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What’s in the box? - experience plan

Children take turns to discover and label various items from a box.

The learning experience is accompanied with a chant and incorporates many language learning opportunities. This experience should be differentiated depending on the individual child/group level.

This learning experience plan relates to:

  • interacting with others
  • early language user (12-36 months)
  • learning foci: concept development and vocabulary, making meaning and expressing ideas
  • teaching practice: play.

Collect information

  • What information has been gathered as evidence to inform this experience?

Outcome 5: communication

Children interact verbally and non-verbally with others for a range of purposes:

  • engage in enjoyable reciprocal interactions using verbal and non-verbal language
  • respond verbally and non-verbally to what they see, hear, touch, feel and taste
  • attend and give cultural cues that they are listening to and understanding what is said to them.

Victorian Curriculum levels F-2: language

  • Understand the use of vocabulary in familiar contexts related to everyday experiences, personal interests and topics taught at school.

Learning intentions

  • For children to take turns with others.
  • For children to understand and use single words and simple phrases incorporating everyday objects.
  • For children to listen and jointly attend the experience.

Assessment of learning

Learning is demonstrated when children:

  • watch others take their turn, wait for and take turn/s
  • respond to and use vocabulary related to the experience (e.g. car, key, apple – depending on vocabulary in focus)
  • listen and attend throughout the experience.


  • A decorated cardboard box with a lid, e.g. brightly coloured paper and/or pictures stuck onto a shoe box. If children would like to decorate the box, this process can be done prior to commencing the learning experience.
  • Everyday objects, animals, toy foods (choose objects according to child’s vocabulary development and current interests or inquiries). Select number of items based on group size and child/children’s attention levels.

Group size

Small group (two-five children) or with individual child.


Differentiation should be based on prior assessment of the child/children’s communication skills. Examples of differentiation:

  • modifying the vocabulary (simple to more complex). For example, for a child who is using babble and a few single words, educators may choose to focus on animal sounds rather than words, e.g. “moo” for cow.
  • reducing/increasing the scaffolding given to each child based on child’s abilities and strengths. For example, using a gesture or sign to prompt child to name the item, saying the first sound in the word or modelling the word.
  • for a child who is able to use simple phrases, educators may focus on using size/shape/colour concepts in phrases – e.g. “it’s a big/little cow”.

Experience process

  1. Clearly introduce the learning experience:

    • “we are going to play a game, it’s called What’s in the Box?” Shake the box as you chant: “What’s in the box, what’s in the box, Anna, Anna, what’s in the box?” Tunes can be made up depending on how best to gain child/children’s attention.
    • provide the children with instructions by saying: “When you hear your name, open the box and tell us one thing you’ve found.” Show the child/children the items inside the box, modelling the appropriate vocabulary.
  2. Implementing the experience:

    • choose the first child to start and use their name in the chant/song, e.g. “What’s in the box, what’s in the box, Olivia, Olivia what’s in the box?” Shaking the box as you chant helps to maintain children’s attention
    • support the child to open the box, take one item out and label it, showing the rest of the group
    • model the appropriate language for the children throughout using parallel talk, e.g. “Opening the box, it’s a cup.”
    • encourage the child to label the item by asking “what is it?”
    • depending on the child’s language development, educators may model the word for them to imitate or provide a hint such as the first sound in the word e.g. “k’’ (for cup)
    • expand on what the child has said, e.g. child: “apple” educator:” "it’s a red apple.”
    • move onto the next child, praising the child/children for their listening, singing and talking as appropriate
    • continue turns until all items have been taken out of the box and all children have had a turn.
  3. Consolidate the learning experience:

    • to consolidate the vocabulary learning, revisit all items at the end of the experience, by going around the group and saying what each child selected.
    • Educators may choose to send this learning experience home for the children to play with their parents–see the parent handout below.

Going further

This experience could be extended by:

  • changing the items selected to expand children’s vocabulary
  • gradually increasing the group size, requiring children to listen and attend for longer periods of time
  • incorporating descriptive language such as colour, shape and size to increase children’s concept knowledge and use (e.g.  big/little cup, red/green spoon)
  • incorporating object functions to extend children’s language understanding and use (e.g. car is for…driving and banana is for…eating)
  • including items which focus on a specific initial sound e.g. all items starting with the letter ‘’s’’.


Reflective questions for educators may include:

  • what learning has occurred? How do you know?
  • what have you realised about the child’s interests, knowledge, and capabilities?
  • in discussion with colleagues, what would you plan next to consolidate or extend children’s learning?

Additional/alternate resources for this learning experience

  • First 100 Words by Roger Priddy
  • People and Places and at the billabong by Debbie Austin
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar – Touch and Feel Playbook by Eric Carle
  • Where’s Spot? By Eric Hill