Andrea Roberson

One of the best days in my teaching career came during the food chapter in the textbook. I wanted to teach it in a way that would grab my students’ attention and would be fun for the entire class. The traditional route would have been ok, but I didn’t want the lesson to be just ok. I wanted it to be extraordinary; one for the Guinness books.

The night before we started the chapter I went to the teaching store. I passed by several posters, but I wasn’t all too convinced that a poster would get through to my students. I passed by figurines, but they weren’t too convincing either. Finally I passed by a game called “Food Fight.” I mean literally passed by, so much so I had to take a few paces back to really look at the box. It was a green box with a giant head with an open mouth and giant hands on each side. If you want to know the true meaning of LOL, I was seriously laughing out loud at this box. On the bottom of the box there were foods. I finally got it, a food fight. It was a game with food. The object of the game was to get the food in the giant mouth.

Of course I purchased the game, and took it right home to play. I tore open the box, no need for instructions (I’m not an instructions kind of girl). You set it on the floor, plug it in, and it automatically stays inflated. The game also came with cotton-filled, satin covered food. There was a tomato, a potato, milk, chicken, beef, and some other things I can’t remember. I called my sister downstairs, she was my roommate at the time, and asked if she wanted to play the game with me. I explained how it worked. All she had to do was throw the food into the mouth and it collects inside. Like two kids, we played halfway through the night. We’ve always been very competitive, so we played over and over again. Toss the food from behind the couch, from the stairs, from down the hallway.  I knew if two grown women had a ball with this game, then the kids would love it too.

I was right, the kids had a ball. Before they were allowed to toss the food they had to say what the food was in Spanish. As on student tossed the food, the others would memorize what it was. If they did not know the food they had to forfeit their turn. In later rounds they had to name a dish that contained the food.

At the time I had a doublewide trailer and an at-risk population of kids. I was a little worried about classroom management and my students’ ability to control themselves in such a non-traditional environment. Surprisingly, the day went off without a hitch. When it looked like my students were starting to get out of control, I’d unplug the inflatable head. The threat of going back to the textbook straightened them out right away. It was about knowing my students and the classroom I was given.

That day we had two common understandings. 1. Respect; respect for my classroom and for the teacher’s rules. And 2. Food; one of our basic needs as human beings. I was never worried about being liked as a teacher. But I felt appreciated on that day. My students appreciated my effort to do something out of the ordinary. In these days of standardized testing and only teaching to the textbook, students appreciate a day where the pressure of passing a test is taken off the table and we can have fun again in the classroom. So I suggest you go to the party store, go to the teaching store; go to the mall, or wherever you can find non-conventional methods of teaching. Your kids will appreciate your efforts, I guarantee it.

The Gift of Teaching
Santillana and the Pulsera Project: A day in the life of a Nicaraguan high school student

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