Thursday, January 31, 2013

Physical Activity in The Classroom: The Jammin' Minute!!

Here's a really quick post to get my second one in for January. I've been using this with my sixth graders and occasionally with my seventh and eighth graders, too.

Every health/physical education teacher knows about the benefits of physical activity during the school day: its impact on learning, concentration, focus, etc. To summarize these benefits would be a waste of space here, but I've been adding a brief, 1-2 minute physical activity routine to my sixth grade classes which I want to share with you.

I try to be energetic in my classroom, and for 2013 I decided that I want to try to take it to the next level. I want to be the most energetic teacher in my building, but according to my students, I have a ton of work to do if I want to get on the level of a spritely young French teacher across the hall. But what do I have in my arsenal that she doesn't have?

The Jammin' Minute. Advantage: Mr. B.

I don't remember where I found out about the Jammin' Minute, but I'm pretty sure it was on Twitter. The Jammin' Minute is put out weekly through the JAM (Just-A-Minute) School Program, and every now and then a class or school will create their own Jammin' Minute to be featured on the JAM School Program Website. It is a physical activity break that does not take a lot of time and helps students move around after they've been sitting down all day. The Jammin' Minute is designed to be used in any standard classroom, and according to their website, the JAM School Program, "brings physical education and health education into the classroom. JAM is designed to teach kids (and adults) healthier lifestyle habits."

The Jammin' Minute literally takes only one minute, although for me it's more like two minutes because I like to model the exercises first so the students know what they're doing. I'll bring in some music (Top 40 tunes, mash-ups, indie hipster dance party music, whatever) or open Garage Band to play an energetic groove while we get our jam on in sixth grade health. I usually do this at the start of class, but have also used it as a physical activity break or brain break in the middle of class.

So, how does it work? It's easy: open your preferred browser of choice, and head over to  the JAM School Program website to read up on what they're all about. Then, check out the library of Jammin' Minute routines. They even have seated routines so that all students may enjoy being physically active in the classroom. Each routine also has a health tip to share with students! Don't have Internet access, a computer, or a projector in your classroom? Print out the routine in advance OR simply create your own! Start with one move and have students share their own moves or routines. Once, when I only had eight students in class due to a field trip, we created different Jammin' Minute routines and shared them with each other.

Okay, now it's time for a physical activity break! Please stand up, push your chair in, and blast one of your favorite songs while you complete the following:

Sample Jammin' Minute Routine from the JAM School Program Website
Whoa! That was fun, wasn't it? Don't you feel better already? I know I sure do. Now my brain is ready to learn!

Don't forget your standard safety protocols (personal space, controlled movements, etc.) before you begin. Have fun with it! The more I get into it, the more my students respond. This has been a huge hit with my sixth grade students, but not so much with my seventh or eighth graders. Typically students jam in the middle of my classroom (my desks are set up in a double horseshoe) so I will let them "freestyle" back to their seats as long as their movements are appropriate before I turn the music off.

So, give the Jammin' Minute a try! I think you might enjoy it as much as your students. Still not convinced that it is beneficial for your students to take a physical activity break during the school day? Read these articles and check out the video link below:

JAMmin' Minute: Sixty Seconds to Healthier Kids (Education World)
The JAM School Program (Aliance for a Healthier Generation)
The Mesquite ISD has 55 videos on YouTube of Jammin' Minutes!

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Happy Jammin!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lesson Idea: Alcohol Stories (Using Web 2.0)

I'm always looking for ways to bring class content and skills alive in my health classroom. I first heard of this lesson from one of my undergraduate professors, Dr. Shannon Whalen, who shared it during a methods class during my junior year. The lesson initially appeared in the American Journal of Health Education in their July/August issue from 2007 (in an article written by Dr. Whalen with Suanne Maurer-Starks), and if you have access to a research database it's pretty easy to find the article. If you're an AAHPERD member and subscribe to the American Journal of Health Education, you can log on to the AAHPERD website and read the article for free.

I will not go into detail about discussion questions or the way in which Dr. Whalen completed this assignment. For that, you will have to find the article I mentioned above. The basic premise of the activity is for students to share stories relating to alcohol and how it had affected their life, specifically the consequences of binge drinking. The story just needs to be true and something that happened to the student or someone they know. Dr. Whalen would have college students submit their responses with a cover page, which was then torn off and counted for credit. The stories are shuffled and students take one randomly.

A screenshot of instructions on the Google Form 

Well, middle school students generally don't have the alcohol experience that college students have. I liked the idea of the lesson and wanted to adapt it to use in my middle school classroom, with the hope of injecting a little dose of reality into our alcohol unit. So, I reached out via social media to see how people I connect with online could help me out.  First, I created a simple Google Form for people to fill out anonymously. I shared this link via my personal Facebook and Twitter accounts, where I mentioned that I was looking for anonymous stories relating to alcohol use or abuse. There was no way for personally identifiable information to be included unless the person decided to write it in their story (no one did). I received twenty three responses; I am not sure who responded although some people did comment that they filled out a response. I did take out one that I felt was not appropriate to share with middle school age students. I did this over two separate occasions: May 2011 and January 2012. If I were to do it again, I would be more specific about using different hashtags on Twitter; I probably would not put it on Facebook again. With Twitter, I have never met most of my followers in person and I think the anonymity makes it easier for people to decide to write a story.

I simply have to print out the stories to share with my students. I cut them up into strips of paper and place them into a box/bag, and we create a circle of chairs around the room. We go around the circle and students pick a random story from the box/bag and read them aloud. At this point in the unit students already have basic knowledge of alcohol, and some of them point that out as we go through certain stories. I will briefly summarize certain aspects of each story as we go through them, but generally I save the discussion for the end; I make notes as we go through the activity so I remember to highlight certain points.

Below is a screencast showing the Google Form I created, as well as a brief scan through all of the responses I received. If you would like to fill out the form to contribute to how I use this lesson in my classroom, please click this link. This activity is adaptable to a variety of content areas, including other ATOD topics but also bullying. I would caution having current students completing this type of activity only because there might be legal ramifications as well as varying comfort levels to address.

As always, please feel free to e-mail me with questions, comments, or concerns.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Web 2.0 Tools: Wallwisher

When I start new units I like to use different types of activators to help determine what students know and get their brains firing about the topic we'll be covering over the next number of classes. I have a couple different types in rotation, depending on content and grade level, and I am always looking for different activators to try out or ways to improve on what I do.

In this situation, I wanted to see what students could come up with relating to the causes of the obesity epidemic in the United States. Because my students sit in groups, the prompt was easy enough: "In your groups, brainstorm as many causes of the obesity epidemic that you can think of." I usually post some guiding questions to help stimulate discussion, and I tried to get students thinking with these: "How did we get to this point? What factors have changed from years ago? Think small scale and large scale." We would go over the responses, start a discussion, and then shift to the notes they had to take down that day. Yes, sometimes my students have to take notes.

