I let the students into class carrying my sample Bento Box secured with rubber bands. I then teased the students with the idea that we were going to do something special today (shameless salesmanship). I walked around the class asking individuals what they thought was in the box.
Student A: “a game” (they know I love playing games)
Student B: “origami paper or models” (they also know I love origami)
Student D: “chocolate” (they also know I love dark chocolate)
I then announced “OK, very good guesses, but we will not open the box until the whole class completes the warm up revision questions” (Lots of groans and complaints as I handed out the revision).
I wonder how important it is to build expectation and sell an activity?
Once the lid was off much discussion followed. One student knew it was called a Bento Box. I asked what sort of foods would you be served in a Bento Box?
This was an interesting point, since a colleague had the opinion that not many students would have had Japanese cuisine. This was not the case. Students quickly offered sushi rolls, tofu, fish, prawns, etc. I asked do you know what sashimi or tempura is? If it was a Foods class, we could have spent a lot of time on this. Particularly when one student offered:
I now handed out the Bento Box assignment and we did a read through and explain what to do. With rulers, pencils and blank sheets of A4 paper the students started drawing their Bento.
I quickly sensed that my lesson idea and planning had “paid off”. For the next 60 minutes, ALL students were fully engaged with their drawings and subsequent calculations. During this 60 minutes some wonderful learning opportunities arose. Examples:
1. “Excuse me Sir, it won’t fit on the paper“. This frustrated student still hadn’t formalised the difference between perimeter and area. He/she wanted to draw a box 400 cm long! I grabbed a Math-o-mat and drew 1 square cm. Asked the student what it was? then drew 3 more in a square array (2cm x 2cm). Could we fit 400 of these on the page? Then drew a rectangle (10cm x 6 cm). By now the student could work out the area as 60 square cm, and happily started drawing.
2. “Sir, I need one more shape that will fill up this space“. Basic shapes wouldn’t fit too well so I suggested: What about a composite shape? Or an Ellipse? We then discussed composite shapes and ellipses and how to work out their areas.
3. “Oh no, my areas only add up to 379 square cm! “Which shape can you make bigger? By how much?” Here was a great chance to see the relevance of, and practice solving equations. The student was quite proud and happy that he/she had got the areas to sum to 400. Now which foods should go where?
4. “I’ve done it, Mr T, it is exactly 400“. I checked the students work and observed 7 very well set out calculations, with some answers correct to eight decimal places! This student had an excellent grasp of how to calculate areas. But here was an opportunity for me to teach him/her about accuracy of measurements and significant figures.
Before we knew it the bell for recess sounded. The students packed up and left the room still talking about their Bento Boxes. I packed up and left, amazed at how such a simple lesson idea had completely engaged the students.
My other Year 9 class entered the room (in an orderly manner of course!) after lunch. One student said “we are doing Bento Boxes today aren’t we sir? I was speechless for a few seconds. It dawned on me that Year 9 students from my morning class had been talking about Maths during recess or lunchtime! So I quickly changed my approach. NOT what do you think is in the box. OK, complete these revision questions and then we will start designing Bento Boxes.
This class worked just as well, and again the lesson was over too quickly.
On Monday, I might start with a Japanese food quiz (with pictures). Can you identify the 8 different Japanese dishes pictured in this post, in order from top to bottom?
Stay tuned to this space to see how well the student’s designs turn out.
I would love to get any comments about how you perceive this lesson, or how you would do anything differently.