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A Thanksgiving language lesson!

A middle school teacher unites persuasive writing with the Thanksgiving holiday. Students work in groups to create restaurants, menus, and advertisements to attract Thanksgiving Day customers.

What appeals to you more? Do you like succulent roast turkey accompanied by homemade cranberry stuffing, real mashed potatoes, and warm biscuits? Perhaps you prefer bone-dry turkey with packaged stuffing, canned potatoes, and day-old bread.

Paulette Romano, who teaches sixth grade at Pilgrim Park Middle School, in Elmbrook, Wisconsin, helps her students understand how words can make a world of difference when it comes to describing food.

Paulette's Project Pointers

Paulette Romano has been teaching a lesson that unites persuasive writing and the Thanksgiving holiday for the past seven years. Following are some of key elements of Romano's Thanksgiving project:

* Students begin the project by analyzing restaurant ads. They pick out the kinds of important information they should include in their ads, such as the restaurant style and theme, catchy phrases, location, phone number, logo, placement of words, and so on. They take note of the persuasive adjectives used in ads -- words such as unique, luxurious, cozy, home-style, and outstanding. Then they find examples of alliteration, tongue twisters, and other language concepts.

* Students work in cooperative groups to create a restaurant, its Thanksgiving Day menu, an ad, and a five-minute presentation that promotes the restaurant to their peers. They incorporate the language lessons they learned from the ads they analyzed.

* Romano displays the ads and menus on a large bulletin board in the back of the room. The caption for the bulletin board is Grand Opening!

* Students evaluate each group's menu, ads, and presentation for their persuasiveness or eye-appealing qualities. They respond to such questions as What did you learn from this project? What did you like or dislike about the project and presentations? What would you have changed about the project?

For the past several years, Romano has given her students a lesson in persuasive writing in the weeks leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday. Groups of students work together to create restaurants and Thanksgiving menus. The students also create advertisements to draw customers, and they deliver five-minute presentations extolling the virtues of their restaurants.

Romano focuses the lesson on the roles sensory words, alliteration, and adjectives play in persuasive writing. "The power of language is always my underlying theme in all our writing," Romano told Education World. "I am constantly telling my students that the reason we write is to communicate with our fellow human beings.

"Because I consider persuasive writing to be tougher for students to express in a straight written piece, I started thinking about real-life applications of persuasion in our society [that would make the lesson more meaningful]," Romano continued.

Roman noticed the competition among restaurants to attract Thanksgiving Day diners. That led her to think about how restaurants must find unique ways to win customers, which led to the creation of this lesson.

An added bonus to this project is that students practice working in cooperative groups to achieve a goal. "Each group goes through several stages and eventually understands the concept of give-and-take for the common good," Romano said. "The cooperative group work is all-important in this project. In real life, we must work with others on a consistent basis."

Students also begin to understand the power of advertising, not only in written form but also in the commercials they hear on the radio and see on TV, Romano explained. "For example, one of the groups made up of all boys decided to create a jingle for their restaurant. They were really floundering with how to start until I suggested that they take a familiar tune from childhood and insert their own words. What a riot to hear them create a jingle to 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star'! They did a great job too!"

According to Romano, students learn from the project, and they also enjoy it. "My students love this project! They like the fact that they are not alone when they present their restaurant to the rest of the class. Another plus is they enjoy putting on skits and dressing in costume when they make their presentations."

"This is a cool project," said Ben, one of Romano's students. "I look at commercials now and see how they try to get me to buy their product."

Katie, another student, agrees. "I like creating the logo for my restaurant," Katie said. "My group liked my idea for a name, and we voted on it."

Romano said she continues to use the project for several reasons. "It gives me a chance to interact a lot more with small groups and to discover strengths of some students who previously couldn't relate to language arts lessons."

Diane Weaver Dunne
Education World®
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Last updated 11/16/2016