The teacher that ate catfood in front of her students to teach them a lesson that would never be forgotten….

So did that click baity blog post title pressure you into reading more? Interesting….

I was finally able to deliver my favourite lesson of all time on Monday. It was a lesson that stemmed from an idea in one of Sue Cowley‘s behaviour books about using mars bars in orange jelly in a tin of catfood as a hook to capture kids attention. She had got it from her colleague Dave who used it in a DT lesson about how marketing and packaging works, ‘Should you always believe what you read on the label?’

Previously I had used it very succesfully in a lesson on digestion when I used to teach science, and in 2010 I wrote a lesson plan using it to teach peer pressure  which has been well received on TES website. Unofortunately but I didn’t have a real opportunity to trial this lesson myself until 7 years later (had three kids in meantime)!  I love that the idea (chopped up mars bars in orange jelly) can become such a versatile tool for use in all sorts of lessons. Really does create an unforgetable learning experience for young people.

The Catfood lesson I delivered this week went far better than I hoped for 7 years ago – it was genuinely one of the most fun activities I have ever taught. Two things struck me which hadn’t occured when I wrote the lesson- firstly – suprisingly lots of the young people were desperate to try the catfood even when they thought it was catfood! There was some social cachet involved in being the coolest/daftest member of the class to try it. Peer pressure in action!!  Secondly that this lesson can also be used as an example of teaching about internet safety- when we used “you can go viral on the internet eating catfood!” this massively changed the pressure power dynamic. In 2010 when I wrote that lesson that wasn’t really a thing in the same way it is now.

The bit I was really chuffed with is my daft catfood acrostic really worked with the young people when helping them analyse peer pressure. Hopefully it might be memorable and useable.

C- Consider consequences?

A- Analyse Advantages?

T- Talk to someone who can help

F- Find out more information?

O- Other options instead?

O- Own your own mind and body

D- Decide on what action to take

Anyhow I am pasting a draft version of the lesson plan below. I would love thoughts and feedback to help me refine it and I will publish a more polished version post consultation. With thanks from Ian MacDonald from Mentor Adepis whose fab training I was at yesterday and for his idea on 3 stage sentences for exploring peer pressure which I have shamelessly adapted!

Catfood and peer pressure

Lesson Preparation:

Before the class prepare the following:

Using a thoroughly cleaned empty tin (of human food!)- carefully stick a catfood label around the tin.  Prepare some orange jelly in a bowl and leave to set.  Chop up a mars bar into small cubes.  Just before the lesson begins mix in the chopped mars bar into the orange jelly so it resembles catfood and put in the tin (Warning don’t do this too far in advance of the lesson as the ingredients will dissolve into each other). Place a plastic “tin lid” eg a Pringles lid. over it  for hygiene. Have plenty of spoons available in this lesson.

Arrange for a single student (someone who is a good actor and has no dietary restrictions or allergies so is able to eat mars bars in orange jelly) to be informed before the lesson and to be the one being pressured.



Lesson Objectives

  • To analyse what is happening in a “peer pressure” situation.


  • To practice different possible responses to peer pressure.


  • To use the CATFOOD acrostic to help with dealing with situations involving peer pressure.

Remind class of the ground rules for PSHE sessions to establish a safe learning environment.

Show the class the following sentences and ask them what they would do in that situation.

  1. Would you try a cigarette?
  2. Would you eat catfood?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media?

Reveal a second part to the sentences and see if that changes things:

  1. Would you try a cigarette if the people around you were smoking?
  2. Would you eat catfood if someone dared you to for a laugh?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking and no-one else seemed worried?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media, but they were already friends with your friends?

Reveal a third part of the sentences to see if that changes things further

  1. Would you try a cigarette if the people around you were smoking including someone you really fancied?
  2. Would you eat catfood if someone dared you to for a laugh and you figured it might make you go viral on youtube?
  3. Would you get in a car with someone who had been drinking and no-one else seemed worried and you didn’t want to be the one to kill the mood?
  4. Would you add an older person you didn’t know to your social media, but they were already friends with your friends, and you wanted to have more friends in your list to look popular?

Discuss with the class if and why their opinions changed and explain that this lesson is going to explore aspects of peer pressure and saying No in more detail


Main Activity:Eating Catfood

Ask the class for a volunteer for the next activity and pick your young person who you have previously prepared.

You should be offering the tin of catfood and saying things like:

“Come on everyone else has, you can’t be in our gang unless you do, you’re such a wimp, it’s not going to hurt you, it’s good enough for cats so it’s fine for us,” etc etc. Show the class the catfood and show yourself how fine it is to eat ‘catfood’ (at which point the class may erupt!) you can pretend to like it but still make it seem like it is genuine catfood.  The young person being pressured should try and withhold but eventually give in and try the catfood. It’s particularly effective for the next stages of the lesson if they act like it is horrible.

