Food vocabulary makes up a part of every ESL curriculum, whether it’s for a Cambridge English exam or part of a primary school curriculum.
But how do we make these lessons interesting for our students? How can we bring them to life and create an ESL lesson plan around food that gets our students chatting and builds up their speaking confidence?
That’s what today’s article is all about: ESL food activities that go way beyond “listen and repeat” and work to build your students’ vocabulary and confidence understanding real-world English.
The activities outlined here are enough to cover two 45 minute lessons! Let’s take a closer look.
Blind Taste Testing: Teaching Food Vocabulary and Descriptions
This foodie ESL activity involves a bit of light snacking, so make sure you’re aware of any food allergies beforehand.
What you’ll need
- Some fruit and vegetables: this will depend on where you live but try and choose fruit and veg that mirror your curriculum vocabulary.
- A blindfold.
How to Play
- Go through the target vocabulary with your class: relevant food vocabulary and also flavours & textures like sweet, sour, soft, crunchy, juicy etc.
- Tell the class you have some fruit and vegetables for them to try (again – ask the parents beforehand if their children have any allergies).
- Get a volunteer from the class to put on the blindfold and try some of the food. They have to describe what they’re eating to the class and guess what fruit or vegetable it is.
- The class then tells them if they’re correct or not.
Make sure you cut any food into small pieces so you have enough to go around the whole class! When you get everyone involved this activity can last around 20-25 minutes.
Egg on your Face
This is a great ESL food activity that borrows from a popular party game that you’ve probably played yourself!
What you’ll need
- Sticky notes
How to Play
- Put your students in pairs.
- Write some different food vocabulary items on sticky notes and give them out at random to each pair.
- The students take turns to put the sticky note on their heads (without looking at it).
- The child with the sticky note has to ask their partner questions to try and guess what type of food is written on the sticky note.
- For example: “Am I a fruit?” “Am I green?”
- Once the child gets it they have to write another food item on a sticky note for their partner to guess.
We love this zero-prep ESL activity (just make sure you have some sticky-notes handy), because it gives your students a chance to practice asking questions and using a richer set of vocabulary like, “am I sweet?” “am I sour?” etc.
The game can last around 20-25 minutes. You can make sure it stretches by having a few curve-balls in there like “coconut” or “fish and chips”.
Your class will also love it if you participate! Get them to write down some food items on sticky-notes and you can guess what food they’ve written down.
Hands up! A Food Related ESL Listening Activity [with music!]
Do your students love a good sing-song? We’re sure they do, so why not take them over to meet our Planet Pop stars?
This activity is a quick and fun listening exercise that’ll help them understand real, spoken English.
What you’ll need
- An ELT Songs account to get access to our food vocabulary unit
How to Play
- Listen to the song once to get the gist.
- Tell students that now they have to listen and if the singer says a food they like, they have to raise their hands, but if she sings about a food they don’t like they have to shake their head.
- Once they’ve done it, say you’re going to make it more difficult. Get them all to face away from the projector or screen where you’re showing the video.
- Now tell them to do the same thing as before (raise their hands if they like the food the singer mentions and shake their heads if they don’t like it), but they can’t look at the screen.
This is great for younger kids in particular who are starting to learn food vocabulary and constructions like “I like/don’t like”. This activity is quite quick – but you can flesh it out by getting your students to also learn the dance-moves and practicing the conversations from the same unit.
Food Vocabulary Bingo!
This ESL food activity will have your students running around the class and practicing using questions as they ask their classmates about what food they like.
What you’ll need
- All you’ll need is a printable food Bingo sheet – click on the link below to download an example one that we’ve made for you.
Get your free food bingo sheet template!
How to play
- Pre-teach any food related vocabulary and the grammatical constructions “do you like”, “I like/don’t like”, “he/she likes/doesn’t like”.
- Give each student a copy of a ELT Songs – Food Bingo sheet.
- Each square should say “find someone who…” followed by “likes/doesn’t like…”
- Your students have to ask each other the questions and if they find a match they have to write their classmate’s name on the square.
- The first child to get a name on every square is the winner and has to call out: “BINGO!”
- At the end of the activity do a round-up. Ask the students “Who likes….” and let them respond in full sentences to reinforce the lesson’s vocabulary.
This activity can take a good 20-25 minutes if you have around 12 bingo squares.
Little Chef: a delicious homework assignment
Are there any future YouTube stars in your class?
If you’re looking for a food homework activity for your class then set them an assignment to cook or bake something at home (with adult supervision) and record a video of themselves doing it.
We recommend printing some simple recipes that are closely related to the current food vocabulary they’re learning.
It’s also important that they know some cooking vocabulary like: cut, chop, melt, fry, cook etc.
They can record themselves talking about the ingredients they’re using, how they’re cooking it and what they think it’s going to taste like.
They can get their parents to send you the videos through a service called We Transfer and in class you can watch the videos and ask them some follow-up questions about their dish.
Parents will love this as it means their kids are getting some speaking practice outside of class (and they can eat something delicious in the process!)
Just make sure that no videos go outside of the classroom – that means no posting to social media or sharing the videos with anyone else and you should delete them after class.
You can get parents to sign a form that lets them know that you won’t be using the videos outside of class.
Want Some Music Video Resources to go alongside these ESL Food Activities?
You can sign-up for an ELT Songs account to unlock our extensive library of ESL music video resources.
All our songs are written by professional song writers and the accompanying videos use modern and relatable characters that your students will love watching.
But don’t take our word for it – try it out for yourself (for free!).
“One of the mums came to me at [the end of the day] and said “my daughter can’t stop talking about the songs in English, where did you say they could be found?” It’s happening and after only 3 lessons!” – Virginie Mary, Headteacher, France