Normally, students would have regular lined paper, a larger piece of chart paper, or some of the whiteboards that I'll use for activators or other brainstorms. I've also considered using sticky notes, with one idea per note, and having students plaster them over the white board. This isn't really cost effective and there was not a way to easily save the work to re-examine it at the end of a unit.

But last week, I just happened to have the laptop carts in my room for my seventh grade "Tobacco Prevention Experts" projects. We were able to get about 9-10 of the 15 in the cart to work (an excellent rate, believe it or not) and they were just sitting there during my eighth grade classes. I also just happened to have taken a class in teaching using Web 2.0 and other technology tools. It was the perfect opportunity to try out Wallwisher, so when planning for this lesson I mad sure to incorporate this tool.

Wallwisher is simply described as, "Paper for the web." Wallwisher can be used for many different reasons; in response to the question, "What can you DO with Wallwisher?" the site provides many options: make noticeboards, teach, discuss, brainstorm, plan events, learn, and make lists. As I stated above, I used it for brainstorming.

A user logs on and creates a wall, which is customizable with different backgrounds. A wall creator can even create their own URL for the wall they create; I simply linked the walls from my class website and did not use this feature. Students then access the wall where they can post their own thoughts. All they have to do is double click, enter their name, and type their text. Students can also post links to websites, pictures, videos, and other media forms. Students can take to the Internet in search of items they could contribute to the wall. So, I had students log on (we had to share laptops, but students are used to this and did fine sharing) and begin posting away. I did have to delete a few silly posts, but for the most part students were engaged in what they were doing. I was able to give comments as posts happened, and students would respond.  As the creator of the wall, I was able to move the responses around in real time, and the students could not. This allowed me to be by the computer or Smartboard and create categories as they were created. If a teacher has a tablet, it would be even easier to create categories on the go!

An options exists if you wish to moderate posts by having to approve them before they post. I did not feel the need to use the option and feel like it would detract from the feel of using Wallwisher, and my students are pretty good about following technology protocols. It is easy to control how long you want the wall to remain open for students to write on by switching the "Who Can Write" option to "Only Me." Users can even subscribe the a wall's RSS feed. I had two students grab their iPhones and post to Wallwisher from their mobile browsers. Both had no issues and reported a positive experience.

I've embedded an example from one of my classes below. If you scroll around, you will seen numerous posts with images or pictures, as well as links to websites. This is what the product looks like after I arranged posts into a few rough categories. Scroll down for some final thoughts on Wallwisher.

Students covered a lot about fast food, but also hit upon points like stress eating and the availability of healthy foods. By clicking on each post, it is made bigger for easy viewing and whatever content is posted there fills up the page. You can scroll through each post this way, and you can also share posts via Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

I enjoyed using Wallwisher because students were able to complete the same objective that they normally would if I used the "old school" brainstorming methods, but they were able to take it further and further, as deeply in the content as they want to go. After we were done, we had a conversation that segued nicely into our lesson. Because this was the start of a unit, I did allow about half of the class period for this activity.

As much as I enjoyed using Wallwisher, using it or similar brainstorming tools again would be very easy to use all the time if my district allowed students to bring their own web-enabled devices to school OR if we had access to reliable technology for students to use. Where I teach, enough students have smartphones or even laptops to make this a reality; any students who do not have access to a device could share with those who bring them in. I'm going to get off my soapbox now, but these are just points to mention the difficulties many teachers may face in implementing Web 2.0 tools in their classrooms.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Additional Resources: For more information on Wallwisher, check out the following resources:
  1. Check out Wallwisher
  2. Using Wall Wisher in the Classroom by Richard Byrne at Free Technology for Teachers
  3. Follow Wallwisher on Twitter

Saturday, December 1, 2012

"I Can't Breathe" Pam Laffin Video: Streaming on Vimeo

During my later elementary school and early middle school years, I remember seeing many anti-smoking advertisements sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health. The advertisements that I remember the most focused on a local woman named Pam Laffin. Pam was in her late twenties and suffered from emphysema. The advertisements were more graphic in nature than other advertisements I had seen, and I'm sure the DPH wanted to hit viewers with emotional advertisements.

If you know me as a teacher or have seen some past posts of mine, you know that I am not a fan of showing videos in a health education classrooms. I feel that videos are too often used as a cop-out by teachers who have no health education experience, or that they are not used appropriately. I do use a handful of video clips in class, but I only show two or three videos that could be considered somewhere close to a full length class period. Videos CAN be used appropriately, and the students sometimes enjoy them, but as I am shifting to a more skills-based classroom I don't see the need. Plus, it's not as fun as actual teaching!

One of the videos that I do show is an MTV True Life Episode entitled, "I Can't Breathe." "I Can't Breathe" was produced by MTV with assistance from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and documents Pam Laffin's experience with cigarette smoking and the negative health effects (cumulating with emphysema and a failed lung transplant) she dealt with. The video is short and to the point, and I use it to tie together the previous lessons we dealing with tobacco: smoking's effects on the body and the straw walk. The video is only twenty minutes long, but by using my go-to video viewing protocol (Record, Elaborate, Extend) as well as answering the numerous student questions that come up, this takes the full 53 minute class period.

I will say that some students will find this video a little graphic. They compare a healthy lung to a smoker's lung on an autopsy table, and the lungs are cut into to be examined. There are also some clips of Pam's lung transplant surgery. I know where these points are and give the students warning before they come up. 

You can stream "I Can't Breathe" directly from Vimeo. My district blocks YouTube and for some reason Vimeo is not blocked. Please note that I am not sure how that video is posted there or the copyright laws it may be violating. All I know is that this video has been effective in my classroom and you may find it effective in yours.

Here is a link to "I Can't Breathe" on Vimeo. Here is another link to the video viewing protocol I use for the few videos I do show.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Bullying Prevention Resource: Eyes on Bullying

October is National Bullying Prevention Month! This has inspired me to create a series of posts relating to anti-bullying resources throughout the month.

I have a short post today to kick off October, which is National Bullying Prevention Month. Today in sixth grade health class we were working on part of a lesson designed to teach students interpersonal communication skills that can help to safely end a bullying situation. The basis of my lesson was developed by Mary Connolly (the guru of skills-based health education) and I was adapting it to suit my own needs. Before work, I was looking for visuals to break down what I was going over in another way, mainly for my visual-learners, but also for a quick reference for all of my students.

I then found Eyes On Bullying. The website is a comprehensive resource for parents and educators about all things bullying. It's developed by some of the same individuals who created "Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders," which has been used by my middle school in the past. While I personally think that curriculum is outdated (at least the version we have), the material on Eyes on Bullying is up-to-date. Content is visually pleasing, to the point, and accurate.

For my uses, I found some nice visuals that were easy to put up on the board to reinforce my lesson. I found the material on the website to be a nice addition to my lesson. Materials are available for download individually or as 42 page PDF document. It's definitely a resource that is worth checking out, and one that I will be passing along to our Anti-Bullying Committee. You may find that it fills a gap in your classroom lessons, provides information to parents who have children dealing with bullying, or is simply used as a refresher about all things relating to bullying.

