I read The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carl. I think aloud and talk about all the things the caterpillar is eating as I read. I talk to the kids about how each item is sweet or tart and why I think the caterpillar would want to eat them.
As I read the book and think aloud, I might say, "The caterpillar ate an apple. Mmmm. I know how an apple tastes. When I see one, I think, 'I like apples.'"
After I read the story, I go over the vocabulary associated with this lesson:
Taste - flavor
Buds - the part of the tongue that gets the taste, kind of like fingers in touch
Tongue -an organ in the body that interprets taste
For these I just give an example:
Sweet - like a lollipop or sucker
Sour - like a lemon
Bitter - like coffee (yes, many of my kinders have had coffee)
Salty - like potato chips
I go over the vocabulary here so the kids are ready to talk about the science of taste before we begin the exploration. It gets them ready to have great discussions. It also benefits my ELL students greatly because it front-loads them with vocabulary so they can keep up with the experience, exploration and discussion.
I write a branch chart on chart paper. I label the column headings with the four taste types - sweet, sour, bitter and salty. I ask the kids to help me make a list of items under each type. I record what they share. We talk about the differences between the four taste types.
I post the map in the room for them to reference at a later time. We use it for future explorations and discussions. It also helps the kids to remember that they have a sense of taste that they can use when it is appropriate.
Each student gets a bag with four different tasting items in it-bitter, sweet, sour, and salty.
I include the following items:
dried lemon (sour)
dried pineapple (sweet)
black olives (salty)
I guide them through tasting each item and we try to find words to describe what we taste. When it comes to bitter and sour, I have them taste the two back to back explain the difference between the two since they can be very hard to distinguish.
Allergy note: I send a note home with students in advance that has the foods we are going to taste listed. I ask the parents to keep the information a secret, but to get back to me immediately if there are any allergies to any of the foods on the list. I cross-reference with the school nurse to make sure there are no known allergies on file.
I post a diagram of an open mouth with a tongue exposed. We view it on an ActivBoard (SmartBoard). If I don't have access to an ActivBoard, I go to an office supply store and have a poster made or I use an transparency on an overhead.
On the tongue I label the areas where we experience different types of taste. We discuss how those parts of the tongue work together to make a complete tasting experience (e.g. spicy dried mango)
I explain to them that the tongue itself is a muscle. It aids us in chewing and swallowing. I remind them that the taste buds get the flavor of the things we eat and that's how we know if something is bitter, sour, salty or sweet.
I also explain that spicy is NOT a flavor! It is NOT a basic taste sensation. Spicy is a result of nerves in the mouth interpreting pain! Why do we like it? Probably because mild spicy is just a nice feeling on the tongue and if it's with something sweet, like a mango, it's not hard to handle. Really hot food, like atomic flame chicken wings, is a challenge and we just like to prove we can handle it.
I explain that we skill list it on our Tree Map because there are enough spicy foods that we like to eat, like peppers, that we still need to understand it.
Teacher note: Here's a website full of information about how we interpret taste and spicy.
I ask the kids what would happen if we drank or ate the following:
I ask the following questions about each item:
"Where would we taste each them?"
"Can you use more than one set of taste buds at the same time?"
I do this elaboration of the lesson because it brings it back to a working knowledge. They have to think of common foods that they have probably experienced and use what they already know to bring the prior learning and the new learning together.
The kids have a half page diagram of a tongue that has been placed in their science journals. They label the parts of the tongue like I labeled mine. They then cut out five pictures and glue each picture on the correct spot on the tongue diagram.
I quickly check the journals to see if each child has labeled their tongue diagram correctly.
As I roam the room checking journals, I ask the kids random questions like, “Where would you taste a lemon if you ate one?” while pointing to the diagram. If they don't know, it's okay. They have never been introduced to this concept before and there is no intention of mastery in this lesson. If they point out the incorrect location, I simply point out the correct location and read the word for them. I ask them if they know why that location is correct. Most of the time they are able to say because lemons are sour.
I do this section for a couple of reasons. For one, it is good for the development of eye-hand coordination in young children. When I child has a hard time copying the key words off of the poster, I write them in yellow highlighter on their diagram and they trace them. The other reason is because by the end of the school year, they will be able to look back at all they did and be able to read the diagram by themselves or with a parent.