5 Ways To Target Literacy Through Cooking

5 Ways To Target Literacy Through Cooking

If you've been around here for any length of time, you probably already know how much I love to incorporate cooking into my speech therapy sessions. While I've already told you guys all about the biggest benefits of cooking in speech therapy, today we are taking a deep dive into my favorite one- literacy! Today, I will be sharing 5 ways to target literacy through cooking! Excited?! Me too! Let's dive in!

These 5 strategies will help you incorporate literacy into your cooking lessons with your SLP students in fun and engaging ways they will love!

If you have or teach young children, I don't need to sing the praises of promoting literacy. You already know just how beneficial early literacy skills are for little learners. Kiddos LOVE cooking projects, so using it in your lessons is a great way to target those language and literacy skills. After all, if students are engaged, it's easy to teach! Use this opportunity to take advantage of every step in this lesson to target literacy with your students. 

1. Make A Shopping List

Before you even start cooking, you can create meaningful literacy-based lessons centered around your materials and ingredients. To do this, start out by making a "shopping list". Even if you already have all the ingredients on hand, don't skip this step! This is a valuable learning experience for your kiddos and really sets the stage for the activity. 

Depending on the ages of your students or clients, they can either write down the list for you or sit with you while you write and discuss it together. It's really fun to use vocabulary cards with very young students during this activity. You can lay out a variety of cards and have students identify items on the cards and then write your list.

Making a shopping list is an important step to make the connection between cooking and literacy for your students.

Don’t forget to label and describe each item that you add to your list! You can also ask students questions about the colors, shapes, and textures of the materials they can identify.

Take this activity even further by saving your list and having students “check off” the ingredients from their lists as you put them on the table or counter. This fun "shop the speech room" activity will excite your students and allow for continued recognition of the items on their list. 

2. Look For Environmental Text

Environmental text is the print we see on things like logos, labels, and signs. Searching for environmental text is a great way to connect letters and sounds with pictures and context. This important skill is made extra fun during cooking lessons!

Ask your students to find specific ingredients by looking at the labels together. If you take your students or own children to the grocery store, play a little “scavenger hunt” while they look at labels. You can also do this activity in the classroom with the ingredients you are using for the activity. Simply ask your kiddos to search for specific ingredients, letters or even colors on the packages of the items you will use. 

Reading product labels is a wonderful way to incorporate literacy into your cooking lessons!

Take this time to discuss why these things can be found on the packages and what that tells us about the product. For example, for preschoolers, you could ask something like "why does this package of jello have a bright red strawberry on it? What does this tell us about the jello?" This is an excellent way to help your younger students understand how they can connect pictures with meaning in their own world. Adjust the question for older children to help them find context in what they see. 

3. Read The Recipe

Once you have gathered up all your tools and ingredients, take a moment to read through your recipe. Older students can read the list of ingredients and step-by-step directions aloud during the lesson. For younger students, have them follow along as you read the text aloud. This is such a fun way to introduce instructional texts!

Learning how to read a recipe is an important skill but it is also the perfect way to get your SLP students in the habit of reading which is great for adding literacy to your cooking activities.

Make sure to pause and let students identify when a specific material or ingredient from their list will be mentioned. This is another opportunity for them to continue working on vocabulary and language skills for those items. I love using recipe cards that have brightly colored visuals for my lessons to help prompt my students and promote more independence during this activity. 

 4. Build Vocabulary

While making the recipe, discuss each action (mixing, pouring, cutting, etc.) as it happens. Often, when students actually “see” these things happening, it helps give them a better understanding of what the action words mean. 

While your students are "cooking" this is the perfect time to reinforce literacy by asking questions about the process and focusing on targeted vocabulary.

Also don't forget to refer back to your list, vocabulary cards, and the recipe card to help prompt your students with these words. You can even sneak in a few "teacher tricks" during the activity to see if your students know the correct answer to a question. For example, ask something like "Now should we use the knife to stir. . .  or something else?" Asking silly questions like these are sure to make your younger students smile and coax a little extra vocabulary work out of this time!

5. Taste Test

Finally, the part they have all been waiting for! While there is so much to be learned during the activity, don't discount the tasting portion as "just for fun"! Cooking (and tasting) is a great way to encourage kids to explore new foods and continue to work on expanding language and literacy skills. 

Time for a taste test! Ask your students to describe how their finished product tastes, looks, feels, etc.

Before you even begin making your recipe, you can have students do a “taste test” of some of the ingredients and then describe them. Talk about the different textures (like crunchy, smooth, etc.,) and flavors (like salty, sweet, and sour). This is also a great way to talk about different food groups and classify foods into categories!

Then once your recipe is complete, have this discussion again. Ask questions like, "How does the food taste now that the ingredients are combined? What is your favorite part?" And for those "non-edible" recipes like play dough or slime - do this activity while describing what the children smell and feel rather than taste!

Try Cooking In Your Sessions

So what do you think, friends? Have I convinced you to start cooking with your littles? I sure hope so! Cooking is such a wonderful way to not only strengthen literacy skills with your students but also to build classroom community. I have no doubt that once you start cooking, you will be hooked! If you're excited to dive in, I have a few bonus tips (and freebies!) to get you started!

Get Ready To Cook

Before you begin, it's always a good idea to make sure you have everything you need to make cooking run smoothly with your students. If you're going to make cooking a regular occurrence in your classroom lessons, I recommend stocking up on a few simple staples to help you be prepared.

Stock up on items with a long shelf life so you will have what you need on hand when you start a cooking lesson with your students.

My Go-To Ingredients

  • all-purpose flour
  • vegetable oil 
  • salt 
  • food coloring

These items have a pretty long shelf life and can be used to make all kinds of fun doughs with your students. Just adding a few simple tweaks will allow you to customize your dough recipes to match any seasonal theme. Once you have that covered, make sure you have some basic tools for your "speech cooking kit". 

Essential Cooking Tools:

  • measuring cups and measuring spoons
  • baking sheet
  • cutting board
  • knife
  • plastic silverware
  • paper plates
  • small disposable cups

Having the right cooking supplies on hand will help your students feel successful during your cooking lessons.

Check around your own home for these items first to see if there's anything that you are willing to "donate" to your speech cooking kit. Otherwise, stop by the Dollar Tree - they have EVERYTHING on this list at the right price!

Choose A Recipe

To get you started, I recommend a simple recipe, like my No-Cook Play Dough. This fun recipe will give you a taste of cooking with your students, without having to invest in a microwave or any fancy tools. Plus, you can customize the color of your dough to match any season or theme!

No cook play dough is the perfect recipe for your literacy and cooking lesson with your kiddos.

And if you are ready to dive into some edible cooking, then check out the Pumpkin Patch Dirt Cups.  Use with out without the pumpkins for a yummy cooking activity any time of the year.

Best of all, these free recipes comes complete with a visual recipe card, vocabulary cards and comprehension questions to help you target all of the literacy skills we discussed! And don't forget to utilize the comprehension questions afterward to bring the lesson full circle!

If you are ready to jump into cooking, you can't go wrong with my Set of 50 Visual Recipes that will last you all year long!

I hope you enjoyed these ideas, friends! I truly believe that cooking in your speech sessions will transform your teaching and create lasting memories with your students. Have fun cooking with your littles! 

Save These Ideas

Don't forget to save this post to your favorite classroom Pinterest board for when you're ready to start cooking in your speech sessions! 

Use these 5 easy strategies to target literacy while cooking with your SLP students this year.


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