We hear a lot about academics and early childhood education. For some, that means reducing or removing some of the “play” stuff and doing more activities that focus on literacy (and math). But the great thing about early childhood education is that all of these things can be woven together. Opportunities to write fit easily with dramatic play in the preschool classroom.
Why Incorporate Writing?
Preschoolers learn more when they are interested and engaged. If your preschoolers are interested in writing, they will want to do it. If they see that writing is a part of their play, they will want to do it. On the other hand, if they are not interested in writing, they will not be ready to learn it. We cannot make their brains be ready for learning. So, if we offer the tools and include writing as a part of whatever else we’re doing, then writing becomes a part of play. Preschoolers have a reason to want to write.
Writing for adults is a tool – for learning, for remembering, for sharing ideas, for helping others. Look for ways to help preschoolers see you use writing (both in the classroom and in your personal life). Comment that you are writing a note so you will remember to bring something tomorrow. Tell them you are writing a note to moms and dads so parents will know what you did at school today. Make and post a list of things you are doing in the classroom…and check them off as you do them. When preschoolers see you write with a purpose, they will be more motivated in using writing themselves.
Simple Ways to Incorporate Writing in Dramatic Play
Add notepads and pencils to your home or dramatic play area. Encourage preschoolers to use them in their play. We always use pads and pencils when we are using telephones. Kids naturally begin to take notes or jot down numbers. They may also use notepads in their home play, writing notes to one another about things that need to be done.
When you play grocery store or bookstore (or other store-related dramatic play), offer pads and pencils for making lists. Provide self-stick notes so children can make price tags. Offer paper and markers to make signs. Think of ways that writing naturally fits in the store setting and add related tools.
Clipboards and forms (real or pretend) are great for medical play and office play. Kids see adults filling out forms and checking boxes, so this is another natural connection between play and the written word. Include forms in any kind of doctor play, vet clinic play, or office setting.
Restaurant play also provides natural opportunities to write. Menus and server pads encourage writing. We see children copying food words from menus or signs.
Add clipboards with paper and pencils when you are using tools. Preschoolers can jot down measurements, draw plans, and add notes to other workmen.
Writing Is Communication
Use waiting lists. We use waiting lists at the easel or for other activities that only one or two kids can do at a time. Kids add their names to the list. As kids finish, the next child is called and offered an opportunity to do it. When we had a keyboard for office play, several kids wanted to play at a time. One boy asked for paper and started a waiting list on his own. THAT’S using purposeful writing.
And, of course, post office and communication play is a great way for written communication to take center stage. Provide different kinds of stationery and envelopes. Add small boxes or cubbies for mailboxes. Labels or small stickers make great stamps. Include a list of all the children’s names so friends can write to one another.
As you think about your different types of dramatic play, you can see where opportunities to write would fit: school, police officer, library, garden, farm’s market, and gift wrap center.
If you do not regularly have a writing center, store paper and tools on a shelf or table in a corner of the room. Teach kids that these tools are always available and ready for use. Then your children can go and get them when they need to jot a note or print words as they play.
And sometimes, you get a treasured keepsake written just for you.
BIO: Scott Wiley, an early childhood educator for over 25 years, is managing editor for Pre-K Pages. He blogs at Brick by Brick, exploring the connection between play and learning. Connect with Scott on Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest.
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