Time: Approx. 60+ minutes
Materials Required: A bottle of water, A3 paper, notebooks.
Overview: Designed for young(ish) learners, this lesson provides a stimulating, interesting way of not only learning food vocabulary, but also exploring countable and uncountable nouns. In addition, this lesson provides a context for learning how to use a number of quantifiers with food words.
Throughout the lesson, a running competition can be held between two groups (perhaps boys vs girls) and a points total can be kept on a board from start to finish.
1) Board Race – Split students into two groups (if you have a lot of students, this can easily be done by presenting this as a ‘boys vs girls’ competition). List the alphabet vertically down your board in two lines of 13 letters. Allow space either side of the letter for both teams to write. Something along the lines of:
Students have between three and five minutes to write an item of food or drink next to a letter. Each team can only use each letter once, and the teams cannot write what the other team has written. Perhaps allow a queue of three students for each team to be ready to run up to the board, and once a student has written on the board, they pass their pen to the next person in the queue and nominate a new student to join the back of the queue. Then, all students can participate and less space is required.
2) Award points: check the board for mistakes, awarding 2 points to teams for every word correctly written/spelled, and 1 point for a correct English word that is incorrectly spelled.
3) Concept Checking of ‘Countable’ and ‘Uncountable’ Elicit the verb ‘count’, perhaps by asking students if they can count to 10 in English (or see how many languages your class can count in!). Write ‘count’ on the board – and state that some things can be counted, while others can’t. If you are able to count something, it is countable. For the negative, add the prefix ‘un-‘.
Concept check countable and uncountable nouns by:
- For countable nouns: show a picture of a number of potatoes and chant the following kids’ song, placing one fist on top of the other each time: one potato, two potatoes, three potatoes, four… Five potatoes, six potatoes, seven potatoes, more!
This video is obviously for very young children, but the concept is clear and we are only using this for a few moments to affirm the concept that some nouns can be counted.
- For uncountable nouns, take a bottle of water. Tell everyone that this time you want them to count the water as you drink it! Begin drinking and enjoy the confusion for a moment or two before stopping. Confirm that of course water cannot be counted and is therefore an uncountable noun. This might be a good time to add that drinks (milk, tea, coffee, juice…) are usually uncountable nouns.
Optional: depending on the scope of your lesson, you might want to highlight that some words can indeed be countable or uncountable depending on the context. For this, you might want to pretend to throw some potatoes into a bowl, mash and stir it all up with some funny sounds, and confirm that it can no longer be counted! You could also nominate three or four students to be fish, get them to make some funny noises and count them (as they are animals). However, the fish (as food) on your imaginary plate is no longer countable! You could do the same with ‘chicken’ if you would like to see your students clucking! 🙂
4) Classifying food and drink: Divide the teams into smaller groups and hand out A3 paper. Instruct students to divide the paper into two columns entitled ‘C’ and ‘U’. Give students a few minutes to put the food and drink words from the board into the correct column.
Swap papers and get students to mark each other’s work, quickly going through the words on the board, marking them ‘C’ and ‘U’, and awarding one point for every correctly classified word. Add the best-scoring team’s points from each side onto the running total.
5) Introducing the food party: Tell your class that you want to arrange a huge dinner party, but you have absolutely no food! You need the help of the class, because you don’t know what people like to eat.
This introduces the context for the rest of the lesson, as we will be using language that arranges various types of dinner party.
6a) Language focus: quantifiers: Elicit that we are going to begin by having a dinner party, but one with a nationality’s theme. It could be the class’s nationality, so if you are teaching a group of Italians, the first dinner party will be an Italian dinner party! If your group is multi-national, of course you could begin with an English-themed party!
Remind your students that you have no idea what to buy and you have no food! Provide and model the verb ‘need‘ in its positive and negative forms:
We don’t need…
And elicit a couple of example foods, preferably one single noun, one plural, and one uncountable. If students provide a sentence with a quantifier, write it on the board. If not, write a gapped sentence and elicit just ‘a’ or ‘an’ and ‘some’ for now:
“We need ____ pineapple.”
“We need ______ tomatoes.”
“We need _______ pasta.”
Tell students that we are going to look at nine examples of words that can go before nouns today. Board the following grid and keep it visible:
6b) Language focus: quantifiers (2) Elicit that ‘a’ and ‘an’ are used for ‘one’ of something, and the difference between them. Show this by writing ‘S’ or ‘Singular’ next to the words.
