Spanish Learning Scenario:

Authors: Sarah Thompson & Pam Young
Level: Novice

In this scenario, students learn about basic nutrition, express personal food preferences, learn about the relative healthiness of different diets, and explore the cultural similarities and differences of two countries' eating habits. In the course of the scenario, students use the target language to count, say the days of the week, and talk about food, mealtime, nutrition, etc.

ACTIVITY SET 1: La oruga muy hambriente
Students listen to the story La oruga muy hambriente which tells the tale of a caterpillar’s daily diet over the space of a week and how the foods it chooses affects its well-being. They then look at a handout or poster of the USDA food pyramid and use the information therein to have a simple discussion about why the caterpillar felt so sick on Saturday. Students draw their own food pyramids, fill them in appropriately with pictures of food items cut from magazines, and label the items in Spanish. Then they draw another food pyramid and fill and label it with the items that the caterpillar ate on Saturday. (This will graphically represent why the caterpillar felt so sick on Saturday night.)

ACTIVITY SET 2: Favorite Foods
Working in pairs, students list their ten favorite foods using the phrase Me gusta... The students then create posters with pictures of their ten favorite foods labeled in Spanish. They draw the pictures, cut pictures from magazines, or use computer graphics, and present their posters to the class. Students tally and graph the number of people that like the most commonly-mentioned foods. Then they discuss how the class’s food preferences do or do not fit into a healthy diet according to the USDA food pyramid. The class learns and sings Las manzanas, me gusta comer (see Resources). The song is about food preferences; it helps reinforce the food vocabulary as well as giving students a fun means of practicing discussing their favorite foods.

ACTIVITY SET 3: Eating Habits of Family and Friends
Students interview family members or friends about what they have eaten on a given day. They make food pyramids for at least two of these people, illustrating how their food consumption fits into a healthy food pyramid. Next, they use Spanish to compare and contrast their pyramids with those of a classmate to discuss the relative “healthiness” of their friends’ and families' diets. Students then make a human bar graph of their family members’ and friends’ food preferences, with the teacher calling out different food items or groups. Students learn and sing Te gusta chocolate (see Resources), which allows students to use the previously introduced me gusta, but builds on it by adding the interrogative counterpart ¿Te gusta? The teacher selects or allows students to suggest which food item to use in subsequent verses.

ACTIVITY SET 4: Comparing Cultures
The students research the typical diet of a family in Mexico and a family in the United States on the Internet, at the library, or through personal interviews. They then create a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the typical Mexican and American diets. They discuss these diagrams as a class using learned Spanish phrases such as los estadounidenses comen más/menos ____, los mexicanos comen más/menos ____. (Take care to guide students away from inaccurate assumptions and stereotypes.) The class decides if either diet meets the USDA standards of a healthy diet by comparing them with the food pyramid they have already seen. They work in groups to list what each diet needs more or less of to meet healthy standards. Students predict why the diets of Mexicans and Americans are what they are. For example, what types of agricultural products are available for consumption in each of the countries? How does the perspective of time spent preparing food differ between Mexicans and Americans? When are meals traditionally served in each country? What foods have “migrated” from Mexico to America and vice versa?

ACTIVITY SET 5: Preparing and Eating a Mexican Meal
Drawing on their knowledge from prior activities, the class will plan, prepare, and eat a healthy, balanced meal of Mexican foods.

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Targeted Standards

  • Communication: Interpersonal, Interpretative, & Presentational Modes
  • Cultures: Practices & Perspectives, Products & Perspectives
  • Connections: Access to Information, Other Subject Areas
  • Comparisons: Concept of Culture, Influence of Language & Culture

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  • La oruga muy hambriente, by Eric Carle
  • Song lyrics for Te gusta chocolate and Las manzanas, me gusta comer
  • Computers with Internet access
  • Art supplies, including poster board, construction paper and drawing materials
  • Old magazines
  • Books on food and nutrition in the U.S. and Mexico
  • Graph paper

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Reflections on How the Standards Are Met


Communication: The interpersonal mode is used in pair/small group discussions of food groups, preferences, and the diet of family/friends. It is also used in the research activity, if interviews with natives speakers are conducted. The interpretive mode is used as students listen to La oruga muy hambriente being read, as they do research tasks, and as they listen to their peers’ presentations. Presentational mode is used when students present their favorite foods posters.

Cultures: Students learn about cultural practices associated with food preparation and consumption. They also learn about the cultural product of food as they research the Mexican diet. By developing their knowledge of these products and practices, students infer the perspectives of individuals in Mexico towards nutrition and mealtime.

Connections: Students use Spanish-language resources to do research on the Mexican diet. They also use Spanish to connect to other subject areas, such as health sciences (nutrition), mathematics (tallying and graphing food preferences), and the fine arts (graphic arts, music).

Comparisons: Students compare the foods and mealtime practices of Mexico and the United States. They may also discuss the influence that the two cultures have had on one another’s diets and food vocabularies.

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Expansion Ideas

  • Invite a dietician or nutritionist who speaks Spanish to visit the class.
  • Do an activity set on Mexican legends involving food, such as Quetzalcóatl and the Tale of Corn.
  • Center a unit around other books/movies/other media involving corn, since it is such an important part of the Mexican diet
  • Have students keep a target language diary of what they eat for a week. At the end of the week, the students place the foods that they have actually eaten on a food pyramid to see if they are actually following a healthy diet or need to make adjustments in their diet. They discuss the changes they need to make in their diet with a partner. Then, the next week, they keep another diary of what they eat. Once again they place the foods on a food pyramid. They compare this week’s pyramid with last week’s pyramid to see if they have made any changes in their diet.

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Carle, E. (1994). La oruga muy hambriente. New York: Philomel Books.

Cherry, L. (1994). El gran capoquero. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

DePaola, T. (1993). El libro de palomitas de maíz. New York: Scholastic, Inc.

Downs, C. & Erickson, G. (1996). Hispanic games and rhymes. Grand Rapids, MI: Instructional Fair-T.S. Denison.

Linse, B. & Judd, D. (1993). Fiesta! Mexico and Central America: A global awareness program for children in grades 2-5. USA: Fearon Teacher Aids.
This book has a section on foods that fits in quite nicely with Activity Set 5.

Orozco, J. (translator) (1994). “De colores” and other Latin-American folk songs for children. New York: E P Dutton.

Parke, M. & Panik, S. (1992). Un cuento de Quetzalcóatl acerca del maíz. USA: Fearon Teacher Aids.
This book has an accompanying Teacher’s Guide.


Knowles, R. & Morse, K. (1991). Lyric language, [audio cassette]. Carlsbad, CA: Penton Overseas, Inc.

Orozco, J. (1986). Lírica infantil, Vol.5. Berkeley, CA: Arcoiris Records.
This contains the song “El chocolate.”

Wilkin, L. (1999). "¿Te gusta el chocolate?" from Hay que cantar. Unpublished property of Lou Wilkin. E-mail for permission to use:


NOTE: These Internet resources may have changed since publication or no longer be available. Active links should be carefully screened before recommending to students.

    This site includes the Latin American Food Pyramid.
    This sites has a 62-piece Food Guide Pyramid that shows the six basic food groups.

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