Teaching Tool - Self-concept and Healthy Relationships

This presentation teaches students about developing a healthy self-concept and healthy relationships.

Target audience: students in Grades 6
Length of core content presentation: 50 minutes

Criteria Met

Grade Ontario Curriculum Codes
6 Grades 1-8: Health and Physical Education (2019) D2.5


In delivering this presentation, the teacher will:

  • Create an environment in which students feel comfortable discussing self-esteem, self-awareness, confidence, and relationships
  • Provide opportunities for students to think critically and practice decision-making to promote a healthy self-concept and healthy relationships


By the end of this presentation, students will:

  • Identify the factors that shape their self-concept
  • Identify and distinguish qualities of healthy and unhealthy relationships
  • Demonstrate the ability to reason critically in making decisions about relationships

Core Knowledge Content

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

Learning Activities

  • Self-concept and healthy relationships PowerPoint presentation (essential)
    Time: 30 minutes



    • Cue the PowerPoint presentation
    • Follow speaker's notes to guide students through a review of puberty
    • Use the speaker's notes to facilitate a discussion of positive self-concept
    • Cue the Who Am I? slide and proceed with the What makes me 'me? activity
    • Proceed with the presentation, engaging students in a discussion of healthy relationships


    • Follow prompts in speaker's notes to incorporate optional supplemental activities (Media and me and Making healthy choices)
  • What makes me "me" (essential)
    Time: 20 minutes



    • Cue the Who Am I? slide in the presentation and follow the prompts in the speaker's notes to initiate a discussion about students' self-concept
    • Instruct students to draw or write a representation of themselves (e.g. a self-portrait, a graphic illustration of their own names, a shape in a particular colour or pattern, etc) at the center of a blank page
    • Once they've completed their self-representation, instruct students to build on their illustration by adding different features that make up their own self-concept
      • Invite students to discuss their representations with a partner or in small groups before opening a class discussion about the features they've drawn
      • What are some of the qualities or features you've chosen to include in your self-portrait?
      • What does feature/quality mean to you?
      • How do you think having a positive self-concept can help you in the future? How can being clear about who you are and recognizing your strengths help you deal with challenges you might face?


    • Build on the discussion with a writing activity in which students identify how their self-concept might help them stay true to themselves in the face of a challenge
      • Have each student identify a specific hypothetical challenge (preferably relating to relationships and/or puberty) and identify a way that their self-concept can help them make a decision that is healthy and in line with their values and priorities.
    • Follow this activity with the Media and me activity before proceeding with the rest of the PowerPoint presentation
  • Making healthy choices
    Time: 30 minutes



    • Open a discussion about the role of communication in healthy relationships. Ask students to think about the different ways we communicate with others.
      • Possible answers include: using words, such as communicating verbally face-to-face or on the phone, or communicating in the form of text (text messages, emails, instant messages, letters, etc); using non-verbal communication, such as body language, gestures, and facial expressions
    • Explain that it is very important for people in all sorts of relationships to have good communication, meaning that ideas and feelings are shared in a way that is effective and healthy
    • Ask students what makes for good communication between people
      • Possible answers include: using clear language; using language the other person will understand; making an effort to understand what the other person is trying to say; choosing the right time and setting to talk; being attentive/not being distracted (e.g. not scrolling through your phone); using a calm tone; being polite and respectful
    • Ask students to think about what happens when there is poor communication between people
      • Possible answers include: misunderstandings; conflict or arguments; injury; one or more people may be offended or insulted; rumours; one or more people may become frustrated; one or more people may not get what they want/need
    • Introduce the concept of assertive communication and its importance:
      • When we are the ones trying to communicate an idea or a feeling, it is important that we try to be as clear and direct as we can. In other words, we want to use what is called "assertive communication"
      • Assertive communication is important for communicating positive ideas and feelings, as well as negative ones
      • The big changes we experience during puberty can also bring about some very challenging situations in our relationships with others. In those situations especially, it is important to use assertive communication
    • Ask students what it means to use assertive communication:
      • Possible answers include: the language will be clear and firm; body language (i.e. stand up straight and make eye contact); choosing words carefully; staying calm and controlling emotions; being respectful and using respectful language.
      • If students do not mention it, introduce the concept of "I statements" (e.g. "I feel... when you... because...")
      • Explain to students that our concept of assertive communication might vary depending on our cultural background, so this does not apply to everyone
    • Explain to the students that they will be given some scenarios that will allow them to practice making decisions and communicating to promote healthy relationships and a positive self-concept
    • Organize students into small groups or pairs (2-3 students)
    • Have a student read the first scenario aloud
    • Allow students 3-4 minutes to work in their groups, discussion or role-playing a response
    • Encourage them to consider the following questions, whenever appropriate
      • What is the issue?
      • How might you feel in this situation?
      • How could you respond? If applicable: How could you use assertive communication?
      • What could help you make a healthy choice in this scenario (e.g. skills, values, interests, etc.)?
    • Return to a whole-class discussion and invite each of the groups to share their responses and reflections with the rest of the class
    • Supplement and clarify information using the Core Knowledge Content, as needed
    • Continue in the same manner with as many of the scenarios as possible


