Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Lowdown on Discussing Drugs and Alcohol in the Classroom

Drug and alcohol use among teens is a huge issue surrounding junior high and high school students, parents, and teachers. The statistics in Joann’s post confirm the need for an ongoing classroom conversation about the use and abuse of drugs and alcohol. Media portrays the glamour of using these substances, but in many schools there aren’t classroom activities or discussions on the topic. Joann highlighted three quality free resources on The Gateway that can help bring this important topic into your classroom. Whether you need a single activity or an entire unit, you will be able to find a good starting point in her column.

Although drug and alcohol education seems to fit best in the health classroom, a little creative thinking can fit it into other subjects as well. Since each teacher and school has different needs for lessons on the subject, this post is a compilation of links and a bunch of different ideas of how to present this tough material to your students. We would love your suggestions as well!

The themes, events, and characters in books can be a wonderful jumping-off point for introducing new subjects. Classic and modern literature can spark valuable discussions about drugs and alcohol in an English or language arts classroom. A few books on the topic were recommended by other educators:
Autobiography of My Dead Brother and The Beast by Walter Dean Myers
Smashed: Story of a Drunken Girlhood by Korin Zailickas.
There are lots of good books out there; you just need to be sure you find one your students can relate to. Another interesting approach to bringing drug education into the language arts classroom is in The Magic Bullets, a resource catalogued on The Gateway. This activity is presented as a pure literature unit, and it uses an old German folk tale to help students think about themes of drug use without directly talking about the subject. T

Social Studies teachers can explore the social issues surrounding teenage drug and alcohol use. The Learning Network, a blog connected to the New York Times is a valuable tool for connecting current events to important social issues like this. Altered States: Reflecting on State Medical Marijuana Laws lets students debate the issues surrounding drug policies. Take Me Out of the Ballgame helps students realize the implications of both legal and illegal drug use.

Students can research drug and alcohol abuse that led to a well known person’s death. Maybe they can study the history of popular drugs among teenagers throughout the decades. Maybe they can choose their own topic from a list of ideas you generate. Whichever topic you choose, give them some options for presentations to make the project more meaningful to the presenters and the class. Some favorite tools of mine include Glogster, Animoto, ToonDoo, and Blabberize, although some of your students might prefer to do a skit in front of the class or make a traditional poster.

The Learning Network also has some resources that would work well in a health or science classroom. The Straight Dope explores the role of dopamine, helping students understand the physiological changes created by drug and alcohol use. Staying Healthy focuses on the dangers of binge drinking. Some students may not realize the statistics of students being sent to the hospital or even dying from “just one night of drinking.” It is important to remember the problems associated with legal drugs as well. For many students, these are easier to obtain than alcohol. A New York Times article about the “choking game” led to this interesting resource. We will continue to add these constantly updated lessons to the Gateway.

And finally, a couple of more great free resources on The Gateway for you to check out:
Assessing Media's Influence Project, where students study how the media portrayal of drugs and alcohol can affect their decisions, and In the Mix - The Drug Dope Show, a PBS talk-show format activity where students research and discuss different issues surrounding drug and alcohol use.

Once you design or choose an activity to use in your classroom, look at it carefully to be sure it doesn’t come across as confrontational to your students. If they think you are assuming you are “right” and they are “wrong” from the beginning, your lesson can get off on the wrong foot. Allowing your students to examine each side of the issues, rather than only presenting them the side of the issue you want them to learn gives them a sense of ownership. Many teenagers balk at the idea of just doing something because an adult says it’s the right thing to do. They need to figure out that it is right for themselves, which can take a lot of careful guidance from you, the teacher, to make sure the learning is their own. Many of the lessons and activities presented above allow students to research subjects and work through the answers on their own. Please browse through these links, and let us know what works for you in your classroom.

Dazed and Confused

According to a recent CDC survey, one in five U.S. high school students say that they have taken prescription drugs without a doctor’s prescription. The survey also found that 72% of high schoolers had used alcohol in the past year, while 37% had used marijuana. Clearly, drugs and alcohol continue to be attractive to teens, despite various drug education programs and public service announcements to alert them to the dangers of such behavior.

