Skip to main content

The “Rice-Breaker” for the Foreign Language Class

Posted by on Thursday, April 14, 2022 in Projects.

This activity aims to help students gain the skills they need to successfully translate Spanish-language historical document into English. Students will be presented with an authentic historical document (i.e., a newspaper article from 1930) and work with their classmates to identify unfamiliar vocabulary or expressions using the collaborative documentation annotation tool Perusal, create a translation glossary with these words, and, as a last step, produce a Spanish-to-English translation of the document. The activity will help students learn new vocabulary, understand idiomatic or specialty language in Spanish, and develop a systematic approach to translating documents.

Lesson Overview:

  • Spanish but could be adapted to any language
  • Intermediate (High)
  • An entire class period
  • Creative Tool: TasteAtlas and search engines like Google
  • No costs involved

Lesson Plan:

Lesson Plan

Project Description:

This lesson is inspired by the “rice-breaker” that Dr. Amber Spry uses in her classes to promote debates about identity. As Dr. Spry points out, rice is a familiar ingredient across the globe. She ask her students “How does your family / your culture cook rice?”. My lesson plan builds on and integrates the “rice-breaker” into the foreign language class. The goal of this project is to promote a conversation about identity and cultural diversity among students and, later on, about the different culinary cultures of a number of Spanish-speaking countries.

As part of this project, students talk informally in the classroom about the culture and traditions associated with rice that are familiar to them. To the above-mentioned question we could add: Do you usually eat rice? As part of what meal? Does your family cooks rice or likes to eat it at a restaurant? Which would you say is the most important ingredient or staple food for the local culture?

Later on, students work collaboratively to research one tradicional or popular rice dish from a Spanish Speaking country and they give a presentational talk about it. Students are instructed to present the recipe for the dish and to discuss any findings about traditions or celebrations associated with those dishes, the history behind the name of the dish, to compare with similar dishes in other countries or their own culture, and any other relevant information.

As part of this activity, I offer students a list of dishes from different countries and resources for their research. Examples of dishes: Paella, Arroz congrí (o Moros con cristianos), Majadito, Bandeja paisa, Arroz con leche, Arroz con pollo, ect.

Students will work on the following ACTFL communication modes:

Interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational

Students will work on the following language skills:

Reading, listening, and speaking


Sahai Couso Díaz

Vanderbilt University

Special credits: This project is inspired by the ice-breaker that Dr. Amber Spry, a Professor of African American Studies and Politics at Brandeis University, uses in her classes to promote debates about identity.

Tags: , , , ,