For more information on National Bullying Prevention Month, please check out the National Bullying Prevention Month website. NOTE: I am not affiliated in any way with "Eyes on Bullying," their developer EDC, or PACER/National Bullying Prevention Month.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

School Year 2012-2013

My fifth year of teaching middle school health education has started, and I'm busier than ever! Between teaching, coaching, finishing up grad school, and having a personal life things get pretty busy! Regardless, I'm hoping to publish two blog posts a month during the school year. I am excited to do this for a variety of reasons, and there are many exciting things I'd like to share with the network of health teachers I've discovered through my online professional learning network. I'm also now the Vice President Elect for Health on the MAHPERD (Massachusetts Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance) Executive Board and would like to put myself out there more to for collaboration among educators.

I'll start by finishing the third post on melanoma resources and then go from there. I hope you and I can both learn something from my posts!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Melanoma Resources, Part Two: Melanoma Education Foundation

Melanoma is an important topic to discuss with children and adolescents. Over the next few blog posts, I will be posting about different melanoma resources I've used in my middle school classroom. When detected early, the survival rates of melanoma are quite high; when not detected early melanoma can become deadly. Many teenagers are not aware of the dangers of melanoma!

The Melanoma Education Foundation is a local nonprofit organization here in Massachusetts "devoted to saving lives from melanoma." The M.E.F. provides classroom materials to teachers, maintains an easy to navigate website that is loaded with information, and also conducts speaking engagements for local businesses.  The M.E.F. has helped provide resources to schools all across the country in all fifty states, and is a must-see resource for any health educator.
One benefit of the information provided by the M.E.F. is that it can be taught in one or two classes (depending on how long the classes at your school are), and therefore can be implemented as needed into any health education curriculum. Focusing in early detection and prevention, the classroom materials involve many formats: class discussion, brief videos, Power Point presentations, take home quizzes, etc. The bookmarks are quick and helpful resources, and if you don't use them (contact the M.E.F. and they will send you some) a bookmark is a great project idea for the students. 
The M.E.F. website also serves as a nice introduction to those who may not be familiar with melanoma, and it could even be used as a web quest. I'm a big fan of the graphics on the M.E.F. website, and have used them to supplement my own lessons on melanoma in eighth grade health education. The animation on mole "evolution" (scroll down here) has been helpful for students to realize that the mole is growing deeper into the skin in addition to the visible growth.
The Melanoma Education Foundation is doing a fantastic job in accomplishing its mission statements. You may visit their online store to scan some of their products, although we have received free bookmarks in the mail from them in the past. In working towards their goal of "saving lives through education," the Melanoma Education Foundation helps fill a vital knowledge gap in the lives of teenagers all across the country.

NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with the Melanoma Education Foundation, although I do use some of their resources in my classroom.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Melanoma Resources, Part One: Mollie's Fund App

Melanoma is an important topic to discuss with children and adolescents. Over the next week, I will be posting about different melanoma resources I've used in my middle school classroom. When detected early, the survival rates of melanoma are quite high; when not detected early melanoma can become deadly. The first post deals with a new phone app relating to melanoma; next time check back for a local Massachusetts organization relating to melanoma. Other topics include curriculum resources and lessons developed by Mollie's Fund and a third organization, too.

Teenagers live in a world of technology, surrounded by apps designed for seemingly any task. Many apps have been created relating to nutrition, fitness, and other health topics. Mollie's Fund has recently developed an app designed for self skin checking for melanoma, a simple procedure that can help save lives. "Have You Checked Your Skin Lately?" (labeled "Mollie's Fund" on my phone) is available for the iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, and Android, and is one app that I will be telling my students about.

From the Google Play Store
I downloaded the app on my Droid Incredible and gave it a whirl this week. It is nicely designed and easy to navigate; it is void of advertisements and has a nice layout. I don't like apps that waste space with advertisements or unnecessary features, so I like the simplicity of this app. The app's homepage has buttons linking to four separate sections of information: About Mollie's Fund, 5 Step Skin Check, ABCDE's of Moles, and How to Protect Yourself. There is also a skin-check calendar discussed below.

Mollie's Fund provides some basic information about their organization within the app, and an option entitled, "5 Step Skin Check" walks you step-by-step through a five-step process used to detect moles on your body. Pictures are included with each set of instructions, and it's easy to swipe through the steps, which are broken down so that they are easy to follow.

The "ABCDE's of Moles" is a nice little resource that can help users differentiate between benign moles and melanoma lesions. Pictures are provided showing both benign and melanoma lesions, and definitions are paraphrased in one word summaries, too. "How to Protect Yourself" highlights six ways you can protect yourself from the sun. Although they seem like common sense, I know that many teenagers (and a lot of adults!) don't practice these simple (yet effective) ways to help prevent skin damage from the sun. The app provides a skin check calendar with twelve squares, one for each month of the year. Users simply check off each month as they complete a skin check. Users can even check an option for a skin check reminder; although I have only had the app a few days I can assume that it will remind the user once a month to perform a skin check.

From the Google Play Store
All in all, I think this app is great, and I like that it's basic with less clutter than other apps. With that being said, I think a few minor adjustments could enhance the app for all users. In the past, I have handed out a mole map to students during our melanoma unit. The mole map allows individuals to keep track of any moles or other changes to their skin that they may find, which makes it easier to detect any changes that may occur. If I were the app developer, I might also make another button with the skin check calendar, instead of having it at the bottom as it is now. Despite these recommendations, this is a great app and one that is fulfilling a definite need in relation to health education. I can easily point my students in the direction of this app so they may continue to apply skills that they have learned in health class. Technology continues to allow students to connect what they learn in school to their real lives.

A skin check is a simple tool that can save lives. Apps like the one created by Mollie's Fund provide users with a quick, simple, and effective way to check their skin and keep track of their skin checks. It's definitely worth a download!

Download "Have You Checked Your Skin Lately? (Mollie's App)"
Google Play (formerly the Android Market)
iTunes Store

NOTE: I am in no way affiliated with Mollie's Fund; I simply came across a copy of their "The Dark Side of The Sun" DVD in college and have occasionally used it during our own melanoma units.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Puberty Resources, Part Two: "Being Girl"

Being a twenty-five year old male teacher who has to teach twelve year old girls about the menstrual cycle can be pretty awkward. It's not that awkward for me, but it definitely is for the kids. Let's face it, puberty is not the topic most sixth graders want to learn about.

But sometimes, students break through the awkwardness and actually approach me to discuss something related to puberty. Before we get into that, some background:

The way our curriculum works, I teach both boys and girls about puberty in a co-ed sixth grade classroom. Sometimes there is an aide (typically female) in the room with me if assigned to a student. That can make things more awkward...and then there was that time I accidentally left a copy of the male reproductive system diagram in the teacher's room during a lunch THAT was awkward for my colleagues; I thought it was kind of funny.

