Bag of books – cookery edition
Sidestepping the usual photocopied sheets or textbook can pay dividends and the bag-of-books lesson format not only does that, it brings artefacts into the classroom which re-connect learning with the world outside. It’s an easy technique to deploy, effective with adults and teens alike.
A successful bag of books is one I have put together using a variety of formats on a theme, and all in english. (your own or borrowed.) Whatever the number of participants, a pile of 5 to 10 books will work well. I recommend a mix of hardback and paperback, illustrated and plain text. In this case as the title suggests, I’ve brought a pile of cookery books.
- warm-up Lay the books out on a table so the students can see them (and maybe handle them..) Give them time to wonder what you’re up to. Your opening question; You’re in a book shop waiting for someone. While you’re killing time, which of these books will you choose to pick up, and why? Baking books, especially ones which mention chocolate in the title often come up trumps at this point, but reasons range from attractive illustrations to suggestions of ‘green’ credentials in the cover artwork. The discussion may move spontaniously to the types of book people use at home, or to the gender politics of food preparation.
- task Explain that the class will now split into groups in order to prepare a review of a book they will select. This will require them to make notes and to make a presentation to the rest of the group later on. Prompts will be provided on the board along these lines;
- Who do you think this book is aimed at? (‘Target demographic’, beginner cook, occasional cook, armchair cook, busy parent, hard-up student ….?)
- How do you rate the layout and organisation of content?
- How do you rate the recipes? (Would you cook anything in it?)
- If you were buying this book as a present, who would it be for and how much would you be prepared to pay?
How exactly the groups report back to each other will depend on the class. I have lots of classes where folks just love to get up and write on the board. Others would rather die. However they go about the presentations, I would always encourage the other participants to ask lots of questions.
- group discussion At this point I eliminate the books which were not reviewed and focus on the ones which we have now looked at in detail. It’s time for the next discussion question; You are literary agents. An anglo-saxon publishing house has come to you in order to prepare marketing plans to launch these books in your country. What advice can you give them? (If you’re lucky, some groups will have panned the book they reviewed.) Several points need to be considered, obviously. Do they consider the book suitable for their country’s tastes? Who would it be aimed at? Would they keep the present format, or change it? Do parts of the content need to be reworked? (quantities and measurements, illustrations, glossaries, gazeteers…) Where would they sell it, and how much would it cost? Do they have ideas for launching it in the media – day time tv, events in book shops with signings, or celebrity endorsements …?
- closing activities In a perfect world your lesson time would now be over. However life isn’t perfect. There are several follow-on activities which you can use to round off the lesson.
- Brainstorming verbs – how many specific cooking verbs can they find in the books?
- Best and worst recipe – nominate and vote on student selections in various categories.
- Explaining a favourite recipe. (Surprisingly good as an activity. No-one seems to make simple things like pastry the same way, so if you’re lucky your students may have an involved debate.)
- Guess the recipe. (I think of a food. You ask me questions about the equipment, cooking time, type of food, ingredients …)
- General chit-chat. Who cooks? What do they cook? where do they get their recipes, what styles of cuisine do they favour? Who never cooks? etc. etc. …
The suggestions above are not exhaustive. What would you add or change? What bags of books have you used, and how have you deployed them??