A Little Win with Food


This week is sophomore graduation testing at my school, which means that the sophomores have to be here at the regular time in the morning, they spend the first two hours testing, and then the whole student body operates on an altered schedule for the rest of the day. That means that all but one of my classes goes from 50 minutes to 29 minutes for five days. This week, some teachers show movies, some teachers do presentations, and some teachers, myself included, try to maintain some semblance of normalcy. This week Spanish 1 is starting to discuss food words. We had learned milk and pizza a while back when we started talking about likes and dislikes, but I wanted to delve a bit deeper.

In all the craziness of this week, I had (what I think is) a really good idea yesterday. Since it was a spur of the moment thing, I didn’t have all the resources I needed to pull it off exactly as I would like to, but I’ll just tell you what I think it would look like if I had thought of it in advance.

Day 1: Learn a few food words. Preferably via some story or other CI method. Maybe some oddly specific food words that will help lead into an activity later in the week. I’m thinking things like hamburger, salad, omelette, potatoes, sandwich, ice cream, and hit pizza again. Make it things that can be really personalized with different foods, condiments, toppings, etc. Could also hit meal names this day, as that could come in handy later on, too. Practice them a little so that students are pretty comfortable.

Day 2: Here’s where it gets a little more fun. One of the best purchases I made in preparation for this school year was an easel pad from Staples (and that one’s made from sugar cane, rather than trees, so it’s earth-friendly!). I bought it to start creating my own posters, but have actually used it mostly to foster group discussion. I’ve found that, by having kids write and draw what they’re thinking as a group, fewer students sit back watch while the rest do all the work – they’re all a little more involved if their thoughts are going down on paper that others will see.

Across the top of each sheet of paper (1 for each group. I used groups of 4 which worked pretty well), I wrote “On a [food item] I like…” and each group got a different food. Then (and here’s where the advance planning comes in, because I didn’t have the resources handy to do it this way this time around), give each group some resources to find food words. It could be Spanish menus from restaurants, grocery store ads, cookbooks or recipes, or a combination. Naturally, I think things with lots of pictures would be most helpful. You could also arm each group with a dictionary to be used just in case.

Now, each group has to say what they like on their hamburger/salad/ice cream/etc. I also included breakfast for one group, because I couldn’t think of anything else that might prompt fruits. My rule was that they had to write the word and draw it, so hopefully these can be hung up around the room and used as a learning tool throughout the rest of this unit (and next year?). After a few minutes (5-7?), rotate papers and start again – but no repeating words that another group already wrote!

I didn’t have the menus and things handy when I thought of this activity halfway through a lesson, so my students started out just using dictionaries, but they were having fun and speaking Spanish anyway. Today’s kind of a loss because half of my students will be out taking freshman Common Core tests, tomorrow is country quiz day (and with shortened periods that’s probably about all we’ll get to), and Friday is a teacher workday. That means I have until Monday to find some more authentic resources before we finish this activity!

I’ve been experimenting with letting students discover their own vocabulary all year long, and I have to say, I think this is the best I’ve done yet!


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