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Foods for thought

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In Italy where pasta is king of cuisines, a little chatting about the students' favorite pasta can go a long way. I like to do what I call
'explorations' on a theme; where it's not nearly enough to ask your students what they ate that day or type of pasta (or any food) they like, but to get them to think about the infinite details surrounding what they take for granted in their everyday lives.

For example a student could answer that their favorite pasta is spaghetti (commonly) so I ask them to describe it. (Interestingly, pasta shapes such as spaghetti are all plural in Italian so you need to keep reminding them that they are singular in English). With elementary or pre-intermediate students many new adjectives such as: straight, spicy, hollow, narrow, round, solid, soft, 'just-right', messy, etc can be discovered. Verbs can include: (beside eat) cook, feed, serve, cut, drop, stain, lick, etc. The next person has to compare his favorite with that of the last student and you can get new vocab such as thicker, shorter, fatter, lighter, curly, heavier, tastier, etc..
With more advanced groups you can bring in idioms and words such as, twirl, sprinkle (the parmiggiano!), slurp, chow down, pound, ridges, spiral, slop, bland, mushy, etc. All this from a basic staple of their culture. You want to make sure you show that many of these words can be used in other situations, not only with food.

Also, you can keep analyzing each step of the process with them and write the steps in order on the board. Ex: First I TURN ON the STOVE, then I HEAT the SAUCE and so on...this can become as long of a list as you want it to be. An amazing amount of new vocab will come forth and students will be surprised how such an everyday item can have so many parts of speech.

The best part is hearing them argue about these preferences, the hard part is getting them to argue only in English! I'm sure this would apply to any and all parts of the world and their cuisine. The 'exploration' procedure works for any banal thing you can think of:
- going to work (UNLOCK the car, putting it in REVERSE etc.)
- going to a pub (SEATvs chair, BOOTH, etc)
- studying and so on.

Have fun and watch out for 'heated' discussions by your students.
Boun Appetito!

Mike Nilles
Modena Italy
msnilles@yahoo.com

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