How To

This Slideshow Will Teach Students to Beat Stress!

Bethany Radcliff


Did you happen to have a chance to check our Failure Resumes slideshow back in February? Well, now we're coming back at you with another fantastic use for this new online feature, this time all about (drumroll, please...) simple ways to beat stress!


We think our newest interactive flipbook, called Stress Busters, will perfectly complement your lesson on this month's story, Secret Stress Busters of the Stars, adding more substance to your classroom discussion. That's because--in order to truly buy into stress-relief techniques--teens need to try them out for themselves, paying special attention to what works best. And simple steps to walk through each technique will ensure that students can easily practice each activity. For example, take a look at how the slideshow guides students through visualization:


Click on this image to access our newest slideshow, Stress Busters!


We designed this slideshow with students and teachers in mind, with the goal of working together to create a stress-free classroom climate. The three stress-reducing skills discussed involve visualization, deep breathing, and yoga--and all three activities can easily be used in the classroom.

One of our favorite features? This fun gif, which has been specially designed to help teens practice relaxing breathing (just follow the dot, breathing innnnnnn...and outtttttt).


This gif is perfect for teaching teens how to manage stress with breathing!


So what are you waiting for? It's time to get calm! Here are a few ways you can use the Stress Busters Slideshow to teach teens to keep calm under pressure:


  • After instructing your class to read Secret Stress Busters of the Stars, project Stress Busters on your whiteboard, then go through the three activities as a class. You can serve as their guide, reading the steps as they close their eyes and give each exercise a try!

  • If you don't have time to devote to all activities, guide your class through one exercise and have them complete the rest at home. 

  • For a more hands-on activity, split the class into three groups, and have each group practice one activity.

  • After teaching the lesson, send teens home with a link to the slideshow to try the techniques on their own.


After you teach the Stress Busters slideshow or send it home with students, have students pick their favorite activity to get comfortable with. Teens can practice this activity over time, so they can have it as a go-to when the pressure is on! 


Click on the image above to read our brilliant feature, Stress Busters of the Stars, to teach teens the perfect solutions to handling in-the-moment stress!


Other Choices resources on stress relief techniques for your classroom:





Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock

How to Teach Teens About the Importance of Failure

Amy Lauren Smith

Editor's note: It's hard to accept, but failure might actually be good for you. Choices teacher-advisor Amy Lauren Smith--a sixth to eighth grade health teacher at the Shanghai American School in Shanghai, China, and the brilliant mind behind our Teacher's Guide each month--explains how she helped her students understand this important lesson.


Failure and grit are buzzwords in education right now, and for good reason. While kids are terrified of failing, it's truly the only way they'll grow. Getting middle school students to accept this fact is especially challenging though, as they'd often rather not try at all than risk looking like they tried too hard.


My school has a pretty robust advisory program, which means that in addition to teaching health, I have a homebase of twelve students who I see three times a week for social and emotional learning. Seventh grade in particular is a year when pressure can really start to mount, so I'm always looking for ways to address failure with them. Luckily, this month's issue of Choices features The League of Extraordinary Losers, a piece about failure that highlights some of the world's most creative and successful people and the failures they experienced on their way to the top. When I shared it with my fellow seventh grade advisors, we agreed it would be a great jumping off point for discussion with our groups.


It's important when doing this type of activity with younger teens to stress that failure isn't just about academics and sports. Social "fails" are also a key part of the adolescent experience, but it can often take years to get over the sting of embarrassment and rejection that can come along with them. That's why it was great for the students to read about people they admired embracing their failures, as it helped them open up about theirs without fear of being judged.


After reading the article, we had the students reflect on a time when they've experienced failure, and what good came out of it. They were given the following prompts, and then if they felt comfortable, they shared as much or as little as they wanted to with the class.


My Big Fail


1. What was your initial goal?


2. What was the 'fail'?


3. How did you take it at the time?


4. What good came out of the experience instead?


5. What was the big take-away? What did you learn from the experience that you would like to share with others?


Once the kids started sharing and realizing how much they had in common, they began opening up more. Some of them were able to laugh at themselves and it brought up one of life's great lessons: the things that feel like a mortifying disaster at the time often end up being a funny story later on. (They especially enjoyed my tale of trying to perform a rap for my seventh grade election speech. Needless to say, someone else was voted vice president that year!)


