Is it good enough to eat? Teaching English for Gastronomy from an Intercultural Perspective

Scientific Study, 2015

30 Pages, Grade: 99/100



1. Presentation of the school 3

2. Context of the learning unit 4
2.1 Class profile. 4
2.2 Teaching approach. 5
2.3 Didactic methods, techniques and strategies. 8
2.4 Definition of the learning objectives. 10
2.5 Learning materials and resources. 13

3. Structure of the learning unit 14

4. Evaluation. 20

5. Riflessioni finali sull’esperienza di tirocinio. 23

Bibliography and Webliography. 26

1. Presentation of the school

After it was established in 1973, the I.P.S.A.R. - Istituto Professionale per i Servizi Alberghieri e della Ristorazione - “Luigi Carnacina” has become a completely autonomous educational institute in 1984. It has two sections: one is located in Bardolino and the other one in Valeggio sul Mincio.

The facility features 24 spacious classrooms, 12 modern cooking labs and dining labs, 2 language labs, a modern auditorium equipped with state of the art audio and lighting systems and direct Internet access from every classroom through Wi-Fi. In each classroom there is an IWB and a computer which is used by the teachers as online register. Moreover, the school has a big library where teachers and students have access to a variety of resources.

The majority of students are boys, while the proportion of foreign students makes up 15% of the total number of students. Students with special educational needs are 61. In order to promote the inclusion of students with disabilities, the school offers a variety of extra-curricular activities and projects which take into consideration the problems and barriers these students face every day.

The aim of the school is to train well-rounded students to work in tourism through the acquisition of theoretical knowledge and practical skills in the tourism and hospitality industry.

As far as the school projects are concerned, they are designed to supplement the curriculum, thus extending students’ learning experience and providing students with valuable real world experience. Some of these have been carried out with the financial support of the Department of Education or the Lifelong Learning Programmes of the European Commission, such as “Echos in Europe 2014-1”, “Pop-up Restaurants”, “Routes – le rotte dei sapori”. The project “Echos in Europe 2014-1” addresses to students who have already completed the school and want to do an apprenticeship abroad whereas the project “Pop-up Restaurants” aims at improving students’ linguistic and professional skills through the creation of pop-up restaurants in four European countries (Finland, Latvia, Italy and Spain). Lastly, the main goal of the project “Routes – le rotte dei sapori” is the promotion of the European mobility of teachers. Among the different projects carried out by the school, some of these are addressed to students with disabilities. For instance, the project START (Strategie per l’integrazione e attivazione delle risorse del territorio) includes two initiatives: “Classi Aperte” and “Accogliamoci”. The first one enables students with disabilities to work with students of other classes while the second one allows students with disabilities coming from the middle school to be engaged in a great variety of activities in the different places of the school.

The school takes part in several national and international cooking and barman competitions, which aim to enhance innovation and students’ creativity in the use of components, preparation techniques and decorations in the field of cooking, dining and bar service. I am referring to the AEHT European Competition and Bartolomeo Scappi International Competition. Another initiative that deserves particular attention is “Il quotidiano in classe” whose purpose is to fuel students’ critical thinking through reading practice and the interaction with the authentic material found in the newspaper.

2. Context of the learning unit

2.1 Class profile

The lesson sequence proposed in this paper has been carried out in the class 3B of the high school for hospitality and catering of Bardolino where I have attended my teacher training. The class is made up of 18 students. 12 of them are boys and only 6 are girls. In the class there are also one student with SENs and four foreign students with a good command of the Italian and English language. This multifaceted diversity provides incredible opportunities for collaboration and experiential learning in the class. The student with SENs has no great difficulties in English except for the learning activities which require an intensive cognitive effort, such as complex reading, listening or writing tasks. The learning activities, which best unlock his potential, are those connected with the area of creativity and imagination. Therefore, in the learning unit have been adopted techniques and strategies that specifically aim to develop his abilities, i.e. cooperative learning, peer tutoring, use of the IWB, visual aids, mind maps and ludic activities.

The majority of the students are not motivated and not enthusiastic for English. Moreover, there are considerable differences in their level of proficiency, their prior learning experiences and their perceptions about the language. All these aspects are primarily related to their dominant reasons for learning English. During the first observation sessions in this class, I asked the students to write anonymously on a piece of paper the reasons why they like/do not like English in order to get to know them. The observation of the students’ attitudes in class and their comments about their experience as English learners justify the adoption of specific methods and techniques which will be discussed in the next sections.

2.2 Teaching approach

In my learning unit I have adopted a communicative and action-oriented approach according to the CEFR and the “Indicazioni nazionali per il curriculo”.

Dell Hymes’ definition of “communicative competence” as the ability to use language meaningfully in specific real-life situations paved the way for a new language teaching approach. Chomsky's perspective of language learning basically revolved around the idea that language acquisition is based on a suite of innate linguistic abilities, concepts and constraints that enable speakers to produce and understand an infinite number of sentences in their language. With the communicative approach, the focus of language teaching became communication. The emphasis on the processes of communication, rather than on accuracy, led to different roles for learners and teachers as well. Breen and Candlin describe these roles in the following terms:

The role of learner as negotiator – between the self, the learning process and the object of learning – emerges and interacts with the role of joint negotiator within the group and within the classroom procedures and activities which the group undertakes. The implication for the learner is that he should contribute as much as he gains, and thereby learn in an interdependent way. On the other hand, the teacher has two main roles: the first role is to facilitate the communication process between all participants in the classroom and between these participants and the various activities. The second role is to act as an independent participant within the learning-teaching group. These roles imply a set of secondary roles for the teacher; first, as an organizer of resources and as a resource himself, second as a guide within the classroom procedures and activities. A third role for the teacher is that of researcher and learner, with much to contribute in terms of appropriate knowledge and abilities, actual and observed experience of the nature of learning and organizational capacities.[1]

Instead of being the person who imposes own categories, theories and techniques according to the situation, the teacher becomes “un praticante che pensa in grado di contribuire in modo significativo alla costruzione e condivisione di una conoscenza che consenta agli alunni di conversare riflessivamente con i problemi e le situazioni che incontrano”.[2] On the other side, the students are now expected to take on a greater degree of responsibility and autonomy in the process of acquiring language.

