18 October 2013

Now We're Cooking! (with Authentic Texts)

How many problems can you solve with food? What situations could you improve with the right recipe or menu? My Spanish I class came up with seven, ranging from basic independence to obesity, from allergies to world hunger. My kiddos decided to take on world hunger with a cookbook* of cheap, simple recipes.

Recipes are the perfect authentic text for novices: not only are they everywhere, but everything about them is designed to give hints at meaning.

Brainstorming with novices
I confess I let them throw out their ideas in English this time while I jotted them on the board in Spanish, but I've been racking my brain for ways I could have kept our food solutions brainstorm in the target language, but I've got a few ideas.
  • Pictionary: for rapid fire responses, students could use mini whiteboards (or ?) to doodle their contributions, erase when their answer is added to the list, and keep suggesting more until theirs is on the list. 
  • Collage: if you have a little time and access to the internet and/or a big ol' pile of magazines you can cut up, students could put 5-10 pictures that represent their ideas and look up the way to say the word/phrase they mean.
  • Choose from a list: anticipating every answer is pretty much the only way to do PBL in the TL, so maybe just go ahead and make a list of the answers you can think of, using cognates and familiar words as much as possible. Maybe small groups could huddle around dictionaries to add one suggestion each if they want more.
Establishing goals
I've taken to having students vote one by one on a lot of things. They each have to say the word or phrase representing their preference to cast their votes. It's repetitive and time-consuming, but the repetition's good for short-term retention at least, and each student has to form a semantic connection as they form the word because they are making a choice.

After the tally, we have to break the problem down into smaller parts, into identifiable objectives (hint: world hunger will not be solved when the grading period ends). So we define aspects of a recipe that would fulfill our goal, student-set standards. For world hunger, they decided the recipe must be simple to make with ingredients that are cheap, readily available, and also nutritious (I'd recommend the same strategies for initial brainstorms in this step as well.)

From there, we came up with a list of key words that would help us locate these perfect recipes, naming descriptions we'd expect to see in recipe titles and ingredients and nutrients that would fit with our established standards, as well as the types of food that we wanted, well, to eat, like snacks, desserts, breakfasts, dinners.

Finding the right recipe
As I have said before, Pinterest is the novice's best friend--especially for recipes. The visuals and the easy labels make recipe location a snap. Students divided into groups according to the type of dish they wanted to prepare, and I set up a Pinterest board for each of those groups, inviting them to pin on those boards (a process that is slightly more involved than I'd expected because we had to follow each other first). The contest to see who could pin the most recipes was flummoxed by confusion on how to get added to the boards, but I think the group with over 200 would have won anyway. Then we had to weed out the pins that were just tasty-looking pictures, so having a working link tied to the pin would be a must next time around.

Further recipe evaluation is taking place in several stages for this project:

  1. I created a Google Form based on their standards and let them loose on each other's pins to narrow down their boards.
  2. Each student claimed a recipe that was left standing by commenting on the pin (I repinned those on my own board to have a class list).
  3. Meal groups went back to the Google Form and had to rate all of the claimed recipes on their respective boards; students who did not get at least a 19/25 average on their recipe had to choose another.
  4. Then, they had to prepare it and let the class try it (it was a good day!) Each student evaluated each dish according to our standards and decided whether or not they'd recommend it. 
  5. Monday, we discuss and hash out which recipes will make the cut for each meal group (at least 2 per group).
  6. Finally, groups are going to simplify and revise their recipes and then test them out on a class of Spanish-speaking elementary ELL students in small group cooking lessons.
Interpreting the recipes

In retrospect, I should have handled the vocabulary frontloading more like I did back in the day, with more structured vocabulary selection and contextual meaning discerning and fun, slightly less messy assessment. So for progress' sake, let's say we did that, with ingredients, verbs, measurements, and utensils/appliances.

OK, vocabulary frontloaded: time for the breakdown. Honestly, I did this better last year, too, though I hadn't posted about it. I had a more limited pool of recipes then and a tiny class then, so a PACE lesson based on ALL of their recipes was a lot more feasible. Still, I think it was worth whipping up, and having students put things in the "we" form for the final draft would not be a bad idea. In fact, I should have had them do that already, but instead it will be done at the preparing-for-the-little-ones stage when before class sampling day would have been more logical. Qué será, será.
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So here's the process we should have/will go through:

  1. Pick out all verbs in your recipe, from the list and otherwise.
  2. Break instructions up to include only one verb per step.
  3. Begin each step with a verb (modify to class's common vocabulary where possible).
  4. Add ingredients to each step.
  5. Add location/utensils for each step (e.g. oven, bowl, fridge, tray).
After simplifying, groups will trade simplified recipes to see if they can get the food to come out right--before we test it on the young ones--and then we'll tweak accordingly.

Groups will then assemble a page of our cookbook for each recipe, including a citation for the original, ingredients, simplified steps, and a photo of the finished product--and possibly the cooks. And who knows? Maybe we can get the word out about our cheap, healthy recipes and put a dent in this world hunger thing.


*I'm also a fan of simple cooking videos, but we have the chance to teach some young ESL students one-on-one how to make our recipes, so we're going with the more immediate audience.

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