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Mental Health: Choices for well-being/Critical-thinking strategy

Students require opportunities to use communication skills and problem-solving skills effectively as they act on their own informed, health-enhancing decisions.

Suggested learning outcomes

Students will:

  • demonstrate understanding of people's reasons for the choices they make that affect their health (6A1);
  • explore a range of media strategies that affect young people's well-being and personal identity and evaluate the impact of those strategies (6A1);
  • investigate and evaluate the ways in which the school community supports students' mental and emotional well-being and take steps to improve their personal mental and emotional well-being or that of others in the school community (5D4);
  • use assertiveness skills when making safe choices in relation to media items that could have a negative impact on their well-being (5D3).

Health promotion: Developing personal skills that empower people to make healthy choices for their own well-being and that of their environment.

Hauora: Developing values and beliefs that support people in making choices that will enhance their well-being.

Possible learning activities

Choices for well being

Distribute a range of advertisements for sports and power drinks to the students. Ask the students to discuss, in pairs, whether they have ever purchased any of these drinks and, if so, what initially motivated them to buy them. As a class, brainstorm to identify the marketing strategies or tactics used to persuade people to buy these products.

The students, still in their pairs, consider their responses to one or more of the marketing strategies that the class has identified. Give each pair a page on which the four dimensions of hauora appear as headings and ask them to consider which dimensions of hauora could be affected by a particular advertising strategy.

Critical-thinking strategy

Divide the class into small groups with even numbers. Give every student a card on which a statement is written. (Every group gets the same set of statements, but in each group, every student gets a different statement.) Choose statements from those in the list below.

  • "Sports or power drinks are primarily targeted at teenagers and aim to make them feel that they can be part of the in-group if they buy the drink."
  • "Sports drinks help to keep you fit."
  • "Manufacturers have a social responsibility not to target those people who think they can buy a quick fix."
  • "You can be part of the in-crowd by being in a sports team."
  • "Everyone feels better when they belong in a group."
  • "It's hard to make individual choices when every shop sells the same brands."
  • "You know you can't be cool if you're not wearing designer labels."
  • "People who are confident and make their own decisions are generally popular with others."
  • "It is more important to be accepted by a group of your peers, even if that means smoking cigarettes, than to worry about the long-term consequences."
  • "Binge drinking at parties is okay because it is socially acceptable today."
  • "The media promotes sports drinks that have been proved effective in enhancing people's health and fitness."

The group members sit in two lines facing each other. The first person reads out their statement, and the person sitting opposite refutes the statement, giving reasons. The first student may respond to this. The debate between these two students could continue for a short period of time before the next two students take their turn.

  • When each statement has been debated, the teacher reads out each statement in turn to the whole class. The students place themselves on an imaginary line to show where they stand on that statement, on a continuum ranging from "strongly agree" to "strongly disagree".

Ask the students who they think is responsible for their personal health and well-being and record their answers on the board. The students discuss the following questions with a partner.

  • Why are healthy choices not always easy to make?
  • Should the government legislate to ensure that advertisements in the media describe food products accurately?
  • Are we responsible for using our critical-thinking skills to establish which statements in the media are true and which are not?
  • Can I buy good health for myself?
  • Can the adults who care about me keep me healthy?
  • How does it affect my sense of self-worth when I make a commitment to change my lifestyle in a way that will improve my well-being and I stick to my decision?

Each student makes a link between one of these questions and some aspect of their own life and shares this example with their partner.

The students either work individually to identify and plan for a change that they could make to enhance their own mental and emotional well-being, or they work in groups to identify an issue that affects the mental and emotional well-being of people in the school community and plan to address that. In either case, they should consider:

  • what could help them to achieve their goal;
  • what factors could make it difficult to achieve;
  • what skills, techniques, and information could help them to overcome these difficulties.

The students then develop an action plan and carry it out. Afterwards, they reflect on how well the plan went and whether it was successful in enhancing their own mental and emotional well-being or that of others. They then identify possible actions to further improve various aspects of their own mental and emotional well-being or that of others (5D4).

Assessment opportunity

The students' plan of action to enhance their mental and emotional well-being identifies a personal goal to enhance their well-being. Their reflective comments evaluate the effectiveness of their plan and of the specific strategies that they used (5D4).

Teachers' notes

  • The term sports drinks, in this book, describes the non-alcoholic, ready-mixed, water- or milk-based drinks that are marketed to young people.
  • The media present a powerful image of youth culture. Young people may seek to do what the media conveys people in their age group to be doing. Taking Action includes (on pages 55-79) a section on assertiveness skills.
  • Through critical thinking, students can examine specific issues, ask questions, evaluate responses, and challenge assumptions. A critical-thinking approach to teaching and learning provides opportunities for students to take more and more responsibility for their own learning.