Birthing Dialogue: Using The First Part Last in a Health Class

Open dialogue has the ability to captivate students and improve their ability to think and write critically. In English classrooms, literature is often used as a platform for discussions where students not only study the material, but engage in conversations that allow them to create their own content. This article explores how young adult literature can be used to achieve similar discussions in other content area classrooms.

Crag Hill’s article “Birthing Dialogue: Using The First Part Last in a Health Class” was published in the Fall 2009 issue of The ALAN Review. In this article, Hill details his study on the benefits of young adult literature in non-English classrooms, focusing closely on a high school health class. Throughout the study, students read The First Part Last, a novel on breaking down stereotypes surrounding teen pregnancy and parenting.

Through the use of three different discussion exercises—an exit slip, silent discussion, and four-corner debate—students engaged in critical discussions regarding these social issues, and how they would react in similar situations. Each of these exercises were designed to generate student interest in discussions with their classmates, while ensuring that their voices were heard and their opinions valued.

This article includes several examples of student responses to these exercises, as well as pre-reading and post-reading surveys used to document the positive effects of the novel and classroom discussions. By the end of the course, students had developed a more in-depth understanding of relevant social issues, while using critical thinking and discussions to reach their own conclusions.  

Teachers and students in Life Writes Project classrooms have enjoyed similar success in cross-cultural and intergenerational dialogue about important and sometimes sensitive issues in response to Young Adult literature.  These conversations have ventured into family dynamics, politics and identity formation.  You can read more about these interchanges captured in some of our students’ writing on

How do you engage students in critical discussions in other content area classrooms? Share your thoughts with us. You can find us on Facebook or tag your comments on Twitter with #LifeWrites.

This contribution was made by Christina Ugrovics, senior English: Professional Writing major, French minor at Elizabethtown College, PA.