Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Shopping for Learning

I'm very fortunate to have an elevated loft area in my classroom that I usually use for dramatic play. Children of all ages are instantly attracted to this loft and it's the first place they want to go as soon as they enter the classroom. Throughout the years it has served many purposes such as reading loft, vet clinic, post office, hospital, castle, and Santa's Workshop. I used to spend hours planning the next dramatic play centre and collecting the supplies, and setting everything up perfectly for the students' arrival the next morning. Now I do something a little different that makes the students part of the process from the beginning. I think the learning is richer with more curricular connections, less teacher-directed, and more enjoyable for both the students and me.

Now when it is time for a new dramatic play centre, I ask the students what they would like to do. We discuss the supplies we have and what we have done in the past--sometimes this leads to a repeat of a favourite centre or the development of a new one. This month, the students decided that they would like a grocery store. We hadn't done a grocery store in a few years, so I knew we'd need to develop it from the ground up. Here's what we've been doing!

Our first job was to decide what we needed for the centre and how we would get it. The students decided that a note in our clipboards and a post on the classroom Facebook page would let all our parents know that we were collecting clean grocery items. We also wrote a note to our custodian and asked him to get our shopping cart out of the storage hut. We visited our school's resource room to get paper money and coins to use in our grocery store, and found wallets and handbags in our tub of dress up clothes. Then we waited for the grocery items to roll in!
The next kindergarten day, a number of families sent in bags of empty grocery items, much to the students' and my delight! This led to a number of teacher-directed learning activities, such as sorting the grocery items (healthy/not healthy, breakfast/lunch/supper, dairy/not dairy, etc) and pricing the items for our store. The students loved pricing items. We used sticky notes and tape, and learned about the dollar and cent symbols. Priced varied widely (great deals and not so great deals) but the students enjoyed consulting flyers, setting prices, and printing the numbers. It was such an authentic opportunity for students to practice their number printing skills!
That afternoon the "Kindergarten Co-op" held its grand opening. There was no shortage of customers and soon the shelves were empty. It was so interesting to watch as the students played a number of roles--customer, clerk, grocery bagger, child, pet, etc. The students loved their new play centre!

Over the next few days, we added more items to our grocery store, and used the grocery items for some numeracy learning experiences. All students were given a number of loonies (for the dollar items) and pennies (for the cent items) and moved from item to item to match the number of coins with the price on the grocery item. It was a great number recognition, counting, and matching activity!
Learning how to make a list was an ELA learning experience that we engaged in yesterday. We read flyers to decide what we wanted to buy, then developed a grocery list on the SMART Board through shared writing.
After this lesson, blank grocery lists were made available in the grocery store. It was fascinating to observe all the different levels of writing development, from random symbols and squiggles that represented writing to initial and final consonants and some CVC words.

A few students have mentioned more writing that needs to be done, such as an open/closed sign. A field trip to the grocery store in town will likely result in some new material for dramatic play as well--I anticipate that we will explore basic needs and wants from the social studies curriculum and reusable vs. plastic bags to support our environmental citizenship initiatives. The opportunities to develop important early numeracy and literacy skills through dramatic play are many! We will capitalize on those in the coming weeks as the grocery store evolves to reflect student interest and ideas. 




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