Last fall I told you about one of my favorite adjective board games, Alphabet Adjective Zig-Zag (check it out, it’s free!). Today I’d like to tell you about two other adjective activities my students and I love. Both activities require only common classroom materials (paper, scissors, glue sticks) and grocery store ads.
Before we get to the activities, let me tell you how I supply my students with grocery ads. The first thing I do is save the ones that come in the mail each week. This ensures that I have a good variety, and it’s really not a difficult task; I just toss them into an old paper box in my basement, rather than the recycle bin. If I’m in need of large quantities of ads, I will visit the local stores shortly before closing time (or in the late evening if it’s a 24-hour store) on the day the ad expires. Ask at the service counter and they’ll happily give you all they have, or tell you to help yourself from the display, they’re going to throw them out in a few hours anyway. You don’t get the variety this way, but it does quickly give you a very large quantity.
The first activity I want to share with you is one I do with my beginning and low intermediate students. Each student will need a poster board or large sheet of paper (bulletin board paper works, or visit a place where they print newspapers, they’ll often sell you an end roll very cheaply), scissors, glue stick, markers, and grocery ads. They may want a ruler as well, but that is optional. Have the students divide their paper into 28 squares (seven rows of four squares each works best). Use the first two squares as the title for the project. In each of the remaining 26 squares write a letter from A-Z. Put the letter in the upper right or left corner, it shouldn’t take up much room. Students are now ready to begin work.
The first step of the assignment is to find a food that begins with each letter of the alphabet, cut it out, and glue it into the correct square. I allow students to count brand names as the letter for the more difficult to find letters (such as Q and X). Grocery ads are great for beginning learners because all of the foods are labeled, providing them with the needed vocabulary support. The second step of the project is to label each food with it’s name and a descriptive adjective. I allow my lower level students to use any adjectives they can think of (but I tell them they can only use an adjective three times in the entire project), such as “red apple.” More advanced students are not allowed to use colors or shapes as adjectives, and I challenge them to use alliteration whenever possible (I’ll often offer extra credit as an added incentive). Some descriptions are still fairly basic, such as “amazing apples,” but others get quite creative, i.e.: “wrinkly pasta” for rotini. Sometimes I’ll also challenge more advanced students to write complete sentences for each food, but not too often.
The final posters are always very colorful, and make great classroom displays. Other than making everyone hungry, no one has ever complained about this particular activity. As a teacher, I love the rich vocabulary practice, and the built-in support.
Delicious Descriptions is not challenging enough for my intermediate and advanced students, so they have a different project: Cafeteria Cuisine. The goal of the project is to imagine the school cafeteria as a restaurant and create a menu for it. I provide them with copies of the school’s lunch menu for the month and example menus from real restaurants. (Side Note: I actually spent several months asking different restaurant mangers/owners if they’d be willing to give me a real menu, rather than a paper take-out one, that I could use with my students. Almost all of them were more than happy to help, and now I have a nice collection.) You can do this project with just normal paper and markers, but it’s much easier on a computer. When I first started doing this project many years ago, we used Microsoft Publisher’s tri-fold brochure layout to make our menus. Today I like to use Google’s Applied Digital Skills lesson, Create a Brochure, which teaches students how to make a trifold brochure in Google Drawings. This saves me a lot of time because the step-by-step instruction is already done, and the program is much more user friendly.
Students are responsible for creating a name, logo, and the menu itself. I tell them their menu must include drinks, sides, mains, and desserts sections. Each item on the menu must have a one to two sentence description, and include a minimum of three adjectives (adjectives can be in the name or description). Other than those few requirements (name, logo, menu with description, at least three adjective for each item), students are free to do whatever they choose. They have a blast and the results are always amazing! I like to share their final products with the cafeteria workers at the school, and they always enjoy seeing what the students have done. At one school we only had two cafeteria employees, a husband and wife team, and they cherished the students’ work. When they retired over a decade later the students’ menus were some of the things they made sure to take with them.
These projects were lifesavers for me when I was teaching multi-level groups! I could teach the same introductory lesson to all of my students, and they could work on their individual projects simultaneously. Those two-four days were a nice break for me, as I was usually trying to do my best imitation of a one room schoolhouse teacher, facilitating up to four unique lessons a class period. Even now, years after those days, my students and I still really like these projects. I hope your students enjoy them as much as mine have. Happy teaching, everyone!
Wanting to go beyond basic adjectives? Check out my comparative and superlative adjectives board game, it’s available in both paper and digital formats ($1 each):