Food and Me: A Young Child’s Playful Response to Culinary and Cultural Differences

E. Lynne McCauley Wiesecke, ESL, Albermarle Road Elementary



Food and Me: A Young Child’s Playful Response to Culinary and Cultural Differences is a curriculum unit designed to introduce young children, especially English Language Learners to the concepts of valuing diversity, tolerance and individual feelings. This is done through the fun and familiar topic of food preferences and personal taste. Children will interact in a playful manner with three fictional stories, Bread and Jam for Frances, Green Eggs and Ham and Yoko. Bread and Jam for Frances, a story of a bear whose favorite food is Jam and bread, introduces the unit with the idea of food preferences and favorite foods. Children will be asked to think about, talk about and list/label their most favorite and least favorite foods. Green Eggs and Ham, a story of trying something new, further expands the topic of ‘favorite foods’ to explore the ideas of new, unknown or strange foods. Children are challenged in a playful manner to step outside their comfort zone in order to try something new, i.e. ham and eggs colored green with food dye. Yoko, a story about a little girl who is ridiculed for bringing sushi to lunch, is the most moving piece of the unit. Students will journal, role play and orally interact with each other through a series of playful SIOP based activities that guide students into a realization that different is ok and that people from different families like different things. They will learn that friendship can truly make at difference in combating ridicule and exclusiveness.


This unit seeks, through a playful response to literature, to promote tolerance and kindness in young children. This unit utilizes heterogeneous co-operative groupings and heavy language scaffolding through sentence frames, graphic organizers, cue cards, SIOPÒ (Sheltered Instructional Observational Protocol) strategies, Smart BoardÒ technology and physical modeling. It is designed specifically for classrooms with high percentages of novice to intermediate level English language learners, but can easily be used with all native English speakers as well.

Through a playful, hands-on interactive presentation of three popular children’s books, Bread and Jam for Francis, Green Eggs and Ham and Yoko, in a hands-on and interactive model, I hope to allow children, through their self-created and teacher-directed play-acting and role-plays, to come to the conclusion that differences in taste and food preferences are normal and perfectly acceptable. It is also expected that that through this experiential approach to literature, children will more fully empathize and associate themselves with the main characters and thus personalize the literature in such a way that it will forever remain in their memories and foster a positive change in behavior. At our school, oral language skills seems to lag behind listening skills due to a lack of opportunity. So in creating this lesson unit, I specifically sought to provide young children a stage on which to verbally express their preferences and desires and in doing so provide them with much needed practice in academic speaking, i.e. using linguistically complex and content specific language and structures.

This thorough integration of self into literature not only makes the language and topic more personally relevant to the learner but should allow the teacher to eventually expand instruction to the broader concepts of universal tolerance. This curriculum unit provides ESL, Elementary Ed and Special Ed. Teachers an age and language appropriate opportunity to teach and model in a playful and non-intimidating manner wished for character education traits such as kindness, respect, open-mindedness and friendship.

Key Goals and Objectives

Though a variety of hands-on and playful responses to the stories, Bread and Jam for Francis, Green Eggs and Ham and Yoko, young students will learn about feeling empathy and will explore the concepts of inclusion and exclusion. They will learn how to accept and increase their respect and tolerance for differences in themselves and in others. Students will use creative role-play to practice expressing personal preferences in a socially appropriate and non-threatening manner, both orally and in writing. Students, many for the first time, will experience dramatic theater and play acting through the use of props and the acting out of scenes from the stories. Through this play-acting and role reversal spiel, young students will gain a greater sense of tolerance and respect for those who are different. This unit covers WIDA Standard #1: Social and Instructional Language, specifically the students will speak, write, listen to, and read about self and others and corresponding social behavior. This unit covers WIDA Standard # 4: The language of Science, specifically the five senses of sound, touch, taste, sight, and smell. This curriculum covers WIDA Standard # 5: The Language of Social Studies, specifically food, friends, and cultures. The Common Core: 1st Grade Language Arts standards that are in incorporated into this unit are as follows:

LA.1.RL.1.1 – Ask and answer questions about key details in a text.

LA.1.RL.1.2 – Retell stories, including key details, and demonstrate understanding of their central message or lesson.

LA.1.RL.1.3 – Describe characters, settings, and major events in a story, using key details.

LA.1.RL.1.4 – Identify words and phrases in stories or poems that suggest feelings or appeal to the senses.

LA.1.RL.CCR.8 – Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence.

LA.1.SL.1.1.b – Build on others’ talk in conversations by responding to the comments of others through multiple exchanges.

LA.1.SL.1.1 – Participate in collaborative conversations with diverse partners about grade 1 topics and texts with peers and adults in small and larger groups.

