Adventures in Teaching, Part Two: the Case of the Vivacious Vocabulary

I’m starting to think that I might be reading and watching more Perry Mason* than is useful, because I keep catching myself trying to come up with titles in the style of Erle Stanley Gardner’s stories.

Then again, anyone who has been a teacher before knows that anything that can get your students’ attention is worth doing, no matter how goofy, even if it’s starting class by singing ‘Best Day Ever’ from SpongeBob SquarePants.** Of course, in the case of the latter, even the toughest of my kids always join in by the end 😉

In this lesson, I was creating differing degrees of a vocabulary lesson that shows students’ understanding of key culinary terms. What you see pictured above are the three stages of a standard word search, each reflecting a new level of student knowledge and understanding.

In the first level, students simply search for as many words as possible as listed in the word bank. At the second level, students search for the words listed in the word bank, and then write out definitions. At the final stage, students still have to find and define the words, but unlike at the other levels, they receive only hints for the words but no word bank.

What I enjoy about this lesson is how easily one can adapt it to any subject with a simple word substitution, and how quickly one can start to gauge student vocabulary understanding.

Below is a link to the Excel-based files:

culinary word search-and-define with three levels of difficulty

If you use the files, please let me know the results!


* Perry Mason:

** ‘Best Day Ever’ from Spongebob SquarePants:

Adventures in Teaching, Round One: Nutrition and Food Cost

As the most recent hire, when I began teaching Culinary Arts, I was assigned the academic lessons. These included discussions of International and American cuisine and culture, establishing proper kitchen safety and sanitation, nutrition and food cost.

The latter was a difficult sell, and I kept updating and modifying the lesson in an attempt to make it relatable and interesting to the students. None of them were planning on opening a restaurant, and none of the math required was connected to their official courses, so the standard lessons were a complete bust. And, of course, students in a cooking class don’t generally like leaving a kitchen containing snack potential to work in a classroom.

Since food isn’t usually allowed in classrooms –and in the interests of avoiding tiny armies of pests, rightly so!!– I recreated the lesson as a two-part research and practical activity. The first picture above is from the research portion, where students must select and conduct both pricing and nutrition research on a food item that they often purchase. The way I was able to get my students to participate was through the promise that whatever they chose, within reason, they could prepare on another day in the kitchen.

I may not have reached an enthusiastic 100% participation, but I had found an activity where every student did complete the task. We all learned something new when cooking the items later on, as I started showing them creative swaps I thought up when reviewing their food choices. Some examples:

~ using half veggie noodles and half pasta for a spaghetti and meatball dish
~ substituting plain Greek yogurt for mayonnaise in tuna or chicken salad sandwiches
~ baking rather than frying crab wontons
~ puréeing white beans as a base for creamy sauces
~ adding puréed butternut squash or sweet potato to a cheese sauce
~ making your own breakfast (and other) sandwiches
~ boosting a breakfast sandwich with a vegetable or bean patty

The latter two items are among my favorites, which I started doing at home myself. Hey, all this nutrition information had to eventually make an impact on me, who once lunched exclusively on Twizzlers and Coca Cola 😏

After making batches of mushroom, bean and vegetable patties, I always have enough left over to freeze, and adding a warmed patty to a homemade egg and cheese muffin sandwich is incredibly yummy, healthy and filling. The picture above is from a version with the cauliflower-walnut patty I mentioned originally here:

What are your favorite ways to make a favorite dish a little healthier?

We Will (We Will) Feed You 🍴

In my most recent year of teaching, I took on additional duties for our lunch functions. The top reason, in fact, that ‘every kid in America wants to be me:’ I introduced my students to the practical side of front-of-house service.

In other words, I began the glamorous life of getting them to wear Chef’s coats and hats, setting up our (small) banquet room, conducting buffet-line service –WITHOUT spending any time on their phones– and, most popular of all, table bussing.

After trying many (many) ways to motivate them, I read a great piece in “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teacher Tales,”* in which Alex ‘The Rappin Mathematician’ Kajitani explained how he inspired his students by delivering a lesson in rap form, using music from songs the students like. It seemed like the perfect way to get my students rallied together around otherwise less-than-exciting tasks.

There’s just one problem here (sure, one). Anyone who knows me also winces at the thought of my being involved with singing; I can’t carry a tune if it’s tied to my arm. However, they also know that I am more than willing to make myself look silly by *trying* to sing, especially if there’s a chance to connect with my students.

So, then began a few hours of fun, coming up with lyrics to a song that always motivates me: Queen’s timeless ‘We Will Rock You’ by Dr. Brian May*, turning it into ‘We Will Feed You.’

I am happy to say that this song worked on two occasions, with two separate sets of students. In the first instance, I suspect the shock at seeing me start pounding the table in that trademark rhythm and hearing me recite the lyrics was the motivating factor, but in the second case they actually got into the song, at least for the minute or two it took to sing. And in both cases, a few moments of shared fun and laughs were worth it.

I hope this gives you a good chuckle for the day 😊

We Will Feed You
Lyrics by Lauren Bradford, The Food Puzzler
Sung to the timeless tune ‘We Will Rock You’ written by Brian May*

Whatever you want
There’s breakfast lunches snacks and even dinner too
We’ve got soup and stocks
Chocolate sauce
Taking chickens apart to fry up lots

We will we will feed you!
EVERYBODY we will we will feed you!

Chicken cooks up high
Always 165
Beef and fish only need 145
But grind them up, temp goes up
Hamburger and fish patties 155

We will we will feed you!
SING IT we will we will feed you!

Wearing the gloves shows sanitation love
for salads sandwiches serving too!
But we always wash
cleaning first
Using paper towels and give them a toss!

We will we will feed you!
EVERYBODY we will we will feed you!
We will we will feed you!
SING IT we will we will feed you!



~ This edition can be found online many places, including here, if you’re curious:

~ (yes, he’s not only a rock legend, he’s a scientist with a PhD in Astrophysics!)