Teaching strategies

Undertake a comprehensive step by step process to assess any physical or psychological risks associated with an activity before following these teaching strategies.

Programs that involve active participation and interactive learning approaches are considered to be most effective when teaching PDHPE. Some of these strategies are outlined below.


Brainstorming enables everyone to contribute without having to explain or justify their position. There are a few simple rules to follow:

  • accept every idea without criticism and write it down at once
  • the more ideas the better, don’t worry too much about quality
  • no discussion about ideas until after the brainstorm
  • set a time limit: about ten minutes.

It is best to ignore inappropriate concepts, language and so on during the brainstorm then follow up when processing the list. Accept all suggestions and use them as a starting point for processing the brainstorm. This can actually be a very useful way to set expectations about appropriate language, public and private information and speaking in the third person.

Once the brainstorm is complete inform students that, although particular words and phrases may be used in other contexts, during class time they should use correct language that is not sexist, racist, homophobic or offensive.

The way lists are processed obviously depends on the purpose of the brainstorm. A useful way is to cross out ideas that are obviously inappropriate and follow these up if derogatory language has been used. Combine words or phrases that are similar, with consensus from the students. Then carry out a prioritising activity, which can easily be done with a show of hands, to reduce the list further.

Positioning activities

Some positioning activities require students to explore their own position, others require them to explore the position or perceived positions of other groups or the community as a whole. These activities are extremely useful to introduce the breadth of content, key assumptions and myths and importantly to enable students to see that there is a huge continuum of positions held by people because of age, gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, ability, location and so on. It is important that the processing components of these activities are carried out so that students explore and examine their own and other’s position.

Question box

The question box allows for anonymity and establishment of student prior knowledge in relation to PDHPE concepts. Allowing students to ask questions in an anonymous manner will increase student access to reliable information:

The box should be a material item such as a shoe box, bowl or hat. Students:

  • are given a blank piece of paper at the beginning of each lesson
  • are encouraged to write questions related to the content.
  • have an opportunity to ask questions that may otherwise be too embarrassing or ‘unsafe’ for them to ask openly in a classroom.
  • are encouraged to write something on their piece of paper whether it is a question or something else, for example last night’s dinner to ensure their anonymity of students
  • place their own paper into the question box.

Answer the questions on the spot or hold them over until the next lesson to allow for preparation time to develop appropriate responses.

Unfinished stories

Use unfinished stories and case studies for problem solving based on questions such as “what should this person do?” Unresolved stories involve a child (similar to the students in age and experience) in a potentially threatening situation.

Stories should:

  • accurately reflect the relevant characteristics and dynamics of child based situations, e.g. bullying, abuse, exposure to drugs, road user situations
  • provide opportunities for students to consider and discuss possible actions the child or young person could take and the implications of those actions.
  • include names different to the names of your students.

If not provided by students, the teacher should indicate responsible actions which could be taken for safety or health and acknowledge the difficulty of carrying out many of these actions.

It is not advisable to devise your own unfinished stories or case studies involving topics such as child abuse. Although it is not always possible to know, abusive situations which are similar to those which have been experienced by students should not be used.

Role plays

Role play is a useful technique to explore situations that involve examining values, attitudes and emotions that can be contradictory or in conflict. Importantly, by having the opportunity to practise potentially unsafe situations, students may be more prepared with knowledge and skills to make informed decisions about their safety.

Role plays allow interaction between students which requires them to seek solutions to real-life problems within a safe situation. Role plays involve practising communication skills and discovering what works personally for an individual and what does not work. There are many different levels of role play, and an appropriate level needs to be chosen for sensitive situations.

It is not appropriate or advised to create role plays about sensitive topics such as sexual abuse. In role plays which involve other forms of abuse, it is advisable that no student is placed in the situation of role playing an assault, as either the victim or the perpetrator.

There are a number of different role-play techniques which include freeze technique, role reversal, video play back, still images, hot seat. The use of puppets or sock puppets are also useful for students who find public performance confronting.

Whatever techniques are used it is crucial that both briefing and debriefing is carried out. Closing a lesson in a positive way is critical when teaching about sensitive issues. Discussions need to be summarised. Case studies or moral dilemmas should be brought to some point of resolution.


Monitoring the impact of activities on students is important. Debriefing:

  • may be necessary after activities which could evoke strong emotions, such as discussion of values, personal experiences, unfinished stories or case studies
  • is the processing component of a role play
  • has the purpose of drawing out ideas, implications and possible strategies
  • enables participants to leave their character or de-role
  • aims to dissipate the strong feelings a student may experience while discussing or role playing another person, or remembering and relating a past event, and return the student to their own identity or present situation.

Asking questions like, “What did you have to change about yourself to play this role?” or “How different are you to the character?” can be used to focus the debriefing and de-role students.

Debriefing after an activity

When the activity (or lesson) is over, ask students the following:

  • How do you feel after that activity/ discussion? Is there anything else that you want to say?
  • Tell the person next to you how you felt when we talked about...
  • Now tell them how you feel about something you are doing on the weekend.

Debriefing after a role play

When the role play is finished, ask the role player or players such questions as:

  • Who are you now?
  • How did you feel about playing that role? Is there anything else that you want to say?

After using role play activities be alert in case individual students remain affected by their participation in a role play.

This is usually demonstrated by withdrawn behaviour, but some students may become restless or aggressive. Ensure that the student receives additional individual debriefing as soon as possible. This may involve asking such questions as:

  • How did you feel about playing that role?
  • How could we have changed the role play to make it better for you?
  • What are you doing after school today?

Closing the session

Finish each session in a positive way. Ensure time is allowed for sensitive discussion to be completed before the end of each lesson. Refocussing or relaxation exercises can help release any tensions that may result from discussing sensitive issues.

They are also beneficial in refocussing students on a session to follow, reducing behaviour problems and assisting students to think more clearly.

Similarly, an energiser or short burst of physical activity can help release energy, dispel feelings of discomfort and reinforce positive relationships within the class.

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