Kids critique Coffee Stop


The Coffee Stop staff braced itself as dozens of little restaurant inspectors filed into the cafe on Wednesday morning. The first-grade students held clipboards with customer review papers, interrupting the daily quietude of coffee-sippers and newspaper readers. 

The field trip, supervised by teachers Lori Wheeler and Pam Chulyak, is part of a literacy program that exposes students to different writing genres each quarter. Currently, the first-graders are practicing opinion writing, composing reviews of movies, books and, yes, restaurants. 

For their first course, students were offered a true first-grade delicacy — chocolate brownies — and took note of such qualities as flavor and texture. Adjectives like “tasty,” “awesome” and “delicious” echoed across the cafe. 

Next, students tested fruit smoothies. Teeth changed color from pale red to orange and green as they sampled a flight of flavors: Strawberry, mango and green apple. As they drank from five-ounce sampler cups, the students jotted notes on color, temperature and sweetness. 

Of course, a thorough restaurant review is more than a statement on food quality. It also testifies to the quality of service and décor. Indeed, a real connoisseur will want to know about ineffable qualities like “atmosphere” and “feng shui.” 

Chulyak and Wheeler challenged students to elaborate their remarks beyond the usual range of first grade adjectives.

“Look around,” Chulyak told them. “What do you see?”

Wheeler said the students’ notes would form the basis of a coherent restaurant critique that they would write in the classroom later that week. 

“You’d be surprised how good they are,” Wheeler said.

Once completed, Wheeler said the reviews would be compiled in a binder and left at Coffee Stop for the enjoyment of customers. The same was done with last year’s reviews of Frosty Freez. 

The writing program adopted by Chulyak and Wheeler was developed by a literacy specialist named Lucy Calkins, who founded the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project based in New York City. Calkins is also a professor of children’s literacy at Columbia University. 

By CHRIS AIKEN / Pioneer reporter