Teaching Day-by-Day: Chocolate
Our focus this month is on chocolate. We'll be learning all about this food that so many people are passionate about because of its sensational taste.
Have your class look up the words chocolate and carob in a dictionary to find out what each word means and how they are alike and different. Can you substitute one for the other and do they have the same taste and texture?
Ask students to make a list off all the foods they can think of that contain chocolate. Have them think about cereal, muffins, cookies, candy bars and beverages. They should have at least 10 items on their lists and if they really think hard, they could go to 25 or more!
Encourage students to visit a grocery store and look for chocolate on the shelves in the aisle marked "Baking Goods." Ask them to find as many different flavors and kinds of chocolate as they can and report what they found.
Teach your students about cacao – the source of chocolate – when you visit "The Sweet Science of Chocolate" at www.exploratorium.edu. Kids can find out about chocolate's importance to early Americans.
Have your class draw pictures of a cacao tree with beans growing on it. Encourage kids to revisit yesterday's website if they can't remember the leaves, bark, seeds and other plants that grow with the cacao tree in the forest.
Ask students to find out what an antioxidant is and discover whether chocolate is one by visiting www.chocolate.org.
Revisit the website from yesterday with your students and discover what a myth is. Have students find several myths about chocolate.
Read a book about chocolate to your class. Try Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl (Random House, 2001, reissue) or Chocolate Fever by Robert Kimmel Smith (Bantam, 1978).
Invite a dietician to talk to your class about the nutritional components in chocolate and its place in the food pyramid. Ask him or her to discuss the benefits of a balanced diet and talk about what constitutes "junk" food.
Find out with your class what the M's stand for in M & M's candy by going to wiki.answers.com. Why did these two men create M & M's in the first place? How has their product changed over the years? Find out more at www.mms.com.
Discover the different kinds of chocolate candy the Mars company makes when you and your students visit www.mars.com. What other products does Mars make? Why do you think they make such a variety of foods?
Build math skills by reading The Hershey's Milk Chocolate Multiplication Book by Jerry Pallotta (Scholastic, 2002) or The M & M's Counting Book by Barbara McGrath (Charlesbridge, 1994) to your class (depending on their level).
Visit en.wikipedia.org with your class to learn about Xocolatl and to unlock the secrets of this beverage once reserved for Aztec warriors and nobility. Students can view videos on the history of chocolate at www.hersheys.com.
Take a video tour of a chocolate factory with your class and follow a chocolate bean until it becomes part of a chocolate bar when you visit Exploratorium magazine at www.exploratorium.edu.
Encourage students to draw the sequence of events they saw at the website from yesterday. Have the kids use key words and arrows to label the journey from bean to candy bar. Ask them to share this picture and their picture of a cacao tree with another class.
Ask your library media specialist to find books about chocolate for your students to read to younger children. Try Chocolatina by Erik P. Kraft (Troll, 1999) or Curious George Goes to a Chocolate Factory by Margaret Rey (Houghton Mifflin, 1998).
Have your students work in pairs to make as many small words as they can by rearranging the letters in chocolate. They should be able to make at least 15 words.
Collect menus from local restaurants. Ask students to examine foods and beverages to see if they contain chocolate. Note the descriptive language used to sell these and other items. Compare what's sold in different restaurants, the costs and how it's marketed.
Invite the director of your school cafeteria to talk to your class about the four food groups. Help students compare the nutritional values and food groups of various fruits, cookies, cakes, puddings, breads and other foods they eat in a cafeteria lunch.
Have students collect labels from prepackaged foods (including those with chocolate). Make a bulletin board into a data chart by listing foods down the left and nutritional categories in columns across the top. Students should compare the nutritional values.
Find out how to store chocolate by going to the About web site candy.about.com. Is it best to keep chocolate in the refrigerator or freezer? Why or why not?
With your class, estimate the number of M&M's in an individual-size bag. Have each student sort by color and count the candies to see how close their estimation was. Students count the number by color and make a bar or circle graph.
Have students collect wrappers from several candy bars. Help them examine and compare the prices, nutritional components and percentages of fat, carbohydrates, protein and sugar in each. What conclusions can they make?
Encourage storytelling with a "'Round the Class" story. First, read Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett (Aladdin, 1982) to the class. Then start a class story, Cloudy With a Chance of Chocolate Chips, and have students take turns telling it.
Ask parents to send in a recipe using chocolate. Students copy their recipe and illustrate for a class "Chocolate Cookbook." Include a table of contents with the names of the desserts and students. Reproduce it for Mother's Day!
Have students create their own special chocolate desserts. Use the thesaurus and dictionary to brainstorm a list of descriptive words. Have each student give their dessert a unique name and description.
Using collage art materials, have students make a picture of the special chocolate confection they created yesterday. Decorate a "Unique Chocolate Confections" bulletin board and add the names and descriptions each student created.
Have students create an acrostic for the word chocolate. Brainstorm a list of words to describe how chocolate looks, smells, feels and tastes. Have students share their acrostic poetry.
Visit virtualchocolate.com and have your students send virtual postcards of "chocolatey" greetings to friends. They can also read chocolate quotes, download chocolate pictures for their computer screens and write their own chocolate quote or comment.
Have students write letters to the author of the chapter book you read to them this month. Send them to the publisher and ask that they be forwarded to the author. Suggest that students tell what they liked or didn't like about the book and if they've got an idea for the sequel.
Plan a Hot Cocoa Party with your class and another class. Make hot chocolate for everyone and have your students share some of the writing they've done, artwork they've created and things they've learned about chocolate this month!
Week One – Getting Started
Week Two – Exploring Chocolate
Week Three – Delving Deeper
Week Four – Comparing and Contrasting
Week Five – Writing about Chocolate
Karen Bromley is a Professor of Literacy in the School of Education and Human Development at Binghamton University in Binghamton, NY where she teaches graduate courses in literacy, language arts and children's literature.