Literacy and Cooking

A fun way to target literacy is through cooking activities.  My students love to cook but what they don’t know is they are working on so many different skills during these fun cooking tasks.  Not only are they working on those reading skills they are also working on following direction, building up vocabulary skills, and learning sequential concepts.  Cooking is motivating for almost all my students which is why I try and include a cooking activity once a month.

My students have to read the recipe in order to know how to make the specific cooking item.  When I create recipes I usually make 2 different versions.  One of the recipes will have more visuals to support the written component.  The other recipe form will be mostly written with less visual supports for those students with stronger reading skills.  It depends on my students reading level and skill set which recipe form I use.  The benefit of having two different levels of recipes is I can use both types within one group if I have students with various reading levels within the same group.  I can have one student use the visual recipe and one student use the written recipe.  Here are just a few examples of the recipes I have done with my students and how I incorporate those reading skills into the cooking activity.

Around Valentine Day we make either Valentine Shakes, Valentine Freezes, or Valentine Floats.  They are all a big success.  For the Valentine Shakes I made both the visual and written recipes.  You can see that the recipe is the same but the visual supports are different.

When using the written recipe, I have the students first read all the materials we need and as they read the item I get out that material.  This helps pair meaning behind the written word.  Next, I have a student read the ingredient list and again we get out each ingredient as the student reads the item.  I also point out the words written on the packages of the food items.

For both the written and the visual recipes we go through the recipe step by step and complete one step at a time.  When I use the visual recipe I point to the words as I read each line of the recipe.  Sometimes I leave out a word and have the student read that word if they know it or can identify the word based on the visual support.  For the students who can read I have the students take turns reading the different steps of the recipe.

After we complete the recipe and enjoy our cooking treat I have the students answer questions about the cooking task.  I again created both visual and written questions to follow up with the recipe.  For the visual questions I help the student read the question and then we point to each picture as we read the answer choices.  For the written questions, if the student needs help reading I point to each word and we read it together.  You can refer back to the recipe if the student needs help spelling words or remembering some of the ingredients.  For your high performing student you can have the students write sentences or a paragraph explaining how to make the recipe.  They can use those words like “first”, “second”, and “then”.  Have the students read their “how to” paragraph to each other.

In the Fall, I like to make either Pumpkin Fluff and/or Harvest Trail Mix with my students.  For the Pumpkin Fluff I again used the written recipe with my higher students and the visual recipe with other groups.  The students take turns reading the recipe and completing each step of the recipe.  This recipe is really great to focus on the sequential terms because you only add 4 ingredients to make the Pumpkin Fluff.

I continue to model the order of the ingredients while the students are adding the different items.  For example- “first pumpkin pie filling, second vanilla pudding”.  I usually even write those sequential terms on index cards and put them in front of the four ingredients as we are cooking.  This provide meaning behind those written sequential terms.  A follow-up activity is to have your students decide which one is their favorite dipper!  You can have your students pick out a picture paired with the written word of their favorite dipper, pick out only the written word which is their favorite dipper, or they can write the word on a sticky note and add it to the chart.

After the kids finish eating the Pumpkin Fluff I have them complete those comprehension questions.  Use either the visual questions or written questions depending on your students’ ability level.  Have the students refer back to the recipe to help answer the questions.  This is also a good recipe to write “How To” paragraphs to explain the steps involved in making the Pumpkin Fluff.  The students can work on including those transition words such a “first, next, and finally” in the paper.

For your students who have stronger reading skills you can just pick something out at the store which has the recipe written on the box.  For example, I have done easy mac and cheese, hot chocolate, and pancakes with my students which all have simple recipes written on the box.  This is perfect to teach those life skills.  The students need to figure where on the box the recipe is written because there is a lot of words written all over the box.  Then the students need to work together to complete the task.

Sasha also create lots of different simple recipes you can use with your students which provide those visual supports to pair with the written word.  Here are some examples of the different packs she created.  Click the following links for the different recipes.

Summer Treats & Snacks                       Winter Treats & Snacks

French Toast and Caramel Apples         Quick Snacks 

Practicing those literacy skills through fun activates makes it way more motivating for our students!


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