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you can make me mangú, because that sounds very delicious.] Alexander: (smiles and blushes) No, no, no. Luna: Yo no sé lo que es mangú. [I don’t know what mangú is.] Javier: Mangú is like mango? Alexander wags his finger vigorously no. Aurora: (laughs) No, no, mangú es plátano. [Mangú is from plantains.] Luna and Javier: Ahhhhhh.

Alexander and his family are from the Dominican Republic and maintain strong ties to and pride in their Dominican heritage, including making a popular plantain dish called mangú, which is a favorite of Alexander’s. Viviana is familiar with mangú, but it is not part of her Argentinian cuisine. In this episode, the role of teacher–learner is reversed as Alexander teaches Viviana how to mash the plantains for this dish. He even shows slight exasperation when she doesn’t pay close enough attention. Luna and Javier (both from Mexico) join the conversation and, because of their unfamiliarity with mangú, confuse the word with mango, which they are familiar with. Luna and Javier learn a new word and a new dish from their classmate. These conversations occur frequently during play as the children bring in elements and experiences from home. Some are shared; others are new and unfamiliar. Differences lead to conversations, and children and teachers learn from each other. Play allows children to take on new roles and take risks with characters, roles, and language (Long, Volk, & Gregory 2007). Play expands the classroom setting to include the fantasy worlds that the children create and communicate in.

and create collective stories, such as the Michael Jackson concert and the Dominican Republic trip. This flexibility allows for story continuity. As children gain language and experiences, they refine and evolve their stories. Listen to children. It’s a common early childhood practice to include items from children’s cultures in play areas, such as culturally specific kitchen items, food, and clothing. While items are important, it is also vital to listen to children and become aware of what is significant to them, their families, and the local culture. The children who live in the neighborhood are familiar with the supermarket and local eateries. Menus and circulars from these places are part of the children’s lives and experiences outside of the classroom.

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Strategies for teachers

Play should be a cornerstone of early childhood education. The stories from this classroom show how teachers support culturally and linguistically diverse children through a playbased curriculum that honors their languages and cultural practices. Because each classroom is unique, the suggestions that follow are key elements of a philosophy that fosters play and supports children and teachers. Provide time and space for play. The schedule in this classroom offers children long periods of play. They move around the classroom throughout their play and mix items across play areas. There are no limitations to how many children can be in any area. This freedom allows them to move around, join different stories, May 2014   Young Children n

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“Todos Vamos a Jugar, Even the Teachers”—Everyone Playing Together  
“Todos Vamos a Jugar, Even the Teachers”—Everyone Playing Together  

About the Author Ysaaca Axelrod, EdD, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at Clemson University in South Carolina. A form...