Learning is a Picnic with Make a Plate Picnic Day!

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Summer has arrived, at least unofficially, in communities throughout the Northern Hemisphere. Families in the U.S., the U.K. and elsewhere mark the start of the summer season at the end of May, days before the solstice in June.

Teachers in this part of the world know that during these closing weeks of the traditional school year, it’s especially challenging to catch and keep students’ attention.

Why not create a lesson plan that you can present around a picnic table in a shaded corner of your school playground. Surprise your class with an invitation to enjoy child’s play that offers up a plateful of learning.

The following activity outline is geared for grades 1 – 3, but as always with the ideas I offer in this blog, you can adjust your plan to suit other elementary grade levels.

Make a Plate Picnic Day supplies are simple – white paper plates, any size, any shape, plus pencils, crayons and/or colored markers.

Ahead of Make a Plate Picnic Day, take your class outdoors and show them the picnic table where you’ll gather for this special event. Build some excitement about decorating the picnic table with a centerpiece (hopefully one with more than windblown weeds!) that connects with your choice of picnic theme. Explain to the students that they will need to draw and color plates full of whatever you choose to “serve.”

What can the kids make? How about distributing plates to everyone and asking students to draw and color their favorite foods on the front surface of the plates. This is an ideal opportunity to discuss good nutrition, food groups such as vegetables and fruits and for goodness sake, don’t forget desserts!

You can tell the kids that on Make a Plate Picnic Day you plan to bring some goodies to share, too, except that yours will be munchable for real. If you have helpful class parents, they might like to get in on the fun and bring the makings for a class lunch outdoors on this special day, if your school’s schedule and rules permit that. 

If you direct your class in creating plates full of favorite foods, plan to have the kids carry their finished work outside. Gather around the picnic table and ask volunteers to “share” their picnic fare. This offers a good opportunity to develop public speaking skills, even in early elementary-age children. Some students are reluctant to stand in front of audiences in classroom or other more formal settings. Sitting at a picnic table may help children feel comfortable enough to show and tell about what they’ve drawn and colored on the paper plates.

Another less traditional – some might say wild and crazy – paper plate-based lesson plan involves asking kids to draw and color their favorite numbers and shapes on blank paper plates. This activity will reinforce basic learning in Kindergarten, as well as in first and second grades. On Make a Plate Picnic Day with this plan, ask individual students to stand, point to and say the names of the numbers and shapes on their plates when you gather around the picnic table. Then set out a few plates full of real cookies on the table and ask the class to shout out what shape the cookies are before you all count the number of cookies on each plate. Serve ’em up and ask the kids if they agree that THIS is a yummy way to learn!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Posted in Attentionology for K-5 Teachers
Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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