Finding Solutions to Food Waste: Persuasion in a Digital World

7 - 9
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Nine or more 45-minute sessions, at least four with Internet access
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Students explore the problem of food waste using electronic and traditional modalities. They begin by tracking food waste in the school cafeteria. Then they examine the waste on a larger scale, using multimodal resources and applying metacognitive reading strategies. Considering radical and basic solutions to the problem, students plan persuasive arguments and create blog posts appropriate to their purpose and audience. By interacting with videos, blogs, and online articles, students become more flexible and confident in this emerging area of literacy, learning not only to access and analyze, but also to produce and publish persuasive text in a multimodal environment.

Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice

  • Researchers agree that multimodal literacy should become a standard part of literacy curriculums.
  • Students should be exposed to multiple texts that evoke emotional responses and tap into popular culture.
  • There is a correlation between overall dispositions toward reading on the Internet and online reading comprehension ability.

  • Positive interactions with online text lead to successful online readers who are able to manage complex texts with confidence and flexibility.

Common Core Standards

This resource has been aligned to the Common Core State Standards for states in which they have been adopted. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, CCSS alignments are forthcoming.

State Standards

This lesson has been aligned to standards in the following states. If a state does not appear in the drop-down, standard alignments are not currently available for that state.

NCTE/IRA National Standards for the English Language Arts

  • 1. Students read a wide range of print and nonprint texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
  • 3. Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
  • 4. Students adjust their use of spoken, written, and visual language (e.g., conventions, style, vocabulary) to communicate effectively with a variety of audiences and for different purposes.
  • 5. Students employ a wide range of strategies as they write and use different writing process elements appropriately to communicate with different audiences for a variety of purposes.
  • 6. Students apply knowledge of language structure, language conventions (e.g., spelling and punctuation), media techniques, figurative language, and genre to create, critique, and discuss print and nonprint texts.
  • 7. Students conduct research on issues and interests by generating ideas and questions, and by posing problems. They gather, evaluate, and synthesize data from a variety of sources (e.g., print and nonprint texts, artifacts, people) to communicate their discoveries in ways that suit their purpose and audience.
  • 8. Students use a variety of technological and information resources (e.g., libraries, databases, computer networks, video) to gather and synthesize information and to create and communicate knowledge.
  • 11. Students participate as knowledgeable, reflective, creative, and critical members of a variety of literacy communities.
  • 12. Students use spoken, written, and visual language to accomplish their own purposes (e.g., for learning, enjoyment, persuasion, and the exchange of information).

Materials and Technology

  • Computers with Internet access

  • LCD projector and screen




  1. At least one week ahead of time, set up and test student blogs. Students should be divided into blogging communities of eight to ten members so that they are not overwhelmed by having to read and respond to too many blogs. If you feel you need a refresher about using student blogs, refer to the resources at Setting Up Student Blogs by Kathleen Morris.

  2. Copy and paste the Waste Not, Want Not blog on to your class webpage or blog, or print it and make a copy for each student.

  3. On your teacher website, create links to the ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map, TED Talk: Marcel Dicke: Why Not Eat Insects?, Food Facts: Your Scraps Add Up, Food Waste Basics, and the student blog you choose so students can access them quickly and efficiently.

  4. Prepare the Metacognitive Strategies Chart to share with the class, either in hard copy or with your LCD projector.

  5. Make one copy for each student of the following:

  6. Schedule computer lab time for Sessions 3, 4, 5 (optional), 7, and 8. Decide whether more than nine sessions should be prepared, based on the level of scaffolding needed for student mastery and the grade level taught; plan for any additional sessions.

Student Objectives

Students will

  • Develop research skills by conducting a brief investigation of food waste in the school cafeteria

  • Analyze and evaluate persuasive techniques by deconstructing a persuasive argument from an audio/visual source and online resources

  • Apply metacognitive reading strategies to understand written text

  • Identify facts and supporting arguments in online articles to answer specific research questions

  • Develop persuasive arguments supported by evidence gleaned from research

  • Apply persuasive argument techniques by creating a blog post that includes a thesis and quality arguments appropriate to the writer’s purpose and electronic audience

Presession: Waste in the Cafeteria Survey

  1. Assign students to conduct a personal survey of the amount of food they throw away each day at lunch using the Cafeteria Waste Activity Sheet.

  2. After five days of data collection, divide students into groups of three to five. Have them compile and analyze the information they have collected by determining the overall percentage of food wasted over the last five days.

  3. Have each group of students synthesize their findings into a pie chart that can be displayed. Have the class draw conclusions about the findings as they examine the charts. Collect students’ activity sheets for assessment.

Session 1: PowerPoint Presentation

  1. Teach persuasion basics using The Art of Persuasive Writing PowerPoint presentation, having students take notes. Use the presentation notes included at the bottom of some of the slides to guide your discussion. Stop frequently to allow students to share their own examples of persuasive speech. Presentation highlights include types of persuasive speech, elements of the persuasive essay, and persuasive vocabulary like logos, pathos, ethos, and counterarguments.

