Hi, I’m Omar and I go to Asda with my Mum to do our shopping. There’s always loads I want to buy – Lego, magazines, sweets. I sometimes get a treat and it’s fun to pick things out. Sometimes Mum asks me to go and find something and I have to remember my phonics and look really carefully at all the letters and words on the shelves…
A simple expedition to the supermarket encapsulates enormous opportunities for learning – looking at the cost of items, comparing amounts, working out how to reach something on the top shelf, buying within a budget, looking carefully at brands and identifying the product required. Number, weight, measure, height, phonics, reading. And yet, if we as teachers are given the opportunity to take children on an outing, the supermarket is never a consideration. It’s too ordinary. However, it offers rich experiences, it links learning to real-life, and it is completely free and local.
In this case, we wanted to link labelling to phonics and so a visit to the supermarket was key. Let’s face it, there is nothing children like more than to recognise letters in their name that they see on a packet. It’s far more interesting and relevant than using flash cards or phonics mats. So why not create a whole alphabet out of easily recognised and identifiable brand names?
Supermarkets often throw away packaging and the wider school community are always more than happy to contribute wrappers and other waste if you ask. Children can then get involved in making the alphabet themselves – reading and recognising familiar brand names along the way and matching them to graphemes.
An extension of this would be to let the children play with the alphabet to form their own words, and then practise writing them as they trace their fingers over the packaging letters.
And then there’s learning to be had about the packaging itself – what is it made from? Where do you normally put it when you’re finished eating it or using it? There are important conversations to be had about the excess of packaging we have in our lives and how we might process it or even reduce having it in the first place.
Reggio Emilia educators use the phrase ‘rich normality’ – placing importance on the ordinary. For Reggio influenced teachers:
…it is the stringing together of ordinary moments that ultimately give shape and quality to human life over time…
Margie Cooper, The Hundred Languages of Children
There is so much richness of learning to be had in the ordinary. Let’s use what’s around us to inspire our learners. The learning then becomes all the more real and important.