Monday, February 10, 2014

Healthful Eating in Middle School Chalk Talk

I have been mulling over how to apply UbD and essential questions to my groups.  My essential questions come from the four ESL domains: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.  “Can they clearly, effectively communicate (in all domains) in all academic, personal, and (future) professional areas?”   A very big task—reminding us of our Focus work Friday, January 24.

My concern about the long term health of my English Language Learners led me to adapt and utilize the You Are What You Eat unit developed in our book.  (According to the CDC, Hispanics and African Americans are at risk of Diabetes and its debilitating effects [heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and amputations].  Diabetes tends to strike Hispanics at younger ages than the non-Hispanic white population. Among adults aged 18 to 44 years, 3.2 percent of Hispanics had diagnosed diabetes compared with 1.3 percent of non-Hispanic whites in that age group. Lifetime risk estimates for developing diabetes is higher for both Hispanic men and women than for other ethnic groups. Hispanic women born in 2000 [one of my students fits this profile] have a 52.5 percent risk of developing diabetes in their lifetime while Hispanic men have a 45.4 percent risk. That compares to a 31.2 percent risk for non-Hispanic white females and 26.7 percent risk among non-Hispanic white males and a 49 percent and a 40.2 percent risk among African American women and men respectively.)

I used Chalk Talk (what is healthful eating?) as our entry question.  As you can see, the two students present that day, have a pretty good grasp of the concept, with room for clarifications.  The next logical question is “Do I eat healthfully?”


The students then delved into the second essential question, “Are you a healthful eater? How would you know?”   They began keeping a daily intake journal.

 From that, they labeled the food as Protein, Dairy, Fruits/Vegetables, Grains, Water, and Junk Food and then charted the items on a daily class graph.   Initially, I began with just the four main food groups.  I decided to add Water as a category because I believe that it is essential for good health and tracking it makes us aware of that.  Junk food became a category when we wondered where to put several entries in all of our journals.
 This is a sample of day 1 of the graph.   It is color coded: red for protein, yellow for dairy, green for fruits/vegetables, brown for grain, blue for water, and black for junk food.  At a glance, you can tell how healthily you are eating.

As the weeks progressed, we noticed that we were drinking more water and eating less junk.

We analyzed our observations and discussed the short term impact on our health.  There was some discussion about long term implications but, as teenagers that proved more challenging.

See Part 2 to read more about this unit.


  1. Kim,
    The use of graphs is such a great way to enable ELLs to express their thinking visually. The Chalk Talk routine allowed your students to discuss and read what others had written to help them with their own expression of ideas. Food is such a universal topic, and building the vocabulary for food items was incredibly useful for them. What a great culmination of exploring, thinking, and communicating!

  2. I agree! And what an important topic too considering the obseity and poor eating habits of so much of our children. The chalk talk is such a strong way to support ELLs becuase it demonstrates a respect for everyone and their contributions to a topic. It also reassures children and gives them confidence I would hope in that it is a non-judgemental form. I too thought the graphing was instrumental in ehlping them understand using a visual. I have been using graphs a great deal this year with my ECE students who alaos need so much visual support. I would think a next question worth asking is how can they improve their health and eating habits and what else they can do to accomplish their goals. I just loved the idea of keeping a journal to track how they were doing. There could even be a discussion on honesty considering we all love treats and may not always be honest in how much we consume. ;-)

  3. What a brilliant way to make something that could be very abstract into something so meaningful and concrete for the very students who need it most! (Sorry for serving Girl Scout Cookies at our last meeting, it won't happen again!)