ESL Fast Food Vocabulary

Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this lesson, you'll learn how to choose vocabulary about fast foods for your ESL students. We'll go over some specific vocabulary words and activities you can use to practice them with your students.

Fast Food Culture

Fast food restaurants are popular around the globe, and people in the United States are one of the top consumers. Some English as a second language (ESL) students might be familiar with American fast food, but others may have never encountered these meals.

Fast food is part of American life.
fast food

Fast Food Vocabulary

Different parts of the United States have different fast food restaurants, so depending on where you teach, you might want to include those specific foods in your vocabulary list. For example, in the Northeast, Americans rely on Dunkin' Donuts for their morning caffeine fix. Students from this region may be familiar with the donuts and coffee menu. However, students in the South might be more familiar with Chick-fil-A and those on the West Coast with In-N-Out Burger.

To help you structure lessons for your students, the vocabulary words here are divided into primary and advanced levels. Advanced vocabulary can be used to discuss the impacts of fast food and extend lessons for ESL students with greater language proficiency.


  • Beef
  • Burger
  • Combo
  • Bacon
  • Egg
  • Fries
  • Deep-fry
  • Chicken
  • Chicken nuggets
  • Donuts
  • Pizza
  • Toppings
  • Pepperoni
  • Soda (pop)
  • Milkshake
  • Ice cream
  • For here/To go
  • Drive-through
  • Ketchup
  • Mustard
  • Pickles


  • Saturated fat
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Preservatives
  • Agriculture
  • Franchise

Vocabulary Activities

Activities are necessary for students to practice their language skills and learn new vocabulary. Here, we'll go over some activities for both low and high English language proficiency students.

Class Pronunciation Exercise

Students are far less likely to recall a word if they don't know how to pronounce it. The first step in teaching new vocabulary is to have students practice saying the words. One strategy is for the teacher to say a vocabulary word and have the class repeat it out loud. Repeat this exercise daily with all new vocabulary words. The whole class echo allows students to practice without being singled out. Their voices blend in with the crowd, decreasing the fear of ridicule.

Image Matching

If students are new to learning English, use pictures to help them identify and remember vocabulary. On a worksheet, or in a card sort, have students match the vocabulary words to pictures. Include written definitions as students become more comfortable reading English.

Card sort using images for fast food vocabulary
card sort


Often the most difficult part of learning a new language is learning to speak. Students may be self-conscious about speaking out loud ina foreign language. Many students are more willing to write in English than to talk, especially in front of their peers. One strategy that can help is think-pair-share.

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