The thing I love about Comprehensible Input is you can talk about anything that interests them. Sports. Movies. The fight in the hallway. If it’s compelling and comprehensible you’re golden! And food is always compelling.
In my real life I love to cook, and in my teacher life, I love cooking demos in class. To students it feels different and new, but really it’s just the tried and true ingredients for CI: use lots of cognates, gestures and visuals, speak slowly and clearly, and check to make sure they understand.
Cooking in class is fun, but it’s a real pain. It takes a lot of equipment and a lot of planning…but I think it’s worth it because it’s what students remember about class years later.
Here are a few tips to make “Food Network: CI Edition” successful:
The right equipment: I have a regular classroom, no kitchen, no sink. (Get ready for some Amazon links- heads up they’re associate links- which means if you click on them and buy something, Amazon sends me like .002 cents, just FYI!)I have two Electric Skillets and an Electric Griddle that I keep in my classroom for cooking. Make sure you have an extension cord and a table you can use for your workspace. Have Clorox wipes and baby wipes available to wash surfaces and hands.
Have them bring the ingredients: I used to buy and bring everything for every class before I wised up! Now I make a sign up sheet and ask kids to bring ingredients. When we make chilaquiles, students bring in bags of tostadas, canned tomatoes, drinks, shredded cheese and onions. I bring the ingredients that need prep before hand: cooked Serrano Chilies and garlic and Agua de Jamaica. For Gallo Pinto they bring canned black beans, onions and bell peppers, I bring cooked rice and the special sauce- Salsa Lizano. Asking them to bring in ingredientes makes it much more manageable (and cheaper! and less stuff to take to school!)
Location, location, location: Set up your cooking area by an open door or window. Sauteing onions and chilies smells amazing when you’re cooking them but the lingering scent just smells like BO two weeks later. And don’t set up your kitchen below the smoke detector!
Plan your time: I don’t want any down time in my classes, so I stretch out the cooking to last most of the period, then we eat the last 10 minutes. Cooking Demos are not “fiesta culture days” (you know, when kids hang out chatting in English eating chips and salsa- those days do not happen in my classroom. No way, José.) It’s just another day that I get to load them up with Comprehensible Input. Since I have long block periods and have time to fill, I always include a power point of pictures of the place we’re eating from to show pictures and talk about culture while we’re waiting for peppers to soften, sauce to simmer or cheese to melt. When I make Quinoa Porridge I show them pictures of hiking the Inca Trail in Peru. To accompany Gallo Pinto, I show them pictures of my Costa Rican family and the town I lived in when I studied abroad. Really, I think those personal stories are where the real value is: in addition to giving them loads of input, I want to inspire my little darlings to leave our small town to see the world.
Help them focus: They seem especially squirrelly on cooking days- it might be the excitement or that they’re sitting at tables with their friends (normally we’re deskless) or that they’re conditioned to believe that Food Days=Party Days=Not real school=Goof off. Whatever the case, giving them a task helps focus them. I ask them to write out the recipe in English as I’m explaining, mostly to focus them but also so they can take it home and cook for their families.
What to cook? Here are the things I make every year for my classes:
- Chilaquiles, a Mexican Breakfast- Here’s the recipe! (In Spanish 1, during our Restaurant simulation)
- Gallo Pinto, a Costa Rican Breakfast – Here’s the recipe! (In Spanish 2, while reading Robo en la noche)
- Quinoa Porridge, a Peruvian Breakfast ( In Spanish 4, because they feel left out!)
- Agua de Jamaica
- Mexican Fruits with Lime and Chile (Not really something to cook, but easy to ask kids to bring in cut up fruits, and I supply chili powder, Tajín and limes…and if you don’t have an Exprimador, you totally need one!)
- Pupusas, while my Heritage students are reading Vida y Muerte en la Mara Salvatrucha
What have you cooked in class?! What should I add to my recipe list? I would love suggestions and tips!