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Social Studies Lesson Addressing Benchmark 15.D.ECa



The children in Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung’s classroom have been involved in a project focused on investigating a local grocery store. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung were excited that the children were interested in investigating the grocery store and realized that this investigation would give them an opportunity to include many activities that would help the children reach the IELDS benchmarks during classroom activities. The teachers think that this project will give them the opportunity to introduce the children to concepts about money, types of food, and the different roles and jobs people carry out in the grocery store as well as provide rich opportunities for discussion with the children to build their language and literacy skills.

The children have taken a walking field trip to visit a small neighborhood grocery store for a tour. The store manager had walked them around in the store and answered the children’s questions about the store and the people who work in the store. With their teachers’ help, the children had taken digital photos of the store and the people in the store as part of their information gathering for the project.

A lesson followed in which the children focused on reflecting on their field site visit (see adapted lesson plan for 16.A.ECa). In this lesson, the teachers and children created two books about the people in the grocery store and the things they saw in the grocery store.

The children and teachers used the information they gathered to build a play grocery store using cardboard boxes for shelving. They collected empty food containers and boxes and set up their classroom store in dramatic play. They set up two check lanes as part of their store with toy cash registers. The children were beginning to take turns pretending to be customers and checkers.

After several days of high activity in the pretend grocery store, Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung have reflected upon this play and think that the project topic will provide great opportunities to introduce learning activities that will help children understand how money is used to obtain goods. They also plan to encourage the children to use their early math skills.

This lesson addresses a primary benchmark. A secondary benchmark is included to offer ideas for addressing additional benchmarks within one lesson. Teachers are encouraged to be creative in thinking of ways to address multiple benchmarks within one lesson.

About the Classroom

Mrs. Silva and her teaching assistant (TA), Mr. Chung, are responsible for developing learning activities that meet the needs of diverse learners and address the Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards (IELDS). Mrs. Silva knows that the majority of children in her class will meet the standards and benchmarks. However, she will have to make adaptations for those children who need more individualized instruction.

Mrs. Silva is the state-licensed head teacher in a monolingual classroom of 20 children (all 4 years old) with diverse learning needs. There are 17 typically developing children with age-appropriate skills and behaviors in the class. These children act as peer models for the remaining children in the class.

Of the 20 children in the class, five children speak a language other than English at home. Languages represented in the classroom include Spanish, Arabic, and Polish. These children are all dual-language learners who started school with a varied understanding of English. Mrs. Silva recently obtained her English as a second language (ESL) endorsement to teach young children who are learning English. Three children in the class have diagnosed special needs requiring an individual education program (IEP).

  • Aiden has a diagnosis of hearing impairment and has a moderate hearing loss in both ears. He wears two hearing aids. His parents have elected for him to receive speech-only instruction, and he is not being instructed in American Sign Language.
  • Olivia has a diagnosis of developmental delay and has Down syndrome. Most of her needs are related to cognitive skills and self-help skills.
  • Reggie has a diagnosis of autism. He has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task for even brief periods of time. He is very directive in play situations with peers and is resistant to a change in routine.

On occasion, some children exhibit challenging behavior during small group lessons. Mrs. Silva would like to implement strategies to address challenging behavior in the classroom.

Mrs. Silva’s district uses a state-approved developmentally appropriate curriculum. Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung perform universal screenings three times per year (fall, winter, spring) for preschool children.

This lesson addresses a primary benchmark. A secondary benchmark is included to offer ideas for addressing an additional benchmark within one lesson. Teachers are encouraged to be creative in thinking of ways to address multiple benchmarks within one lesson.

Lesson Activity


The dramatic play corner is set up as a grocery store with the following:

  • Two cash registers
  • Aprons for store clerks
  • Cardboard shelves
  • Clean, empty food boxes and containers
  • Labels and markers for pricing items
  • Shopping carts and/or baskets
  • Old purses and wallets for shoppers
  • Pennies and play money
  • Canvas bags for purchased groceries

Primary Benchmark

Social Studies
Begin to understand the use of trade or money to obtain goods and services.

The grocery store is a high-interest activity in the classroom, so Mrs. Silva decides to introduce the idea of exchanging money for goods through play. She brings over labels and markers to the children playing in the area. She also has a small basket of pennies.

The older children are interested and immediately come over to see what she has in her basket. She reminds the children that they noticed that the people at the grocery store were exchanging money at the register for the goods they were buying.

One child mentioned, “The things you could buy had number stickers on them!” Mrs. Silva says, “You are right. There were number stickers. The number stickers tell the shopper how much an item costs. Do you think we should put number stickers on our items?”

