The food unit is a classic in most ESL textbooks, especially for beginners and intermediates. It can get a little bit boring for the students, and the teacher as well, so mix things up with some of these ESL food games.
#1: Odd One Out
This quick warmer or review game is ideal for beginner students who may be learning simple vocabulary like different fruits and vegetables.
The way it works is that you write 4 words in a group. For example:
Apple, Orange, Carrot, Banana
Then, students have to choose the odd one out and say why. This one would be carrot because it’s not a fruit.
Check it out here: Odd One Out ESL Warm-Up.
#2: The Mystery Box Game
A fun way to introduce some food things with little kids is to do the mystery box game. Choose your objects carefully. They should be hard, and not prone to breaking or squishing. Some of the best things to include are:
- Harder vegetables like carrots, celery, etc.
Then, put them all inside a box and the students have to reach their hand in to see what they can feel. Once they do that, they have to guess what each object is. Find out all the details here:
#3 ESL Food Games: Dictogloss
This is a classic 4-skills ESL activity that’s ideal for just about any topic, including food. The way it works is that you find a short reading in your textbook, or online, or make one yourself.
Then, you read it out quickly and the students have to work together to re-create the story, either through writing or speaking. You read it again and the students work to improve what they have until it’s close to the original.
If you want, you can make it a bit of a competition to see which team comes the closest. Learn more here:
#4: Food Videos
There are a ton of videos on both YouTube and English Central related to food. They make a nice warm-up or lead-in to the food unit. Or, you can use it a round-up at the end of class.
Either way, don’t forget to use some activities related to the video to get the most value out of it. Check it out for yourself here:
#5: ESL Food Surveys
Just ask my students and they’ll tell you that surveys are one of my go-to ESL activities. I like to use them at least once a month in my classes. The best part? This versatile activity lends itself well to many topics, including food.
It takes just a few minutes to design a survey related to food and then your students will have an awesome activity to participate in. Learn more about it here:
#6: Food Idiom Activity
There are a ton of food idioms in English. Like literally hundreds, if not thousands of them. They can be a fun way to introduce some cultural things to your students that you might not otherwise have a chance to.
You can have some fun with idioms too. Check out this activity for doing just that: ESL Idiom Activity.
#7: Menu Scanning
When we read something like a travel brochure, bus timetable or restaurant menu, we scan the menu for what we’re looking for, instead of reading word for word. This saves a ton of time and we can often find exactly what we’re looking for in seconds.
Help your students with this important reading skill in English by using restaurant menus. Check out this activity here. It’s for travel brochures, but you can easily adapt it to a menu:
#8: The ESL Food Unit, for Korean Students
I lived in South Korea for 10 years and one of the things that I loved best about that country was the food. So, so delicious and even though I live in Canada now, I still regularly eat Korean food.
The problem with food units in textbooks and Korean students is the standard appetizer, main course, dessert thing just doesn’t really work because Koreans don’t really eat that. Or, meat, potato and vegetable.
That’s why there’s a better way. Find out what I did in my classes to adapt the food unit to their unique culture: Korean Students and the Food Unit.
#9: ESL Thanksgiving Activities
Thanksgiving is ALL about food and family, right? When this holiday comes around, I like to do a class about it and share some American and Canadian culture with my students. Here are some recommendations for the activities and games to consider:
#10: Word Association
Do your students already know lots of vocabulary related to food? Then considering using this quick warm-up to help activate prior knowledge. The way it works is that students shout out some of the food words they know and think about how they relate to each other.
For example, you may have a branch for fruit, veggies, grains, dairy, restaurant things, cooking at home, etc. Learn more here: Word Association for ESL Students.
#11: Just a Minute
If you’re looking for a warm-up related to food for more advanced level students, then consider Just a Minute. It’s easy to adapt it to food related topics.
#12: Flyswatter ESL Food Game
This is a really fun ESL game that you can use for just about any topic and it lends itself especially well to food. The way it works is that you write a bunch of words on the board and then you give hints to 2 students with flyswatters. The one to hit the correct words gets the point for their team.
Learn more about it here: Flyswatter ESL Food Game.
#13: Concentration ESL Memory Game
This is another fun ESL game for beginners that can easily be related to food. Make flashcards, half with pictures and then the other half with the corresponding word. The students mix them up, and place them face down.
Then, the first student chooses two cards. For example, a picture of a carrot, and the word apple. Not a match so they put them back down. And so the game continues.
You can find out all the details here: Concentration Memory Game.
ESL Food Vocabulary
If you’re looking for some food words to use in these games and activities or to teach your students, here is a list of some of the most common words you’ll want to include:
- Junk food
- Fast food
- Eating out
And of course, the individual kinds of food you’ll want to include as well if your students don’t already know them.
Have your Say about these ESL Food Activities and Games
What’s your top pick for an ESL food game? Or, have you tried any of the food activities from this list? Leave a comment below and let us know. We’d love to hear from you.
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