Curriculum Objective 2:
Motivation to maintain the limit
We wanted to help students think about the immediate and emotional as well as long-term consequences of having sex. We developed a story which is read to the class. In this story two young people who have seen each other at school are at a party together and begin drinking and dancing. The boy has been teased by friends and wants to please his peers so he asks the girl to go with him to the bedroom. The girl is feeling lonely and a little drunk and so she agrees. In the first version of the story, the two young people have sex and then go home with their respective groups of friends. At this point, the teacher stops reading and tells students that their task will be to answer some questions about what happens next. There are three scenes: 1) the next morning, when the young people wake up feeling hung over; 2) two days later, when they meet in the hall at school; 3) three weeks later when the girl thinks she might be pregnant. In each case, students must fill in a thought bubble about what each one is thinking and feeling. Next the teacher tells students that this story was being made into a movie, but the director didn’t like this ending. The new ending for the movie is that the students go to the party and eventually get to the bedroom, but they do not have sex. Students are asked once again to fill in the thought bubbles, this time for 1) the next morning, when the young people wake up feeling hung over and 2) two days later, when they meet in the hall at school.
Students become very engaged in writing the thoughts and feelings of the two young people. The difference in student responses between the two endings is striking. When the students are asked to describe what the young people are thinking after having sex, they often express worry or surprise at what they did, possibly fear their parents will find out. Two days later in school, students believe they will be embarrassed to be seeing each other. However, when the students did not have sex, they are happy and eager to spend more time together. When students discuss their answers, these differences become apparent. Without preaching, we are able to help students realize some of the reasons why they might want to postpone having sex. Rather than focusing on longterm outcomes, we emphasize how they will feel the next day and a few days later. We focus on emotional consequences more than health consequences.
In addition to this lesson, we have a lesson on STDs in seventh grade and one on HIV in 8th grade. Many students in seventh grade are surprised to learn that they can get a number of diseases from having sex, even though most have heard of HIV. There are several ways in which we personalize this information to make it more powerful. In 8th grade, we invite a speaker who has HIV to attend the class and talk to students. Speakers can have a powerful impact and students often comment that the speaker is what they will remember the most about the lessons. One student who had been rather disruptive in class wrote a long explanation of his feelings after the speaker with HIV came to class. He said: “I think my feelings have changed because I never thought of an HIV person being so ill. He has to go through life suffering, taking all those pills… he’s going to die but he doesn’t know when….I also thought that persons with AIDS were bad and very sexually active, but now he’s unique.”
In the last lesson of 8th grade, we ask students to draw a picture that they can use to remind themselves of why they want to maintain their limit. Students may draw themselves pushing a baby carriage or getting a paper from the doctor that says they have HIV, a casket or tombstone with them looking down, or themselves holding a baby and looking sad. A student may also draw a picture of a wedding, going to college or playing soccer to represent their dreams that would be interrupted by a pregnancy or HIV. Some students draw a picture of their parents’ reaction to finding out they are pregnant or have HIV. They are instructed to take the picture home and think about it before they fall asleep, so that it will come into their minds when they are tempted to cross their limit.
Last modified: February 7, 2011