I recently learned that The New York Times publishes lesson plans and I was very pleased to see that several of them address sexuality topics. “Go New York Times!” The most recent, from March 7, 2012, is the first I’ve reviewed and it immediately piqued my interest. Jennifer Cutraro and Holly Epstein Ojalvo have created a lesson titled About Birth Control: Clearing Up Misconceptions About Contraception. If you overlook the lack of stated goals, objectives and rationale, the lesson plan is very good, in my opinion. At the least, it lays the groundwork for a potentially powerful lesson.
What most caught my attention is the fact that the current debate on health care coverage of birth control is integral to the lesson’s activities. Eggen and Kauchak, in Strategies and Models for Teachers: Teaching Content and Thinking Skills, noted that learning is most effective when real world topics are correlated with class discussions and activities (p. 30). Having now explored The New York Times The Learning Network section, all of the lessons are based on current news topics reported in The Times. While the lesson plans are not as comprehensive as we are instructed to create, the strategy of linking educational topics with current and real-life issues is excellent. This resource gathers related articles on a variety of sexuality topics into lesson plans that can be adapted to suit our student and teaching needs.
The article About Birth Control includes activities that can serve to engage the students in active discussion or debate about Health Care policy, gender issues, politics and religion, etc. These kinds of teaching methods encourage critical thinking, a more advanced and vital cognitive skill. Eggen and Kauchak list a number of abilities associated with critical thinking: identifying bias and propaganda, detecting assumptions and overgeneralizations, deciphering relevant from irrelevant information, etc. (p. 73). A lesson plan, such as this one, that incorporates opportunities for students to practice these skills serves to help prepare students to be critical thinkers. This lesson plan does just that and, as we all know, there are numerous hot button issues in sexuality that can be integrated into lesson plans for students to grapple with.
Curiously, a student raised the health care/contraceptive issue in class a couple of weeks ago and I was caught off-guard. They were more up on the debate than I was. That was a teachable moment for me! Since then, I have read more and have decided to implement this lesson plan, with added goals, objectives and rationale, into my curriculum. I am eager to see how it goes and if it is successful, I will work on bringing in more news issues of the day into my sexuality education classes. Even if the NY Times lesson plans have some wrinkles to iron out, they are a useful resource that we can use. I am convinced that tying sexuality lessons to current news topics is important in our teaching. What do you think?