It’s always exciting when teachers have an opportunity to put a little of themselves into their lessons, and the project I am sharing with you today reeks of my own personal interest. Moving to one of the healthiest states in the country has provided me the opportunity to eat better and get more exercise than I did when I was younger, and the lifestyle changes I have made are some of the most important lessons of my life. Therefore, I thought a lesson centered around nutrition would most certainly be applicable for my students as well, especially as they are learning to deal with their own dietary and lifestyle changes since coming to the U.S.
This lesson should ideally be spread out over at least 4-5 days, and is appropriate for all levels with slight materials modifications.
- This excellent .PDF from KQED (Public Media for Northern California)
- access to a computer/ projector
- video recording devices
Day 1: Getting Warmed Up
Start off by getting your students thinking about food (I chose to show a few Superbowl commercials from YouTube from Pepsi, Doritos, etc. since we had recently been talking about advertising) availability in the US. What are American foods? What are American snacks? How are they similar/different to foods in your home countries?
Review the idea of a Food Pyramid. Give students a paper with the Food Pyramid categories blanked out; ask Ss to fill in the pyramid from what they think is healthy. This video might also be useful with some learners.
This is a good time to review food vocabulary such as calories, nutrition, oil, servings, etc. Alternatively, you can ask students to share food info graphs from their own countries and compare the differences in categories and percentages.
Ask students to recall what they have already eaten today. This is a great time to work on simple past as well as present/past perfect tenses. For example, teachers can ask, ” Sari, what did you eat for lunch today?” “What have you eaten today?” “What had you eaten before you had lunch?” etc. as the need requires. Write down the items on the board in a basic template for a food log.
Then, give students the same template for keeping a food diary. ( The KQED has an easily reproducible version on p. 8.) Students should keep a record of what they eat over the coming week. Yay vocabulary building!
Day 2: Digging Deeper
Get students thinking about the differences in diet choices in the U.S. and in their home countries. Ask students to pair up with someone from the same culture and discuss how their home culture food differs in taste, appearance, portion, etc. in restaurants in the US and back home. Students should be encouraged to share and discuss as a class.
Have students watch the clip (Episode 3: Becoming Unamerican) from Unnatural Causes discussing the Latino Paradox. If students are more capable, have them write a couple of discussion questions to work through the ideas presented in the video. Otherwise, have some comprehension and critical thinking questions prepared that will allow students to utilize their own knowledge in analyzing the issue.
Day 3: Getting active
If students are high-intermediate or above, you may wish to show this great Ted Talk on nutrition in schools (mind the accent, love!). It really touches on a number of issues that hopefully will have come up in the previous day’s discussion and will get them thinking about the next part of the task.
Begin by showing students ChooseMyPlate.org, the government-run USDA website. It is surprisingly cheerful and interesting! Ask students why it might be important for the government to create a website like this. You could probably spend an entire day in a computer lab having students work through the different charts and online tools to track their health and fitness! However, if you don’t have that kind of time, point out the Fruits and Veggies video contest and go over the basic idea. Show students some of the best submissions (the winners have already been announced!).
Tell students that they will be making their own videos to submit by drawing on their new knowledge and vocabulary. It is always helpful to have the project guidelines typed and ready to go so that students can follow along as you clearly explain the purpose and details of the assignment. Students should be given plenty of guided brainstorming time before videos are due!
Day 4: Wrapping Up and Reflecting
After students have had time to complete their food logs, they should be encouraged to summarize their data and reflect on their personal habits. I like to have my students write a short reflection, incorporating statistics and ideas that we have discussed in class. I like to also stick it to my students grammatically during this reflection as well!
Of course, watching the videos will be a big part of the finale for this lesson as well. To better engage the students, perhaps you can even have the students who are presenting make a short quiz or feedback form for their presentations. I like to have my students “vote” for a winner in a short paragraph, with the real winner receiving a delicious (and nutritious!) surprise! Hello banana chips!
At this point, there are even so many more places to take this lesson. I’ve also had students do “how to” presentations on making a nutritious snack they’ve discovered online (extra points for bringing in samples for the class!), and I’ve worked with higher level students to brainstorm and debate ideas for social change on this issue. The possibilities are truly endless!
So, what have you done in your own classrooms? What other ideas/resources do you have for nutrition-themed lessons? Leave a comment and share your thoughts!