Wednesday, 18 September 2013

International Day of Chocolate Bite I

One of the first things my students ever learn about me  - because I tell them - is that I LOVE chocolate. All that other good stuff about classroom management and teaching philosophy can wait. So long as we're all clear on the importance of chocolate, reading, geocaching, laughing and quirky fonts then we're good to go.

So, it was in this context that last Thursday one of my students piped up with the magic words,
"It's International Day of Chocolate tomorrow!"
So. It. Is. And my mind  raced off trying to include chocolate in a meaningful way into my plan (because although, in my mind, any inclusion of chocolate is meaningful apparently the people who wrote our curriculum aren't on the same page as me on that front).

Here's how I turned an average Friday into an awesome day of chocolate-y goodness. (Well, that's a slight exaggeration but let's just run with it for now OK?

We started the day with a problematised situation (a la Ann Baker about whom I've written here and here)  about how we might share a certain number of boxes of chocolates. We talked through the problem as a class and then the students moved off to discuss their strategies in pairs before settling down to work on the problem individually. I was really pleased to see the variety of strategies the children used to approach the problem. The reflection session demonstrated some very creative mathematical thinking.

We spent some time in the library later in the morning and several of the students found books about chocolate. We're focussing on information texts during our literacy blocks at the moment so it was wonderful to see so many students spontaneously identifying features and comparing information text formats. (Yay for transferring knowledge across the curriculum!) I asked one group to choose a couple for me to borrow; they made good choices of books with a variety of information text formats.

Later in the day I used these books as the basis for a class discussion about the history of chocolate and the processes involved from cacao tree to shop shelf. My class knows that I have family in a cacao growing area so once they'd heard a little about the history and process they had a whole flurry of questions I had no idea how to answer to really think about. (To be completely honest, the extent of my personal experience with cacao fruit involves sucking the fruit clean from the beans before tossing them over the side of the ute tray I was riding on as we drove home from the farm.)  

Anyway, our conversation lead to the inevitable comparison of types of chocolate. We discussed the reason that the substance formerly known as white chocolate is not actually, nor ever was, chocolate. Love it though you may (for reasons I simply do NOT understand) it is not chocolate.  

And finally, of course, we had a taste test. Oh. My. Goodness.  I've never seen such eager anticipation for two tiny squares of chocolate. I handed each student  one square of both milk and 75% cocoa dark chocolate and guided them through a tasting process. We talked about the kinds of words that we were using to describe the taste and mouth feel after which some of the boys had  a rather heated competition to create the most interesting noun group about chocolate. 

I confess that during our reward time at the end of the day one small group of girls scoffed two entire family sized blocks of chocolate and went a little crazy. They weren't overly silly, rather more entertaining. I spoke with their parents and apologised profusely but nobody seemed too concerned and in most cases were really curious about what we'd learnt about chocolate. Phew! 

My husband claims that I was 'using' the concept of International Day of Chocolate to justify my obsession but even if that's true... We all had fun and I was able to link it to our current areas of learning so ha! Chocolate rocks! (Stay tuned for how I extended these links the following Monday.)

This relates to the following Australian Professional Standards for Teachers...

Standard 1.5 Differentiate teaching to meet the specific learning needs of students across the full range of abilities
Standard 2.1 Content and teaching strategies of the teaching area
Standard 2.5 Literacy and numeracy strategies
Standard 3.3 Use teaching strategies
Standard 3.4 Select and use resources 
Standard 4.1 Support student participation
Standard 4.2 Manage classroom activities
Standard 7.3 Engage with parents/carers

Chocolate must be good... Look at how many professional standards I can link to off the back of a rather spontaneously 'thrown together the night before' kind of day based on it!