Teaching Tool - Be Smart, Don't Start

This presentation teaches students about the effects of drugs such as nicotine, caffeine, medications and alcohol.

Target audience: students in Grade 3
Length of core content presentation: 50 minutes

Criteria Met

Grade Ontario Curriculum Codes
3 Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education (2015) C1.2, C2.3


In delivering this presentation, the teacher will:

  • Engage students in discussion and activities that present the harmful effects of drugs, including medications
  • Create an environment in which students feel comfortable asking questions about drugs


By the end of this presentation, students will:

  • Identify the risks and effects of drugs, including nicotine, caffeine, medications and alcohol
  • Learn safe practices for taking medication
  • Practice strategies for personal safety, empowering them to make healthy choices

Core Knowledge Content

Core knowledge content provides the teacher with the background information needed to prepare and teach this health class.

Learning Activities

  • Let's talk about drugs (essential)
    Time: 30 minutes


    • None


    Introduce topic to student and begin discussion using the following questions (supplement and clarify discussion using Core Knowledge Content as needed):

    • What is a drug?
    • Can you name some different kinds of drugs? Ensure that tobacco, caffeine, alcohol and medication are mentioned.
    • When might you need to take medication? What kind of medication might you take?
    • How would someone take medicine safely? Explain or revisit the 5 rules for taking medication:
      1. Take medication only from an adult you trust
      2. Take only the amount of medicine your doctor or a grown-up says to take
      3. Never share medication
      4. Never take someone else's prescription medication e.g. inhaler
      5. If you do not feel well after taking a medication, tell a grown-up you trust right away
    • What are some drugs that are harmful to your body and can possibly make you sick? Emphasize that any drug can cause negative health outcomes.
    • What does it mean to be addicted to something?
    • If people know that using drugs can be harmful, why do they still choose to use them?
    • What should you do if someone offers you drugs? (review refusals skills)


  • Be smart, don't start (essential)
    Time: 20 minutes



    • Briefly review the effects of substance use
    • Organize students into small groups or pairs
    • Have a student read the scenario on the card aloud to the whole class and/or have a group of students act out the scenario
    • Ask students to discuss the scenario in their groups, reflecting on how they would feel and what they would do if they were in that situation. Prompts:
      • How might you feel?
      • What could you do?
      • What could be challenging about that?
      • What or who can help you in this scenario (e.g. skills, resources)?
    • After a few minutes, ask students to share some of their reflections with the class
    • Repeat this activity with different scenarios
    • Close the activity by reviewing some of the refusal skills and resiliency resources (e.g. trusted adults, supportive friends and family, school, community, talents/skills, etc). Write skills and resources on chart paper to be displayed in the classroom.


    • Have students create their own scenarios to which their classmates can respond
    • Substitute or supplement with OPHEA's Safety Scenarios (Grade 3, Making Healthy Choices)
    • Quick review: Whenever time permits (5-10 minutes), revisit one or two scenarios by having students discuss or role-play scenarios and responses
  • Read-aloud, Smoking and Quitting: Clean air for all
    Time: 15 minutes



    • Gather students for a read aloud
    • Read the book aloud to the students pausing periodically to assess comprehension and to discuss tobacco use and its negative effects
    • After reading, ask students to reflect on the story and open a discussion, using the prompts below:
      • What struck you about the story?
        • Some students might discuss how many characters smoked despite the fact that smoking caused a problem in their lives. Use this as an opportunity to introduce the concept of addiction.
        • Some students might discuss the fact that characters' smoking often had negative effects for others. Use this as an opportunity to discuss second- and third-hand smoke.
      • What were some of the effects of smoking that you already knew about? What about those you didn't know about?
      • How did Daniel and Trev make healthy choices? How did they help others make healthy choices?
      • What kinds of things can you do to stay healthy?
        • Students may mention a range of behaviours, including eating fruits and vegetables, getting enough sleep, exercising, etc.
        • Students will likely mention abstaining from smoking, not getting into a car with someone who smokes, encouraging smokers to go outside to smoke, talking to a loved one about worries around smoking, etc.