LA.1.SL.1.3 – Ask and answer questions about what a speaker says in order to gather additional information or clarify something that is not understood.

LA.1.SL.1.6 – Produce complete sentences when appropriate to task and situation

LA.1.L.1.1.f – Use frequently occurring adjectives.

LA.1.L.1.1.j – Produce and expand complete simple and compound declarative, interrogative, imperative, and exclamatory sentences in response to prompts.


This unit is being taught in order to present and cover the aforementioned primary (K-2) grade level objectives as well as ESL/WIDA beginning level language of science, social studies and instructional objectives in a playful and age appropriate manner. As mentioned earlier, a key rationale for incorporating a playful response to this selection of literature is to allow greater retention of the story and the attached lesson as well as to allow greater and more structured opportunity to use and develop content specific verbal language. A playful response for young children is the most natural and non-intimidating manner to acquire new language and content.

This unit is being taught because children born in the 21st century do not have the luxury of living in cultural isolation and in ethnic/racial bigotry. Urban areas are becoming more diverse and more congested simultaneously and the strain of different ethnic and cultural groups competing for an ever decreasing amount of resources has dire consequences; such as increasing distrust, disillusionment, lose of hope and resentment. This in turn can lead to an increase in gang formulation, turf warfare, generational poverty and re-segregation i.e. self-segregation of schools.

Children are not born prejudiced anymore than they are born with an affinity for Doritos and Twinkies. Prejudices just like food preferences are usually a learned behavior. It is my opinion that by embarking in playful responses to age appropriate literature, children can develop a deep connection to the stories and the ‘social/life lessons imbedded in them. This deep connection then translates into changed behaviors. Such deep learning and change is possible because the stories and characters have become personally relevant and meaningful to each child.

By making stories with positive or culturally beneficial messages personally relevant to young children, we can arm them with the skills and thought patterns needed to combat some of the destructive and intolerant pressures they grow up under. Empathy and understanding for others and the acknowledgement that differences are just different, not bad nor good, just different, is invaluable to living a safe and productive life in an integrated and inclusive society.

An additional positive side effect of such great concentration into delving through the pages of age appropriate literature, especially when conducted in a read-aloud, whole classroom experience is the building and the solidifying of classroom unity. Mary Ann Hahn in her book, Reconsidering Read Aloud, shows very vividly how incorporating a read aloud time into the instructional day leads to a greater sense of class solidarity. [1]


The setting for this unit is a crowded, Title I, Pre-K through 5th Grade elementary school. This school and neighborhood were originally predominately middle class Caucasian with a sizable minority population of African American students just a decade ago. It has evolved in the past decade to hold a majority ethnic population, primarily Hispanic and African American. There is currently tremendous linguistic and ethnic diversity as the surrounding areas have increasingly become a hub for newly arrived immigrants. The school currently consists of almost 1,100 students. Title I means that a large percentage of the children attending this school live in families with incomes that are below the federal poverty line.

More than one-half of the children at this school are minority language speakers, and a good two third of these children are still limited in their English proficiency, with a higher percentage and greatest numbers of lower proficiency English language speakers in the primary grades. In grades K-2 most classrooms have a majority population of scholars who are beginning English language learners. The most populous language is Spanish, but as the area surrounding the school is also a hub for refugee relocation from strife-affected areas in Africa, South East Asia, the Middle East and Central America, there is tremendous ethnic and linguistic diversity, with the most current resettlement coming from Burma (Myanmar) and Bhutan, via Nepal and Malaysia. This wonderful diversity aids in really making the unit come alive and supports the appropriateness and relevance of such a topic. While this unit is planned specifically for younger ESL children in a push in program. It can easily be modified for older learners and native English speakers. The keys concepts of tolerance and respect for differences are beneficial for all children.


While talking about and role-playing situations involving foods they like and those they don’t like, students will begin to explore the idea that different people have different tastes and preferences. They will playfully come to understand that different is normal and that differences are okay. Students will be encouraged during role-play and interactive hands-on activities, to risk tasting/trying unknown or new things because they may discover a new like or a new friend. Through their dramatic and playful responses to the target literature the children will learn how to discuss different likes and dislikes in a playful, but culturally sensitive and respectful manner. An expansion activity can then tie these specific experiences into the more general idea of universal tolerance and acceptance in other things too, such as manner of dress i.e. clothing preferences, speaking customs, i.e. languages and dialects, as well as religious and music preferences.