    • Introduce this activity immediately following the S.H.A.R.E. slide (last slide) in the PowerPoint presentation
    • Create a gallery walk with a different scenario at each station with one group at each station and rotating to the next one after a designated period
    • For formal assessment: Have each student compose an individual written response to one of the scenarios to be collected for assessment
    • Allow students to create their own scenarios
    • Follow with the media literacy activity, Media and me, in this Teaching Tool
    • Quick review: Whenever time permits (5-10 minutes), have students discuss and respond to a scenario to do a quick review of content learned about resiliency, self-concept, and healthy relationships
  • Media and me
    Time: 30 minutes



    • Initiate a whole class discussion by asking students about where we get messages about how people should look and act. Students might mention parents, peers, books, TV, movies, social media, music, etc.
    • Ask students to reflect on the images that they see in the media and on social media. (Optional: show students various appropriate images from media/social media, such as celebrities' Instagram pictures)
      • What images are they?
      • What do you think when you see them? How do you feel?
      • What do you think goes into creating those images?
      • What is their purpose?
    • Show Dove's Evolution video clip
    • Ask students to discuss the video and what they saw. Allow students to discuss with a partner or in small groups. Use the following prompts, if necessary:
      • What did you see?
      • How did they alter the model's appearance?
      • Why do you think they changed the model's appearance?
      • Do you think this happens a lot?
      • What are some ways that you can see people's appearance being changed in media, including on social media? What about make-up and hair styling? Lighting? Filters (Instagram and Snapchat)? Posing and different angles?
      • How does this make you feel?
      • How do people feel when they don't look like the images they see in the media? But do the people in the images actually even look like their images?
      • Is it just physical appearance that is manipulated in the media? What about lifestyle (e.g. having lots of fun, friends, money; having the best clothes, shoes, sports gear; going on trips; eating fancy or healthy food)?
        • For example, Lil Bow Wow was in the news in early 2017 for having faked an Instagram post (posted a picture of a private jet and implied that's how he was traveling, but then was spotted in coach on a commercial flight) and this prompted a #bowwowchallenge campaign in which people created fake posts and showed how they created them.
      • What about skills (e.g. being able to do a perfect handstand or make a trick-shot in basketball; playing a song perfectly on the guitar; singing)? Ask students if they've ever heard a singer whose voice sounds different when they sing live as opposed to their recorded album. Have they heard about singers being "caught" lip synching?
    • Ask students to think about how their self-concept can help prevent the negative feelings they might have because of media messages and images
      • Self-awareness can help them recognize that they are unique and that's great
      • A positive self-concept will allow them to recognize that they have many qualities, abilities, interests, supports, goals, etc. that make them who they are
      • Knowing about themselves and knowing that media images are manipulated can help them to know that they don't need to live up to a fake and impossible ideal
    • Invite students to think of ways that their knowledge and self-concept can empower them to make changes and help others
      • They might refuse to buy in to these images as an ideal and look up to healthy role models instead
      • They might strive to become role models themselves and set an example for their friends, siblings, parents, community, etc.
      • They might challenge media messages and share the work of those who seek to expose the distortions in media representations


    • Introduce this activity immediately following the What makes me 'me'? activity during the PowerPoint presentation
    • Follow this activity with the 'Spotting stereotypes' activity
    • Allow students to create a written or visual response to the video clip
    • Expand on this to discuss how comparing ourselves to others, not just in media but in reality, can hinder our self-concept by viewing and discussing Dove's Change One Thing video clip

    Curriculum Connections

    • This activity can be connected to curriculum expectations in Language (Ontario Curriculum, Grades 1-8, Language (2006), Grade 6: Media Literacy, 1.2 and 1.5)
  • Spotting stereotypes
    Time: 15 minutes


    Prepare Ahead

    • Find media clips or images from TV shows or movies that are popular among the students
      • Include examples that illustrate stereotypes relating to gender and sexuality
      • Consider including some examples that challenge stereotypes


    • Explain that sometimes we make assumptions about the people around us. Often times, our assumptions are oversimplified ideas about a group of people based on little information about who they are. This is called a stereotype.
    • Explain that sometimes stereotypes seem pretty harmless, but they can be very damaging
    • Where do you think stereotypes come from?
    • Sometimes they are learned from our peers, our families, our teachers and coaches, etc. Sometimes they are learned from the media.
    • Explain that sometimes stereotypes relate to things such as gender or sexual orientation. Optional: Display the Genderbread person image to illustrate the distinction between gender, sex, orientation, and expression.
    • Show images or clips from media (preferably sourced from scripted TV and film) and initiate a discussion using the following prompts as needed:
      • How is gender represented?
      • How is sexuality represented?
      • E.g. mostly heterosexuality; some homosexuality represented in media; both hetero and homosexuality are often represented in stereotypical and exaggerated ways. Heterosexuality is represented in very gendered ways. Heterosexual men are represented as initiators of sex and in behaviours that celebrate promiscuity and a high sex drive. Heterosexual women are represented in a positive light as chaste or as consenting to one man's sexual advances, and in a negative light as promiscuous.

