Monday, June 7, 2010

Teaching Toolbox: Tom Jackson's Books

The following post applies to anyone who works with youth: teachers, counselors, administrators, coaches, parents, etc. All can benefit from these activities! :)

I'm considering adding a category called "Teaching Toolbox." This would combine a few of the other tags I already have, making things less cluttered and more efficient. I'd have to go back and change quite a few entries, so we'll see what happens. So, there's the reasoning behind the post title.

In many of my undergraduate classes at Springfield, my health education professors would teach us using pedagogy methods we could actually use in our own classes when we began student teaching. By experiencing these activities from the perspective of a student, we were better able to grasp each activity and make notes for when we would actually be teaching. It was through this that I first began to hear, read about, and experience the many active learning activities created by Tom Jackson. NOTE: I am not affiliated with Tom Jackson in any way, shape, or form; I'm just a big supporter of his books after using them in my classroom.

Two of my undergraduate professors were big proponents of Tom Jackson. I too became a proponent, and borrowed their copies of his books during my student teaching experiences. Eventually purchasing my own, I now try to use Jackson's activities in each unit that I teach. Jackson's activities are at times deceptively simple. In today's digital age, they serve as reminders that teachers don't need flash and dash to hook students or for students to learn. Most require minimal set-up, although a few will require some preparation work so things run smoothly.

I found great success using Jackon's activities during my first year of teaching, when our health curriculum was pretty bland and needed to be spiced up in order to supplement factual information. Even though our revamped curriculum is better now, I still find myself using Jackson's activities whenever I can. In fact, the alcohol simulation stations lesson (designed by a professor of mine) incorporated many of Jackson's activities rolled into one. I've used his activities in a multitude of units: ATOD, bullying, media literacy, goal setting, gambling addiction, etc.

Tom has four books out; I own three and consider them to be valuable tools in my teaching toolbox. His activities can be used as activators, summarizers, or entire lessons in themselves. If a class is ahead of another one and we have a rare class period to explore outside the curriculum, Jackon's activities fit the bill too. I find that his activities are perfect to emphasize certain points in class, and the post-activity discussions are often the most valuable parts of my classes. The post-activity discussion is critical, because without it, the activity will be meaningless. I have witnessed, on multiple occasions, the awe of absolute silence as students sit in anticipation of the discussion in order to figure out what exactly each activity meant. The activities keep students engaged while they enjoy learning. They can be used in large classes or small ones; counseling groups and peer mediation sessions; anytime youth are learning.

Jackson's first book, Activities That Teach, was what started it all. According to Tom's website, these hands on activities cover topics such as "alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention, and which teach skills related to communication, values, working together, problem solving, stress management, goal setting, self-esteem, decision making, and more."

Jackson's second book, More Activities That Teach include different activities that cover topics like, "alcohol, tobacco and drug prevention, and which teach skills related to anger management, resisting peer pressure, diversity, violence and gang prevention, communication, values, working together, problem solving, stress management, goal setting, self-esteem, decision making, and more."

I also have a third book by Jackson, entitled Activities That Teach Family Values. While designed for parents, this book also has some great activities for classroom use. A fourth book is entitled, Still More Activities That Teach.

Each book contains valuable information on conducting discussions with youth, as well as the importance of active learning and tips for success. I highly suggest that any teacher considers using these activities in the classroom as soon as possible. They can add a lot to any class!

A sample activity from two of the books can be found here or here. Again, trust me: you will not be disappointed if you purchase these books!

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

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