Let's Go to the Movies

Children's Textual Practices Before and During a Play-Based Classroom Initiative

  • Nicola Friedrich OISE/University of Toronto
  • Christine Portier
Keywords: early literacy, writing, kindergarten, play


This paper describes the textual practices of kindergarten children as they co-created and participated in a movie theatre play context within their rural classroom. Data informing this paper were drawn from classroom videos of children (aged 3-5 years) as they engaged in activities associated with the movie theatre, field notes from action research meetings with the classroom teacher and early childhood educator, and the texts created by the children while participating in the initiative. In relation to research questions, we coded and then identified patterns in the children’s text-making activities and corresponding texts. Our analysis found that the children created texts in preparation for and while participating in the play initiative, revealing their emerging knowledge of the alphabetic principle and print genres. Through their creating of textual materials and during their enactment of roles within the play context, the children also demonstrated their understandings about the social functions of different texts. Insights from this analysis build on the literature regarding young children’s early writing development through play, and may encourage educators to co-create dramatic play initiatives with their students to extend literacy learning beyond the acquisition of emergent writing skills.

Author Biography

Christine Portier

Christine Portier, PhD, is an independent educational researcher and consultant, conducting in-house studies for school boards, reviewing and developing literacy documents for international educators, and providing professional development seminars for K-12 educators. She recently worked as a graduate course instructor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning at the University of Toronto, and as a postdoctoral fellow for the NOW Play Project, working with northern rural Canadian educators to support young children’s oral language and writing development through play in classrooms. She earned a Master of Education in Adaptive Instruction and Special Education and a Doctor of Philosophy in Curriculum and Pedagogy from the University of Toronto. Prior to these studies, she worked as a K – 6 classroom teacher.


Author (2016).
Author (2018).
Author (2019).
Barton, D., & Hamilton, M. (2000). Literacy practices. In D. Barton, M. Hamilton, & R. Ivanic (Eds.), Situated literacies: Reading and writing in context (pp. 7-15). London: Routledge.
Bear, D. R., Invernizzi, M., Templeton, S., & Johnston, F. (2008). Words their way: Spelling, phonics and vocabulary (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Christie, J., & Enz, B. (1992). The effects of literacy play interventions on preschoolers' play patterns and literacy development. Early Education & Development, 3(3), 205-220. doi:10.1207/s15566935eed0303_1
Cook, M. (2000). Writing and role play: A case for inclusion. Reading, July 2000, 74-78. doi:10.1111/1467-9345.00138
Corbett, M., & Donehower, K. (2017). Rural literacies: Toward social cartography. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 32(5), 1-13.
Eppley, K., & Corbett, M. (2012). I'll see that when I believe it: A dialogue on epistemological difference and rural literacies. Journal of Research in Rural Education, 27(1), 1-9. Retrieved from http://jrre.psu.edu/articles/27-1.pdf
Erickson, F. (2002). Culture and human development. Human Development, 45, 299-306. doi:10.1159/000064993
Harste, J. C., Burke, C. L., & Woodward, V. A. (1982). Children's language and world: Initial encounters with print. In J. A. Langer & M. T. Smith-Burke (Eds.), Reader meets Author/Bridging the Gap: A Psycholinguistic and Sociolinguistic Perspective (pp. 105-131). Newark: DE: International Reading Association.
Heath, S. B. (1983). Ways with words. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press.
Ihmeideh, F. (2015). The impact of dramatic play centre on promoting the development of children's early writing skills. European Early Childhood Education Research Journal, 23(2), 250-263. doi:10.1080/1350293X.2014.970848
Korat, O., Bahar, E., & Snapir, M. (2002). Sociodramatic play as opportunity for literacy development: The teacher's role. The Reading Teacher, 56(4), 386-393. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/20205212
Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.
Morrow, L. M. (1990). Preparing the classroom environment to promote literacy during play. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 5, 537-554. doi:10.1016/0885-2006(90)90018-V
Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1992). Literacy objects as cultural tools: Effects on children's literacy behaviors in play. Reading Research Quarterly, 27(3), 202-225. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/stable/747792
Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1993). Access to print for children of poverty: Differential effects of adult mediation and literacy-enriched play settings on environmental and functional print tasks. American Educational Research Journal, 30, 95-122. doi:10.3102/00028312030001095
Neuman, S. B., & Roskos, K. (1997). Literacy knowledge in practice: Contexts of participation for young writers and readers. Reading Research Quarterly, 32(1), 10-32. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable748141
Peterson, S. S. (2015). Dramatic play supports children's writing in kindergarten and grade one. Michigan Reading Journal, 8(1), 44-48. Retrieved from https://now-play.org/publications/
Peterson, S. S. (2017). Developing a play-based communication assessment through collaborative action research with teachers in northern Canadian Indigenous communities. Literacy, 51(1), 36-43. doi:10.1111/lit.12088
Purcell-Gates, V. (2007). Complicating the complex. In V. Purcell-Gates (Ed.), Cultural practices of literacy: Case studies of language, literacy, social practice, and power (pp. 1-22). New York, NY: Routledge.
Purcell-Gates, V. (2013). Literacy worlds of children of migrant farmworker communities participating in a Migrant Head Start program. Research in the Teaching of English, 48, 68-97. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/24398647
Purcell-Gates, V., Jacobson, E., & Degener, S. (2004). Print literacy development: Uniting cognitive and social practice theories. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Purcell-Gates, V., Perry, K., & Briseño, A. (2011). Analyzing literacy practice: Grounded theory to model. Research in the Teaching of English, 45(4), 439-458. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/23050582
Rogoff, B. (1990). Apprenticeship in thinking. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of development. New York: NY: Oxford University Press.
Roskos, K., & Christie, J. (2001). Examining the play-literacy interface: A critical review and future direction. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 1(1), 59-89. doi:10.1177/14687984010011004
Rowe, D. W. (2010). Directions for studying early literacy as social practice. Language Arts, 88(2), 134-143.
Saracho, O. N., & Spodek, B. (2006). Young children's literacy-related play. Early Child Development & Care, 176(7), 707-721. doi:10.1080/03004430500207021
Street, B. (1984). Literacy in theory and practice. London: Cambridge University Press.
Teale, W. H., & Sulzby, E. (1986). Emergent literacy as a perspective for examining how young children become writers and readers. In W. H. Teale & E. Sulzby (Eds.), Emergent literacy: Writing and reading (pp. vii-xxv). Norwood, NJ: Ablex Publishing Corporation.
Teale, W. H., Whittingham, C. E., & Hoffman, E. B. (2018). Early literacy research, 2006-2015: A decade of measured progress. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy. doi:10.1177/1468798418754939
Vukelich, C. (1994). Effects of play interventions on young children's reading of environmental print. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 9, 153-170. doi:10.1016/0885-2006(94)90003-5
Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind in society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Wajskop, G., & Peterson, S. S. (2015). Dramatic play as a meaning-making and story-making activity. Early Childhood Education, 43(1), 17-20. Retrieved from https://now-play.org/publications/
Wertsch, J. (1998). Mind as action. New York: NY: Oxford University Press.
Worthington, M., & van Oers, B. (2017). Children's social literacies: Meaning making and the emergence of graphical signs and texts in pretence. Journal of Early Childhood Literacy, 17(2), 147-175. doi:10.1177/1468798415618534
Yoon, H. S. (2014). Can I play with you? The intersection of play and writing in a kindergarten classroom. Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood, 15(2), 109-121. doi:10.2304/ciec.2014.15.2.109