Editor's Notes

Your May Issue: Everything You Need for Teaching Fake News!

By
Kim Tranell

Dear Teachers,

The headline in my Facebook feed made my heart race: Could Nutella (which I regularly smear on banana slices to satisfy my sweet tooth) really cause cancer? The claim, under closer examination, turned out to be false, but the intense flash of panic it gave me was very real. Fake health news is everywhere—and it’s just one piece of a dangerous online epidemic.

That’s why I absolutely adore this month’s cover story, a fascinating non-fiction feature on the insidious forces that are driving fake news. It has everything you need—rich cultural context, ripped-from-the-internet examples, and easy, actionable digital literacy advice—to help your students think critically about the information they consume.

Let me walk you through it's wonderful resources—and some other highlights from the May issue of Choices!

 

1. WHICH ONE IS #FAKE NEWS?

 

 

You've already heard me rave about our amazing non-fiction piece—I'm positive your students will dig right in, no prodding needed—but I also highly recommend projecting our Fake News Game slideshow on your whiteboard as an interactive bell ringer. (Bonus: The online text of this story is annotated with key definitions and carefully designed self-reflection questions, which will encourage your students to think critically about their own media diet.)

 

 

2. DON'T GET BURNED!

 

 

Did you know that just one blistering sunburn can double your chances of developing melanoma later in life? We hope this shocking stat from our summer sun survival guide—plus the powerful warnings of three teen skin-cancer survivors—will empower your students to take sun safety seriously this year. Follow it up with a wonderful worksheet that will help students make skin checks a part of their regular routine. (Special thanks to the Skin Cancer Foundation for their help here!)

 

 

 

3. ARE YOU FOLLOWING THE HERD?

 

 

Between you and me: We always struggle—as I'm sure you can understand—when attempting to tackle the tricky topic of peer pressure. There is a very fine line between helpful and preachy. But I am incredibly pleased with the way our short non-fiction piece on "herd mentality" came out! I have no doubt that your students will be eager to talk about the ways that group think and social contagion permeate everything from their closest friendships to their school community. And the coolest part? We have a super-smart extention activity (find it on page T6 of the May Teacher's Guide) that will allow your class to do its own field research on herd mentality. Can they get a trend to spread throughout their school?

 

 

Please do email me if you try this experiment—I'm dying to know how it turned out and what your students learned!  I'd also love to hear from any teachers who have story ideas for next school year, so send me your tips: hot topics at your school, amazing real teens in your community, and issues you're struggling to teach.

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE MAY 2017 ISSUE OF CHOICES:

 

 Is It OK to Buy Cheap Clothes?Cheap clothes may seem like a great way for teens to stick to a tight budget, but there's more to the story. Clothing factories in countries like Bangladesh pay employees small wages and often have dangerous working conditions, but at the same time, these factories may help sustain the country's economy and employment rate. Have teens engage in a classroom discussion on this issue. 

 

 The Summer of Change: Summer is approaching! This story will inspire teens to engage in giving back this summer. If they need more ideas, be sure to check out our post on 15 volunteer ideas for teens!

 

 How Can I . . .  Make a Tough Decision?Making a decision is not an easy task, especially when it comes to deciding between options that are equally good. Use expert advice to teach teens to weigh their options and make decisions. Don't forget to download this free poster to remind students of a key principle of making a tough choice. 

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

By
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!

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE APRIL 2017 ISSUE OF CHOICES:

  • "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. 

 

MORE ALCOHOL CONTENT FROM CHOICES:

  • 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. 

 

 

Your March Issue: The Eye-Opening Eating Disorders Story Every Student Needs to Read

By
Kim Tranell

Dear Teachers, 

 

In your brand new March issue, you'll find what is perhaps the very first Choices story ever pitched by my 68-year-old dad. A passionate Penn State football fan, he texted me a link to an article about the team's kicker, who was in treatment for an eating disorder: "Great story for Choices," he wrote (probably from his favorite power blue arm-chair). I couldn't have agreed more. 

 

As a teen, my father was there as I struggled to help one of my best friends through anorexia. What neither of us understood at the time was that her pursuit of thinness was not a goal--but a byproduct of a complex and brutal disease rooted in genetics and mental health. 

