Fifth-grade classroom becomes fine dining restaurant
She may not be Dear Abby, but fifth-grade teacher Shannon Tilby is making her own mark teaching etiquette and manners. Tilby was in her second year teaching at Falcon Ridge Elementary this year, and noticed deterioration in basic manners with her students.
So she decided to do something about it.
On May 23, her class was transformed into a fine dining restaurant, where students could put the etiquette and skills they had been learning into practice.
Tilby incorporated manners in the classroom throughout the year. “It’s a big part of education to teach kids how to socially interact with others around them,” she said. “It doesn’t do good [for students] to have a degree and then go to lunch with their boss and eat with their mouth open.”
She wanted to teach her students the proper behavior in different settings, especially in a fine dining situation. She figured all the kids at some point would have the experience, if only for prom. The ideal situation would be for Tilby to take her students out to a restaurant, but since that wasn’t feasible, she approached parents to see if they could bring the restaurant to the kids.
The parents loved the idea, and rolled with it. One parent had a connection with Diamond Rental, and arranged for the company to bring in all the supplies: tables, chairs, centerpieces, china, table linens, pipe draping around the room to “hide” the class walls, and even a red carpet leading into the room. “You didn’t know it was a classroom,” Tilby said. “It was just elegant. My mouth dropped when I saw the room.”
Other parents volunteered to be the wait staff, and even dressed the part. Tilby praised the cafeteria staff, who she said “were so supportive.” Waitresses took the diners’ “orders,” then the cafeteria dished them up on individual plates, which were wheeled back down to the “restaurant.” And even more parents brought in dessert options for kids to choose from.
The three weeks leading up to the big day, Tilby began incorporating the activity into the whole curriculum. The students polished math skills by learning how to total bills (individually and by table) and calculate the gratuity. Art was used as the class designed the menus and picked a restaurant name and logo. The students even wrote descriptions of the dishes, bringing in language arts and writing.
One parent had the idea to use character names from books read in class on the nametags of the wait staff. Tilby said the idea was a hit, and it brought reading into the activity as well.
And don’t forget manners and etiquette.
“We talked about how behavior is important in those types of environments,” Tilby said. They tried to cover everything during class, from what to wear, how boys hold chairs out for girls and stand when a girl does, what to do with your purse, and even practiced for two weeks with silverware.
When Tilby asked what the students felt about the activity, the response was overwhelmingly positive. The kids said it made them feel grown up. The parent feedback was equally complimentary. They said the manners the kids learned often bled over into their behavior at home.
Tilby plans do the same activity with future classes.
“I think it was the best experience they (the students) could have where I couldn’t take them out of the classroom,” she said. “It was very rewarding for me as a teacher to see them respond so well to this activity. It accomplished way more than I ever dreamed.”