Being Girl website
The other health teacher I work with is male, and there are times when I really feel for the girls. It's awkward enough to learn about puberty (despite creating what I think is a comfortable learning environment), but I am sure that to be an adolescent girl learning from a male teacher can be pretty embarrassing. Right now, I'm lucky to have a female student teacher, and we added a class to the unit where she took the girls to another classroom to have some discussions specific to being a teenage girl during puberty; this was in addition to the co-ed lessons I normally teach.

So, back to my story. After one class on puberty, one of my sixth grade girls came up to me quietly. She was pretty confident and nonchalantly started talking to me.  "Mr. Bartlett," she began, "Have you ever heard of 'Being Girl?' You should check out their website." She then turned on her heels and scurried out of the classroom, probably wanting to avoid any more puberty discussion with her male health teacher. I had a prep the next period, and typed "Being Girl" into Google.

I felt like I hit a gold mine.

Being Girl is a great resource for teenage girls about all the changes going on in their bodies during puberty, in addition to many other topics. It's flashy, it has "cute" colors typically enjoyed by adolescent girls, and it's interactive. It's an even better source for male health teachers to find information that speaks "teenage girl." I'm a big believer that if I cannot answer a question (either because I don't know the answer or, more often, because district policies say I can't) that I provide students with appropriate resources where they can get an accurate answer. Being Girl is one such place. They have a YouTube channel as well. I've looked at two or three videos on their channel and I do have to admit, they're well done (despite the marketing slant towards Always products).

Definitely check out Being Girl and pass it along!

Note that the website is run by The Procter & Gamble Company, makers of the Always brand of feminine hygiene products. So, there's some advertising and I wouldn't be surprised if readers could tell some of the content is written with a bias. Pick your battles.

NOTE: I am not affiliated with Proctor & Gamble or any of their products. These words are my own and not endorsed by them.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Resources: Graphic Organizers

NOTE: Due to technical difficulties, I wasn't able to scan the documents I needed for the marijuana vocabulary activity. I'm hoping to get that done this week before AAHPERD. Here's a quick post I had started a while ago and left unfinished.

Graphic organizers allow students to visualize main concepts or ideas before diving into a written piece of work. Long used by language arts teachers and elementary school teachers, graphic organizers also have their place in a health classroom. In my health class, I try to add writing to our lessons and units whenever I can. Students have written letters to the editor about school lunch, discussed how song lyrics may influence sexual behavior, and have written mini-persuasive essays about why they should help stop bullying. This is in addition to any reflective writing that accompanies some other projects, too.

Using graphic organizers prevents problems from occurring in the latter stages of a paper. Students are allowed to organize their thoughts and link them together before they begin to write their final product. Graphic organizers are often needed for students on IEPs/504s, but they can assist all students with their learning.

Below are three resources I've used when I need a graphic organizer:

Holt Interactive Graphic Organizers. The graphic organizers on this website can be edited with text on your computer. This makes it easy to personalize graphic organizers to your own classroom or specific topic. Approximately forty different graphic organizers are organized by category.

Education Place: Graphic Organizers. This is the first site that pops up on Google if you enter "graphic organizers" into the search box. Like Holt Interactive, Education Place includes approximately forty different graphic organizers, all conveniently available in PDF form to download. There are no preview options on this page, so you'll have to take a stab at what a graphic organizer will look like based on its name. Each graphic organizer is also available in Spanish.

If you're trying to use electronic graphic organizers, there are a few options that I'm less familiar with. is one I have blogged about in the past. Inspiration is another program to check out that many educators are familiar with.

I make sure to model how to use the graphic organizer before students begin brainstorming. I'm lucky enough where I can throw one up on the Smartboard and fill one in with the markers; I could also project the editable graphic organizers from Holt on the board and type the information in from the computer., mentioned above, is another one I have used with my classes. No matter how they are used, graphic organizers can help students streamline their thinking, make connections between ideas, and help students create better pieces of written work.

As always, please e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Classroom Management: Sticky Notes

There are probably hundreds, no...THOUSANDS...of ways sticky notes can be used in the classroom. These handy little pieces of paper with a small strip of sticky adhesive made their debut in American stores in 1980, and are so loved by the general public that you can even download sticky note apps onto your computer or smart phone.

I'll be the first to admit that my classroom is a little louder than most. When you are trying to teach skills-based health education, there's a lot of moving around. When teaching certain topics, there can be a lot of emotion boiling; personal opinions and experiences are defended vehemently. I don't view it as a bad thing when students get into the lesson I'm teaching, although there is a point where lines are crossed. When this happens, it's important to try to minimize the time lost to dealing with discipline issues. There are many ways in which a teacher could do this. Enter sticky notes.

I began using sticky notes to assist with classroom management this year, after it was suggested by my former (now retired) curriculum director and evaluator towards the end of last school year. I was looking for an easy way to keep track of student behavior that would minimize disruption to the learning of other students, and asked him if he had any ideas. Using sticky notes requires no verbal action and I can warn a student about their behavior literally without breaking stride or taking time away from what I am trying to accomplish in the classroom that day.

So, what exactly do I do? My protocol is as follows. If a student is disrupting the class, has made an inappropriate remark, is off task, whatever the reason: I simply walk over to them and place a sticky note on their desk. This serves as a visual reminder to myself and to them that I've noticed their behavior, and that it needs to change. It's also a warning that I've noticed their behavior, and that I would like it to change. I usually don't even need to say anything; students are made aware of my policy at the start of the school year and quickly become familiar with it.

If the student continues to be disruptive to the class, they do one of three things. To be honest, what they do depends on a variety of factors: the student, the specific behavior going on, any IEP/504 accommodations or modifications associated with discipline, etc. Students will either: 1. Write down the phone number of their parent/guardian, 2. Write down an e-mail address of their parent/guardian, or 3. Write down the day they will stay after school with me. (Note: I have all the home contact information of parents/guardians, so if students try to mess with me by leaving fake numbers I have myself covered)

After writing that information down, students will place their sticky note on the handset of the classroom phone on my desk. That is a visual reminder to me to contact home about the student's behavior.

Student responses to this method have been varied. Some students take the opportunity to draw artwork on their sticky notes: smiley faces (trying to change my mind!), frowny faces (no doubt how they are feeling), or small bits of nature scenes. Others collect them in their folders, showcasing them as souvenirs. I've had a few ripped up and thrown on the floor, which really doesn't help me change my mind as to why I handed out a sticky note in the first place. Some students, upon seeing me just reach for their sticky notes, immediately stop their behavior and ask for a second chance. Typically I've already given them a chance to adjust their behavior, so their attempt is often in vain.

It's a simple technique, and has been pretty effective for me this year. My student teacher picked right up on my technique and now carries her own pad of sticky notes, ready to pounce on classroom disruptions. Is this perfect? No. Does it always work? I wish I could say that it does. Every day with middle school students is an adventure, and students have good days and bad days. This technique is quick, does not take away from instructional/learning time, and is easy to fit into any classroom. At the end of the day, a teacher needs to find a way of dealing with discipline that fits into their own style.

