Monday, February 24, 2020

How to Create a Class Cookbook in 6 Easy Steps

Food is a great entrée into a culture.  It answers all the who/what/where/when/why/how questions: Who prepares it, what are the ingredients, where are dishes prepared, when are they cooked, why are certain foods prepared, how are they made.  Discussing these aspects of food preparation is also a great way to develop language skills, of all students not just ELLs.  In fact, I wrote my master’s thesis on how teachers can use recipes to teach about the cultures of Francophone Africa and Asia.  (To see how using recipes can teach about culture, check out my blog post about making glutinous rice balls.)

Creating a Class Cookbook with Upper Elementary English Learners

When I was teaching English Language Development (ELD) to a group of 4th graders, one year I did a cookbook project with them.  We had class twice a week and the project took several weeks to complete.  The objectives were to learn about sequencing in stories, practice using sequencing by writing recipes, and practice writing descriptive writing.  The final product was a class cookbook of recipes written by the students.  We also had a party and invited students’ parents; the foods were cooked at home and the adults brought the dishes in to share with the class.

This is a project that you can do in a pull-out ESL class that focuses on ELD or in a world geography class with ELLs and other students.  Although it would be wonderful to have a class party with all the foods to share, that may not be possible in many schools.  Nevertheless, the learning objectives still make it a worthwhile endeavor.

Learn how to create a class cookbook in 6 easy steps | The ESL Nexus
Creating a class cookbook teaches many language skills; source: The ESL Nexus

Steps for Implementing a Class Cookbook Project

* To provide background knowledge and information about sequencing, read 2 stories about cooking.  They are “pair-it” books from Steck-Vaughn; the first one listed is fiction and the second is non-fiction
(This post contains affiliate links.  That means if you purchase one or both books below, I make a small commission but it's at no additional cost to you.  Thank you for your support!)

Nana’s Kitchen, by Darwin Walton, is about a grandmother who cooks a meal for her grandson.

Steck-Vaughn Pair-It Books Transition 2-3: Individual Student Edition Nana's Kitchen      Paperback – September 30, 1999
You Can Cook, by Lornette Woo, deals with writing recipes.
Steck-Vaughn Pair-It Books Transition 2-3: Individual Student Edition You Can Cook      Paperback – September 30, 1999

* Then, each student picked their favorite food.  I told them it should be something special to their culture, not junk food or fast food.  They had to write the list of ingredients and how to made the dish.  This gave the students practice in writing in sequence. 

* Students exchanged their recipes with classmates and peer edited it.  They checked for language errors and that the recipes followed the correct format and were clear to understand.

* For more writing practice, the 4th graders then wrote a description of their favorite dish.  They explained why they chose that particular dish, described a special time they ate it, and anything else they thought readers should know about it. 

* These descriptions were also peer edited.  A final copy was then written.  Some students also drew pictures to accompany their recipes.

* We had a party during one of our regular class periods.  We invited students’ families and several of them came.  The food was delicious!

* The culmination of the project was the creation of a class cookbook.  I glued all the recipes, descriptions, and illustrations on multi-colored construction paper (the kids chose which colors to use for their work), wrote an introduction and table of contents, and created a title page with every student’s signature on it.  Then I laminated and bound everything.  The cookbook became part of our class library.
Learn how to create a class cookbook in 6 easy steps | The ESL Nexus
Pages from my class cookbook; source: The ESL Nexus

Creating a Class Cookbook with Older English Language Learners

Creating a class cookbook is not a project just for elementary students.  I did a very similar project with a group of adults when I was teaching at a language school in New York City.  
I didn't use the picture books but it wouldn't hurt to use them even with older learners or to find other books that are more suitable for teens and adults.  It is easy to adapt the language objectives to the proficiency level(s) of your students and it’s a wonderful way for you to get to know your students and for them to get to know each other.  
Bon appetit!