Instructional Methods

Instructional methods that emphasize active and experiential learning opportunities promote student engagement. Just as in other curriculum areas, the use of role play, small groups, class discussion and videos in sexual health education can bring the curriculum to life and helps students explore the content and understand how it relates to their own ideas, values and experiences. These activities will often encourage rich discussion and lots of questions. Remember to use ground rules to help provide clarity on acceptable behaviours and attitudes during the session.

Role Play

Role play is learning how to best handle a situation by practicing interactions and trying out different approaches. Students may act out scenarios, problems and issues in a safe setting to help develop decision-making skills. Role play is a very effective instructional method in sexual health education that is proven to increase self-efficacy and impact student behaviour. Role play requires careful preparation to ensure a structure emphasizing healthy sexuality through practicing basic learnings, such as abstinence negotiation.

Advantages of Role Play

  • provides opportunity for students to assume roles of others, therefore appreciating another person’s point of view
  • allows for a safe exploration of scenarios and solutions
  • tends to motivate students to learn
  • promotes and develops critical and creative thinking, attitudes, values and social skills


  1. Prepare class for role-play
  • present a hypothetical problem, situation or event that represents some aspect of reality
  • define the problem, situation and roles clearly
  1. Give clear instructions
  • determine how role plays will be carried out
  • using student volunteers in front of the class (the teacher may or may not play a role)
  • in partnerships/small groups with every student playing a role
  • in small groups with role-players and observers
  • model the skill with a scripted role play
  • include a short time limit for partnerships/groups to discuss and rehearse their role play
  1. Act out role-plays
  • students follow the procedure outlined by the teacher to act out role plays
  • unless the teacher is playing a role, it is helpful to walk around the room and observe how students are experiencing the role play and offer coaching to students who are stuck
  • consider the need for students to repeat the role play taking different roles or revising their responses
  1. Discussion (small group and whole class)
  • begin by allowing students to communicate feelings experienced during the role play
  • have students identify sexual health skills that were demonstrated during the role play
  • determine actions that strengthen or weaken these skills (e.g., body language)
  • discuss how this role play is or isn’t similar to real life
  • discuss ways of using identified sexual health skills in real life situations

Alternatives to Traditional Procedure

    • have students write role plays as scripts but don’t act them out
    • have students write down responses and then role-play in front of the class
    • have students generate a list of challenging ‘lines’, then have a student read the lines to the class and have each student give a response
    • have students develop and act out plays

    Tips for Using Role Play

      • begin with fairly easy situations and work up to more challenging ones
      • be aware that some students may feel threatened or self-conscious. Using humour can help increase comfort. Using role plays that exaggerate weak responses might break the ice.
      • reduce the level of abstraction or complexity so that the students may become directly involved with underlying concepts
      • if students find it difficult to determine skills which model positive sexual health behaviours, they could observe successful role models or ask you to suggest alternative approaches
      • if attempting an unscripted exercise, be sure it is the correct approach for your students’ comfort level
      • try introducing readings before role plays to introduce new knowledge and experiences to help build students’ confidence

      Role Play Activities Examples

      Role playing activities can be found within the lesson plans. Activities are located at the end of each lesson.

      Grade 7 Lesson 1 Choosing Abstinence: Abstinence Role Play Scenarios. Teach students how to postpone sexual activity by developing their refusal skills.

      Grade 9 Lesson 1 Safer Sex: Examining Assertive CommunicationStudents act out passive, assertive and aggressive response to various communication scenarios.

      CALM Lesson 1 Building Healthy Relationships: Relationship Role Play. Students learn and practice skills for building, maintaining and enhancing healthy, positive relationships.

      Small Group

      Interaction makes learning powerful. The cooperation, problem-solving, negotiation and critical thinking skills necessary for small group work are also elements of positive sexual health skills that students need to develop.

      Advantages of Small Groups

      When students work in small groups, they think through an idea, present it to others so that they can understand, and often exchange alternative ideas and viewpoints. Students learn faster and more efficiently, have greater retention and tend to be more positive about the lesson. This:

      • encourages positive attitudes toward sexual health
      • increases students’ self-confidence
      • promotes intellectual growth
      • enhances social and personal development


      There is no one ‘right way’ to approach small group activities when teaching sexual health. Teachers must choose models and methods that match their particular teaching styles, their students and lesson content. Following some basic steps at the beginning will help small group activities be more effective.

