Food for Thought

Grocery Cart

What groceries do you buy each week?

Did you ever wonder how French toast got its name? Did the French culture really ‘invent’ it? In fact, the delicious dish known today as French toast in America was actually first created before France was even a country! Ancient records have shown that the Romans would dip stale bread in milk and eggs and fry it to make otherwise tasteless bread tastier—nothing was wasted as far as food was concerned! Over the years, it has been called German toast, Spanish toast, etc. depending on the country where it is made. In France today, this dish is called ‘pain perdu’, or “lost bread.” When immigrants from France came to the US, the dish was associated with their heritage, and the name “French toast” came into being.

Food + Family = Culture
Food is such an integral part of any culture, reflecting the history, geography, and traditions of a country. It can tell us a lot about daily life and cultural values. For kids, it can be fun to learn about the eating habits of people in other countries and make comparisons with their own family dining traditions.

An apple—or a baguette–a day…
You can get a glimpse of world food traditions by visiting this site which displays what a week’s worth of groceries looks like for families around the world. You can see the variety of meats, drinks, vegetables, breads, and grains from different parts of the world. Kids will also notice how the abundance and variety of food choices change from one culture to another. While this is only a glimpse of the world, it can provide a starting point for conversations about culture that can help children better understand the world in which we live in.

In addition to considering the typical foods from around the world, be sure to look at the clothing, houses, and décor of the families. Where can you find the similarities and differences?


Website Wednesday: Visions of Europe

Photos from around the world

A Window to the World

Each Wednesday, we’ll highlight a website that has useful information, techniques, or resources for early language learning. This week’s website is Europe Pictures, a community of photos from Europe.

We often look to link new vocabulary to situations with which students are most familiar: describing family members or talking about a recent vacation or birthday party. Familiar situations certainly do give children an opportunity to make connections between their own experiences and new words, but often the cultural context of the vocabulary is lost in the shuffle. Finding culturally relevant information for kids can also be tough–not all sites are kid-friendly or contain easy-to-find cultural content.

Europe Pictures is a great site for two reasons: first, the photos are royalty-free and available for free download for any private or commercial use. Second, the photos are categorized by country and region, with thumbnail images on each page to help you easily locate relevant scenes. You can even upload photos of your own travels for others to view! Display the photos on a screen for a class, or download and print them for use on posters or flashcards.

3 Ideas for Using Photos in Language Learning

Here are some ideas for using images from Europe Pictures in lessons for kids. In all examples, children can use authentic images of these world cities to learn about other cultures and make comparisons to their own culture:

  • Using images of a city/region that show seasonal changes, have children identify the seasons and weather in each picture. Use color, weather, or month vocabulary to describe what they see in the images.
  • Print an image on a large piece of paper and cut it into several pieces. Using directional vocabulary or prepositions, have children put the pieces of the ‘puzzle’ together to reveal the destination. Decide what clothing they would need to pack to travel to this region.
  • Identify similar images from several countries/regions (i.e. images showing houses, seashores, landscapes) and have children discuss the similarities or differences between the images using descriptive and comparative vocabulary.

The photos included in Europe Pictures are often submitted by amateur photographers who do not use fancy digital techniques to enhance their images. As a result, the images are less flashy than those you might buy from a stock photo website, but it often represents a more ‘everyman’ quality of life in Europe with scenes of neighborhood picnics, or local hiking trails. After all, the Eiffel Tower is just one landmark in a country full of diverse people and scenery! Take a peek at Europe Pictures and see what it has to offer!