Movie-Making in the Elementary Classroom: Cameras, Cooking and Kids
New genre theory and its application to literacy has long been a key element of the work of the Northern California Writing Project. We examine endless varieties of genres, and discuss ways to bring genre theory into the classroom. Since I love to travel and cook, I’m a big fan of that genre of television shows. Cooking shows in particular are a growing genre. Each show, when looked at from a genre perspective, is actually a variation on a persuasive essay, encouraging the viewer to try the recipe being demonstrated.
Several years ago, I stumbled on an idea to combine my understanding of the cooking show genre with a new project for my third graders. Together, we watched Food Network cooking shows, visited local restaurants, interviewed chefs and restaurant staff, examined the Food Network stars’ biographies, gathered recipes, and conducted research, my third grade students produced their own cooking show, Cameras, Cooking and Kids.
This is absolutely the best project I have ever created. It combines my passion for cooking and technology with my need to motivate and engage my students in something they understand, but have never done before. We manage to thrive …not simply survive!
Creating Cameras, Cooking and Kids
The goal is to produce a three chapter DVD using iMovie and iDVD. We produce hours of film, but edit it down. Students help with editing choices, but do not do any of the filming.
Students choose the group they want to join. Based on the
available restaurants in our area, I gave students the following options:
- The Italian Cooking Kids and a trip to the Italian Cottage restaurant
- The Mexican Cooking Kids and a trip to Casa Paradiso restaurant
- The Chinese Cooking Kids and a trip to Happy Gardens restaurant
Each segment of the show begins with the restaurant. I take the students out to dinner after school, with little to no parent support. This is a “study trip,” not just a dinner out. Students interview restaurant staff, take a tour, cook something, and of course eat!
Students transform our classroom into our own Cameras, Cooking, and Kids studio.
Yards of fabric provide the backdrop, a regular classroom table becomes the kitchen counter, and I bring in props for each show. We bought aprons and chef hats online. The dishes we cook are determined by the appliances we can use: crock pot, hot plate, electric skillet and griddle.
Students provide the chefs with a live audience. We organize our desks restaurant style and cover them with tablecloths. The chefs serve their dishes to their audience and each chef interviews an audience member.
Each chef/student investigates and prepares a Did You Know? to share at the end of the show. For example, one student asked, “Did you know that they found a clay garlic clove in King Tut’s tomb?”
We film on three consecutive days. We have tons of out takes… no problem. The editing is a simple process. We make enough DVDs for families, school board members, and those community members that help.
Selling the Project
Even in times of kill and drill approaches to teaching, I have had a broad-based support for this project. The “fun factor” that engages the students clearly seems prominent in this project, but the sophisticated thinking and rigorous analysis students employ are the most important factors to note. I have clearly stated links to CA State Standards for anyone who is interested. Our superintendent, board members, administrators, families, and community members all get copies of our show. We get positive local press coverage, and great PR for our local businesses.
Students are engaged in rigorous, engaging learning. Our community is involved. We are exploring technology and genre. This teacher is passionate about the teaching and learning. And oops… don’t tell: We are having fun!