Helping teenagers learn to think through situations instead of rushing to poor solutions can make the difference between a troubled or successful future. Although the brain reaches its normal size between ages 12 and 14, it doesn't fully develop until around a person's early 20s, often leading to reckless decision-making in the meantime. Through cooperative and individual activities, you can help teenagers learn to weigh the consequences of their choices and see the effects they have on others.
Logging Your Choices
The small, daily decisions teenagers make each day can often reveal valuable information about their values and priorities. Ask students to think back over the previous day and make a list of all the decisions they made. They may have chosen to hit the snooze button rather than get up, to study for a test instead of eating lunch or to not do the assigned reading for an afternoon class. Then, ask them to look at each decision and consider what their choices reveal about what's important to them. Have them write a reflective paragraph in which they consider the results of the exercise.
ICED, ICED, Baby
ICED is an acronym that spells out the steps in the decision making process: identifying the problem, creating alternatives, evaluating the alternatives and deciding on the best solution. Type up several fictional scenarios involving teens making choices with positive and negative outcomes, such as whether to tell an adult about a friend's drug use, shoplift a T-shirt they can't afford or plagiarize a paper from the Internet. In groups, students can discuss these dilemmas, working through the potential consequences to find a solution. Each group can then share their scenario and how they used the ICED process to reach their final decisions.
Role-playing different outcomes of a decision can let students experience how choices affect others. Come up with a fictional scenario involving a big decision a character has to make and write four different outcomes on slips of paper. After reading the story to the class, have students work in groups to randomly select one outcome and put together a skit showing what happens. Once all the groups have performed their skits, discuss which of the outcomes was the best solution, which was the poorest choice and how these decisions affected everyone involved.
Deciding on Future Directions
Shaping a positive goal for the future can give students incentive to make good decisions in the present. Ask them to make a list of school subjects, activities and hobbies they enjoy, and then list one potential career that aligns with each item on the list. They can then read over their lists and choose one career they would each like to have someday. Have them list the skills and special training they'd need to hold these jobs. Then, they can make action plans of how they might achieve this career, thinking about how the choices they're currently making could prevent them from reaching this goal.
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