      Positive Interdependence

      Students need to work cooperatively with all members of the group and contribute to the goal. The content of sexual health education may require you to increase the comfort level of students by setting up an ice breaker before the lesson begins.

      Social Skills

      Small group work requires students to listen to one another, ask questions, clarify issues and re-state points of view. You have been teaching your students these skills through demonstration and direct instruction all year, when you:

      • listen when others speak
      • maintain eye contact and positive body language
      • provide encouragement and show respect
      • speak quietly and without hostility

      When teaching sexual health, these skills become extra important as students may cover their embarrassment about the content by demonstrating poor social skills. Clear and direct ground rules will help students remember to use their social skills appropriately when working in their small group.

      Group Processing

      Just as in many other subject areas, students will have diverse reactions to the content of the lesson. It is important that students feel safe to share their ideas and know how to disagree respectfully without hurting others. Have students reflect on the positive ways the group interacted together to achieve their goal. This opportunity for reflection will not only clarify the processes and improve their cooperative learning skills, but also increase their positive sexual health skills.

      Types of Small Group Activities

      Think-Pair-Share: students work independently to write down thoughts or ideas about a topic, and then share these ideas with a partner. Partners probe one another to ensure complete understanding.

      Jigsaw: divide class into groups. Assign each group a separate topic. Everyone in each group must be become an expert on the topic by the end of a given time. Form new groups made up of one member of each original group. ‘Experts’ share findings from various topics from their original groups with the new group members.

      Group Investigations: students work to produce a group project—they may have a hand in selecting the project.

      Circle of Voices: students are given a topic and a few minutes to organize their thoughts. Each student has uninterrupted time to speak to their small group. Each person should be assigned and required to stick to the same amount of time. After everyone has had a turn, the group can now discuss the topic. During the general discussion students are only allowed to build on what someone else has said and not their original ideas.

      Snowballing: students are divided into pairs, with each pair being given the same material on a sexual health topic. They then join with another pair to compare and contrast differences in their understanding. The groups combine again and repeat the compare-contrast process.

      Tips for Using Small Groups

      • work must be directed towards a clear goal or set of goals
      • tasks should be specific and outlined in detail
      • give each group member a specific task (leader, recorder, reporter, monitor, etc.)
      • groups need to be interdependent—relying on all group members to accomplish a goal
      • provide groups with appropriate workspace where they can work face-to-face without disruption
      • keep close observation during group activities to ensure students remain on task and on track
      • reinforce positive contributions and remember the ground rules
      • don’t forget to allow time for feedback and reflection at the end of each session

      Question Box

      The Question Box is a method of individualizing instruction which has been proven to enhance learning. Using a Question Box allows you to  review the questions first  to make sure that you are comfortable answering the questions appropriately for the grade level you are teaching, and that you know the answers. Here are some tips when answering questions in the classroom through a question box:

      • Group similar questions together to enhance flow of discussion.
      • Read the question, as it was written, aloud to the class.
      • Define words, including slang and continue on using the correct terminology. For example, if a student’s question is “What is a homo?” you could respond by saying “Homo or homosexual is a hurtful slang word used to put down people who have sexual or romantic attraction to people of the same sex.”
      • Answer the question clearly, objectively, factually and appropriately for each grade level.
      • Assume all questions, even shock ones, are real questions. After all, they came from somewhere and there’s probably a genuine request for information no matter how shocking it may be!
      • Avoid offering additional information or assuming more than what the question asked.

      Student questions can usually be grouped into four broad overlapping categories:

      Class Discussion

      Talking about sexual health with students can be challenging because it is a subject that touches on our privacy and our vulnerability. Discussions offer students a chance to express opinions and exchange information safely within the classroom. They also allow students a chance to practice healthy sexual education skills such as respect for other people’s feelings, asking questions when feeling vulnerable, or sharing views with others. Class discussions will likely be more effective if they take place after the teacher has provided material through a lecture, video or reading. Teachers will likely need to remind students of the ground rules at the beginning each class discussion to ensure all students feel safe and respected during the activity.

