Fit and Fun through CLIL: Educating our students for a healthy future – by Anton Prochazka

“If we could give every individual the right amount of nourishment and exercise, not too little and not too much, we would have found the safest way to health.“ (Hippocrates)

As a teacher trainer for young learners through a CLIL approach, I did special training to become a wellness and nutrition coach a few years ago. I soon realized that I could also use this newly acquired knowledge for teaching English through CLIL as well.

According to experts, good nutrition is an important part of a healthy lifestyle. Combined with physical activity and a healthy diet, it will help us to reach and maintain a healthy weight, reduce the risk of chronic diseases and promote our overall health. As lots of children and teenagers have health problems these days (globally about 43 million children under 5 were overweight or obese in 2012), it seems to be very important to introduce the topic health and fitness as early as possible in the English classroom as well. Doing it in L2 (through CLIL or Cross-Curricular Teaching) rather than L1, will probably enable the children to absorb it more deeply into their minds and accept it more thoroughly into their hearts.

CLIL / Cross-curricular teaching – a challenge for quality learning

Cross-curricular language teaching, a type of CLIL, is a version of bilingual education and subject-teaching, which not only teaches the language required for school learning, but also teaches topic-based subject knowledge through the newly acquired language, thus also promoting the thinking skills of the students. It may therefore safely be said that learners not only learn to use the language, but also use the language to learn. In doing so, the emphasis is taken off learning the language itself (course-like), but placed on learning content in various subjects through a foreign language. This means additional exposure to L2 without requiring extra curriculum time.

Why CLIL / Cross-curricular teaching?

  • Required by the Austrian curriculum (“Die Vermittlung der Fremdsprache erfolgt im Rahmen der Pflichtgegenstände wie Sachunterricht, Musikerziehung, Sport, Bildnerische Erziehung und Mathematik, ohne dass es zu einer Kürzung des Bildungsangebots kommt.” Lehrplan der Volksschule 375-376).
  • For acquiring both content (subject matter) and language (skills) simultaneously
  • Saves curricular time
  • Uses language in a meaningful context
  • Increases motivation
  • Students more actively involved
  • A more flexible way of language learning
  • More frequent exposure to the new language (increasing target language use)
  • Provides opportunities to recycle and consolidate the foreign language
  • Reinforces concepts already developed n the mother tongue
  • Additional memory anchors
  • Holistic approach to learning
  • Promotes and develops thinking skills (The children are permanently constructing meaning and purpose.)
  • Makes learning more MEANINGFUL, MOTIVATING and MEMORABLE.


Why Health and Fitness?

As stated before, too many kids are too heavy today. Childhood obesity has been called “one of the most serious public health challenges of the 21st century“, and with good reason:

  • 20% of our children are overweight (7- 8% are obese). According to the Harvard School of Public Health there has been a 60 percent increase since 1990. By 2020, if the current epidemic continues unabated, 9% of all preschoolers will be overweight or obese – nearly 60 million children!
  • Overweight and obesity are leading risks for global deaths. Around 3.4 million adults die each year as a result of being overweight or obese. The consequences are the danger of diabetes, heart diseases, high blood pressure, indigestion, arthritis, some cancers, gallstones, stress, anxiety, depression …


newsweekWhat causes obesity and overweight?

  • Decrease in physical activities
  • Cheap food (calorie-rich foods)
  • Too many soft sugary drinks
  • Too much fat, sugar and salt
  • The quality of food/nutrition has changed


Do you have a healthy lifestyle?

Life was different about 40 years ago. Most kids walked to and from school every day, participated in gym classes and played a lot outdoors. Meals were home-cooked with a lot of vegetables. Eating fast food was rare. Today children experience a very different life style. Walks to or from school have been replaced by car and bus rides. Gym classes and after-school sports have been cut, afternoons and evenings are now spent with TV, video games, mobile phones and the internet. Parents are busier than ever and families eat fewer home-cooked meals. Snacking between meals is now commonplace. One in five school-age children has up to six snacks a day. Before 1900, people ate about 3kg refined sugar per year. Today the average person consumes between 35 and 50kg a year, most of it as added sugar! So most children and many adults eat more calories than they really need and can burn so that they put on more unhealthy weight. That’s the bad news. But the good news is that we can change our lifestyle!

