ESL Food Unit Plan, for Korean Students

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The food unit, Korean style
The food unit, for Korean ESL students

Every ESL Textbook Talks about Food….

It seems like almost every single ESL textbook for children as well as adults has a unit on food, and it’s usually very Western-centric, with things like “appetizers, main dishes, side dishes and desserts.”

…and it’s Mostly Western-Centric

In Korea and in many other places around the world, especially in Asia, there simply isn’t this distinction. Just for an example, how do you fit an average Korean meal into this mold? It’s pretty hard, veering on impossible and it’s just really awkward to even try.

A Challenge for Korean Students

As a way to make this unit applicable and not a total waste of time since many of my students will likely never leave Korea except on a package tour, and to add a little fun (what Korean doesn’t like talking about food?!), I introduce the broad categories and then give my students this challenge, ESL Food Unit Plan, Korean style! Fighting!

You need to explain: Samgyeupsal (BBQ pork belly) + rice + banchan (side-dishes), and how to eat it to my parents who’ve never eaten Korean food. They also don’t speak a word of Korean, so you can’t use things like “Ma-nul,” or “Sang-Chu.” Can you fit anything into the categories of main dish, side-dish, etc? If you can’t, it’s no problem but you need to explain how to cook and eat it so that my parents can understand.

(Even more ESL speaking games, activities and resources:

Teams of 2, Groups of 4

I give the students about 7 or 8 minutes to work in partners to organize their thoughts, write down some notes and look up words on their cell-phones. Then, I put them in groups of 4 and they have to explain it to the other team, who pretend to be my parents and they are supposed to act confused if they hear a word in Korean or the other team does a poor job of explaining something.

The Whole Class

Then, I ask for 2 or 3 groups to share their ideas with the class, and I play it up, acting confused a lot! “What’s that…?” “I don’t understand…” “What are you talking about?” It’s an excellent activity and all my classes had a lot of fun doing it.

Check out this Traditional Korean Meal

Like this Activity?

There are plenty more like it in this book: 39 No-Prep/Low-Prep ESL Speaking Activities: For Teenagers and Adults

How do you do it?

How do you teach the food unit in Korea? Leave a comment below and let us know your tips and tricks!

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