ESL Activities to Learn Food & Restaurant Vocabulary

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Food is one of the most pleasant conversation topics to talk about, and there is a wide variety of ESL food games that will enrich and consolidate the food vocabulary of your students.

In this article, we are going to discuss some fun ways to organize ESL restaurant lessons as well as vocabulary activities for learning food items in English.

These are the best ESL food & restaurant vocabulary games

1. Recipes

Writing a recipe is a perfect way to teach the students to follow directions and write instructions in English. First, teach the learners specific vocabulary that is needed for recipes, such as a tablespoon, a sprinkle, chop, slice, grate, pour, mix, blend, and so on. Then ask your students to invent their own recipes by using this vocabulary.

2. Favorite dish

Discuss with the students your favorite dish and encourage them to tell about their favorite dishes. For more advanced ESL levels, you can ask the learners to write down approximate recipes of their favorite dishes. Then the students should present those recipes in front of the class, while the class will be trying to guess the dish.

3. National cuisine

If you are teaching English to a group of international students, it is a great opportunity to discuss the national cuisines of their countries. You can even go further and organize a tasting lesson, where each student can bring their own national dish.

4. Restaurant role play

This speaking game is an especially fun ESL activity. To consolidate vocabulary related to restaurants and table etiquette, you can encourage your students to act out a typical scene in the restaurant. It can be either a short activity or a long, well-planned activity that can last up to several lessons. Set up a kitchen area with a set of plastic food you have available. As a warm up activity, have your students create a couple of menus with the dishes that they have to offer, with various categories that are usually found in menus: drinks, appetizers, entrees, soups, desserts, etc. When the menus are ready, students take turns eating out and serving the food in the “restaurant.” You may even have several “tables” at once with several “waiters.” In any case, the goal here is to improve restaurant vocabulary, which later can come in handy in the day-to-day lives of your students.

For examples of ESL warm up activities, see this article.

5. Watching movies

You can devote one or two lessons to watching some food-related movies, such as “Julie & Julia” or “No Reservations”. Your students can write down and exercise all food-related words and expressions that were mentioned in those movies.

6. Food questions

One of the students thinks about a dish and the other students try to guess this dish by asking questions containing the restaurant vocabulary that they have recently learned. The questions can be as follows: “Is it sweet or salty? Is it raw or cooked? Is it a vegetarian dish?” and so on. This game can be played in the “20 questions” format where the “interviewee” wins when the “interviewers” cannot guess the dish after they have asked 20 questions.

7. Fruit/vegetable game

Standing in a circle, the students pass an apple or another fruit to each other saying the names of different fruits. If the student cannot come up with the name of a fruit for 30 seconds, they are out. To make the game more complex, you can ask the students to name a fruit starting with the last letter of the previous fruit that was named. For example, “banana – apple”, and so on. You can also play the same game with vegetables, or “mix” the names of fruit and vegetables.

8. Food chain game

This is another activity that will help your students practice their ESL food vocabulary. The students and the teacher form a circle. The teacher says, for example: “I am going to the store to buy some milk.” A student standing next to the teacher should add another element to this “chain” by repeating the teacher’s food item and adding their own item. For example, “I am going to the store to buy some milk and bread.” The next student should repeat both previous elements of the “chain” and add their own element, for example: “I am going to the store to buy some milk, bread, and butter.” The next student does the same, so the “chain” grows longer and longer, and it becomes harder for each next student to repeat all the words.

9. Blindfold guess

Blindfold a student and give them an object to feel. The student must guess the object by feeling it. This works well with plastic fruit and vegetables, as they are harder to guess than the real fruit and vegetables.

How Do You Teach Food & Restaurant Vocabulary To Your Students?

We hope that these activities will help you liven up your ESL lesson plans and make them more fun and exciting, but we realize everyone’s ESL curriculum is different.

How do you teach your students about food and restaurants? Please feel free to use the comments section as a platform for discussion.


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