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Teacher Lesson Return to "Have You Heard the One About the Pill?"
Have You Heard the One About the Pill?
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Media/News Literacy Lesson: How do you know that’s true?—Reading, Discussion, Short Writing Responses

Objectives: Help teens think critically about the information they gather from news items, the Internet, and other sources. Learn about the pros and cons of being on the pill.

Note to health teachers: One challenge teens face in making healthy choices is getting good information. They can’t make good decisions if they rely on misinformed friends for advice about how to prevent pregnancy or avoid getting HIV, for example. In this activity, teens are asked to assess the quality of the information provided.

Before the lesson: Write this list on a board or easel pad:

Sources of information:
Research studies in reputable or well-known publications or web sites

Introduce the lesson/discussion: Ask each member of the group to name one item of information they heard or read today or yesterday. Tell them it could be from a website, television show, radio broadcast, magazine, newspaper, book, an ad, or a conversation. What was the item about and where did it come from? Write down the sources on the board or pad as they are mentioned.

Then ask the group if any of them had any doubts about the accuracy of the information they received. If you get any volunteers, ask them why they were skeptical. Ask them if the information itself seemed too weird to be true, or whether they mistrusted the source and if so, why?

Read the story: Say to the group, “We are going to read a story about the birth control pill. The writer uses certain evidence to make an assertion about the pill and to show that false information has spread about the pill. After reading the story, you have to write five sentences. The first sentence should tell your readers what rumor or bad information the story attacks. The second sentence should tell your readers the correct information as presented in the story. The next three sentences should tell the reader why the evidence persuades you, or fails to persuade you, that the story’s claim is correct.”

NOTE: You can also put the writing requirements on the board.

You can have them read the article silently or ask for volunteers to take turns reading it aloud.

When they are finished reading, ask them to look at the sources of information list. Give the group 10 minutes to write responses identifying the types of sources that appeared in the story and which ones they would trust to make a decision about choosing a birth control method.

When they’ve finished writing, ask who thinks the story did a good job refuting the claims that the pill causes infertility and miscarriages. If you get volunteers, ask one of them to read their responses. Ask if anyone disagrees and, if anyone does, have them read their sentences. Guide a discussion about their answers.

If you have time…

Read the item below to the group. Tell them it is an example of how false information can be spread:

Last fall, several news outlets and politicians stated that President Barack Obama’s trip to India would cost $200 million per day.

Here's what had to say about that claim:

This story spread rapidly among the president’s critics, but there was no evidence to support it. And common sense should lead anyone to doubt it. For example, the entire U.S. war effort in Afghanistan currently costs less than that — about $5.7 billion per month, according to the Congressional Research Service, or roughly $190 million per day. How could a peaceful state visit cost more than a war?

The hard-to-swallow claim originated with a Nov. 2 Press Trust of India article quoting an unnamed "top official" in the government of Maharashtra (one of India’s states). The source was quoted as saying that Obama’s upcoming trip would cost $200 million per day for security and living arrangements, among other things. The story claimed that the president would be accompanied by about 3,000 people, including Secret Service agents, government officials, and journalists.

We find stories based on anonymous sources always deserve special caution, especially when they come from only one news organization. In this case, the anonymous official is not even in the U.S. government, and any information about costs would necessarily have come second-hand at best.

Health Lesson on Pregnancy and Birth Control Reading, Discussion, Role Plays

Objectives: Students will be able to:
• Identify three forms of birth control.
• Understand the chances of getting pregnant if they don’t use birth control.
• List the reasons couples choose not to have a child at certain points in their lives.

Before the lesson:
• Write out the scenarios at the end of this lesson packet on page 19 and 20 on separate index cards. OR: Print out the scenario sheet and cut the sheet along the dotted lines.
• Print a copy of the observation worksheet at the end of the lesson packet.
• Calculate how many students make up 85% of your class or group.

Introduce the lesson:
Say: “We are going to read a story written by a teenager about using birth control. But first we are going to talk about why people might decide to have children or not at certain points in their life.”

Activity #1
Ask the group three questions:

What is the average age that Americans start having vaginal sex?
After you get a few responses, tell them it is 17 years old.

What is the average age that American women have their first baby?
After a few responses, tell them it is 25.

Note: Some students may challenge you on this number, saying they know lots of teenage girls with babies. Tell them there are some differences between racial and ethnic groups but the average age of first childbirth is still in the mid-20s for all racial and ethnic groups.

Ask: “If each person in the room is a couple, how many couples will be pregnant after a year of having sex without using birth control?”

Field some guesses. Then separate the group into “pregnant” and “non-pregnant” sections to dramatize the answer (85% on the “pregnant” side of the room, the rest on the other). Ask why some couples may not be pregnant. Possible answers: luck, infertility. Point out that unless the couple has fertility issues they are likely to get pregnant sooner or later. Also point out that the non-pregnant couples might have gotten pregnant during the year but had a miscarriage without knowing it.

Activity #2
In this activity you will have students role play situations from the scenario cards or strips. One or two students will be observers, using the observation worksheet to keep track of the role plays.

There are six scenarios. Pick which ones are most relevant to your group. You can use all six if you have a group or 20 or more.
• Ask for role play volunteers or choose some. Each pair will form a couple. Gender doesn’t matter.
• Ask for two or three volunteers to be observers who will use the sheet to record the role plays.
• Give each couple a scenario card or strip. Tell them they are actors speaking as the couple in the scenario. They should give reasons to why they made their choices. Encourage them to be detailed and thoughtful. Give them two minutes to review the scenario and plan what they will say.
• Each couple will read their scenario and then act it out for two minutes.
• As they act out the scenarios, the observers will check off the reasons that come
up in the scenario.
• Note: If the actors get stuck, encourage the rest of the group to ask the couple questions about their situation.
• After the role plays, ask the observer what were the most common and least common issues the couples mentioned. Ask them if there were any surprises in the role plays.
• If any of the issues on the observation worksheet didn’t come up, ask the class about these issues. Are they also worth considering?

Activity #3: Follow up:
Give out the Feb/March issue of New Youth Connections. Assign them to read the story and be prepared to discuss it at the next meeting. Tell them to read the whole page, including the sidebar on the right. For this meeting, put the following on the board:


Ask them what forms of birth control the article and sidebar described. Which ones seemed to be the safest, most effective, easiest to use, and affordable? Lead a discussion of the methods based on their responses.

This lesson is adapted from the Seattle and King County FLASH curriculum. See
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