So, I try to ensure my students work on more than just content math objectives. Sure, my students calculate the volume of cylinders, write about their process, advocate for their learning needs, and ask for breaks appropriately. But I also have them master other skills too.
Picture having math class for 68 minutes last period every day. Many students in my last block class become frustrated throughout the day by a variety of different issues. During a community meeting at the beginning of the year, the students asked for snacks on Fridays as a celebration for getting through the week as a little reward. Easy enough to fulfill; I typically have cereals, small candies, fruit cups, and crackers hidden under my desk for hungry children. Surely I can bust something out once a week for my little ones. So we did that happily for months. Occasionally, on other days, a hungry student would ask for another snack. And I don’t believe that a hungry student can think about whether we are going to use the total or lateral surface area formula so I provide snacks.
And then during a Friday community meeting, my students asked again for snacks, but this time for daily snacks. I told them I would think about it. And on the following Monday, I brought a container filled with carrots. I told them when everyone was working, I had a snack for them. I unveiled the carrots and bell peppers in a very dramatic fashion. The students looked concerned. “Are they cooked?” one little one asked. “Don’t you have raunch dressing for these sticks? Or cheese?” another one questioned. I shook my head and told them I had these carrots and peppers that were full of vitamins to help them think about the math we were going to do today. Some of them were scared of trying the “sticks” but one student was very eager to get eating. “Guys! These will help you see in the dark! And make you feel full fast!” So some of the students hesitantly ate some carrots. One student tried a pepper but then immediately spit it out. I ate the left overs.
Each day, I brought in at least two fruits and veggies for the students to snack on. We started the routine of introducing that day’s produce. I would name the selections of the day and talk about the benefits of that particular snack. Students began to learn names of common veggies. Broccoli no longer was known as trees. Spinach lost its nickname of leaves. Day after day, students tried new veggies. They would even eat a pepper or two. And they would try something new when offered. We still have some impersonations of rabbits when spinach and carrots are paired for the day.
Weeks go by. The students chop down on their veggies during work time. When they walk in, they ask what we will have for the day for snack. Gone are the days that I eat the left overs – the students down them usually before I even get more than one piece. The day that grapes were introduced might be some of the students favorite day of the year. Other students in other classes began to ask me why they didn’t get to have veggies in their last period classes. I told them they could ask their teachers about it.
And then some special days came through our calendar: MCAS celebration and Pi Day. When some of the older students retested for the MCAS, I had crackers and cheese ready to go for our daily snack something that two months ago they would have gobbled up immediately. I put out the snacks and some students took some but turned to me and asked “where are the green things?” I hadn’t prepared any produce for them because of this alternative. Students were excited for pie on March 14th but immediately asked where their greens were. Because of what had happened only a week before, I was ready with some veggies too. A few students wanted only a half slice of pie so they could have more banana peppers and green beans. When a new student joined our community, he turned his nose up to the snack but one of my students jumped in and said “but we are sharing the good broccoli with you!” The new kiddo now requests snack as he walks in just like everyone else.
So it’s a routine. We eat produce. My students are able to name pretty much anything I bring through and tell me that they go shopping for their own fruit and veggies snacks when they are downtown rather than going to food courts. During the weekend, I purchase, wash, cut up, and prepare our snacks for the week. I enjoy our fruits and veggies time and I am glad that it has become a routine. And I am proud to report mastery levels in nearly all of my students in the objective of identifying and eating produce.