Touching base after the lesson with my fellow advisors, we all felt that the activity had led to great conversations with their students, and they too had shared examples from their own middle school years. It was a great lesson for the kids about failure, resilience and grit, and a bonding experience for us all as well.  


Want to try this lesson in your classroom? Here are the tools you need:

1. Download the Choices FAILURE REFLECTION WORKSHEET to try the REFLECTION ACTIVITY. It'll get your students thinking critically on how to apply the fail up method to a past setback. 


2. Forget about resumes of accomplishments--our fascinating Failure Resumes Slideshow highlights even more famous figures and the roadblocks they've encountered throughout their careers. 


A Brilliant Activity to Teach Healthy Relationships

Editor's Note: Su Nottingham is currently an instructor at Central Michigan University, and has taught Family & Consumer Science, Sexuality, and Health & Physical Education at both the secondary and university level. The Choices team took part in her workshop at the 2015 Society for Health & Physical Educators (SHAPE) Conference, and we were floored by the power of this Bip and Bop game, which teaches the tenets of healthy and unhealthy relationships. We're so excited to share it with you as a support activity complementing our feature on teen dating abuse in the February issue! 


How Can This Help?


Recognizing if a characteristic is healthy or unhealthy  is influenced by perception of social norms and the influence of peers. Bip and Bop are two gender neutral characters that demonstrate both healthy and unhealthy characteristics of a relationship. This small group strategy causes adolescents to determine the impact of behaviors on relationships through discussion, reflection, and a representative demonstration of each action. Bip and Bob highlight a variety of age-appropriate examples of adolescent relationships and how actions can take a toll on the success and stability of any relationship.  To enhance meaning, a symbolic action—based on the severity of the action—is demonstrated by utilizing everyday household items: a sandwich-size container, napkin, rubber band, rocks, water, and pencil. 


What You'll Need:


Assemble the following materials for each group (3-4 students):

  • One container (sandwich size container with lid)
  • 10 small/medium sized rocks  (or marbles)
  • One paper napkin (to cover container)
  • One rubber band (to hold paper on container)
  • A sharpened pencil
  • A small dish of water and eye dropper, straw, or plastic spoon (or a small spray bottle of water)
  • One set of “Bip and Bop” scenarios on cards (see below)


Prep: Use the rubber band to attach the paper napkin to the container


Key Skills:


Students will be able to recognize healthy and unhealthy relationships characteristics, and:

  • Describe how peers influence healthy and unhealthy behaviors (NHES 2.8.3)
  • Explain how the perceptions of norms influence healthy and unhealthy behaviors (NHES 2.8.7)


The Procedure:


1. Prepare: Divide students into groups of 3-4 and give each group its set of supplies, as listed above in the "What You'll Need" section.


2. Play: Instruct students to take turns selecting a card and reading it to the group. Readers should:

  • Withhold the answer written on the card as the group discusses if the action is unhealthy/healthy and why
  • Read the correct answer provided on the card
  • Then take the action described on the card for the situation (actions include: add or take away "rocks" to the paper; add drops or sprays of water to the paper; poke a hole in the paper)
  • Keep the card they read for discussion at the end of the activity



The symbolic actions will demonstrate the effects of certain actions/behaviors in a relationship: 

  • poked holes - symbolize permanent damage
  • water - will dry, but may be weaker than before
  • rocks - show a stressor in the relationship, but when removed, show lessened stress


3. Reflect/Discuss: Students can engage in a small group discussion using the cards they kept after reading. Some questions and activities that can guide their reflections:


  • Make a chart of the healthy and unhealthy actions of Bip and Bop
  • Were there actions that help strengthen the relationship or make it less in danger? What were the actions that would have a positive impact on the relationship?
  • What actions caused damage to the relationship? What actions couldn’t be “taken back”?
  • Did the relationship actually break down from the action?
  • Do you think this is a good relationship for these adolescents?
  • Are there skills that could be used to lessen the negative effects?


