The “How” Part 1: Your Curriculum

Are you on board with skills-based health education but wondering what your next steps should be? Have you started to transition but are getting stuck? If so, the next few blog posts are for you!

After getting many questions about the “how to” of skills-based, we are creating a series of posts to help you feel more comfortable with the “how to” of skills-based health education. We are going to start with the curriculum!

Why do we start with curriculum? Well . . . in the many years that Holly and I have been doing this, we have learned that having your written curriculum aligned with the NHES, with the skills “on top” and with your unit objectives planned out makes it much for likely for you to have a successful transition to the approach. It doesn’t matter if you are looking at your own class or your K-12 curriculum – the steps are the same. In this post, we will run through the basics and provide some tips. It’s a little long but worth the read!

TIP: Even though it is hard, we strongly recommend that you do not try to retrofit your current curriculum into a skills-model. We completely understand the urge…but it never works quite right!

If you can go through this process with an open-mind and “clean slate”, it will go much more smoothly. We promise that you will be able to fit many of your activities back into the curriculum once you have completed the process!

Step 1: What do YOUR students need?

Our students are our top priority. It is critical that we are constantly asking ourselves – what do my students need in order to be healthy? What issues are they facing? What do we want them to be able to do with this new learning?

Take some time to brainstorm. Look at data, talk to various stakeholders, ask students, use your experience and create a list of what your students need. This list can include topics, skills and specific behaviors. For now, anything goes! Once you have your list, set this aside and then move on to step 2. You will revisit this list later in the process.

Step 2: The Framework

We suggest creating a template that looks something like this:

 

 

List the grades down the side

List the NHES Skills across the top
NHES Skill
(Analyzing Influences)
NHES Skill
(Decision-Making)
NHES Skill
(Interpersonal Communication)
NHES Skill
(Advocacy)
Grade

(grade 6)

Grade

(grade 7)

We feel that putting the skills “on top” like this is important for a couple of reasons:

  • It clearly puts the emphasis on the skills & provides a frame for each unit
  • It sets you up for skill development within the unit
  • Allows you to where content fits across various skills

We also suggest starting by matching one topic within one skill. Once you get more comfortable you can add multiple topics under a skill. Start out simple and then add as you go! However, when you set up your units in this way, you will begin to see that certain topics will naturally “fit” with certain skills.

We do not recommend keeping the topics as the focus and integrating more than one skill within the topics. In this model, it is less likely that students will develop the skills to proficiency – you won’t get the same depth or the same levels of skill performance.

Step 3: NHES Performance Indicators

Next, you will look at standards 2-8 of the NHES (standard 1 is the “topic” standard, it isn’t a skill). Decide which performance indicators you will teach from each standard and in which grade. You want to make sure that you cover all performance indicators within each grade span though don’t feel like you need to cover every skill (or performance indicator) every year. It is unlikely that you have time for that.

Another tip: For the skills of decision-making, goal setting and advocacy – you’ll cover all performance indicators each time you teach these skills. Each of these skills, and the associated performance indicators are all part of the process of actually implementing the skill.

In our experience around 4 skills per year is usually a good fit. It is OK to have some “blank” boxes in your chart. By mapping out which performance indicators and which skills are taught each year you will begin to see a flow or progression. You are also able to revisit and reinforce previous learning. When implemented, your students will appreciate a thoughtful progression… though they may not realize it.

After this step, your framework might looking something like this (note the performance indicator numbers):

Analyzing Influences
Accessing Valid & Reliable Info, Products, and Services
Decision-Making
Goal Setting
Interpersonal Comm.
Advocacy
Grade 6
2.8.2
2.8.3
2.8.4
3.8.1
3.8.3
3.8.5
5.8.1-5.8.7
8.8.1-8.8.4
Grade 7
2.8.5
2.8.6
2.8.7
3.8.2
3.8.4
Review Decision Making, but not formally assessed.
6.8.1-4
4.8.1
4.8.2

Step 4: Match Topics and Skills

Here is where we revisit the topics you listed out in step 1. You will take those topics (in blue below) and put them “under” the skills wherever you think they fit best. Remember there is no right answer here! You should go with your gut and the needs of your students. You can always tweak it later but we have found that teachers know the best fit!

Your framework now looks like this:

Analyzing Influences
Accessing Valid & Reliable Info, Products, and Services
Decision-Making
Goal Setting
Interpersonal Comm.
Advocacy
Grade 6
2.8.2
2.8.3
2.8.4
Social media
3.8.1
3.8.3
3.8.5
Nutrition and physical activity
5.8.1-5.8.7
Vaping
8.8.1-8.8.4
Texting and driving
Grade 7
2.8.5
2.8.6
2.8.7
Impact of media on multiple health behaviors
3.8.2
3.8.4
Stress & Mental Health
6.8.1-4
Dimensions of wellness
4.8.1
4.8.2
Alcohol use and other drugs

Step 5: Integrated Objectives

Each box inside your framework is now a unit! Your next step is to create your unit objectives. Start with the stem of the Performance Indicators and then integrate the topics. For example, the unit objectives for interpersonal communication in 7th grade would be:

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  • Apply effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills to enhance health in situations relating to alcohol and other drugs.
  • Demonstrate refusal and negotiation skills that avoid alcohol or other drug use.

While this step may seem a little tedious, it is actually really important. As you continue in the process, it will help you develop assessments that evaluate your intended outcomes, stay focused within each unit, avoid activities that do not support the “end game” for each unit and help you build purposeful and effective units to meet the needs of your students.

We will end this post here! We hope you found this information helpful! A good way to sum up the first 5 steps of the process:

“If you don’t know where you are going,
you’ll end up someplace else.”
― Yogi Berra

Our next post will cover the remaining steps of the curriculum development process – developing assessments through lesson planning!

Let us know any tips or additional questions you have in the comments!

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