Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cooking with 6th Graders

Parent-teacher conferences are this week. In another valiant attempt to include food and/or cooking in class, I decided to have the kids make no-bake cookies to serve to parents at conferences. I could get away with this because the language arts standards we were addressing the last few weeks were about functional text (reading schedules, charts, signs, recipes, etc.) The first battle was finding a recipe that was truly no-bake AND no-heat. (Most no-bake recipes involve melting various concoctions on the stove.) So, I sent my good friend, and passionate recipe-searcher, Liz Brinkman on a mission to find a real-deal, no heat cookie recipe. This is what she came up with.

The first big task was getting the kids to understand what all of the ingredients were.
"It says honey. Can I bring syrup instead?" .....Not really the same thing.
"Do I have to put in the peanut butter? What if I don't have crunchy?" Yes you have to have peanut butter, and no it doesn't matter what kind.
"What is non-fat evaporated milk powder? Is that like baby formula?" Same idea, but DON'T bring baby formula. Look for powdered milk.
"Where do I find a coconut?" PLEASE don't bring a whole coconut. We're looking for shredded coconut; the kind that's in little bits.

After that task was navigated on Friday, and everyone had divided up the ingredients to bring in, I promptly forgot to remind them to bring it all in on Tuesday. So about half the kids actually had the ingredients on Tuesday. Thanks to some awesome parents, and a bunch of kids who had plenty to share, we ended up with enough of everything to make the recipe (7 groups made it, actually). Having enough ingredients was a victory in and of itself.

Once we're actually ready to begin assembling the cookies, and I've handed out the mixing bowls, spoons, and measuring cups, this is the first thing I see: kids banging the bowls with the spoons and putting the bowls on their head. In the words of Seth Myers and Amy Poehler on Weekend Update, "REALLY?!?" Some days it's like teaching 3 year olds... Then I had to triply review that if we need 2/3 of a cup of honey, you need to put in 2 of the 1/3 cups. Even after going over it several times and making them repeat it back to me, I still caught several trying to put it in the half cup. (It's amazing how much kids DON'T figure out on their own...)

We did run short of honey, but this was generally remedied by adding more peanut butter. (My whole room smelled like peanut butter and honey--it was great!) After getting everything generally mixed together right (although I did have a good contingent dump the coconut into the mix, even though the balls were supposed to be rolled in it--"add more peanut butter!!") we finally got everything put away into plastic bags and safely stored in the lounge fridge. I did have to beat a couple teachers off with a stick at lunch the next day, but they turned out great. My floor was completely covered in graham cracker crumbs, but it was easily vaccuumed.

It turned out to be a lot of fun for me and the kids, and it wasn't even very disastrous! Maybe that's what good teaching is like: having "fly by the seat of your pants" fun, and even learning something in the meantime!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Yellow Pages vs Websites

I was planning my 700 hours worth of lesson plans yesterday. (My kids are starting to learn that I exaggerate a lot.) This planning for every subject is ridiculously time-consuming, not to mention the outrageous lesson plan format we have to follow. ANYWAY, beside the point. This week in Language Arts (English, for you old school people), my kids are studying functional text, which includes things like recipes, directions, schedules, signs, phone books, etc.

As I was on my hands and knees yanking the phone book out of its resting place at the bottom of my closet, where it cushions my glassware and boosts up an occasional child, a thought came to me. What is the point of the phone book? When do I ever use it? Clearly, not much. However, I suppose it can still be of use if a person is looking for a plumber or a roofer and doesn't know one. Hence, I will still teach my kids how to use the yellow pages.

However, once a person does know what specific company, restaurant, or organization they want information on, the group's website is much more useful. For that reason, this week we will be locating information on a website as well (which is a totally different skill than using MySpace). I know this may seem like a bit of a no-brainer, but the state standards out there would probably say that I shouldn't be wasting my time on things that aren't going to be on the standardized test at the end of the year. In my humble opinion though, (imho in text speak), it is a necessary life skill that I use all the time. Like I say, though it may be looked down upon by some, I think that is one small thing that contributes toward being a good teacher (even though it may not boost my students' test scores). :-)