The children quickly agree. Mrs. Silva shows the children the labels and markers she has brought. They quickly get to work writing numbers on the labels and sticking them on various products.

Primary Benchmark

Social Studies
Begin to understand the use of trade or money to obtain goods and services.

Once the products are labeled, Mrs. Smith suggests that the children take turns being the cashier and customer. She helps the children find the appropriate dramatic play clothing and helps them as they choose an item to buy, count the correct number of pennies for the purchase, and exchange the money with the children who are pretending to be cashiers.

Secondary Benchmark

Connect numbers to quantities they represent using physical models and informal representations.

Mrs. Silva positions herself near the cash register to help the children read the numerals and ensure that they are exchanging the right number of pennies based on the label on the container. As the children become more proficient in exchanging money, she encourages older children to engage in simple addition by pretending to purchase two items at a time (e.g., an egg carton for four pennies and cracker box for two pennies for a total of six pennies).

Purchase at classroom’s grocery store

Monitoring Progress

Over the next few days, Mrs. Silva keeps an anecdotal record describing children’s play in the pretend grocery store. She notes which children are able to carry out the exchange of money for items and which children are able to carry out both the role of shopper and cashier. Her anecdotal record also helps her to see which children have not visited the center. She and Mr. Chung make a point of inviting those children for a turn in the grocery store center so they have an opportunity to try the activities.

Ideas to Extend Children’s Learning

The children continue to add to their pretend grocery store as the play continues. They refer to the photos of the grocery they visited for details they are adding. Mr. Chung and Mrs. Silva help the children create signs for the prices of items, a sign for the name of the store, and sale flier circulars in the writing center. The children discuss other people’s roles in the store, such as a stock clerk or a delivery person, and they begin to enact these roles. As the children play, the teachers document the children’s actions in photos and create another book for the library about the classroom grocery store the children have created so the children can revisit their play experiences after the grocery store has been put away when the project is complete.

Individual Adaptations for Children in Your Classroom

This lesson was written in the context of Mrs. Silva and Mr. Chung’s classroom. We now offer some general suggestions of adaptations you can use in your classroom.

Child characteristics

Child has a difficult time remembering the sequence for purchasing and selling items.

Teacher action

The purchasing card has a picture of a child holding a coin purse and the word customer on top. The selling card has a picture of a child in an apron and the word cashier on top.

The teacher uses the card as a prompt to help the child carry out transactions during dramatic play.

Child characteristics

Child is an English language learner who often uses her heritage language in the classroom.

Teacher action

Teacher learns to count to 10 in child’s heritage language and helps child count in her heritage language as well as English during the grocery store play. The teacher also uses the picture cards with the children who are English language learners as a visual to support their understanding of the steps for purchasing and selling.

Child characteristics

Child wears two hearing aids and is not being instructed in American Sign Language. Teacher notices child has not chosen the pretend grocery store during free play.

Teacher action

The teacher holds out a shopping basket to invite child to the dramatic play area. The child points to an apron and the teacher says, “Oh, I see. You want to be a cashier.” Teacher holds the picture card up for child as he explains the steps to selling groceries and supports him as he begins to play with his peers.

Child characteristics

Child has a diagnosis of autism. She has advanced verbal skills but has trouble staying on task for even brief periods of time. She has not come to the dramatic play area when the grocery store has been open.

Teacher action

The teacher notices the child often becomes overwhelmed when too many children are in a particular area. The teacher invites the child to play in the grocery store later in the morning after most children have finished playing in the store. The teacher also helps her and a peer through the process of buying and selling groceries using the picture cards as prompts.

Child characteristics

Several children begin to fight over the cash registers and have trouble taking turns.

Teacher action

The teacher introduces a waiting list and timer to the area when there are many children waiting for a turn to use the cash registers. This helps the children understand that their five-minute turn is coming and lowers their frustration while they wait. The teacher also suggests other grocery store roles, such as stocking groceries or being a customer.

Timer and reminder


The “Customer card” and “Cashier card” examples above were created using Picture Communication Symbols ©1981-2011 by Mayer-Johnson LLC. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Used with permission.

Boardmaker® is a trademark of Mayer-Johnson LLC.

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About this resource

Setting(s) for which the article is intended:
  • Preschool Program

Intended audience(s):
  • Teachers / Service providers
  • Faculty / Trainer

Age Levels (the age of the children to whom the article applies):
Related Illinois Early Learning and Development Standards:
Reviewed: 2013