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9-12: Sex under the influence

by Kathy Crumpler, Learn NC

The use of alcohol and other drugs increases the risk for unplanned, unprotected sex. This action exposes young people to HIV, other STDs, and pregnancy. The lesson engages students in the decision-making process regarding risk and checks their understanding of behaviors that put them at risk.

A lesson plan for Grades 9–12 Healthful Living Education

Students will:

  • review how HIV is and is not transmitted
  • explore the effects of alcohol on sexual risk-taking
  • consider their own risk and plan for self protectioning

Time required for lesson: 50 minutes


  • colored cards or stickers placed on each desk before lesson
  • transparency of brain centers
  • transparency of effect of alcohol on brain function
  • signs: red stop sign, yellow caution sign, and green light sign
  • set of risk cards
  • data from YRBS on alcohol use and sex, percent remaining abstinent
  • current data on prevalence of STD among adolescents
  • chart paper, markers, and tape

Classroom environment:

  • walls to post signs and cards
  • room to move into small groups for discussion

Set up: If possible, place cards and markers on desks for the first activity prior to student arrival. Post the three signs: STOP, CAUTION and GREEN.

Technology resources

overhead projector with screen or a blank wall


Focus Activity:

Place colored cards on desks. One color represents the number of students who have engaged in sex. Another color is the number who are still abstinent, and a third are those who currently are infected with a STD. Separate the class based on the color of their cards. They stand in groups. Have the groups look at the other groups and ask, “What do those people have in common?” Allow students to speculate. Elicit responses from each group. Reveal the significance of the groups by explaining what the colors represent. Ask, “Does anyone want to change places? If so, raise your hand.” Allow them to change groups. Conclude, “We can make this change now because this is just an exercise. Can you do that in real life?” This discussion should include the fact that a person can decide to return to practicing abstinence and some STDs are curable, while others are not. Process student responses.



Tape three signs around the room: a red stop sign, a yellow caution sign, and a green light sign. Introduce the review. “We are going to participate in an activity to review the level of different risk activities associated with intimacy and their potential for HIV transmission. I will pass out cards with different activities. You may discuss your card with someone near you and decide how risky that activity is for HIV transmission. Once you have decided, place your card under the sign that represents the level of risk. If the activity is high risk for HIV transmission, meaning you are highly likely to become infected, place your card under the red stop sign. If the activity is low risk for HIV transmission, meaning there is a some possibility of infection, place your card under the yellow stop sign. If the activity poses no risk for HIV transmission, meaning there is no evidence that this puts a person at risk for infection, place your card under the green stop sign.”

Pass out the cards. Allow time for students to decide and post their cards. Go over all the behaviors and make sure they are under the correct sign. Select a few to ask students to explain why they think it is a high, low, or no risk. Move any that are in the wrong category. Clarify misconceptions or misinformation using the teacher guide.

Teacher input:

Ask students, “What happens to people when they consume alcohol?” Brainstorm some of the physical and behavioral effects. Show the transparency of the brain centers, followed by the transparency or handout of Effects of Blood Alcohol Levels on Brain Function. Point out which functions are affected as the intake increases. Ask students if they can understand why the legal blood alcohol content limit for a driver is .08 in North Carolina.

Guided practice:

Effects of Alcohol on Decision-Making: “Based on the latest North Carolina YRBS (2003), 18.1% of students reported using alcohol or other drugs before they last engaged in sexual intercourse. We want to explore the health implications particularly for alcohol use for young people like yourselves.”

Divide the class into 4–5 small groups. Provide these instructions: “In your small group, select a recorder and reporter. Discuss the connection between alcohol use and sex. What do the two risks have in common? Moreover, what additional consequences are there when the two are combined? Is the risk different for males and females?”

After allowing time for discussion (about 5–10 minutes) ask each group to report out. Chart key points from their responses. Be sure to point out where a risk for HIV infection might occur. Assessment

Introduce the assessment by explaining, “We have reviewed the activities that put a person at risk for HIV infection and talked about the effect of alcohol, in particular, on one’s ability to make decisions.”

Ask each student to devise a personal protection plan. “Decide on your own personal limit when it comes to abstaining from alcohol use and sex. Write down at least three strategies you will use to protect your personal limits and safeguard your health.”

In grading, make sure the student has identified limits that do protect him or her from risk. Supplemental information

Alcohol and the Brain

Alcohol is a depressant that acts on the central nervous system. That is why people feel a sense of relaxation when the alcohol starts to slow down brain activity. As a person continues to drink, different parts of the brain are affected and various functions slow down.

The cerebrum controls things like emotion, vision, and the ability to reason or recognize familiar things. When these functions are affected by alcohol, people feel less inhibited and more social. Their judgment is also impaired and they may do things they will later regret or be embarrassed about.

These effects occur at a blood alcohol level of .01% up to .30%.

The cerebellum is responsible for movement, coordination, reflexes and balance. At a blood alcohol level of .15% to .35% these are all affected.

The medulla controls some of the body’s basic survival functions, like cardiac and respiratory systems. Large amounts of alcohol can cause these functions to be depressed to dangerously low levels. Alcohol poisoning occurs when enough alcohol has been consumed to stop the heart and breathing. This can occur at blood alcohol levels as low as .30%.

Young people need to understand the risks of alcohol and that it affects males and females differently in terms of consumption and the brain’s tolerance. See the Gender Differences attachment. Comments

This lesson plan was developed to address the growing concern over alcohol use and the increased risk for HIV due to increased risk-taking in adolescents.

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