What's my tongue telling me?? Identifying Sweet, salty and sour

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SWBAT accurately identify foods that are sweet, salty and sour by tasting and explaining the taste of a variety of items.

Big Idea

Young children often identify everything as being good or not good; they struggle to use specific terms to describe things. This lesson helps them clarify which foods are sweet, salty and sour - the confusing three S's.


5 minutes

I gather the kids on the floor and bring out the chart they created in the last lesson. To get the kids on the floor, I call one table at a time to the carpet and I tell them that I am looking for the row with the best sitting scientists. This gets them charged up and serious about learning.

To introduce this lesson, I have the kids review the poster we created in the previous lesson. We go over the different types of taste, including bitter, and read what we already have under each heading of the branch chart.

Doing this gets their brains ready to think and talk about tastes and the tongue. It's a good way to generate prior knowledge gained in earlier lessons.


5 minutes

I read a book called, "Yum! A Book about Taste." As I read the book, I ask them why they think each of the foods mentioned are labeled the way the book says, like ice cream is sweet. I try to get them to describe the items the best way they can.

I do this for two reasons:

1) to get them thinking deeper about taste

2) to support the evaluative activity that is done at the end of this lesson


15 minutes


I prepare a large bag for each student the night before this lesson is taught. Inside the large bag is four small bags. I put the following items in each of the small bags. Each bag is marked for easy identification throughout the exploration.

Bag 1, salty (marked with a black number 1 and one blue dot): one potato chip - plain, one cracker - saltine, one small pretzel stick - plain

Bag 2, sour (marked with a blue number 2 and two dots): one small lemon slice, one small granny smith apple slice, one small slice of lime.

Bag 3, sweet (marked with a red number 3 and three dots): small piece of rice roll*, small caramel popcorn, small piece of frosted doughnut

*purchase at Asian market

I mark the bags with numbers and dots to support and reinforce the kindergarten common core standards for math. This is important, especially for your struggling students and second language learners, because it provides extra experience with beginning level counting and matching quantities with numeric symbols.

If this lesson is taught later in the year, use higher numbers and number of dots. Don't spend too much time with the math concept, but do take a few seconds to identify the number and chorally count the dots.

When it is time for this section of the lesson, I give the kids strict guidelines before I hand out the bags to the table captains to take to the tables.


1) Hands must remain in your laps; no touching the bags until you are asked to

2) Everyone must use scientist behavior at all times. Acting any other way will result in having the bag taken away.

3) Only taste the foods when I tell you to and take out only one item at a time.

I then ask the table captains to come up and get enough bags for everyone at their table. I ask them to put one bag at each person's spot. I then ask one table at a time to go sit at their tables with their hands in their lap (see video).

This activity is VERY structured because it can get out of control very quickly if the teacher doesn't guide it step by step.

Exploration Steps:

I have them try all of the salty items first and we quickly talk about the type of taste. I do not tell them that the objects are salty. I want them to come up with that conclusion on their own. I refer to the bag of items by its number/dots.

To try the items first have them find the item in the bag. Then the hold it up in the air. Then they are asked to lick the item, then eat it. I ask the kids to talk at their table about what kind of taste each item in the bag has. Hopefully the agree on salty for each one.

I do this in a structured way with the kids. I set a timer for 30 seconds and have each student share their ideas one at a time with their table. The timer is set each time. I begin with the table captains. 

I then tell them that they must agree on one answer for the whole table. I set the timer for another 30 seconds during which they must come to an agreement. I call on table captains to share their tables decision. I ask the class to show a thumbs up or thumbs down whether they agree or not with table's decision. I reinforce the idea with them that it is okay for us to disagree. That is part of learning and science. I remind them that we will come to a conclusion about the items in each bag at the end of the lesson.

I repeat this procedure for each bag.

I do it this way to develop argument skills in the kids. They ave not yet learned how to state and defend a position and this method introduces the concept in a safe way. It also promotes dialogue and group decision making.


5 minutes

Once we are finished exploring the different food tastes, I have the kids put the numbered bags back into the large bag. The table captains collect all the large bags from their tables and brings them to me. I will reuse the large bags in a future lesson so I save them. I take out the small bags and throw them away after school. I then call each table to the floor one at a time to "sit like scientists" so we can move on to reviewing how taste works.

I put the tongue diagram from the previous lesson on the ActiveBoard for the kids to view. We go over what we learned in the last lesson: what the tongue is, what the taste buds do, and where specific tastes are experienced on the tongue. We also review the vocabulary learned in the previous lesson.

How Your Tongue Works is a great resource for teaching young children how they taste things.

We quickly discuss where each of the foods they taste in this lesson are experienced on the tongue. I do this to remind the kids of how we taste so they can move the concept into their long-term working memory for the evaluative activity and the next lesson.


10 minutes

In the science journals, the kids cut and paste pictures of items next to their corresponding taste. For instance, a picture of a bag of potato chips is cut out and glued next to a picture of a salt shaker with the world "salt" next to it.

As the kids complete their journal page, I have them raise their hand. I come to them and check their work as well as ask a question such as, "Why did you glue the picture of the cupcake next to the word sweet?" The expectation is that they should be able to explain to me in a basic way that the taste buds on their tongue tastes the sweet of the cupcake because cupcakes have frosting and are sweet.

I collect the journals as the kids show me their work and answer the questions. I keep them organized by table as I collect them so I don't have to reorganize them after school.


5 minutes

I have the kids gather back together on the floor. To do this, I first have all the table leaders collect the science journals from their table and bring them to me to put away. I then call each table one at a time to come sit on the meeting rug. I refer back to the poster we made in the first taste lesson, Tasty, tasty trials.  then ask the kids how each of the items they tried tasted. I hold up a sample of each item so they know exactly which item I am asking about each time. This supports my second language learners and developing language learners.

As I ask and they correctly respond, I add the items to our tastes poster. If the items are already listed on the poster, I place a check mark (tick) next to it.

Once we have gone through the entire list of items, we review the completed poster. I then explain the extension that we will do in the next science lesson