Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt: Researching Nutrition to Advertise for Health

6 - 8
Lesson Plan Type
Estimated Time
Seven 50-minute sessions
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This hands-on research project is designed to make students aware of what they eat and how food companies use the media to market their products. Students begin by going on a scavenger hunt to learn what is in their favorite foods. From there, they learn about nutrition terminology through a Web-based research assignment. Equipped with information about the foods they eat, students analyze the food advertisements they see to learn how companies market their products to specific audiences. In the final section of this lesson, students choose healthful foods and work in cooperative groups to create advertisements for them.

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From Theory to Practice

Multidisciplinary inquiry projects have the potential to engage and empower students in significant ways. As Jerome Harste notes in his Voices from the Middle article "What Do We Mean by Literacy Now?" the notion of distinct disciplines is important, "but only in relationship to the inquiry questions of learners" (11). As student inquiry moves outside the traditional bounds of a literacy and literature curriculum, so moves the range of texts being studied and produced in the classroom.

Harste advocates that "'everyday texts' be an integral part of our language arts program as this is where literacy is occurring in the lives of students" (10). Making these kinds of texts, such as Websites and advertisements, part of the classroom allows students "to learn to examine the literacies that operate on them outside of school and how they might position and reposition themselves differently in the outside world" (10). This lesson heeds Harste's call by engaging students in learning about a personal, real-world issue: nutrition. Students build on information they already have about their favorite foods in order to create something new (an advertisement for a healthful food), while pursuing their own questions and analyzing various types of informational and persuasive media.

Further Reading

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

  • Sample nutrition labels

  • Several pieces of a butcher paper and markers




Student Objectives

Students will

  • understand and evaluate their own food choices.

  • use research to better understand the health effects of food.

  • compare and contrast foods to understand what makes one more healthful than the other.

  • analyze food advertisements to better understand how products are marketed.

  • create their own advertisements using learned techniques to promote healthful foods.

Session One

  1. Explain to students that they will be doing some research about nutrition over the next few days in order to make their own advertisements for a food that is healthful and tasty. First they will research nutrition, and then they will study some Internet sites that advertise healthful and unhealthful foods before making their advertisements in cooperative groups.

  2. Ask students to get out their completed Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt guides.

  3. Explain that students will work in groups of three or four to record the information from their guides on the butcher paper. Allow students to ask questions before they move into their groups.

  4. As students work in groups, move from group to group to answer questions.

  5. When students finish, have a volunteer from each group talk about the group's nutrition charts. Volunteers should explain what kinds of foods they chose as their favorites and the kinds they thought were healthful.

  6. Discuss what surprised students about this assignment. Did they discover something about their favorite foods that they didn't know before? What did students notice about the packages the junk foods came in (colors, cartoons, prizes, etc.)?

  7. Ask students to talk about what they already know about nutrition, and record their responses on the board or on another piece of butcher paper. For example, were there terms on the nutrition labels or on their Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt Guides that they already understood? What do they know about terms such as saturated fat, calories, and protein? What do they understand about serving sizes and recommended values?

  8. Explain that in the next session students will work in pairs to do some Internet research about nutrition.

Session Two

  1. Direct students to the Nutrition and Advertising Websites resource list.

  2. Give each pair of students a Nutrition Research Guide, and go over it with the class. Allow students to ask questions before they get started.

  3. As students work, monitor their progress. Stop the class from time to time to ask volunteers to give you an answer to one of the questions on the guide that they've already answered.

  4. In the last five minutes of class, ask students to tell you how much of their Nutrition Research Guide they have completed. Collect the guides and tell students that there will be time to finish them in the next session.

Session Three

  1. Return the Nutrition Research Guides that students were working on in the previous session.

  2. Go over any problem areas you noticed when you collected the guides and allow students to ask questions before they start working in the same pairs to finish their guides.

  3. As soon as the first students finish their Nutrition Research Guides, stop the class to explain what they will do next.

  4. Show them the Venn Diagram tool, and explain that they will continue to work in pairs to complete this assignment. They are to choose an unhealthful food from the following categories: breakfast, lunch, dinner, or snack food. Then they must choose a healthful food that is similar and fits into the same category. For example, they might choose chocolate chip pancakes with syrup as an unhealthy breakfast and whole wheat pancakes with fruit preserves as a healthy breakfast. Or, they might compare fried corn tortilla chips with nacho cheese to cucumber slices with cottage cheese as a topping. They also can choose to compare the fast food item from their research guide with a similar, healthier food. They will use the Venn Diagram to compare the two foods. Students should be able to find several similarities and differences between the two foods. They should use the NutritionData Website to look up nutrition information about each food.

