Tag Archives: Teaching English

A Taste of Summer Reading: Literary Menu Assignment

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I recently visited Beginnings restaurant in Atlantic Beach, New York, a literary and culinary experience. The concept was created by husband and wife team Ben and Heather Freiser. Ben, a long time restaurateur and caterer, and Heather, an editor and television producer. On their website they boast,

“A good meal or a perfectly poured drink, like a good book, can nourish the soul. And it’s arguable that no profession loves a good libation more than the writer. As an ode to some of the greats (who may have polished off a bottle of liquor before a bottle of ink), we introduce Beginnings, a literary, culinary experience.”

Ben and Heather’s love of literature exudes from the space to the menu at this restaurant. The walls are book shelves decorated with the couple’s favorite works of literature (most taken from their home), to a shelf of iconic movie scripts, and there is even a kids’ corner dedicated to children’s literature. This attention to detail is also seen in the menu.The full menu, broken down with distinctions such as “Prologue,” “Melville’s Corner,” and “Editor’s Side Notes.”

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A bibliophile myself, I was drawn to the space and aesthetics of the restaurant. In addition to a good meal,  the venue hosts author signings and events, discussion series, story time for children, and themed tasting menus. Upcoming events include a taste of Game of Thrones that pays homage to the food and delights of HBO’s hit series.

So this all got me thinking . . .

What if students create their own themed tasting menu for their summer reading books? The first week of school should include a dinner party with menus inspired by the fictional books students read over the summer. Students can create an entire menu and they day of the dinner party, bring in one item for their classmates to savor and discuss the delights of the stories.

Some of our books already contain menu options.

In Laurie Halse Anderson’s Fever 1793, food is a source of comfort and symbol of home. When Matilda was working in the Coffee House, the Cook’s lunchtime meal was “cold chicken, crisp pickles, butter biscuits, and peach pie laid out on the table.”

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Who could forget the peanut butter pie in Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club or the Korean dishes and specialty yogurt drinks in In All The Boys I loved Before by Jenny Han. Peter Benchley’s Jaws might be seafood inspired and after reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis you want to taste that “great and gorgeous sticky marmalade roll, steaming hot.”

When students create their menu inspired by literature, include the scene and direct quotes from the text that enchant our senses of sight and taste. I am sure it will be a delicious and inspiring book tasting.

Check out the assignment here.

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Celebrating Literacy for Change: NACTE 2017

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This past weekend I attended NEATE’s 2017 Conference –  New England Association of Teachers of English. President of NEATE, Lynn Leschke, states that “this year’s conference reminds us of the power of words to effect change  . . . [and] as educators help our students live better in their world and prepare them to make it a better place.”

There were an abundance of workshops over the course of the two days that addressed all aspects of literacy and teaching English.

The first workshop I attended was “Graphic Novels: the Unicorn of Literary Instruction” presented by Assistant Professor of English Studies at Fitchburg State University, Katharine Covino. The workshop highlighted a handful of new and noteworthy graphic novels and using them in conjunction with classical texts such as Frankenstein, The Highway Man, and Alice in Wonderland.

Daniella King, a high school teacher and Ph.D. candidate at UConn along with high school teacher Arianna Drossopoulos presented “Creating an Understanding of an Unfamiliar Culture (Islam) Through Adolescent Literature.” This workshop featured Islamic and Muslim protagonists in YA Literature and activities to go along with the texts to promote a better understanding of this rich culture and society as a whole.

Author Elly Swartz presented alongside Humanities teacher, Jimmy Sapia to address teaching empathy, courage, forgiveness, and gratitude with Young Adult Literature and picture books. Mr. Sapia participates in the #180BookADay Challenge, reading a picture book to his sixth grade students every day to teach lessons that build character and offer a lens in which to view history.

Tapping into the debate about teaching grammar, Nilda Irizarry, presented “Making a Difference with Grammar.” Grammar is an essential tool for creating powerful writers and oral expression, enabling writers to create mood, add impact, and engage readers. Powerful instruction of grammar teaches not only the knowledge and identification of language and sentence structure, but also how to use language and structure with intention and purpose.

There were many more workshops than these that I have highlighted. As a teacher, I am always looking for new ideas, insight, and to extend the conversations about teaching and supporting students so they are successful. Both national, regional, and local conferences are opportunities for all teachers to hone their craft.

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