Fun And Delicious Communicative Activity: The Recipe Forum

121.jpgIf you’re looking for a fun (and delicious) communication activity for a group, consider Glenn Gainer’s Recipe Forum – which seems just the ticket for the holiday season.

At Toyo University in Japan, in the English Communication Department where Glenn taught, several classes would occasionally meet together for one period, giving one class the responsibility of coming up with an activity. Glenn and his class created a major communication event using student-generated recipes, the write up of which appeared in The Language Teacher, a monthly journal published in Japan.

The initial task was for each student to write the recipe for something tasty, ideally containing an unusual or even “secret” ingredient, and to make an accompanying poster. Some of the more interesting recipes were for shiso spaghetti, a tuna omelet, fried gumbo and strawberry mousse.

The language issues which came up are both informative and amusing. In Glenn’s own words, “Many students were not clear on the difference between a frying pan and a flying pan. The over use of dictionaries also had to be addressed. In one case, I suggested that the Japanese expression ‘oyako donburi’ was more appropriate, and certainly more appetizing, than ‘parent and child rice bowl’.”

The poster-creation process was a learning one which Glenn had the chance to perfect. He found the ideal posters to be those that included pictures of the required ingredients and the steps in the preparation process, and only essential words like slice, dice, etc., rather than just a simple re-writing of the recipe. Finally, he made sure students had extra copies of their recipes for the audience.

Before the big day, Glenn’s class had a rehearsal – half the group acted as presenters, each with his or her own booth, food and poster, and half as the audience, circulating freely, sampling food and learning how it had been prepared. Glenn had some sense of how successful the final result would be when he realized “The class was literally humming.” This activity used the intrinsic motivator of food and provided an environment where students could make their presentations repeatedly – with different audience members – while still maintaining a meaningful two-way exchange of questions and information. With all or at least most of the presenters talking at once, much of the usual stress associated with “making a presentation” was removed.

The notable behind-the-scenes steps Glenn took were: reserving a room big enough for the whole crowd, arranging for a microwave (to heat up samples), a video camera (to film the event), and background music (to improve the atmosphere), creating and distributing clear invitations, and finally arranging for the room to be cleaned afterwords.

You can check out pictures of the event here (note that the teacher in the pictures is not actually Glenn himself but a colleague) – and please do share with the TEFL Logue if you do this activity with your class!