Seven foodie concepts that can help in the classroom

1st July 2016 at 00:00
Help students find new ideas easier to digest with the aid of these gastronomically inspired tips

Whether it’s apples for the teacher or “starters” for your latest lesson, teaching often takes inspiration from food. Forage around and you’ll find “Eat Meets” used for professional development, lollipop sticks for assessment tracking and restaurant-inspired homework templates on TES Resources. We love our nosh. And, accordingly, we tend to find a lot of scope for classroom inspiration in our larders and local eateries.

Here are a baker’s half-dozen of food-based ideas for you to chew over and serve up however you like in your own classrooms.

1 Lay ‘placemats’

Setting the tables for students can give scope for a variety of classroom-management strategies. Sheets of plain A3 paper can be used before the lesson to let individuals know where you’d like them to sit and, once the lesson is in full swing, the “placemats” can be used, Wagamama-style, to jot down all manner of things from key spellings to praise.

2 Plates mean points

This idea struck me recently when I was eating at a popular sushi bar, where a conveyor belt whizzed colourful dishes round and round the restaurant for customers to choose for themselves. A poster declared: “Choose food from the belt. Seven colours. Seven prices.” Well, that’s a food-themed lesson opportunity if ever I ate one. Different kinds of activities, of varying difficulties or types, could be colour coded and given numerical values. At the end of the session, students could compete to see how many points they have earned based on the tasks they chose and successfully completed.

3 The rodizio method

A rodizio is a Brazilian style of all-you-can-eat restaurant where customers pay a set price and waiters keep visiting the table with all manner of food until stuffed gourmands have had enough. But how does the waiter know who requires attention and who doesn’t? Well, this is where it gets interesting. The system that rodizio restaurants most commonly use is a simple card – green on one side to say, “I require your service” and red on the other as a signal to “leave me alone”. This could be useful in the classroom. If students had such a tool, this could make it much easier for teachers to scan a room of diligently working learners and prioritise, swiftly and subtly, those who need help.

4 ‘Supersize me’ resources

Some people can polish off a meal in the time it would take the rest of us to tuck our napkins into our collars. Similarly, some learners tend to whizz through tasks, voracious for more and often distracting others who take a little longer to chew things over. Learners who tend to work at a faster pace might require a “supersize” version of a resource. This extension or supersize activity could be popped on the back of worksheet, for example, or maybe an additional role, such as “peer assessor” could be displayed somewhere prominent in the room. Ideally, the supersize activity or role should be exciting or at least palatable – our students are not gluttons for punishment, after all.

5 The buffet

Most teachers (certainly the ones I know) love a buffet. As an educational metaphor, what better symbol for differentiated learning could there possibly be than the choice of goodies from a lovingly curated spread?

Why not set up a buffet of starters, main activities and plenaries in your classroom, perhaps on one table, which learners can choose from. I’ve found that this works particularly well for revision classes and allows students the autonomy to self-select topics or subjects according to interest and preference. You may find that some students even go up for second helpings.

6 Onion debates

This is a way of seating students for a discussion based on the premise of layers. The idea is to get rid of the tables for a while and to seat students in circles – so you have an inner circle, a middle circle and an outer circle. You pose a “big question” linked to your subject.

The outer circle begins discussion and all other participants make notes. The middle circle then takes the debate a level deeper and, again, all other participants make notes. In the end, the inner circle has their turn to deepen the discussion even further. After all participants in the onion have had their say and after the discussion has gone as far as possible, all participants reflect on how effective the discussion has been. If they decide to, participants may wish to debate the subject further, starting at the outer layer of the onion again and working their way to the centre.

This multi-layered approach should enable the more in-depth analysis and concentration needed in our further education classrooms.

7 Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

Inject some Lewis Carroll-based excitement into a good old carousel lesson. Rather than giving students an allocated amount of time at each activity table, scan the room and assess progress before choosing the most appropriate time to shout “Change places”, a la Alice In Wonderland. Sleeping mice and riddles are optional, of course.

Janette Thompson is an FE practitioner in the East Midlands @EnglishFECoach

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