Teaching Strategically: Health and Nutrition [3 of a new series]

How you launch a new unit of study can greatly increase student interest and engagement. That is not news to anyone. When working with a typical class/group of students – mixed levels of ability [below/at/beyond grade level], mixed levels of interest in learning per se, not to mention a sprinkling or more of those still struggling to learn content in their new language, English – the  challenge of an engaging and comprehensible opening can be more difficult than one might think. [For more on comprehensible input  in terms of teaching and learning, go here.]

It is easy to find vidoe clips and short, pithy articles to start students thinking about the big ideas related to the health and nutrition but do the majority of them at least get the gist of the video and/or text you have chosen? How will you know? If they cannot comprehend sufficiently well you will not be off to an ideal start.

A favorite strategy that allows me to not only assess what students already know or think they know about a topic is to use an Anticipation Guide [ called A-G from here on]. In this instance I have created two sequential A-Gs, one of which is easier to manage [and has highly visual appeal in terms of the online ‘answers’] and one that is more open-ended and thus more challenging. I am sure you will find the perfect combination for your group. The key with an A-G is to have very few and simply put statements that are likely to provoke an almost instant response based on personal background knowledge. The best statements have students arguing with each other almost immediately.


After students have completed the A-G alone, compared their responses and recorded those of a neighbour, briefly discuss their thinking as a class, before showing them the online version -with answers. The link is here. They may wish to discuss this briefly before moving on. Tell them that there will be time to record their thinking and questions shortly.

Next, give them the second A-G to complete. The statements are fewer but begin to get to the underlying issues that form the foundation of the entire unit of study. For this A-G  ask them to complete their responses and to keep their papers so they can expand their thinking and potential questions, after reading the article, Three Tips to Fight Childhood Obesity: It’s not about weight; it’s about health.


A way to proceed at this point – after reading the article – could be:

  • DISCUSS  what you have learned in y0ur pairs. This is the time to go back to the A-G to complete the still-blank sections:
  • JOIN ANOTHER PAIR and begin to capture your collective thinking. Each group should have someone take notes or scribe on chart paper:
    • What have you learned from the article?
    • What questions do you still have?
      • Where might you look for answers to your questions?
  • CREATE a sharing format such as Gallery Brainstorm [called gallery walk here ]  to maximize discussion and flow of ideas.
  • COME TOGETHER as a class to plan individual and small group research sub-topics to report back about what they have learned.

Finally, it is important to note that an A-G need not involve paper and pencil, especially if you have a more advanced/capable class – and, ideally, everyone has a tablet for reading the article online. You could simply start as follows:

  1. WRITE the title of the article on the board and ask for elbow buddies to brainstorm as to what they think their three tips would be.
  2. RECORD their suggestions on the whiteboard.
  3. READ the article.
  4. COMPARE their findings to their initial responses.
  5. DISCUSS further questions the article raises.
  6. ASSIGN/ACCEPT sub-topics for further study and set dates to report back.

Next post will focus on a sub-topic that could be used as a segue toward the topic of nutrition.