Teens and adolescents are bombarded daily with lyrics, images, and information about drugs, some of it correct, much of it not. Music with drug references is nothing new, but the frequency with which drug and alcohol references appear in songs has increased dramatically over the past decade. Eminem’s latest release, Relapse, for example, is riddled with drug and alcohol references – and remains a favorite album with the middle- and high school crowd. Watch any televised sporting event, and kids are exposed to numerous ads glorifying drinking (ever see any alcohol ads featuring old, overweight, or unattractive people? Thought not). So, just how do parents and educators combat the slick allure of drugs and underage drinking when celebrities and other media types appear to revel in it?

Most experts agree that drug education has to start early with age-appropriate materials and discussions; the subject should also be consistently addressed throughout the K-12 years and into college. My picks this week focus on drug and education materials from a variety of sources for use in the classroom. The first two resources are provided by the American Council for Drug Education, a substance abuse education and prevention agency that develops educational programs and materials based on current scientific research on drug use and its impact on society. The third resource, “It’s My Life: Dangers of Drug Abuse” is a product of PBS, which offers high-quality TV programming and online content to tens of millions of people each day. As always, please check our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week, where we will post links to more drug education resources for a variety of ages.

People We Trust
Subjects: Safety
Grade: K-3
The goal of this lesson is to teach young children how to identify the appropriate persons from whom he or she can safely take medicine.

Peer Pressure
Subjects: Literature, Safety
Grade: 7-8
This lesson uses segments of Mark Twain’s novel Tom Sawyer to discuss and illustrate peer pressure. Students also learn to identify ways to cope with peer pressure to use alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs.

It’s My Life: Dangers of Drug Abuse
Subjects: Health, Safety
Grade: 5-12
Studies have shown that experimentation with drugs often begins in early adolescence. In this lesson, students will understand that they will be faced with a variety of decisions regarding their health – some of them involving illicit substances. They will evaluate the health hazards of legal and illegal drugs, and explain the advantages of remaining drug-free. Students will also describe the short- and long-term health risks of using drugs.

~Joann's Picks - 7/31/2010~

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Like Peas in a Podcast

So what is a podcast?

Podcast is defined in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “a program (as of music or talk) made available in digital format for automatic download over the internet.” According to Wikipedia, podcast is a blend of 2 words: “pod” (meaning playable on demand), and “cast” from broadcast. You can access these “playable on demand broadcasts” in the classroom for playback on computers or personal media players. You can download them individually or subscribe to an RSS feed, which automatically downloads podcasts in a series as they are released. Instead of tuning into a television, radio, or internet radio broadcast at a certain time of day, you can subscribe to a podcast and enjoy it at your convenience.
Some podcasts are all audio (music and/or speaking), some are videos, and some are similar to a Powerpoint presentation with an audio track. Many podcasts mix different types of media together to really pique student interest in subjects…quite a step up from some of the old filmstrips teachers showed in class! On a side note, I really enjoyed some of those old filmstrips, and many of them are interesting to watch today! Check out this link to a digital archive of educational filmstrips, and take a stroll down memory lane.
How can I use podcasting in my classroom?

Podcasting can serve two main purposes for us as educators. Students can learn by watching podcasts created by others, or they can create their own podcasts to demonstrate learning and teach others about the subject. Some teachers introduce topics or units by showing a podcast or series of podcasts and conclude the unit with student-generated podcasts.


Students can watch podcasts on classroom computers, at home or on personal media players like ipods. I have seen some teachers with iPod Touch classroom sets (lucky!) which would make podcasting activities a breeze. If you are not so lucky, you can always project the podcast from a single computer so your whole class can see it at once.

I didn’t realize the true scope of subjects covered by podcasts until I started searching while I worked on writing this post. I found podcasts available for every subject I typed into Google! If you can teach it to someone…there is probably a podcast about it somewhere on the internet. Calculus? Check. Art History? Check. Robotics? Check. Grammar? Check. And the list goes on. Always remember that podcasting, like blogging, is accessible to anyone with the equipment to create and post on the internet, so there are some that would be great for students, and some you might want to avoid.