So, in conclusion:
  • If a student is disrupting the learning environment (what this entails is up to you), a sticky note is placed on their desk
  • If a student changes their behavior, no further action is taken
  • If the student does not change their behavior, students will be asked to:
    • Write down a phone number of their parents/guardians
    • Write down an e-mail address of their parent/guardian
    • Write down a date in which they will stay after school
  • The sticky note is placed on the handset of my classroom phone, as a reminder to contact home.
If after the above steps the behavior is still causing an issue, then the student will be asked to leave the room. In the past, anytime a student has written contact information on a sticky note they were assigned a detention; I have tweaked that due to crazy after school schedules on the parts of both students and myself (IEP meetings, committee meetings, high school track meets, etc).

Feel free to give using sticky notes a try. What classroom management techniques do you use in your classroom? As always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

HIV Transmission Simulation (And, More Posts ARE Coming!)

NOTE: As long promised, here is my updated take on the HIV Transmission Simulation as created by the fine folks over at Advocates for Youth.

Despite my absence from blogging here, this blog still attracts roughly twenty unique visitors a day. Traffic mainly comes from Google, and after being made aware of this information I'm going to make an effort to contribute to this blog more often. With the AAHPERD Convention coming up, I'm back on a professional development kick! 

The HIV Transmission Simulation is easily one of my favorite activities I've used in my career as a health educator. Originally created by the organization Advocates for Youth, I have used this lesson successfully many times. I've also added some enhancements to the lesson. It does require some initial set-up time, and you'll probably have to buy most of the materials yourself. But, it always leaves a big impact in the minds of my students, and it helps to bring a very important point close to home. Check out the reactions of some of my students from when I first used this activity in 2010.

I've embedded the lesson plan in PDF form below. If you want to see a copy you can print out, please click here. I've also taken it upon myself to identify, in red writing, things that I myself have added to this lesson. Some of these ideas were my own, and others from past professors/teachers/friends. I will be teaching this lesson in the near future to one of my eighth grade classes that is behind the others, so I hope to put up some pictures in the near future.

The original lesson plan from the Advocates for Youth website can be found here. As educators, we are very fortunate that organizations provide teaching materials on their website for free that can enhance what we do in our own classrooms. The original activity is fantastic in itself, I just added some tweaks in order to create different experiences in my classroom. I do not take credit for the original lesson at all; in fact I've seen this concept done in many ways: using index cards and shaking hands, with liquid and chemical indicators, etc.

Future Posts (already written and scheduled to post!):
Saturday 2/25: Sticky Notes (classroom management technique)
Wednesday 2/29: Marijuana Vocabulary Activity (applicable to all levels)

As always, please e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns. Also, be sure to check out another blog I co-created with my roommate, Matt: Positive Living

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Puberty Education Resources: Part 1

It's been a while since I've posted any sort of information relating to what I've done in my classroom. There's really no reason, but between teaching, head-coaching a team of 75 kids this fall, and grad-school, things get pretty busy. With that being said, I ran into some grad school classmates of mine who are student teaching and we were exchanging teaching ideas, which lead to my thinking about posting again. Combine that with my PLN on Twitter, and there's a whole-lotta information being exchanged that I want to get in on once again. I'm still getting hits every week from Google, so it's time to shake of the cobwebs and get back into blogging.

Given that I have just taught puberty to the sixth graders this year, I figured I would post some of my favorite resources for puberty education that I use in my classroom.

NOTE: I have posted about some of these before. Links to old posts are provided, but when I have changed things I've made notes in this post.

PBS Kids: It's My Life: "Puberty: Whole Lotta Changin' Goin' On"
PBS Kids is one of my favorite resources to use in the classroom. When I started teaching, I found it difficult to break down certain body processes (nocturnal emissions, menstruation, etc.) down into language that sixth grade students would understand. Looking back on it, it's not too difficult to do; I was still in the college mindset my first year and now I have no problem doing so. By the name, you may have surmised that PBS Kids is written for kids. The information about puberty is part of a larger PBS Kids website called, "It's My Life." It's my life contains information for kids on topics such as puberty, depression, staying home alone, school, family, and emotions. The website is very content rich and contains numerous videos, games, and interactive activities. Off-line activities are also available on the website.

The website is a helpful resource that children can check out on their own time if they need more puberty information. It is an accurate, safe resource for kids. Reproductive System Diagrams.
A few months into when I first started blogging, I posted a quick post with links to virtual reproductive systems from Their diagrams match up almost perfectly with the diagrams from our puberty curriculum (Michigan Model's "The Wonder Years") making them easy to use in the classroom.  get a kick out of the fact that each part lights up when you click on it, and up pops a quick little summary of each body part. In addition to these diagrams, KidsHealth has a lot of useful information about the changes that occur in both males and females during puberty. With a plethora of information online about puberty and other human sexuality topics, parents can rest assured that the information on is medically accurate; it is written and reviewed by doctors. There is plenty of information on the website for students to review containing vocabulary, too.

You can view the male reproductive system diagram here and the accompanying information here. The female reproductive system diagram may be viewed here, while the accompanying information is here. Note that the male diagram contains a side angle view and a front angle view. The female diagram contains an internal view (front angle) as well as an external view. There is also an animation about the menstrual cycle, which is simple yet thorough in its explanation of menstruation.

Reproductive Systems "Mapping Lab"
After we learn about the various parts of the male and female reproductive systems, I have the students complete a "mapping lab" as a review during the next class. This idea was taken from the geography teacher across the hall, who uses this to help her students review countries, capitals, and physical features of the continents. Each group is given a blank copy of the reproductive system diagrams, a sheet protector, and a dry erase marker. Students are to label the reproductive systems using the dry erase marker, which easily erases off the sheet protector when needed. They are provided with a handout where they are to match the name of each body part with its function, too. also has a parent site with useful information parents can use to talk to their children about the challenges of puberty. I don't provide parents with this information directly, but I do mention at open house that I know of some resources in case they feel in the dark about discussing puberty with their child. This feels weird to say to parents because in a lot of cases I'm young enough to be their son, but I put it out there anyway. Planned Parenthood has some great information on the topic, too.

To end on a lighter note, here's a video montage on YouTube containing clips of old-school puberty videos. We no longer use videos in our district at the middle school level, choosing instead to have a unit taught by the health teachers. When looking at these videos, it's hard not to laugh at how tongue-in-cheek they are, and I feel that puberty education deserves more than what those videos provide.

So, best of luck using these resources for your puberty endeavors! Here's a picture of me getting pumped up to teach puberty to my sixth graders:

Please e-mail me with any questions, comments, concerns, or other feedback. People generally don't comment here, but I do receive Tweets and e-mails every now and then. I'm hoping to get two more posts up before the holidays: one a lesson about YRBS data and the second about how my colleague and I are trying some literacy/vocabulary strategies in health education.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Tobacco Education Activities: Sticky Notes, Visuals, and Straw Walk (Oh my!)