Elicit that ‘some’ can be used for both plural nouns and uncountable nouns. Give an example such as ‘We need some pasta’, and ask if we can use ‘We don’t need some pasta’. Does that sound right? Isn’t it a little strange? What can we use instead?
Elicit ‘any’, gently nodding to the grid of quantifiers if students need a helping hand!
This is a good opportunity to check how your students are taking notes. Many students write for the sake of writing, leaving an indecipherable set of notes that would in no way be helpful the second they leave the classroom.
Bring up the important point that good notes can help you remember something that would otherwise forgotten. Encourage students to question the quality of their notes, and that simple examples (provided by the teacher!) can help greatly.
Next, place both hands in front of your body, facing each other, about a shoulder width apart. Get students to do the same and chant ‘some’. This is to demonstrate that ‘some’ is simply for a general quantity. Then, swing your arms out wide so your arms are as far apart as they can be and chant ‘a lot of’ with an exaggerated tone! Repeat as necessary, bring your arms in for ‘some’ and back out again for ‘a lot of’. Elicit that ‘a lot of’ is therefore used for a large quantity.
Follow that by bring your hands in so they are close together and whisper ‘a little’ and ‘a few’. Mix things up with ‘some’ and ‘a lot of’ and elicit that ‘a little’ and ‘a few’ are used for small quantities of something.
For ‘much’ and ‘many’, you could bring your arms out wide as for a large quantity, and then move your thumbs down, pulling a sad face, showing that you use these for ‘NOT a large quantity’. Exemplify throughout and present language according to your students needs and level.
Aim to have a nice, clear presentation of what the quantifiers mean available both on the board and in students’ notebooks.
Optional: you could bring up the notion that ‘any’ and ‘much/many’ are used in questions, but for now we probably have enough language to focus on for one lesson. This can possibly be done as an extension lesson in the future.
7) Game: Noughts and Crosses: Now it’s time to play a simple game to exemplify how we build sentences using these words. Remind students that they are in two teams ‘boys vs girls’, or whatever you did in the initial stages of the lesson, and assign one team to ‘noughts’, and the other to ‘crosses’.
Draw a blank noughts and crosses board and state that there are a number of points for getting three in a row! Say that to get a particular square, you need to say a sentence using that particular quantifier, and it must be used correctly. For instance, for the middle square, you could say “We need a lot of juice!” – show this is correct by saying the sentence slowly, and pointing at the notes, where first we have a ‘positive’ sentence (the tick), we have the quantifier, and then we have an uncountable noun – all of which exist in our notes for ‘a lot of’. Alternate between teams until one group has three in a row, noting the food words at the side of the board so as to avoid repetition of the same vocab! If students are finding it difficult to think of food or drink words, remind them that they should have an abundant list from the first part of the lesson!
When students are comfortable with the format of the game, encourage them to play in pairs, monitoring carefully to check for correct use of the quantifiers and nouns. Change the theme of the dinner party throughout if you want, giving funny themes such as “Okay, we are now going to have a party for the queen! What do we need? / We are having a party especially for ME! What do we need?”
8) Free practice of language: I have a few ideas here. It is always good to have a free practice of the language once the explanations, drills and practices are done. Of course, this depends on time, but a few ideas might include:
- Role play a telephone call between a student and a supermarket worker who has to scurry around a supermarket grabbing food for a big delivery! The necessary structures can easily be modelled, and this is a great opportunity for introducing little bits of functional language.
- Write a letter to a friend, inviting them to your huge dinner party that will be held in a wonderful palace! State that since you spent all your money on the palace, you desperately need guests to bring things. They will need to tell their friend what they wish them to bring, and this doesn’t necessarily have to stop at food!
- Finally, if students like to do things on the quirky side, you could encourage them to plan a horrible party for horrible people in small groups. Once a presentation has been planned, they could present to the class what their horrible party entails, what horrible things people eat and drink there, and what other horrible things can be brought (spiders, ghosts – countable! blood and slime – uncountable!). There’s plenty of scope for playful language here, all of which can be quantified and drilled. An award could be given to the party which frankly sounds the least appealing of them all!
Obviously this is a rough outline and can be adapted throughout. I hope I have provided a couple of ideas that might be used for the next time you teach nouns. Have fun!