How “The Science of Shopping” Applies to Your Classroom

A few years into my teaching career, a friend who managed a grocery store recommended a book called Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. The premise of the book caught my attention; it hadn’t occurred to me that the layout of stores might be purposely set up—often with the help of high-priced consulting companies—to pull me in farther, keep me there longer, and make me more likely to walk out with items that I hadn’t thought I needed.

But there was an unexpected side benefit to reading the book. I kept having aha moments about how my classroom was set up. The book also contained so many cool insights that seemed worth sharing with my students, who I hoped to shape into critical thinkers and wise consumers.

But there was so much. I had no idea how to begin making this book into a usable classroom activity.

Fast forward about fifteen years: I recently reread the book. My hope was to harvest some of those initial classroom-layout aha moments and share them in a form that could help teachers.

When I work with teachers one-on-one in Office Hours, we often stumble upon classroom-layout changes that offer easy wins for classroom management. I hoped to give teachers a way of searching for these moments more purposefully.

I also hoped that I’d be able to give teachers an easy-to-teach-in-class form of some of the lessons taught by this book.

After spending way too long trying to condense this into one activity, I realized are actually three completely different things teachers might find useful when thinking about retail science. They may overlap–but they also may not.

With that in mind, I’ve divided created three different options on Teachers Pay Teachers that can each work on their own, but can also be purchased together as a discounted bundle.

Option one: You want one cool lesson to teach your students about the science of shopping. 

And you want this lesson to be curated by the type of nerd who would a 250-page book twice, then hunt down additional resources, and overthink this whole thing so you don’t have to. For you, there’s a Lesson, Reading Passage, Writing Prompts, and Discussion Questions about the Science of Shopping. 

Here’s what you’ll find in this lesson plan.
  • A one-and-a-half page condensation of an article on this topic that you can read in class with students
  • Links to informational videos and comedy clips that illustrate some of the points in the lesson
  • Classroom discussion questions
  • Writing prompts and other suggestions for student writing activities based on the reading passage

Option two: You like the idea of getting student feedback (and help) as you improve your classroom layout. 

You want to do an activity where your students use the science of shopping to participate in a classroom redesign. You want to encourage students to think critically about their physical environment and its effects on their behavior. But also—sure, why not—you’d like them to help you straighten up your classroom in the process. In an educational way. Your solution: “The Science of Shopping” Student Survey and Classroom Layout Improvement Activity.

This resource includes:
  • A student-friendly summary of store-design principles that might apply to the classroom.
  • A student survey based on these store design principles.
  • Tips for adding educational value as your students help you rearrange your classroom.

Option three: You’re intrigued by the description of Why We Buy and would like to have some of those aha moments described above. 

The science of shopping seems like it might help you reflect on your classroom design and make some changes. But also: you’re busy. You’re not sure you’re quite ready to read a 250-page book. For you, there’s a list of Teacher-focused takeways with reflection questions. This resource is my attempt to synthesize the most teacher-applicable and classroom-friendly aspects of this book for teachers. It’s written in the same style and spirit as you’ll find in See Me After Class—a combination of honesty, practical advice, and some possible oversharing.

This resource contains:
  • A summary of the seven space-design principles in the book that best apply to a classroom environment.
  • Self-reflection questions in each section that you can use to apply these principles to your classroom layout.
  • Some of my own aha moments related to this book, and to classroom layout in general.
  • The story of how the first fight I ever had to break up in my classroom started next to “the word wall.”

Subscribe to emails
These every-other-week emails are the main way I stay in touch with readers. Get honesty, practical advice, and occasional oversharing—always with the goal of making the weeks ahead more manageable.