Friday, August 12, 2016

Why I am Bringing the Play Kitchen Back to First Grade!


This is my 9th year teaching first grade.  When I went to school to become a teacher, I had a certain picture in my mind of what my classroom would look like.   In my mind, I saw a little kitchen, an art center, a block area, sand and water table, and a light table.  I saw a cozy library,  soft lighting, and a busy hum of children engaged in learning.   I also remember having to write my own personal philosophy of education, and I made sure that it was based heavily on the importance of play in the classroom.  


There are times when I see the classroom I pictured—sure, I have a cozy room with a library of wonderful books and fun furnishings, but none of those centers I imagined are actually in the picture.  No art easel, sand table, block center, or light table.   I have literacy and math stations, but I struggle with the pressure of meeting standards, while also wanting the classroom I pictured so long ago.  Why does it have to be  like this?  How can I find balance?

Somewhere along the way, play has been banished from classrooms and replaced with worksheets, teaching to the test, and continually moving forward with instruction whether the kids understand or not.  Education, along with society, is fast-paced. It gives students little time for play, little time to socialize, and to resolve conflict.  Maybe behavior referrals would be reduced if we had the time to allow our students to explore these essential skills again.
This year, I am ready, and desperately hoping for, a change.  I brought in a play kitchen for the first time EVER.  And when I did, I worried about it.  What would people say?  Do I need permission? Is it taboo to have a play kitchen in a first grade classroom?  Should I be giving this play kitchen to a Kindergarten teacher instead?  I actually felt a little guilty, and felt the need to justify my decision to people who came in and saw it sitting in the corner.  BUT WHY!?  My students are SIX YEARS OLD!  Yes, of course they still want to play!  It’s what they do, and I am going to allow them to do it!

So, here are some reasons I am bringing the play kitchen to first grade!

1.  Play is Age Appropriate
BECAUSE THEY ARE SIX!!!  They are little!  Let’s let them be little again!   Kids are forced to grow up so quickly.  When they step into my classroom, I want time to slow down just a bit. For centuries, scholars like Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Montessori, and Hill have promoted the value of play for early childhood development—including children in primary grades.  See?  SCHOLARS have said that play is OKAY. 

2.  Literacy and Writing (even math!) Integration
I have big plans for this kitchen.  I can’t wait to change it up based on classroom themes-- allowing my students to create signs, lists, recipes, and shops.  I plan to use literature to integrate author studies, phonics, and science and social studies topics.  During math, students can become shop keepers, setting prices for items and exchanging play money.  Since learning will be student directed, I know students will be engaged.

3.  Social Skill & Language Development
I have noticed that as the years go by, many of my students have difficulties interacting with new friends.  There are times when I feel that I am so bound by standards, that I have to continually move forward with instruction, and I have NO time to let students interact unless it involves a math game or buddy reading.  This is hindering them from developing relationships, empathy, and resolving conflict.  They simply need time to talk—after all, communicating feelings and ideas is essential in everyday life.  That is why “Speaking and Listening” is an ENTIRE Common Core standard strand, right?

4.  Imagination and Creativity
Let’s face it.  Technology has taken over, and while technology is amazing-- gone are the days when videos, iPad's, Kindles, and such weren’t at our fingertips every given minute. The play kitchen will allow my students  the opportunity to pretend again.  How many memories do we have with our friends playing in the home living center at school?  Dressing up and playing with baby dolls?   Developing imagination will inspire them to become creative writers and thinkers.  I think I will see a dramatic change in the writing my students produce because of the play kitchen. 

So, I am giving it a try--beginning next week.  I am so excited about it too!  If introducing a play kitchen into our learning stations goes well, then I am definitely saving my money for a light table next. :)  If you have any tips and management tricks for play kitchens in a first grade classroom (or any grade for that matter), I would LOVE to hear them!  Leave me a comment below!

34 comments:

Kelly Campbell said...

I LOVE THIS!!! Why do we always feel guilty when we want to "slow down" in our classrooms? Like you said...they are SIX! I'm excited to hear about how this goes! :)

Anonymous said...

I LOVE your idea! I taught "foods" in high school for 28 years, we need this in our classrooms. We found the kitchen can be the "practical application" of all kinds of math problems & science experiments! I applaud your idea!

Emily - DeshlerDesigns.com said...

I fully support more play and creative time in the classroom as a parent! Kid's brains go to overload shut-down mode without it!

Caroline Pilman said...

Go, girl! Way to prioritize what you know is important!

Peggy said...

AMEN!There are to many people in charge who do NOT understand early childhood development setting standards for teachers in the classroom. I would love to hear how your year goes!

Kaity Kellar said...

Love this! Love you! Love that kitchen (I must know where you got it)! Yes, yes, yes! I completely agree with everything you believe. I have no doubt this will go over well in your classroom. Keep us posted. I love your blog/ide

Mrs. McCarragher said...

Way to go! All the important skills can and will be a part of your kitchen! We need more of this and less worksheets and tests. Your students AND parents will be the benefactors!

Lauren said...

As a first grade teacher and mama to a first grader this year, I love this. They need more play and less assessments. Thankfully, my school (which isn't too far away from your school) keeps in mind that they are six. We keep assessments, worksheets, and homework to a minimum. I would love to have the centers that you mentioned in my classroom, but it's just too tiny for them to fit. Please blog in a few weeks and let us know how it goes.

Mandy said...

I can't even express in words how much I love this!! I am so glad you are doing this! Maybe you can start a new education trend that is so desperately needed!

Hilary Lewis said...