Language and Literacy

Students will actively, playfully and physically explore the foods illustrated in the books, Bread and Jam for Francis, Green Eggs and Ham and Yoko. SIOPÒ will be used to help children learn the names of different foods, their flavors, tastes, textures, smells, colors and origins. SIOPÒ strategies and methodology was developed specifically to assist teachers in making their content more accessible for English language learners. SIOPÒ practices involve a lot of basically ‘good’ teaching strategies such as building background, making connections and increasing comprehension through careful use of visual aids, graphic organizers and language scaffolding. SIOPÒ practitioners are aware that children do not come to us as blank slates. All children have prior experiences and cognitive skills in their first language: L1. By helping to establish and accessing cognitive hooks in L1, the process of learning the same skill in the second language: L2 can be greatly simplified. SIOPÒ methodology also seeks to make teachers and students explicitly aware of the four domains of language use; speaking, listening, reading and writing. This falls right into line with the newly adopted common core standards and a greater interest and accountability in making sure that children are doing more that simply sitting as complacent by-standers in the learning process. All students, regardless of their placement along the continuum of language acquisition, are now held accountable for being able to read, write, speak and listen to key educational topics and content and as teachers we are held accountable by federal mandate to ensure that L2 speakers are able to access the same content and develop these same skills as well.

In this unit, students will partake in various playful responses. They will learn about, explore and describe food using the five senses. They will be able to apply their knowledge of adjectives to describe verbally, graphically or in written form what different foods, look, taste, feel and sound like. Students will develop the vocabulary required to be able to talk about favorite and despised foods. Through read-aloud and shared story experiences children will acquire stronger descriptive repertoires and become better able to describe many other items in English as well. Students will be able to use creative role-play and re-enactments to sequence the steps involved in debating likes and dislikes in a safe, tolerant and respectful manner. Students will be able to take the sequenced information and with SIOP language scaffolding, i.e. sentence frames, they will be able to write a short summary/diagram of a time when they tried something new and discovered they liked it. The children will evaluate real and make believe (fiction/non-fiction). Students will work in cooperative groups to create a mosaic of their favorite food(s), and will then evaluate, compare, contrast, describe, label, discuss & write about this in collaboration with a partner(s).

Preparation For and Outline of Unit

Several days prior to launch of unit, it is helpful for the facilitator/teacher to create an opportunity for children to play with ‘food’ in a non-structured and un-intimidating manner. A play kitchen, grocery store and/or restaurant station with plastic food for example is ideal, but even allowing children to playfully look through, cut and create with old food magazines and grocery store brochures is useful. The students in the class should to be allowed ample time for creative and social play with each other. The teacher should interfere as little as possible and the use of native language is appropriate and permitted. This unstructured creative play allows the students to create meaningful and personal interactions dealing with the topic of food. This playful interaction allows students to develop social relationships as well as to build background and content knowledge prior to formal instruction.

If the children have some initial reading/decoding skills, foods, eating utensils and various other items connected to food, eating and manners could be labeled with vocabulary task cards, puzzle task cards and/or vocabulary word-picture matching games/tasks can be incorporated as well. If there are large numbers of low proficiency English Language Learners in the group, some pre-teaching of key words in English, and scaffolding with sentence frames and language buddies may be beneficial. If there are groups of children with the same minority language, then creative play and social interaction in their native language can be extremely beneficial in formulating cognitive content hooks that will be useful later on. You might wish to welcome or invite families to share ideas about favorite family snacks as well as foods that are part of their culture during snack time prior to the launch of the unit. You can make this as elaborate or simple as you and your class wish.

Cooperative Group Roles

Cooperative group work is ideal for a linguistically diverse class, but norms of expected behavior and procedure must be explicitly practiced and taught to students prior to the launch of any instructional unit. Take the time to practice with some cooperative team building activities, prior to employing this unit if your students are unfamiliar with cooperative groups.

Cooperative groups should be heterogeneous and carefully constructed by the teacher. Ideally you would want one to two strong student(s), two medium level students and one to two weak student(s) in each group. You’ll also want to watch for personality or behavioral conflicts and adjust accordingly. If you have students with shared language background you can decide to pair a low proficiency student with a higher proficiency student who has the same language, but I would recommend against over utilization of a language buddy as it can overwhelm even the brightest student and low proficiency students quickly fall into the habit of attending more closely to their buddy and awaiting a translation for everything. Thus they pay less and less attention to the teacher and/or instructional facilitator and their English language acquisition can stagnate. As a teacher with language minority students in your classroom, it in imperative that you try and find a balance between the right level of challenge and competence. Stephen Krashen, a widely respected linguist, puts it this way in his theory called the Input Hypothesis or i+1 hypothesis. He states that ideally students learning a new language should be presented with material that is just slightly beyond that which they already possess. Thus i represents the language they already know and +1 being just one step beyond. The appropriate leveling of language paired with the opportunity to acquire and practice ever increasing levels of language works to assure that each child can and will learn at their current developmental stage. As a teacher it is a challenge to pair this need against the ever present sense of frustration and emotional shut-down (affective filter) that every language learner bumps into. For the teacher new to working with English language learners, as quick cheat sheet is available in the form of WIDAÒ Can Do Descriptors . I have put a copy of this document in the appendix. However as no two language learners are the same, there is no easy solution other than to know your students as well as possible and remain vigilant and watchful for signs of language based difficulties.

