Friday, April 22, 2016

Teaching Cooking in the Classroom

Cooking was the key to my students' hearts from the very start.  Back in my first year of teaching, we used to cook every single week...sometimes multiple times a week.  Sure, I spent a lot of my own money buying materials, but when I had a group of students who could not sit together for longer than 1 minute for any typical "academic" task, I had to explore creative options to teach them in a way that was motivating!  Today's post is meant to describe not only some of the skills you can target during a cooking lesson, but also to give you a variety of ideas/resources for implementing cooking in your classroom.

Skills to Target During Cooking Lessons

We used cooking activities to practice COMMUNICATION.  I created communication boards so my students could request the necessary ingredients and supplies to complete the recipes.

We used cooking to practice READING and COMPREHENSION.  Could my students read one direction (with or without picture cues) in the recipe and follow it independently?  Could my students answer basic (who, what, when, where, how) questions about the recipe immediately after completing the cooking lesson?

We used cooking to practice MATH SKILLS.  We measured, we counted, we set the timer....sometimes we even took the bus to the grocery store and worked on our MONEY SKILLS.

We used cooking to practice FINE MOTOR SKILLS.  We opened packages, we cut, we stirred, we spread, ....I think you get it.

We used cooking to practice SOCIAL SKILLS.  We took turns and waited to complete steps of the activity, we had conversations about what we were cooking, we had students share or pass out ingredients to each other. 

Throughout all of these lessons, we were always working on increasing and promoting INDEPENDENCE no matter which skill-set we were targeting.  I also loved introducing my students to new foods (especially fruits, vegetables, or healthy snacks like hummus) that they had never tried before!

Resources for Cooking Curriculum/Accessible Recipes

When considering what the best resources are for you and your students, I like to pick the recipes where my students can be as independent as possible, but still be challenged.  The worst lessons I had, were the ones where the adults ended up having to do all the work, while the students just sat there with minimal involvement.  This leads to disengagement and you are not able to target as many skills for teaching or independence.  For instance, when looking for recipes for my non-readers, I want to have a lot of very detailed pictures to aid in comprehension of the directions.  For my students who are reading, they would have no problem following visual directions, so I may look for recipes with less pictures, and more words.  

Here is a blog post summarizing a variety of cooking recipes I have completed with my students using my 
own visual recipes and comprehension worksheets (most are for sale on Teachers Pay Teachers as well).  We focused on simple, relatively cheap cooking activities, that only required a microwave or could be made without needing special equipment.

Attainment's Look 'n Cook, Cooking to Learn, and Visual Recipes: A Cookbook for Nonreaders. I had these cookbooks in my classroom, but rarely used them as we did not have access to a stove or oven and a lot of the recipes required that. Many of them have great visual directions, skill assessments, pre-made lesson plans, etc. and would be great as part of a more comprehensive curriculum especially for older students (middle/high school).

Making Learning Fun is a website that has great, free picture recipes for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack foods!

Blogs.  These days, there are so many great food blogs out there.  And so many of them utilize great, real life photos of the steps taken to put together recipes.  These may not include as many step-by-step pictures, but can still be a great way to test comprehension of your higher functioning readers, but still have some pictures to help guide the process.  Here are just a few examples I found after searching Pinterest for about a minute:

Grilled Cheese Roll Ups  from Spend With Pennies

Apple Cookies from Paleo Eats and Treats 

Packaged Foods. Use the directions on the box of macaroni and cheese, instant pudding, or instant mashed potatoes.  Again, you may not have as many visual cues, but this can again have more of a focus on reading skills.  This is also the best way out of all the above for students to really generalize skills to real life materials that haven't been adapted specifically for them.

All these pictures of food are starting to make me hungry!  What are your favorite resources or recipes to make with your students?


  1. This is a great resource, also check out for evidence based visual recipes and free step by step cooking videos

    1. I had not heard of this site before! Thanks so much for sharing. I just took a look and they have great visual directions and comprehension sheets to go along with the recipes.