Teaching Tips:


  1. The size of the rocks will greatly determine how volatile the relationship is.  Using less expensive paper towel or thin paper will as well.
  2. Students can place the paper on the container and attach with the rubber band to save pre-set up time
  3. It is not important to distinguish between the characteristics that Bip demonstrated, or those of Bop.


Original idea: Kirk Putnam III and Kate Lepper, Central Michigan University students,  adapted and modified by Su Nottingham, June 2013.


More Choices Resources for Teaching Teens About Healthy Relationships:


Photo: Shutterstock

6 Tips to Keep Your Classroom Germ-Free This Winter

Bethany Radcliff

Illness outbreaks can be a nightmare in the classroom. I'll never forget the time during the swine flu epidemic of 2009 when my Texas high school had to shut down for a week because so many people contracted the illness after our homecoming dance. It was proof of just how fast serious germs can spread!


The key to combating the spread of germs is prevention. It may seem impossible to protect your classroom during sick season, but it can be done. In addition to the tips in Sick Season Survival Guide, here are some clean-classroom ideas to get you off to a healthy start this winter:


1.   Stock up!

Make sure to stock up on cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Be proactive and add these items to school supply lists if they are not funded by your school, and don't be afraid to enlist the help of parents. Consider sending a note home with students that discusses the common symptoms of the flu, suggests when to keep kids home, and asks for tissue donations (if need be).


2. Teach hygiene.

A reminder on the importance of hand washing may seem redundant, especially for older students, but it can go a long way. Make sure to go over the common symptoms of flu-like sickness and encourage students to stay home if they are running a fever. With younger students, teach them how easy germs spread by using a visual: Put a little bit of glitter on one or two students' hands. By the end of the day, most students will have glitter somewhere on them!


3.  Create a sanitization station.

This station can be by the door to remind students to use hand sanitizer when they come in and out of the classroom. You can also keep a cleaning caddy at the station with the daily cleaning supplies that students will use when they help with cleaning tasks each day. (Psst: It's also important to keep hand sanitizer next to computers and near tissue boxes to remind students to stay clean!)


4.  Disinfect germ hot spots.

This includes all writing pens and pencils, computer keyboards and mice, tablet screens and devices, desktops, doorknobs, and chair backs. Use your own pencils and pens and remind students to share writing utensils as little as possible.


5. Encourage healthy behavior.

Exercising regularly and getting full nights of rest keep your body healthy and strengthen teens' immune system. Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated will also help fight illness. Suggest that students bring refillable water bottles to class instead of using the water fountain, which can be a hotbed for germs.


6. Give meditation and mindfulness a try!

These practices will reduce stress for you and your students, and perhaps keep the flu at bay! Use tools like our mood-tracking activity from last year to encourage better mental health practices in students. If you're interested in meditation, try bringing it to your classroom like this teacher did.


These resources may help you further discuss winter health in the classroom:




Photo: Shutterstock

A Role-Play Activity to Teach Conflict Resolution

Kim Tranell

How Can This Help?

Young people often have a difficult time recognizing conflict before it evolves into verbal abuse or bullying. Through strategic role-play and preparation, this activity will provide students with the key social-emotional learning tools they need to effectively communicate one side of an argument, as well as the motivation to empathize with the other.


What You'll Need:


Key Skills:

Demonstrate strategies to prevent, manage, or resolve interpersonal conflicts without harming self or others (NHES 4)


The Procedure:


1. Read & Discuss. Distribute copies of the Choices article, How to Fight Fair. Students can certainly read independently, but this feature is designed to be interactive. Use these pause-and-reflect questions to guide class discussion:

  • After reading the introduction on p. 13, ask:
    How does conflict help us grow?
    It challenges us to see someone else's point of view.)
  • After reading FIGHT STYLE under Common Clash 1 on p. 14, ask:
    Why is the silent treatment an ineffective way to resolve a conflict?
    (Possible answer: You're not actually addressing the problem, so nothing will be resolved.)
  • After reading each Common Clash scenario, ask:
    What is the problem that needs to be solved here?
    (Answers will vary, but the point is to highlight that each conflict is about solving a problem or disagreement--that both people should invest in overcoming. You can also point out that Amy, Sam, and Sophie should each have a "goal"--whether that's more of Willow's attention, a more reasonable curfew, or more playing time.)  



