Becoming Aware: Cancer

Activity Overview: 

This unit allows students to be the center of their own learning by involving them in every step of the process. As they work in groups to gather information they gain insight into the types and causes of cancer as well as many other components of the disease. The information gathered by each group is shared in a presentation to the rest of the class.


  • Understand how lifestyles, family history and other risks factors are related to the cause and prevention of disease and other health problems.

  • Understand the importance of regular examinations (including self-exams) in detecting and treating disease early.

  • Raise an awareness of specific terminology and different types of cancer.

The unit "Becoming Aware: Cancer" is one that I created and further developed into a study that allows students to be the center of their own learning. It involves creativity, cooperation, responsibility, critical thinking, decision-making and the use of technology. The students will be learning more about the disease of cancer. It will help students develop an awareness of terminology related to the disease, signs and symptoms, diagnosis, treatment options, incidence and lifestyle choices that could possibly help prevent this disease from happening to them. The students will also become more informed about specific types of cancer. The information found by each group will be organized and presented creatively to the rest of the class.


(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the following activities/standards will appear in the video clips used.)


Curriculum Standards from

National Educational Technology Standards (NETS) Performance Indicators from

Students will be introduced to the cancer assignment by using a PowerPoint Presentation that discusses the requirements of the project. This will also model a method that will be an option for them to present their own information. Each group will be doing research, evaluating Web pages, organizing the material, creating a handout, quiz, and bibliography that will help them do a 30 minute presentation to the class.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 3, 4, 5, 6

Before the presentations begin the students will also be given a PowerPoint. Presentation that will discuss terms and some basics about cancer.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 5




The students will decide in their groups who will be responsible for specific parts of the presentation assignment. The assignment is set up to be easily divided into sections as well as needing to work together as a group.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 4

The students need to use the Internet and/or library sources to find General Information, Signs and Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment Options, Incidences, and Any Preventions (Lifestyle Choices) about their specific topic. A Website evaluation form will be filled out for each Website used. The students will also be given the instructor’s Website address to find a list of sites to get them started.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 3, 4, 5, 6

As a group, the information must be sorted out and some of that information will be used to create a handout to be given to the class. It must be original and not copied. It may be done on Pagemaker, AppleWorks, or Microsoft Word.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 4

As a group, five questions with answers must be developed and handed in for use on a test at the end of the unit.

National Health Education Standards: 1


A method of presentation needs to be decided on by the group. They may use PowerPoint. hooked to a scan converter or projector, overheads, posters, or any other creative way they can come up with to give their information to the class.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 3, 4, 5, 6

A works-cited page needs to be word processed in correct format with a minimum of four sources.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 4

Other materials will also be used during the presentation to help meet the allotted time requirement such as a short video, review game, puzzle, worksheet, etc.

National Health Education Standards: 1

Grades 9-12: 3, 5

A planning sheet will be filled out that will include what will happen during their presentation. This will help with organization of time and so each person knows what he/she is responsible for.

National Health Education Standards 1


A note sheet will be filled out by each student while they are listening to the presentations.

National Health Education Standards: 1


Two computer labs are available as well as two computers in the classroom. Students could do research alone or with their group.

Web sites:
Bonnie Holm’s Senior Health Page. Available: (This is the instructors Web site and will include the requirements and also site that will help the students to begin searching.)
American Cancer Society. Available:
Other sites found by students when searching specific topics.

Microsoft Office 98-PowerPoint for Multimedia Presentations. Available:
Microsoft Word for Word Processing. Available:
Appleworks or Clarisworks for Word Processing/Draw Program. 
Pagemaker. Available:
Life’s Greatest Mysteries CD Rom. 

Scan Converter
Computer Projector
LCD Panel

Overhead Projector
Library Sources-especially the Mayo Clinic Health Book
Bulletin Board with Info from American Cancer Society

A rubric is used to evaluate each of the presentations. Each student does a self-evaluation using the rubric along with a teacher assessment. It includes the following sections: Organization, Information, Presentation, Length, Handout, Quiz, Bibliography and Cooperative Group Work. A range of four different point values: 10, 9, 8, 0. The total of all columns is then multiplied by two.

