Play-Related Print

Play Print

UDL 2.3

Play-Related Print is an early literacy strategy in which a teacher intentionally promotes engagement with relevant environmental print materials within play centers in the classroom. To begin, a teacher thoughtfully integrates labels and related print materials into the classroom's play centers (e.g., restaurant menus in the dramatic play center, construction instructions in the block area). During play, the teacher encourages interaction with the labels and print materials using prompting or modeling, as a play partner, to engage students (e.g., The teacher looks at the menu and says, “I will order the cheese pizza, please.”). As play is significant in the learning and development of young students, integrating Play-Related Print into relevant and meaningful contexts is powerful in supporting emergent literacy skills.

Ready-to-Use Resources


Classroom Labels for Play-Related Print

A set of classroom labels that teachers can use to add print to play-related items in an early learning environment. The collection includes labels for toys, art supplies, and items for make-believe play. Each label includes icons and large-print words to support students' emerging literacy skills.

Grade K, 1 · English Language Arts, Reading · 9 pages

Implementation Tips

Creating a Print-Rich Environment
Scan the classroom to identify opportunities to integrate Play-Related Print. Add labels to all play centers and determine which print materials logically fit with the purpose of each center (e.g., grocery list in dramatic play, building visuals with directions in block area).
Collecting Print Materials
Collect meaningful and relevant environmental print that will engage young learners (e.g., menus, mailers, newspapers, cereal boxes, envelopes). Seek items that are common and easily identifiable to students that they can “read” (e.g., kids menus from local restaurants).
Introducing Play-Related Print
Discuss Play-Related Print with students to reinforce ideas about everyday print usage. Activate prior knowledge by asking relevant questions to engage reflection (e.g., "Do your parents use menus to order food? What kinds or words and information are on a menu?”).
Rotating Print and Materials
Rotate print materials and rearrange dramatic play furniture throughout the year to maintain student engagement. Choose materials that serve multiple purposes and use labels to designate their purpose (e.g., super-hero capes in dress up become barber shop styling capes).
Encouraging Students
During choice time, use positive narration to encourage students' use of print materials (e.g., “I like how you are using the menu to order your food.”). Use prompting to direct students toward overlooked print (e.g., "I'm hungry! Can you tell me more about these items on the menu?").
Making Print Meaningful
Integrate print that is culturally and socially relevant to students’ experiences and interests (e.g., a corner store in an urban setting, labeled food items that students have in their homes). Seek to understand students' interests and create aligned print-rich play areas.
Student-Created Print
Encourage students to create their own environmental print for use in play (e.g., students make menus, signs). Print templates and write headings to maintain organization and functionality for emergent writers.


Dramatic Play
In order to ensure student engagement, the teacher regularly updates the dramatic play center. Recently, the teacher has rearranged the furniture and updated the labels and print materials to transform the play kitchen into a restaurant. Before transitioning to center time, the teacher introduces the new dramatic play set-up to the students. To begin, the teacher activates students’ prior knowledge, asking the class what items are commonly found at a restaurant (e.g., "Have you ever been to a restaurant? What kinds of things did you see?"). Then, teacher introduces the materials, thoughtfully emphasizing the labels and print materials throughout the center (e.g., "Did you notice the words under each picture on the menu? What do you think the words are for?").The teacher then releases students to play at the centers. As students are engaged in play, the teacher observes interactions and guides learning by modeling appropriate use of Play-Related Print materials.
Integrating Writing
The class restaurant in the dramatic play area has transformed into a grocery store with a deli. During writing time, the teacher gives each student plastic food items, large markers, and index cards to be used as labels. The students are given directions to draw the food on the cards. As students are working, the teacher conferences with each student and helps them spell the food names for the labels. Underneath the student's writing the teacher writes the correct spelling of the item. The finished labels are used in the grocery store after the teacher photocopies the pictures and creates a sale paper for the student’s grocery store with their drawings.

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