NOTE: These are some activities I use in my classroom. I am not sure who initially came up with these ideas, but I've had success with them and in no way am I trying to take credit for inventing them.

I wanted to write a post to share some of my favorite activities relating to tobacco education, after being surprised that I haven't written about these yet. Not all of these activities are "skills based" per say, but they do address the needs of different types of learners while also helping to create meaning among the students. I used these activities for an assignment in a class I am taking (not through BU, through a local education consortium) on brain based learning. We had to think about activities that would create meaning and would be considered relevant by our students. Immediately, these activities came to mind.

In order for learning to be effective, the learning must make sense to the student, and it must have meaning. My personal challenge with everything I teach this year is asking these questions: Does this make sense? Does this have meaning? Is this relevant?

I don't think boring worksheets create meaning; neither do tests or quizzes (for the most part, although they do have their place in the teacher's toolbox). Granted, as a teacher you will never be guaranteed that every single student will always be into what you are teaching, but there are ways (active learning, skills based health education, student involvement) to at least put the ball more in your court. Obviously, I think all of health education is relevant to the lives of teenagers, but part of the trouble is that so many students have heard the same messages over again: don't smoke, don't drink, don't have sex, blah blah blah. No wonder kids tune out! As teachers, we have to give them reasons to tune in instead of tune out to what we are saying.

The nature of these activities is part-lecture, part visual, part hands-on simulation. I really enjoy teaching these activities,  and it seems like most of the students enjoy them as well. The third one, as you'll see below, can be especially eye opening!

Sticky Notes. This sticky notes activity occurs during a lecture portion about tobacco's effect on the human body. I'm not the biggest fan of lectures, but let's be honest: sometimes they have to be done. I provide students with a copy of the notes with fill ins, so they know what information to look for. This was initially done for some special education students, and I decided to use it for everyone, too. As soon as I start the lesson (which includes the visuals mentioned below), I start a timer on my watch to beep every six minutes. I go about teaching the lesson normally: presenting information, checking for understanding, answering student questions, etc. As soon as the watch beeps, I place a stick note on the wall in front of the classroom. Students are initially puzzled, and I move on saying they will find out at a later time. Some students grasp this right away, others do not.

Have an idea where I am going with this? Read on!

My classes are 53 minutes each, and for this activity I'll probably get through 45 minutes of instruction time before I start to wrap things up and end with a summarizer. For the record, I don't get to utilize summarizers all the time, but for this lesson I find it essential. At this point, there's approximately seven or eight sticky notes on the wall. Here's what they mean, and here is more or less what I tell my students:
  • Every 72 seconds (1 minute and 12 seconds), someone in the United States dies of smoking related causes
  • The watch beeped every six minutes. During that time, five people in the United States have, theoretically, died from smoking related causes
  • This adds up to approximately 443,000 people every year
  • If each sticky note represents five people, how many people in the United States have passed away during this lesson?
Usually, this point tends to hit home with students, although some of them do question the merit of the data, which I obtained from the CDC and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids. I've thought about using one sticky note for each person, but I think that would take away from the mystique.

Visuals. There are many great visuals out there relating to tobacco use: infographics, charts and graphs, pictures of black lungs. These visuals run the gamut from educational and fact based to having a sensational shock value. If I put myself in the shoes of my students, I would probably tune out any sort of visuals I have already seen or ones that don't apply to me. Thinking outside the box and providing students with manipulative visuals is my answer to this problem. Here are two visuals I use; I do use some others, but these are slightly different.

Enter the Tar Jar. The Tar Jar was purchased by another health educator in my building, and is displayed to the right. The Tar Jar that we have contains a representation of the amount of tar that will pass through the lungs of a smoker who smokes half a pack of cigarettes every day for an entire year. It's easy to see that the amount would double if someone were to smoke one pack a day for an entire year. We discuss that tar (Total Aerosol Residue) is produced when tobacco burns, and we also take this time to discuss tobacco smoke in general. I am not sure where we purchased our Tar Jar, but if you would like to create your own Tar Jar, check out this PDF for a recipe! 

Another visual I use is bubble wrap. That's right, basic bubble wrap. Once, I ran out and had to find online bubble wrap to use! I use bubble wrap when we talk about the alveoli in the lungs, which are tiny air filled sacs. Their main job is to exchange oxygen. Alveoli are very stretchy, like tiny balloons. Smoking damages the alveoli by making them less elastic; this damage is permanent and cannot be repaired. Ultimately, this makes it harder to breathe and can lead to COPD. I use the bubble wrap in a demonstration, popping a few of the bubbles and asking students to re-inflate the bubbles I popped. This is impossible, and it emphasizes the point that damage done to the alveoli cannot be repaired. I do point out that the alveoli do not "pop" like the bubble wrap, and that the takeaway point is that the damage cannot be repaired.

Straw Walk. This is one of my favorites; an entire lesson in itself. I am able to tie in information relating to heart rate my students have learned in physical education class. I being by setting the following ground rules: "Students must behave respectfully and responsibly during all activities in class today. While we are in the hallways, there will be no talking, no fooling around, and no immature activity. Any violations of the above or specific rules mentioned by Mr. Bartlett before the activity will result in an immediate detention. No excuses, no exceptions! If at any point you feel dizzy, short of breath, or lightheaded, STOP. Your grade will NOT be negatively affected. Listen to your body!"

Initially, students take their resting heart rate on a thirty second count, and multiply that by two. I the describe a route we are going to take walking through the middle school, finishing with a stair climb from the first floor up to the third floor. When we get to the top, the students take their heart rates again. They also make a note on their worksheets of how they felt in comparison to taking their rest heart in the classroom.

Upon our return to the classroom, each student receives a drinking straw. Now, we complete the same walk as before, but with a twist: students have to place the straw in their mouth and breathe only through the straw. Sometimes, I give students the option of pinching their nose shut, too. We complete the same walk, and for most students it gets tough once we start going up the stairs. We use the same process: take the heart rate again, but I also focus more on how the students feel after this portion of the activity. Sometimes, the heart rate doesn't always increase, depending on a variety of factors (fitness, error in taking heart rate, etc.; in my experience, however, students almost always identify that breathing through the straw simply felt harder.

Once we get back to the classroom the second time, we go through a discussion and the students engage in a reflection about the activity. Some questions I may ask: Which activity felt the hardest for you to complete? How did it feel breathing through the straw? What would your life be like if this was the only way you could breathe? We only walked for this activity, what would it feel like to run, dance, swim, etc. breathing like this? How would regular lifestyle activities be affected?

Sometimes, I offer students the opportunity to go through their normal school day only breathing through the straw, but no one has taken me up on it! When I was student teaching, my cooperating practitioner had the students run laps around the gym. I have thought about doing this, but because not all of my students are athletes, I like this activity as conducted because it focuses on lifestyle activities: we all walk and walk up and down stairs.

