As a requirement of the Australian Curriculum, Year 5 and 6 students need to be taught about the basics of puberty and the changes this phase of life may impose on an individuals life.
Puberty, however, can be a sensitive topic for many primary school students. Teaching it therefore requires a lot sensitivity and care to ensure the needs of your students are met while also meeting the requirement of the curriculum.
Things to Consider when Teaching Puberty to Primary School Students
- Teach boys and girls separately:
Now this is controversial and as always when teaching puberty we recommend that you are sensitive to your students needs. Teaching boys and girls separately can make students feel far more comfortable and willing to participate. However, if the resources in your school do not allow for this then you may need to be creative or simply teach the content to the whole student body at the same time. Once again just be sensitive to your students and what their needs are. For inclusivity it may be more appropriate to teach as a whole class.
- Teach boys and girls the same content:
Whether you are teaching about the changes that happen in a female body or a male body, it is important to make sure you teach the same content to both genders. This is not only a requirement of the curriculum but part of your duty of care to ensure your students are fully informed about life. Even though boys won’t experience the changes the female body will go through, they will be impacted by these changes. And likewise for girls. Knowledge of the changes that occur in the male body will help them navigate through life.
- Students may get uncomfortable and fidgety:
Sometimes students can get uncomfortable and fidgety during these lessons. If this is the case, it is helpful to stop and have a physical activity break. This can be as simple as having the students “shake” out their discomfort and having them stand for a full body shake.
- Allow opportunity for your students to ask questions:
Many times students have a lot of questions on these topics, however; there are some challenges in taking questions directly from students. Some students might feel uncomfortable asking questions in front of their peers. Some students may also ask questions that you are uncomfortable answering, or unprepared to answer on the spot. Doing anonymous questions can help with both of the scenarios. Provide students with slips of paper (similar to those included in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit activity pack) and explain that students can use the sheets to ask questions that they would like to ask in private. At the end of the class, everyone will put a sheet in the box, that way we have no idea who asked what questions. You can either then choose to:
– Draw questions directly from the box and answer them in class,
– Have another questions session at a later date, or
– Create an “answer sheet” that students can take home with all the answers on it.
The last two options offer you the most flexibility in answering the questions and preparing your responses. The Puberty and Hygiene Frequently Asked Questions Sheet included in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit can help you prepare your responses.
- Communicate with parents about the content you will teach their students prior to starting the topic in your classroom:
It is recommended that before you commence this unit with your students that you send out the letters to your student’s parents regarding the content that will be taught in the upcoming lessons. We have included a letter template in the Year 5&6 Puberty Unit for you to edit with your own school logos and any other additional information you feel you need to include.
Teaching Puberty Needn’t Be Overwhelming
With so many things to consider when teaching puberty, it is no wonder teachers get overwhelmed!
Teaching sensitively; meeting student needs; ensuring students feel comfortable; engaging students in the content; working out what content needs to be taught… it can just feel like too much sometimes.
But no need to fear!!
We have done a lot of that thinking for you in our Year 5&6 Puberty Unit.
With our unit you can open a safe, age-appropriate classroom conversation that normalises puberty. Relatable and informative, each lesson and associated activities thoughtfully steps your class through the puberty changes your students will face.
As always, we truly hope this post has helped inform your teaching practice. If you have any suggestions on other tips and tricks for teaching puberty please feel free to add them below!
Yours in teaching