In this crazy Pandemic year, during stay at home orders, distance teaching, and trying lots of new things, I tried to think of a Literacy Project that would include families and fun activities at home for my second grade students. I recently did a career change from professional cooking into teaching and thought I could use my prior expertise to do a writing unit on cooking and recipes. During our informational writing unit, I incorporated a mini-unit with a how-to recipe writing experience. We started the unit by watching a video on youtube that I created about how to make crepes. I told the students what crepes were and I also explained that I was a professional chef before and we talked about different dishes the students knew how to make. I found out that my students love to cook and were very interested in helping parents and family cook in the kitchen! I also learned that there are so many cultural foods that the students wanted to share with each other.
After we watched the video, we did a shared writing where we wrote down the ingredients and then we wrote the steps to the recipe. Students helped me to spell words, come up with ideas, and to write the recipes in notebooks so we could look back and make the recipe again if we so chose! The shared writing was completed over two writing blocks. After the shared writing, we worked on a Jamboard coming up with ideas that students knew how to cook. Students found the page with their face on it and started to put pictures and ideas down of recipes they knew how to cook. At this point, I had already shared with my colleagues on the 2nd grade team my writing project and both the English and Bilingual teacher decided to also take part in the writing project as well. All 3 second grade classes were now working on this writing mini unit, and I shared my unit plan with them with the materials.
Before we worked on the Jamboard together, I assigned a SeeSaw assignment for students to interview a family or community member asking about a favorite recipe they had made together. Also, in those interviews students asked their families about the ingredients for the recipes and the steps to make the recipes. I thought this would be a great way to incorporate families into the literacy project and to widen the students’ recipe repertoire they could use for making their own recipes. I was very astonished to see the wide range of recipes and recipes related to specific cultures students were learning about in their homes. Some highlights were this one of a student cooking chicken fingers with her mom and another of a student talking about Chana Masala with his mom.
After we were able to generate ideas of the recipes students knew how to cook, we were ready to write the recipes down! During this unit I introduced students to Google docs where they wrote the ingredients and steps in making their recipes. We worked to make sure that students included details in their steps and quantities. I also did a fun activity during class where I asked students to help me to learn how to brush my teeth but with very specific directions that I would need to follow. We had fun trying to explain a simple activity in very detailed way, and I told the students to do the same thing in their recipe. I was able to confer with students individually during our writing time to help them and I also used the comments in Google docs to add some suggestions I had.
In my class we were able to generate 2 different recipes from the lists we made on Jamboard; the other two second grades were able to do one recipe. For our Family Literacy Event, we decided to have a writing celebration party with all three second grade classes, support staff, families and other important community members to show off the hard work we had done in our recipe unit. In this Literacy Event, students were put in different breakout rooms with a varying degree of bilingual and English only strands in one room and were each given an opportunity to share their screens and show their recipes to the others in the group. After each presentation, other students in the group offered their celebrations and congratulations to the student who had presented. We then went back into the main room on Zoom and put them in a new breakout room with new students. It was so much fun being able to see the students’ work and ask questions about recipes that they knew about making at home. In the other classes, students also wrote stories to accompany their dishes discussing what these dishes meant to them. We were able to celebrate these stories as well during our Literacy event.
Overall, I learned so much as a part of the Panda Cares Fellowship this year and also reflected deeply on how to make writing more meaningful and provide personalized content for the students. I wanted to make sure that I was centering student voices and bringing in community members and family in a way that created meaning for the students.