Authentic Learning Experience

Over our brief winter, the students in our class frequently shared with us their love of hot chocolate, and visits to Tim Hortons with their families.  This was especially true during our Monday morning conversations, where we got the 411 on their entire visit from what they ordered, what their parents ordered, and how delicious it was!  After having this occur consecutively for a few weeks, it made us educators wonder how we could incorporate their love of Tim Hortons within our program.  Was there time and space for real life to peek into our classroom?

We asked the students how they would feel about turning our house centre into a Tim Hortons and they all shrieked with excitement!  As we brainstormed what we would need, I had an idea to invite my father in with real Tim Hortons doughnuts and hot chocolate (we have no allergies in our class).  My thought was that it would be a great way to introduce the dramatic play centre, and allow the students to engage in an authentic learning experience.  Before his visit, we prepared by discussing proper coffee shop etiquette, how to place an order, and watched a few Tim Hortons commercials.  This allowed us to address some of our media literacy expectations, in addition to reminding us the importance of having good manners.  Our Tim Hortons kick off was a huge success, and the students later informed us of how "real" it felt.  I must admit that having one of my family members participate in our learning assisted with this, as did the real Tim Hortons cups with lids, doughnut bags, napkins, and stir sticks.

Following this experience, we sent home a note requesting for families to send their recycled Tim Hortons' cups, lids, doughnut boxes, sugar packets, etc. to our class.  The students co-constructed the dramatic play centre with us by beginning with the creation of signs, plasticine doughnuts, sorting the cups and lids by size, labelling the bins, and organizing the materials we collected.  We even used our Tim Hortons' coffee cup collection as non-standard measurement tools to measure how tall we were!

Having the students fully participate in the creation of this centre truly empowered them, and made they take pride in keeping it tidy.  It was interesting to hear their oral language skills improve as they were customers, bakers, or cashiers, and their writing skills as they wrote down orders and made receipts.  Finally, to throw them for a complete loop (especially after they worked so hard sorting all the cups and lids by sizes) we asked them the following higher order thinking question when Tim Hortons introduced their new cup sizes by showing them the advertisement: Why might Tim Hortons have decided to change the size of their cups?  Their responses were interesting and included that it was mainly because their parents needed to drink more coffee.  I will look at their scribed responses tomorrow and add some to this post.

I hope that this gives you a practical idea for your dramatic play area!


Share your thoughts :

  1. Thanks very much! We really enjoyed every moment of this learning!

  2. This is fabulous! I was at your open house yesterday, and I don't recall seeing your dramatic play area. Do you still have one in your class?