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
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...