To make ourselves aware of a healthy lifestyle, it is recommended to do a “Lifestyle Test“ such as the following:









Examples from the classroom

The following examples are in English, but can easily be adapted to the learning of any other foreign language. Let’s look at how the topic “Fit and Fun“ could be taught in a cross-curricular way, by using some examples from the cross-curricular English course “Supermouse“ (Harrison 2002 – Baumann 2005). 1

fit and fun










Example: Art and Craft/Maths/Cooking – Mini Project: Arcimboldo’s paintings

A good start into this topic is probably through art. Show the children a photo of the following painting of Arcimboldo using a book (e.g. Arcimboldo, 7) or the internet. Giuseppe Arcimboldo was an Italian painter. He lived in Milan in the 16th century (1527-1593) and is famous for his grotesque compositions of fruits, vegetables animals and other objects, which he arranged to look like human portraits. (Baumann 2004a, 44).

arcimboldoT: Today we are going to look at a very old painting. It is almost 500 years old. The artist is an Italian painter, Guiseppe Arcimboldo. Look at the face. Can you name any of the things in the painting? What fruits can you see? Name the parts of the face.

P: The man’s nose is a pear. His cheek is an apple. His ear is a mushroom. His ear-ring is a fig. His mouth is a chestnut. His head  is crowned with red and white grapes. His chin …

Pictures in Arcimboldo style

As a next step the children look at pictures in the style of Arcimboldo. The pictures show faces made of fruits and vegetables:

Mr Pumpkin (Baumann 2004b, 3)

Mr Pumpkin (Baumann 2004b, 3)






T: Look at this face. What is it?

P: It’s a pumpkin.

T: Yes, it’s Mr Pumpkin. What other vegetables can you see?

Revise the following vegetables: carrots, onions, peas, potatoes, tomatoes, radishes and  peppers.

Miss Melon (Baumann 2004b, 3)

Miss Melon (Baumann 2004b, 3)








For Miss Melon revise the following types of fruit: apples, bananas, cherries, oranges, pears, plums, blueberries, grapes, strawberries

After having revised all the necessary vocabulary, the pupils interview each other about which vegetables and fruit they like. They estimate the correct number and count the amount afterwards.

At home the children draw pictures in Arcimboldo style. They can also use a gardener’s catalogue and make a collage or paint the fruits and/or vegetables themselves and describe it afterwards. For their presentation they find a title for their collage and write down the key words or even sentences.

My Fruit and Vegetable Collage

Title: …………………………………………………………………

What kind of fruit and vegetable did you use for the face and hair?

Write down the words.



They could use the following chunks for their presentation:

The title of my artwork/collage is …

I used …………………………… for the ……………………………………..

The eyes are …………………………………

The nose is a ………………………………..

The mouth is a ………………………………

The ears are …………………………………

Do you like my artwork/collage?

Let the pupils report about their own drawing/painting the next day:

P: My face has got apples, cherries, pears and bananas. etc.

As an extension, the teacher can take the pupils on an outing to a museum, e.g. the Museum of Fine Arts in Vienna (two of Arcimboldo’s portraits, “Summer“ and “Winter“ can be seen there) and let them copy or draw a picture.

The pupils can also make a fruit salad or vegetable soup according to English instructions.

Using a search engine (e.g. Google), they can find other paintings by Arcimboldo.

So in this mini project the children not only practised their listening and reading skills, extended their vocabulary – parts of the body, fruit and vegetables -, talked about their likes and dislikes (English), practised Maths, Art and Craft and Cooking as well.

Example: General Knowledge/Music

Healthy Eating

In order to show the pupils the importance of healthy eating in everyday life, they should be encouraged to eat healthy and well-balanced meals and snacks by proposing alternatives to their traditional snacks. Lunch and snack time are great moments for the teacher to talk about consumerism and healthy food.

In order to make this clearer to the children, the teacher can introduce them to the food pyramid:

The Food Pyramid (Baumann 2005a, 25)

The Food Pyramid (Baumann 2005a, 25)







In the pyramid there are 4 main food groups:

1. The Fats, Oils and Sweets Group

2. The Meat and Milk Group

3. The Fruit and Vegetable Group and

4. The Grain Group

Song: Energy Food

The following song Energy Food uses the tune of the well-known song “Skip to my Lou“ in order to show the children what we eat the various types of food for (see the words on the left of the food pyramid in Figure 7).