The CEFR presents two further components as peculiar to communicative approach of language teaching and learning which have been both introduced in my lesson sequence: the active dimension of learning and the importance of the social context which interacts in a dynamic process with the cognitive and affective dimension of the learner.

The approach adopted here, generally speaking, is an action-oriented one in so far as it views users and learners of a language primarily as ‘social agents’, i.e. members of society who have tasks (not exclusively language-related) to accomplish in a given set of circumstances, in a specific environment and within a particular field of action. While acts of speech occur within language activities, these activities form part of a wider social context, which alone is able to give them their full meaning. We speak of ‘tasks’ in so far as the actions are performed by one or more individuals strategically using their own specific competences to achieve a given result. The action-based approach therefore also takes into account the cognitive, emotional and volitional resources and the full range of abilities specific to and applied by the individual as a social agent. [3]

Dewey argues that “learning by doing” is a great resource since it promotes an autonomous process of discovery. Nevertheless, autonomous learning can be enhanced if ‘learning to learn’ “is regarded as an integral part of language learning, so that learners become increasingly aware of the way they learn, the options open to them and the options that best suit them”.[4] Autonomy involves not only setting individual goals and monitoring progress towards achieving them, but it also fosters learners’ ability to assess and reflect critically on strengths, needs and interests, to identify learning opportunities, choices and strategies. Therefore, one of the main aspects on which I have focused my attention while planning my learning unit relates to the increase of learners’ awareness of their knowledge and their ability to understand, control and manipulate their own cognitive processes through the transmission and the reflection on particular metacognitive strategies.

“Whereas cognitive strategies are the strategies directly involved in grappling with the language itself (making sense of a text, for example), metacognitive strategies are what we use to deploy them in the first place, how we organize, control and modify our thought processes. There is a danger that we see strategies as isolated, individual tools for specific tasks. Yet, these global, overarching ‘thinking skills’ seem to be at the heart of the efficient use of strategies. So a learner may have the cognitive strategies needed to carry out a task but ‘yet be unable to use that skill appropriately, that is unable to select or retrieve the appropriate skill when it is needed”.[5]

In addition to the active role of learning, the action-oriented and communicative approach promoted by the CEFR emphasizes the social dimension of learning as well. Social skills are vital for communicating and interacting with others effectively. In this respect, Lev Vygotsky points out that “every function in the child’s cultural development appears twice: first, on the social level and later, on the individual level; first between people (interpsychological) and then inside the child (intrapsychological). All the higher functions originate as actual relationships between individuals”. [6] On this account, I have introduced in my learning unit several learning activities whose aim is the creation of a positive and productive learning environment and the enhancement of learners’ social skills.

However, necessary requirement for the development of an effective social interaction is the appreciation of the fact that individuals from different cultural backgrounds have different cultural traditions and practices. Indeed, one of the main aims of the Council of Europe’s programs just regards the promotion of greater mutual understanding among people of different social identities and the acceptance of cultural differences as resources in the perspective of a more and more multicultural and multilingual society. As a result, developing learners’ intercultural competence in language teaching and learning is a priority that should not be overlooked. The CEFR defines the intercultural competence as follows:

“Developing the intercultural dimension in language teaching involves recognising that the aims are: to give learners intercultural competence as well as linguistic competence; to prepare them for interaction with people of other cultures; to enable them to understand and accept people from other cultures as individuals with other distinctive perspectives, values and behaviours; and to help them to see that such interaction is an enriching experience”.

In order to build learners’ intercultural skills, the learning unit developed includes different activities which aim to provide students with a greater awareness of the wide diversity within English linguistic and cultural landscape and at the same time to encourage them to reflect on their own culture in a multicultural perspective.

[1] Breen M., Candlin C. (1980). The essential of a communicative curriculum in language teaching. In: Richards C. J., Rodgers T. S. (2014). Approaches and methods in language teaching. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 54-55.

[2] Fabbri L., Striano M., Melacarne C. (2008). L’insegnante riflessivo. Coltivazione e trasformazione delle pratiche professionali. Milano: Franco Angeli Editore, 43-44.

[3] Council of Europe (2001). Common European Framework of Reference for Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 9.

[4] Ibid., 141-142.

[5] Nisbet J., Schucksmith J. (1984). The Seventh Sense: Reflections on Learning to Learn. Edinburgh: Scottish Council for Research in Education. In: Rinkevičienė I., Zdanytė J. (2002). Raising Students’ Awareness in Language Learning. Kalbų Studijos, n. 3. Accessed June 2, 2015

[6] Vygotsky, L. Mind in society: the development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1978. Accessed June 2, 2015

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Is it good enough to eat? Teaching English for Gastronomy from an Intercultural Perspective
University of Verona
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Emanuela Olita (Author), 2015, Is it good enough to eat? Teaching English for Gastronomy from an Intercultural Perspective, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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