Sopa de Frijoles Mini-Unit

The Mini-Unit Designer

Linda Barca, Teacher 

Northampton Public Schools, Western Massachusetts

Mini-Unit plan created: July 16, 2015

Introducing the Mini-Unit

This poetry mini-unit is designed for a small group of 4th grade students.  Some of the students are English language learners whose first language is Spanish.  The text selected is a book about cooking. Most children are interested in food and enjoy helping their parents in the kitchen.  Some of my students tell me about their responsibilities at home including those who have cooking responsibilities even when they are young.  They are often very proud of their cooking responsibilities.  In this unit, students might enjoy learning new concepts and strategies through the exploration of their family cooking traditions.  Students might also connect with the main character because he plays video games at the beginning of the story and many children do the same.

Using visual thinking strategies to analyze artwork and provide evidence will help students to use higher levels of thinking through more complex language. The Whole Book Approach, exploring feelings, and multiple possibilities, will foster a high level of listening and thinking.  Students will connect with their families and culture by asking their family about their culinary traditions, using their native language and collaborating in the literacy learning process.

Student goals:

  • Analyze information and present it with evidence
  • Understand and produce, with guidance, figurative language
  • Reinforce the connections with families and their culture and link these connections with their school learning
Learning Experience Design #1

Learning Experience 1: Acquiring new vocabulary, using visual thinking strategies, using complex speech by interpreting artwork and giving evidence to support thinking

After giving a quick explanation, synonym or image of the word we want students to learn, have students use their faces and bodies to represent the word.  On a different day a student can use his/her face and body to represent a word and students can try to guess the word. (A bank of words might be needed at first.)  Students will hear, say and read these words several times since they are used in the story and they will hear and say them as they play the dramatic games.  Example of words language learners at levels 3 & 4 might need to learn: fragrant, nestle, pebbles, foam, and dawn.

Using the Whole Book Approach, present the book. Have the students make predictions about the book based on front cover, back cover, front matter, and title page.

Do a whole group activity using visual thinking strategy (VTS) with teacher facilitation.  Students will state what is going on in pages 2, 4, and last. (Do one page at a time. Pages are not numbered; I numbered them to make it easier to follow the plan.)  Ask the students to back up their ideas with evidence.  Students listen to each interpretation, and the teacher makes sure that all possible interpretations are fine.  These pages deal with different feelings with which students can connect. The last page is ambiguous so many different interpretations are possible.  If students need scaffolding in using precise language, a bank of words can be provided.

Learning Experience 1 Reference:

Visual Understanding in Education Staff. (n.d.). Introduction to Visual Thinking Strategies.  Retrieved from

Learning Experience Design #2

Learning Experience 2: Understanding figurative language

Bring a cooking pot and a picture of the moon.  Have students look at them and say what is the same and what is different about them.

Read the book. The book can be read by the teacher or chorally if multiple copies of the book are available.

After reading the book, return to page 8.  The author talks about a little salt volcano nestled in the bowl of a spoon.  Have students look at the illustration and find the image that shows the little salt volcano.  This will show how authors use images to make their writing fun and interesting.

Have students work in pairs and assign each pair one or two pages in which figurative language is used.  In third grade students don’t need to learn the word metaphor so we can ask them to find two things that are compared or words that bring images to our mind.  Have students highlight the text that contains figurative language.

Have students share their findings.

Choose one of the images (metaphors, comparisons, personifications) the author uses and make a drawing.  Example: for the sentence “first you have to remove the onion’s coat” a funny drawing of an onion wearing a coat can be made.  Students will explain to each other the meaning of the images.

Learning Experience Design #3

Learning Experience 3: Family connection

The teacher should contact families telling them about the upcoming project.  Students will talk to their parents about one of the foods that they typically eat and enjoy.  They will ask about how it is made and together will come up with a recipe.  They can write it in their native language or in English

Summative Learning Experience

Summative Learning Experience: A published book of family recipes

Students will bring to school the recipes they have gathered from home.  The teacher will have them translated to English, if needed.

Students will emulate the story by creating a shorter poem with their own recipe.  Their poems will include at least one example of figurative language.  If it is hard to come up with images individually, we will brain storm as a group to come up with ideas of unlike things that can be compared because they have something in common and students can choose the ones that fit the description of their ingredients and of what they need to do with them.

We will publish a book of poetic recipes and make copies for each family.