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Sunday, March 3, 2019

Playing Again?! Dramatic Play Units Build Language

Playing can be lots of fun.  It can also be hard work.  The work of young children is to play. Literally. So many skills are developed through playing. In particular, children learn language and build knowledge through play.  

They talk about what they are doing and listen to us as we describe what is happening.
They talk with peers as they play; building social skills and social language.
They learn about toys and what they can do, and build background knowledge about what the toys represent. 
For example, how many of you have used a play kitchen when “working” with children? What do you talk about? There are so many actions that happen in a kitchen, and action words (verbs) are core words.
And sequences of actions in the kitchen are often basic routine sequences that help students map out how things work.

 Thematic units lend themselves to play routines, as children build awareness of the vocabulary and sequences involved in the theme.  Children learn about things they may not have a lot of experience with.  Perhaps your student with a disability isn’t allowed in the kitchen during meal prep.  Or maybe your student with a disability doesn’t get to go to many of the same community events as his peers.
Many of our students with disabilities fail to acquire the same background knowledge as their peers, due to lack of exposure to the same activities.

One way to compensate for this lack is to use dramatic play themes.  A speech pathologist friend of mine creates dramatic play units which she sells in her Teachers Pay Teachers store.  
I recently took a look at some of her resources and thought how well they would work with my AAC users.

Thematic units allow therapists and teachers to build that background knowledge while incorporating the language needed within that theme. Students get the opportunity to learn the concepts involved and the vocabulary needed.  
And the same thematic vocabulary runs through lessons on various subject areas while maintaining stability of words and concepts throughout.  You might have a dramatic play kitchen, a related read aloud, integration with science or social studies or math.  And you might even tie your play lessons to Common Core State Standards.

Thematic lessons allow for hands-on activities that are related and provide multiple opportunities for repetition of the vocabulary within the teaching time for the unit.
You might have adapted materials in the play area. You should definitely have visuals; images that tie in with the topic and place.  You might create a customized book; either to read before or during play, one made with pictures of the student(s) playing in the area, with text describing the activity, the sequence, the concepts.

Tamatha from TLC Talk Shop, has a lot of fun dramatic play resources in her shop. The Vet Clinic can be found here.  It is packed with fun, information, and loads of visuals to use to create the topic.
Each one of her units comes with vocabulary cards, articulation practice using thematic vocabulary, categorization activities, play activities, a barrier game, phonological awareness activities, and sensory skills ideas.

I took a look at this Vet Clinic, and found lots of ways to use and play with the vocabulary cards, including labeling, writing, telling functions and categories, and more.  She provides opportunities to describe and compare.
Most fun for the students, though, are the dramatic play forms. 
Students get a chance to pretend being the vet, the vet tech, and the customer.  There are questions to be asked and answered, symptoms to list and describe, appointments to make, and even X-Rays to use.


Animal graphics can be used with the X-Rays, as well as bandages provided.  Work on body parts, directions, shapes, colors, and more.
Grooming tools allow for labeling and describing, as well as verb tense practice.

And if, after you’ve played hard and build up some language in context, move on to some related activities to build even more language with my language in life skills sets.  The Caring for a Pet set is available here. 
It includes vocabulary cards, sentence building activities, interactive books, sequencing activity, narrative production and predictable chart writing, and more phonological awareness activities.

Taken together, there is so much in these resources that you can use to build language along a context continuum.
Build your own thematic fun with dramatic play and extended activities!

And…. keep on talking!





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