Puberty Changes Challenge!
Puberty is a time marked by many changes. Some students may know about many of the changes that occur during puberty, while others may have very little background knowledge. A good way to see how much your students already know about a topic is by giving a diagnostic assessment. However, if your students are like mine they don't like taking tests. A fun way to disguise a diagnostic is by giving them an activity to complete.
For this activity a class can be divided into teams of three or four. Each team receives an outline of the male and female body and markers. The object is for each team to write on the body as many changes as they can think of for both girls and boys. The outline allows students to organize the changes based on where they happen. The teacher calls time and the team with the longest list wins. This is a great activity to have students try again on a unit assessment instead this time instead of just listing the changes they can incorporate them into a story about a boy or girl who goes through puberty and describe ten changes they may experience.
Exemplar female list of changes: get breasts, pubic hair, growing really fast, more body fat, wider hips, hair under your arms, darker hair on arms and legs, start shaving legs, sweat more, body odor changes, zits/pimples/acne, discharge, get your period, get cramps, changes in your private parts, ovulate, female organs mature
Exemplar male list of changes: pubic hair, growing really fast, bigger muscles, wider shoulders, hair under your arms, darker hair on arms and legs, penis grows, testicles develop, mustache grows, beard grows, start shaving, sweat more, voice changes and cracks, body odor changes, zits/pimples/acne, more erections, begin to ejaculate, wet dreams.
Coloring the Sex Organs
Talking about sex, penises, and vaginas often causes a "big commotion" in the classroom. Students, especially middle-schoolers, act silly and giggly. I've learned one of the best ways to approach the topic now is being silly as well. Pass out copies of the male and female reproductive organs and two colored pencils to each student. While describing the main reproductive organs you can ask the students to color them in using different colors and even stripes or polka dots. By the time you are done talking about the different parts the students will have heard the words penis, vagina, and scrotum about a dozen times. Students no longer go crazy after hearing words that aren't usually said out loud in the classroom. The pictures the students create also look funny. The laughter this exercise creates makes it easier to deal with any embarrassing feelings or nervous energy. By coloring the reproductive organs, students also better remember the names of the organs. Coloring requires the students to pay attention and spend time focusing on a specific organs. At the end of this exercise students will also have a much better idea where these body parts are located.
Another topic to cover while the students are coloring is slang words. People often don't use the medical names for body parts and it's important to address slang words. Ask students to list slang words used for the penis, testicles, clitoris, and vagina. This exercise will prevent students from disrupting the class later on with slang words.
By bringing slang words out in the open right away students no longer feel the need to impress other classmates with these words later on in the unit. It is also a good idea to have a discussion with your students about these words and explain that they going to use the "medical terms" because they are the terms scientists, doctors, and other professionals use to talk scientifically about the human body. Students can also discuss what terms they would use with a friend, doctor, or parent. This may be a good time to discuss people's reactions to slang words. Many people object to these words or find them offensive and it's important that everyone in the class feels safe and respected.
Modeling the Size and Shape of the Sex Organs
Since the female reproductive organs are internal it is often difficult for students to imagine these organs. To help students get a vivid picture of the size and shape of these organs it is great to show them things in everyday life that they can relate them too. Bring in almonds to represent the size and shape of the ovaries, spaghetti to serve as the thickness of the Fallopian tubes, a pear to show the shape of a uterus after puberty.
Math and the Menstrual Cycle
The length's of a woman's menstrual cycle is easy to determine with the help of a calendar. The first day of a woman's period represents Day 1 of the cycle. The cycle continues until the next menstruation begins. The day of the next period marks the first day of the next cycle. The length of a complete cycle can be measured by the number of days between periods; this is typically any where between 21 and 35 days. Periods usually last two to seven days.
You can use two calendars to have students identify important parts of the menstrual cycle. Mark a calendar with an X this will mark the day the first day of the period. Mark several more X's on consecutive days (between two and seven) to represent bleeding. On the next month mark another X and several more consecutive X's. Students can use the calendar to identify: The date of the first day of the woman's period, the number of days she bleeds, and the length of her menstrual cycle. For an extension activity students can identify what is going on inside the body at these different points.
