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November 10, 2015

4 Pasta Lessons for Older Kids

By Alycia Zimmerman
Grades 3–5

    If you hand an early childhood teacher a box of pasta, she can surely come up with a dozen creative activities for her little tykes in no time. We upper elementary teachers don't always see the same educational potential in a handful of macaroni. However, given that noodles are inexpensive, plentiful, and plain old fun to play with, maybe it’s time for a trip down the pasta aisle. Here are four lesson ideas to start cooking your noodle . . . (Hee-hee, I’m such a sucker for puns!)

     

     

    Pasta Rulers: Exploring Non-Standard Units of Measurement

    First and second graders often learn about the need for standard units of measurement by exploring how to measure objects using non-standard units. Paper clips are a typical choice, but short pasta pieces work really well too. Providing students with fusilli and spaghetti to measure the length of small and large objects helps students understand the need for different size measurement units (e.g. feet versus inches.)

    This “math lab” activity is a more advanced extension of the non-standard units concept; perhaps for third or fourth graders who are thinking about different size units and choosing the most appropriate units for a measurement job. After the students complete this self-guided discovery activity (ideally with a partner), I lead a class conversation connecting their thinking about pasta shapes to standard units of length.

    Download the Pasta Rulers guided math exploration activity. 

     

    Pasta Plating: Sorts Across the Curriculum

    Sorting activities are nothing new, but they take on new life when words are “hidden” on pasta shapes. Sorts help students focus on attributes, think about classifications, and develop their own working definitions for concepts. When the words are written on noodles and served up in a bowl, students are motivated to get their pasta onto the correct plate.

    Download the Pasta Plate Sorting Mat and laminate it, or slip it into a page protector.

    For pasta sorts, laminate the pasta plate mat for repeated use. Then write words on noodles using a fine-tipped permanent marker. No time for writing on pasta? I hear you! This is a fun student job, perfect for students who need fine-motor practice. As an enrichment possibility, have students create their own pasta sorts and store their contributions in Ziploc bags. Most content areas can be tackled with a sort, from parts of speech to Confederate versus Union states.

     

    Investigating the Properties of Spaghetti Triangles

    Fourth and fifth graders classify triangles based on their properties, and in middle school, students are expected to be able to draw triangles using angle measurements. This math “lab” guides students to discover two prerequisite concepts about triangles: the Triangle Angle Sum Theorem and the Triangle Inequality Theorem. Spaghetti is a perfect manipulative for this work because it is easily cut to any length with children’s scissors, and spaghetti angles can accurately be measured with protractors.

    Download the Spaghetti Triangles guided math exploration activity. 

     

    Pasta Skeletons to Reinforce Anatomy Vocabulary

    This creative biology project comes from my wonderful kindergarten colleague, Caryn. Can you believe that her little kinder kiddos made these incredibly detailed skeletons as part of their human body unit?! She even challenges them to design skeletons doing various activities to change their orientation of the bodies. I can easily imagine the (dorky) fun we would’ve had in my AP bio class creating detailed pasta skeletons.

    Let me know if you give any of these pasta activities a try with your students — I’d love to hear about it! And if all of this pasta talk has made you hungry, this is my all-time favorite, super simple pasta recipe. Amanda Hesser’s Cacio e Pepe (Linguine with Black Pepper and Cheese) is my go-to comfort food. Make sure to use a good quality Parmesan cheese — it’s worth it. Bon appétit!

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Help Wanted: Class Jobs That Really Work!"

    Two years ago: "Listen Up, Students! Attention Signals That Work"

    Three years ago: "Teaching Math With Picture Books, Part 1"

    Four years ago: "Why Taxicabs Are Yellow: Writing “Modern” Pourquoi Tales"

     

     

     

    If you hand an early childhood teacher a box of pasta, she can surely come up with a dozen creative activities for her little tykes in no time. We upper elementary teachers don't always see the same educational potential in a handful of macaroni. However, given that noodles are inexpensive, plentiful, and plain old fun to play with, maybe it’s time for a trip down the pasta aisle. Here are four lesson ideas to start cooking your noodle . . . (Hee-hee, I’m such a sucker for puns!)

     

     

    Pasta Rulers: Exploring Non-Standard Units of Measurement

    First and second graders often learn about the need for standard units of measurement by exploring how to measure objects using non-standard units. Paper clips are a typical choice, but short pasta pieces work really well too. Providing students with fusilli and spaghetti to measure the length of small and large objects helps students understand the need for different size measurement units (e.g. feet versus inches.)

    This “math lab” activity is a more advanced extension of the non-standard units concept; perhaps for third or fourth graders who are thinking about different size units and choosing the most appropriate units for a measurement job. After the students complete this self-guided discovery activity (ideally with a partner), I lead a class conversation connecting their thinking about pasta shapes to standard units of length.

    Download the Pasta Rulers guided math exploration activity. 

     

    Pasta Plating: Sorts Across the Curriculum

    Sorting activities are nothing new, but they take on new life when words are “hidden” on pasta shapes. Sorts help students focus on attributes, think about classifications, and develop their own working definitions for concepts. When the words are written on noodles and served up in a bowl, students are motivated to get their pasta onto the correct plate.

    Download the Pasta Plate Sorting Mat and laminate it, or slip it into a page protector.

    For pasta sorts, laminate the pasta plate mat for repeated use. Then write words on noodles using a fine-tipped permanent marker. No time for writing on pasta? I hear you! This is a fun student job, perfect for students who need fine-motor practice. As an enrichment possibility, have students create their own pasta sorts and store their contributions in Ziploc bags. Most content areas can be tackled with a sort, from parts of speech to Confederate versus Union states.

     

    Investigating the Properties of Spaghetti Triangles

    Fourth and fifth graders classify triangles based on their properties, and in middle school, students are expected to be able to draw triangles using angle measurements. This math “lab” guides students to discover two prerequisite concepts about triangles: the Triangle Angle Sum Theorem and the Triangle Inequality Theorem. Spaghetti is a perfect manipulative for this work because it is easily cut to any length with children’s scissors, and spaghetti angles can accurately be measured with protractors.

    Download the Spaghetti Triangles guided math exploration activity. 

     

    Pasta Skeletons to Reinforce Anatomy Vocabulary

    This creative biology project comes from my wonderful kindergarten colleague, Caryn. Can you believe that her little kinder kiddos made these incredibly detailed skeletons as part of their human body unit?! She even challenges them to design skeletons doing various activities to change their orientation of the bodies. I can easily imagine the (dorky) fun we would’ve had in my AP bio class creating detailed pasta skeletons.

    Let me know if you give any of these pasta activities a try with your students — I’d love to hear about it! And if all of this pasta talk has made you hungry, this is my all-time favorite, super simple pasta recipe. Amanda Hesser’s Cacio e Pepe (Linguine with Black Pepper and Cheese) is my go-to comfort food. Make sure to use a good quality Parmesan cheese — it’s worth it. Bon appétit!

     

    For updates on my upcoming blog posts, please follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

    One year ago: "Help Wanted: Class Jobs That Really Work!"

    Two years ago: "Listen Up, Students! Attention Signals That Work"

    Three years ago: "Teaching Math With Picture Books, Part 1"

    Four years ago: "Why Taxicabs Are Yellow: Writing “Modern” Pourquoi Tales"

     

     

     

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