As a health education teacher, I strive to create an inclusive classroom environment where all students can learn and feel successful. If you are looking for back to school tips for your health education class, here are five important things to do during the first week of school:
- Be Welcoming
- Get Student Buy-In
- Set Ground Rules and Procedures
- Be Prepared
- Have Fun
Students are nervous about what health education is all about and what they will be learning. They hear myths about the topics we cover. Every year, I get students asking about “the video.” They think or have been told we watch a video about sex. So, they are nervous and anxious.
Put students at ease by giving them insight into what health education is truly about — THEM! Show with your welcoming behavior, tone of voice, and lessons that you are all-accepting and your classroom is inclusive. Have a bright and colorful, but calming room décor. Be available … welcome them to the class … ask them questions about themselves and their lives … and share about yourself.
Hook the students right from the start. Let them know on day one that this is their classroom and they are in control of their learning. Give them voice and choice. Explain to them that what they put into the class is what they will get out of it. Tell them: “Health class is about YOU!”
Build students’ desire to come back. When they look forward to your class and want to be there, they will learn. Gain their attention as soon as they enter the room. Get them up and moving from the start. Look at your lesson plan and fit in interactive activities. Then, change it up — keep them guessing about what’s to come.
Introduce your nonnegotiable class rules and stick to them. Be up front and let students know what the consequence will be if a rule is broken. Be consistent with these rules and consequences. Explain, tell, show your expectations and reward those who follow the rules.
Teach classroom procedures by having students go through the class routine. Have the same routine every day. My class procedures start with students coming into the classroom, grabbing their interactive notebook from the class bin, putting their name tent on the desk, and starting the warm-up. At the end of class, students complete a reflection/exit ticket assignment and then put their notebooks back in the class bin.
Being prepared and organized is great modeling for your students and a reflection of what you expect of them. Know what you are teaching, know the curriculum, have a semester/quarterly outline of units and daily lesson topics. I like to chart out the entire marking period with dates and lesson titles. It’s a nice “suggested” guide and quick reference to refer to when scheduling a day off. (There are certain topics that cannot be covered by a substitute.)
However, remember to be flexible and spontaneous. Often our school day changes without notice, whether it’s because of fire drills, assemblies, or field trips. Be prepared with alternative lessons and activities.
Make health education class fun! Incorporate movement activities daily. Have students interact constantly and move every 10-15 minutes. This keeps the blood moving and the brain thinking — and decreases boredom and off-task behavior.
- Lesson Planning for Skills-Based Health Education — popular book from SHAPE America
- RMC Health — professional development and training
- Skills-Based Health Education Videos — Maryland State Department of Education
Nicole Beard has taught health education in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, for the past 17 years. Her experience includes teaching at both the middle school and high school levels. She received the Maryland Health Education Teacher of the Year award in 2016 and was named SHAPE America Eastern District Health Education Teacher of the Year in 2019. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @MrsBeardhealth.