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.

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