Bonnie Holm, Aplington-Parkersburg High School, Parkersburg, IA

Senior Health is a course that is required and attended every other day opposite Physical Education. Class times are forty-five minute periods. Senior Health helps students deal with information that will be of value not only today but also into the future. The students have a unit on Family Life/Crisis, Parenting, Prevention and Control of Diseases and Substance Use and Non-use. There are many specific topics under each of the main areas.

The students are reenacting the activity, because they had already been given the assignment and allowed nine class times to work together with their group. There were seven specific cancers that were researched, therefore seven class times were used for presentation times. Two class times are used by the instructor to present information on PowerPoint. The first one introduced the assignment and a second gave some basic information about cancer in general.

This unit has been taught for three years. Each year I have added a few more requirements as well as sources of equipment available to use. I was very pleased with this particular group in that many of them tried PowerPoint presentations even though they had never done them before. They picked up on using the program very quickly and also had fun working with it.

Technology Resources:
The building I am teaching in has two computer labs and each of these are available to use when the Health classes are meeting. Since computers were available the students could do a lot of searching on the Internet for the information that they needed. I also have two computers available in my room. One of the computers is on a cart which makes it easy to hook up to a TV that is mounted on a wall or to move it and use a projector to show the information on a screen. The Office 98 program was available in one of the computer labs so the students had access to that if they needed it.

School Background Information:
The school district of Aplington-Parkersburg is made up of two communities in a whole-grade sharing situation. The Aplington-Parkersburg High School is located in Parkersburg.  Parkersburg and Aplington would be considered a rural area and Parkersburg has a population of about 2000 people with Aplington's population at about 1000 people. We are located near Cedar Falls (home of the University of Northern Iowa) and Waterloo, Iowa. Many of the parents are employed in the Cedar Falls/Waterloo area. Our high school has a population of about 300 students. Our student population is not very diverse with about 99.5% Caucasian and .5% of other ethnicities. The percentage of students that have a limited English fluency is 0%.

Teaching Strategy:
I use this teaching strategy with the seniors because Spring is a time of the year where they are anxiously awaiting graduation and this project keeps them on task. They are responsible for a class time with a project they have put a lot of time into and want to show the rest of the class what they have found. It puts them at the center of their learning. They also can be creative in their presentations and use of time. They enjoy working as groups and listening to each other teach the lesson.

Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model Components Highlighted in This Activity:
(Note: This is a unit plan that may cover several days to several weeks. Not all of the elements from the Technology as Facilitator of Quality Education Model that are described below will appear in the video clips used.)

Principles of Learning:
Active Involvement: In the unit on Becoming Aware: Cancer, the students learn as they gather information about their topic, working together as a group to sort through information to prepare a creative presentation, and give their presentation to the class. Learning will also take place as students listen and become involved with presentations from each of the other groups.

Informal Learning: When the students are responsible for their learning in an informal atmosphere they become more engaged. By working together in groups they are learning from each other. They also learn social skills such as interaction with others and to make decisions about what they are going to use to prepare their presentation. The students will also be increasing their computer us in an informal setting.

Direct Experience: In the unit Becoming Aware: Cancer, the students worked in assigned groups. They are given the opportunity to search on the computer and sort through a lot of information. The students need to understand the material they are going to teach so that the presentation is creative, accurate and an enjoyable learning experience for the rest of the class.

Compelling Situation: Learning occurs best in the context of a compelling presenting problem. The students need to find reliable information about the specific type of cancer assigned. Cancer is a topic that they hear about but need to learn more about the facts and terminology. The project requires their ability to work together and sort through information they find to decide what is important for their classmates to know.

Information Processing:
Appreciation: The topic of cancer is one the students have heard about but do not always understand terminology, symptoms, detection or treatments. When the teacher introduces the assignment with a PowerPoint presentation and discussion the students‚ interest and curiosity rises and they want to learn more.

