday, 4 August 2019

Now before you go jumping to conclusions, let me say that I have nothing against dramatic play centers.

In fact, it makes me pretty sad to see how few kindergarten classrooms have space for them anymore.

I even got choked up at a conference once (not unusual if you know me) as I described how many of the kitchen sets in my school district had been moved to basement storage (my own included!).

Pretty embarrassing, but I saw it as a sign of the times, and I really didn't like where kindergarten was headed.

But even so, I currently don't have a traditional dramatic play center in my classroom.

And here's why!

Reimagining the Traditional Dramatic Play Center

Several years ago, I began to notice the literary richness that came from acting out stories that we read repeatedly each week through shared reading.

story retelling and role play from shared reading books such as Caps For Sale in a kindergarten classroom center

Children were:

  • building oral language
  • expanding vocabulary
  • internalizing story structures
  • using a story voice and expressive language
  • practicing sequencing and story order

I knew that all of these skills were benefitting my kiddos by increasing their comprehension, supporting their writing in both language and organization, and improving their speaking skills.

And so I thought that if I turned my dramatic play center into a storytelling center, children would have more opportunities to build these skills with each new story that was introduced.

Enter the Storytelling Center

So I took a deep breath and sent the kitchen set to the basement graveyard, scooped up another teacher's discarded bookshelf, and began to swap out the pretend play props of food and dress up clothes for story props and felt boards.

retelling shared reading books such as Jack and the Beanstalk in a kindergarten classroom center

Each story was given its own basket and felt story mat.  Props were gathered from a variety of places including my own children's toys, thrift stores, and garage sales.

Some storytelling sets were purchased with school funds through catalogs such as Lakeshore Learning and School Speciality.

It didn't happen overnight and I'm still always on the lookout for new props that kids could use to tell a new favorite story.

I renamed it the Storytelling Center to be explicit about what children were to do when they visited.

choice time discovery center - storytelling center start-up guide for kindergarten

Expanding Into Content Areas

Over time, I began to expand the many ways children could use the storytelling center.  In addition to retelling folk/fairytales and emergent storybooks, I started to see "stories" in other areas of the curriculum that could be told in the center to help children better grasp the content they were learning.

In November, the children retold the story of the Mayflower and the first Thanksgiving.

retelling the story of the Mayflower and first Thanksgiving in a kindergarten classroom center

During a weather unit, they made up their own weather stories...

creating weather stories in a kindergarten classroom center

and told the story of how a snowflake was made.

telling the story of how snowflakes are made as part of a weather unit in a kindergarten classroom center

The possibilities are really endless as story is inherent to all of history, people's lives (think biographies), and the science of how things are invented, made, grown, etc.

Children could tell the story of Martin Luther King, Jr., how a flower is grown, or the water cycle.

Still a Dramatic Play Center?

So, you may be asking yourself, "Isn't this still a dramatic play center?"

In many ways, yes!

Both invite role play, explore pretend/makebelieve, utilize social-emotional skills and build communication.

retelling the story of five silly fishermen in a kindergarten classroom center

But what is traditionally known as a dramatic or pretend play center typically includes props that invite children to explore roles associated with home and community living.  The center may be changed throughout the year to match students' interests from a pet shop to a garden store to a dentist's office.

I see value in both, but felt the storytelling center was a way to meet increasing academic demands while still keeping dramatic play alive and well.

In a perfect world (or a bigger classroom), you might offer both!

How do you incorporate dramatic play in your classroom?

Thanks for stopping by,

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