2. Divide Students Into Pairs. Have students count off 1-2, 1-2. If you have an odd number of students, you can do one group of three--but this activity works best when the conflict scenarios can be simplified to two distinct sides.


3. Prepare to Act. Pass out the ROLE-PLAY GRAPHIC ORGANIZER worksheet and encourage students to follow the instructions to complete it as a pair. (If you think students will need help coming up with conflict scenarios, use our COMMON CONFLICT SCENARIO CARDS to get them started.) Remember, the goal here is for both parties--regardless of their respective roles--to work together to come up with a civil conversation starter that addresses the problem head-on




4. Start the Role-Play. In all honesty, the actual role-play is probably less important than the conversation-starter here--so if you don't have time to dig into the final step, no worries! But if you do, reinforce the rules of respectful communication, as outlined in The Dos & Don'ts of Fighting Fair on p. 15., used with permission

Teach Teens About Prescription Drug Abuse With This Cool Campaign!

Editor's note: Our November-December issue story, "Heroin Took Over Our Town," discusses teens whose lives have been radically affected by substance abuse. This month, we're pleased to share this joint campaign from and the CVS Health Foundation to encourage students to get involved in ending the drug addiction epidemic! and the CVS Health Foundation's Explain the Pain Text campaign educates young people on the abuse and misuse of prescription pain medication via a text message guide that briefs students on simple yet effective ways to encourage friends to stay away from substance abuse. Here's how your students can get involved and enter to win a $5,000 scholarship: 

Step 1: Visit the campaign page on


Step 2: Encourage students to read and learn about the prescription pain medication epidemic.'s drug abuse fact video is a great resource:



Step 3: Students will be asked to enter their cell phone number and three of their friends' numbers to share the interactive drug awareness guide with friends. 


Step 4: After students sign up, they will receive a guide via text message that will give them simple and effective ways to help keep their friends safe from drug abuse. 


Step 5: Encourage students to pass along this resource. Students who share the resource with three friends will be entered in a drawing to win a $5,000 scholarship!


We know that teaching students about the dangers of drug abuse can be challenging. We hope this campaign will encourage your students to stand against addiction!


Additional Resources: 

Our Teaching Tough Topics guide serves as a companion to "Heroin Took Over Our Town," and contains tips on how to (and how not to) bring up addiction in your classroom, along with resources to help students understand the severity of the drug abuse crisis. Above the Influence is another great student resource, and is great for teachers and parents. 

Create a Group Project Contract

Bethany Radcliff

How Can This Help?

You already know the challenges that group projects pose--no matter what you do, students tend to struggle with staying organized, distributing the workload fairly, and keeping each other accountable for their tasks. With this activity, you are asking your students to create a simple contract within their group, which empowers them to make their own rules up front. Your students will begin to see the value of working together, along with the importance of group communication and decision-making. This allows students to set the tone for their own work, all while setting expectations for each other.

What You'll Need:

Key Skills:

Setting goals; verbal communication; working as a team.

The Procedure:

1. Read and Prepare. Instruct students to read the article "How Can I Rock a Group Project?" from the Life Skills Made Easy section of the November-December 2016 issue of Choices. Pass out the Group Project Contract  to each group.

2. Brainstorm. Have students think about possible rules for their group project within their teams. Explain to students the importance of having rules within a group, and how rules will help them stay on task and communicate effectively. Optional: You can use our Discussion Guide worksheet here, or simply write these questions on your blackboard or whiteboard to guide the conversation:

  • What characteristics does an effective group need to function properly? (Possible answers: clear goals, good communication, active participation by all members, etc.)
  • What behaviors frustrate you the most when you're working on a group project? (Possible answers: irresponsibility, missing deadlines, not participating in discussions, only contributing criticisms, etc.)
  • How will you ensure that people will hold up their end of the contract? (Possible answer: put one person in charge of keeping people on task)

Move from group to group. If students need help, refer to these examples for ideas:

  • We all promise to listen to group members' ideas respectfully.
  • We all promise to give thoughtful feedback to each other.
  • We all promise to sit together as a group.
  • We all promise to be positive.
  • We all promise to contribute to the group's discussion.
  • We all promise to talk one at a time, and not while another group member is speaking.
  • We all promise to contribute equally to this team project.
  • We all promise to ask our teacher for help if we get stuck.
  • We all promise to meet when we are supposed to.
  • We all promise to follow the instructions of the project.
  • We all promise not to exclude a group member.
  • We all promise to report to our teacher if a rule is broken, or if something is not going well in the project.
  • We all promise to turn our work in on time.

