BBC Home
Explore the BBC


Teachers: Literacy:

Last Updated: Monday February 27 2006 11:20 GMT

Pancake Day instructions



It's Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday, on Tuesday February 24. That's the traditional Christian feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Click here for more information about Shrove Tuesday

Students write a set of instructions for making a pancake.

Learning aims

• Recognise features of instruction texts

• Understand the function of each feature


Vieux Boulogne, a soft cheese from France which could be the smelliest cheese in the world

In groups, ask students to order these instructions for making cheese on toast. They are available as a print and cut worksheet.

Suggested order:

  • Preheat the grill to high.
  • Toast two slices of bread on one side only.
  • Remove from the grill and butter the bread on the un-toasted side.
  • Grate the cheese into a bowl.
  • Sprinkle the cheese on top of the un-toasted side of bread.
  • Put back under the grill.
  • Grill until the cheese is melted and golden brown on top.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

Groups feedback their order and give reasons for their choice.

Ask students:

  • Do you make your cheese on toast differently?
  • How would your instructions differ to these?
  • Imagine you had never made cheese on toast before. How easy would you find these instructions to follow?
  • How could you improve these instructions to make them easier to follow?

Warm up

Explain to the class why writers organise instruction texts in certain ways:

  • Audience - are the words suitable for who will be reading it?
  • Language - is it written in first person, third person or another way?
  • Sequence - how is the text put together? Does it use connectives, numbers or bullets?
  • Presentation - does it use illustrations or photos?
  • Layout - a booklet, A4 sheet etc?

With the class, decide which features would appear in a pancake recipe.

Students can rank the features in order of effectiveness.

Using this knowledge, students write a set of instructions for making a pancake. This can be done in groups or individually.

Top tips:

  • Imagine you are programming a robot to make a pancake. This will help you write clear instructions.
  • You might want to list the ingredients and the equipment needed first.
  • You might want to illustrate your instructions with pictures and diagrams.
  • Numbers make it easy for the chef to glance away from the recipe and return to the point where they left off.

Students present their instructions to the class.

The other students give the instructions a mark out of 10. 1 = not very clear. 10 = very clear.

They also make one suggestion for improvement. E.g. spacing the text out more on the page will makes the recipe easier to read.

Extension activities

The class could look more closely at instruction texts and identify the following:

  • Bullet points - show that points are being used. They help make it easier to tell what the main points are.
  • Underlining - highlights important information.
  • Bold print - stands out and catches the reader's eye. Often used for headings or key words.
  • Font size - the bigger the font, the more important the reader will think the information is.
  • Paragraph length - shorter paragraphs help your reader read the whole text.

This literacy lesson can be combined with a food technology lesson. While making pancakes, students take photographs at each stage and use them to create an instruction manual or leaflet. These will make a colourful wall display.

A paper plane

Students look at the pictures in this gallery, explaining how to make a paper plane. They write instructions to go with each picture, then compare them with the ones on the Newsround website.

Ask the class to bring in a range of instructions for activities like:

  • Recipes
  • Games
  • Electrical equipment
  • DIY
  • Gardening
  • Model-making
  • Emergencies

Photocopy them. In pairs, students cut up and muddle the order of the instructions for their partner to correctly sequence.


Ask students: What are the key ingredients of a set of instructions e.g. clarity, precision, order. Make a class list of their suggestions.

Students could write a recipe for creating a good set of instructions. E.g. 1. Take 500g of clarity and add it to the eye catching title...

Teachers' background

Basic pancake recipe
adapted from Delia Smith's recipe. (For more detail, go to

  • Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl.
  • Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it.
  • Begin whisking the eggs.
  • Gradually add small quantities of the milk and water mixture, still whisking.
  • Whisk until all the liquid has been added and the batter has the consistency of thin cream.
  • Melt the butter in a pan.
  • Spoon 2 tbsp of it into the batter and whisk it in. Use the rest od the butter to grease the frying pan before you make each pancake.
  • Get the pan really hot, then turn the heat down to medium.
  • Ladle 2 tbsp of the batter into the hot pan all in one go.
  • Tip it around from side to side to get the base evenly coated with batter.
  • After about half a minute, and when the bottom is tinged gold, flip the pancake over.
  • The other side will only need a few seconds to cook.
  • Slide the pancake out of the pan onto a plate.
  • Stack the pancakes between sheets of greaseproof paper on a plate fitted over simmering water, to keep them warm while you make the rest.
  • To serve, sprinkle each pancake with freshly squeezed lemon juice and caster sugar.

Origins of Pancake Day

Pancake Day, or Shrove Tuesday, is the traditional feast day before the start of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

Lent - the 40 days leading up to Easter - was traditionally a time of fasting and on Shrove Tuesday Christians went to confession and were "shriven" (absolved from their sins).

It was the last opportunity to use eggs and fats before embarking on the Lenten fast and pancakes are the perfect way of using up these ingredients.

Pancake tradition

A thin, flat cake, made of batter and baked on a griddle or fried in a pan, the pancake has a very long history and featured in cookbooks as far back as 1439. The tradition of tossing or flipping them is almost as old.

Record breakers

The world's biggest pancake was cooked in Rochdale in 1994. It was an amazing 15 metres in diameter, weighed three tonnes and had an estimated two million calories.

Ralf Laue from Leipzig broke the world record by tossing a pancake 416 times in two minutes.

Mike Cuzzacrea ran a marathon while continually tossing a pancake for three hours, two minutes and 27 seconds.

Pancake races

In the UK, pancake races also form an important part of the Shrove Tuesday celebrations - an opportunity for large numbers of people to race down the streets tossing pancakes.

Pancakes around the world

Old English batter is mixed with ale.

German and French pancakes, leavened by eggs and much beating, are baked very thin and served with sweet or savoury fillings.

The French crÍpe is thin and crispy - a crÍpe suzette is folded or rolled and heated in a sauce of butter, sugar, citrus juice, and liqueur.

Russian blinis, usually prepared with buckwheat, are thin, crisp pancakes, and commonly served with caviar and sour cream or folded over and filled with cream cheese or jam.

Mexico has its tortilla, which is often served folded over a bean or meat filling and topped by tomato sauce.

American pancakes are thicker. They are sometimes called battercakes, griddlecakes, or flapjacks and are usually leavened with baking powder or baking soda and served with syrup.

Mardi Gras

The French name (literally "fat Tuesday") for Shrove Tuesday has been given to a number of Mardi Gras carnivals around the world. Among the most famous are those of Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans.

For hundreds of news-based lessons, click on Teachers in the left hand side bar.