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Wheat, Barley, Rye, GO!

Students get active and learn about whole grains in this spirited game

Tags: nutrition activities, elementary school, dinner

Description: In this wacky version of "Rock, Paper, Scissors," students strategize and chase each other while learning about whole grains.
Objective: Students will identify a variety of whole grain foods they can eat for dinner.
  1. Ask the students to raise their hands if they eat grains for dinner (e.g. pasta, rice, etc).
  2. Explain that grains are carbohydrates, the body’s main sources of energy. Tell them whole grains are usually brown and are healthier than white grains because they have more vitamins and nutrients, which give the body more energy to run and play.
  3. Ask them to share a few whole grain dinner foods (see below). If a student names a "white" grain, such as white bread, tell them it is okay to eat this food once in a while, but they should eat whole grains more often. Can they think of a whole grain food to replace the other?
  4. Divide the class into two groups and have them stand at opposite ends of the room.
  5. Explain that they are going to play a familiar game "Rock, Paper, Scissors" with a twist. The name of the game is "Wheat, Barley, Rye." Tell them wheat, barley, and rye are all healthy whole grains they can eat for dinner.
  6. Have the class create one full-body pose (as opposed to a hand sign) for each grain.
  7. Call out the grains and have the students practice the poses.
  8. Then tell them, "In the game, wheat wins over barley, barley wins over rye, and rye wins over wheat, but in real life, the grains are all equally good for you." If possible, write this on a chalkboard.
  9. Next, ask both groups to choose a grain to represent in the first round and a student to go first. That student from each group should come to the center of the room. Right after you say "Wheat, Barley, Rye, GO," each student should strike the pose of their chosen grain.
  10. The student who "wins" should chase the other across the room. (In the case of a tie, arbitrarily choose which student chases the other.) The student being chased should try to make it back to their group without getting tagged. Anyone who is tagged must join the other group.

Activity Note

If possible, bring in pictures of wheat, barley, rye, bulgur, quinoa, or other less common whole grains, products made from whole grains, or sample of the whole grains themselves to show to the students.


Whole grains are terrific sources of energy, as well as sources of fiber, vitamins and minerals.

In general, 1st graders should eat 4-5 oz of grains a day, at least half of which should be whole grains. 1 ounce is about:

  • 1 slice of bread
  • 1/2 cup of cooked rice or pasta
  • 1/2 cup of oatmeal
  • 3/4 cup of cold cereal

Healthy ("Go") Whole Grain Meals:

  • whole wheat, rye, barley bread or rolls
  • pizza with whole wheat crust
  • whole grain (e.g. buckwheat)
  • spaghetti with tomato sauce
  • whole-grain elbow or spiral-shaped pasta with grilled chicken
  • bulgur
  • brown rice and black beans
  • whole grain (e.g. whole wheat) tortillas with beans
  • salad with quinoa

Related National Standards

NHES: 1.2.1, 7.2.1
NSPE: 1, 2, 5
NS: NS.K-4.6

Further information about the national standards can be found here.

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