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  • Becky Carlisle Cothern

How to Set up an Aquarium in Dramatic Play

The dramatic play center is an important part of the preschool classroom. But do you ever get board with the same activities? Would you like to integrate more reading, writing, science, and social skills into the center? Let me show you how I changed my dramatic play center to look like an aquarium and increase the learning of my students.

1. Staging: I added signs, labels, and props to create an inviting learning environment that would draw in student interest. Try adding goggles, books, pictures, cameras, ocean animals, netting, tanks, etc. to create the environment for your students. Staging might be all you need to take the ordinary to extraordinary.

2. Print Rich: To integrate the curriculum make sure you add lots of text. There is text all around us in the real world make sure your center reflects this. I use pictures and words to convey meaning. It is important that words are used, even though our kids can't read them, because it builds print awareness. Students used these photos, word strips and tags to take on different roles, find different animals, and give tours of the animals in the aquarium.

3. Writing: Reading and writing go hand in hand so make sure there are writing opportunities. For example students can check off different animals they see in the ocean and books, or draw pictures from an underwater scuba dive. My favorite writing activity was when one of the students took an underwater adventure with her camera to capture pictures of the animals in the ocean. She snapped her pretend camera as if she was taking pictures and sharing them with all her friends. One simple writing paper created a whole story line of dialog and vocabulary for this young child. Writing can help guide imaginative play and encourage students to use the materials in the center.

4. Explore and Play: Watch how students use the center and encourage students to explore a little more. For example I watched as students brought plastic fish from the water table over to feed the dolphins. This additional item was utilized with other materials (books, dolphin poster, dolphin hat) in the center to increase learning. Whether it was an underwater scuba trip, tour of the animals in the aquarium, or ocean animal puppet theater the students took advantage of this center all week long.

If you would like to create this center in your classroom make sure you purchase my Aquarium Dramatic Play Center of Teacher's Pay Teacher's. You will have access to all the posters, signs, writing pages, math activity, and more...

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