“Hello sir, can I take your order? We have spaghetti and pizza on the menu today.”
No, this is not a restaurant but a classroom at NTUC First Campus’ My First Skool. A corner of the room has been converted into a “restaurant” and happy preschoolers are immersed in their roles as chef, waiter, and customer, having fun pretend-playing.
These dramatic learning corners in the classrooms typify My First Skool’s approach to early childhood education. They embody the belief that preschoolers learn best in a fun, experiential and inquiry-based environment.
Be What You Want to Be
At My First Skool at Blk 49 Whampoa South, the school’s dramatic corners have been set up as a Salon, an Airplane and a Car-wash. These were selected based on the children’s interests.
At My First Skool, a class is first encouraged to come up with a topic that interests them. In a classroom of rambunctious preschoolers, this can be a challenging task in itself. However, the self-directed process encourages interaction and collaboration amongst classmates, something that My First Skool values.
Children then deepen their understanding of the topic by taking an investigative approach – asking questions and looking at it from different points of view.
Teachers set up the dramatic learning corners in the class based on the selected topics. As far as possible, corners are created with “real items”. For example, an actual hair brush and mirror is placed at the Salon. Making use of real products allows the children to relate their pretend-play back to real-life.
And the kids love the dramatic corners.
“Children are particularly excited to play at the dramatic corner because they are free to role-play varying real-life scenarios and try out different job scopes. Teachers observe that children really enjoy themselves at the dramatic corner, as they are given opportunities to develop and enhance their creative-thinking, problem-solving and conflict resolution skills when interacting with their peers,” says Ms Jasmine Chong, Principal of My First Skool at Blk 49 Whampoa South.
Playing is Learning, Learning is Playing
And of course, all this play has plenty of benefits too.
Dramatic learning corners teach children about being assigned to and performing different roles. Open-ended play scenarios encourages children to exercise their imagination and thinking skills when responding to one another.
“Interaction at the dramatic corners allows the development of creative thinking in children and encourages them to establish relationships with their peers,” says Ms Chong.
Ms Yong Foong Ling, Principal Education Development Specialist, NTUC First Campus, explains, “In role play, children have opportunities to be in someone’s shoes and learn to take on different perspectives; this helps them develop an understanding of others and of empathy. When children play together in a dramatic corner, they often have to agree on a play scenario and negotiate roles and rules. Thus, they also learn many important social skills such as turn taking, sharing, negotiating and collaborating.”
Better social skills is also useful when it comes to regular lessons on subjects like English and Maths. Children are more aware of others around them and more considerate.
Another benefit that teachers at My First Skool have observed is the impact of the dramatic corners on children’s vocabulary. Playing different roles also means learning the lingo that comes along with those role. For example, in a salon scenario, children get exposed to words like hairdryer, trim and perm, and have the opportunity to practise using them through role-play.
Learning Beyond the Classroom
At My First Skool, the dramatic corners also provides an opportunity for learning to be extended beyond the classroom. To reinforce what has been learnt in the classroom, teachers may take the children out to the neighbouring community to see what they have done in a project or role-played in the “real world”.
One term at My First Skool at Blk 49 Whampoa South, a nursery class was particularly interested in pets and decided to carry out a project about caring for pets. To complement the preschoolers’ pet care project, class teachers setup a dramatic corner as a pet shop where children could play-pretend as a groomer, a vet, a salesperson and cashier.
This in-classroom learning was reinforced with a class excursion to a nearby pet shop to see how animals were actually cared for. The preschoolers were also able to interact with the staff at the shop, asking questions to learn more and validate their own assumptions about how a pet shop is run.
By emphasising these type of experiences, My First Skool allows children to relate what they have learnt in the classroom back to everyday life, making the lessons much more meaningful. Children also learn to have an inquiring mind and become more curious about the world around them.
My First Skool: More Than 40 Years of Early Childhood Education Experience
My First Skool has a been a leader in early childhood education for more than 40 years.
The preschool arm of NTUC First Campus, My First Skool has over 130 preschools across Singapore with more than 2,200 early childhood educators, all who meet the training requirement of the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) and many with a Diploma in Preschool Education.
Driven by the passion to help each child be the best he or she can be, My First Skool teachers are supported by a central team of education development specialists who formulate programmes, conduct trainings and maintains the quality of education.
To learn more about My First Skool and its curriculum, pay a visit to www.myfirstskool.com or call 6509 7887 for more information.
This feature is brought to you by My First Skool.