In recent years I have become really fond of cooking classes as way of further engaging the senses of my students. It’s a great opportunity to talk about food names, tastes, colors, smells, textures and cooking words in a way that that isn’t really practical during an ordinary English class. And since the result of the class is that everybody makes something they can actually eat, almost everybody really gets into it.
It’s a perfect activity for small or large groups. At one school last year I conducted one cooking class every month and the kids always had a blast. It’s also great for open-classes like I conducted this past weekend, where the parents were participating along with their child (as well as a few brothers, sisters, and grandparents). In the later case, it’s a great opportunity for you to interact with the parents and to connect with the children.
It’s very important to get the logistics right, so you need a lot of support from your school to get the ingredients bought and prepared, and to set up and take down the class. The choice of food you make is also really important. Let’s be frank, the point of this type of class is not to introduce the joys of foreign cooking, so choose something the children are familiar with, that way there is no chance of them not liking it.
Now, since I am in Korea, that meant making mini kimbap. First off, I did a short warm-up to get everybody in the mood. I talked about what we were going to make, introducing the ingredients while asking the audience to describe their colors. For these kinds of things I always make great use of my monkey doll, who also talks and interacts with the children (I’ll be writing more about the importance of this at a later date). Then I demonstrated how to make the food, although I am sure the children’s parents could already do that far better than me. It’s good to ask for volunteers during the demonstration to help generate interest. Of course, some of the very little brothers and sisters didn’t wait to be asked, and just came up to assist me.
Then we got down and dirty and started making the food. In a normal class, I take a very step-by-step approach with the kids to keep them under control. But with the parents around there isn’t too much for the teacher to do except circulate, help where necessary, and just be sociable with the children and parents. We even prepared little plastic cases for children to take home what they made. By the end of the class, everyone had a smile on their faces and parents leave with a much better impression of that new foreign teacher they’ve heard about.