Introduce and explain the words muscles, treat and cottage cheese first.

Song: Energy Food (Baumann 2005b, 101)

Song: Energy Food (Baumann 2005b, 101)









  • As a follow-up to this activity, the children could analyze what kinds of food they eat. Talk about what they usually have for breakfast and about the content in their snack box. Is their weekly diet made up of mainly fresh fruit and vegetables and cereals? How many sweet foods do they eat? Do they take any soft/sweet drinks? How much water do they drink a day? Why do we drink water? We use water to wash ourselves, clean our body outside, but water is also used to clean our body inside. Would they wash themselves with soft drinks? Etc.
  • Make up a Guessing Game/Quiz in which the children have to guess the equivalent number of lumps of sugar which are in various products (e.g. in jelly bears, honey, ketchup, chocolate). If there are foods that the children would like to know in English, use this opportunity to expand their vocabulary as well.
  • Finally introduce the healthy eating plate according to the latest research of Harvard Medical School.

This shows that we should eat more vegetables and fruits and healthy proteins, and mainly whole grains to stay healthy.

healthy eating plate











Example: Reading Activity: The Body Quiz

The pupils read the quiz below and tick the correct answers.

The Body Quiz (Baumann 2005c, 22)

The Body Quiz (Baumann 2005c, 22)

Correct answers:

1. Your body has 206 bones (c).

2. ¼ of your bones are in your feet (c).

3. Your head has 1 bone (a).

4. Your heart beats 90 times a minute (c).

5. You breathe 10-14 times a minute (b).

6. You use 17 muscles to smile (b).

Teachers could also give some background information before or after the quiz, e.g. on the heart:

Our heart is a muscle. It works hard pumping blood around our body every day in our life. Each time it pumps, we can feel the beat. The heart of a ten-year.old child beats about 90 times every minute. Grown-ups have about 70-82 beats per minute. According to the Guinness Book of Records, “the blue whale has the largest heart of any living creature. It can weigh over 1,500 lb (680 kg) and be as large as a small automobile. The aorta is large enough for an adult to crawl through and it pumps approximately 15,000 pints of blood as compared to 8 pints in a human being. The heart of the blue whale can beat just five or six times per minute when it surfaces and even slower when the animal dives.”

Example: Music/PE

Music is a great way to reinforce language in a memorable way. Pupils remember simple songs and catchy tunes easily, especially if pictures or actions are linked to the song.

Action Song: Swimming

Teach the text of the song first, then sing it, then do the accompanying actions with the pupils.










swimmng song music

Example: Physical Education – Keep Fit: Let’s swim in the gym!

PE is a subject where children can move and be exposed to L2 at the same time. The passive vocabulary can be developed and extended as well. The following activity can be done in the gym in TPR manner, using real movements as a stimulus and memory anchor. You need pillows or mats to do these exercises.

T: Lie face down with a pillow/mat under your tummy and do these exercises:

1. First do the breast stroke. Do the arm movements.

    Push the “water” away with the palms of your hands. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, stop.

2. Now let’s do the front crawl: Stretch out one arm at a time in front of you. Keep the other arm by your side. Now change arms. Repeat it 20 times.

Now turn over and put the pillow under your back:

3. Are you ready for the back crawl? Use your arms like a windmill. Stretch your right arm back over your head. Then bring it down to your side.

Now do it with the other arm. Repeat it 20 times.

4. Now paddle like a dog. Up and down. Up and down. Do it 10 times.

5. Finally kick your legs out to the side just like a frog. Do it 5 times. Pay attention, Don’t hit anyone.

6. Now stop. Stand up and shake out your arms and legs. Thank you.

So it is not only nutrition, but also exercise which helps to build a strong body that stays healthy and will be able to move around and do all the things we need it to do.

When you exercise, you’re helping build a strong body that will be able to move around and do all the stuff you need it to do. Let’s try to be active every day and your body will thank you later!