Wrap Up. Listen, I'm not saying that these are magical activities that would completely hold the attention of your students for the entire class period. Depending on the population you are working with, they might not even be effective. As a health educator, that is your decision to make. All I know is that I tend to luck out when I use approaches like this. If these types of activities are able to create meaning with the brains of my students, there's a greater likelihood that they will remember the information. So, when the time comes for one of my students to determine whether or not to engage in risky behavior, this information could be recalled and may prevent any negative consequences associated with risky behaviors. Granted, this is only the knowledge side; providing students with skills in health education is the other piece of the puzzle.

Later this week, I'll finally be reposting the HIV Transmission Simulation that I have taken from an excellent online source. I'll be posting the original lesson as well as the one with my own additions. I have to catch up on some work for my class before I head to Vermont for the weekend, so I will try to get it up before I leave, but I can't promise anything. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Using Music In Health Class, Part One: Rise Against's "Make It Stop"

Part One in a series detailing how I am using (or plan on using) music in my middle school health education classroom.

Music is a powerful force that many teenagers can find connections with. Music is a large part of their lives, and teenagers are constantly plugged into their iPods or on YouTube, listening away; music can be interpreted in as many ways as there are people. It also has the ability to influence us, in ways positive and negative.

Last school year, I experimented with a part homework, part classwork activity that involved analyzing song lyrics relating to sexuality. The eighth grade students I completed this assignment with really enjoyed it; it was not difficult for them to find songs dealing with sexuality related topics or issues: love, breaking up, cheating, stereotypes, sexual violence, sexuality, gender issues, sexism, body image, etc. Songs came from many genres, some were parodies and some were serious. The details about this assignment are not to point of this post, but rather to highlight one band's song that is tackling a big issue facing American teenagers.

DISCLAIMER: I wouldn't call myself a "fan" fan of Rise Against, but I do enjoy a lot of their music. I used to listen to "Broken English" in college during my warm-up runs before races. I am in no way affiliated with them, just trying to spread the word about a positive thing: choosing to speak up about an issue many are ignoring.

Earlier this summer, the punk rock band Rise Against released a new song and music video that takes a stand against homophobia, and the song is also part of the nationally known It Gets Better campaign. The song is entitled, "Make It Stop (September's Children)" and was written during the influx of gay and gay-perceived teenagers committing suicide in September of 2010. Rise Against has always been into activism of any sort (they've been known to tackle political issues in their songs), and in that way, this song is no different from many of their other songs. MTV interviewed frontman Tyler McIlrath earlier this summer, and the video is meant to showcase Tyler's frustrations that so many teenagers across the country, from all sexual orientations, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, etc. don't feel accepted at school.

I'm not entirely sure how I would use this in my classroom, but I do know that in order for students to fully understand with what they're learning, they have to be able to make a connection with it. This music video may be one such avenue with which to do so; as I mentioned before, music plays a large part in the lives of many teenagers. Whether the goal of music is to entertain or serve as a form of social protest doesn't matter, it can still help change the way people act. This video easily fits into numerous health topics. Hopefully, more bands, singers, performers, actors, athletes, and others who serve as role models for teenagers will begin to address issues like Rise Against has. As a teacher, it is part of my job to bring awareness to these issues, to begin those types of conversations, and to provide opportunities for tolerance within my classroom, hopefully extending out into the world.

The video is embedded below. Please be aware that some people may find it fairly intense. Be sure to check out the It Gets Better Project, too.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Long Time No Post!

It's been a while since I've updated this blog, and I'm going to get back into the routine over the summer. People have been asking me if I would get back into the blogging routine, so here I am! The end of the school year was very busy (no surprise there!) and as the summer begins, there's a lot of housekeeping items I want to work on in relation to my classroom for next year. Despite my lapse in posting, I'm still getting hits everyday from search engines, so I know people out there are looking for answers! I'm committing myself to frequent posting, during the summer and during the school year.

In no particular order, here is a list of what I hope to contribute over the next few weeks:
  1. Repost an updated version of the HIV Transmission Simulation. A friend of mine was looking for this one day and reminded me I need to re-post! I didn't create the lesson, but I have modified it based on my own experiences.
  2. Tobacco UDL Packet. A series of take-home assignments that try to incorporate as many UDL (Universal Design for Learning) principles as possible. I didn't get to use these this year, but they were created so the students could so some exploring on their own, as homework.
  3. Sexuality Resources: I have nine resources in nine separate posts; all in varying states of drafting. I'm going to combine them into a post (or two...or three!).
  4. A bullying resource with video clips, lesson plans, information for parents, etc. that I've used
  5. Classroom management: some things I've picked up in my first three years.
  6. A series of activators, to be used at the start of units
  7. "Music and Health Education"
  8. Resources for skills based health education
  9. New music video by Rise Against that focuses on the issues of LGBT bullying
  10. Brain based learning. I'm taking an online course in brain based learning this summer, and if I learn anything I'd like to share, I will!
One of my good friends from undergrad was just hired to teach middle school health, too. She asked for some help and she and I will be e-mailing back and forth all summer. I am sure that those e-mails will give me a lot of material to post with. This will tie in with what I presented about at MAHPERD last November, too; the topic was "Survival Skills for The First Year Health Education Teacher."

The fall will be busy as I've picked up a head coaching job and will also be taking a graduate course. Despite this, I hope to add some VIDEO to the blog. Yes, video! Nothing too crazy, but something to spice things up a little. I may start to add actual research data/articles to some of my posts to back myself up...but we'll see about that. :) I'm hoping to work on a classroom website, which is something I started last year but never got off the ground. With our district shifting to Google apps (which I already love) this could be easier. And yes, I will be relaxing this summer. :) Between my summer job and other things, I still have plenty of time to relax!

I enjoy putting information out there for others to use, and when someone contacts me with questions or to say they've learned something from my blog, then I know there's a reason to keep rolling with this. Ultimately, it's also a tool for myself to grow professionally. I enjoy doing this, and hope you enjoy it, too!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Nutrition Label Creator

Each trimester, I teach my sixth graders how to read food labels as part of our nutrition unit. Students usually are assigned to bring in a label from any food product, and then we engage in a lesson where we examine the food labels to determine the positive and negatives of each food item. This is also a great way to review the positive and negatives of nutrients that are listed on food labels.

I always try to have some extra food labels lying around. I've also noticed that although food labels are cut off of the packaging they come from, students are sometimes able to guess on the food item based on the look or feel of the packaging. In order to combat this, I looked for easy ways to create food labels online in order to promote a standard look among the food labels we use in class.

Many options exist, some of which cost money. A quick Google search provided me with a free, easy to use tool from the website Shop 'N Cook. Their Food Nutrition Facts Label Creator is easy to use and allows the user to print off each label as a PDF. Simply enter the nutrient information and the label creator will create a nutrition label. This may be a little time intensive at first, but once you figure out the interface, it's easy to whip up a few different labels.

While some people aren't as uptight as me about making sure everything looks the same, I find that for continuity purposes it makes sense to have a uniform look among food labels I use in class. Students are then able to examine the nutrition facts without any prior judgement as to what the food item may be, and are called on to use their nutrition knowledge (as opposed to any personal bias) when evaluating the nutrition information about a particular food item.

