"Gather Together" Descriptive Writing Unit

A few years ago, I created a descriptive writing unit that centered around something everybody loves- food! Together, our class watched "The Best Thing I Ever Ate" videos from the Food Network and we developed the mindset of food critics.  I created a number of activities for students to practice writing using sensory details, which of course had to involve snacking!

From there we wrote anecdotes about favorite family recipes and our favorite memories that centered around a shared meal. We looked at various food blogs to turn our stories and recipes into "blog posts." The kids were so excited about sharing their favorite foods, the next thing I knew, I had agreed to host a food tasting event! Students went home and created these recipes with their families and then they brought them in to share with the class.  I created a food critique observation chart (and encouraged only positive reviews) and our class sat around in a huge circle, taste testing about 20 different foods. To conclude, the students had to choose one of the foods that they had tried that they absolutely loved and they then had to write a review of that food, convincing others why it was the best food they had ever had! The unit was seriously a blast and the kids talked all year about it being one of their favorite writing units.

As fun as this whole unit was to create and plan for my students, I discovered a few challenges that prevented me from repeating the unit the next year.  First of all, there were some families that simply couldn't participate in creating a recipe to share and those students were kind of bummed out on food tasting day. Second, with the number of food allergies that students seem to have these days, it was very challenging to control which foods certain students should or shouldn't taste test.  I decided to put this unit on the backburner for the time being, until I could re-work some of the flaws.

This summer, I decided to tackle re-creating this unit to make it more practical for all involved.  I've narrowed it down into two separate writing units (but you can buy them for a cheaper price as a bundle).  I know I am so incredibly excited to be incorporating these writing units back into my curriculum because the students had such a blast with them and they both provide outstanding opportunities to build community within the classroom!

The first writing unit focuses on writing using sensory details and it does require that the teacher produces some sort of treat for the students to snack on for one of the activities (but you can most certainly do this on the cheap).  Students gather and discuss their favorite foods and what a typical meal is like at home.  They practice observing using their five senses as they become "secret tasters" and then they select a recipe that has been eaten and shared during a special or significant moment from their life! Ultimately the students write short stories about memories associated with their selected recipes.  At the end of producing these stories, no food has to be made or shared.  The story is the product that is shared. (Unless of course a student is dying to share their recipe and their parent actually is on board haha!)  This five-day unit is one that your students are sure to enjoy and get excited about!

The second writing unit focuses on writing using critical analysis and it does not require any additional purchases to be made (no snacks needed!). Students gather and discuss favorite restaurants before they critique two imaginary restaurants that I have created. From there, the teacher and the students come up with a rating scale that is fair and honest for food critics to follow.  Using the power of observation, the students will become food critics either in the school cafeteria or at home (we focus on the positives so as to not offend the lovely people making our food).  Finally, the students will write reviews that mimic New York Times restaurant critics!

Together, these two units will empower your students to find their voice, hone their observation skills, improve their word choice, and most importantly, have fun while writing! These units come with everything you need- rubrics, worksheets, step by step teacher instructions, and even sample products for students to use as their guides.