Narrate the Play & Connect the Players

As teachers, there are so many ways to interact with children while they play. One way to join in play is to narrate what you see happening. When you narrate children’s actions, you both describe what you see but also make inferences about what is taking place. These inferences can launch the conversation between you and the children. Children can add on to what you said or even correct your ideas. This gives you the opportunity to rephrase their words and incorporate rich vocabulary and detailed descriptions.

When you see imaginative play happening in the dramatic play or another interest area, go over there and wonder aloud about what the children are up to. Put on your “Narrator” hat and describe out loud what you see them doing. However, you may also discover that some children are playing alongside each other but their play doesn’t really intersect. Or there is one child playing consistently without using language much. Help those children connect their play ideas together and/or articulate their actions.

Use narration to get a sense of the play and then match children up to play with others so that what was disjointed and disconnected becomes more connected and collaborative play. This strategy, called Narrate the Play and Connect the Players, is a way for you to model expressive language skills, to inspire children to incorporate those language skills on the spot, and to match children up in play situations that promote positive social connections.

Children who expect their teachers to narrate and connect hear new vocabulary, phrases and descriptive terms. They expect to be part of conversations. They expect to talk about actions, ideas, and plans for play.

See it in action:

Teacher: I see some of you carrying baskets of food lining up near Malcolm. I wonder if you are the customers. Is Malcolm working as the cashier at a supermarket? He looks like he’s checking the prices and collecting money.
Malcolm: I’m the big brother.
Teacher: Ah, I see. Big brothers are helpful in a family. They are older and can show their younger brothers and sisters, their siblings, how to do new things. It looks like you have an important job at the market today.
Malcolm: I’m in charge of the money.

Kendra seems to have a separate plan for play, as if not connected to the story that is being played out. She starts taking money out of the cash register.

Teacher: Kendra, Malcolm is a big brother working as a cashier, so he needs to use the cash register right now. Would you like to have a turn next? Okay, well, let’s see. Could you try another job while you are waiting to be the cashier? When I shop, I like to get a receipt, so I can keep track of what I purchased and know how much it cost. Why don’t you be the cashier’s assistant? Grab one of those memo pads and a pencil and stand next to Malcolm. Malcolm, if you tell her the price of all the items your customers buy, she can print it on a receipt for the shoppers and thank them.
Malcolm, to a shopper: That’s four dollars. Don’t forget to take your money.

Kendra, now connected to the play and happily helping the cashier, hands over a slip of paper with her emergent print.

Kendra: Here you go. Thank you.

Narrating and connecting is just one strategy for joining in play. What others do you use?

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