Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Please Don't Take My Pretend Center Away

I'm often asked by many teachers and administrators if our kindergarten children still have time to "play."  My answer is, "YES!"  Play is children's work.  That is how they learn.  The pretend center seems to be a controversial area right now as we move towards the Common Core.  I am a fan of the Common Core, and I believe that the pretend center is the perfect place to work on those standards.  Math occurs in the pretend center. Language occurs in the pretend center.  Reading occurs in the pretend center. And writing can definitely enhance the pretend center.  When I set up my kindergarten classroom, I put my writing center close to my pretend center.  The reason is they complement each other.  What better way to get your students writing, than to let them have ownership of where they play.   Let them plan and design their centers.  Use rich vocabulary when designing them.  Use real world experiences to create your centers.  How many of you have a doctor office or a vet clinic in your pretend center?  Your housekeeping center can easily transform into many wonderful learning adventures for your students.  Below are examples of my students' writing that occurred from me turning it over to them. Look carefully at their samples and see what kindergarten students can do when you encourage them to write for meaning.  Then look below the pictures for a few Common Core standards that are being met by doing this.
How many words can you read?  You know you're an early childhood
teacher when you can read these words quickly:-)
Some use pictures, some use inventive spelling, and some use both.  
Sure it is easy to place an order verbally.  But encourage them to write their orders while in the writing center and then place in a basket for others to fill the orders.  FUN!  Looks like we need some hamburgers, cheeseburgers, breakfast bagels, chicken nuggets, and some apple dippers.
Now think of all the math that can occur when counting out orders. 
Cardinality comes from authentic practice too.
Common Core State Standards

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.1a Print many upper and lowercase letters.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K. Form regular plural nouns orally by adding /s/ or /es/

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.2c Write a letter or letters for most consonant and short-vowel sounds.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.K.2d Spell simple words phonetically, drawing on knowledge of sound-letter relationships.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.1b Recognize that spoken words are represented in written language by specific sequences of letters.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K1d Recognize and name all upper and lowercase letters of the alphabet.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K2d Isolate and pronounce the initial, medial vowel, and finals sounds in three-phoneme words.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3a Demonstrate basic knowledge of one-to-one letter-sound correspondences by producing the primary sound or many of the most frequent sounds for each consonant.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RF.K.3b Associate the long and short sounds with the common spellings for the five major vowels.

Stretching words apart into their individual sounds when writing is like a child decomposing a number with manipulatives in math.  Writing letters for sounds becomes a manipulative opportunity for our emergent writers.

The child advocate in me is saying, "YES! They need to play.  YES! They need to read and write.  And YES!  They can do all of that in the pretend center.  The motivation to read and write comes from the desire to make their play environment the best that it can be.  If we want our young students to write opinion and narrative writing, then we need to give them many, many opportunities to experiment with words.

I always say that teaching kindergarten is a hard balance these days.  Our children deserve the best environment to learn.  Let's do our best to keep the pretend center in our classrooms.

Thanks for stopping by.  I would love for you to leave your comments below on your favorite pretend center that you have in your classroom.  Let's get the ideas flowing.


  1. Thank you! Right now the kitchen pretend center is the only area that looks good in my room.....with nonfiction cook books and blank recipe cards....magnet letters....dishes and food But it won't be a kitchen long :) Thanks for inspiring me!

    1. Jenny, Your pretend center sounds wonderful! I love that you added the nonfiction cook books. And just imagine the recipes they will be writing. I would love to hear those conversations. FYI: One of my favorite stories that a student wrote was about cooking with grandma. "We go to the store. We open up the package. We put them in the oven. Then we eat them. " Now that's the kind of cooking I've been doing here lately. From package to the oven:-) Have a wonderful school year. I might have to drop by your pretend center this year.

  2. "Please don't take, my play center away!" There's a song in there Kathy! I can't imagine an early childhood classroom without a dramatic play center. I think one of the biggest challenges as a teacher is changing the props to meet the needs and interests of the students as well as convincing the "powers that be" that the dramatic play center has super educational powers. My Dramatic Play Center

  3. Oh my .. I have had a pretty good kitchen/restaurant/everything else center in my K classroom for the past seven years. I never once thought about putting in cookbooks! Gee whiz, what a great idea.