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A Meal on a Plate: Demonstrating the Classical Model (Part One)

Have you ever looked at the arrangement of a meal on a plate through the lens of the classical model? Strangely enough, I have!

The Grammar Stage: Culinary Compartments  

When toddlers are sampling different foods and learning how to feed themselves, parents often notice their children have two priorities: identify and compartmentalize. We call them picky eaters, (and they are!), but as you will see, they are in the grammar stage of food!

First, most young children request, and per­haps even require, food that is clearly identifi­able. Chicken must look like chicken, a potato must look like a potato, and a green bean must look like a green bean. Concrete identifiability is all-important to the young consumer’s men­tal palette. If they cannot identify it, they often will not eat it!

The second priority is compartmentaliza­tion, which often dictates receptivity of the of­fered meal. Each food (and its associated liq­uids) must be kept separate one from another, compartmentalized—no touching! Remember those rectangular melamine food trays in el­ementary school? Each food item had its as­signed space—entrée, two veggies, bread, a drink, and utensils.

Now consider the grammar stage of the clas­sical model. These characteristics of identifi­cation and compartmentalization run true to life for the early learner. The grammar stage is characterized first by learning concrete, clear­ly identifiable facts and vocabulary and second, by compartmentalizing this informa­tion by subject. People and dates belong with history; multiplication tables go with math facts; irregular verbs fall under English gram­mar. Identified and compartmentalized facts are characteristic of this foundational stage of learning.

As a lifelong learner, I cycle through the gram­mar stage each time I learn something new. So do you. Whether it is brushing up on academ­ics with our children, beginning a new hobby, or directing a CC program, we all have to learn the grammar first. Vocabulary, rules, definitions—all have to initially be sanitized and compart­mentalized. We begin with the basics! This year, I learned the grammar of formal logic with my oldest child in Challenge B. I also learned the neces­sary grammar for managing a website system! How about you?

The Dialectic Stage: Intentional Integration  

As our children grow, their palettes continue to expand. The once all-important identification and compartmentalization give way to a willingness—even eagerness—to try foods in new ways. And as with the case of the boy I knew who snorted Kool-Aid, the results are not always pretty, but patient parents must persevere!

This is the stage when pepper becomes a fla­vor enhancer rather than little black flecks to be picked out of the potatoes and wiped on jeans. It is the time when twelve-year-old girls want to take what they have learned about food groups, open the cookbooks, and plan a balanced menu for supper to surprise Daddy, but they still need Mom in the kitchen to guide them through the process and get the meal on the plate. During the dialectic stage, students learn to cook by ex­perimenting in the kitchen with how and why certain foods go together—or not.


CATEGORIES: Dialectic Stage (ages 12 to 14), Grammar Stage (ages 4 to 11)

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