2. Using packaging to help reading

Some pupils grow up in homes that are rich in print and visual images: grocery boxes, packets and tins, books for children and adults, newspapers, magazines and even computers. Others have few of these items in their homes. Your challenge as a teacher is to provide a print-rich environment in your classroom. One way of doing this is to collect free materials wherever possible. Packaging materials (cardboard boxes, packets and tins) often have a great deal of writing on them and even very young pupils often recognise key words for widely used grocery items. For more experienced readers, magazines and newspapers that community members have finished with can be used for many classroom activities.

This part explores ways to use such print to support learning to read.

Case Study 2: Using grocery packaging for reading and writing activities

Mrs Bakoru teaches English to 54 Primary 4 pupils in Koboko, Arua District. They are not very familiar with English but they recognise letters and some English words on grocery packaging.

Mrs Bakoru asked her neighbours for empty boxes, packets and tins. She brought these to school to use for reading and writing activities.

Her pupils’ favourite game is ‘word detective’. Mrs Bakoru organised the class into nine groups of five and gave each group the same box, packet or tin. She asked pupils to write down numbers from 1 to 5 and then asked five questions (see Resource 3: Example questions to ask about a grocery item). Pupils compared individual answers and decided on a group answer. Mrs Bakoru discussed the answers with the whole class. The ‘winner’ was the group that finished first with most correct answers.

Sometimes Mrs Bakoru invited each group to ask a word detective question.

To encourage pupils to think critically, she sometimes asked questions about the design of the packaging and the messages in the advertising.

Mrs Bakoru noticed that some pupils didn’t participate, so the next time they played, she asked every pupil to write down four words from the grocery ‘container’ before they returned to their usual seats. Back at their seats she asked each one to read their list to a partner. She discovered six pupils who needed extra help and worked with them after school for an hour, using the same grocery items and giving time to practise identifying letters and words.

Mrs Bakoru realised becoming familiar with letters and words on packages helps pupils to identify these letters and words in other texts they read, such as stories. By copying words from packages, pupils also learn to write letters and words more confidently and accurately.

Activity 2: Using groceries for reading and writing activities

Bring to class enough tins, packets or boxes for each group of four or five pupils to have one item to work with or ask your class to help you collect these items.

Write questions on the chalkboard about the words and images on the packet, tin or box (see Resource 3). Either ask your pupils to read them or do it for them.

Either play the word detective game in groups (see Case Study 2) or ask pupils to write individual answers, which you assess. Arrange to give extra practice time and support to pupils who could not manage this activity.

In the next lesson, ask pupils to work in the same groups to design the print and visual information for the packaging of a real or imaginary grocery item.

Ask each group to display and talk about their design to the rest of the class.

What have pupils learned by reading the packages of grocery items and by designing and displaying their own? Compare your ideas with the suggestions in Resource 3.

1. Using songs and rhymes

3. Motivating pupils to read