  5. Allow students to ask questions. Have each pair show you their research guide when they finish before they go on to the Venn Diagrams. Remember: The Venn Diagram tool must be printed out to be saved. It cannot be saved on the computer so if students only have a few minutes left to start on one, they might want to take notes on paper that they will use to complete their Venn Diagrams during the next session.

  6. Explain that they will have time to work on the Venn Diagrams in the next session. Everyone should turn in their Nutrition Research Guide by the end of this session.

Session Four

  1. Give students time at the beginning of the session to finish their Venn Diagrams and print them out.

  2. Give each pair a chance to share with the class the foods they compared. Then, have students turn in their Venn Diagrams to you.

  3. Remind students about their final product: an advertisement to sell a healthy food. Ask students to talk about what kinds of advertisements might convince them to buy something. What kinds of advertisements do they remember? Are memorable advertisements successful at selling the product being advertised? Why or why not?

  4. Direct students to the Nutrition and Advertising Websites and have them go to the four food sites—Tropicana, Dole, Doritos, and Kool-Aid—one at a time. Ask students to describe what they see on each site. Record their answers on a piece of butcher paper to post back in the classroom. As students describe colors, people, and designs on each site, ask them to think about who the site is talking to. In other words, "Who is the audience?" For example, the Tropicana site tends to have pictures of families in bright colors happily surrounding a carton of Tropicana orange juice. This might suggest that Tropicana is good for you or that the advertisement is speaking to families. It also suggests-based on the smiling people and bright, natural colors-that Tropicana orange juice will make you happy. Do this sort of analysis with the other Websites.

  5. Homework: Give students the Advertisement Analysis, and ask them to use it to analyze a food advertisement from a magazine, newspaper, or an ad printed from the Internet. Ask students to bring the advertisement into class for the following session, along with the completed Advertisement Analysis.

Session Five

  1. Ask several volunteers to share the advertisements they brought. Go through some of the analysis questions to model for the class how they should think about advertisements as they are working on their own.

  2. Discuss different techniques that are used in advertising such as using cartoon characters or celebrities, product placement, color symbolism, slogans and jingles, and appetizing product information.

  3. Give each student a Marketing Group Checklist, and go over it with the class.

  4. Explain that students will be placed in groups of three or four. In their groups, they will discuss the different foods they have been studying and choose one for which they would all like to make an advertisement.

  5. Once in their groups, students should begin planning the advertisement by deciding what audience they would like to buy their food (i.e., the audience they are targeting when they sell the food). Then they should discuss different techniques that might work in their advertisement.

  6. Ask students to make a list of the supplies they are going to bring from home to complete their advertisements in the next session. They should copy the list in their notebooks and give a copy to you.

  7. For the next session, students should bring the supplies from their lists to class and do any other preparatory work at home so they will be ready to finish their advertisements during the next session.

Session Six

  1. Ask each group to give a brief explanation of the plan for their ad.

  2. Allow the rest of the class to ask clarifying questions to each group as a way of critiquing their advertisement ideas.

  3. Students should work on their advertisements in groups for the rest of the class session while you monitor their work and answer questions.

Session Seven

  1. Use this class session for students to present their advertisements.

  2. Ask the rest of the class to identify the advertising techniques each group used in their ads and to guess what audience the ads were advertising to.

  3. Each group should turn in its completed product advertisement along with a Marketing Group Checklist for each group member.


Student Assessment / Reflections

  • Students should be assessed on the Grocery Store Scavenger Hunt guide according to whether they completed the guide correctly and with quality.

  • While answers will vary for the Nutrition Research Guide, all answers should be similar and should come from the two Websites provided to students. Assess for completeness and accuracy.

  • Assess the Venn Diagram for completion and thoroughness. Students should be able to find several similarities and differences between the foods they choose to compare.

  • Students should submit the Advertisement Analysis with the advertisements they bring from home. It should be assessed according to whether they completed it accurately.

  • Use the Marketing Group Checklist as a self-assessment for students. Each student should be able to explain the process of creating the product advertisement and evaluate the progress of his or her group. This also can be used as a final assessment tool for the product advertisement. Compare students’ answers on the checklist to the actual advertisement they created.

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