There are some general sites that index podcasts for educators. Here are a couple where Joann found some good podcasts here to feature on The Gateway. These have been indexed as educational podcasts, but please use your judgement and preview these podcasts carefully to make sure you are getting what you are really looking for.

Now that you know how to find good podcasts for your students to watch, how will you implement this technology into your classroom? Joann’s post this week is a good place to start. She featured a few lessons that use podcasting. The ideas in these lessons might serve as a good jumping-off point, even if you are creating lessons for different topics.


Some of you might want to take the technology even further by allowing your students to create their own podcasts. This will allow them to be creative and learn by teaching. Check out Poducate Me for some instructions on how to get started creating your own podcasts.

Enjoy browsing through available podcasts and dreaming up ways you and your students can benefit from this technology this year! As always, stay tuned to our Facebook and Twitter pages to get all of our podcasting updates and ideas. Please let us know if you have used podcasting in your classroom and how well it works.

~Peggy's Corner - 7/23/2010~

Pod People

Summer may be in full swing, but many educators are already planning for the start of classes in the fall. In addition to reviewing classroom layouts and revamping lessons, some teachers use the “downtime” of summer to investigate new technologies and more effective ways of delivering information to their students.

Teachers are often mandated to incorporate more technology into their classrooms, but it makes little sense to introduce technology just for technology’s sake. Technology has to truly add value by enhancing student learning in some way. Remember the PowerPoint(less) epidemic of some years back, where presenters would simply transcribe their notes onto slides and read from them? Exactly. So what’s a time-strapped (and perhaps technology-shy) teaching professional to do?

There are a plethora of Web 2.0 and other tools available, some of which Peggy and I have discussed in previous columns (such as here and here. Summer presents a good opportunity for teachers to explore some types of technologies that can work well in the classroom, such as wikis, blogs, and podcasts.

Podcasting isn’t new, but it remains an inexpensive, easy, and effective way to deliver and share content. Podcasts can be downloaded to computers, iPods and other MP3 players, cell phones, iPads, and various other handhelds. They can also be easily created using the same types of media. Podcasting can address a variety of student learning styles, can deliver content quickly, and is thoroughly portable. Many educators are finding innovative uses for podcasts, such as vocabulary practice, English pronunciation and syntax exercises for ESL students, book talks, “field reports” from students on field trips, and the like.

My picks this week all feature lessons with podcasting components. Use them as they are, or as inspiration for incorporating podcasting into your own lessons. These lessons are from Lessonopoly, an open educational resource that aims to empower teachers to organize, create, and share resources. As always, check our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week for instructions on how to podcast, and for links to innovative podcasting resources.

Podcasting to Learn
Subjects: English, Language Arts
Grade: 2-5
In small groups, students create scripts that focus on an understanding of what they are writing, and the audience they are writing for. Topics could be a current event, classroom items, creative stories, and so forth. Students will then record and publish their work via podcasts.

Magic in Real Life
Subjects: English, Language Arts
Grade: 10
In this lesson, students hone their writing styles by incorporating a “magical” element of their childhoods resurfacing today. They then create podcasts about a related adventure that defines the role of family and culture in their futures.

La Semana Pasada
Subjects: Spanish, Current Events
Grade: 9-12
In this lesson, Spanish students use the Internet to research a current event in the Hispanic world, and prepare a brief podcast which compares and contrasts the issue at hand with articles previously published on the same topic.

~Joann's Picks - 7/23/2010~

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Silly Rabbit…Programming is for Kids!

Much of the chatter among educators on Facebook and Twitter surrounds the idea of creating an authentic education for students in a world where technology is constantly changing. We discuss the importance of digital literacy and 21st century skills and we trade ideas about how to develop these skills while still covering the basic standards that are required each school year. Educators have the important job of creating students who know and understand the required content and who will succeed in society when they leave the classroom. It’s a tall order, but luckily we can connect online to a huge group of educators who share knowledge, tools, and tales of their successes and failures to guide us through the process.

