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!!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Video Viewing Activity: "Record, Elaborate, Extend"

I'm sure that I've mentioned somewhere in an earlier post that I'm not the biggest fan of using videos extensively in my classroom. I feel that there are too many other ways to effectively teach students health education that encourage them to be active, as opposed to passive, in their education. Unfortunately, in some districts health education is thrust upon teachers who are not trained or who have no interest in teaching health; this has led to health education being stereotyped as a class where videos are shown and nothing else really goes on. This is not to say that videos should be banned from the classroom! I do use short video clips whenever I can, to bring a different element to the classroom. In the May/June 2010 issue of the American Journal of Health Education, there's an article about using video clips in a health literacy program and their implication for providing context for classroom topics. I rarely show full length videos, but find that video clips can help stimulate discussion about topics, among other things.

In the situations where I do show actual videos, I don't want the students to sit there idly and fall asleep; nor do I want them to simply write down "facts" as they watch. After all, there is a point to the video! I want them to take specific information away from their viewing, and to expand upon this information later in class or during our unit. Recently during our seventh grade ATOD unit, I showed an eighteen minute video called, "Spit Tobacco Exposed." It's a little dated, from the era when green screens and flashy graphics were popular, but the content is accurate and is presented in a way that gets the attention of students. It also reviews some other information we will have already covered regarding tobacco and nicotine, so I'm able to get some review in while also presenting new content. The rest of the lesson builds off of this video.

Prior to the video, each student received a handout with a chart on it. The chart was entitled, "Record, Elaborate, and Extend." (Please see below for an embedded version of the chart) I came upon this idea from a colleague in the social studies department, who read about it in Educational Leadership. The article, entitled "Putting Gel Pen to Paper" is written by a seventh grade history teacher. The article's premise is that students can improve their writing skills while enhancing their understanding of course content.

Because the video I showed was brief (and only part of the lesson for the day) I didn't really need to focus too much on what I wanted the students to look for. But, if you look at the handout embedded below, you'll see I did highlight specific information I wanted the students to pick up on. Some students recognized the format and knew immediately what to do because they had seen this format elsewhere with other teachers. I model what to do using the Boston Red Sox as an example.

Below is a brief summary of the chart, with some information quoted from page 65 of the article "Putting Gel Pen to Paper." After the summary of each section, I've written what I specifically was looking for for this lesson.

Record (during video). "While they view the video, students jot down key points and significant ideas in the Record section of their viewing guide. Students should keep their points brief, recording only short phrases, because the process of transcribing should interfere as little as possible with the process of watching and listening." Record brief notes and short phrases on smokeless tobacco: what it is, its effects on the body, why people do it, negative health effects, etc.

Elaborate (during break or breaks). "The teacher pauses the video to allow students to process the information they have seen and heard. Students examine their recorded notes and write a specified number of full sentences in the Elaborate section of their viewing guide that describe what they have learned. Teachers may use sentence stems to help students start writing." Re-read your recorded notes. Write full sentences, making sense of the recorded notes and linking information together. Please note that because of the short length of this video, we did not pause at all. However, the video does provide an opportunity to pause for discussion towards the end; I just choose to wait until the video is over.

Extend (after the video). "The entire class discusses the elaborated points. Students can then respond to an open-ended question in the Extend section of their viewing guides, synthesizing what they have learned from the video." Use your notes to answer the following prompts: (1) Identify three ways smokeless tobacco could alter your life. (2) Justify the need for smokeless tobacco education in schools. For the next round of classes, I am going to change these questions.

Overall, I like using this format; it also allows students to practice note taking skills. They're not sitting back passively, focusing so much on the next question that they drown other information out, and they're not just writing down random facts and tidbits information that might not have relevance to the curriculum. It also ensures one hundred percent student participation. I have not yet had to modify this for any students in my classes, but the format can be made as specific as possible and is easy to modify.

It's also important to highlight that during the video, the students should only record brief phrases, so that they don't spend a lot of time away from paying attention to the video. It's fun to see the light bulbs go off when students link information together and make connections, too!

I've embedded an example of the chart I use below. Finally, here are two student examples from one of my seventh grade classes. These examples are not perfect (I had to clarify some items when I handed them back), but they are real-life student examples from a seventh grade class. If anything, they simply provide a visual of the "Record, Elaborate, Extend" format in action.

Student Sample #1:
Student Example #1

Student Sample #2:

Student Example #2

Here is the example chart:

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

Article Citation: Yell, M.M. (2002). Putting gel pen to paper.Educational Leadership60(3), 63-66.

Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with HRM Video, the creators of "Spit Tobacco Exposed" nor am I affiliated with ASCD, the publishers of Educational Leadership. However, their publication is a GREAT resource that teachers can always take something from!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

LGBTQ Resources: Classroom Use

Recently the website Sex, Etc. updated their LGBTQ resources section of their website. I started drafting a post about Sex, Etc. this week but want to focus on how their updated LGBTQ section could be used in any health education classroom. Sex, Etc. is run by an orgnization out of Rutgers University called AnswerAnswer believes that, "Sexuality should be understood, respected, and celebrated." Answer is a fantastic resource for teenagers, health educators, and others working with teenagers. The website is perfectly geared towards teenagers, with information that is accurate, up to date, and definitely important for their lives. Sexuality education is so much more than sex, sex, sex. Sex, Etc. highlights this important fact, and covers everything a comprehensive sexuality curriculum should cover.

The updated LGBTQ resources are intended for teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning and to help them understand who they are. The resources are also great for family members, friends, and other allies of LGBTQ teenagers. Let's face it, if you're a teacher there are going to be LGBTQ students in your classes. Middle school by itself is a tough experience, and the burden of trying to figure out who they are puts an additional burden on teenagers. The information contained below could very easily be used to help lessen that burden and also help teenagers become more comfortable with who they are.

Books. A list of over one hundred and fifty books are listed on the Sex, Etc. website. Ranging from fiction to nonfiction, and geared towards LGBTQ youth as well as allies, educators, and parents, this list has a little of something for everyone. As a high school track coach, one book about a gay track athlete has peaked my interest. In my classroom, I have a sign saying, "What Is Mr. Bartlett Reading?" with the cover of whatever book I'm reading scanned in color underneath. I collaborate with the middle school librarian, who provides me with young adult novels to read, with the hope that I can engage middle school students in discussions about reading. I've had some great discussions with kids about the books I'm reading (they've read some of them after I have!), and reading a book from this list could allow me to have important sexuality conversations that might not initially come up during class. Ideally, students would also realize that I am promoting discussion about these types of issues, while being accepting of students no matter what their sexual orientation happens to be. I would be more cautious about discussing this with sixth grade than I would with my eighth graders, however. Also, June is Gay and Lesbian Pride Month, and middle school librarians could have a display in their library focusing on LGBTQ literature geared towards youth, allies, and educators. This might be a hot button issue in many communities, but it's an issue people have to stop hiding from and start talking about!

FAQs & Stories. Stories from staff writers and contributors fill a list of stories highlighting a myriad of topics relating to LGBTQ youth: coming out to your parents, being harassed at school, even information about professional athletes dealing with harassment about their sexuality. Making students aware of these stories can help them understand that they are not alone and their experiences are normal. The FAQ section also provides a great starting points for students who are curious and seeking extra information on what they are feeling and going through. This information could be shared in a variety of classroom activities, depending on the content of the story. A post-reading classroom discussion about the stories would be crucial in order to make sure students understand the knowledge and attitudes you want them to learn.

Web Sites and Hotlines. Sex, Etc. provides teenagers with twenty two websites and nine hotlines, such as PFLAG, The Trevor Project, and outLoud Radio. Teenagers can connect with students going through similar experiences, find support, and learn something from all of the listed web sites and hotlines. These organizations are easily made available to all students through a classroom display (it can be as small as one piece of paper on a bulletin board, or a larger display) or even through a classroom project asking students to research the different organizations and what they offer to teenagers.

Forums. The Sex, Etc. forums offer a way for teenagers to connect with others through discussion. It appears that the LGBTQ specific forums don't get too much activity compared to the other sections, but hopefully with the attention around these new resources activity will increase! The other forums are packed with information, with questions answered by an on-site expert. This is a great resource for teenagers who don't want to ask their parents or doctors the "tough" questions. Many teachers would not be able to share the content of these forums in their own classroom due to school policies or parental issues (which is a whole other topic!) but the forums are definitely a "go-to" outside of school resource.

As of right now, my curriculum relating to sexuality includes puberty in sixth grade and HIV/AIDS and other STDs in eighth grade. If I had my way, I would be able to teach everything! I'm hoping to work to improve that in my district, but because I can't right now, Sex, Etc. is a resource that I am comfortable passing along to students if they so inquire when I am teaching the units I mentioned above. So many websites on the Internet contain information that is false, and Sex, Etc. is the type of websites teenagers need to see!

All in all, the LGBTC section of Sex, Etc. provides valuable, must-see information for teenagers, educators, parents, and allies. I can only imagine what it would have been like if teenagers in my parent's generation would have had access to resources like these. It is vital to spread this information so we can prevent more tragedies, promote tolerance and acceptance, and finally be able to accept everyone, no matter what their sexual orientation is, simply for who they are.

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