 

That's why I am delighted to share our myth-busting eating disorders feature with you. Through the arresting image of a male football player and the stories of three real teens in recovery, your students will not only learn the complicated risk factors and warning signs of these diseases--but they'll also gain a fuller understanding of the stereotypes and stigmas that prevent many teens from getting help. 

 

The Choices team has put together a fantastic support package to help you bring this difficult topic to life in your classroom. Here's just a sampling!

 

1. A Riveting Feature Story With Fantastic Graphics!

This piece was designed to change perceptions of eating disorders, and it would be nothing without the teens who were brave enough to open up to Sandy Fernandez, one of our most cherished freelance writers--or without the help and support of the National Eating Disorders Association and the Binge Eating Disorder Association. Have your students read it with a focus on this essential question: How can I help someone who is engaging in unhealthy eating behavior?

 

2. An Invaluable Guided Reading Experience

To encourage even deeper thinking, have your students read the story online, where it is annotated with key definitions and critical-thinking questions. Our two-part ANNOTATED READING worksheet is designed to force teens to make crucial connections they might not otherwise make--between myths and stigmas, for example, and also between stigmas and barriers to seeking care. 

 

3. A Powerful Video 

Every month, we scour the web for the very best videos to engage your students in the topics covered, and this month, we were delighted to discover I Am Enough: Recovering from an Eating Disorder from BuzzFeedYellow. In it, a teen girl tells her story of struggling with an eating disorder--scrapbook-style--and what it did to her body. We're confident it will only further empathy and understanding about these brutal diseases. Find it under this month's videos in our Video Archive.

 

4. A Positive Extension Activity 

While understanding eating disorders as mental and physical diseases is surely crucial, we firmly believe that encouraging positive body image and helping teens identify other coping skills is an even more important part of your body unit. End it with our SO MUCH MORE Extension Activity (see p. T5 of the March Teacher's Guide) and worksheet, which will engage students in a little art therapy--by first exploring the many facets of their unique identity, and then making a collage to represent it! 

 

I'd also love to encourage you to check out our TEACHING TOUGH TOPICS: What You Need to Know About Teaching Eating Disorders post before you plan and execute your lesson. As always, it will help you approach this difficult subject with the utmost care--and also assist you in anticipating your students' questions. 

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

MORE HIGHLIGHTS FROM THE MARCH 2017 ISSUE OF CHOICES

This month's debate looks at the ever-expanding emoji lexicon. Are these emotional characters a threat to modern language, or are they an asset for expression? Let teens decide!

When it comes to bullying, it's easy for teens to stand on the side and blend in. Teach teens how to stand up to bullying and hate, even in subtle ways that make a real difference. 

This story uncovers the stealthy tricks that stores use to hook shoppers, helping teens learn just how they can be better consumers!

 

MORE BODY IMAGE AND EATING DISORDERS CONTENT FROM CHOICES

Take a look at this debate from last year with your teens. Do advertisements create unrealistic standards of beauty for teens?

Ninety percent of girls say they have been bullied based on the way they look. Teach teens about the risks of body-shaming language.

Binge-Eating Disorder is sometimes misdiagnosed simply as overeating, but it's a dangerous illness that requires professional help. 

 

Your February Issue: How to Embrace Failure & Teach Grit!

By
Kim Tranell

Dear Teachers,

 

I just checked our staff computer server, and here’s what I found in our February folder: a combined twenty-six drafts of the six stories in this issue, four failed cover ideas, and more rejected layout designs than I care to mention. Why am I telling you this? It all plays to the theme of this month’s non-fiction feature on the importance of failure, which is guaranteed to make your students think differently about their own shortcomings.

 

The true beauty of this article, however, is that it will appeal to everyone in your class—from the status-obsessed perfectionist (whose fear of failure is holding her back from pursuing new passions), to your most academically challenged student (who let one test score long, long ago define his value and self-worth). This is all thanks to the feature's tireless author, Jessica Press, who researched her heart out on the topics of success and failure—chewing up complex psychological concepts like grit and growth mindset and spitting them out into a lively, celebrity-laced package that will truly transform your student's outlook on life. 

 

Here's a sampling of the support package that will help you bring this topic to life in your classroom. As always, subscribers can log in to the story page to find even more teaching resources, like vocabulary worksheets, critical-thinking questions, and carefully-curated videos!