Throughout the year, we have discussed and experimented with some digital tools that are great for student presentations and demonstration of knowledge. We have tried out several comic-strip generators like ToonDoo, created an Animoto movie, and designed a glog on Glogster, to name a few. All of these tools are available free to educators, and they have many applications in the classroom.

I was intrigued when I came across Scratch, because it seems more like a learning tool than a presentation tool. So, what is Scratch, and what can it do for your students? Scratch is a program developed by The Lifelong Kindergarten Group at the MIT Media Lab. Their slogan is “imagine, program, share,” and it allows students to use a graphical programming language to create interactive stories, animated movies, games, presentations, and more.

I’m not a computer programmer, and neither are my students, but I decided to read on to see what it was all about. The tutorials describe Scratch as a tool to mix different types of media clips together creatively, much as a DJ uses a scratching technique to creatively mix different music clips on vinyl records. You choose how your different media clips (pictures, sounds, etc.) interact by using programming “blocks” that snap together on the screen, much like LEGOs.

You can create your own characters or use characters on the Scratch site created by other users. These characters are called “sprites,” and you can control their actions with the Scratch programming blocks. For a basic idea of how to use the program, go to the support page that has plenty of tips to get you started. There are plenty of video tutorials, guides, and examples to help you along.

Since Joann discussed storytelling this week, I checked out the Scratch Tour called “Telling Stories with Scratch.” Once I downloaded a new version of Java, I was able to see the projects and discover some neat ideas for the classroom. The tour page is a good place to start to see some of the things people are doing with Scratch. You can download programs you like and even use the sprites they created in your own projects.

What are my students really learning when they work with the program? According to the MIT group that developed it, Scratch can be a good tool for developing programming and engineering skills such as design and problem-solving, creative thinking, systematic reasoning, and collaboration. Educators on the forums seem to agree that Scratch is a good tool for primary students through post-secondary students, even though it was originally designed for 8 to 16 year olds. It is easy enough to use for the younger students, but the flexibility and options make it a good choice for introducing programming to older students as well.

Younger students are creating simple programs and stories and older students are using their knowledge of the programming language to build interactive games and activities. We will continue to learn about Scratch and begin to create some projects of our own to demonstrate how it could work in your classroom. Take some time this summer to see if this free program would be a welcome addition in your classroom. If you or anyone you know has used Scratch, please let us know what you think. We would love to hear how you like it!

~Peggy's Corner - 7/15/2010~


Once upon a time, there was a fabulous storyteller – which, alas, is not me. My grandmother, however, was a superb storyteller; her ability to keep scores of cousins engrossed in her tales was legendary. Her gift of timing, as well as her ability to use different accents and intonations kept us all enthralled. The oral tradition of storytelling is ancient; Homer’s numerous repetitions of the “wine-dark sea” in The Iliad and The Odyssey, for example, illustrate how the stories were memorized and passed down over the years until they were finally transcribed into print. Storytelling in the oral tradition is both a craft and an art, and something that deserves a resurgence in popularity.

Storytelling is not restricted to the oral tradition, however. Many authors are master storytellers, and the increased use of technology in schools has resulted in a happy melding of ancient art and modern methods of communication. Digital storytelling delivers narrative in a digital context, and can incorporate digital content such as images or sound. Digital stories can be as simple as a series of Powerpoint slides, or as complex as a film with music and live or animated action. There are a multitude of tools appropriate for classroom use, such as Photo Story, MovieMaker, iMovie, and others. Another tool that has gained popularity in recent years is Scratch, an easy-to-use graphical programming language from the MIT Media Lab that allows kids to create their own digital stories, games, art, and music. Tools such as Scratch present a terrific opportunity to integrate technology into the classroom and incorporate 21st century skills into the curriculum.

My picks this week focus on storytelling lessons and resources; all can be used as written or applied to a different medium if desired. As always, we’ll present a variety of additional resources and supporting information about this topic on our Facebook and Twitter pages throughout the week, so please be sure to take a look.

