Spanish Classroom Activities With Food Vocabulary

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In any second-language classroom, a unit about food is an engaging way to approach all learners. Activities can be tailored to each skill level and can cover listening, speaking, reading, writing and culture. The fact that students may already know and love some foods and dishes from the Spanish-speaking world gives teachers and students a head start.

1 Vocabulary Games

Teachers can easily adapt familiar board and word games to the Spanish classroom. Once students have practiced some food vocabulary, they can play bingo with cards that have simple foods such as "leche" or milk and "carne" meaning meat in a grid of 16 squares. Hold up a picture of one of the items while students try to match it with a word on their card. Another activity improves vocabulary and pronunciation. Bring in a grocery bag of foods the students should know. Announce in Spanish, "Hoy fui de compras y compré ..." meaning, "Today I went shopping and I bought ... ." One student repeats the phrase and pulls an item from the bag while pronouncing its name. The next student does the same but has to pronounce the previous items as well. Each student continues the list, sitting out if they miss a word.

2 At the Store

Setting up a bodega or small grocery in the classroom gives students a chance to converse and practice new vocabulary. Assign students to bring in one or two items on their vocabulary list to stock a small store in a corner of the classroom. If the local groceries have ethnic food sections, students may be able to find packaged items with labeling in Spanish. Split the class into pairs with one student acting as the clerk or "dependiente" and the other as customer or "cliente." Write a short dialogue that allows both students to use vocabulary in a realistic exchange. If the class is intermediate or advanced, review numbers and currency by letting students use play money to purchase items.

3 Creating Menus

This activity lets students use their creative energy to plan, write and illustrate menus for their own restaurants. After studying different Spanish-speaking countries and their cuisines, let students plan a typical menu from a country. Menus can include "entremeses" or appetizers, "platos del dia" -- daily specials -- and "postres" or desserts. Have students hand in a rough copy of their menus before they add artwork and decorations so that you can check for spelling and punctuation. Once they are completed, the menus make a wonderful classroom display.

4 Recipes and Meal Preparation

Preparing a dish using a recipe in a foreign language is hands-on learning at its best. This activity enforces vocabulary, reading and grammar. Find simple recipes in Spanish cookbooks or online and distribute them among the students. Good simple recipes include "arroz con leche" or rice pudding and guacamole. At home, students prepare the recipes and chronicle the process using photographs captioned in Spanish or video their own cooking show narrated with instructions from the recipe. Again, allow the students to use their originality to reinforce their language skills.

Andrea Godbout has been writing professionally since 2000. She has served as a columnist for Angie's List, highlighting products and businesses in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Godbout earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and creative writing from Barnard College and a Master of Arts in education from New York University.