        Homosexuality is often represented as exceptional to a heterosexual norm. Homosexual couples in presence of heterosexual couples are often depicted as making one or more of the others uncomfortable if they display any affection, but the reverse does not occur (for example, in early episodes of Modern Family, Jay knocks and closes his eyes before entering any room in which Mitchell and Cam are, because he does not want to see them kissing). What message does this send?

        Homosexuality is represented as something that has to be announced or admitted ("coming out") but rarely do we hear of heterosexual adolescents having to announce their sexuality. What message does this send?

      • How is gender and sexual expression represented?
      • Very stereotypically.

        Femininity expressed through clothing, grooming (e.g. make-up, long, styled hair), colours, movement (graceful), talking, being responsible, being overly cautious, being sensitive or overly sensitive.

        Masculinity expressed through clothing, grooming, colours (blues, greens, reds, and neutrals), movement and posture, aggression, athleticism, physical strength, being silent (and resenting talking), being irresponsible or immature, being fun and adventurous, being insensitive

        Homosexual men expressing themselves in feminine ways

        Homosexual women expressing themselves in masculine ways

        Heterosexual men expressing themselves in masculine ways and being put down for showing any feminine tendencies (including crying or being well-groomed) or lacking athleticism

        Heterosexual women expressing themselves in feminine ways and being celebrated for masculine behaviours (e.g. building something using power tools), and athleticism is celebrated but treated as unexpected or a surprise

      • How are friendships represented?
      • Often homogeneous (males friends with males, females with females, except homosexual males are often shown as being friends with females)

        What happens when friendships between a heterosexual male and a female are shown? Often end up in a romantic relationship.

        Do we see friendships between heterosexual and homosexual males? What about heterosexual and homosexual women?

    • Ask students to consider whether stereotypes are only present in TV shows and movies, or if they have noticed stereotypes in other places in the media (e.g. sports, social media, music, print media, etc.).
    • Provide examples of how gender stereotypes or expectations about gender roles exist in sports:
      • Competition is gender-based, with the assumption that male athletes are superior in their athletic skills and/or strength
      • The most highly paid and commercially popularized professional sports/athletes are male
      • Female athletes are often shown wearing make-up while they play sports
      • Eugenie Bouchard being asked about her dream celebrity date in an on-court interview after advancing to the semi-finals in the Australian Open in 2014 (the first Canadian to reach semi-finals at the Australian Open) and being asked to "give a twirl" in an on-court interview after winning her match at the Australian Open in 2015.
    • Ask students to consider how stereotypes are present in marketing.
      • How are toys, activities, foods, clothing, shows, bands, etc marketed?
      • Are certain things marketed towards boys? Girls? How do companies do that? What happens when they do that?
    • Conclude with a discussion about how stereotypes affect how we think, feel, and interact with others
      • Have students consider how they can create a supportive and inclusive environment that is comfortable and safe for everyone.


    • This activity can be extended by presenting students with different characteristics and behaviours and asking students who we would assume these belong to (male, female, intersex, transgender, heterosexual, bisexual, homosexual, two-spirited, etc) and why? Assumptions can include race and socioeconomic status as well. Have students reflect on what influences the assumptions they've made about those characteristics.
    • Have students find examples of print, video, or audio media promoting healthy behaviours and/or healthy representations (e.g. of relationships, gender, sexuality)

Opportunities to Extend Learning

Read-aloud or group reading: Couple this lesson with a read-aloud or group reading of a book that explores self-concept and challenges faced by middle schoolers in their interpersonal relationships. Examples of books include:

  • Wonder by R. J. Palacio
  • Stick Boy by Joan T. Zeier
  • Saving Montgomery Sole by Marika Tamaki.

As with all resources, Public Health recommends that these books are first read by the classroom teacher to ensure that they are appropriate for their students.

Throughout the story, pause and encourage students to reflect on aspects relating to development and relationships during puberty, such as:

  • Changes the characters experience. How these changes are experienced by different characters and how this relates to their self-concepts.
  • Self-esteem and self-concept of different characters
  • Resources and protective factors of the characters (e.g. family, teachers, friends, skills and talents, self-awareness, goals, hobbies, etc.)
  • Qualities that characterize different relationships as healthy or unhealthy Supplement and clarify information as needed, using the Core Knowledge Content

Consult Your School's Public 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's public health nurse, contact healthyschools@niagararegion.ca or 905-688-8248 ext. 7379.

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