Ghosts and Fear in Language Arts: Exploring the Ways Writers Scare Readers
Subjects: Literature, Writing
Grade: 9-12
This lesson examines how storytellers and writers scare their audiences – how do they create suspense and fear? Students create their own scary stories using a variety of media, while learning about audience awareness and story elements. This lesson is from ReadWriteThink, which offers free resources in reading and language arts instruction. All lessons are reviewed by teachers and members of the International Reading Association and the National Council of Teachers of English, so you know they’re good. This lesson is aligned to NCTE/IRA Content Standards.

Round Robin Writing
Subjects: Writing, Language Arts, English
Grade: 4-10
In this lesson, students work in teams to write collaborative stories. Using photos or other images as story prompts, students begin a story on a computer, then are replaced by successive students on their team, each picking up the story where the previous student left off. I like the creative spirit of this lesson, where students have to think on their feet to create a story where the essential elements are not necessarily of their choosing. This lesson is a product of LearniT-TeachiT, a nonprofit dedicated to connecting business, industry, government, and other agencies to use the power of technology to prepare teachers and learners to develop 21st century skills.

Arthur: Group Stories
Subjects: Writing, Language Arts
Grade: 1-3
This guide provides numerous writing and reading comprehension activities. Students first learn about the elements of a story, and then create their own stories based on the characters from Arthur, the beloved books created by Marc Brown and also a long-running animated series on PBS Kids. I like that this lesson presents younger students with the challenge of creating their own stories, while still safely ensconced in the context of a known set of characters and settings – stimulating, but not daunting. This guide is a product of PBS, which in addition to educational television programming also provides educational resources for preK-12 students and teachers.

~Joann's Picks - 7/15/2010~

Monday, July 12, 2010

Science for All the PEEPS

Many preschool and primary teachers tend to feel intimidated by science. They are responsible for being experts in all different areas, and many of them don’t consider themselves “science people.” Our state standards mandate that we teach science, but they don’t show us how to make it fun. The National Science Education Standards explain the importance of inquiry-based learning as the basis of science education with the following statement: “Inquiry into authentic questions generated from student experiences is the central strategy for teaching science.” So we are supposed to let them figure out the answers to their own questions? That sounds good to me! Not only is this a very effective way to teach science, it allows teachers who might not be as comfortable with some of the topics to learn right along with their students!

Most people, even those who are not “science people” have fun learning new things about how the world around them works. It can be scary to bring an activity into the classroom when you are not sure of all possible outcomes or how you will explain the results that students find. The beauty of inquiry-based science activities is that you and your students can research unexpected findings together to figure out why they happened. In one kindergarten water activity, the students were trying all different objects in the classroom to see if they could float in a tub of water. When certain items sunk, the kids decided to use a plastic lid as a “boat” to help the items float. When that worked, they tried out other objects to see if they would work as boats (some did and some didn’t). This was their own kind of research to figure out what makes things float or sink. After they got some ideas, some of them even started building boats out of aluminum foil on their own. These discoveries were only minimally directed by me, and students were learning all different science concepts though their own experimentation.

The PEEP and the Big Wide World Explorer's Guide from WGBH and PBS shows us how we can do inquiry-based science lessons in classrooms as early as preschool. The activities and printable worksheets can make bringing science into even the youngest groups much less intimidating. The resource, which is a full unit plan of science activities, could be a useful tool for older classrooms, too. They might not want to admit it, but even my high school chemistry students would have enjoyed some of these science activities as an introduction to a new topic. Many of the topics cover basic physical science knowledge that is the basis of what they need to know to understand much of chemistry and physics.

To make the most of students learning, I think it is very important for them to keep their own science notebooks. These can be as simple as a spiral notebook or some pages of paper folded and stapled together. Each time we do a science activity in class, students can write down their discoveries. Students who can’t write can practice drawing their observations and explaining what they learned to their teacher. Looking back through a science notebook can show students how much they discovered and learned on their own. The importance of this discovery learning was summed up in a statement by Carl Sagan, “When you make the finding yourself - even if you're the last person on Earth to see the light - you'll never forget it.”