3. Collaborate, Decide, Sign. Have students fill out their chosen rules with their group on the Group Project Contract Worksheet. Encourage students to have fun collaborating, deciding on their rules, and coming up with a group name. Make sure all students have signed the contract and understand the repercussions of breaking a contract rule!

Bonus Steps!

  • Plan It Out. After group rules have been decided on and the students have had time to understand the assignment, pass out the Group Project Planner worksheet and instruct students to begin filling out tasks according to the steps in the How Can I Rock a Group Project? story. (The color coded section at the bottom of the sheet allows the students to easily reference which member is responsible for each task!)

  • Get to Work. Now it's time to start the project. Students should feel more prepared and comfortable having filled out their Group Project Planner worksheets. Pass out copies of Group Project Tips to each group to help them come up with ideas to facilitate communication and complete tasks during their group project.

Help Students Stay Safe Online

Editors Note: In the October issue of Choices, our story "Could Your Face Go Viral?" tackles online privacy and staying safe on social media. Here, Lauren DeViney, who is a Project Manager for the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race and former high school health teacher in Waltham, MA, shares her tips for creating guidelines teens can follow everytime they use the internet.

Personal responsibility is the key to staying safe online. In this activity, students will gather in groups to discuss what they’ve learned about internet privacy. Then, have them fill out Choices' Personal Digital Guidelines handout, which will help them create their own list of rights and rules for posting on social media.

Key skill: NHES 5 (Students will demonstrate the ability to use decision-making skills to enhance health.)

Prep: Write the discussion questions on the board for all students to see before dividing the class into small groups.

1. Break students into small groups (no more than 4 per group).
2. Explain that students will have ten minutes to address the following topics in their groups. They should spend about two minutes per topic and discuss in a round-robin style (where they go around in a circle and every student responds to question #1, then it goes around again for question #2, and so on until all four questions have been addressed). The student whose birthday is closest to the date can start the discussion in each group.

Discussion Questions:

  • Do you know someone who has a positive digital identity? Why do you think they are a positive example?
  • Do you think a college or employer would make you an offer after conducting a brief Google search with your name?
  • How can you use your social media presence to create positive friendships and relationships?
  • What stands out from this article about online privacy? Why does this standout?

3. Hand out the Personal Digital Guidelines worksheet and ask them to create rules based on the discussion they just had. If there's time at the end, have them share their ideas with the class!

Help Your Students Raise Money for Childhood Cancer!

Inspired by our Different Like You story about Miya, a childhood cancer survivor, in the September issue? This guide has everything you need to teach your students the power of giving back with the help of our non-profit partners, Alex’s Lemonade Stand. Follow these simple steps to register your lemonade stand and make it a success.


1. Choose a Date 

First, find a date, time and location to host your lemonade stand. Then, fill out your registration at this link and make sure to request a fundraising kit, which has everything you need to kick-start your campaign. A personal fundraising coach will get in touch and can help answer any questions.


This amazing fundraising kit will give you everything you need!


2. Get Everyone in Your Town Talking

Create your custom fundraising page and then ask your students—and their parents—to post event details on social media, including their Facebook pages, Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat. 

Share this inspiring video with a personalized message, such as:

Our family will be selling lemonade to help cure kids cancers, one cup at a time. Watch this inspiring video, then lend your support on [insert date here].

Students and parents can also spread the message to the greater community by asking local coffee shops, restaurants and boutiques to set up coin collection jars; writing letters requesting donations; and spreading the word in community papers. 


3. Set Up Shop

On the day of the event, set up your stand using these free downloadable signs and donation container stickers



Students of all ages can help set up the stand, make and sell the lemonade and share the message with customers. The Foundation suggests selling baked goods and crafts and accepting donations rather than charging a set price for the lemonade. 