Puberty Unit Vocabulary Ring
I have found a great teaching strategy that empowers my students to use scientific language and put concepts into their own terms by creating vocabulary card rings. Each vocabulary word gets its own note card, which can then be punched and strung on a ring. This is a great reference tool for students to have when they ask a question that relates to a word they should be able to recognize and understand. The student is able to find and eventually recall word and it's meaning rather than having the teacher tell them the answer. This is also a great exercise for students to do if they finish an assignment early.
One of my favorite models for creating vocabulary cards is the Frayer model in which the card is broken up into four squares (See Figure 3).
In the middle, the vocabulary word is written and circled. In the top left square, the student writes the definition in his or her own words. In the top right square, facts or characteristics of the word are written. In the bottom left, the student writes examples and in the bottom right, the student writes non-examples. I also ask my students to draw a picture to help them remember the word on the back. This also provides a way for them to quiz themselves using the picture they drew.
Figure 3. A sample Frayer Model vocabulary card.
Acne - occur when oil gets trapped under the skin and clog the pores
Areola - the ring of skin around the nipple that gets larger and darker during puberty
Benzoyl peroxide - a lotion that can be found at most drugstores that helps clear up acne
Body Odor - products of sweat glands in the underarm, pubic region, and feet that aren't exposed to light or air and are broken down by bacteria into a smell
Calcium - a nutrient found in dairy products that helps bones grow strong
Circumcision - an operation that removes the foreskin on the penis
Ejaculation - the process of semen leaving the body through the tip of the penis
Erection - the name for the penis when it is filled with blood and becomes hard
Foreskin - a special part of skin on the penis that covers the foreskin
Glans - the wide tip at the end of the penis
Growth Spurt - a time of really fast growth that occurs during puberty
Menstruation - the breaking down and shedding of the lining of the uterus
Menstrual flow - the blood fluid that leaves a woman's body during puberty
Ovulation - when a mature egg pops off the ovary
Penis - male sex organ that has a shaft where semen and urine exit the body
Perspiration - sweat that increases particularly in the underarm and genital area during puberty
Premenstrual syndrome - a group of signs, or symptoms, that woman may have before or during their periods
Puberty - a special time in life when a child's body changes into an adult body
Scrotum - a loose sac of skin that hangs behind the penis and holds the testicles
Semen - a white fluid that contains both sperm and body fluids
Sperm - the male sex cell (gamete)
Testicles - two egg-shaped male sex organs found inside the scrotum, where sperm is produced and testosterone is released
Testosterone - the male sex hormone that is made in the testicles
Vagina - one of the female sex organs found inside the body
Vaginal Discharge - a clear or white fluid that comes from the vagina to keep the vagina moist and clean
Voice Change - the time when a boys voice gets deeper because the vocal cords are growing thicker and longer
Vulva - the female sex organs found outside the body
How Tall Will I Be?
My students are always asking me how tall they are going to be when they get older. Others question why the 7
grade girls are taller than the 7
grade boys. A child's height before their growth spurt is one indication of the height they will likely be as an adult. A short child is likely to be a shorter adult, and a tall child is likely to be on the taller side as an adult. Although there is no magic formula to calculate exactly how tall someone is going to end up there is an exercise to estimate adult heights. This activity is not only a great way to engage the students in the topic of puberty by talking about something they are already inquisitive about, but it also is a great way to bridge math and science as it requires some simple calculations. Students can also to talk to their parents and guardians about what they are learning about in school because it requires them to gather some background information.
By following a few simple steps a student can get a pretty good idea how tall they might be as an adult. First however the child needs to know the height of their birth mother and father.
Step 1. Subtract 5 inches from your father's height.
Step 2. Add your mother's height to the answer you got in Step 1.
Step 3. Divide the answer you got in Step 2 by 2. This is your estimated adult height.
Another great extension activity is ask the students why the height of a guardian, foster parent, or adoptive parent will not give you accurate results. The students learned earlier in the curriculum that heredity is the passage of genetic information from one generation to other and genetic information is organized in genes on chromosome. Each human cell has 46 chromosomes or 23 pairs of chromosomes. One chromosome from each pair comes for each parent. This explains why children generally exhibit a combination of characteristics from both birth parents.
Digesting the Right Stuff
My students love spending time in the computer lab and there is a great website that allows students to enter their age, gender, height, weight, and level of physical activity and it calculates the amount of each type of food they should eat.
Have students visit www.choosemyplate.gov/myplate/index.aspx and enter their personalized information. They can then print a Meal Tracking Worksheet to keep track of what they eat and how much they exercise.