ESL Activity - Authentic Cooking Experience

Level: Elementary and lower-intermediate
Target Learners: Teens and adults
Language: Imperatives used for instructions; vocabulary for food and cooking; adverbs of sequence (first, then, etc.)
Authenticity: Directions from packages
Comprehensibility: Bilingual instructions

Materials: Instant noodles, canned soup, jelly or pudding powder, popcorn, pancake mixture, cocoa drink, etc; cooking utensils; home science lab

Introduction & Aim
An English exam question given to my son sparks off the idea of an EFL lesson based on authentic, practical language use. My son did not write a single word on the answer sheet, and upon my inquiry, he confessed that he did not know how to attempt the question. First, he did not understand what instructions were and the language required of him. Second, he had no hands-on experience in baking a cake or cooking noodles, which was more of an excuse than the fact.

Goals
The purpose of this lesson is to teach authentic language use and provide hands-on experience, catering for learners with different intelligence profiles, namely bodily-kinesthetic and interpersonal talents. It also opens avenues to cross-discipline cooperation between EFL and home science. An added benefit is cultural awareness of western styled food and meal.

In Class
Briefly introduce the theme and objectives. Teacher presents common instant or easy-to-prepare food products. Point out western-style ones. Ask if learners like them. Students are to share their favourites and cooking experience, if any. Draw their attention to vocabulary. Pick one exemplary item. Two learners come forward, one being the reader and the other writer. Open the package and copy the preparation instructions on to the chalkboard. Remind them to replace the brands with the generic name of the food item. Check class comprehension. Introduce adverbs of sequence, and add them in the right place. Students pair up and are assigned different food products. They are to work out the meaning of instructions and prepare the food items. The class share among themselves the final products and elect the 'best cook'.

Follow-up
Home assignment: Learners pick their favourite easy-to-prepare recipe and write up the preparation directions. Additional credit will be given if they demonstrate mastery of imperatives and adverbs of sequence.
Next session: Pairs agree on a recipe to prepare. Bring their own ingredients and present their method of preparation. Extra credits are given for pooling of effort to prepare a 3- or 4-course meal with starter, soup, main dish, desert and/or drink.

Lesson Plan Highlights
Involvement. Most of the time, learners are busy working out the language themselves. Scaffolding. The lesson is structured with language explanation, demonstration, pairwork and bilingual package instructions. Hands-on experience. Projection effect. Learners are directed to pay attention to names of food, preparation instructions, simple recipe, courses of meal, package descriptions (ingredients, expiry date, weight and serving size, storage instructions, nutrition information, etc.)

Contributor: Connie Chow