Explore Healthy Eating Through Language Arts

Food and food packaging are great sources of inspiration to use in language development. Students are interested in food, they are surrounded by food, and they tend to have strong opinions about foods. Preferences and experiences also vary across the classroom, making food the perfect subject matter for reading, writing, and language development!

Food packaging, advertisements, and records are opportunities to make learning interactive, personal and real world.  Skill development and classroom reflection also allow students to explore their food choices and prepare them to become better consumers.  

Listed below are examples of how to integrate healthy eating exploration and messaging into the grade 3 to 5 English Language Arts Common Core Standards for writing, language and reading.


You are the Best! 
After learning about the various food categories, students write opinion pieces supporting their point of view with reasons. 

Expressing Gratitude
Students write a thank you note to a parent, food service director, or another person thanking them for providing a healthy snack or meal choice.

Students write an opinion piece on dietary intake.  Start by recording one day of food intake, and then write a summary comparing their intake to the MyPlate recommendations. 

Beverage Comparisons
Students analyze beverages and write reflections as to the healthiest choice.  Using beverages in the cafeteria or containers that students bring from home, so that students can read beverage labels, and compare and contrast the information from two or more beverages.


How many adjectives does it take? 
Students list adjectives to describe a healthy food item. Working in pairs, students are challenged to list a certain number of terms.  Students can be given prompts like color, shape, size, and texture.

“Sense”sational Snacks
Students write riddles about snacks using similes. They can brainstorm sensory words to describe favorite snacks and then use the sensory words to create similes for the snack. Then, for the riddle, students write a description of a snack using three clues, two of which are similes. An example is:   

I am as salty as the ocean.
I am as crunchy as fall leaves.
I am delicious in soup.

What am I?  Crackers

Synonym Slam

Students name antonyms and synonyms of sensory words describing healthy foods.  Given a sensory word, students working in pairs name an antonym and a synonym.  If successful, another pair of students names an antonym and a synonym of the original word. The chain ends when a pair cannot name both an antonym and a synonym – instead the pair names a food item that can be described with one of the terms. 

Reading: Informational Text

Snack Pack 
Students analyze the stated and inferred messages on snack packages. Using a t-chart, students analyze packages from a variety of snacks listing stated (facts) in one column of the chart, and inferred messages in the other column.  Inferred messages come from persuasive text, pictures and graphics. 

Canned Poetry 
Students use words from food packaging, like a can or other food package, to create a poem.  Students develop a poem with a main idea and have phrases to support the main idea using text and graphics from the packaging.

Sell It
Students develop an advertisement to promote trial of a new food item in the cafeteria. The advertisement would include main ideas and supporting details to explain the choice.  

There are numerous variations and extensions to the ideas presented here.  Create your own! For more information about the English Language Arts Common Core Standards go to http://www.corestandards.org/ELA-Literacy

These introductory strategies come from Create a Classroom that Moves! a curriculum funded by a 2010 -2012 USDA Team Nutrition Training Grant.  Create a Classroom that Moves! integrates healthy eating messaging into busy classrooms with grade-specific unit plans that align to select English Language Arts Common Core Standards and National Health Education Standards.  Each lesson also incorporates a physical activity break.  Lesson plans, food trackers, and teacher resource fact sheets are available at http://healthymeals.nal.usda.gov/state-resources/create-classroom-moves


Marietta Orlowski, Sue Minoughan, and Anna Lyon, Wright State University 


Create a Classroom that Moves!