Everyone has to eat: using multicultural food activities for teaching expository reading and writing

With No Child Left Behind pushing schools and teachers to improve annual state test scores to show student proficiency, students have suffered from a narrowing of curriculum in order to push students through the standards before testing. Many teachers have dropped the engaging lessons and activities that have shown to be effective to inspire students to learn. Because of this, many students are failing to make gains in long-term learning simply because they are bored by the dry, “drill and kill” style of teaching many schools are using to meet annual testing goals. The curriculum unit created for this project attempted to address both the need for engaging lessons that capture students’ interest that also pushes students to learn the basics set forth in the California state standards for seventh grade English-Language Arts (ELA). Through the use of four assignments that were centered on the discussion of multicultural food traditions and cooking, students in a seventh grade ELA intervention class utilized the skills and strategies from the state standards to create final products. Students in the pilot class showed improved gains in their learning of both reading and writing standards, but most importantly showed a high level of engagement which led to higher student participation rates and work completion. The pilot showed that students who are engaged in the classroom activities because of high interest lessons will be more motivated to complete assignments, thus ensuring higher levels of learning and theoretically lead to higher annual assessment scores.