 

1. An Illuminating Cover Story

 

 

To be completely honest, I wasn't sure we would be able to translate the concept of grit into a piece that teens would actually want to read. But in The League of Extraordinary Loserswriter Jessica Press proved me wrong! You and your students will be delighted by the real-world examples of grit she collected, from Michael Jordan's high school experiences to the tech world's FailCon conferences. 

 

2. A Fascinating Failure Résumés Slideshow

 

 

What if we celebrated our failures the same way we do our successes? That's exactly what Princeton professor Johannes Haushofer—whose actual CV runs at about seven pages—asked himself one day. The result was this much-shared and celebrated CV of failures that he published and shared on Twitter last year (it has now been updated to include his newest meta-failure: "This darn CV of failures has received way more attention than my entire body of work," he wrote.) 

 

We were incredibly inspired by his idea, so to hammer home the article's take-away message, we've compiled an enlightening slideshow of Failure CVs from highly successful adults. It makes a fantastic bellringer—project it to have a pre-reading discussion about what might be learned from mistakes, rejections, and disappointments! (And psst—the slideshow is a brand new multimedia feature for our site. I would welcome your ideas of how we can use it in fresh, meaningful ways to enhance your teaching experience!)

 

3. A New Strategy (and Activity!) for Success

 

 

Perhaps the higlight of this story (for me at least) is the infographic on the final page. It provides students with clear, actionable steps for thinking about—and learning from—a failure in their own lives, plus it provides models of this sort of reflection from real teens! When your class is done reading, I enthusiastically encourage you to engage them in the WRITE AND REFLECT activity on p. T5 in the February Teacher's Guide
 

 

First, pass out the FAILURE RELECTION handout. Then, allow students to use it to prepare for their very own FailCon, where they can choose to take a big risk by sharing their experiences of learning and growing with the entire class. This activity combines so many of the core themes of The League of Extraordinary Losers—accepting mistakes, learning from them, and not shying away from new challenges because of a fear of failure!

 

I hope that you'll share your feedback with me, both on this story and the entire issue. Don't forget to check out our other Ideabook posts this month, especially this brilliant activity that will help you teach teens to understand the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

 

Photo: Shutterstock

9 Choices Articles Guaranteed to Influence Healthy Decision-Making

By
Kim Tranell

This week, we were delighted to share a guest Ideabook post from a team of researchers from the University of Chigago and the University of Texas. I encourage you to read the whole thing, but in summary, what their latest groundbreaking study found was that a traditional approach to health education—lectures, diagrams, directives—doesn't necessarily work. Teens, it seems, are far more motivated when they are given a deeper understanding of the forces at work when it comes to the decisions they make—and when educators attempt to tap into their innate drive to rise up against injustice and manipulation. (Psst: Our wonderful mood swing story in the November-December issue of Choices explains a little bit about the brain science that is priming your students to rebel in a positive way right now!)

 

Here at Choices, we were overjoyed to read about the study. We felt that our mission to present rich articles that encourage critical thinking, empowered decision-making, and responsible self-advocacy was validated—and that's exactly why we sifted through our archives to find a few of our favorite articles that embody that mission. Here, nine stories that will help you utilize a student-centered, anti-manipulation approach to health and life skills education in your classroom.

 

 

1. Are You Being Snacked to Death?

 

Knowing that junk food is bad for them is likely not enough to get teens to change their chip-munching habits, but being manipulated might. Use this story to frame the health effects of poor dietary choices—and the payoffs of healthier snacking—within the powerful forces (like marketing and corporate greed) students and their willpower are up against.

 

 

2. E-Cigarettes: Will They Kill You Too?

 

Are e-cigs just a fresh attempt to hook teens on nicotine? The format of this story explicitly prompts teens to question their own line of thinking when it comes to yet another teen-targeted, manipulatively marketed vice: vaping.

 

 

3. Are Anonymous Apps Spreading Hate?

 

By the time they reach middle school, students may be burnt out on the typical anti-bullying message. Use this piece to prompt a deeper discussion about the faceless nature of cyberbullying and the motives of the adults behind anonymous apps, which are a breeding ground for online hate. 

