Northern Oral Language and Writing Through Play

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Publications & Grants

Newest Publications:

NOW Play Writing and Drawing Exemplars

This book is for kindergarten and grade one teachers seeking ways to assess students’ written communication—how they represent meaning using marks, scribbles, letters and letter-like forms, and drawings. The assessment tasks and samples of written communication come from a two-year project involving 137 children from Alberta and Ontario, Canada. More information about the development and piloting of the assessment tasks can be found in research articles (see Friedrich, Peterson & Portier, 2019; Peterson, Friedrich & Portier, 2018.).

Creative Collaborative Curriculum Activities Book 2018

This book is for kindergarten and grade one teachers looking for ways to incorporate play(ful) activities into their classrooms. The activities in this collection were produced by teachers and partners in the NOW Play Project. For more information about the pedagogical practice underlying these play(ful) activities, see Portier, Friedrich, & Peterson, 2019.

Peer-Reviewed Publications

Play Focus

Pan, C., & Peterson, S.S. (2019). Informal instruction and dramatic play to support kindergarten children’s language and writing developmentMaster of Teaching Research Journal, 2, 1-11.

Peterson, S.S., Jang, S.Y., & Tjandra, C. (2019). Young children as playwrights: Using multiple modes to achieve social purposes in sociodramatic play. Journal of Early Childhood Research.

Portier, C., Friedrich, N., & Peterson, S.S. (2019). Play(ful) pedagogical practices for creative collaborative literacyThe Reading Teacher, 73(1), 17-27.

Hedges, H., Peterson, S.S., & Wajskop, G. (2018). Play in kindergarten curricula across three continents: A cultural analysis. International Journal of Play, 7(1), 11-26. DOI: 10.1080/21594937.2018.1437379

Kim, M. & Peterson, S.S. (2018) Play-based intervention supporting kindergarten children’s language in a Northern Ontario First Nations community. Master of Teaching Research Journal, Inaugural Issue, 1-11.

Peterson, S.S., Madsen, A., San Miguel, J., & Jang, S.Y. (2018). Children’s rough and tumble play: Perspectives of teachers in northern Canadian Indigenous communitiesEarly Years: An International Research Journal, 38(1), 53-67.

Peterson, S.S., Portier, C., & Murray, A. (2017). The role of play at home and in kindergarten and grade one: Parents’ perceptions.  Journal of Childhood Studies, 42(1), 1-10.

Wajskop, G. (2017). “Literate Playing”—An Oral Language Empowerment Strategy for Underprivileged Children. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 33-50.

Peterson, S.S., Anderson, J., Kendrick, M., McTavish, M., Budd, K., Mayer, D., McIntyre, L.J., Ntelioglou, B.Y., & Riehl, D. (2016). Examining rhetorics of play in curricula in five provinces: Is play at risk in Canadian kindergartens? Canadian Journal of Education39(3), 1-26.

Peterson, S.S., & Riehl, D. (2016). Rhetorics of play in kindergarten curricula in an era of accountability. Brock Education Journal, 25(2), 22-34.

Wajskop, G., & Peterson, S.S. (2016). Literatura infantil, brincadeiras e experiências narrativas. [Children’s literature, plays and narratives experiences].  Revista Patio – Educação Infantil, 46. 

Peterson, S.S., Forsyth, D., & McIntyre, L. (2015). Balancing play-based learning with curricular mandates—Considering the views of northern Canadian teachers and early childhood educators. Canadian Children, 40(3), 40-47.

Wajskop, G., & Peterson, S.S. (2015). Dramatic play as a meaning-making and story-making activityEarly Childhood Education, 43(1), 17-20.

Wajskop, G., & Peterson, S.S. (2015). “Brincar Letrado” ou como literatura e brincadeira constituem um apoio às experIências narrativas das crianças. [“Literate Playing”: How literature and play support children’s narrative experience]. Patio Educacão Infantil, 46(14), 20-23.

Writing Focus

Friedrich, N., Portier, C., & Peterson, S.S. (2020). Investigating the transition from the personal signs of drawing to the social signs of writing. International Journal of Early Years Education, DOI: 10.1080/09669760.2020.1778450.

Peterson, S.S, Liendo, A., Semeniuk, M. (2019). Writing and Drawing of Children Aged 4-6 Years: Beginning and end-of-year exemplars from the NOW Play Project. NOW Play Publications, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto, Toronto.

Peterson, S.S., & Senior K. (2019). Looking for gold: Role play and writing in a northern rural Canadian kindergarten classroomIllinois Reading Council Journal, 47(1), 9-17.

