Lesson Outline: Teaching Health-Enhancing Behaviors

National Health Education Standard 7: Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and avoid or reduce health risks. 

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Our middle school has been revamping its health education units to focus on the various National Health Education Standards. In teaching students about health enhancing behaviors (per NHES 7), we follow this progression of developmental steps from the CDC:

1. Discussing the importance of the skill, its relevance, and relationship to other learned skills

The lesson begins by defining health-enhancing behaviors—various actions and practices that a person takes in order to avoid and/or reduce health risks. Students are then split into small groups to brainstorm as many health-enhancing behaviors as they can come up with. Sample health-enhancing behaviors include: eating healthy meals, exercising regularly, learning relaxation techniques, and expressing your feelings. In a class discussion, be sure to add your own to fill in any content gaps. Because we want students to make personal connections with what they learn, we then have them reflect (via journal entry) on which health-enhancing behaviors they use in their own lives. 

2. Presenting steps for developing the skill

Our school's focus on health-enhancing behaviors is centered on stress management, so we continue the rest of the developmental steps with a focus on those behaviors (relaxation, meditation, etc). As they present the steps of a certain skill (like a breathing technique) to their classmates, it’s beneficial to have students follow a format. You might have them all describe their chosen skill in three steps, for example. They should also come up with some form of a checklist that their peers can use when they eventually get to step four: practicing the skill.

3. Modeling the skill using real-life scenarios 

Modeling the skill is very similar to presenting the steps of a skill, with one big difference: Now, students should show how the skill would be used in a real-life scenario. Essentially, it’s putting all of the steps together in a true-to-life demonstration. 

4. Practicing the skill in real life

Now it’s time for students to take their newly acquired skills outside of the classroom and practice health-enhancing behaviors during their daily lives. For example, students can create their own healthy movie theater snacks, or use a relaxation technique if they’re feeling stressed before a test. Have students document and reflect on their experiences in their journals. 

5. Providing feedback and reinforcement

Once your students have observed one another’s demonstrations and explained how they practiced their skills outside of the classroom, classmates can provide feedback to help make each health-enhancing behavior the best it can be. Then, after adjusting their skills based on the feedback of their peers, students can teach these health-enhancing behaviors to friends and family members. (I’m sure they can all find someone who would benefit from learning how to de-stress!)

Empowering students with an arsenal of fine-tuned and practiced health-enhancing behaviors is a powerful way for them to take action toward a healthy life.

Note: Information from my colleague, Danielle LaRocque, was used in this post.