Literacy Teaching Tips 10

In my last post in this strand, I expressed a strong desire for teachers and students to be able to engage in timely and interesting topics of study – not always within the scope of the adopted curriculum materials.  I know that we can do things like this in an integrated way, addressing multiple subjects with fairly simple projects – and even meeting a variety of formal goals in the process.


Here is the seed of an idea that might appeal to you and your students:


Food banks are always in need of additional supplies; I believe that this is true year round, but we generally hear more about it at this time.  This project might begin with your students bringing in non-perishable items, particularly those richest in nutritive content if possible.  (Of course, kids could choose to bring in items – or earn them by doing extra classroom and playground jobs; it probably goes without saying that this will not be a competition, but a collaborative effort).


This would certainly be an opportunity to discuss grade-level appropriate nutrition concepts, which can be tricky - given some of the unfortunate "facts" often pushed onto students in this area.  (Note:  Many people still believe that dietary fat is bad, rather than understanding the notion of quality of fats or grasping the role of over-consuming carbohydrates as a cause of a number of health problems).


Annnnnyway . . . Many of the collected items will be in cans.  Others will be in other sorts of packages.  Either way – there will likely be math concepts related to measurement that you will be able to explore with your students.  Three dimensional figures would be another possibility – which leads to the next activity.


You can use this as an opportunity to directly teach some drawing concepts – such as how to do a cylinder.  (Hint:  The most common problem is a flat bottom, when in fact- a cylinder will have the rounded curve of the front of an ellipse on the bottom).  YouTube to the rescue, if needed, right?


Perhaps your students would like to design new labels for the food containers. (Hint:  The label on a cylindrical object will also be "made with" the front side of an ellipse; labels will be echoes of the container shape.)  These could be gently taped over the top of the original labels.  It would be an opportunity for your students to try their hands at this kind of a design task.  It also might be some fun for the recipients! 


In the working world, multiple design decisions are normally considered before a final product is begun – much like brainstorming before beginning a piece of writing in its final form.  It is also important to remember that drawing is easiest when we have an image to consult; drawing from memory is not only difficult, but usually results in fewer details and less accuracy.  As always, your students can just go over the lines that they prefer; there's no need to be fussy and do a lot of erasing.  (It's difficult to convince them of this, but with demonstrations from you and lots of opportunities – they will get comfortable with the idea and their drawings will please them more and more).


After the nutrition, math, and art activities have transpired – your students will have lots of thoughts in their heads.  These could be expressed in any mode of discourse that they might choose – poems, articles, letters, etc.  The main thing is that they will know in advance both the audience and the purpose for their writing.  (Examples:  I am writing a letter to my grandma to explain what I've been learning.  I am writing a short poem to entertain the person who gets this package.  I am writing an article about this project for our class newsletter.)


I would love to hear back from you about the standard(s) that YOU choose to address in connection with these or similar activities.  I am guessing that no two of you will choose the same ones. 


Send me, via the CONTACT page on this site, the standard(s) that you have chosen to address.  Remind me of your grade level and school address – and then expect a surprise!

Would you like to submit your students' poetry for inclusion in this section?  I would really enjoy that!