Language Arts Strand

Food That's Out of this World

Lesson Overview:

One obstacle toward eating healthy food for many students (people, for that matter!) is the constant bombardment of marketing and advertising for food - food that is often unhealthy. Students this age may not be aware of the impact that continuous marketing can have. Through the course of this activity, students will develop language arts skills - such as analyzing text and images, exploring cause and effect relationships, and writing descriptions of different types of food.  Students will spend the first half of the lesson role-playing people from another planet without fast food in order to analyze fast food advertisements. The second half of the lesson centers on finding healthier substitutes and describing them in a way that makes them as appealing as fast food.


Connection to Core Lesson:

The core lesson (It's in the Bag) stresses and introduces many different forms of physical activity, some of which are bound to appeal even to those students who are typically physically inactive. This lesson examines the appeal of fast food in order to apply that same kind of appeal to healthier food - even to those who see little (if any) appeal to healthy food. The grab bag/hat also carries over into this lesson strand.


Content Standards Addressed:

Common Core State Standards

National Standards 


Learning Objectives:

By completing this lesson, students should:

  • Use their imagination and writing skills to describe the appearance, smell and taste of different food items.
  • Detect some of the techniques used in advertising to make fast food appealing, and attempt to apply those techniques to ads for healthier foods.
  • Examine why many people eat food they know to be unhealthy.


Materials Needed:

  • Grab bag/hat.
  • Sampling of ads for fast food or snack items.
  • Paper, pencils, and magic markers.
  • Scissors and glue.


Background/Set Up:
Find and save print advertisements for fast food restaurants or snack items that are typically sold at convenience stores. Avoid any ads you may find that tout salads or healthier items now available at many fast food restaurants. Put the ads in a bag or hat.
Because this lesson incorporates many different writing styles (descriptive, explanatory, persuasive), read through the steps carefully and identify any areas in which your students might need you to model (and/or see other examples of) the writing style(s). 

Suggested Lesson Steps:

1. As students enter the class (or simply as you begin the lesson), start welcoming them to Earth, asking them how their trip from Fit was, and so on. The main thing that students should understand is that they will be role-playing people from the planet of Fit (Fitlings) and that Fit is exactly like Earth, only it does not have fast food.
2. Divide the Fitlings into small groups and have them draw an ad from the bag/hat. Remind students that as Fitlings, they have never tried fast food or convenience food before. Ask students to analyze the ad, picking out the elements that are designed to make the food appealing. For example, what adjectives does the ad use? What images does it use?
3. Ask the Fitlings to consider how much the ads they analyzed rely on the fact that people have had the food before. For example, does the ad describe the food more than it describes the way it tastes or makes you feel? (This may require your active guidance in helping them consider these differences. If it proves to be beyond the abilities of your students, you can simply move on.)
4. Stepping back from their role-playing, ask students to brainstorm reasons why many fast foods are considered unhealthy. Their answers should include: too much fat, too many calories, super-size portions, etc.
5. Back in their roles as Fitllings, tell students that a fast food chain wants to hire them to help make the foods in their ads healthier. Ask the Fitlings to eliminate (or lessen) some of the unhealthy qualities of their food items by coming up with healthier replacements. Give the groups ample time to brainstorm their ideas. Provide the class with examples if they are struggling. For example, if the original ad is for the double cheeseburger, students could replace the existing bun with a whole-grain bun, replace the burgers with a single chicken patty and eliminate the cheese.
6. With the ideas for their new menu items, each group of Fitlings should create an ad for their healthier alternative. They should draw images of their food item (or cut out and paste images from existing ads) and use adjectives to describe the food so that it appeals to both Fitllings and people on Earth. Their ad can include descriptions of:
  • The food's appearance.
  • Its taste and/or smell.
  • Its healthier qualities.
7. Allow the Fitling groups to share their ads with the rest of the class. Ask the class how the food descriptions in the new ads differ from the fast food ads they originally chose. By the description alone, ask students which foods they would be most likely to eat. How much of what you eat has something to do with someone telling you to eat it? How does food marketing or advertising make us want certain foods?

8. Students should drop role-playing a Fitling for a class discussion on why people eat fast food even though it is not always good for us. Is it simply the way in which it's marketed? Are there other reasons? Chances are that students will mention taste and convenience, and perhaps they will mention a lack of tasty alternatives. Allow other students to challenge the perception that there are no tasty and healthy alternatives. If students do not come up with that reason on their own, ask if one of the reasons is because people do not think there are healthy alternatives that taste good.


Academic Extensions/Modifications:
  • For a period of one week, have students note how many times they see/hear about food items (fast food or healthy) through advertising. Were any of the same adjectives used? They can write down when and how (TV, radio, billboard, etc.) the advertising appeared, and how they felt at the time (e.g., Were you likely to have eaten it because of time and place? Or were you really hungry?) 
  • This lesson is an excellent opportunity to focus on media literacy skills (beyond those built into the lesson), by looking more broadly at the impact of advertising's use of words and images to persuade us to do and/or feel certain ways.


Assessment Criteria:
1. Class participation.
2. Presentation of ideas and alternative advertisements.