I love transdisciplinary learning and I love make-believe! Last year my kindergarten class did a unit of inquiry on systems. This was the beginning of our unit, and we were in the “finding out” stage of the inquiry. I wanted to help students create a system they could then use during their playtime.
I asked the students to choose different systems outside of school that interested them. One of the systems they chose was restaurants, so we decided to set one up in our classroom. Through the learning experience, students would take part in a system where the participants have specific roles and responsibilities (one of our lines of inquiry).
What we did:
Each child thought of one item to put on the menu. I showed the students how to spell the words (it was early in the school year, too soon to expect them to use invented spelling). They created a pictorial menu which was a great tool for early reading!
I printed many copies of the menu and then divided the class into 2 groups. One group worked at the restaurant while the others were customers, and then the following day we switched.
The students helped me create a system for the restaurant: The servers circled the items that the customers ordered. Then they gave the menu to the cooks, who put plastic food and dishes on a tray. The server then delivered the food and later the busssers came by for the dishes. With my help the cashiers totaled up a check for each table. Then the customers paid their bills.
We did this at the beginning of the school year and the learning experience was the first time many of the English language learners spoke excitedly and joined others in group play. Even my TA and I had a great time. We referred back to this learning experience many times as we continued to learn about systems and roles and responsibilities. The students understood that people in a restaurant have a systematic way of carrying out their responsibilities so that they are efficient. Students used reading as they ordered items from the menu and used math as they paid their bills.
A unit on systems was a great way to start the year because instead of me “teaching” routines, my class was able to help devise systems to use throughout the room. This gave the students more ownership over the classroom.
For several weeks the students continued using the restaurant menus in the dramatic play center, and many students asked to take copies of the menu home to use with their families.