STI Tennis Ball Activity

There are so many great activities and lessons on teaching about sexually transmitted infections.  I was fortunate enough to see Al Craven and Su Nottingham at a conference last summer present a similar idea involving tennis balls and STIs.  However, like every lesson, it’s important to “make it work for you and your students.” Typically, I introduce STIs using the STD Web Chart Fill In for students.  They tell me what they know and we begin as a class by filling in this chart on the board.  While it is not an end-all-be-all list of every STI, it is a good graphical organizer for them to compartmentalize the material. I usually follow this intro with the STD Dice Game Lesson. Then, the next day I review the material doing the STI Tennis Ball Activity to check for understanding and performing the STD Rap live in class.  Here is my new twist on Al and Su’s STI Tennis Ball activity.

National Health Standards: 1, 4 and 5

Grade Level: 7th and up

Materials/Supplies: 10-20 tennis balls, a Sharpie to write different
STIs, symptoms, and/or any other concepts associated with this topic

Activity Purpose/Objective: To understand STIs, symptoms and any other concept related to this topic.

Term List (you could substitute or include more)
-HIV                  -Herpes -Hepatitis            -HPV/Genital Warts                 -Asymptomatic
-Syphilis -Chlamydia          -Gonorrhea         -Pubic Lice                          -Trichomoniasis
-Painful Urination                            -Abdominal Pain -Flu-like symptoms           -PID
-Bacterial            -Viral                    -“Critter”                            -Gardasil

Description/Steps:

  1. Students find a partner (or you could do small groups) and stand in a circle around the room. Partners should face each other, one standing on the outer circle and one on the inner circle. Each pair is given a tennis ball with a term written on it (see term list).
  2. Allow students to discuss the term for about 30-60 seconds. Questions to help guide the conversation could be as follows:
    1. What comes to mind when you hear this term?
    2. What do you know about it?
    3. If it is a symptom, do you know what STI(s) it goes with?
    4. If it is a STI, what are the symptoms? Is it a virus, bacteria, or critter? Can it be treated? Can it be cured?
  3. After 30-60 seconds of discussion, have students hand/toss the ball (safely) to the group next to them (clockwise fashion) and repeat Step 2.
  4. Allow 10-12 minutes for students to pass tennis balls and discuss the terms. You could have students take notes or fill out a worksheet, but the purpose is to discuss and see what students know and do not know regarding STIs.
  5. This activity could lead into a class discussion about some or all of the terms you choose to use or be a good review activity at the end of a lesson. Or perhaps students attempt to complete a reflection or assignment related to STIs.
  6. Activity Twist – I usually have more tennis balls than groups. So, every second or third rotation I make everyone freeze and I will randomly call on a group to explain what they know to the whole class.  Once they do that, I have them toss me their tennis ball and I give them a new one…introducing a new term to the rotation of tennis balls.

Additional Information: Other topic ideas for this type of activity – Contraception, organs of the body, fitness terms/concepts, nutrition, substances/addiction, etc.

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