In cooperative groups, roles or tasks divided amongst the team members in each co-operative groups can be, but are not limited to; Facilitator, Recorder, Reporter, Materials Expert, and Model. The facilitator’s main job is to keep all group members on task and progressively moving towards the end goal. I generally design a simple and clear rubric for each assigned task so that the facilitator can check off items as they are completed. For younger children, ELLs or emergent readers using clip art in addition to words simplifies comprehension of rubric-based tasks greatly. Facilitators are required to understand the task well enough so that they are able to explain/facilitate instruction of it to the others in their group. The recorder is the student who physically takes written notes, completes the rubrics and/or writes out the conclusions or joint findings from the group. The reporter will usually orally present information, conclusions or results to other groups, the teacher or to the entire class. The material’s expert’s task is to gather and return all required materials for the group, i.e. scissors, glue, and papers. The model works together with the teacher to provide a physical, hands-on, visual model for the activity prior to starting and may be called upon to re-model if confusion emerges. Co-operative group roles should rotate amongst all students in each group. Not necessarily during the completion of an individual task but throughout the unit. Low students should not permanently be the material experts and high students should not endlessly remain the facilitator. With materials and rubrics appropriately modified for low proficiency English speakers and occasional language buddies, even newcomers can facilitate a group task. As a teacher you will need to consciously pick and choose when it is appropriate to have which students in which roles. I like to provide nametags (placards on a string to be worn around the neck) for the individual roles so there is little confusion as to who is doing what on a particular day. I also have posters displayed around the room that remind the children what each role is required to do and of our cooperative group norms, i.e. rules and regulations.

Strategies for Teaching Vocabulary

Even as an ESL teacher with fifteen years of experience I am bowled over time and again by academic or content specific vocabulary gaps I discover in my students. Incidentally, due to my experience in working in a push in model, “my students” are defined as not only ELLs but young English native speakers as well. My key rule of thumb is, take nothing for granted. For example I was recently reading, Feast for Ten to my Kindergarten push in classes and when I asked a native speaking child to come count the one ‘cart’ going into the grocery store she pointed to the shopping list instead. I then called upon a child I knew was quite proficient in English and he pointed to the one cereal box, but not the shopping cart. Bluffed, I pointed it out, only to hear, “oh, you mean a buggy”. So I discovered that many of my ELLs had never heard the term ‘cart or shopping cart’ in English and many of my native English speakers, in this class predominantly African American, called a shopping cart a ‘buggy’. This is just one example of many, and the message I’m trying to get across if there is never a bad time to teach/learn vocabulary, especially content specific academic vocabulary. That said there is also no one specific best way to learn/teach new vocabulary. In my experience consistent, constant exposure to and re-enforcement of new vocabulary, through reading, casual conversation and direct explicit teaching are all useful. SIOP protocol stipulates that a child needs to come in to contact with a new word/concept at least seven times before it is acquired. There is growing recognition that all children, not just English Language learners, who have weak vocabulary bases suffer significantly later on in their academic careers as the gaps and holes become more and more noticeable.

I’ve find, since we are only with children a part of their day, it is extremely helpful to bring parents in on the action. I am a mother of three and I explain to my student’s parents as often as I can, that I constantly talk to and with my children. If we are driving home from a grocery store I consciously hold a running conversation of what all we saw there and ask about their perceptions or opinions. Sometimes, it is quite random and sometimes, I’m sure my kids have stopped listening, but still I continue to talk to them while I prepare a meal or assist with homework. I try very hard to impress upon my parents that they must do the same, they must sometimes take away/turn off the Nintendo devices and ipods and talk to and with their children, beyond giving directions and commands. They must give Cartoon Network the night off and discuss with their children about what they are doing as they fix dinner or fix the car or care for a baby. It is vitally important to their child’s linguistic development and future academic success. I remind them that there is still no computer application that can even come close to successfully understanding all the nuances of human speech. As human beings only we have this amazing gift and our children can learn to manipulate language effortlessly, but we must give them opportunity to practice and increase their language complexity. Playing twenty games of Lego Star Wars back to back, while engaging for the little guys, won’t provide this language exposure, reading and discussing a book with a parent will. For the parents who argue that they don’t speak English, I argue that ‘talk’, i.e. discussions aren’t specific to English. If they’ll build up their child’s native language repertoire, this will help them make connections when they learn the words in English. For example, a child who knows the names for colors in Spanish, easily learns the English words. It is the child who doesn’t yet have the labels in their native language who struggles to learn the labels in a new language. For parents who are illiterate, I tell them literature isn’t necessarily only in written form. They need to share their cultural heritage in songs, poems and stories passed down from their parents. I tell them my kids’ favorite bedtime stories are the ones their dad makes up in his head because he is not a strong reader, but is excellent at spinning a tale. As educators we have no magic pills, there are no short cuts. It does take a village to raise a child and we must show parents that we count on them to help in this endeavor. Do not let them cop out and feel like there is nothing they can do to help their child.