Simple things like letting your students figure out which what happens when you mix oil and water, or how far they can fly a paper airplane, or how they can change the size and shape of shadows can lead to authentic learning, and a desire to continue that learning and investigation at home. Keeping their ideas together in a science notebook can help them remember all the questions and ideas they came up with during class.

Are you having a hard time figuring out what kinds of science units you can use in your class? I went to The Gateway and brought up all the science resources available. When I refined my search to only include units of instruction, I was given a list of over 500. That should be a good start! There are so many ideas and units out there to help encourage all educators to be “science people” and to include science as a fun and engaging part of their curriculum. Search for yourself to see what you can use with your students. After all, according to Albert Einstein, "The only source of knowledge is experience."…A quote students and teachers alike need to take to heart. We’ll never be “science people” if we don’t make science an enjoyable part of our classroom.

~Peggy's Corner - 7/10/2010~

Word to the PEEPs

As most educators and parents know, finding quality TV shows for young children can be quite a challenge. While there are a number of engaging and even educational shows for kids on cable TV, the numerous commercials are often inappropriate for young viewers. This is one of the reasons why I’m a big fan of PBS Kids. It’s a safe haven where children can watch educational television without being exhorted to buy the latest toy or being subjected to trailers for TV shows or films aimed at a much older audience.

PEEP and the Big Wide World, produced by leading public TV station WGBH in Boston, is a show that focuses on science concepts for the preschool through kindergarten set. In my experience, kids always appreciate the humor in the show, as well as the fact that the questions posed by the show’s characters are ones they’d ask themselves. I especially like that the show includes live segments where kids try out different science experiments that are easily replicated at home or in a school setting.

My picks this week are all science-based resources from The PEEP and the Big Wide World Explorer's Guide, a downloadable guide comprised of six units that offer hands-on activities. Each unit features an animated PEEP story and accompanying live action film clips that discuss various science-related methods and concepts. The units also offer Family Science Letters that include additional activity ideas, as well as Web site and book recommendations to further explore the science topic at hand. Another nice feature is that all materials – curriculum units, videos, and Family Science Letters – are available in both English and Spanish.

Shadow Exploration for Young Children
Subjects: Science
Ages: 4-6
This unit is chock full of activities for children to examine and explore shadows in the world around them. There is a variety of animated and live action video clips that offer activities to further explore shadows, from making shadows indoors with flashlights to creating shadow puppets for a performance. One of my favorites is where kids trace their shadows with chalk outdoors, and then note how their shadows “move” throughout the day – a great way to help illustrate the earth’s rotation in relation to the sun.

Ramps and Rolling: Explorations with Young Children
Subjects: Physical science
Ages: 4-6
This unit offers plenty of hands-on activities for kids to learn about motion via ramps and rolling. Outside, kids can explore various types of inclines such as hills and slides, and discover the best surfaces for rolling. Indoors, kids can build ramps to test the movement of objects that roll and slide.

Water Explorations for Young Children
Subjects: Science
Ages: 4-6
In this unit, young children learn about the basic properties of water by engaging in both indoor and outdoor activities. Here, kids can explore objects that float and sink, make boats out of everyday materials, build dams, and learn about evaporation and water currents. These are fun, low-cost activities that effectively illustrate general and physical science properties such as buoyancy and force. Great ideas for those hot summer days!

~Joann's Picks - 7/10/2010~

Friday, July 2, 2010


Stress management is an important lifelong skill we need to encourage and develop in our students. Teenagers and “tweens” face all kinds of different stressors in their lives. Between raging hormones, pressure to fit in with peers, and over scheduling, students need to learn how to relax! Joann mentioned 3 of the activities catalogued on The Gateway that help teach students how to deal with stress and anxiety. These types of activities help students deal with the stress in their lives by teaching them ways to manage and deal with stress.

