Since September 2014, cookery has been a part of the primary school curriculum in England. In response to this, my colleagues and I (in my previous school) were provided with training in this subject area. I haven’t thought about this for a while because, until this week, I had not taught it in Hong Kong. However, several students want to explore cooking as part of their passion projects, so I revisited what I had previously learnt from the excellent PD (led by Anita Cormac, OBE).
Here are the top ten things that I learnt:
Create the Set Out
Though the lessons are fun and exciting, they should also be organised and contained. By creating the Set Out, students have easy access to all of the equipment/ingredients that they will need during the class. As part of the Set Out, there should also be a reachable container for waste. Students shouldn’t need to walk around the room.
No need to be a measuring lesson every time
Undoubtedly, cooking is a fantastic way to teach/reinforce transdisciplinary content. One of the most obvious maths connections is measurement because students can use scales, measuring jugs, etc. However, if you are teaching very young children or children who already know how to measure, it might be an inappropriate waste of time. As an alternative, the ingredients can be measured out beforehand and be part of the Set Out. With a long recipe, this can save a lot of lesson time.
Provide a demonstration
Even at my age, I prefer to see something rather than read about it. For example, my first stop for instructions is usually YouTube. Students reading a recipe is great, but it’s important to provide a demonstration of what to do and how to do it safely. This will reinforce what is written in the recipe instructions. Create a place for yourself as part of the setup and buy enough ingredients for the demonstration.
Expect the bridge and claw cutting techniques
Giving knives to students can understandably be daunting, but there are two safe cutting techniques that you can share with your students and reinforce. The bridge technique involves students creating a ‘bridge’ with the thumb and fingers and cutting between this ‘bridge’. The claw technique is a way of protecting fingertips from cuts. When slicing, students should tuck their fingernails in rather than spreading their fingers out. This will create a safer claw shape.
Make cleaning a team effort
Like it or not, part of cooking is the cleaning afterwards. Students should be taught that this is their responsibility. The cleaning would usually be a huge job for one person (the teacher or a cleaner), but it can be very quick if done as a team. Assign cleaning roles to your students and ensure that you leave the cooking room/equipment in the same condition that they found it, ready for the next class.
Don’t patronise children will silly food
One of Anita’s pet hates is silly food, dumbed down to appeal to children. Do pizzas need to have a smiley face on them? Use the cooking time to produce food of a high standard that anyone can enjoy.
Healthy food can be delicious
For me, one of the best parts of the PD was to be given a range of high-quality recipes. We used all of them as part of the PD and, as a result, enjoyed a lunch feast that was both healthy and delicious. I still use the recipes at home even when I don’t teach them. Childhood obesity remains a huge problem in many countries. We need to educate students that junk food is not necessary for enjoyment and unhealthy ingredients can be substituted with healthy alternatives without sacrificing taste.
Outline the risks
In cooking, there will usually be risks. These should not be feared, but they should be respected and made explicit. Outline these risks with the students to pre-empt any incidents. These risks might include hot ovens, raw eggs, boiling water, sharp knives, etc. Outline the health/safety rules and constantly reinforce them.
Highlight key words in the recipe
I just thought of this recently, now that I teach students who have English as a second language. However, it would also be helpful to native speakers. I have started to highlight key words/phrases on the recipe that might be unfamiliar to students. This week, these included ‘beat the egg’, ‘pre-heat’ and ‘wholemeal’. These can be explained during the demonstration.
One of my favourite things about teaching cooking is that students appreciate what they have made. I can’t think of a time when they didn’t. We need to model this, too. Ensure that students don’t waste ingredients and explain why this is important. Anita also discourages teachers from using food in other ways, such as art materials or part of reward jars (using dry pasta as a reward currency is quite common). We should not be wasting food when many people so desperately lack it.
As a PYP school, I want to make cookery an inquiry. Anita’s recipes will serve only as a starting point. I want my students to question new possibilities and substitutes, be creative in their ideas, analyse their results and consider improvements/next steps. I also want students to take action in some way. Let’s see what happens!
Do you have any additional advice? Do you disagree with any of the above? If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below. Should cookery be a compulsory subject at primary age? Is it part of the Maker Movement? As always, I’m interested in your thoughts and ideas.