Friedrich, N., Portier, C., & Peterson, S.S. (2019). Identifying Patterns in and Relationships Between Rural Canadian Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Children’s Graphic Representations and Their Talk. Language and Literacy21(1), 39-56.

Friedrich, N., Wishart, K., & Peterson, S.S. (2018). Supporting emergent writers through guided play in a kindergarten classroomJournal of Childhood Studies, 3(2), 58-64.

Peterson, S.S., Friedrich, N., Portier, C. (2018). Developing a multimodal observation tool: Teachers and researchers working together. Alberta Voices, 14(1), 3-9.

Peterson, S.S., & Grimes, A. (2018). Authentic writing in children’s lives outside school. Early Childhood Education, 45(1), 20-25.

Peterson, S.S., Parr, J., Lindgren, E., & Kaufman, D. (2018). Conceptualizations of writing in early years curricula: International perspectives. Curriculum Journal, 29(4), 499-521.

Parr, J. (2017). Early writers in northern communities: Ways teachers might view and reflect on writers’ representations. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 90-108.

Peterson, S.S., McIntyre, L., & Forsyth, D. (2016). Supporting young children’s oral language and writing development: Teachers’ and early childhood educators’ goals and practices. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 41(3), 11-19.

Peterson, S.S., & Portier, C. (2016). Teaching vocabulary and writing in kindergarten through dramatic play centers. Colorado Reading Journal, 27, 25-32.

Peterson, S.S. (2015). Dramatic play supports children’s writing in kindergarten and grade oneMichigan Reading Journal, 48(1), 44-48.

Peterson, S.S. (2015). Supporting primary students’ writing through reading, talk, and literate dramatic play in primary classrooms. Sargent, S. E. (Ed.). The Oklahoma Reader, 51(1), 22-24.

Oral and Nonverbal Communication Focus

Greenberg, J., Bowles, P., Peterson, S.S., & Altidor-Brooks, A. (2019). Supporting children’s vocabulary and thinking in a magic potion laboratory: A reflective conversation between educators, a speech-language pathologist and a linguist. Early Childhood Education, 4(1), 3-9.

Altidor-Brooks, A., Malec, A., & Peterson, S.S. (2019). Young children’s use of narrative strategies and the role of the teacher as side coach in dramatic play. Education 3(13). DOI: 10.1080/03004279.2019.1641538.

Peterson, S.S., Rajendram, S., & Eisazedeh, N. (2019). Multimodal meaning-making during play in two Northern Canadian Indigenous kindergarten classrooms. Early Years, 39(4), 392-407.

Peterson, S.S., & Rajendram, S. (2019). Teacher-child and peer talk in collaborative writing and writing-mediated play: Primary classrooms in Northern Canada.  Australian Journal of Language and Literacy, 42(1), 28-39.

Peterson, S.S., Eisazadeh, N., Rajendram, S., & Portier, C. (2018). Young children’s language uses during play and implications for classroom assessment. Australasian Journal of Early Childhood, 43(2), 23-31.

Peterson, S.S., & Brooks, A.A. (2018). Using social knowledge while interacting at the classroom sand center: Facework and cohesion strategies. Journal of Early Childhood Research, 16(4), 421-435.

Damhuis, R., & van der Zalm, E. (2017). A provocative approach for communication with low-proficient children: Examining how the interactive role of teachers and children changes. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 51-71.

Eisazadeh, N., Rajendram, S., Portier, C., & Peterson, S.S. (2017). Indigenous children’s use of language during play in rural northern Canadian kindergarten classroomsLiteracy Research: Theory, Method, and Practice, 22, 1-16.

Malec, A., Peterson, S.S., & Elshereif, H. (2017). Assessing young children’s oral language: Principles, practices and recommendations for policyCanadian Journal of Education, 40(3), 362-392.

McIntyre, L.J., Hellsten, L.M., Bidonde, J., Boden, C., & Doi, C. (2017). Receptive and expressive English language assessments used for young children: A scoping review protocolSystematic Reviews, 6:70. doi:10.1186/s13643-017-0471-1.

Ntelioglou, B.Y., & Peterson, S.S. (2017). Exploring language, literacy, and identity connections through play-based education in rural, remote, and Indigenous communities. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 1-3.

Peterson, S.S., & Greenberg, J. (2017). Teacher intervention to support oral language and literacy in dramatic play contextsTexas Reading Association Journal, 5(1), 10-23.

Peterson, S.S., & Portier, C. (2017). Rural northern Canadian teachers’ discoveries about young children’s oral languageLanguage and Literacy, 19(2), 109-126.