      Advantages of Classroom Discussion

      • helps build a positive classroom climate
      • leads to student interest in sexual health
      • results in students feeling more positive about themselves and the learning environment
      • normalizes changes students may be experiencing
      • allows more students to be involved and express their ideas


      1. Set up an atmosphere ensuring sensitivity during the activity
      • ensure ground rules are in place that promote respectful interactions during discussions
      • facilitator should introduce topic for discussion through a short lecture, video or skit
      • defining terms is important to ensure all students are at a similar level of understanding
      1. Hold the discussion
      • encourage students to participate in the discussion by asking questions, making suggestions and expressing ideas
      • probe, prompt and redirect students to enhance the discussion
      • encourage students to recall, analyze, generalize and personalize the information
      • ensure correct information is being shared among the class. Correct misinformation that is presented by students and help students use proper terminology.
      1. Conclude the discussion
      • find consensus, a solution, clarification of insights gained, or a summary (preferably one provided by the students)

      Tips for Using Class Discussion

      • introduce facts and correct any misinformation
      • help students with the use of proper terminology
      • be consistent with conventions such as hand raising and listening to the speaker. Some teachers find it helpful to use an object such as a talking stick.
      • maintain students’ integrity through respecting their questions and responses
      • use ‘wait time’, the pause between asking a question and soliciting a response, to increase participation and improve the quality of student responses
      • use open-ended questions to encourage higher level thinking
      • remain conscious of your own values and reactions during the discussion. The teacher must model sensitivity and respect


      More class discussion activities can be found within the lesson plans. Activities are located at the end of each lesson.

      Grade 4 Lesson 1 Puberty Changes: Newsprint Display. Normalize the great and difficult things about growing up through a group discussion.

      Grade 7-9 Quick Lesson: Sexual Development: Puberty Discussion Questions. Help students identify puberty as a time of change and development using discussion questions.

      Grade 9 Lesson 1: Coping with Development: Evaluating Self-esteem. Students examine the impact of negative self-esteem, negative feelings and coping strategies.


      Videos can be an entertaining way to introduce content and raise issues in the sexual health classroom. Many videos are available, but not all are appropriate for use in the classroom. It is important to find the right media and to use it effectively to ensure student learning is optimized. It is always a good idea to have videos approved by your school administration.

      Advantages of Video

      • stimulates discussion by ‘breaking the ice’ on sensitive topics
      • can increase a teacher’s comfort in providing visual information, e.g. using a male or female condom
      • illustrates complex, abstract concepts through animated or 3-D images,  such as internal anatomy and physiology


      1. Preview the media
      • use only those parts of the media that match the lesson’s objectives
      • ensure the media is appropriate for the grade and age
      • provide an opportunity for parents or other community members to preview the media
      • evaluate your resource before using it in the classroom
      1. Prepare the classroom
      • check equipment (projector, computer, DVD, website, remote control)
      • arrange seating
      • cue up the media ahead of time
      1. Include lead-in activities
      • review vocabulary or key concepts
      • ask students to make predictions about what they will see and learn
      • provide focus questions in advance
      1. Segment your viewing
      • pause the media before and after important points are made to highlight a certain idea or to check for comprehension
      • ask students to make connections to other topics or real-life events
      • use ‘pause’ to create a still picture when important visuals are used
      1. Include follow-up activities
      • many programs come with a teacher’s guide that provides activity suggestions. Consider using a small group discussion, role play or post-test to strengthen the learning.

      Tips for Using Video

      • don’t forget that every type of media comes with a ‘stop’ button
      • leave the lights on to reinforce the fact that media is not passive entertainment
      • try eliminating either the sound or the picture. Taking sound out allows you to provide your own narration that is tailored to your students’ needs. Taking the picture away (turn down the brightness) encourages students to concentrate on the message.


      Use our demonstration videos to show proper condom and latex barrier usage. Each video is accompanied by speaker notes for additional information.

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