Ask what techniques you were using to pressure the young person into eating the catfood?

Suggestions could include:

·         Saying everyone was doing it?- (was that true?)

·         Saying they couldn’t be in their gang- excluding them if they didn’t join in

·         Saying hurtful personal comments

·         Saying it wouldn’t hurt to try it (is that true?).

Ask the class why did the young person give in to the peer pressure?

Suggestions could include

·         Wanted to be liked

·         Wanted them to stop going on at him

·         Wanted to be in their gang

·         Believed teacher that it wouldn’t hurt.

Now ask for a volunteer in the class to show how to say no to the teacher.  (choose quite a confident assertive individual who will be able to cope!) Role play the pressure situation again and allow the new actor to say no, this time The teacher can  really up the pressure- including showing how easy it is to “eat the catfood”.  “Look you are SUCH a wimp- look its soooo easy, what a baby, I dare have a spoonful, in fact I’ll have two etc. (eat the “catfood” in front of the new volunteer. Perhaps even persuade the first young person to have some again- to increase the pressure further “And look my friend is doing it too- so why can’t you- both “friends” to laugh and jeer at the other young person while eating the “catfood”.

(Again if the class hasn’t sussed this isn’t really catfood yet there maybe be some strong reactions!).

Further role play ideas

  • You can also experiment with offering the spoon to the young person first and seeing how that affects the pressure situation (once they have the spoon in their hand (the tool to eat the catfood) it becomes much harder to say no.


  • You can also ask someone to film it on a mobile or talk about how this is going to make us go viral and how that might affect the pressure situation.
  • You can ask for more volunteers to try and catfood.  Interestingly lots of young people will volunteer not knowing it genuinely isn’t catfood (having seen the teacher and a peer try it). Unpick with the class what motivations are going on behind volunteering to take part (whilst being mindful of the class dynamic and not putting a young person in any uncomfortable personal position).

Ask the class why they are being pressured into eating ‘catfood’?

Suggestions could include:

–      Because it’s genuinely good and they want to share how nice it is?!

–      Because they are bullying

–      Because they want to have power over them?

–      Because they want that person to be like them?

–      Because they want them to be in the gang?

–      Because they know eating catfood is wrong but they want other people to join them so they won’t be the only ones who get into trouble.

–      Because they are trying dares/taking risks/hazing for group membership.

–      Because they are trying to do something stupid for popularity (going viral)

Ask the class what might the genuine consequences of giving into peer pressure (of eating catfood) might be? (including physical and emotional consequences)

  • Tummy ache/being sick/allergies
  • Nothing
  • Parents get cross
  • Feeling sad that they gave into pressure
  • Not feeling in control.

Explain to the class about “passive, aggressive and assertive responses” and role play each of these for the situation. Ask the children to role play each of these responses and discuss in pairs how it felt.

Ask the class what techniques the new role player was employing to avoid having to eat the catfood.

–      eg. repetition NO NO NO, Body language- strong defensive stance, Giving good reasons “no I might be allergic, “I ate earlier” etc.


Analyse each of these responses in more detail- for example young people will often giggle or give shy body language when saying no to the catfood. Point out by smiling or weaker body language they might be conveying that they are not sure of their NO so the pressurer knows they might win them over if they keep trying. (N.B. It is important to be clear here about consent and victim blaming- an absence of No is not a yes, and if something happens to someone without their consent that is never okay and never the victims fault for not saying NO well enough- this lesson is simply an opportunity for us to practice our NO!’s in a safe space. Signpost local sources of support if necessary.)


Explain that humans are often not very good at saying no. This partly comes from our parents not letting us say no to bedtimes, or brushing our teeth, so saying no as a teenager or adult can be tricky for us as we like to please people. So it is important we practice saying NO to things we don’t want and that we convey that clearly.


Explain there are three parts to saying No. Firstly a loud clear NO! Secondly a stern facial expression- no smiling or laughing. Thirdly strong confident body language- perhaps even with a hand up. NO!  Encourage the class to role play saying No and talk about how that felt.

Discuss situations where it can be hard to say no.

Further activities.

Ask the class to come up with a list of “Strategies for saying no to peer pressure” Create a whole class poster with this information on.





Explain to the class if they haven’t already worked it out that the “catfood” is really orange jelly and mars bars, and in this case not really harmful however there are many situations where someone might try and pressure you into doing something that could be harmful- ask the class to consider what these may be and come up with a list.

Introduce the “CATFOOD” acrostic to help them with decision making in cases of peer pressure in future.

C- Consider consequences?

A- Analyse Advantages?

T- Talk to someone who can help

F- Find out more information?

O- Other options instead?

O- Own your own mind and body

D- Decide on what action to take


Ask students to create individual decorated posters with this information on.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s