Presearch: During the Presearch stage the students first have interaction with the topic through some discussion during a PowerPoint presentation by the instructor. The students are divided into groups and discuss their assigned topic. They need to brainstorm information they already know and divide up different parts of the assignment that they need to find more information about. They also discuss other sources available to add to their knowledge.

Search: The students are made aware of evaluating Web sites and to use a variety of sources. They are provided with a few sites and need to search for others using Search engines. They work cooperatively to find reliable, relevant information. They are required to fill out a Web site evaluation sheet for each site used and this also helps keep track of information that will be needed for a bibliography.

Interpretation: There is much emphasis during the cancer project to filter through information so that accurate, reliable information is used. The groups need to organize the information for their presentation and use Web page evaluation sheets provided by the teacher to help them determine if a site is reliable.

Communication: Students work together to develop and teach about their topic to the class. Each group needs to have a lot of interaction to create an interesting presentation to help others learn. Each group is responsible for selecting the best ways to share information with their classmates. They may choose from a PowerPoint presentation, use of a short video, a game, overheads, worksheets, handouts, or any other creative format or combination of formats. They not only have to choose the information they want but also have to divide up the job of teaching it to the class in an organized way.

Evaluation: Students use two types of Evaluation for their assigned cancer project. They use an evaluation form for Web sites while searching for information and after they are finished with their presentation they do a self-evaluation using a rubric.

Content Standards:
Health: Becoming Aware: Cancer

Standard: Know how to apply concepts about the prevention, control and characteristics of disease.

Understand how lifestyle, family history and other risk factors are related to the cause or prevention of disease and other health problems.

Understand the important of regular examinations (including self-exams) in detecting and treating diseases early.

Tolerance: During the unit Becoming Aware: Cancer the students are required to work with other people in groups that are assigned by the teacher. The students have to work together to be successful in designing a presentation for the class. This presentation requires students to listen to each other, come to an agreement on different issues of the assignment and work together while sharing the information with the class.

Critical Thinking and Decision Making: Searching for information and planning a presentation requires a lot ofDecision Making on the part of the group. Being selective about information to include, how the information will be presented, who is responsible for particular parts of the assignment, and what creative format will be used are some of the examples ofDecision Making that will be done.

Thinking Together and Making Meaning: During the project of Becoming Aware: Cancer there is much emphasis put on working as a team. The students are encouraged to be open-minded, involve everyone in their group, and help members who may need help or positive influence. These are all skills that will help them later in life with getting along with others.

Power Sharing and Empowerment: The cancer unit in Health is one that opens up a lot of opinions about research, treatments, prevention, death, etc. It is important for students to be open-minded and realize everyone does not share the same thoughts about this disease. Some have been touched very closely dealing with cancer and have different experiences that reflect in their thoughts. The students need to be understanding during discussions.

Individual Responsibility and Civil Involvement With Others: In this particular research and presentation assignment the students play the role of the teacher. Each group is responsible for particular information about a specific cancer. It is their responsibility to find the information and create a classroom situation that engages the rest of the class in learning. By using cooperative learning techniques and creating a positive work environment, each student can be a part of the final product.

Student Characteristics:
This requirement for seniors is not only giving them information about cancer, but also some techniques and experience that they may be able to use for college. Working with others and developing and giving a thirty-minute informative presentation requires many different skills including planning, organization, speaking skills, use of equipment, etc. Many of our students go on to further education and many of these things will give them experience for college.

How the Activity Has Evolved Over Time:
With increasing technology available as each year passed a little more was added to the assignment. Everything has to be word-processed and as more computers and equipment became available more creative presentations were possible. When the project was first started only overheads were used as a way of presenting the information. Because of this the presentations were a lot alike, except for the actual information. Now the PowerPoint program is used by many, and even students that have never used the software before learned very quickly. Some students also show Web sites to the class that they feel are beneficial. It allows them to be creative while they are putting the information on the computer and also make it unique. A rubric was added this year as the assessment and it helps the students become more aware of what is expected of them.

(Learning activity format adapted from National Educational Technology Standards for Students Connecting Curriculum & Technology