How to stay healthy

  • Eat roughly the same amount of calories that your body is using.
  • Choose good carbohydrates: whole grains, vegetables, fruits & beans.
  • Pay attention to the protein package: fish, poultry, nuts and beans.
  • Choose foods containing healthy fats: plant oils, nuts and fish.
  • Choose a fiber-filled diet: whole grains, vegetables and fruits (5 servings a day).
  • Eat more vegetables and fruits – the more colourful and varied, the better.
  • Calcium is important: collards, soy milk, baked beans + supplements (Vitamin D.)
  • Limit salt intake. Choose more fresh foods, instead of processed ones.
  • Daily multivitamin and extra vitamin D intake has potential health benefits.
  • Water is the best source of liquid. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Sleep well every night. (Adults should get 7 to 9 hours daily, whereas school children should get 10 to 11.)

We all know that health is wealth and the good news is that by making just a few lifestyle changes, we can help our children lead healthier lives. We already have the tools we need to do it, we just need the will.

“The only way to change the future is to change the present.

Whatever you are doing now is creating your future.“ Tim Murphey


1 “Supermouse“ was the first cross-curricular primary course written by practitioners (including native primary teachers) for practitioners, published by Hueber. – The author would like to thank the publishers Hueber for permission to reproduce material from “Supermouse“ in this article.).


Arcimboldo Der Apfel-Birnen-Kürbismann (2007) Abenteuer Kunst. München: Süddeutsche Zeitung/Prestel.

Baumann, G. & Prochazka, A. & Prokop, S. & Weiskopf, L. (2004a) Supermouse: Ein Lehrwerk für den cross-curricularen Englischunterricht an Grundschulen in 4 Bänden. Teacher’s Book 3. Ismaning: Hueber.

Baumann, G. et al. (2004b) Supermouse. Activity Book 3. Ismaning: Hueber.

Baumann, G. et al. (2005a) Supermouse. Pupil’s Book 4. Ismaning: Hueber.

Baumann, G. et al. (2005b) Supermouse. Teacher‘s Book 4. Ismaning: Hueber.

Baumann, G. et al. (2005c) Supermouse. Activity Book 4. Ismaning: Hueber.

Böttger, H. und Schlüter, N. Hrsg., (2012) 3. FFF-Konferenz Fortschritte im Frühen Fremdsprachenlernen Ausgewählte Tagungsbeiträge Eichstätt 2011. München: Domino Verlag.

Chancellor, D. (2010) Healthy Eating (Now we know about …). New York: Crabtree.

Covre, D. & Segal, M. (2007) Cook for Fun Nutrition Education in English.Special Guide. Recanati: ELI.

Covre, D. & Segal, M. (2007) Cook for Fun Nutrition Education in English.Worksheet A set. Recanati: ELI.

Covre, D. & Segal, M. (2007) Cook for Fun Nutrition Education in English.Worksheet B set. Recanati: ELI.

Dickmann, N. (2010) Healthy Eating. Vegetables. London: Raintree.

Gratton, L. Dr. (2008) Keep it Simple. Diet and Exercise. 7 Simple Tips for a Healthy, Active Lifestyle. © Luigi Gratton, MD: Los Angeles.

Guiseppe Arcimboldo (2008) Kunst-Stickerbuch. München-Berlin-London-New York: Prestel.

Ignarro, L. Dr. & Myers, A. Dr. (2011) Health is Wealth. Boise, Idaho: Health Value Publications.

Jopp, A. (2010) Risikofaktor Vitaminmangel. Stuttgart: Trias.

Kriegeskorte, W. (2004) Arcimboldo.(English Version). Köln: Taschen.

Prochazka, A. (2006) Cross-curricular Teaching in Primary School is like a Starry Night. In: Schlüter, N. (Hrsg.) (2006) 133-143.

Prochazka, A. (2012) Interaktive CLIL-Aktivitäten inner- und außerhalb des Klassenzimmers mit Beispielen aus der Unterrichtspraxis (Englisch). In: Böttger, H. und Schlüter, N. (2012), 196-212.

Prochazka, A. (2013) Pictures for Primary CLIL as a Challenge for the Future. In: English Language Teaching News, Nr. 68 Spring 2013, 20-26.

Schlüter, N. (2006) Fortschritte im Frühen Fremdsprachenlernen Ausgewählte Tagungsbeiträge Weingarten 2004. Berlin: Cornelsen.

LINKS (Last accessed on 23.09.2016)


Anton Prochazka works at the University of Teacher Education in Lower Austria







Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>