Introduction: Caring is the First Step
For years, I have been fascinated with the work of Nel Noddings and her themes on care. In one of her (2010) articles, she presses educators to become role models who shape healthy and caring students. The students in my class were feeling stressed and overwhelmed by being constantly assessed on their performance, so I decided to create a set of lessons on the theme of stress. These lessons were prepared for a high-intermediate level and each day represents a period of 50 minutes.
Implementing the Lesson
I divided the students in small groups to discuss whether stress affects our bodies and how. After sharing answers, we previewed vocabulary from the TED-Ed video, “How Stress Affects Your Body”. Students worked together to research terms and complete a teacher-made worksheet. We then watched the four-minute long TED-Ed talk, and the students took notes. The vocabulary was quite challenging; hence, a second viewing was necessary. I also gave the class some comprehension questions that the students finished for homework.
We reviewed and checked the answers to the comprehension questions I had given for homework the day before; next, I proposed critical thinking questions to shift the focus from mere comprehension to deeper thinking. I wrote on the board: Your friend is stressed out because the midterm examination is approaching: a. Try to convince her/him that stress is not good for you; b. Suggest how she/ he can reduce stress (e.g. exercise, talk to a friend, go to bed early, etc.). We spent the rest of the class putting together information we had gathered about stress-caused problems and possible solutions.
We watched the video again and wrote down questions we still had about stress. I gave the students some examples: Could stress affect concentration? Could lack of sleep cause stress or vice versa? I encouraged the students to work in small groups and record their answers on chart paper that was then taped to the walls. After that, we combined all the questions in one document. Some of the questions were “Does stress make me fat? Does stress make people cranky? Is our mind affected by stress?” I asked the students to choose one or two questions and, for homework, research TED- Ed videos or other resources on the topic, note down at least three new pieces of information, and make a reference list of their sources.
The students shared the information they found. I then asked the students to hand in the list of sources they used for their research. From their suggestions, I chose two TED-Ed videos and announced we would watch and discuss them together. The first pick was “How Chronic Stress Affects Your Brain” and the second one was “Does Stress Cause Pimples?” For homework, I gave students some questions on which to reflect: What is the most important fact you have learned about stress? Why? What will you do in the future to reduce stress?
I asked the students to share their answers with a partner. Then, students recorded their answers orally for an audio journal that they uploaded in a drop box on our learning platform. Finally, to receive feedback on the activity and how the students liked it, I created a simple anonymous questionnaire for the students.
Post Reflection on the Lesson
The students eagerly participated producing complex answers using academic vocabulary in a context that was easily related to their lives. They produced quality work without being forced by deadlines or marks. They participated because they were interested. According to Noddings (1995), it is the educators’ responsibility to present students with relevant themes that deal with hope, care, and possible solutions to crises and current problems. This lesson may be a drop in the bucket if we look at the big picture, but if we all pitch in, we can help shape healthier and more caring individuals. After all, “The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter” (Noddings, 1984, p.176).
Aguirre C. (n.d.). Does stress cause pimples? TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/does-stress-cause-pimples-claudia-aguirre
Bergquist S. (n.d.). How stress affects your body. TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-body-sharon-horesh-bergquist
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring, a feminine approach to ethics & moral education, p.176, Univ of California Press
Noddings, N. (1995). Teaching themes of care. Phi Delta Kappan. 76(9), 675-679
Noddings, N. (2010). Moral education in an age of globalization. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 42(4), 390–396. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2008.00487.x
Murgia, M. (n.d.) How chronic stress affects your brain. TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-brain-madhumita-murgia