Thursday 9 January 2020

Answering Student Questions When Teaching Sexual Health

Submitted by: Teaching Sexual Health, Alberta Health Services

Teaching sexual health can be intimidating, whether this is your first or twentieth year of teaching. A common fear is how to handle questions, especially ones you may not know the answer to. is here to help!

Making time for and responding to student questions is an important part of sexual health education. Encourage your students to ask questions during class and to use the Question Box.

The Question Box is a tool that enhances learning by allowing students to ask questions anonymously. Using a Question Box gives you time to review the questions to make sure that that you know the answers and that you’re comfortable answering them appropriately for the grade level you’re teaching.

To use a Question Box effectively, consider these tips:

·         Have every student write a question on identical slips of paper.

·        If someone doesn’t have anything to ask, they can write a comment about the lesson, draw a happy face or just write “No Question” on their slip of paper.

·        Collect the questions at the end of each lesson.

·         Read through the questions after class and prepare to answer them during the next lesson. This gives you a chance to confirm the answers, and get your own giggles or embarrassment out of the way beforehand.

When answering questions during the next class, or anytime a student asks a question in class:

·        Give affirmation to students for asking questions.

·        Define words, including slang and continue on using the correct terminology. For example, if a student’s question is “What is a homo?” you could say, “A homo or homosexual is a hurtful slang word used to put down people who have sexual or romantic attraction to people of the same sex.

·        Answer the question clearly, objectively, factually and appropriately for each grade level. If the question is values-based, like “When is a good time to have sex?” talk about the many things that a person might consider when coming to their own decision about this issue, instead of imposing your own values on students.

·        Assume all questions, even shocking ones, are real questions. After all, they came from somewhere. It’s likely a genuine request for information, no matter how shocking it may be!

·        Check back in with students about how well your answers have answered the question. Consider finishing each answer with “If you still have questions about this topic, or I didn’t quite answer what you meant to ask, please ask again in today’s question box”.

If personal questions are asked, there is no need to read the question out loud or answer it. Say something like “There are two questions here about my personal sexual experience. I want to remind everyone of the ground rules we made on the first day about not discussing our personal experiences. I expect you all to follow that rule when submitting questions as well.”

For more about the types of questions asked by students, and strategies to answer them, see Responding to Student Questions.

For answers to commonly asked student questions, see our FAQs page.

And finally, consider signing up for a FREE online workshop to increase your comfort and confidence in teaching sexual health. These are offered four times a year for all Alberta teachers.

For questions or comments, contact

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