What You Can Do With Recipes: 10 Yummy ESL Activities

What You Can Do With Recipes
10 Yummy ESL Activities

by BUSYTEACHER_admin 163,877 views

We all love to eat and some of use love to cook. Learning to cook in English can be great fun but can your students read and follow recipes? It’s not as easy as you think.

There are lots of strange words and instructions to be found in recipes, not to mention strange ingredients. You will find recipes in magazines and newspapers that you have at home or visit your nearest charity shop to buy old magazines and recipe books that you can cut up. Aim to have one recipe per sheet of paper. Start collecting recipes now so that you are ready to do some of the activities listed below.

ESL Recipe Activities

  1. 1

    Warming Things Up

    Give out your recipes, one between two students and ask them to read the recipe to each other. They should write down and guess the meaning of any words they don’t know. When they have read one recipe they can swap with someone else and do the same again. Students can do this until they have read all the recipes or you can limit the time that they have to complete this task.

    Come together as a class and talk about the new words they have learnt. List these on the board. Drill right down in to the vocabulary - whisk, stir, beat, mix. What do all these words mean? How are they different and when would you use them? What would you stir? What would you whisk? Ask students to use these words in sentences and role play the actions for each. (Keep a list of these words to play a game. See the next activity).

  2. 2

    Say The Right Word

    Depending on the size of you class ask students to stand in two or three lines facing you. Ask them questions about words that they have learnt in the recipes. You will have collected some from activity 1 to get you started.

    Ask students questions like:

    • What’s another word for courgette? Zucchini
    • What’s another word similar to stir? mix or beat
    • Name a cooking utensil. Wooden spoon
    • If you put meat in the oven what would the cooking process be called? Roast

    The first person to say the right word scores a point for their team. They go to the back of the line. Keep playing as long as you have questions or time. The team with the highest score wins.

  3. 3


    As a class, list all the different cuisines that students can think of...Italian, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Chinese. Give examples of some meals for each cuisine. Find out if any of your students know the recipe to make any of these dishes? Students work in pairs to describe how they would go about making some of the dishes listed under a cuisine then swap partners and exchange recipes. Would you all make the dish the same way?

  4. 4

    All About Recipes

    As a class or in groups, talk about which recipe they have followed before or would like to make from the ones that you have. Would it be an easy recipe to follow? Talk about time in recipes, oven temperatures and also whether you would have the meal as an entree, main course or dessert. Students could take their favourite recipe home and try to make it then report back to the class about how they went. Perhaps they could even bring in a sample for tasting!

  5. 5

    Favourite Recipes

    Ask students to write down their favourite recipe and then share it with the class. This is great activity for giving instructions and speaking in front of the whole class. Ask them to stand at the front of the room. They might also like to draw on the board as they talk about their recipe. This creates a bit of extra fun.

  6. 6

    Festive Recipes

    Talk about different festivals where the food we eat may be different from any other time of the year. List the festivals; Halloween, Christmas, Birthdays, Weddings.

    Break the class into as many groups as you have festivals. Ask each group of students to list the meals that they would cook for one of these festivals. Then ask them to write up the recipes for some of them. Then mix and match the groups so that you have at least one person from each festival represented in each of the new groups. Students can now compare meals that they would have at each festival and take turns to tell the group about their festival, specific meals and the recipes they have created.

  7. 7


    Write down some basic or well known meals on the board or write them on cards to hand out to students in pairs. Students could also help you come up with these. Some examples of meals might be; spaghetti bolognese, meat pie, roast chicken, mashed potatoes. Ask students to describe how they would go about making these meals. They should list the ingredients first and then describe the cooking process. Students can then swap meals and partners and do the same again.

  8. 8

    Shopping for Ingredients

    Where would you go to shop for your ingredients? Talk about the different options. For example; supermarket, grocer, butcher, market, delicatessen, fishmonger, market garden. You could make this into a quick game asking students to list down as many as they can think of in 2 minutes. The student with the longest list wins. Discuss what you can buy at each of these shops or places. Where would you go to buy exotic ingredients? Why would you go to one and not the other? Where do you prefer to shop and why? If you had the opportunity to work in one of these shops which would you most like to work in and which would you not like to work in? Why or why not?

  9. 9

    Guess The Recipe

    Cut out some recipes from magazines or newspapers - but without the titles. Ask your students to guess what each recipe is for!

  10. q

    Cooking Class

    If you have the facilities, and the courage, hold a cooking class as part of your lesson. Iced biscuits are really easy with young ones. Just use coloured icing and lollies to make faces on round biscuits. Try fried rice with older students. All you would need is an electric wok or frying pan which is relatively easy to transport.

    Even just having breakfast together as part your morning class can be easy, prompt lots of discussion and be lots of fun. Students could bring different ingredients to share.

    Or why not go shopping together to buy breakfast food. A discussion about what people eat for breakfast can be very interesting too!

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