Shopping Week: Practicing Articles

My preschool-aged nephew got a pop-up play tent for Christmas in the shape of a VW camper van. We play in the camper every time I’m visiting, and I think every primary classroom should have one!

My nephew’s favorite game is shopping at the toy store! He loves to collect items from his basement and load them into the back of his camper. Does he realize he’s practicing articles when I ask him what he bought? Of course not!

Here’s a fun activity to play with young learners in the classroom (even if you don’t have a camper tent). They’ll never know they’re practicing definite and indefinite articles. Be sure to try Sprout English’s NEW lesson on Articles first! We also have a handy Articles chart and bonus exercise on our blog.

Shopping Week

  • Choose one week (5 days) to play Shopping Week. Ask your students to bring a reusable shopping bag to school that week.
  • Set aside a space or table in your classroom for the Store of the Day. Each day there will be a different store (see suggestions below). Have your students make signs for the five stores.
  • Each day, ask your students to bring in one or two items from home to place in the Store of the Day. Don’t worry if your students bring in doubles. This will help them practice indefinite articles.
  • During the school day, give students time to visit the Store of the Day. This should be done in pairs or groups of three (you may also want to have a clerk on duty). Student can choose five items from the store to place in their shopping bags.
  • After making their selections, your students can find a place to write a list of what they bought. Here is a Shopping Week printout to give to your students. After they write their lists, they can return all of the items and tell another pair to go shopping.
  • At the end of each Shopping Day, ask your students to get out their lists and tell each other what they bought at the store. Place some discussion questions on the board to make sure that they use definite and indefinite articles.

Discussion Questions

What did you buy?

Did you buy the …? *

Who bought a/ an …? **

Did you buy …? ***

Who did you buy … for?

* Teach students to use a definite article if there was only one of a certain item in the store, or if the item was specific. (e.g., Did you buy the ball? Did you buy the pink teddy bear?)
** Teach students to use an indefinite article if there was more than one of the item in the store. (e.g., Did you buy a car? Did you buy an apple?)
***Teach your students when an article is unnecessary. (e.g., Did you buy bananas? Did you buy pants?)

Store of the Day

In order to make sure that your store has a good variety of items that require different articles (or no article), you may need to bring in a few items yourself. If your students want suggestions for items to bring, you can put these on the board.

Grocery Store

  • an apple
  • an orange
  • bananas
  • grapes
  • a bag of chips

If you don’t want your students bringing in or handling real food, have them put food in plastic containers, or have them choose plastic food or draw pictures of food on Grocery Store Day.

Toy Store

  • a teddy bear
  • a doll
  • an art set
  • Lego
  • an airplane
  • figurines

Electronics Store

  • an iPad
  • an iPhone
  • a calculator
  • a camera
  • a laptop

You may want to gather items from the classroom or around the school rather than ask students to bring in expensive gadgets. You could also ask students to draw items for the Electronics Store.

Party Store

  • balloons
  • decorations
  • candy
  • a card
  • wrapping paper
  • a piñata

Clothing Store

  • a shirt
  • shorts
  • socks
  • pants
  • a sweater
  • a coat

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Tara Benwell

Tara Benwell is a freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry. She is the media director and head writer for ESL-Library, and a contributor to its sister site Sprout English. Tara is the author of an iPad storybook series for kids called Happy Campers Books. Her debut novel, The Proper Order of Things is available on Amazon and in the iBookstore.

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