Session 2: Analysis/Deconstruction of the Persuasive Argument in Video Format

  1. Watch TED Talk: Marcel Dicke: Why Not Eat Insects? as a class.

  2. As they watch the video, have students take notes using the Why Not Eat Insects? Notes Organizer.

  3. After watching the video, discuss the presenter’s purpose and intended audience with students.

  4. Have students use their notes to fill in the ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map, identifying the thesis and major supporting arguments. Collect their notes organizers for assessment.

Sessions 3–4: Research (computer days)

  1. Set a purpose for reading the following articles: Food Facts: Your Scraps Add Up, Food Waste Basics, and the Waste Not, Want Not blog. Review what students know about food waste.

  2. Review the four metacognitive strategies in the Metacognitive Strategies Chart: connect, question, infer, and evaluate. Remind students to preview the articles by reading the titles, examining the graphics, and reading the captions.

  3. Have students explore the online articles for answers to the food waste problem. Briefly model the process of collecting information from the online articles.

  4. Have students record their findings on the Research Guide.

Session 5: Developing Thesis and Arguments (optional computer day)

  1. Briefly model the process of developing a single, focused thesis and arguments from the Research Guide. Some students may want to tackle all of the issues discovered in their research, so you should provide the necessary scaffolding as students work to narrow their focus. (Please note that the focus of Waste Not, Want Not is reducing food waste at home; however, students should be free to choose any food waste topic from their research when writing their own blogs.)

  2. Have students develop a thesis and arguments for their own blog post, offering persuasive solutions to the waste problem. Students should refer to facts from the Research Guide to craft their arguments.

  3. Have students consider the appropriate tone for their electronic audience. Since students are addressing their own academic community about a social issue, the tone should be thoughtful and insightful. Caution students to avoid informal or flippant remarks.

  4. Students may use the ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map to plan their blog. If a computer lab is not available, students may use a hard-copy persuasion map instead (click on “Print Blank Map” on the interactive page).

  5. Have students print out their work at the end of the session. Collect both the Research Guide and the Persuasion Map for assessment.

Session 6: Writing the Rough Draft

  1. Hand out and explore the Persuasive Blog Rubric. Explain to students that assessment for the remaining sessions is ongoing, based on the rubric, and culminates in each student publishing a blog post and two responses.

  2. Model applying the Persuasive Blog Rubric to the mentor text, Waste Not, Want Not. Ask students to identify the thesis statement and supporting arguments. Extend the discussion by having students evaluate the quality of each blog post argument and whether or not the author has successfully tailored those arguments to an electronic audience.

  3. Have students apply what they have learned by writing the initial draft of their blog. Students should write about a topic from their research that interested them. For example, they could write about the costs of meat production, how restaurants can reduce waste, or how food waste contributes to rising methane levels.

Session 7: Revising and Publishing Persuasive Blogs (computer day)

  1. Have students evaluate their blog post drafts using the Persuasive Blog Rubric. Students may work in pairs or as individuals. Have students check to make sure each blog post includes a thesis statement, supporting arguments, and a well-developed conclusion; has an appropriate academic tone; and is free of convention errors.

  2. Have students revise based on self-evaluation and, if working in pairs, peer feedback.

  3. Have students publish blog posts.

Sessions 8–9: Response and Reflection (computer day)

  1. Briefly review the Persuasive Blog Rubric for the response criteria.

  2. Display the Metacognitive Strategies Chart on the board, and discuss how the strategies lead to insightful responses that further the blogging conversations.

  3. Examine the blog post responses in Waste Not, Want Not. As a class, rate each response according to the criteria outlined in the Persuasive Blog Rubric, identifying the responses that are insightful and further the conversation. Brainstorm other possible responses.

  4. Have students read at least two other student blogs and respond to each.

  5. Circulate around the room to check for student understanding and response quality. Scaffold and support students by offering specific feedback. Look for evidence that students are crafting well-thought-out responses by making connections, questioning, inferring, and/or evaluating.

  6. Review each student’s blog posts and responses, and evaluate them according to the Persuasive Blog Rubric.


  • Have students plan a “No Waste” class party.

  • Find and deconstruct another TED Talk video about reducing waste or recycling.

  • Have students organize a cafeteria waste reduction program for your school.

  • Start a class blog or online forum where students can share their ideas about another community or school issue.

  • Create an advertisement for the three Rs: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

  • Open the EPA’s Food Waste Basics and follow the link at the top of the page titled, “Source Reduction/Prevention.” Scroll down to “Source Reduction and Prevention Success Stories.” Have students plan a campaign for your community, and express their ideas in a letter to the editor of the local newspaper.

Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Review the Cafeteria Waste Activity Sheet to assess student research and investigation skills.

  • Review the Why Not Eat Insects? Notes Organizer to assess student understanding of persuasive techniques.

  • Review the Research Guide to assess student ability to apply metacognitive reading strategies to comprehend, identify facts and supporting arguments, and answer specific reading questions.

  • Review the ReadWriteThink Persuasion Map (interactive or hard copy) to assess each student’s ability to craft a well-supported, persuasive argument.

  • Use the Persuasive Blog Rubric to assess student ability to apply persuasive argument techniques in a blog post and responses written for an electronic audience.

  • Informal assessment is ongoing as you and each student conference throughout the process of doing research, developing arguments, and creating the blog post.

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