4. Send in Your Donations

Once your team is done collecting donations for the day, download the form, fill it in and return the donations via the return envelope provided in the kit. Once the donation is received and tallied, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation will update your school’s fundraising homepage with the donation total. 


5. Keep it Going

Continue to rally your community around the national movement to fight childhood cancer by hosting other types of events (such as coin collection drives or fun-runs), or consider starting a Lemon Club, a community-service driven club that raises money and awareness in your community in an ongoing way. Just notify the team at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation that you’d like to start a club by filling out the form here or by contacting Jeff Baxter at for more information. 

Any questions? Get more resources for teachers here.

Bring Our September Debate to Life

Editor’s Note: This year, Choices has expanded its monthly debates to four pages, with even meatier arguments from real teens—and the factual support they need to evaluate those opinions. Here, Lauren DeViney, who is a Project Manager for the New Balance Foundation Billion Mile Race and former high school health teacher in Waltham, MA, shares her tips for stimulating a lively discussion in your classroom.


How Can This Help?

Young people have strong opinions about the value of online friendships. This activity will enable students to solidify the arguments they naturally lean to, while helping them to empathize with their peers on the opposite side of the debate.


What You’ll Need:

Key Skills: NHES 4.8.1 (Apply effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills to enhance health); NHES 8.8.1 (State a health-enhancing position on a topic and support it with accurate information); CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 (Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally).


The Procedure: 

1. Prepare to Read. Hand out the Debate Organizer Worksheet and instruct students to complete section A, reacting to the question at hand: Are online friends real friends? 


2. Read, Watch, Write. Distribute copies of the Choices article “Are Online Friends Real Friends?” to read, then watch the Huffington Post mini-documentary, The Science of Friendship. Explain that students should fill in section B of their organizer with three strong arguments for each side of the debate while reading the article and watching the mini-documentary. If they would like to include more than three, that’s fine. The intention is for students to tease out the most salient points to support each side of the debate.

3. Establish Ground Rules. Before facilitating a debate in your classroom, establish ground rules. If possible, grade this activity and explain to students that part of their success will be based on their ability to effectively, yet respectfully debate. Examples of ground rules for classroom debates available below!


4. Divide Into Groups. Depending on the size and dynamics of your class, you can either:

a. Divide the entire class in half—group Yes & group No. 

b. Divide students into four groups—A-Yes, B-Yes, A - No, B- No. This results in two simultaneous discussions, and students might find that less intimidating than the previous option. 

5. Circle & Share. Regardless of the format you choose, students should first circle up with classmates who have the same assignment (Yes or No) to share the arguments they jotted down in their organizers. This ensures that everyone on the team has a strong organizer to pull ideas from.

6. Set Up the “Stage.” Arrange six chairs facing each other (3 and 3). These desks are now the benches where members of each team will sit to argue their side. There should be additional desks behind each bench where remaining students will sit while they observe the debate and wait to tap in.

7. Debate! Each person in the class should sit on the bench at least once, sharing an idea from their organizer or something from their personal experience with friendships. The debate ends when all members of the class have had a turn at the bench. Students are graded based on their adherence to the rules of the debate, as well as their general participation.

8. To kick things off, flip a coin to determine which bench will open the debate. Explain to students that there should be a rhythm back and forth. One bench states their argument, then the other side responds and sends it back to the other bench. 

    Tip: Award students who volunteer to sit on their bench in the first round an extra participation point.     

9. Debrief as a group. After the debate, pose questions to the class in a group discussion that will help students analyze the skills they employed in this activity. For example, “For those of you who defended a side of this argument that you don’t necessarily agree with, how did that feel?” or “Do you think it’s helpful to understand both sides of a controversial topic? Why?”. 

A note for teachers: You’ll need to referee the debate to ensure students are adhering to the rules. You might also need to steer the conversation as it evolves. Here are a few additional questions to stir the debate if students get stuck:

  • Can you read or understand the tone of someone’s words and therefore get to know their personality via text?

  • Do young people present balanced versions of themselves via their online personalities? Or do you only get to see the good stuff about their lives on social media?

  • Can you be sure that an online friend is who they say they are? What about “catfishes”? 

  • Is it more challenging to make friends in person or online?

Lastly, remind students to tap in so everyone has a chance to participate!