Peterson, S.S., Rajendram, S., & Eisazadeh, N. (2017). Multimodal meaning-making during play in two Northern Canadian Indigenous kindergarten classrooms, Early Years: An International Research Journal, DOI: 10.1080/09575146.2017.1384994

Ntelioglou, B.Y., Peterson, S.S., & McIntyre, L.J. (2017). NOW Play: Northern oral language and writing through play. Research Connections, 3(4), n. pg.

Peterson, S.S. (2016). Developing a play-based communication assessment through collaborative action research with teachers in northern Canadian Indigenous communities. Literacy, 51(1), 36-43.

Peterson, S.S. (2016). Research in Canada’s northern rural and Indigenous communities: Supporting young children’s oral language and writing. The Reading Teacher, 70(3), 383-387.

Peterson, S.S. (2016). Supporting young children’s vocabulary through play. What Works? Research into Practice, 62, 1-4.

Peterson, S.S., & Malec, A. (2016). Assessing children’s use of language in dramatic play contexts. Tobin, M.T. (Ed.). The Florida Reading Journal,  51(3), 7-13.

Collaborative Action Research with Indigenous Schools

Sky, K., & Peterson, S.S. (June, 2020). Fishing with Elders builds these Oji-Cree children’s language, cultural knowledge and writing. The Conversation Canada.

Peterson, S.S., & Robinson, R.B. (2019). Culturally sustaining practice in a northern Canadian Indigenous kindergarten classroom: Story drama and writing. California Reader, 52(4), 17-24.

Peterson, S.S., & Horton, L. (2019). Child-directed dramatic play as identity text in northern Canadian Indigenous kindergarten classroomsLiteracy, 53(4), 254-264.

Peterson, S.S., Huston, L., & Loon, R. (2019). Preparing Indigenous teachers from remote communities: Voices from Northern OntarioBrock Journal of Education, 48(2), 17-32.

Peterson, S.S., Gardner, T., Ings, E., & Vecchio, K. (2018) Dramatic Play in Northern Aboriginal Head Start Classrooms – Supporting Indigenous Children’s Learning of their Culture and LanguageECE Link 2(1), 35-44.

Peterson, S.S., Jang, S.Y., San Miguel, J., Styres, S., & Madsen, A. (2018). Infusing Indigenous knowledge and epistemologies: Learning from teachers in northern Aboriginal Headstart classrooms. McGill Journal of Education, 53(1), 26-46.

Peterson, S.S., McIntyre, L., & Heppner, D. (2018). Northern rural and Indigenous teachers’ experiences and perceptions of rural teaching and teacher education. Journal of Teacher Education and Educators, 7(3), 189-205.

Anderson, J., Horton, L., Kendrick, M., & McTavish, M. (2017). Children’s funds of knowledge in a rural northern Canadian community: A telling case. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 20-32.

Peltier, S. (2017). An Anishinaabe perspective on children’s language learning to inform “Seeing the Aboriginal Child”. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 4-19.

Peterson, S.S., McIntyre, L., & Glaés-Coutts, L. (2017). Collaborative action research in Northern Canadian rural and Indigenous schools: Learning about young children’s oral language in play contexts. Educational Action Research, DOI: 10.1080/09650792.2017.1402686

Williamson, J., & Hedges, H. (2017). Empowering language: Lenses of knowing, being and doing. Language and Literacy, 19(2), 72-89.

Peterson, S.S., Horton, L., & Restoule, J.P. (2016). Toward a shift in expectations and values: What we’ve learned from collaborative action research in northern Indigenous communities.Canadian Journal of Action Research17(2), 19-32.


McIntyre, L.J. (Principal Investigator), & Hellsten, L. (Co-Investigator). (2016, March). Community-Based Observation Laboratory (COL; CFI #34994). $84,958. John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF*), The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).

*Note: “JELF offers institutions the opportunity to: acquire infrastructure for their leading research faculty to undertake cutting-edge research; and create competitive research support packages in the form of infrastructure and a portion of the operating and maintenance costs from the CFI, coupled with direct research costs from partner organizations” (CFI, para. 1, see

Peterson, S.S., Anderson, D., Linklater, A., Links, K., & Skowronek., D. Dynamic Assessment of Aboriginal Children’s Speech-Language Abilities. $10,000. CIHR Grant.

 Peterson, S.S., Portier, C. Supporting Young Children’s Oral Language and Writing in Northern and Indigenous Communities. $22,842. SSHRC Connection Grant.