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Analyzing Influences: Skill Overview

This is an excerpt from Lesson Planning for Skills-Based Elementary Health Education With Web Resource by Holly Alperin & Sarah Benes.

Analyzing Influences

This chapter focuses on the skill of analyzing influences, which is Standard 2 of the National Health Education Standards. You will find two different units, one for grades K through 2 and one for grades 3 through 5, each with activities for skill development, knowledge acquisition, and a summative assessment. While complete units are included here for use, you may also choose select activities that work within existing units. It is important to ensure that the activities that you use from the unit are aligned with your unit objectives.

A backward-design approach (chapter 2) was used when creating the units in this chapter. The unit objectives are presented first (starting with the end in mind), next you will find the unit outline, then the assessment, and finally, the lesson plans. The focus of both units is developing the skill of analyzing influences. You will notice that at the K through 2 level, the emphasis is on family traditions and celebrations, while in grades 3 through 5, the focus is on the ways that influences can affect our health (taking a more general look at influences). You can see how the skill development model (see chapter 1) is addressed in the unit plan and lesson plans. Materials may need to be modified to be developmentally appropriate (we recognize the significant difference in student development within the grade spans) and to meet the needs of your students.

Skill Overview

When we stop to consider the health-related choices we make, we may think through the process to get to those choices, but we may not always take the time to consider what influences are shaping our values, beliefs, and even our behaviors or how those influences are affecting our choices. This chapter helps students do just that!

When examining Standard 2, you will notice that family, school, and media are addressed at the K through 2 level, while in grades 3 through 5, culture, peers, and technology are added to this list. At these lower grades, we are primarily focused on helping students identify that there are influences and influencers and then reflect on how thoughts, values, and behavior may be influenced. When we move into grades 3 through 5, students add the “so what” to their analysis. Prior to grade 3, it is difficult for students to fully extend their understanding of the influence and project onto future behavior. Once students move into middle and high school, then they consider the various aspects of influences—internal, external, positive, negative, messages being sent by the influence or influencer—and the longer-term impact of influences on health behaviors.

There are many examples of possible influences on our decisions. One influence can be something about ourselves—an internal drive to do the right thing or to make the school a more welcoming place. It also could be our desire to fit in, look cool, or impress others. Internal influences can also be knowledge, attitudes, values, and beliefs. Influences may also come from external forces, such as a friend, parent, media, or our cultural beliefs. No matter where the influence originates, it is important for students to consider that influences, both internal and external, do have an impact on the way we think and feel and the actions we take.

In our classrooms, it is nearly impossible to have students examine every possible influence in their lives and on their behavior. However, when we develop the skill related to one influence (or a few), the skill can then be transferred so that students can analyze any other influences—we have given them the tool to use to analyze any influence. This is one of the benefits of a skills-based approach. We don't have to teach the skill related to every possible context. If we do our jobs well and help students develop skills to proficiency, in theory, they can apply the skill in any other context. For example, once students have examined the role of culture, cultural norms, and family traditions, they will then have the tools to evaluate family and peer influences. Similarly, if students examine influences on media and technology use related to their online presence and safety, they can then consider technology and media use on physical activity levels or peer interactions. This is similar to how we teach in physical education. Once we teach students the fundamental skill of reaching a target or pacing their breathing, they can apply the skill across a variety of contexts and settings.

Analyzing influences is a foundational skill. Having the ability to analyze influences will also support students as they work to make a health-informed decision; communicate their wants, feelings, and needs to others; or set a goal that maintains or improves their health. We suggest covering this skill earlier in your program so that it can be applied and practiced within other units.