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Lesson Ideas: Food and Drink
The only problem usually with food and drink lessons is that students and the teacher both end up hungry!
Possible Learning Outcomes:
Students first need of food-based vocabulary will likely be when they are looking for food in a market or supermarket or deciding what to order in a restaurant. Those inclined towards cooking may need to read recipes or cooking instructions in English. Students with particular dietary requirements will likely need to ask about dishes and say what they can’t have.
At higher levels, students are likely to want to be able to talk about what they like and don’t and to describe food that they have tried. They may also find it useful to be able to instruct others to make a dish that they like.
(All outcomes should be proceeded by “by the end of the lesson, students will be better able to”)
- identify common food and drink items
- make a grocery shopping list
- read and order using a menu
- read and follow cooking instructions/a recipe
- say what dietary requirements they have
- make requests in a restaurant/cafe
- invite a friend/colleague/acquaintance to a meal
- make dinner table conversation
- discuss healthy eating habits
- describe dishes from their country
- describe food they like/don’t like
- provide instructions on making a dish
Identifying Food and Drink
Flashcard activities are a good way of introducing food items to beginners. With flashcards there are a huge number of activities you can do such as memory games, or guessing what the item is from seeing just a small section of the flashcard.
Often categorising games are useful when introducing food. Categories can include fruit/vegetables, cereals, dairy products etc. as well as healthy/unhealthy, or breakfast, lunch, dinner or snack.
If you are able to bring realia to the lesson, you could play Kim’s game with some actual food. Or if you have younger learners in the school, you may have access to some toy food, or you can use a powerpoint slide and pictures if teaching online.
5 things can be a useful game to see what food students know. You could challenge them with 5 breakfast foods or 5 fruits or 5 products made from milk, for example.
For EFL students who are not surrounded by English, this is one thing they can start doing to use English more in their lives – they can write a shopping list in English. Ask them to try it and bring their shopping lists to class. Tell them it is ok to write items in their L1 that they don’t know. Help them with the items they couldn’t write in English.
As well as the food items, try to encourage them to write quantities as this is useful language when talking about food too.
Role plays are well suited to learning restaurant language, which can be covered with quite low levels as the language is very formulaic. That said, there can be unexpected responses from a waiter, so learning to deal with these is also important. With low levels, covering a restaurant schema before a role play is very useful to ensure students understand how to participate.
A common project for teens or younger learners is to design a menu for a restaurant or cafe. These can then be used in restaurant role plays which gives more reason for students to actually design them.
Recipes can be a source of reading material for the classroom. Useful activities that can be done with them include checking a picture of food items against the ingredients list to see what needs to be bought, ordering the stages and matching images with the steps. If you have time to cook the dish yourself and can take photographs at each stage yourself, then this is easy to prepare.
Higher level students may be able to prepare their own recipes for dishes from their country. It is always useful to have some way for anything created by students to be used, so you could encourage students to try to make one of the dishes from their classmates’ recipes for homework and make one yourself. Students can then report back on how easy they found the recipe to follow and may even bring in their cooked creations to class. Anything that gets students to bring me food is always a winner in my book!
Instead of traditional written recipes, nowadays many people turn to YouTube for inspiration where many short videos can be found. These can be a great source for speaking material. A jigsaw watching activity is great fun. For this have your students set up so that half of them are watching the screen and half are not. Those that are watching should describe what they see to the others. Half way through the video have students switch roles.
Of course, you could also have students create their own cooking videos instead of writing recipes too.
Talking about Dietary Requirements
Some people have allergies to certain foods, while others may have religious or other beliefs against eating certain foods. Dealing with this topic in the classroom is not only vitally useful to these people, but also represents a chance to build understanding of different beliefs.
This is something that may need to be built into the role plays that you do in class. If you have many muslim students, for instance, you may want to teach them to ask whether dishes are “halal” or at the very least whether they contain pork. Similarly, you may want to teach students to ask whether a dish contains nuts or gluten and other common allergens, or if it contains meat at all.
To kick off discussions at a higher level, you could have pictures of people with the statement “I don’t eat [insert food] because…” Have students try to finish the statement with what they think is the correct reason. Students can then discuss other people they know who don’t eat certain foods and why.
A common activity to make dinner plans and to practise dinner table conversation is plan a dinner party. This can start by having students think about who they would like to invite to dinner (typically celebrities or historical figures). Next students could either produce a message or email to invite them or role play inviting them face to face. Role playing the dinner party is then a natural extension.
As soon as students know a few food items, they can be taught to say which they like and dislike. This is another way in which foods can be categorised by students, perhaps into five categories of love, like, don’t mind, dislike and hate.
At a higher level, explaining why they like or dislike something will help them to sound more sophisticated. Although it may take some setting up, a good opportunity for this would be for students to bring in different foods and to have the students decide which they like best. Of course, it would be advisable to avoid criticism or keep it anonymous. Of course, this depends on the willingness of the students to buy or prepare something beforehand (and of course the need to check dietary requirements).
Alternatively, students could try to agree upon a restaurant to go to together or a menu for a meal they will eat together. This should ensure students get opportunity to discuss what they like or don’t, although you may need to make it a condition of the task that all students say something about a restaurant or food item before it is dismissed.
Describing National Dishes
This could be a task on an exam like IELTS, but is also something that people commonly do when talking to people from other cultures. Naturally, in an ESL environment this is quite a fertile area to explore as students will have different national dishes. A class cookbook could even be designed using recipes from different countries which could then serve as a momento for the students when they finish the course.
For EFL students, such activities may involve learning more about food in other countries. EFL students could still compile an international class cookbook by each taking a different country and learning about a national dish. Alternatively, it may be possible to compile more of a local recipe book. Partnering up with a teacher (or multiple teachers) in another country who is producing something similar with their students could then make for an interesting opportunity to share their finished work.