Free EFL/ESL Lesson Plan: How to Teach Basic Food Vocabulary to Beginners

The vegan food I bought yesterday -- soy milk, rice milk, fruit and vegetables, vegan chili, brown rice, white rice, tortillas, spaghetti sauce and a ready-made vegan meal - this entire haul cost me 950 baht (approx $32).

One of the first classes of EFL students I taught in Thailand was a class of six year olds. In childrens’ beginner EFL/ESL classes, learning food vocabulary is one of the first sets of words they learn. It’s easy, it’s useful and uses items they often already know. This EFL/ESL lesson plan was one all my classes of beginner level English loved, and most students came out of with just about perfect vocabulary for basic foods.

Expected Learning Outcome – Students will learn basic food vocabulary and be able to identify which word describes which particular food.

Materials and Resources – Whiteboard or blackboard, several large pieces of art cardboard, laminating machine, Blu-Tack (or similar sticky putty), several food magazines.

Time Needed: 1 class period

Teaching Procedure:

Step One: (The most time-consuming part of this EFL lesson plan is preparing all the ‘food items’ but, once made, they can be used over and over again in many different classes, so it’s only a one-time preparation).

Using old food or cooking magazines, cut out photographs or pictures of various food items. Keep it simple ie: bananas, apples, cheese, beef, sausages etc. and, if you’re teaching EFL/ESL overseas, try to incorporate some of the kids’ local food.

Once you’ve found and cut out around 20-25 items, stick them with glue to art cardboard and cut them out. Then laminate everything, so they can be used over and over again

Step Two: (Pre-Teaching) – Before you start the game, pre-teach the vocabulary for every piece of food. Before class begins, using the Blu-Tack, stick each food photo on the whiteboard and write its name next to it. Then, once class starts, run through each item, telling the children how it’s pronounced and having them repeat it after you. Do repetition of vocabulary at least three times. (20 minutes)

Step Three: Once each food vocabulary word has been repeated three times, take all the food off the board and re-attach it, putting it next to the wrong vocabulary. It’s alright if the children see you doing this. (1 minute)

Step Four: Put your class into two to four teams, depending on class size, and set a timer. I used a big clock timer, so my students could easily see the seconds ticking away.

Draw straws for which team goes first, second, third etc then have the first team choose two representatives, who will go up to the blackboard. Explain they will have one minute to put the words back in the correct place. When you shout “Go”, both children have to rearrange the food, putting it next to the correct vocabulary while their teammates, who are still seated, shout out where it goes. (Yes, it gets a bit loud, but the kids have a great time). When the time is up, shout “Stop” and the children must sit back down.

Go over the vocabulary, counting up how many food items the children managed to identify correctly and assign points to that team. Repeat this with every team getting a turn at the blackboard, assigning points to each team as their representatives finish. Give the winning team either points, if you teach with a point system, or something small like a couple of pieces of candy for each team member.(15 minutes)

Note: When I first taught this EFL/ESL lesson plan, I was worried about the teams not at the whiteboard being bored. Not in the least. They were so worried about the number of items they either had to get correct to beat other teams, or the number of items other teams might get to beat their ‘already decided score’, they were all riveted to the activity at the whiteboard.

Step Five: Revise the vocabulary again, holding up each food item and asking students to tell you what it’s called. You may be surprised that, by the time they’ve either helped their team play or watched other teams play the game three to four times, 90% of the class can remember at least 90% of the vocabulary.


1. participation in team work, 2. students’ understanding of vocabulary and material in class, 3. behavior and attention in class, 4. ability to be able to remember vocabulary at the conclusion of the lesson.