Lessons and Activities

Day 1

Focus & Review:

1 Present the story Bread and Jam for Francis. Use a Big Book, or a document camera attached to your Smart BoardÒ or a LCD projector so that each child can see the pictures clearly. Read, point, show, clarify and elicit a verbal response from the children regarding their personal food preferences. Provide language scaffolding for lower proficiency English language learners by having picture dictionaries, word banks and translation buddies handy. Help the children quantify their responses by providing some basic descriptive terms (with visual/graphic illustration) to describe food. (sweet, salty, spicy, creamy, tasty, juicy)

2. If you wish you can provide a snack of ‘jam and bread’ while discussing food and book. Not only does this attach significance to the story, but it helps to build class-teacher relationships as well.

3. Have children look through store brochures and food magazines to cut out and paste pictures into a T-Chart of most favorite and least favorite foods. More fluent students can use their “word books” to label their food choices.

3. Together as a class select five popular preferences from all the T-Charts and record onto the bottom of a bar graph graphic organizer. Take a moment to remind children that while we’ve picked the five most popular foods, there were many other choices and most importantly not everyone liked/likes all the same items.

Guided Practice:

Model how to use the bar graph graphic organizer on an overhead or on a Smartboard by coloring in one block per child in order to show how many children at each table liked the first item. Remember to model discussing the preferred food choices using the afore mentioned quantifiers and the sentence frame: I like______ because it tastes _______.

Independent Practice:

  1. Students collect role nametags and then work together in cooperative groups to discuss each student’s T-Charts. When a chime rings, the facilitator assures that each child is able to state their preference that match the chart, using the provided sentence frame.
  2. The recorder fills in the bar graph (in regards to preferences at their table) for the four remaining ford items.

Conclusion & Summary:

The teacher asks the reporter for each table to report out the tally of how many children liked each of the four remaining items, and records the numbers onto the master bar graph. The class discusses the results, with the sentence friend, I Think_______because______.

Assessment (Ticket out the Door):

In order to ‘leave’ this activity and return to class or a predetermined station, students (all or pre-selected for each particular day) must use a sentence frame containing a dependent clause to describe one or two favorite foods. “I Like ___________because___________.”

Day 2

Focus and Review:

  1. Read, “Green Eggs and Ham by Doctor Suess”. If you have access to a Smart Board this story is available as an e-book from most major libraries and thus children can help read, follow along with the text, and you can easily point to each person/object that is presented. Otherwise, use a large sized book or document camera and a LCD projector.
  2. Have children playfully chant/recite potions of the story. Make sure to incorporate lots of gestures and voice inflictions. It is especially important for ELLs to become aware of the prosodic features of English.
  3. Ask the children to find and mimic the rhyme the rhyming words. Invite children to clap out the rhythm as you re-read parts of the story.

Guided Practice:

Have ready individual plastic baggies (sandwich size) pre-filled with realia, i.e. real food items, and/or plastic food and pictures inside (you’ll need a bag for each child). If your student can read, you can simplify your preparation by simply listing items on index cards. Make sure to have diverse types of food, items that are popular and no so popular with young children.

Have children move into their cooperative groups and ask for group ‘models’ to come forward. Using the 4-6 models, present in mini format a ‘conga discussion line’. Two lines moving counter directionally from each other. In this activity students will use their ‘baggie’ of food to role-play verbalizing and responding with appropriate language to the questions/responses about food. Model inappropriate responses, such as ‘yuck, nasty, ooh no way, etc. Model appropriate responses: “I like or I don’t like or I don’t know, I’ve never tried that food.”

Assure that all children have had an opportunity to observe the models practicing both scenerios and that sentence frames are posted if lower proficiency students get stuck.

