Practicing Handwriting and Math…In a Chinese Restaurant

Our dramatic play area is now a Chinese restaurant.  We have added menus, a wok, a cash register with money from our ‘travel box’, order pads and pencils, aprons, and chopsticks.

Learning takes place in many different ways.  The setting can be a structured morning meeting or a free choice activity.  It can be at a table, on the floor, or even in a Chinese Restaurant.  This is a peek at what happened in our restaurant, and an example of how I foster young children’s learning in a wide variety of settings:

The Stage:  A teacher and another child were customers, sitting at a table and ordering dinner from a real Chinese menu.  Two children were taking orders.  One child was at the cash register, managing the money.  Another child was the cook.  The atmosphere was full of excitement!

Child (with order pad and a pencil):  “What would you like to order for dinner?”

Teacher (with menu):  “Let’s see.  I think I want Beef Fried Rice.  That’s a number 34.”

The child proceeds to write “34”, without any prompting or encouragement, and gives the order to the cook.  The cook returns to the table.

Cook:  “We’re all out of beef.”

Child:  “He says we don’t have beef, so you have to order something else.”

Teacher:  “How about Pork Fried Rice.  Do you have any?”

Child:  Hollers to the cook at the wok, “Do we have pork?”

Cook:  “Yes!”

As the child gets ready to write the order, the other ‘customer’ at the table (who has been carefully examining the menu the entire time) questions the sequence of numbers on the menu, and how that corresponds to food.  Ahhh…just the words I like to hear, and the moments I don’t want to miss in teaching.

But, the plot thickens!

Child:  “Jennie, he says we have pork.  How do I write that?”

Customer:  “There’s a number one-tw0-four (124).  It says ‘Moo (Moo Shi)’.  What does that mean?”

Child:  “Jennie!  How do I write ‘pork’?”

Teacher:  “I need to help out with the menu right now.  I’ll help with your writing in just a minute.”

Child:  “But I need to write it now!”

The child was ready to write, and the customer was ready to read numbers.  The teacher (Jennie) stayed at the table, explaining and reading the numbers and different foods on the menu to the customer.  At the same time, I ‘hollered’ directions to the child in the kitchen, following the words we use in Handwriting Without Tears.

Teacher (to a child):  “Are you ready?  Big line down!  Little curve at the top!  That’s the ‘P’…”

The child was able to write the word, and the customer was able to read and understand the numbers,  The cook served us delicious fried rice!  This is one of the many moments of learning in my classroom.  I thought you would enjoy a peek into a typical day!


About Jennie

I have been teaching preschool for over thirty years. This is my passion. I believe that children have a voice, and that is the catalyst to enhance or even change the learning experience. Emergent curriculum opens young minds. It's the little things that happen in the classroom that are most important and exciting. That's what I write about. I am highlighted in the the new edition of Jim Trelease's bestselling book, "The Read-Aloud Handbook" because of my reading to children. My class has designed quilts that hang as permanent displays at both the National Liberty Museum in Philadelphia, and the Fisher House at the Boston VA Hospital.
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12 Responses to Practicing Handwriting and Math…In a Chinese Restaurant

  1. What an excellent idea!

  2. What a great way to turn an everyday event into a learning experience. 🙂

  3. Nina says:

    Sounds like you and the children had lots of fun! =)

  4. reocochran says:

    Great experiences, which involve all areas of learning including social skills, along with the obvious science, math, English with fine and gross motor processing. I used the Content Areas and State of Ohio Standards from 1999 until 2008. My lesson plan book was so detailed and included testing for Get It, Got It, Go, three times during school year. (Alliteration, picture naming, and rhyming/phonics.) Ohio started following 3 to 5 year olds from 2004 – 2008. I logged on to the state website after testing and parents liked seeing the printed out summaries, too. Saying beginning sounds for letters is so important for their ability to read once half way through kindergarten.
    Your lessons are following all sorts of meaningful learning. 🙂 Chopsticks usage would be considered tools, planes, and levers, and of course fine motor skills processing. Hip hip hooray, since you include FUN!

    • jlfatgcs says:

      Thanks, Robin. I think including the fun is the key, as children will want to participate and won’t even realize they are learning. Very interesting about your Ohio standards. Next time I will add the chopsticks.

  5. Good, beautiful and true says:

    Such a testimony as to why we need to leave free play time in early childhood education!!

  6. Another wonderful learning experience!

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