Watching your students "play school" is like watching yourself on a video recording. Sometimes you smile at yourself, and, more often than not, you cringe and say, "Do I really sound like that?" For better or for worse, my students this year LOVE imitating me AND each other. (Thankfully I do see the 5 year teachers asking questions and discussing things with their 5 year old students... not just lecturing!)
So, I noticed a couple of things while I was watching them play over the past couple of weeks. The first one was that the writing center, which I put a lot of work into this year, was largely abandoned. (Even more than last year, when, in my opinion, it wasn't nearly as cool). That being said, I was at the same time noticing a love for playing school. I believe one of my students, I'll call her Martha, has been spreading this around the room. You can find her in any center- blocks, book nook, science - teaching the other children. She's pretty good, too. When Martha is around, the other children are ALWAYS the students, and they don't seem to mind, but sometimes she's off elsewhere, and they still continue on the pursuit of playing school and changing the roles between teacher and student.
I solved two problems on the Friday night that I stayed late imagining the play that was to later unfold in my room. The first was that I created a post office center in the bonus area to encourage the writing that wasn't happening in the writing center. (another post, another day). The second was that I brought some life back to some really good space in our room by setting up a classroom center.
The result was this:
(note: the other half of the center is still writing supplies!)
Invitation to play school. Art easel made into a mini big book stand, big books, a written morning message, calendar numbers in an old sentence strip pocket chart, tens frames & dots, pointers, dry erase markers, and a "mystery bag" with different objects in it from time to time.
All of the things in this center are based heavily on things we do. They are familiar to the children. For instance, we have a morning message every day with blanks in it. We also write our friends' names on the board next to tens frames and count/compare how many letters they have. Throughout the year, these things evolve, of course.
The good news is, the next time I need to be out of school, I won't need to call a sub. I'll just leave Martha in charge. She's had enough practice, after all.