 

 

4. Is Pot the Next Legal Killer?

 

Marijuana's increasingly legal status in our country can be confusing for teens. This piece explores both sides of the debate, with a keen focus on evidence of the drug's health effects—and how the drug's popularity may be out-pacing our understanding of the consequences of widespread use.  

 

 

 

 

5. Scary Spice: Inside the Shadowy World of Synthetic Marijuana

 

What's even more powerful than the heartbreaking story of a teen who experienced devastating brain damage as a result of drug experimentation? Your students will be shocked to learn that criminals are literally spraying toxic chemicals on dried plants—and tricking teens into buying it.

 

 

6. Who Said It? The Truth About Gender Stereotypes

 

Who says boys can't like pink and girls can't get angry? This interactive feature will encourage teens to think critically about gender roles, and help students understand these roles as constructs of the society that we live in.

 

 

7. Should Body-Shaming Ads Be Banned?

 

While this story is a well-balanced debate that weighs the effects of harmful advertising against the dangers of government interference, it will no doubt get your students to think differently about the "ideal body" and where that preconceived notion of perfection comes from. (Ask: Why might the people behind these ads want you to feel badly about your body?)

 

 

8. Caffeine Crisis

 

Did you know that energy drink sales have grown by almost 3,000% since 2000, according to market research by Euromonitor? Your students will never look at those convenience-store fridges full of shiny, bright cans the same way again after reading all about how a massive industry is fueling a false need to feel constantly revved up.

 

 

9. The Sinister Science of Irresistible Junk Food

 

Just like #1 on the list, this piece will uncover the manipulative nature of the food industry. Here the focus is on junk food scientists—and the complex tricks they use to overcome your natural feelings of satiety and fullness. (FYI: This Choices article was based on the same book that provided the excerpt used in the research study!)

Our January Issue: Join The Fight Against Junk Food!

By
Kim Tranell

Dear Teachers,

 

As educators focused on the health and well-being of your teenage students, I am sure you've walked around the cafeteria in a state of defeat: That's an entire table eating corn chips and cheese curls for lunch . . . again?! Is nothing I say about the healthy choices getting through to them? 

 

That's why we're so excited about our January cover story on the sinister tricks of the food industry, which we hope will be the motivation your students need to shun junk. More or less, we're banking on the fact that teenagers--who are rebellious by nature--will be emboldened to take a stand against a ruthless industry that is trying to trick them into eating their highly unhealthy products. (But don't just take our word for it: A research team out of the University of Chicago and the University of Texas has actually studied this particular approach, with encouraging results! Check out their guest Ideabook post all about applying their takeaways to your classroom.)

 

As you work this into your nutrition or life skills/consumer science lesson plans (it surely can fit both!), we have everything you need to take this topic deeper:

 

1. A Riveting Cover Story

 

Choices January 2017 cover

 

In The Sinister Science of Irresistible Junk Food, writer Michelle Crouch explains the science behind teens' favorite, most addictive treats. As they read, students will be able to pull out a list of shocking tricks--from carefully manipulated ingredients and sensory experiences, to clever marketing tactics. Encourage them to consider this essential question: How can understanding the food industry's tricks help me eat healthier? 

 

2. A Richer Independent-Reading Experience

 

If your class is one-to-one, I urge you to hand out our two-part ANNOTATED READING worksheet to guide your students as they delve into the text. Part 1 provides them with a space to jot down their answers to some carefully placed questions, which are designed to help them self-reflect as they read. In Part 2, they'll digest what they've learned and apply it to their own lives: Why does their favorite junk food appeal to them, and how can they design a healthier snack that hits those cravings?  (Psst: If your students need inspiration or ideas, our junk food makeovers story from the April 2016 issue can be a fantastic reference point here!) 

3. A Hands-On Homework Assignment

 

We know that you are committed to teaching your students how to read and analyze food labels, ingredient lists, and packaging claims--and our DIGGING DEEPER activity (see page T4 in the January Teacher's Guide) can help. Encourage them to hit the local grocery store with our ANALYZING FOOD PACKAGING worksheet and report back the next day!  

4. An Ingenious Video 

broccoli craze video

After your students have read and digested the article, use our ADVOCACY IN ACTION activity (see page T4 in the January Teacher's Guide) to challenge them to think about how they can better market healthy snacks. Kick it all off by showing them "Creating the Broccoli Craze," a brilliant video from the New York Times which asks: What happens if an advertising agency markets fresh fruits and vegetables the way they do processed foods? (Find it under THIS MONTH'S VIDEOS in our VIDEO ARCHIVE.)

