This post originally appeared on the blog Breezy Special Ed.
I think one of the best parts of being a special education teacher is being able to cook in your classroom! Seriously though, cooking is an important life skill for all of our students to have. Being able to independently make a snack or a meal is HUGE for our kiddos. Plus, there are so many other academic skills that can be worked on while cooking, such as reading, math, and language! Not to mention that cooking (and food) can be super motivating as well.
In a perfect world, we would all have a kitchen to practice these skills, but unfortunately I know that is not a reality for every classroom. But, you can still cook! And not just cutesty recipes. Real recipes that will help students learn to become more independent and able to prepare snacks and dinners for themselves!
Here’s some creative ideas to make cooking a reality for all classrooms.
Make it portable: Bring small appliances such as microwaves, blenders, griddles, toasters, etc. into your classroom. Either bring them in from home on the days you will be cooking or see what you can find at thrift stores/garage sales or ask for donations to your classroom. A mini fridge would be great as well! You can do a ton of real recipes using microwaves, blenders, etc. But if you really want to use the stove or oven, keep reading!
Use your school resources (cafeteria): For recipes that use the oven/stove, talk to your cafeteria staff and see if there is a time they would be willing and able to help you out. Maybe they’d let your class come in, or maybe just one student at a time, or maybe your class could prepare the food in your classroom beforehand (such as mixing up the cupcakes) and then bring it to the school cafeteria/kitchen and they could bake it for you. (You can always tempt them by promising them some of the cupcakes!) It can’t hurt to ask!
Interactive Books: Use interactive recipe books to practice cooking steps.
I absolutely love these books because they can be used while your students are cooking or while they are at their desks. This book goes through each step of making nachos as if the student was doing it in real life, even including grabbing cheese from the fridge!
These books have interactive Velcro pictures for the student to match on each page while they read. (Have a student who is still a beginning reader and better at matching? Leave the symbols on the book pages and have them match to their identical pictures on the bottom page.)
Cooking “Homework”: You could also practice various cooking skills and review recipes with resources like the interactive books or GFCLearnFree resources above, and then send home a visual recipe for the students to prepare at home with their family.
This is a great way to get the family involved. And wouldn’t a visual recipe cookbook make a great end of the year gift for each student?!
Worksheets and File Folders: Incorporate some desk work into your cooking lessons when you can’t use the kitchen. All of my visual recipes have sequencing worksheets (as well as recipe review worksheets) that can be used for multiple levels as seen in this picture below.
Bake at home: Have your students make the recipe up to the part that requires baking. Then you take it home to bake and bring it back the next day! How fun would it be to mix together a birthday cake and then frost it together the next day?! (I could also see a morning talk show type of thing going on here where you take the cake to the “oven”, set a timer to make it realistic, and then go get the cake from the “oven” (that you had made the night before)…ta da!
Brainstorm with administration: Talk to your principal and staff and see if they have any suggestions on how you can get your students cooking and practicing these important life skills!
I hope that gets your ideas flowing! Yes you CAN and yes you SHOULD cook in your classroom! Grab these visual recipes to make it even easier for yourself! Let me know how you do cooking in your classroom. Are you lucky enough to have a kitchen or do you get creative?
Brie is a special education Teacher-Author who is passionate about helping ALL students become more successful and independent individuals. She creates differentiated materials that help teach a range of functional skills and they can be found on her TpT store. Connect and learn more with Breezy Special Ed on Facebook, Instagram, and her blog, Breezy Special Ed.