What’s Cookin’?

Hi and welcome back to Attention-ology for K – 5 Teachers!

Hungry for some more tools and tricks to catch and keep K – 5 students’ attention? Hope so, because this week’s blog offers some tasteful ideas. Read on…

No matter the season of the year in your “neck of the world’s woods,” the best cooking (I think) takes on the  flavors of whatever grows closest to home. For example, spring vegetables in the southern part of the United States add delicious and nutritious color to any plate.

Every country of the world and every region within those national boundaries prides itself on native fare.

Why not capitalize on food – something that catches EVERYONE’S attention – by creating engaging analogies to “cookin’ up” good work in elementary classrooms. This trick works for me every time I open up “You Choose Day at The Poetry Cafe” and I bet this trick will work for you too, no matter what subject you choose for the activity focus.

“You Choose Day” works for any part of the curriculum. It’s the concept of “cookin’ up,” not the content specifically, that catches and keeps kids’ attention. “You Choose Day,” for example, could offer a menu full of math problems or story starter lines or titles of chapters to read.

When I use this trick to teach poetry (just to give you more background so that you can develop this trick to suit your needs) I begin “You Choose Day” by asking students if they’ve ever been to a cafe where the “Specials of the Day” are written in chalk on a blackboard. Some hands always fly in answer to this question. Then I explain that “You Choose Day at the Poetry Cafe” is a lot like that.

At the “Poetry Cafe” I tell my students that I’m going to post a menu and invite them to choose what they’d like to write. I begin by writing a word down the board to start an Acrostic poem. Then I draw a shape and show how to write a concrete or shape poem. My poetry menu continues with a List poem about pizza. Pizza, pizza, it’s delicious to eat/Pizza is my favorite treat and so on. As I post each choice I allow time for class discussion, questions, and comments to be sure that everyone is participating. Kids love being invited to “cook up” great work at a “cafe!”

Another way for teachers to “play” with the concept of “What’s Cookin’?” is to either surprise your class or announce in advance and then deliver a “Classroom Picnic Day of Learning.” This attention-getting trick takes a few tools and some extra time ahead of students’ arrival on the morning of “Picnic Day,” but if you’re up to the challenge the activity will delight K – 5 children.

On “Picnic Day” set out paper napkins and plastic forks or spoons (make an age-appropriate choice) at each desk or table space. In the center of each student’s place set out a pre-printed menu of class work for the day. The menu will essentially be a printed version of the day’s work that many teachers post on the board. A menu can be as simple as a handwritten day plan that you make copies of on white or bright-colored paper. Or you can use card-making software and create fancier printed menus – whatever suits your time, talent and temperament.

As an extra incentive to encourage students to “cook up” good quality work by staying on task all day on “Picnic Day” you might announce that the last item on the menu – dessert – will be delivered before school’s out IF all students work their way through the menu in a cooperative way. Dessert can be as simple and  sweet as small individually wrapped candies.

Finally, if you celebrate Earth Day, which is officially recognized at least in the United States on April 22, you can hold an “Earth Day Picnic” if your school is in session. Offer “menu options” based on your curriculum and add in connections with celebrating your locally grown produce. Think of the vocabulary choices that feature fruits and vegetables!

Happy Cookin’!

Remember, you don’t need to be a magician to work magic in instructional settings!

Talk with you next week,

BarbaraThe Lovable Poet

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Barbara Cleary has been serving as a resource to hundreds of educators for more than 25 years. An award-winning writer, producer, teacher, and trainer, Barbara’s focus is on offering easy, fun tools and tricks that support K-5 curricula and assist teachers with classroom management.
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