I was especially intrigued by the scientific approach to the subject taken by PBS in their Scientific American Frontiers shows and activities. Instead of simply teaching students how to decrease their stress levels, these activities for grades 5-8 help students understand what is actually happening to their body in times of stress. The explanation and exploration of the physiological effects of stress and anxiety help students understand how stress-reducing techniques can work. The multimedia activity, “Worried Sick, Temperature and Stress” involves using a thermistor and multimeter to actually experiment with temperature changes in the body in times of stress. This resource includes a printable teacher guide with answers and a link to National Science Standards and curriculum. The hands-on nature of the activity should be right at home in a middle-school science classroom, where a traditional introduction of meditation or relaxation techniques might not be well received.

Worried Sick, Watch Your Pressure” brings even more activities to the video clip, focusing on the effects of stress on blood pressure. Students learn how to measure blood pressure and how this blood pressure can change with varying stress levels. Before they measure blood pressure, they are prepared with background information on the subject through the video clip and online research. I really like the discussion questions and extension activities included by PBS. Some of the extension activities include designing an experiment to conduct at home and writing a play about stress.

Our focus on stress this week brought me to these valuable resources, but Scientific American Frontiers has a lot more to offer educators. Start here on their website to search for topics that you can use in your class. They aren’t making new shows, but the old shows are archived on the site and can be viewed online. Each show has a quiz and a couple of science activities with teacher’s guides and numerous extension activities. Browse through the site, and maybe you’ll find something that works for you. Good luck!

~Peggy's Corner - 7/2/2010~

Stress and Anxiety Picks

Although it’s now summer, I know that many teachers are already planning for the coming school year, and thinking about ways to improve their classes. At an end of the year event last month, I overheard an elementary school teacher talking about how students in her class handled stress, and how over the summer she planned to do some research on students and stress management. That got me thinking.

Stress is a part of everyday life, and it affects everyone from infants to the elderly. Some stress is normal, and can be even be beneficial at times. We’ve all heard of athletes or students who say that they perform better under pressure, and indeed, some do. But too much stress is overwhelming, and can manifest itself in negative ways, such as through physical ailments, decreased academic performance, and the like. Studies have shown that today’s students are under more stress than those of previous generations, and that student anxiety levels are at all-time highs. According to a recent survey conducted by the American Psychological Association, 44% of the kids interviewed said that their stress was particularly related to school. Students also regularly mention anxiety over academic performance, social pressures, and extracurricular activities. At its most extreme, stress and anxiety can lead to drug and/or alcohol use, self-destructive behavior, and suicide. Most commonly, anxiety and stress can adversely affect student academic performance.

School districts are increasingly recognizing the value of directly acknowledging kids’ anxiety, and incorporating into the curriculum methods to decrease student stress. Many schools have added yoga, deep breathing exercises, meditation, tai chi, and other practices to help students manage their stress and anxiety. Regardless of the method used, most students find that learning to effectively manage their stress allows them to keep anxiety at bay and to feel more in control of themselves and how they respond to stressful situations. My picks this week all focus on resources that address student stress, including the physical responses our bodies make to stressful stimuli.

Grade 3 Lesson on Stress
Subjects: Language Arts, Emotional Health
Grade: 3
In this lesson, students learn about the physical and emotional responses to stress and anxiety. They also learn the difference between good and bad stress, as well as how to manage stress. This lesson is offered by NC Healthy Schools, an initiative of the North Carolina Departments of Public Instruction and Health and Human Services. The project provides research, lesson plans, and other resources for educators.

Do You Have Math Anxiety? A Self-Test
Subjects: Math, Emotional Health
Grade: 6-12
This self-test asks students to rate their math anxiety by answering ten questions using a scale of 1-5. A list of tips to reduce math anxiety is also available. This resource is offered by Math Power, a help site created by math professor Ellen Freedman. The site provides study tips, math videos, quizzes, and more.

All Stressed Out
Subjects: Biology, Emotional Health
Grade: 7-9
In this interactive activity, teens will find out what exactly stress is, how it effects the body, why it happens, and steps they can take to cope with stress. This activity was created by, an online health science learning site designed to help educators and parents communicate important health concepts to students. The site offers lesson plans, interactive games, activities, webquests, and more.

~Joann's Picks - 7/2/2010~