If you’re working with kids who come from a place of financial privilege and are teaching them about advocacy, it’s important they understand what that privilege really means. In this great clip, NBA star Dwayne Wade talks about how his popularity gives him a voice, and why he feels an obligation to use it for those who might not be able to.
He also talks about the survivors from Parkland behind the #NeverAgain movement and how they understand that as well- and how that made him want to help support their cause even more. From donating money, to visiting the school, and sponsoring an art exhibit to honor the victims– he’s showing the kids that he’s got their back. Such a awesome examples of advocacy all around, and a great clip to share with the class.
Unlike many other subjects, health is rarely a yearlong course. Most students are required to take health for either a semester or a quarter, which means that this time of year can require a quick “getting to know you” process, or a conscious shift in class dynamics as the students move from the field into the classroom.
The first day of any class is often associated with a course outline or syllabus. But good news: There are ways to deliver this information that won’t put your new students to sleep! Here are some activities that can help you set the tone of your course in a positive and engaging way:
Take ice-breakers literally.
There are so many great icebreakers out there, and most teachers keep a few in their back pocket for new class scenarios. What’s different with health classes, though, is that often a typical name game might not work, as the kids may have already been in phys ed together for the first half of the year.
My class kicked off this semester with a “snowball fight.” Students were given a sheet of recycled paper and told to write one fact about themselves that the class may not know, then crumple the paper up into a ball. From here, the teacher yells “SNOWBALL FIGHT!” and the class erupts into a giant snowball fight.
After a few chaotic minutes, everyone picks a snowball from the ground, and students take turns reading theirs and guessing whom it might belong to.
Have students engage in a round robin discussion.
A big part of health class is discussion-based, but many kids aren’t comfortable sharing in large groups. To make sure they all get a chance to demonstrate their knowledge, I mix class discussions with small table talks.
To give kids a taste of how this works as soon as they enter my class, I use a round robin protocol. One person at the table takes 30 seconds to share his or her thoughts on a topic, and then the other group members have 30 seconds to ask questions. Then the next person goes.
On the first day of class, I usually start with an easy topic like “What did you do over the break?” I’ll demonstrate first, and then have them get started.
In groups of four, this takes only four minutes, and it’s a good way to ensure that every student understands that they have a voice in your class.
Play a game of health bingo.
Bingo is a long-time favorite for teachers everywhere and a surefire hit for kids.
Find a bingo card template online, and fill the boxes with examples of healthy behaviors, like “I ate breakfast today” and “I like to be alone sometimes.” Then have the kids get up and find classmates to sign the boxes that that apply to them. The first student to fill a row with different signatures wins.
If you’d like to extend the activity or if you have a larger class, try playing this game “black-out style,” in which winners are required to have all boxes filled.
Put students in the hot seat.
Create a Power Point with a different vocabulary word on each slide, and have students take turns sitting in the “Hot Seat” with their back to the screen. The rest of the class tries to have them guess the vocabulary word on the screen by giving them the definitions, charades, or anyway you decide.
This is a great way to evaluate what your students remember from any previous health lessons. It’s also a fun and active way to tie up the first lesson… especially if you end with a word from the puberty unit.
This past weekend, our seniors came to school on Saturday for a full day retreat, where they attended workshops designed to help them navigate the growing list of requirements for their college applications.
Knowing the stress that often appears this time of year, their counselors asked us to offer some workshops on stress management and healthy coping skills. Between applications, essays, portfolios, classes, sports, and social commitments, high school seniors need to be reminded to unwind in healthy ways so they can enjoy their last year of high school.
Here’s the agenda we followed, as well as links and resources for further learning. Feel free to use any or all of these with your students, as these are valuable tools for teens (and adults!) of any age. Healthy Coping Skill #1: Journaling
Activity: Give students a slip of paper or a small notebook and have them reflect on the following:
How are you feeling about all that’s needed for your college applications?
What are some concerns you have going into your senior year?
It might be tempting to skip this part, as it can be tricky getting buy-in from the kids. It’s just five minutes though, and after the workshop was over, my teaching partner and I got an email from a very thankful senior who appreciated the the meditation most of all. She said she would be using the program we shared on her own, so it was definitely worth the time.
Remember, reaching out to others is a great way to prevent stress. Students need to realize that they’re not going through this alone!
Activity: Stand Up – Hand Up – Pair Up
This is a great discussion protocol, and also a nice way to end a lesson. Give students a list with the following questions (or something similar). They need to find someone to talk to about the first question. When they’re done discussing, they put their hand up and find someone else who needs a new partner. They high five their new partner, talk about question two, and then put their hand up again when they’re ready to move on. They cycle through five different partners, and avoid that whole awkward thing that can happen when they wait for the teacher to tell them to rotate.
What are you most nervous or apprehensive about this year?
Are you and your parents seeing eye to eye for your plan after high school?
Is there anything you don’t have time for that you would like to do?
What can you take off your plate so you can find time to do this?
What are you most excited about going into your senior year?
6 Ways to Bring Authentic Learning to Your Health Class
When I was in 8th grade, I was assigned a project on career exploration. At the time, I was obsessed with music, and wanted nothing more than to be a radio DJ. My friend and I researched everything we could get our hands on (not an easy feat before the dawn of the Internet) about becoming a DJ, and even got to visit the local radio station.
While sitting in as guests in the studio, we were asked to select a song. My friend Gina asked for New Kids on the Block, but I said we should play something “new and fresh”, like Milli Vanilli.
It’s one of my favorite memories from middle school, and not just because of my ridiculous song choice.
It was memorable because I felt like I was actually doing something for real, not just for a grade. The learning experience was so rich that I can still recall all of the details, even though I can’t remember if I got an A or a B.
That’s what learning should be- student-directed, inquiry based, collaborative, and full of “real-life” connections.
With a subject as universal as health, we’re blessed with abundant opportunities to bring authentic learning to our classes. Here are 6 ideas to get started with yours.
Give student work a public audience
Join a campaign like Food Revolution Day by chef Jamie Oliver, which aims to bring food education into schools. Not only will students learn how to cook, but they can share their work on social media and practice their advocacy skills.
Have students organize a community wellness fair. Students can run talks, give cooking demonstrations, offer fitness classes, and see if local health and wellness professionals would like to get involved. Check out the resources at Action for Healthy Kids for tips, handouts and ideas.
Have your class create a school-wide advocacy campaign
Inspire kids to advocate for healthier school lunches. After watching a documentary about a group of students from New Orleans who took on their cafeteria provider, have your students create their own campaign and get more fresh and tasty food available in your school.
Join a fitness challenge like the Billion Mile Race from the New Balance Foundation. Students rack up miles by running and walking during class and in their free time, and can check their school’s stats as they go. A little healthy competition is a great motivator to get up and moving.
Break down the classroom walls and get out into the community
Have students organize a healthy field trip. They can take a trip to the market, go to a yoga studio, or visit a chef for a cooking demo. When students contact community experts themselves, they’re much more likely to get offers for free lessons or and services.
Go and visit a farm or vegetable garden. One of the best ways to get kids excited about fruits and veggies is when they’ve picked the produce themselves. If you don’t have the space or resources to plant a garden in your own school, find a local farm to visit and get your hands dirty for the day.
These are some ideas to get started, but the magic of authentic learning happens when it comes directly from the students. Ask yours what issue they feel passionately about, and guide them along as they create a project of their own.