Number one for English language teachers

Imaginative materials: yummy yummy yummy!

Level: Starter/beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate Type: Teaching notes

An interesting way to teach basic food vocabulary at lower levels is to also include some colloquial expressions such as ‘Yummy!’ ‘I’m starving!’ and ‘Yuk!' Once students know a dialogue you can easily substitute words to practise the names of different foods.

Many coursebooks feature a lot of work on the topic of food. Here are a few ideas that might liven up your class.

I’m starving

An interesting way to teach basic food vocabulary at lower levels is to also include some colloquial expressions such as ‘Yummy!’ ‘I’m starving!’ ‘Yuk! I can’t stand …’ ‘Don’t gobble!’ and so on. Use them to make short funny dialogues e.g. ‘I’m starving! What’s for lunch?’ ‘Spinach and eggs.’ ‘Yuk! I can’t stand spinach!’ Getting students to repeat these (with exaggerated intonation, eye rolling etc) is a lot more fun that just holding up a flash card with a picture of spinach. Once students know a dialogue you can easily substitute words to practise the names of different foods.

Stirring things up

There are lots of lovely idiomatic uses of food and cooking language - for example ‘That’s a meaty problem.’ ‘It was a half-baked plan.’ ‘Oops - now I’m in the soup.’ ‘She’s full of beans.’ ‘What’s cooking?’ ‘It was a piece of cake.’ You can spice up your lessons (oh, there’s another one!) by making up a short story that includes five or six of them. In class, don’t mention the food idioms. Tell the story and let students enjoy it and discuss its basic meaning. When you think they have a good understanding, explain that you’ll repeat the story - but this time they should listen for any idioms connected with food or cooking. Tell the story again and at the end review all the idioms and their meanings. Make sure students also get practice trying to use the items themselves.

Taste test

  • Bring in four or five similar foods made by different manufacturers, e.g. different cola drinks or packets of different flavoured potato crisps (chips). Make sure there is enough for each student to taste each item.
  • Prepare plates, cups or containers with each food – but labelled only with a number rather than the product’s name. Also design a report form with questions for students to answer, e.g. ‘Does this taste natural or artificial?’ ‘Would you buy this?’ etc.
  • In class, give groups samples of all the numbered foods to taste, discuss and fill out a report form.
  • At the end, get them to decide which was the best and worst. Bring the class back together and compare opinions, then reveal which product was which. Students may be surprised at their choices.

What’s in the box?

A variation on the taste test is to hide food items inside a box or bag. For this activity choose more unusual, interesting or disgusting items! Volunteer students must come to the front and taste things without having any idea what they are, then describe them to the others and make a guess about what they are.

Choose our cheese!

  • Record a food advert from TV, if possible with an advertising jingle (it doesn’t have to be in English).
  • Show it, then give students a food item, e.g. tinned beans or chocolate and ask them to prepare a short TV advert themselves (which they can show the class later on).


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