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Breaking Bread: Lunch Bonding with Students

Ron Coniglio

 

Breaking Bread: Lunch Bonding with StudentsAs teachers, we are all working hard to establish that all important teacher/student relationship that is paramount when trying to engage students in learning and growing.

 

One way I establish that bond is creating a special atmosphere during a weekly lunchtime setting. Sharing a meal and eating together is a strong primal bond for human beings. 

 

Teachers who find time during the week to eat in the cafeteria with their students or who arrange a lunch with a small group of students are given the chance to learn a great deal about their students in this type of social setting. Students feel more relaxed in this type of setting than in the classroom in a desk. They will share more about themselves and their world both at school and away from it.

For students the cafeteria is a location within the school building where the usual rules don’t apply. You don’t have to raise your hand to speak, you can talk to friends, you can laugh, a lot!

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Scheduling Student/Teacher Lunches

When you eat with your students come up with a protocol to follow that helps you decide who you will eat with. Certainly if an invitation comes earlier in the day or earlier in the week you will want to honor it. If you walk into the cafeteria and several students approach you at once asking you to eat with them try to arrange to have them all at the same table.

 

Make sure that the protocol you choose is fair so that students know they will have a chance to visit with you over a meal. If setting up a schedule and have students submit their names for a lunch date works best then do that. Just make sure that you are fair to all of them so that no child feels left out and ignored.

Teachers can arrange for a certain day a week where they will host lunch with 2-3 students in the room. The students can sign up for the days or the teacher could randomly select their lunch guest by pulling submitted names from a hat for your students. An additional element of this experience would be to allow three students a week to choose an outside guest to join the group for lunch.

This setting provides an additional element of privacy and the feeling that it is a special event. You can play some soft music and hold conversation in a quieter tune than you might have been able to in the cafeteria. Make sure to keep napkins and Handiwipes on hand just in case.

An option that I like to use for a more formal setting in which to break bread with my students is during a white tablecloth luncheon called Tie Day.
 

Our Grand "Tie Day" Dinner

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Ties for Tie Day hang in my room on a student made tie rack

The idea for Tie Day came like so many wonderful things that happen in the classroom, it came spontaneously. I was teaching sixth grade at the time and on Thursdays I had a habit of wearing a necktie. I did this because it was on Thursdays our staff psychologist was in the building and meetings would be scheduled with parents on that day. I wore a tie as part of my “big boy outfit”, slacks and a shirt with a collar.  This is a more formal setting where students can not only share of themselves in conversation,  but they can also learn formal eating manners and proper etiquette.

Using either tables or desks arrange the room in a horseshoe banquet arrangement. Cover the tables or desks with either a white banquet tablecloth or white sheets.
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Hamza and Andrew rearrange the classroom for their Tie Day White Tablecloth Dinner

Name cards should be placed at the spots that the children where each child is going to sit. You can select a group of children that would sit close to you at the head table. By using electric candles you can help establish a unique setting for dinning and communication for your students.
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Dana places name cards by examining the seating chart for the Tie Day White Table Cloth Luncheon

We then placed electric candles on the tables. This part of setting up for the luncheon was handled by a select group of students known as “the electricians”. These students were selected for the job based on their high levels of responsibilities and their ability to get jobs done well and in good order.

 

The electricians unrolled the extension cords, check the light bulbs, if any of the bulbs were flickering or out they would go ahead and replace them. At the end of the luncheon the electricians would unplug all the lights, store them, coil up the extension cords and put them away.

With the lights of the room off and light music in the background you have created a delightful setting for bonding and growth them personally to dine and visit. These guests could be students from other classes, a building staff member, mother, father or other family member.  
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Formal settings for breaking bread can provide children with social opportunities they would not otherwise have outside of school.

 

What unique bonding experiences have you created with students? Share in the comments section!