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Are your young learners getting their five a day?

11 Comments

Mother and Son in supermarketIn the light of recent food industry scandals, Everybody Up co-author Patrick Jackson asks some questions about what we are putting on the table for our young learners.

When I was little, breakfast was spent listening to our budgie Jacob telling my sister to wake up. I drew faces on boiled eggs, poor souls, then executed them with the whack of a spoon. Above all, I read the back of the cereal box from which you’d often get a small plastic toy. Nowadays, because I eat boring grown-up cereals, the backs of cereal boxes only give me nutritional information and charts showing me how I have made the right choice and will live for 100 years. To be honest, the magic has gone. No more mazes, jokes, cartoons or collectible plastic figures for me.

As educators, we are responsible for providing our students with a healthy balance of activities to make up a good all-round educational diet from source to table.

The recent food industry scandals have made us all think a bit harder about where our food comes from and who we trust to supply it. We should have the same rigour when choosing what we bring into the classroom. Home-grown and home-cooked are the most delicious but not everybody has the time or the expertise to prepare tasty food day in day out. When the ‘family’ consists of 40 or more with ‘meals’ running all day long, it is time to reach for something that has been prepared for you. Do your materials come from trusted suppliers and are those suppliers providing what they say on the packet?

The other day in the supermarket I was struck by how, down the whole length of the aisle, I could only see plastic, paper and glass. I could not see any actual food at all. What a shame it would be if we allowed our education system to become like that: depersonalised, delegated and always covered in expensive and unnecessary packaging.

Patrick in the supermarket

So what are you bringing to the table? Are your lessons nice and fresh or a bit stale and mouldy? Is your presentation crisp and crunchy or a getting rather tired and floppy? Do you use enough organic local ingredients? Are your lessons colourful and attractive or bland and uninviting? Do they change with the seasons or is it the same thing all year round? Do you even get to choose what is on the menu and do your students get to feel like they have choice too? Are there some tasty treats and snacks to brighten things up now and again? Is there enough variety and balance? What utensils do you use to prepare, serve and eat? Does it all come to the table piping hot or have your materials got the look and feel of yesterday’s cold pizza? Do your students get enough chance to ‘cook’ for themselves or is it always a one-way process?

And how about those essential five portions of fruit and vegetables we should be eating every day? What are the language teaching essentials that young learners absolutely need? Everybody will have their own ideas on this but I believe that the diet should include the following:

  • Music and movement
  • Links to real world wonder and discovery
  • Creative and imaginative activities
  • Stories and values
  • Personalisation moments

We owe it to our students to give them fresh and healthy produce. When we need to reach for processed fare, we should do everything we can to ensure it does what is says on the tin. What sort of meals are you laying on for your students?

Try the Everybody Up Global Sing-along for free animated songs, lesson plans and a great learning opportunity for your students.

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Author: Patrick Jackson

Patrick Jackson is an ELT author interested in the use of songs, stories and real world connections to motivate learners. He believes that the classroom should be an enjoyable, happy and stimulating place for students as well as teachers. Patrick spent 13 years in Japan teaching learners of all ages but is now based in Dublin, Ireland. He is the author of Potato Pals, Stars and Everybody Up, all published by Oxford University Press. Patrick tweets at patjack67 and blogs at patjack67.com.

11 thoughts on “Are your young learners getting their five a day?

  1. I appreciate the sentiment behind this article very much Patrick. There is an old Chinese adage that goes; “The true master approaches the teaching of every class as if it is his first.” One thing that caught me is your comments on how “the magic is gone” from cereal boxes that no longer have games, jokes, and the like on their backsides anymore. I think, all to often, that the magic can also be absent from the classroom if teachers choose to employ an approach to teaching that is more recipe-like rather than the artistic dynamic you would expect a true chef to bring to the process. I think when we teachers are caught by the magic of our craft, everything we do, including the types of activities, materials, and energy we employ in our lessons, is informed by this imaginative energy. The question is how to find it when you’ve lost it.

    • Thanks, Chris. I love that quote although should we teach every class as if it’s our first or our last I wonder! I would say we definitely need recipes but that, as you say, it’s the other ‘artistic dynamic’ (love that) elements that breathe life into us and our lessons. Anyway, thanks for the kind feedback. When we’ve lost it? I reckon it’s time for a walk and some fresh air. Nature usually has some pretty good answers.

  2. Mix in plenty of fresh garden produce. Literally. One of my mentors had an activity that would fit in with your famous creations: She brought in a bag of potatoes. Every student got to choose one. Then they made up its biography. Hours later…

    • Hi Anne, Lovely to see you here! I used to drag my students out into the forest and get them to collect acorns. We’d draw little faces and make whole lives for them. Although having said that I can always see the charm of a spud!

  3. Pingback: Are your young learners getting their five a day? | Merit Teacher's Digest | Scoop.it

  4. Hi patrick. A very nice read. For me, cooking always takes time. I wish I could do it faster and smoother, but that wouldn’t be me, I guess. I love your five portions. Every week we do sketchbook activities that basically blend all the portions you mentioned together. I’ll call it a smoothie. The sketchbook smoothie.
    Cheers

    • Hi Mark, Greetings form Dublin. Has spring sprung in Gifu yet? Looking forward to getting back to Japan with the family next month. Thanks for the kind comment. Your sketchbook smoothie sounds fab. By the way, it’s great to see your blog going from strength to strength. A great source of ideas and very well shared! http://sharingmywhiteboard.blogspot.jp

      • Today was beautiful in Gifu. It got up to about 14 degrees. I would say today was the first day of spring. Thanks for mentioning my blog. Take care and you’re also welcome in Gifu.

  5. Pingback: Are your young learners getting their five a day? | Oxford University ... | ESOL exams | Scoop.it

  6. Pingback: Recap of Resources and Interesting Blog Posts – 7 March 2013 | Stop Complaining – Enjoy Teaching!

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