ESL Food Unit Plan, for Korean Students

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

Okay, so maybe you’ve noticed it too? The food unit. It exists in all ESL textbooks. But, have you also noticed how weird it is for Korean students? It just doesn’t really fit with the way they eat (usually). Here’s how to do it better.

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.

I mean Koreans don’t really have “dessert” most of the time and you won’t find this option on the menu at your local BBQ restaurant. There is no appetizer, but you may have a “second course” of cold noodles or something?

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 students usually do a good job of playing along because they like to be hard on their friends!

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.

What do I love? I like giving my Korean students to talk about food in a way that makes sense to them. And, I love how student-centered this activity is as well. I kind of fade off into the background while they do the real work.

Check out this Traditional Korean Meal

Like this Speaking Activity?


If you like this activity, then you’re going to love this book: 101 ESL Activities for Teenager and Adults. There are dozens of top quality ESL games and activities, enough to last you the entire semester.

The key to happy, engaged students who are having fun while learning English is to mix things up in the classroom. This book will help you do just that.

The best part is that it’s well-organized into section: reading, writing, speaking, listening, grammar, icebreakers/warm-ups, etc. So, you should be able to find something you can use in your class in under a minute.

It’ll be the most helpful book you buy all year! If it’s not? Get in touch and I’ll refund your money.

You can find the book on Amazon in both digital and print formats. Get a copy to keep on the bookshelf in your office as a handy reference tool. Or, take a copy with you on your phone or tablet to your favourite coffee shop when you plan your lessons.

Yes, it really is that easy to add some variety and fun into your English classes. Check it out here, but only if you want a bit of ESL awesome in your life:

—>101 ESL Activities: For Teenagers and Adults<—

How do you do it?

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

Also be sure to give this article a share on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter. It’ll help other teachers, like yourself make the food unit even more awesome.

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