Friday, March 4, 2016

Play-Based Learning Pizza Party!

My kindergarten boys and girls are very enthusiastic participants in their play, and we have been developing our own play plans since before Christmas. However, their play was becoming very repetitive without a lot of opportunity to infuse new literacy and numeracy learning. So I posed the question, "What would you think about changing the play house to something else? Maybe a restaurant or a grocery store?"

Well they immediately seized upon the idea of a restaurant--and not just any restaurant, Boston Pizza, which had just opened in a nearby town this past fall! That afternoon during play time, we dragged everything out of the house and made decisions about what to put back to support our restaurant play. We included the kitchen, a table and chairs, dishes and cutlery, food, aprons, and chef hats. We added a host/hostess desk and a chalkboard to print specials on. We made a list of supplies we needed and how we would get them, things we needed to do, and jobs in the restaurant.

Within a few minutes, the restaurant opened to a very enthusiastic reception. And since I wanted to see growth in our play, we talked a lot about what purposeful play looked like versus "off track" play.

So how did I take this from play to play-based learning?

First of all, we decided on a menu.

1) Writing
Having a restaurant provided the perfect opportunity for a lot of authentic writing opportunities. We learned how to make lists for taking orders and buying food for the restaurant.

Examples feature printing all sounds, initial, medial, and final consonants.
Making menus proved to be a perfect activity to further develop our ability to caption pictures and spell words. I printed off a variety of pictures from the Boston Pizza menu (sorry for the copyright infringement BP). It was really exciting to observe my young learners' attempts to spell the menu items depicted in the pictures. We worked hard to stretch out words and print all the sounds we heard, referring to our names and the alphabet chart for extra help. It was a great way to practice the "ch" sound, as we had both chicken fingers and chocolate milk on our menus.  A great connection to numeracy was made as well--we set prices for the items on our menu and talked about what would be a reasonable price to charge. The boys and girls learned to print the dollar sign, and printed numbers from 1-100 (and some wanted millions) as we made our menus. It was especially exciting to laminate them so they looked like real menus. 
Numeracy: Taking orders in a restaurant led to some great opportunities to count and represent numbers. We made up all kinds of story problems for the restaurant and practiced adding, subtracting, and printing numbers. We printed numbers on the SMART Board and students printed numbers on their own pie plates on lapdesks (aluminum pie plates (the disposable variety) are a great teacher hack for individual whiteboards). We also did one-to-one matching as we surveyed our classmates and asked what they would order in the restaurant. After we practiced using these order forms, we printed them for use in the restaurant with clipboards. 

Our pizza restaurant play was also a fantastic opportunity for inquiry. Throughout our play, we kept track of the questions we had about restaurants. In fact, we even decided to call the general manager of Boston Pizza Virden to ask if we could come for a visit and ask her our questions in person.

We were so excited when she said yes, and next thing we knew, we were off to Virden for a field trip! At this point, it worked nicely to pull in social studies outcomes on our community and community helpers. Take a look at our movie showing our morning of fun and learning at Boston Pizza Virden!

 Boston Pizza very generously gave us a whole bunch of take out containers, and when we returned from our field trip, our play took on an entirely different level. As the boys and girls were more familiar with the jobs in a restaurant, their play reflected this and it was fascinating to watch. They also learned about the important ways that restaurants use literacy and numeracy (for example, the adults wanted a pizza that was half and half with toppings). It was a wonderful topic to investigate, and a trip to a real pizza restaurant made it even better! A huge thank you to Jillian Irvine at Boston Pizza Virden and my grandmas/mom drivers who made it happen!

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