    • Use the read-aloud to introduce the topic prior to the core content discussion activity
  • I am a media detective
    Time: 30 minutes


    Prepare Ahead

    • Search and select appropriate images or video clips including some form of drug use to show the students (e.g. a Mountain Dew commercial, which shows consumption of caffeine and sugar)
    • Save links to images or videos in some way that will make them easy to access during the activity (e.g. save them to a document or PowerPoint presentation)


    • Ask students if they know about the word "media". Ask them to explain what it means and to provide some examples.
    • They may focus on "social media" so emphasize that this is one form of media, but that there are others (e.g. journalism, advertising, and entertainment media including music, television, and movies)
    • Explain that the media shows a "version" of something, but that this version often inaccurate (not true!) or incomplete (not the whole truth!). When we see or hear things in the media, we need to think to figure out what is true and what is not. Sometimes, that can mean acting like a detective, looking for clues and evidence, and checking the facts so we can decide whether to believe what we see or hear.
    • Show the students a short video clip or image and ask the students to think about the kinds of things a media detective might be looking for
      • If necessary, prompt them to think about what might be considered "clues", "evidence", "suspects", etc.
      • Write students' ideas on the board or on chart paper
    • Instruct the students that today they will be the detectives and they will be looking for those very things
    • Have students work in groups of 2-3 to be media detectives in response to a clip, image, or song from popular media
      • Encourage students to refer to items listed on the anchor chart/board and/or distribute the How to be a media detective tip sheet
      • Instruct students to take notes during their investigation. Optional: have students create/use a special "detectives' notebook".
    • After students have had an opportunity to discuss and take notes with their groups, open a whole class discussion by asking students to share their findings. Optional: write students' responses on the board or chart paper.
    • Ask students to think about what they learned during this activity
      • Prompt them further to ask about whether what they see in the media is fact or fiction (or both)
      • Ask them how what they knew about drugs helped them to think about how they were represented in the clip/image/song they investigated
      • Ask them if they think they think they would do this activity outside of the classroom? Some may mention that they can do this when they watch TV or movies, listen to music, read books, etc.
      • Emphasize that this is an important exercise not only when we see drugs in the media, but anytime we are seeing/watching/listening to something in the media (e.g. when we see a commercial for a new toy)
  • Why I won't start
    Time: 30 minutes


    • Vary depending on format


    • Open a whole-class discussion inviting students to name some of their favourite activities (some may mention playing sports, watching TV, reading, dancing, playing video games, etc.
    • Instruct students to work individually to create a representation of their preferred activity (e.g. an illustration and/or written description of the activity and what they enjoy about it)
    • As a whole class, discuss the effects of drug use on the ability to engage in certain activities. Ask students to reflect on what they know about the effects of substance use and whether/how these effects would impact their ability to enjoy those same activities. Examples:
      • Poor lung function affecting athletic performance
      • Alcohol impairing athletic performance and increasing risk of injury
      • Headaches and nausea from energy drinks, making activities unpleasant
      • Illness, injury, or death would prevent enjoyment of any of these activities
    • Instruct students to work individually to create a representation of how drug use would negatively impact their ability to enjoy their preferred activity
    • As a whole class, discuss some of the students' representations. On chart paper, write down some of activities that can be negatively affected by drug use
      • Optional: Post the chart paper on a bulletin board/wall in the classroom or hallway
    • Allow students to complete their representations
      • Optional: Post their work on the board/wall around the chart paper
      • Have students create a "Be smart, don't start" or "I won't start" banner to post above the bulletin board


    • Have students act out their chosen activities and how substance use might hinder their ability to enjoy those activities
      • This could be used as a game of charades in which points are awarded for correctly guessing the activities and substances, as well as correctly explaining the effects of the substances as they relate to the activity being performed

Opportunities to Extend Learning

Class project

  • Anti-drug Campaign: Have students create an anti-drug campaign in the form of a poster or skit that they can share with other classes in the school or post throughout the school. Students can include information about drugs and their negative health and/or social effects, strategies for making healthy choices, resources, etc. This can be used as a formal assessment and can be coupled with Language and Arts curriculum.

Consult Your School Health Nurse

Your school's public health nurse can help you prepare for delivering this presentation and can assist you in developing engaging projects and extension activities. To reach your school health nurse, contact healthyschools@niagararegion.ca or 905-688-8248 ext. 7379.

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