This is awesome! I have been preaching this for years. I'm so glad you are giving it a go! I know it will be awesome. Can't wait to hear how it goes. Have a great year!

Louise Tripoli said...

Bless you! Your students are so very fortunate

Laura said...

Never a bigger fan of yours than right now!! Thank you for advocating for our CHILDREN!! Love this post!
Laura
<a href="http://www.peaceloveandfirstgrade.com”>Peace, Love, and First Grade</a>

Anonymous said...

This is wonderful! Let them be little. Who would have ever believed all the pressure we put on these little people. You go girl!

Foreman Teaches said...

I love this post! Children must have time to be children and to learn how to socialize in a positive manner. Your students will grow in so many ways.

Amanda said...

I love it! I am trying it in grade two as well. One of my ideas is to incorporate some reading recipes. I have simple recipes and pictures of the foods that the kids can use to "make" them. I did the recipe thing as part of a cooking unit for sequencing and the kids loved it. This year I saw an idea to make the food from magazine pictures and laminate. Done and done. I would be happy for you to be my son's teacher. More play, less rigor is the key to success.

martha brown said...

I bring a bin of food and restaurant stuff out when I teach money :) I don't have room in my classroom for even a little kitchen unit. I have a "dramatic play" centre as part of my literacy centres though, and I switch out so many different things - sometimes puppets, plastic animals, trolls or little ponies, dolls and furniture, the play food and plates.... So important for social development!

keri said...

So impressed and proud! Way to go!! I whole heartedly agree with you and look forward to adding more play to my kinder day! Thank you so, so much for sharing!!! More power to you!!!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely love this! I can't wait to read about how you incorporate it and how it works out in your classrooom. Play is such an important part of learning.

Cindy Martin said...

You are right!

Cindy Martin said...

I'm so happy you wrote this article! I firmly believe in a House Keeping Area or Dramatic Play Area! You can learn so much about the student's home life, if you just listen. I added a cash register, menus, puppets, plates and plastic spoons etc.. and taught them how to set a table properly. I also had real pans, dolls for the girls, fire trucks for the boys and just watched them. You can take observational notes about how well the interact with others and any oral language concerns. Have fun, and show that house off like is was a diamond!

Anonymous said...

I had a doll house, hot wheels and a dinosaur mountain in my first grade classroom. It was the best thing I ever did! And now in kindergarten I have all the other things too. My principal actually said to me the other day, "a child should be able to walk into your classroom and see what they want to see, toys."
So glad I work where I do!

Carrie said...

Read "The Power of Play" book this summer and I too have big plans to bring play back into my 1st grade classroom!

Lisa said...

This year I'm putting my magnetic stations in it. I used cookie sheets and put magnetic letters and numbers in bowls. I'll change the skill throughout the year. I will also bring out the food and play things in it when I have play stations on Fun Friday.

Anonymous said...

Amen! As a retired early childhood specialist, all early childhood research still supports your philosophy. If educators don't speak up for our young children, academic standards will continue to be pushed into the lower grades. Reading and math facts are now expected before first grade in many schools. Teachers must remember that for a child to learn he/she must feel comfortable and trust the educator to feel confidence in learning. Many children come to kindergartensure from handicapped environments, yet we expect them, after 1 year to be caught up with everyone else. Many 6 year olds experience failure before they even begin to learn. A child eventually learns to read and write from talking, and drawing, to communicate ideas. It's sad that we can't wait for a child to start talking and then try to hush them in kindergarten and first grades just as they are beginning to become competent. Young children internalize concepts through activity, not singularly through memorization. If they only memorize, they often struggle in understanding higher level concepts in later grades.
Hooray for teachers like you who continue to support our youngest learners!

Anonymous said...

I believe that playing with other children is where our kids learn relationship skills - getting along, settling conflicts, etc.. Children often live in cocoons of electronic games, texting, and such a highly controlled classroom environment that they are not prepared to handle real life.

Missing Mikayla said...

Ugh, that is so true. I had one principal who removed my play kitchen from my KINDERGARTEN classroom and told me my students were spending too much time playing and needed to get more work done in their workbooks. Thankfully I don't work for her anymore.

Brian + Cheryl B. said...

BRAVO!!!!

Anonymous said...

Perfect! I love your idea. Wish I would have done this in my first grade classroom years ago!!

belle d. said...

early childhood is 0-8 whether you separate infants, toddlers, and preschoolers from elementary school students or not, that fact remains. primary grade level children are still in the early childhood phase and require developmentally appropriate instruction and experiences. i commend you on your decision and i pray that you keep it going for the rest of your career. all four of your points are spot on! you can't apologize for loving your students and caring for them in a developmentally appropriate way. brilliant idea! well done! i really look forward to reading an update. :)

Susan said...

I agree 100%! I can't wait to see how this works for you. I can't imagine what my administration would say if I did this. Our kindergartens don't even have these anymore. :(

Anonymous said...

I have taught kindergarten for 15 years and I was reassigned to 1st grade this school year. Oh, how it hurt me to let go of my kitchen center and my block center!!!! I want them BACK! So excited for you! Please let us know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

Sarah-I was so thrilled to stumble onto your blog and find this as the entry I read. I am so inspired by you to do this and am thinking I might need to find a way to make this work in my own first grade classroom! Thanks for the inspiration and I look forward to read more about how this is working for you!

Anonymous said...

Love Love Love your idea! Good job taking a stand for play and kids! Scholastic even had an article titled, "What Happened to Kindergarten?" discussing these same issues. http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/what-happened-kindergarten

jack said...

I made sure that it was based heavily on the importance of play in the classroom.use Elizabeth Nitz

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