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Fruit and vegetables
Author: Yzanne Mackay

New Year is a time to take stock – and often to think about making changes. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to try to eat more healthily. But how do you explain healthy eating to new arrivals who don’t have a firm grasp of English?

Healthy eating and good nutrition are important for all of us. For arrivals in a new country, encountering foodstuffs they’ve never seen before and with perhaps limited means of putting healthy food on the table, an understanding of this can be vital. It’s critical that children are given an understanding of the nutritional elements of the foods they’re likely to encounter, so that they can begin to make healthy choices. They also need a knowledge of the technical language used when discussing nutrition.

This is an engaging topic with which to start the New Year. Children tend to love cooking – and the ‘language’ of tasting and enjoying food is universal.

Below, and in the resource accompanying this article, we have a plan and resources to help you teach the principles of nutrition and healthy eating to your EAL learners.

Workflow for a Healthy Eating lesson

Pre-teaching vocabulary

Our resources allow you to pre-teach useful vocabulary to your learners, to cover the basics of the subject.

Sentence construction

Vocabulary is then placed within the context of a sentence, using a simple grammatical structure. In these resources, we have provided the following sentence structures:

  • 'X is healthy/unhealthy’: a simple noun, verb, adjective construction;
  • ‘X makes/gives/stops us X’: a simple noun, verb, pronoun, noun construction; and
  • ‘X contains a lot of X’: introducing the academic word ‘contains’ in a simple noun, verb, adjectival phrase, noun construction.

Teaching of the concept

Our resources ensure that simple concepts relating to nutrition and health are covered at the same time as the teaching of the grammatical structure. This kind of targeted learning, using repeated structures with simple variations (drills), is an effective way of delivering language-learning.

Healthy eating and nutrition EAL resources

Step 1: Vocabulary

The flashcard sets in the resource accompanying this article introduce EAL students to some of the most widely used terms of healthy eating.

A simple introductory activity runs as follows:

  • Show a set of flashcards in a row
  • Point to the first and say it together
  • Point to the second and say it together
  • Repeat for the others
  • Next, point to the first again. The learners say it unaided and you repeat.
  • Point to the second and do the same.
  • Move on through the cards. Keep going until the learner can say the cards in and out of order.

You might also like to try some specific Healthy eating games. For example, why not mix up the Healthy and Unhealthy flashcards and ask your learners to separate them into piles of Healthy and Unhealthy foods? You can also engage the learner in conversation by asking them to put the cards into piles of food they like and don’t like. What does that tell you about our willingness to eat healthy food versus the alternative? And can your learner think of a healthy food swap for an unhealthy food?

Step 2: Sentence Creation

Substitution tables allow your learners to have a go at specific vocabulary and grammatical structures, whilst also introducing them to some of the most important elements of nutrition. Ask your learner to choose a word from each column to make an accurate sentence. Can your learner add their own choice of food in the blank spaces at the end of the first column?

You can download a full Healthy Eating teaching plan, which includes three flashcard sets and multiple substitution tables, by clicking on the button at the top and bottom of this article.

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