You can access the nutrition label creator at the Shop 'N Cook website by clicking here.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Great Video!

I haven't been posting here as much recently, mainly due to balancing graduate classes with teaching. I've also been busy blogging away with my friend Matt about our Sugar Challenge. Please check that out and spread the word about our challenge, too!

I saw a video today that I absolutely have to post here. Please pass on this video to everyone you know! I'm going to post about it on our Sugar Challenge blog, too. The video speaks for itself! I stumbled upon this after viewing the webpage of a physical education teacher from California. I began following him on Twitter after finding a list of teachers, grouped by subject, who have Twitter accounts. Twitter has been a great resource for me to gain information from teachers and health advocates from all over the country!

I do have some posts in the works for the next week or two, so check back soon!

Sunday, February 27, 2011

No Sugar Added: 30 Day Challenge

For the month of March, my good friend Matt Germain and I will be attempting to eliminate processed sugar from our diets. Back this summer, Matt went thirty days without buying food from a grocery store, making purchases at farmer's markets, local bakeries, etc. Matt wanted to do something similar again. This was the idea he came up with, and due to my deadly sweet tooth, I figured I would join him! Out of both of us, Matt arguably has a head start based on his superb diet, but we are both expecting this to be difficult! We both know that any healthy eating pattern allows foods in moderation. Sugar in small amounts isn't entirely bad. We don't want to come off as presenting opinions or unproven facts as scientific evidence, so we want to be clear that we don't have an agenda. We're not trying to stick it to the man by taking on the sugar industry. We're simply trying to become more aware of what exactly we're putting into our bodies, for food is fuel and clean fuel is the best fuel. This is about self awareness, and about being proactive with what we are putting into our bodies. Adding more nutrient dense foods to our diet is never a bad thing.

As of right now, we are still ironing out a few details of how exactly we are going to implement this, but we are going to strive for daily updates as time allows. We will have a blog solely for this, although Matt will also be posting on his own blog, Positive Eating. I may post some posts relating to our 30 Day Challenge here if it has to do with teaching about nutrition, but I don't want to get away from why I started Middle School Health Esteem in the first place.

With work/grad classes/coaching going on for me, and work/running/coaching going on for Matt, it will be tough, but doable, to attempt this 30 Day Challenge. We are hoping to add some video posts, too. Analyzing various snack food items from my middle school cafeteria and maybe even my own cabinets might take place, too. I can't make any promises or speak for Matt, but hopefully we can enrich our own updates with some extra things, too. I am taking a lot of inspiration from Mrs. Q, who blogs at Fed Up With Lunch. Basically, the sky is the limit and I'm sure that this will be more of an undertaking than we thought! There are already some excellent resources out there, and we don't want to rip anyone else off. By no means are we medical or science experts, so we're hoping to showcase these resources to our readers. Ultimately, we'll have to wait to see exactly how much time we want to devote to blogging in addition to everything else going on in our lives.

Matt is more of the nutrition authority, and I'm more of the rambling type. We hope to find a balance between our strengths to bring you some serious information regarding sugar and your health. It is also our hope to document how our bodies initially handle this change, and the challenges of accommodating our eating habits to eliminate processed sugar. Heck, even ketchup has sugar in it!

We'll still load up on fruits and vegetables, of course. Honey and agave nectar are also allowed. Any plant or animal products are allowed. But, any processed white sugar is out. So cookies, cupcakes, white breads, etc.

Posts will most likely be taking place on a unique blog. We do have our own separate blogs, and this new blog is how we hope to link our interests together. The idea to co-write a blog with both of us goes back a while, and we have thought of both serious and goofy ideas.

We're going to try to promote this through a variety of means: Facebook, Twitter, word of mouth, maybe guest blogging on other sites, etc. It is our hope that we can motivate other people to undertake a similar change to what they put in their bodies, whatever that me be for them. Maybe someone stops drinking soda, or adds fruit to every meal. We are all capable of such changes, and if people see some normal twenty-something year old guys do it, well then maybe they will be motivated to change, too. We do want to get our message out there; Matt with his nutrition information and myself with information about health education.

I'm working on a teaching activity about sugar right now that I am hoping to eventually have published in the AAHE Teaching Techniques Journal. I'm not sure if time will allow myself to finish this before the end of the month, but we shall see!

Stay tuned for updated information on our 30 Day Challenge!

Sunday, February 6, 2011

AAHE Teaching Techniques Journal

NOTE: Some of my older posts are in the process of being edited so I can update and repost them. My most popular (the HIV Transmission Simulation Activity from the AFY Website and the Alcohol Simulation Stations) are among those. Eventually the old posts will contain links to the new posts. Check back later this week!

One of the best parts of teaching health education is searching for new, interactive, skills-based, hands-on activities that I can use in my classroom to spice up our curriculum. Through networking with other teachers, scouring the Internet, and picking through books, I always seem to find something to try out in the  middle school classroom. This is one reason why I started this website!

So, I was pumped to see that the American Association of Health Education is now publishing an online journal entitled, Teaching Techniques Journal! This resource is located on their website, is free of charge, and can be accessed by anyone. Simply click the "Current Issue" link and read away!

The Teaching Techniques Journal is exactly what our profession needs. The American Journal of Health Education used to publish one or two "Teaching Ideas" and I was disappointed to see that go away. Now, through a separate resource, it's back! The activities in the first issue cover a wide variety of topics, and even if a teacher feels that the specific activities might not fit into their classroom, teachers can take the basic idea or concept and adapt it as they see fit. I already have some ideas about how I can tweak some lessons for my own classroom. Many ideas for the secondary classroom in the first issue were submitted by individuals working in higher education; I hope to see some ideas submitted by secondary teachers in the future as well.

So, what are you waiting for? Check out the first issue of Teaching Techniques Journal now!
As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions, comments, or concerns.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Jack LaLanne Videos

A few days ago, I was saddened to hear about the passing of a true American legend, Jack LaLanne. Jack LaLanne was a man far head of his time, teaching Americans about the importance of exercise and good nutrition long before it was medically accepted that both were vital for good health. I am a proud owner of his PowerJuicer, although unfortunately I haven't used it recently.

Last year, I found some videos on YouTube of Jack's television show from the 1950s-1960s. I threw some on a CD and kept it in my classroom, in case I had a class that was ahead of another or found some extra time at the end of a lesson. I showed some clips to a few classes and explained what Jack was all about. Today I showed a clip from Jack's TV show to some seventh graders, and three of them started doing the chair exercises Jack was doing, in the middle of health class!! I told one of them that he could be the next Jack LaLanne if he wanted to be.

I've embedded a few Jack LaLanne videos from YouTube below. I may make a webquest for my students as well. Please pass on Jack's wisdom, knowledge, and dedication to your students. The next Jack LaLanne is out there, and that student may be in your classroom!!

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