Your April Issue: The Alcohol Story Your Students Will Never Forget

Kim Tranell

Dear Teachers,

Each month, I put together the Choices line-up using the highest level of logic and thought: What's in the news right now? What will students be buzzing about when the issue hits classrooms? And how to I provide the best mix of stories for our diverse group of teachers, who cover a wide range of grades and subject areas?

But sometimes all it takes is a swift-and-strong emotional gut-punch for me to know when we have a winner—the type of story that will translate a tough topic to teens—and that’s exactly what happened when I read our writer Michelle Crouch's pitch for our April cover story about alcohol poisoning.

Your students will be captivated by the heartbreaking tale of Shelby Allen, 17, and perhaps more importantly, they’ll never want to find themselves in the position of her friends, who will forever regret a single night of drinking. Here's exactly how to use this gripping narrative non-fiction piece and its related resources to elevate your alcohol unit. 


1. Read the Annotated Online Text


Be sure to make use of our embedded annotations!


If your classroom is one-to-one—and you haven't yet tried our annotated reading toolkit—now is the time!  In one challenging story each month (yes, this issue, it's the alcohol story!), we embed vocabulary definitions, additional facts, and pause-and-think questions that enhance students' understanding of the text and push them to self-reflect as they read. (The idea is that a few carefully placed Qs will encourage empathy with the characters in the story, and also offer key moments of decision-making role-playing: If that was me, what would I do?)


To use it: Distribute the two-part ANNOTATED READING worksheet first (see above), where students can record their thoughts on Part 1 as they read. Then they'll move on to Part 2, where they'll consider their new knowledge and understanding as they put themselves in Shelby's and her friends' shoes: How would they handle the night's turning points differently?


2. Examine the Infographic



Teaching students to read and interpret infographics is an important literacy skill, and boy, do we have a wonderful one this month! Look at it as a class, picking out the key elements that help this particular graphic communicate information—text features, statistics, idea organization, and imagery are all important to discuss.



Then, have students apply what they have learned—and practice their research skills too—with our DIGGING DEEPER activity from page T5 of the April Teacher's Guide. They'll use the ALCOHOL INFOGRAPHIC worksheet (and ideally an online program like Piktochart) to delve into alcohol statistics and create an infographic of their own.


3. Talk About Peer Pressure

No alcohol unit is complete without a deep and honest conversation about peer pressure and how to handle it, but we know—that's easier said than done. That's why we adore this video by Berna, our Choices TV host. Its humor (and her "high-five" strategy!) can help you open up an effortless discussion about friendfluence in a variety situations. Find it under This Month's Videos in our Video Archive.


I look forward to hearing what you think about this story, as well as the others in the April Issue!






  • "What Are You?": This month's Different Like You teen, Lexi Brock, used to try to hide the fact that she is multiracial. Now, she proudly calls it her superpower. 
  • "We're Standing Up for Respect"Six Oregon teens stood up against sexist, lewd language. Their call for respect is a perfect example of standing up for what they believe--and making change!
  • Secret Stress Busters of the Stars: Teach teens the best ways to fight stress, using these celeb-sourced stress-fighting techniques! These methods work for those constantly in the spotlight, so they are sure to help your students calm down when they feel fight or flight setting in. 



  • The Danger of Just One Drink: About 4,700 teens die each year from alcohol-related incidents. Use this story to remind teens that "just one drink" can lead to a chain reaction of dangerous choices, and even death.
  • Alcohol Poisoning: The Death You Don't See Coming: When it comes to alcohol, teens need to be aware that the problem is more than drunk driving. Binge drinking is a huge part of the problem, and teens should know the risks. 



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