Friday, January 15, 2010

Turn a Catalogue into a Classroom

As both student and young teacher, I loved the advent of back-to-school catalogues. The downside was that they heralded the end of the summer holidays in Australia, but I enjoyed poring over them and deciding which stationery I'd buy. Nowadays, our catalogues entice with all sorts of geeky fun - a 2GB USB Drive for $8.88, wow! - but the principles are still the same. A print catalogue is a publication usually destined for the recycle bin. So why not turn it into a classroom? Here's how:

Encourage kids to browse, skim, and read catalogues by themselves. This might seem like a no-brainer, but I know some people throw their junk mail immediately. Kids can pick up a lot about the way consumerism works in our society by becoming familiar with catalogues. They are also developing functional literacy skills. When we're surrounding our kids with print, it's good to remember to include all sorts of print.

Read a catalogue together and discuss things that occur to you. What is the overall layout of the catalogue? How is it organized? Is it easy to find the price of items? Are the pictures of some items bigger than others? Why might that be? How is this catalogue different to the one from Store X? Which catalogue do you like best? Why?

A catalogue is a great way to show kids how we use Maths in the real world.
"I have a dollar. How many 25c pens can I buy? "
"This glue stick is $1.78 and you get 35g. This one looks bigger but it says 30g in fine print and costs $1.99. Which one would you buy and why?"
"This pencil case must be the best because it has Dora on it. The problem is, it will cost twice as much as a plain one, so I won't have money left for books."

Play shops. Catalogues are great because they don't need to be treated carefully the way books do. Kids can cut them up to make signs for their shops, shopping lists, decorations for a cardboard store, and decorations for cardboard shopping items.

Make a wish list from the catalogue. With young children, this can be a simple cut and paste activity. You could try giving older kids a budget and have them list their wants, with costs, on a list. After discussion, that list forms the basis of your back-to-school shopping in real life.

Create your own catalogue. Younger kids might like to cut and paste from different print catalogues to make their own special one. Or they could draw and write all their own items. They might go for a theme - perhaps a catalogue for fairies, with fairy dresses and other products. Older kids might like to use software to create a digital catalogue.

Hack the catalogue to bits to make games for your kids. Can they find objects the same colour as that crayon, or other things with wooden legs, or other round things? Use two identical catalogues to make a quick matching game. Have your young ones help you make alphabet or phonic cards with pictures from the catalogues. Toy catalogues are intrinsically motivating to kids, and very good for this. Go on a letter hunt and collect all the things you can find that start with the same letter as Ben10 or Cars.

If you know an adult who isn't thrilled about reading aloud to a child, but still wants to be involved, suggest a catalogue. It's something an adult can share as reading material with a youngster, without the emphasis on story. With an adult pointing to pictures and talking about them, or asking questions, children are learning, and you just know they will appreciate that special one-on-one literacy time.

Catalogues are too useful to throw out immediately. If you have any more ideas on how to turn a catalogue into a classroom, I'd love you to share them in the comments. Or read a couple more ideas in an earlier post,
Recycled Reading and Writing.

(Photo Credit - Morguefile)


Guest Post: I have a blog post called The Reading Aloud Habit at Imagination Soup today. This is one of my favourite, true stories about the day I discovered my son could read. If you link, make sure to check out Melissa's ideas for connecting learning with imaginative play. Melissa is also a contributor to Literacy Lava, which you can download for free at my web site.

It seems to be my week for fluttering about the internet, doesn't it! Thanks to everyone who visited me at
Kittling Books yesterday, and left a comment. You warmed my heart.

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