Using Cooking to Develop Academic Language

By Eric Antuna on November 26, 2009

The holidays are here and so ushers in the season of cooking! Use simple "cooking" methods to have students practice using mathematical and precise vocabulary for developing academic language.

'Tis the season for creating exciting experiences to hook students into learning basic math, science, and related vocabulary at the same time. A fantastic teacher, Amanda Gonzales, worked with my class as well as hers to make frosting for a cake. Although there were about 55 students in one classroom, there were no behavior problems, nearly every student was attentive, and it was obvious that most students will remember this experience for years to come. The process was simple, but it was very eye-opening for me. Students need these types of hands-on experiences to build on what they already know.

Simple Ideas for Using Cooking in the Classroom.

  • Make icing for premade cookies or cakes. Students can make icing with milk, vanilla, and powdered sugar. Let them measure the ingredients and mix them together. Talk about measurement and practice cooking vocabulary: vanilla, measure, cup, stir, mix, batter, powdered sugar.  
  • Make butter for toast as an activity to learn about "then and now". Get a couple of small glass jar (baby food or small spaghetti sauce jars work well), heavy whipping cream and salt. Put the whipping cream and some salt in the jar and have students shake it. Shake until there is a "glob" of butter. Drain the liquid and students will have fresh homemade butter! New vocabulary to be learned and practiced: butter churn, homemade, past, and present. 
  • Make nachos, hot dogs, cookies, or s'mores in a solar oven! See Stacey Burt's post Not Your Momma's Oven: Using Solar Ovens to Teach About Heat Transfers. This activity is geared for older students, but if teacher directed, its a great way to introduce young students to the science of heat transfer and energy.


As with all activities please make sure you have permission to cook in the classroom and that you are aware of all your students' food allergies. Also, cooking presents a great time to discuss sensible portions and making healthy food choices.
Please share any experiences you have with food and cooking in the classroom!

Have a GREAT Thanksgiving! Thanks for reading!



love that cooking. am preparing an ancient egyptian and ancient hebrews meal for 75 middle schoolers....the barley is easy but the rest will take some thought. dates, nuts, celery, carrots were all eaten in the ancient middle east and egypt. we do recipes, online research, menu planning etc. great for before holidays when everyone is 'twitchy'!


Thanks for sharing!!


Wow! This was a great surrpise on Thanksgiving. Your blog are so filled with great ideas. I love that they are also things that we can remember to do year round. Today I am thankful that I have your blog as a resource for great teaching ideas~

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