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December 03, 2008

Bon Appetit!

Our dramatic play center has turned into a restaurant for the month of December.  The table has a tablecloth, the waiters wear aprons and carry trays, and there is so much literacy development I can barely contain it! 


Today was the first day the restaurant was open.  Immediately four of my Spanish-speaking students took their spots.  One was working the cash register and taking orders, two friends were in the kitchen and one was patiently waiting for their food to be delivered.  I overheard several phrases in Spanish as a “waitress” called to the cook.  As the customer settled into his meal I noticed the waitress with the pad of paper and pencil.  She copied the letters and pictures that are on the menu, gave it to the customer and exclaimed “DOS!”  Which I am assuming meant he owed her two dollars.


Later during our choice time, I noticed one of my most active and distracted students had made his way into our restaurant.  I, again, went to observe.  Normally this child would last 2-3 minutes at an activity like this.  There wasn’t quite enough structure.  However, with his notepad and pencil in hand we added meals to the Chef’s Special board, whipped up a batch of brownies, organized the beverages and planned some recipes.  I was really impressed.  He wasn’t ready to clean up at the end of our choice time!  With some negotiating we agreed to work on our recipes tomorrow. 


The learning opportunities in a dramatic play area are so genuine and so experiential. This, however, does take time and effort as a teacher.  I make sure dramatic play is stocked with the essentials of a restaurant: food, trays, table, aprons, chef’s hat, menus notepads and pencils.  Our menus and signs have picture cues and many of them can be written on with dry erase markers.  We talk everyday about the expectations of each students while they play. 


I could make my students sit at a desk and practice their letters and drill them on early literacy concepts. But I can assure you that what they learn through play is much more meaningful.


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