Growing Media Literacy with Garden Foods

Some vegetables do their own advertising. What’s not to love?

Subject Area: Language Arts

Appropriate Grade Level: 3rd, 4th or 5th grade

Ideal season for lesson: Late Summer, Early Fall

Suggested materials:

  • Magazine and newspaper ads (or access to the Internet)
  • Magazine and newspaper articles
  • Art materials
  • An assortment of vegetables, at least some of them garden fresh. What you use will depend on availability and the preferences and needs of your group.

Goal and outcomes:

Alaska Anchor Standards For Reading, Grades K-12

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Alaska Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening, Grades K-12

Comprehension and Collaboration

Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

 Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Healthy Schools, Standard 2 – Grades 3-5

2.5.4   – Describe how the school and community can support personal health practices and behaviors.

2.5.5 – Explain how media influences thoughts, feelings, and health behaviors.


Day 1 (30 minutes):

A. Begin by asking students what they know about advertising. What is it for? Do they have favorite advertisements? Do advertisements convince them to want things? Do they think advertising influences their parents?

B. Choose one ad and ask these questions (based on the 5 key questions for media literacy):

  • Who created this message (advertisement)?
  • What is the purpose of this message (advertisement)?
  • Who is the intended audience?
  • Which values and points of view are represented, and which are absent?
  • How does the message (advertisement) attempt to influence the reader/viewer?

C. Have students look through newspapers or magazines and cut out or mark advertisements. (Alternatively, students could find advertisements on-line, but this might be complicated due to restrictions on school computers.

Day 2 (30 minutes):

D. In small groups, have students share advertisements from those they found in magazines or papers. What do they like or not like about them? Do they think they would convince them to buy something? What made those ads catch their eye? Who was the target audience for the ad? How did the advertiser attempt to influence the reader? Ask each group to choose one advertisement to share with the class.

E. Choose an ad and use it to explain the Z-pattern commonly used in print advertising. The eye generally travels across a page from left to right and from top to bottom. Advertisers sometimes place an image to catch your eye in the upper left corner and items that might lead to action (a phone number or a final pitch) in the lower left corner.Z-form

F. Have students look at the ads their group chose and sort them into ads that might use that Z-pattern and ads that do not. Turn the ads upside down. Is the effect the same?

G. Choose another ad and use it to discuss the way the bright or light colors or surprising images can focus people’s attention and draw them in. Where on the page are such images placed?

H. Look at stories in a magazine. Are they laid out in the same way, using the Z-pattern to draw readers in?

J. As homework, ask students to look for advertisements that they think are aimed at selling things to kids. They should keep track of ads they see on TV, the Internet, in magazines, or anywhere else. Make a list and keep track of what is being advertised and what makes them think the ad is designed to convince children.

Day 3 (20 minutes):

K. In small groups, students share their lists of the advertising they found that they thought targeted kids. What are the categories of products that are advertised to kids? Make a chart on the board and have students use tally marks to record number of advertisements in categories such as food, toys, clothes, etc.

L. What types of food are typically marketed to kids? Do you think this is the kind of food kids should be eating a lot of? Why aren’t there more advertisements for healthy foods?

M. If you were going to advertise vegetables, what would you say? Some research might be required!

Day 4 (amount of time will depend on what vegetables are used and if students are involved in preparation):

N. Research! (Taste testing.) Using vegetables available — preferably fresh. Students could compare “baby carrots” from the grocery store to actual baby carrots. They could sample a variety of vegetables and dips. They could make kale chips with different sorts of flavoring and taste test those. While munching, discuss slogans one could use to “sell” different kinds of vegetables.

Day 5 & 6 (Two 30 minute sessions):

O. Review what students learned earlier about advertising.

P.   Have students choose a grown food (rather than a manufactured food) and design and create an advertisement for that food. Share advertisements with the school by posting them outside the classroom or in the lunchroom if there is one.

Curricular Extensions

This lesson plan could be part of a larger series of lesson plans on persuasive writing, on media literacy or on healthy eating habits.


Don’t Buy It: Teacher’s Guide. Create Your Own Ad | PBS KIDS GO! (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from

  • The image of the Z-form came from this article, as did some of the information on how light and color are used in advertising. This article also includes an activity similar to the one in this lesson plan.

Five Key Questions Form Foundation for Media Inquiry. (n.d.). Retrieved July 29, 2016, from

Hudgins, C. (n.d.). 7 Elements of Print Advertising. Retrieved July 29, 2016, from

  • This article explains the various elements of print advertising (graphics, layout, placement, etc.) for small business owners.

Merrit, C. (n.d.). What Is Z-Pattern Advertising? Retrieved July 29, 2016, from

  • This article explains how elements are placed in ads using Z-pattern and reverse-S-patterns. The audience for the article is small businesses.

Sullivan, A. M. (2016, November/December). 14 Social Studies and the Young Learner “I Don’t Buy It’: Critical Media Literacy in the Fifth Grade. Social Studies and the Young Learner, 28(2), 14-16. Retrieved July 28, 2016.

  • This outlines a somewhat similar project looking at political advertisements. It talks about persuasive writing and also includes a version of the 5 key questions for media literacy.

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