Often the idea of health class is weighted down by regurgitation of first aide information and busy work to keep students distracted, but how much learning is really occurring? Health classes are the one class that has opportunity to make a huge difference by engaging students in a variety of activities. It’s time to revolutionize the health class and allow students to walk away with knowledge and an experience that leaves them thinking about content outside of class. Here’s four easy and innovative ways to mix up your health class that will leave your students loving health like never before.
1. JOURNALS- The power of literacy in your hands. As a physical educator, we often stereotyped as nothing more than a jock that rolls out equipment and plays all day. However, we can in fact be one of the most influential literacy educators if we challenge the role of our profession. The idea of a health journal for your students is one of the simplest tasks yet often over looked. Instead of health homework, (that only gets pushed aside compared to the mathematics and science homework) students can have a journal in which they will write a response in the beginning of every class. Guidelines for journal entrees can be as simple as one paragraph discussing the topic written on the board. Possible questions for response could be “How would you feel if someone called you fat today?” or “How do you feel about chemicals like fluoride being put into your water without your consent?” Questions as simple as these can get your student thinking and engaged in the topic without even having to say a word. Reading the journals will also allow you to learn more about your students without the judgment factor. What could be better than an instant activity to engage students that is cross-curricular and asks student to dig deep?
2. SOCRATIC SEMINARS – Discuss, Discuss, Discuss! Let’s get our students talking in a judgment free mature way! The idea behind a Socratic Seminar is to give students an opportunity to discuss and sound board ideas off each other in an educationally way. Students should be put in a circle and given a statement or question that they then begin to respond to. The student rules of a Socratic seminar are simple; do not raise your hand, instead wait for an opportunity to speak your opinion. Do not interrupt others while they are talking. Continue discussion until the topic has been fully discussed or a new idea is posed. Teacher rules are; Pose a question and or statement and allow students to fully discuss and lead the discussion in an appropriate direction without dominating the topic. This type of circle talk can be hard at first, but once students know and have practiced the idea they will be more engaged and have more thoughtful responses. Some successful ways to start the discussion can be asking students to discuss the point being made in a political cartoon or the message behind a commercial or even something as simple as having some students act out a pre-written skit on a desired topic and then discussing the skit. The limits are endless and therefore so are the student benefits!
3. PUPPET SHOWS- A little acting never hurt anyone! Some topics such as domestic violence and the crucial sex education lessons can be hard to approach. However, puppets can be the golden ticket to quality education in a comfortable setting. Often class skits work, however, some topics do not allow for students to play the actually character, such as a rape victim, in a non-judgment environment. Rather than make a student play a role, students can be given puppets in which they can act with. This allows for students to get up, get into groups, and work collaboratively with others to send a message to fellow students. It also can allow for some appropriate humor to break up the seriousness in the health class. Pre-determined script to start with will allow students to get the feel for what is acceptable. This is turn can allow you to add a performance based part to an exam, such as create and act out a two minute skit on the dangers of drunk driving. What better way to assess whether your students understand the content then making them actually demonstrate it off the scantron?
4. GAMES! Let’s play! Yes I said play! Students learn best when they are engaged and active so let’s get them moving! Games such as jeopardy can be one of the more traditional games, yet still allow for an interesting and competitive review game. Fly swatter health is one of my personal favorite games. This is how simple it is. Get two-four giant sized or normal sized fly swatters and split your class into groups, Write TRUE and FALSE very large on any board surface or even post a poster on a wall you have available. Have one member from each group step up with the fly swatter and make a statement. Student must then be the first one to hit the correct possibility (in this case TRUE or FALSE) to gain points for their team. Students are learning, competing, and having fun! Who knew? Other games can include writing the best slogan for a new product when teaching a performance-enhancing lesson or creating a monopoly style health board game. Students will retain the information and its purpose more by actually doing something rather than filling out a worksheet after watching a video.
These are just four ways to mix up your health class, but the possibilities truly are endless. Health topics are serious, however, they need to be taught in a way that seriously makes a difference! We need to push the envelope and get our students to play with purpose even in the classroom!