Health Challenge #10 (Or why is an ELA teacher teaching health?)

My 6th graders are in the midst of “Health Challenge #10”.

I have to say, that I look forward to the days health challenges are introduced. The discussions that unfold are not only eye opening, but thought provoking as well. At times, I really am shocked by what students know or don’t know regarding their health. I’ve realized that a lot of things I take for granted aren’t standard knowledge, and really do need to be taught.

Now, you may be wondering (or perhaps you’re not), why I make time for health challenges in my classroom. I am, after all, an ELA (English-Language Arts) teacher, not a Wellness or Health teacher.

My purpose is two fold. First of all, I really want my kids to be healthy! I know that if they are getting enough sleep, eating nutrient dense foods, finding healthy ways to deal with stress, and exercising their bodies, they will be setting themselves up for optimal success, both in and out of the classroom.

Plus, it’s a rather sneaky way for me to incorporate some of the ELA CCSS  into my classroom.  I typically start by providing an opportunity for them to share what they know, or what they think they know about the challenge topic. As questions arise, they research. They are becoming rather adept at recognizing reliable websites, and the importance of finding multiple sources of information to verify facts. Some students, who are typically quiet, are suddenly eager to participate in classroom discussions!

Health Challenge #10 required students to become label readers.  Throughout this challenge, students who wish to participate,  record 10 snacks they have over the course of the challenge. They are required to give each snack a rating between one and ten–with a one being a poor choice, and a ten being the best choice ever. At the end of the challenge, they place their notecards in the “Health Challenge” basket, and I draw a “winner” from each class.

By now, the kids they have already figured out they are all winners simply by participating…my kids are so smart…must be due to the nutrient dense foods they have been eating! Prizes include Barnes and Noble gift cards, additional chair/couch privileges, a week of snacks provided by me, or some little trinket (Haiku magnets, etc.).

This particular challenge has had the kids extra pumped, because I’ve also asked them to bring ingredient labels to share, to see if snacks are recognizable by the ingredients. (At times, I have even confiscated wrappers from the garbage.) It really has opened their eyes to the fact that many ingredients in their “snacks” are not easily recognized as food. (I’m talking about you pop-tarts , cereal bars, and “cheese” crackers.)

One day, we discovered that 4 out of the first 5 ingredients on one of the ingredient labels we were looking at, were forms of sugar! Those food companies are sneaky. Or as Andrew stated:

“You just can’t trust them, can you?”

Then there was the eye opening day when one of the kids exclaimed his apple did not have an ingredient label. I couldn’t wait for that discussion to unfold!! I waited for somebody to say what I wanted them to know…


But of course, that’s not always possible, or at times it may not be desirable.

In which case, the goal is to be able to recognize the ingredients as food! Personally, I also try to adhere to “the fewer ingredients, the better” philosophy.

I shared some of my snack wrappers with them:



These two received ratings of 9 out of 10.

Then I shared this one:


This one…not as good. The class compromised with a 8/10. They recognized the “ose” in glucose as a sugar. I did point out that, despite the glucose, the total amount of sugar was only 4 grams. Then we compared that to my first snack bar, which had 19 grams, but had no added sugars…only dried cherries! That created another great discussion!

And what the heck is soy lecithin?We looked that one up! As I bet you will be too!

The bottom line? I just want them to develop an awareness of the food they are putting into their bodies, and know that they have choices.

I love to make my own snacks. I’m found of any kind of little energy ball made from a mixture of nuts and dates. Here are a few of my favorites:

Cherry Almond Energy Balls

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Balls

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Brownie Bites

Or try ChocolateCoveredKatie! She has a ton of homemade Larabar recipes! And I bet after you try a few, you will be feeling adventuresome and ready to make up your own recipes!

Happy snacking!

2 thoughts on “Health Challenge #10 (Or why is an ELA teacher teaching health?)

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