Project 2: Masterchef Junior Palermo

The girls couldn’t wait for this project, although I had some concerns about it, since one of the girls was celiac and had also diabetes. So it was tricky not to make mistakes with the ingredients. I decided not to make it difficult, but put the girls to work right after the first (introduction) lesson.

The vocabulary was menu, ingredients, cooking verbs, the grammar was imperative and present continuous again and a quick introduction of countable and uncountable nouns. The outcome was a cooking video (a series of short videos), showing the girls preparing their own recipes. Here is a short description of the four lessons.

In lesson 1 I gave the girls free hand to open any cupboard or drawer in my kitchen and set the table the way they would find it in a restaurant. I gave them then a worksheet with the correct table setting and ask each of them to correct their place and then describe it in open class. The other two girls listening had to correct eventual mistakes. In order to do this exercise, I had to introduce some prepositional phrases (next to, in the centre, on the right/left, etc.). These were written on index cards and put on the table, so that girls didn’t have to remember these straight away, but could concentrate onto the table vocabulary.
Afterwards, I gave them a pizza menu (Pizza Hut London) and we categorized the ingredients (vegetables, fruit, meat, diary, others). Finally, they had to create their own pizza. I played the waitress and they had to order. We needed some simple language like:
– Are you ready to order?
– What would you like to drink?
– Would you like a starter?
– I’d like …
, etc.
They created crazy pizzas and also asked for a starter and a dessert. This exercise could show me if they were able to order in a restaurant in English.

For lesson 2, I prepared a Menu of the Day, without the headings (Starter, Pasta, Main course, Dessert) and the ingredients. The girls’ task was to order the categories to the different dishes and guess what ingredients they ask for. In open class, we clarified the correct answers. Then they had to ‘buy’ the ingredients from me, I was the shop assistant and they were my clients. The language we needed was: I need … or I’d like … (written on the handout) and we had to go through them quickly to see if we can use the items in plural or only in singular (countable vs uncountable nouns). Fortunately, this is mostly the same in Italian.
I had prepared all the ingredients for the two starters for myself before the lesson and I showed the girls in 5 minutes, how to prepare them. They had to do the same in the next step in 15 minutes. We prepared all equipment and ready, steady, go! At the end we took photos of their pieces of art and sent these to the parents, who had to vote for the best looking ones again. They could then take the starters home, so their families could enjoy this exercise. Here are some photos of the dishes:

The homework for the next lesson was to think of a recipe and write the preparation down in English (they used imperative). On the back of the worksheet with the daily menu, I had listed the verbs we usually use when describing cooking procedures. The girls had to revise these and use some of them for their personal recipe. They were also asked to do the grocery’s and bring to the following lesson all ingredients they needed for their recipe.

In lesson 3 we started with a quick revision: Their mothers had sent photos of their fridges to me and the girls had to describe what they had in it. This way, we ensured that they still remembered the difference between countable and uncountable nouns.
As a second exercise, I showed them two photos of my fridge, but on the second one, there were some items missing (I had removed these before taking the second photo). They had to find what was missing in the second picture.
Then we moved on to their shopping bags: the girls pulled out the ingredients for their recipes one by one and named them. Then they gave a quick description of the steps they would do while cooking.
Then they started preparing: they had to ask for spoons and knives and bowls, etc. Finally, we agreed on the time limit (30 minutes) and ready, steady, go! I taped them in 2-3 minutes sessions and helped if necessary. I asked them to use present continuous, answering to the question ‘What are you doing now?‘.
At the end, we sat down at the table and tasted the dishes. One of the girls prepared a pancake (gluten free so that also our celiac classmate could try it – a special attention I really appreciated), the other one prepared pasta with cream and ham (gluten free pasta again) and the third girl prepared omelette with a salad. Simple things, but for example the third recipe involved a wide range of vocabulary.
Here are the photos of the dishes:

The dishes were then given a score by all the judges (the girls and myself) from 1 to 10, imitating the tasting as in the original Masterchef show (with the forks and knives prepared and giving some comments), and we also contend the votes of the parents who had received the photos of the dishes and had to choose the most attractive presentation. As for homework, they had to bring 5 muffins to the following lesson.

In lesson 4 we did a quick revision of the recipes and the results and watched a 15-minute session from one episode of Masterchef Junior US (14th November 2015) (the frosting scene) with 5 questions. The questions were these:

1. Who is competing?
2. How many cupcakes do they have to cover with frosting?
3. Who is the special judge?
4. How many minutes do they have?
5. Who is the winner and with how many cupcakes?

The amazing thing was that the girls could answer to all five questions (they missed only the number of the cupcakes Sam frosted perfectly, so practically they answered 4.5 questions correctly). Watch the video, it’s not easy at all to understand what they say.
A month before this project, I had got a parcel from my sister who lived in London. She sent a cupcake decoration pack with a tube of frosting and sprinkles to me (among other goodies). So as the last pressure test, we had a cupcake decorating competition. They had to decorate 3 cupcakes with the frosting, with Nutella and the sprinkles. Here are the photos:

(One of the girls was absent, but my 2-year old son gave us a hand – see last cupcake)

These cupcakes were taken home and once again, the parents received the photos and voted for the most beautiful cupcakes.
To be honest, we didn’t have a final winner (Masterchef Junior Palermo 2017), since one of the mothers suggested declaring every girl as the winner. And since the girls had great fun, I agreed to this proposal and all three girls were announced to be the winner of this really nice competition.

I invite you to evaluate how efficient this project could be: the girls didn’t write anything during the lessons, but had to remember all names of cutlery, dishes, ingredients, recipes and action verbs. They had to make a dish and explain at the same time in a foreign language what they were doing.
Finally, I invite you to evaluate how rewarding this project could be: the girls took home once two starters and another time the dessert. Their families sent me tons of messages giving their acknowledgements to these. I sent one email to every mother at the end of the project describing what we have done and praising the girls. All this had contributed a lot to improve their self-esteem.
Their motivation was very high: one of the girls stayed up late at night to write and rehearse her recipe. Another one had three ideas and picked her specialty which she presented with lots of pride (pancake), but in a gluten-free version.

A project I will definitely repeat in the future.



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