Independent Practice:

Children are issued red and blue hang tags. The red line (children wearing red tags) faces the blue line (children wearing blue tags). The children in the red line pull out the picture/item from their bag and use a sentence frame to tell the child opposite them about the food. “This is ________. “I like it” or “I don’t like it.” The partner may make a short response. “I like______too.” “I don’t like_______either.” Remind the children how to step from student to student (I use colored dots so lines and children stay equally spaced) and model how to follow the arrows at the end of each line in order to come back up to the beginning of the line. Older children would not need such heavy scaffolding.

After practicing this basic frame with 2-3 students, ask students to use the sentence frame from the book, Green Eggs and Ham.

Student 1: Would you eat______(insert food item from bag)______?

Student 2: No, I would not. I do not Like__________ or Yes, I would. I like__________.

Allow students to continue moving down the “Conga line” to practice this “conditional would” construction 5-10 times.

For the conga line, children line up in two parallel line facing each other, When the teacher chimes the bell, one line (red) moves one child to the right while simultaneously the other line (blue) moves one child to the left. Alternatively, one line can remain standing while only one line moves or the teacher can choose to use inside-outside circles (two circles facing each other and moving in counter directions) instead. I prefer all children to move because a little physical activity at this age really gets the mental juices flowing. Just make sure to have appropriate scaffolding in place and review behavior norms for active learning.

During the “conga line” the teacher walks around monitoring and assessing and correcting language usage.

If you have extremely novice English learners who are still in a quasi silent period you can provide them graphic answer cards, i.e. smiley or frowny faces to show instead of speaking.

Conclusions and Summary:

After both lines have returned to their original spots or a selected stopping point, ask children to quietly go back to their cooperative groups. Students are then asked to turn and talk to at least one team member about the experience. What did they like, dislike? What was hard? Easy? What did they know? Learn? . After about 5 minutes of discussion time, ask student to record their conversation, feeling about today’s lesson in their journals, Beginners can draw and label two food items they really like and two food items they dislike. Advanced learners can write descriptive sentences, English language learners may need to us Personal dictionaries (MY DICTIONARY) . For Kindergartners or students who are pre-literate, drawing pictures of those foods they like and dislike in a T-chart is acceptable.

Day 3

Focus and Review:

  1. Greet children and ask them if they would like to try some “green eggs and ham” later in class? Use food coloring to dye scrambled eggs and thin deli ham green. Let children observe process as you prepare the food. Talk about how delicious green eggs are and how savory the ham is, etc. (leave eggs and ham in crock pots to remain warm)
  1. Review a few key elements from the story with a co-teacher or student model. Have students turn and talk to a partner. Use the prompt: Would you eat green eggs and ham?

Guided Practice:

1. Have cardboard cutouts of some of the locations and characters from the Dr. Suess story: a box, a fox, a house, a mouse, a boat, a goat, etc. Have enough cutouts that each student has one to hold.

  1. Re-enact the story using the card board cutout props. Children come up and join the line of characters and locations as their prop us called/read by the teacher or with stronger readers, children can read their prompt/line from the book/text displayed on the Smart Board.

Independent Practice:

The second time through, the children step out (or act out) and verbally chime in as the story progresses. They speak/read either independently or mimic the teacher, at the appropriate time, as the story is chorally read out loud. I use a document camera or e-book on a Smart board to allow all children to stand in their line and still follow along as the book/text is read. This helps them grasp the context, anticipate when their character/location is coming up as well as better notice phonemic features such as rhyming words. If you leave the dots from the Conga lines on the floor, these can be used for stage directions, i.e. House, you go to the next red dot please, etc.

Summary & Assessment:

Children line up to try (yes, brave ones will actually eat) green eggs and hams. They must tell the server/teacher about their prop, using the following sentence frame in response to the question, “Will you eat green eggs and ham?”

“Yes, I will eat them in a _______ “or “Yes, I will eat them with a _______” Have clip art/visual clues with matching words on the smart board or on a chart to support beginning English learners.

Day 4

Focus and Review:

Remind students about how we’ve been reading books about food preferences. Tell them, today we will read a book called, Yoko, by Rosemary Wells. You will stop right after the lunch scene. DO NOT READ THE END OF THE BOOK YET. Explain to the children that this books talks about food preferences but it also talks about feelings and tolerance. Tolerance means we respect and are kind to others even if they are different from us.

