Healthy Lesson: Nutritious Words

August 18, 2014

Help get kids moving and learning with this fun warm-up

Here’s a spelling lesson and nutrition lesson, all rolled into one. It’s appropriate for kids in younger grades (Kindergarten on up), but HSC uses this as a warm-up for professional development sessions, meetings and workshops all the time. Plus, it’s adaptable to tons of other lessons, once you get the hang of it. All you need is a beach ball! (It should be a ball with colors that are commonly found in produce like red, white and green — no funky pink and turquoise for this one.)

The basic version of this lesson goes like this:

The rules:

  • All students must stand next to their desks or in an area with room to move.

  • The teacher will throw the beach ball to a student.

  • When the student catches the beach ball, he must check to see where his left thumb has landed. What color did it land on?

  • The student must name a fruit or vegetable that is the same color. For example: banana, if his thumb landed on yellow.

  • The student then must spell that fruit or vegetable.

  • As the student spells the word, all students in the class will perform jumping jacks, as each letter is spelled. For example, if the word is “banana,” the students will do six jumping jacks, one for each letter of the word “banana.” Each color can have a different pre-determined movement. Just write these rules on the board in advance.


Do a practice demonstration first, so that everyone understands the basics.

During the lesson, remember to request that students throw the ball to people who haven’t had a turn yet. And if a student spells the word wrong, a fellow classmate can “save” them by spelling it correctly.

For the conclusion of the lesson, review the words spelled, and add any new words to the word wall or list. Use the new words to write a poem, paragraph or short story about what was learned. Which words were the easiest to spell? Why were they so easy? (Did the students have lots of exposure to that fruit or vegetable?) What were the hardest words to spell? What were the hardest colors to match with examples of produce?

Here’s a handy extension activity, too, to inspire more discussion and tasting of delicious produce. Bring in lesser-known fruits and veggies and/or ask students to bring in a fruit or vegetable. Let groups or pairs of students observe (using the five senses) and record what they learned about the fruit or vegetable they observed.

As you can guess, this totally works for other kinds of lessons. Students can do many types of quizzes the same way, with a beach ball and a type of movement. Math facts such as adding and subtracting work well, for example.

Why do lessons like Nutritious Words matter? Because research documents what teachers know: healthy, active, well-nourished students are better prepared to learn. This lesson is just one of the many lessons and tips featured in HSC's Fit to Learn program. Fit to Learn is a professional development program focused on practical approaches to making health and wellness a regular part of the classroom experience. Learn more at fittolearn.org, or e-mail Kristi Cox to get involved at your school!