UKEdMag: PSHE – The lesson of life by @pshee2015

Personal, Social & Health Education, although not a statutory subject in England, is probably the most important lesson that students have, as it is lessons all about life. Schools are expected to use their PSHE education programme to equip pupils with a sound understanding of risk and with the knowledge and skills necessary to make safe and informed decisions. PSHE is all about: life outside of school, in the community, life as an adult, life in the workplace, and different experiences that students might encounter as they grow up, therefore it is crucial that they know how to act, behave and learn during these experiences. My aim is to make the lessons as real-life as possible.

This article originally appeared in the August 2016 UKEd Magazine.

Click here to freely read online, or click here to purchase printed editions.

Granted, sometimes written work has to happen, but there are some topics that lend themselves to more interactive lessons. I use a variety of different learning styles to ensure all students understand the content and importance behind the topics covered. I just want to make lessons student-led, student-focused, interactive and fun. So, through some Poundland pedagogy inspiration from @87History I have embedded a number of activities that can be used cross-curricular and in a wide variety of PSHE topics.

Picture-based activities

These are brilliant starter and plenary activities or a way or re-focusing students. They really get the students thinking and engaged in the topic of the lesson, thinking about possible learning objectives and getting them to ask questions about what they might like to learn or find out about the topic.

  • A big selection of pictures, with one thing in common: this draws out some really interesting conversation with the students and gets them thinking outside of the box.
  • One picture is displayed and students have to ask a question about the picture, using post-its to display answers on the picture. You can also use different coloured post-its and use “one thing you know about the picture and then one thing you would like to find out.”
  • ‘Odd one out’ activity is a real hit with the students in PSHE: the Disney example believe it or not brought out the best discussion ever! Feel free to give it a go!

Fact Fascinators

This is one way that I got across the amount of sugar in drinks that I see students drinking all too regularly. I measured out the amount of sugar into a bag for each drink so that students could see the number of tablespoons in each one. This had far more impact on students than I first expected and the choices they make in life which can affect their health and well-being. I have also used these with SRE and Global Citizenship.

Paper Bodies

These are the best! They may seem obvious but they are loads of fun; not only does it improve key skills like communication and working with others, it also develops their artistic skills too! Try getting students to work in mixed gender groups as well as mixed ability when thinking about hygiene factors, the changes that happen during puberty, or the changes that happen as a result of SIEDs (Steroids & Image Enhancing Drugs). This activity gets the students moving around, drawing around each other for the body outlines and then discussing topics that may be seen as taboo, as well as creating an atmosphere that is relaxed, enjoyable and as embarrassment free as possible when talking about sensitive topics. Another way of doing this is by using body suits, a Poundland pedagogy inspiration, but students in primary and Year 7 love it. They then label a friend’s body using post-its, as a group. If this kind of teaching sounds too ‘out there’ for you, try using people cut out of sugar paper (A4) and the students can then work in pairs to label changes or effects.

Controversial Debates

Especially with Key Stage 4, pictures from the news are often great for looking at different controversial topics based around diet, exercise and well-being, and the effects that this can have on young people. Debates can be started through a picture or through a quote. Obviously, you have to know the learning styles of your learners and this does require some prompting from those who may not be forthcoming with spoken answers but, at the same time, it develops their communication skills. Debates can also be done silently. I have bought some cheap paper tablecloths and written a quote on each one, then split the students into groups, ask them to give their view of the quote and then go round writing responses to each other’s answers, without talking. These are then discussed as a class at the end to draw out as much knowledge as possible from the students giving reasons for thoughts and thinking.

Literacy Focus

A literacy focus is often a good way of assessing that the learning objectives have been achieved when coming to the end of a topic. When looking at Racism, writing using a new style of poem assists cross-curricular assessment. When looking at disabilities and different lifestyles, after watching video clips, students work on their Letter writing skills which ties in with the task. This then gives an opportunity for peer assessment as well as practise on skills needed for the future. With Key Stage 4, I find newspaper articles relating to a topic being studied, and then do a ‘highlighter’ task, where students identify key words in one colour, important facts in another colour, etc. Students then share their ideas and without knowing, they are working on some vital skills in preparation for examinations as well as learning PSHE.

I’m not saying these ideas are new, but what I am saying is that they are useful, effective, and relatively easy to organise with a positive impact on student well-being and learning. Ultimately if the students are learning and engaged, the teacher is happy, so it improves the well-being of everyone!

Jade @pshee2015 is a whole school leader of PSHE at Elfed High School in Buckley, North Wales. She also teaches Business Studies and Maths.

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