19 August 2013 10:39 AM

Snack Time at School

by rbavaria

Spend some time with a class of first graders, and you’ll see how important a mid-morning snack can be.  Sometime between the “morning meeting” (“Today is Tuesday, yesterday was Monday. Tomorrow will be Wednesday.  The weather is sunny.  Today is Justin’s birthday.”), after the phonics lesson (“The letter is ‘d’ and the sound is ‘duh’ as in door.”), and somewhere between story time (“You want The Cat in the Hat again?”) and the math lesson (“Let’s count by 5’s to fifty.  Ready, begin!”), the wee ones begin to flag a little.  A restorative is in order.

Having taught high school for many years, where students are perpetually hungry but can usually wait until lunch time, I’m surprised each time I see the renewing results of a few minutes of snack time in the earliest grades.  Kids break out their tiny packages from home – some grapes, a few apple slices, a granola bar, a couple of baby carrots, even the occasional small taco or scone – and they munch away happily and mostly silently.  Renewed, they’re ready to resume coloring their math pie charts or writing some sentences about their favorite stuffed animal.

 I’ve asked my primary-grade teacher friends about snack time.  Why have it?  What are the benefits?  What makes a good classroom snack?  Here are some of their comments.

1.      Routine.  Regular readers know my support for useful routines for children.  They need routines to feel safe and to know what’s expected of them.  Routines eliminate randomness.  Snack time is a good routine.  Kids know it’s 10:00 am, time for our snacks.  All’s right with the world.

2.      Transition.  Snack time provides a natural transition from one activity to another.  “We’ll finish our story time, have our snack, then we’ll be ready for math.”  This is an early lesson in organizing time.

3.      Nutrition learning.  Snack time allows for some nutrition awareness.  Someone will inevitably bring in a chocolate doughnut with sprinkles, thrown into a bag by a harried mom facing a hectic morning.  Without judging, a teacher can casually talk about healthy foods.

4.      Shhhhh.  Every once in a while – Fridays, the last day before a holiday – the whole class needs to have a time out.  Snack time can be quiet time.  “We’re going to eat our snacks quietly until the big hand is on the eight.”

5.      Quiet conversation.  Snack time lets kids converse quietly.  You don’t need a full-class time out very often, but everyone benefits from a few minutes of relative quiet .

6.      Class meeting.  Snack time can be a class meeting time.  “While we’re eating our snacks, let me tell you about the field trip to the art museum we’re going to take in eight days.”

7.      Learn from others.  Snack time can be an impromptu “show and tell” time.  I happened to be present as a recent arrival from Mexico told us about her tiny taco snack.  This led to a lively discussion of Indian, Italian, German, and soul foods.

8.      One-on-one time.  Snack time can provide a private time between student and teacher.  From time to time a teacher will need a short, private conversation with a kid – a compliment, a warning, a suggestion, a reminder – and snack time is perfect time for this.

9.      Breather for teacher.  Face it.  A classroom of kids has more energy than one teacher.  Snack time can be just the ticket for a few minutes’ breather.  “Munch away, my munchkins!”

10.  Good snacks.  Fruits, veggies, crackers, trail mix, homemade family favorites, juices, easily brought to class in little bags or plastic boxes, not needing refrigeration are the best ideas.  Here’s an interesting array .

With all the skills and knowledge we expect teachers to teach and kids to learn all school year, it’s good to know there are plenty of opportunities for everyone to slow down for a couple of minutes and enjoy a quiet snack and a breather.  Bon appétit!




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