The Food Revolution lesson

Very often ESL food and nutrition lessons are focused on the proper nouns for food items and reading a menu. That is fine, and worthwhile for the start (beginners, elementary, maybe pre-intermediate) but after that initial introduction we need to quickly move away from this and get to the food revolution. Meaning eating habits, diet, cooking, food trends and the environment (organic vs factory farming). This doesn’t have to be done in a distasteful manner, but can raise awareness in students, cover useful and practical vocabulary and get us thinking about our lifestyles as well. So a lot of areas for a fruitful lesson idea!

The Food revolution

Very often ESL food and nutrition lessons are focused on the proper nouns for food items and reading a menu. That is fine, and worthwhile for the start (beginners, elementary, maybe pre-intermediate) but after that initial introduction we need to quickly move away from this and get to the food revolution. Meaning eating habits, diet, cooking, food trends and the environment (organic vs factory farming). This doesn’t have to be done in a distasteful manner, but can raise awareness in students, cover useful and practical vocabulary and get us thinking about our lifestyles as well. So a lot of areas for a fruitful lesson idea!

Language: organic vs factory farmed, word suffixes (-able and –ible) nutrition, nutritious, nutrients, nourish, carbohydrates, proteins, fats, calories, essential/lack vitamins, gain/lose weight, weigh, overweight, obesity/obese. Diets: Paleo vs vegetarian vs vegan vs meat. to consume. Food idioms

Speaking practice: expressions with modal verbs, describing customs and convention and attitudes to food (functional language)

Warm up

Here are 10 food idioms: hard nut to crack, piece of cake, have one’s cake and eat it, bread and butter, cup of tea, cream of the crop, egg someone on, cheesy, spice things up, to cherry pick

Put them on slips of paper. Have the definitions for each typed up on the projector or on pieces of paper. Depending on preference ask students to match the definitions with the idioms. Before you ask them to do this, in pairs they can quickly discuss and predict what these idioms mean because they may have them in their own language.

  • To choose only the best people or things in a way that is not fair.
  • Want more than your fair share or needs.
  • What you do to earn a living for your family.
  • The best of the best of something
  • Referring to something that is quite easy
  • Make something more exciting
  • To urge someone to do something (usually negative).
  • Something one enjoys or does well
  • Silly
  • Hard to understand (often a person)

Ask students to make sentences with the idioms to show understanding, alternatively you could prepare some questions with the idioms for students to discuss, here are some example:

  1. Name some meals or dishes that aren’t your cup of tea, why not? Give reasons
  2. If someone asked you about good restaurants in your city/town which would you consider cream of the crop? Give reasons
  3. What recipe is considered a piece of cake for most people to cook or bake in your country?
  4. How can a person spice things up when deciding where to go out to eat?
  5. Do you or someone you know like to cherry pick when they go grocery shopping for vegetables/fruits/meats/fish?
  6. Do you know any cheesy jokes? Tell your partner. If not, do you have friends or classmates who like to tell cheesy jokes? Describe them

If this might be too difficult for your students then the other option is to make sentences with gaps where they have to fill in the missing idiom. This can easily be done by finding examples online and copy/past them to a word doc which you then project on the board.

Speaking

Expressions with modal verbs. Here’s an exercise to give to students:

Match the two halves:

  1. Match the two halves:
  2. I might have guessed I know?
  3. You may say bothered.
  4. As luck would bet on it.
  5. How on earth should be right.
  6. How could you you’d be here.
  7. Yes, you might as well have it, I found one on Ebay.
  8. I needn’t have well believe it.
  9. I wouldn’t be so rude.
  10. You may well give it a try.
  11. I can ‘I told you so!’

a.  I know?

b. bothered.

c. bet on it.

d. be right.

e. you’d be here.

f. have it, I found one on eBay.

g. well believe it.

h. be so rude?

i. give it a try.

j. ‘I told you so!’

Highlight the language and go through it with students so that they understand it. When you do the speaking below encourage them to use the language from the exercise above because there’s an opportunity to express surprise, shock, interest, and react to what their partners say.

Works in pairs. What are the main issues concerning food in your country? Give reasons for your choices.

  • Food prices
  • Unhealthy food/diet
  • Food waste
  • Something else

Prepare an infographic or statistics or facts about food and project it on the board or give it out to the pairs. Ask them to study the information with their partner and then comment on what they found most striking or shocking. Here’s an example and here’s another one. You can use an article or click on the images tab and use an infographic which makes it more visualized for students.

Vocabulary

Here’s a great vocabulary exercise with –able and –ible but admittedly it’s quite advanced,Suffixes -able and -ible exercise when talking about food and the environment you can choose half of them to do if you prefer but the language is relevant to the topic and quite useful as well as highlighting the different spelling and of course meaning in context. Alternatively you can take the “easier” words from this exercise to highlight the suffix and make your own exercise with it.

Functional language practice

Here is some language for describing customs and conventions:

  • In my country it’s usual /customary/ common / normal to…..
  • We’re used to –ing…. We’re accustomed to –ing…..
  • I don’t think I could get used to –ing….
  •  …..is odd / bizarre / peculiar / out of the ordinary

For describing attitude to food

  • I’m quite conservative / cautious in my tastes.
  • I generally like to take the safe option.
  • I generally like to stick to what I know / to play (it) safe.
  • I’m quite adventurous.
  • I’m quite open to new experiences.
  • I’m happy to try anything / to experiment / to give it a go / to try it out.

Ask students to think and write four questions to discover someone’s attitudes to food. Then ask them to use the language above in their discussion and report back to class what they discovered. I posted a lesson idea on some of this language here. It was about customs, politeness and manners. So this lesson functional language, vocabulary and idioms as well as speaking and a bit of reading. If students are keen then they will have lots to say and this could help highlight the different attitudes cultures and nationalities have towards food, which is also quite valuable to students especially if you have an international class. You can find more lesson ideas here depending on your groups level and interests. There is also the games lesson that I have posted that gives you ideas on how to bring games into your classroom for any vocabulary review practice and give students a rest from all that learning 🙂

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