While you read Yoko out loud remember to exaggerate the expression in your voice. In addition to using a document camera, a big book version or an e-book on the smart board to help students construe meaning, tone and mood are crucial and this is done with exaggeration of your voice, expression and gestures. It is important for English language learners that they have adequate access to the pictures and the verbal meaning that go along with the story, otherwise it is almost impossible for them to construct meaning. Picture yourself trying to understand a story read in Chinese and think about all the things that would help you figure out the general gist of the story. Remember, assume nothing.

Guided Practice:

Elicit help from the day’s “instructional models”. Ask the models to pretend to be key characters from the story, i.e. Yoko, the Franks, Timmy, etc. Show them how to use pre-prepared dialogue cue cards to act out the lunchroom scene. You’ll need explain what dialogue is and perhaps provide greater verbal/graphic prompts for lower proficiency non native English speakers.

Independent Practice:

Students work with their cooperative teams to re-enact the scene from the lunchroom in the book, Yoko. They can either use teacher constructed dialogue cue cards, character role-play cards and/or for more advanced or older students, the students can write their own dialogue cue cards and then act them out. Remind student about classroom norms for play acting, i.e. it is pretend/play, no one is to get all upset and angry. Remind students to use appropriate language and that in a dialogue, speaking/talking not reading voices (practice employing prosodic features) need to be used. Each dialogue exchange needs to include at least three exchanges: statement or question & response. Every student at each table should either be responsible for making at least one statement, question or response. A rubric can be used to evaluate and facilitate on task behavior.

Summary and Assessment:

Once each team has had about ten-fifteen minutes to practice (create) their re-enactments from the book, the class will get ready for group presentations. Recording student performances on a flip camera or other device is an excellent way to document and show progress and growth. Students come up one group at a time to present their short dialogues, using appropriate gestures, voice tone, facial expression and body stance.

Day 5

Focus and Review:

  1. Tell students you want to think about and discuss the book they read and acted out yesterday with the dialogue pretend play. Summarize the first part of the book as a class. Speak about about feelings and friendship. Ask student’s to tell you what they think makes a ‘good friend’. Elicit personal responses and feedback from the students, don’t simply give a lecture good character traits.
  1. Ask students to explain how they think Yoko must have felt, and in fact how they felt even when play acting when that other person was making fun of their food preference. Ask for volunteers to physically act out (pantomime) how they feel when someone teases, makes fun of, or picks on them. (A child may pantomime anger, sadness, and/or a sense of shrinking/smallness.

Tell the students you will now finish reading the book. Ask them to predict what they think will happen next in the story, or at the end of the story. Record predictions.

  1. After recording predictions, finish reading the book, review predictions, discuss the ending. Was it what they expected? How was it different? What did they think of the ending?
  1. Discuss the fact that even though the story did not end happily ever, Yoko had made a friend and her friend liked some of the same food she liked and together they could ignore the teasing from the other children. Talk a little about this idea.
  1. The ending to this story sometimes difficult for ELLs to understand. If you have a large number of novice English learners, it is beneficial to re-enact the story with felt figures on a felt board and/or have your group models to play-act the final scenes.

Independent Practice:

  1. In their cooperative groups, students pass along a small stuffed animal. As each child holds the bear he talks about a short incident when he/she was teased for being different, if you wish you can permit students to say pass if they are not comfortable sharing orally, but then they bmust submit a drawing at a later time. Use a timer/chime to keep the ‘bear’ moving from student to student if you have a really chatty class. It is helpful to post some conversation starters such as: One time_______, When I was_______, This made me feel_______, I felt really_______ when_________. English language learners may require a more elaborate word bank or their personal dictionaries and picture prompts, or answer selection choices to participate in this activity.

Summarize & Assessment:

  1. Revisit the concept of tolerance. What is it? How do we practice it? Discuss examples, request volunteers or models to role-play tolerant responses in regards to food choices, then expand to clothing choices, hair choices, sports choices, music choices etc.
  1. Create a written response in the student’s journals about all the stories and activities. Writing Prompt; Which book did you like the best and why? Which activity did you like best and why? Remember to have posted or listed on the rubric, the names of the books, some key events and the names of the activities. Allow novice learners to use sentence frames, word dictionaries and/or create illustrations to express their thoughts.

• Unit can be concluded, i.e. celebrated with an ‘international food’ festival or international sharing time, like in the book Yoko if time, space and parent involvement allow.


Hoban, Lillian. Bread and Jam for Francis. New York: Scholastic Book Services. Print.

This book kicks of the curriculum unit by allowing children insight into food preferences. It provides them with a model of how to express likes and dislikes.

Seuss. Green Eggs and Ham. London: HarperCollins Children’s, 2010. Print.

I’ve used this book to illustrate that strange or unknown foods may at first seem unappetizing, but after a try may be well liked.