 

I look forward to your feedback, and please don't hesitate to contact me with any comments or questions. I have no doubt the story and its resources will lead to a lively, enlightening discussion--as well as some better lunch choices!

 

Warmly,

Kim

 

This Story (And Pledge!) Will Save Your Students' Lives

Dear Teachers,

 

Why are so many teens dying in car accidents? When a writer sent us a pitch with the sobering statistics (today alone, six teens will die in motor vehicle crashes), we became determined to dig deep and find the real answer. The result is our October cover story, which we're releasing in anticipation of National Teen Driver Safety Week later this month. It's a story that we hope your students will never forget.

 

What we found, with the help of Charlie Klauer, a pioneering driver safety research scientist at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute: It doesn't matter if your students can't get behind the wheel just yet. Helping them understand the power they hold as passengers (whether they're riding with friends or with family) can and will prevent life-changing injuries and meaningless deaths. 

 

If you only teach one article this month, please—I beg you—let it be this one. We have everything you need to get through to your teens:

 

1. A Gripping Cover Story

 

 

In Danger Behind the Wheel, we go beyond the usual messaging (don't drive drunk, don't use your cell phone, etc. ) and drill down into the lesser known hazards that are costing teens their lives. Students will be pushed to consider their personal responsibility as a passenger, and will also learn about the effects of nighttime and drowsy driving.

 

2. A Riveting Film

 

 

Sometimes reading a story isn't enough. We are so very grateful to Speak Up to Slow Down creator Gregg Burmeister, who together with local teacher Tari Costellow, is allowing us to share this extremely powerful 26-minute documentary with you. It tells the cautionary tale of a car crash that took the lives of three teen girls in Campbellsport, Wisconsin. Through tears, your students will hear from the victims' parents—and even a few of the crash's six survivors—as they recount a joy ride gone horribly wrong. (Find it under This Month's Videos in our Video Archive.)

 

3. A Powerful Infographic

 

teen driving infographic

 

Encourage students to study the statistics presented in our The Facts That Matter: Teens & Driving infographic. Then, use our Infographic Research Guide handout to make your own infographics advocating for driver safety. Students will be prompted to pick a topic and tailor it for a specific audience. (For example: Do they think parents text and drive more than teens do? Have them research statistics that will target adults!)

 

4. A Personal Pledge

 

We've adapted the Power Passenger Pledge from the magazine to be a printable, reproducible PDF (click the image above to download). Ask your students to think long and hard about the responsibilities of accepting a ride, and when they're fully ready to commit, they can sign their pledge. (Teachers: Please send us photos of your class holding up your signed pledges! We'd love to see them: choicesmag@scholastic.com.)

 

As you teach this story, I also encourage you to challenge the language around motor vehicle crashes. Ask students: Are they really accidents? And does calling them that take away from the personal responsibility we should all feel to keep each other safe on the road?

 

I look forward to hearing what you think. Please don't hesitate to reach out with your thoughts or comments.

 

Warmly,

Kim

Introducing a New Online Extra: Annotated Reading

Greetings, teachers!

 

It is with great excitement that I am able to unveil a brand new feature on the Choices site: annotated reading! On selected story pages moving forward, you'll see orange text throughout—these are places where your students can enhance their reading experience with real-time vocabulary definitions, critical-thinking questions, and additional context. All they have to do is click (for vocab words) or hover (for critical thinking questions and related tips). 

 

This month, we're kicking it off with our devastating, but gripping, narrative non-fiction feature about a catastrophic football injury. Before your students read Why Him? Why Me? online [please note: this story is behind our subscriber paywall, due to agreement with ESPN Magazine], hand out our Annotated Reading Worksheet. As students read, they can fill out answers to the questions that pop up (Part 1), which will help you guide a deep discussion about resilience later on.

There is also a wonderful communication skills activity on the second page of the handout (Part 2) that can help you teach students how to help a friend or family member through a tough time. 

We're so excited for you to try this out, and we can't wait to hear what you think. Please comment below or email me your thoughts directly!

 

Warmly,

 

Kim