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New Teachers Online: How-To Articles: Use New Technology to Reinforce Instruction

Teaching a Unit Using a Variety of Technology
Ann Stephenson

Thematic teaching, which may cover the entire realm of the curriculum for an elementary classroom, takes on an added interest in learning when it includes various technological end user applications. Quite often there is a reluctance to teach a unit unless the students have completely mastered a particular skill. However the boys and girls become very involved in the lessons when they demonstrate their work through technology, and the result is that the skills begin to take on a greater significance.

From Soup to Nuts is a unit designed for 4th and 5th grade students that includes lessons in desktop publishing, spreadsheets, graphics, digital photography, scanning, as well as researching, math, social studies, and science, all rolled into one. The purpose is to teach the students to create their own “restaurants.” Working in groups, they use the Internet,  choose a country, and learn the geography and climate, as well as the food that is most prevalent from that location. They type a report explaining why the particular country makes and has a preference for the type of food that is native to the area.

Each group writes a “business plan” to be submitted to a “bank” for startup money and will make a spreadsheet on the computer depicting the financial details.

They will collaborate to write a menu and ads. Logos and placemats will be designed on the computer. A digital camera may be used to take pictures of the “owners” and scanned into their advertisements or “newspaper” blurbs.

Time Frame

This unit may be spread out over a course of nine weeks. The ends of the weeks may be used to bring the students together into their groups to produce their work on the computer using the various technological programs. Both individual grades as well as group grades may be assigned.


Give the children copies of each rubric used. They are a tremendous help in demonstrating what is expected of the students, how the work should be accomplished, and how their work will be graded. Make sure to give the parents copies of your rubrics as well, for the very same reasons.

Quite often a unit will fall apart half way through the time frame. This happens when the evaluation has not been well organized; rubrics can help keep the unit together. It also validates what kind of academic expectations and behavior is expected of them when working in groups.

Click here to see the rubric for From Soup to Nuts (Word document).

Students who are involved in active learning that uses different types of technology rarely demonstrate misbehavior. If one or more of them begins to cause problems, a time out from the group may be in order. The teacher acts as the coordinator and assists the groups, but is encouraged to allow the children to make decisions on their own.

Overall Evaluation

A printed version of the spreadsheet showing debits and credits

An attractive menu with prices, maps, clip art and a border will be produced by each group. The menus will have the correct foods listed under each heading, i.e., an appropriate appetizer listed under that heading.

A vocabulary/spelling pre-test and post-test will be given using restaurant words and their definitions

A rubric will be used for the research essay paper and the restaurant review. The rubric will contain measurable criteria such as: The student will describe why the people of the region ate a particular type of food; how does the climate from that country play a role in the food eaten there; does the restaurant review contain specific critiques, such as the food being rated. Punctuation, typing, indentation, clear writing, etc. will also be graded.

A math test will be administered with questions such as:
If the restaurant sells an average of 100 meals a week, will the company make a profit by the end of 2 months, 4 months, 6 months, based on the business plan? The goal is for 80% of the class to pass the test.


As a culminating activity, the students will create invitations on a desktop publishing program and invite parents and members of the community to join them in a “taste of….” celebration which will include food from the countries that were studied and a display of the work accomplished.

The parents are also encouraged to help in the research aspect of this unit; this gives their children a sense that they are learning skills that will be valuable to them throughout their lives.

To From Soup to Nuts.

Do you have a question or comment about this lesson? E-mail me.


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