High School Health Lesson: Refusal Skills, Values, and Goals


You can use this lesson to give teenagers vital skills they need such as refusal skills. Perfect for a high school health class!

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Introducing the Topic of Refusal Skills

I think it is important to help introduce the topic to your class before diving right in. This will help the students stay engaged and connect all the discussions or activities. In this case, you want to help them understand that you will be going over ways for them to stay true to their values and what they are comfortable with.

Here’s an example introduction statement:

“Today we are going to look at the relationship between refusal skills and goals and values.  We will be learning about how refusal skills can be used, how they can benefit our life, and how they protect our goals and values.”

After the introduction statement, I like to ask the students a few questions that will get them thinking. Generally these are “How” or “Why” questions. I’m not fishing for a specific answer, but rather wanting to get their mind going on the topic.

Here are some questions about refusal skills:

  •  How can refusal skills help protect your values and goals? Answer should be about how they can keep you from doing something that would take you away from your goals or how they can get  you out of a situation that does not go with your values and goals.
  •  How can refusal skills benefit your life? Answer should be about how when you know how to use refusal skills, you can get out of uncomfortable or bad situations.  They can help you feel confident about your ability to stand up for what you believe.

Teaching Points about Refusal Skills

During the lesson, I’ll generally have some slides with the main points so that the students can take notes. Here are some of the main teaching points that the students can jot down in their notes.

Write in notes: How to use refusal skills 

  • Use “I” statements.  “I am not okay with going to that movie, but you can go if you want.”
  • Use body language that shows confidence and firmness.
  • Say your words with confidence and firmness.
  • Be bold or repeat yourself if needed.
  • Walk away if a person is not being respectful about your decision or pressuring you.

One thing that is important to explain during this lesson is the importance of assertiveness. This can really help with refusal skills. For kids that don’t know what assertiveness means, you can share this definition for being assertive:

Assertiveness – Saying what you need to say in a firm way that clearly communicates what you want or don’t want, what you are okay or not okay with, and/ or saying things with no apology or excuses.

Activities for Learning about Refusal Skills

Doing activities is a great way to keep your students attentive. Long lectures are boring. These activities can help them remember your lesson for when they need need to use their refusal skills.

Practicing being Assertive

Pair up your students, and tell them that one of them will offer the other one something unhealthy, like a drink of beer. The other person will practice responding in an assertive way. Then reverse the roles and let the person that was a responder be the one who offers the other person something unhealthy. The second person gets to practice responding in an assertive way.

Have a few of them share what they said and how they said it. The key thing is that the other person knew what they were okay or not okay with, not just that they said no. 

Then you can use a transition statement to move into values. Here is an example.

“Now we are going to look at our values so we know when we want to use our refusal skills.  You have to know what you value so you know what situations are against your values and can get out of those situations with your refusal skills.”

Values Activity

Have the kids write down 10 of their values.

You can explain the values are usually things you would teach your kids if you had them. Examples are hard work, honesty, doing things right or with effort, relationships, grades, family relationships, a skill or talent they are working on, spending money wisely and saving, their health, or their goals for college.

Next, have them write 5 things they do to show that they value some things from their list. Examples would be, I exercise because I value my health. I practice my violin because I value that talent.  I spend time with my family because I value my relationships with them.

If you have time, encourage a few students to share with a partner or with the class about what they wrote.

Real Life Scenario

To further emphasize values, you could share a thought about how our values influence our lives. Here is something you could say:

“We can say we value something, but we have to have actions and refusal skills that go with those values. So many times we allow people to persuade us to do things that are against our values.  It is good to make sure our actions match our values and our goals of who we want to be in life.  Let’s look at a situation and analyze if this person is really doing actions that go with what they say they value.”

A boy who is a Junior in high school says he wants to go to college.  He spends a lot of time playing video games and does not give much time and attention to his homework.  He spends a lot of his money on these games and does not have a college fund set up.

Questions to ask your class:

  • What is he doing in his life or what are his actions?
  • Are his actions aligned with what he says he wants to do with his life?
  • What would he have to change to reach his goals?

Straw Object Lesson for Goals

Have one or two students come up.  Each student will have a cup of water (it is best if the cup is clear). They will each have 2 straw (I just cut one in half).  They will first try to drink the water where they hold both straws with their fingers with end of one straw in the cup of water and one out of the cup of water.  It makes it so they are sucking in a lot of air and a little water.  I just keep saying “try harder, keep trying.”  Then let them put the end of the straws in the water and drink.  It goes much better and they actually can drink the water.  

To teach about this object lesson, I will explain what it represents.

“Notice that when the straws were not together it was much more difficult for them to reach their goal of drinking the water.  When the straws were together they were able to do it easily.  The 2 straws represent our goals and actions.  They have to be together if you really want to achieve your goals.”

Have them write 5 goals you want to work on in the next 5 years.

Refusal Skills Worksheet Printable

This activity sheet can be used to help the kids participate in class. You could even have them turn it in at the end of class as an assignment! (print here)

Best of luck with teaching about refusal skills! I know that it is a really important topic for teens to understand. Let me know what you like about this lesson and what changes you make!

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