We all remember the days of walking into our Health class, a very boring part of the Physical Education curriculum. We sat in class each day and just sat there as we listened to our teacher lecture on various health topics. It was so methodical in nature. We listened, raised our hand to answer a question, reviewed, and were given a quiz or test before moving on to the next topic. Nothing new or exciting, no interaction, just sit and listen. An occasional movie or guest speaker was thrown in for good measure.
Walk into a Health classroom today. No longer are the students just sitting behind a desk listening to the same old hum-drum lecture. Teachers today try to make the lesson as interesting and interactive as possible. They want to get everyone involved and make students really think about the impact of the lesson that is being taught. How do we do this as Health and Exercise Science teachers? I will use a lesson that I gave on bullying, a very hot topic in education today. This type of lesson could be spread out over a few days. It is a powerful lesson; one that I hope would remain with students as they continue through life.
When I began my lesson I showed a PowerPoint presentation. I know that students enjoy looking at this type of visual aid. On my first slide I showed different types of kids, troublemakers, fat, violent, nerd, loser, gay, lesbian, etc. I asked my students whether they would pass judgment or be friends with these types of kids just judging them by the way they look. This is the world we are living in right now. We are too quick to judge by the way a person looks. However as the old adage goes, “we can’t judge a book by its cover”. How would I make my students change their way of thinking. I talked about how bullying can lead to serious consequences like suicide. As I continued going through the different slides of my PowerPoint, I suddenly stopped. I wanted my students to think about a time in their lives they may have been bullied or harassed. I gave each student a sheet of paper and had them write down a very short story on harassment or bullying experience they may have had. They did not put their name on the paper. When they were done they crumpled the paper and threw it at one another in a “snowball” fight fashion. Students read the stories out loud.
The next part of my lesson I had my students stand up. I told them I was going to ask a question about bullying or harassment and they would go to one side of the room if their answer was yes to a particular question, and the other side of the room if the answer was no. By the time I was finished asking my questions there were not too many students standing on the no side. As the students went back to their seats, I could see they were thinking about what had just happened. I could have made this lesson more meaningful if I had taken the opportunity to use the Socratic Seminar to initiate more dialogue between the students. What a great way to keep the interaction between the students going. Putting the students in a circle I could have begun a discussion with, “how did bullying and harassment become so out of control and what are some reasons why this has happened”. This could have led to very animated and powerful discussions. The students could use brainstorming techniques to come up with reasons as to how and why this has gotten to be such a big problem. They could discuss the kinds of bullying, what makes it right or wrong for people to be so cruel, why is bullying such a powerful way to attack, etc. I am sure that the class time would go by much too quickly and I am sure this lesson would make quite the impact on my students.
Having students participate in a lesson as opposed to just sitting there and listen to a lecture is so much more meaningful to both the teacher and the student. As long as the teacher is willing to take the time to plan for these types of lessons, and be flexible in that it may go for a longer time than might have originally been planned for, would make health lessons so much more significant. All health topics touch a student in one way or another. To have students express their feelings and to make them understand that there is a place to voice an opinion in a safe, structured, non-judgmental environment helps them learn how to handle life situations and channel their feelings in a positive way. Isn’t this something we as teachers want to help our students with? We want to be able to learn from negative experiences and grow from them into responsible young adults. Bullying is unfortunately a fact of life and civility is disappearing from our society. We must teach our students that they have the power to turn things around. When a student gets involved with a lesson they feel the impact of what the teacher is trying to get across to them. You can be the judge and determine which type of lesson would be more meaningful and deliver more of an impact to the students, the interactive lesson or the lecture-based lesson. To me I would learn more if I was an active participant letting my voice be heard.