Wells, Rosemary. Yoko. New York, NY: Scholastic, 1998. Print.

This book is used in this curriculum unit to show that food preferences differ between different cultures and that differences as such are normal and ok.


Beck, Isabel L., Margaret G. McKeown, and Linda Kucan. Bringing Words to Life Robust Vocabulary Instruction. New York [u.a.: Guilford, 2002. Print.

Echevarria, Jana, MaryEllen Vogt, and Deborah Short. Making Content Comprehensible for English Learners: the SIOP Model. Boston: Pearson/Allyn and Bacon, 2008. Print.

Foyle, Harvey Charles., Lawrence Lyman, and Sandra Alexander. Thies. Cooperative Learning in the Early Childhood Classroom. Washington, D.C.: NEA Professional Library, National Education Association, 1991. Print.

Hahn, Mary Lee. Reconsidering Read-aloud. Portland, Me.: Stenhouse, 2002. Print.

Hiebert, Elfrieda H., and Michael L. Kamil. Teaching and Learning Vocabulary: Bringing Research to Practice. Mahwah, NJ: L. Erlbaum Associates, 2005. Print.

Putnam, JoAnne Wachholz. Cooperative Learning in Diverse Classrooms. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill, 1997. Print.

Tabors, Patton O. One Child, Two Languages: a Guide for Early Childhood Educators of Children Learning English as a Second Language. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Pub., 2008. Print.

Vogt, MaryEllen, and Jana Echevarria. 99 Ideas and Activities for Teaching English Learners with the SIOP Model. Boston: Pearson Allyn and Bacon, 2008. Print


. Web. 26 Nov. 2011. <

Figure 5M Can Do Descriptors for the Levels of English Language Proficiency, PreK-12

For the given level of English language proficiency, WITH SUPPORT, English learners can:


Level 1 Entering

Level 2 Beginning

Level 3 Developing

Level 4 Expanding

Level 5 Bridging


to Incorporate Language


  • Point to stated pictures, words, phrases
  • Follow one-step oral directions
  • Match oral statements to objects, figures or illustrations
  • Sort pictures, objects according to oral instructions
  • Follow two-step oral directions
  • Match information from oral descriptions to objects, illustrations
  • Locate, select, order information from oral descriptions
  • Follow multi-step oral directions
  • Categorize or sequence oral information using pictures, objects
  • Compare and contrast functions, relationships from oral information
  • Analyze and apply oral information
  • Identify cause and effect from oral discourse
  • Draw conclusions from oral information
  • Construct models based on oral discourse
  • Make connections from oral discourse
  • Stand Up-Sit Down
  • Thumbs Up-Thumbs Down
  • Verbal Directions
  • Response Group


  • Name objects, people, pictures
  • Answer WH-(who, what, when, where, which) questions
  • Ask WH-questions
  • Describe pictures, events, objects, people
  • Restate facts
  • Formulate hypotheses, make predictions
  • Describe processes, procedures
  • Retell stories or events
  • Discuss stories, issues, concepts
  • Give speeches, oral reports
  • Offer creative solutions to issues, problems
  • Engage in debates
  • Explain phenomena, give examples and justify responses
  • Express and defend points of view
  • Carousel
  • Think Pair Share
  • Role Play
  • Inside-Outside Circle


  • Match icons and symbols to words, phrases or environmental print
  • Identify concepts about print and text features
  • Locate and classify information
  • Identify facts and explicit messages
  • Select language patterns associated with facts
  • Sequence pictures, events, processes
  • Identify main ideas
  • Use context clues to determine meaning of words
  • Interpret information or data
  • Find details that support main idea
  • Identify word families, figures of speech
  • Conduct research to glean information from multiple sources
  • Draw conclusions from explicit and implicit text
  • Highlighting
  • Visualizations
  • Jigsaw
  • Gallery Walk


  • Label objects, pictures, diagrams
  • Draw in response to a prompt
  • Produce icons, symbols, words, phrases to convey messages
  • Make lists
  • Produce drawings, phrases, short sentences, notes
  • Give information requested from oral or written directions
  • Produce bare-bones expository or narrative texts
  • Compare/contrast information
  • Describe events, people, processes, procedures
  • Summarize information from graphics or notes
  • Edit and revise writing
  • Create original ideas or detailed responses
  • Apply information to new contexts
  • React to multiple genres and discourses
  • Author multiple forms/genre of writing
  • Illustrated Word Walls
  • Graffiti Write
  • Sentence Stems
  • Graphic Organizers or Thinking Maps

Variability of students’ cognitive development due to age, grade level spans, their diversity of educational experiences and diagnosed learning disabilities (if applicable), are to be considered in using this information.