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the lost children of rockdale county
teachers guide

LESSON 2: Good Attention vs. Bad Attention


Lesson 1

Lesson 2

Lesson 3

Lesson 4

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In the FRONTLINE program, "The Lost Children of Rockdale County," a high school guidance counselor suggests the teens are seeking attention--and that if they can't find good attention, they'll take bad attention in its place. This lesson plan explores the differences between good and bad attention and helps students develop strategies to focus on good attention-getting behaviors.

Estimated Time: 1-2 class periods (block scheduling)

Lesson Objectives:

Students will:

  • Interpret information from the video "The Lost Children of Rockdale County" through a series of written questions and answers.
  • Distinguish between good attention and bad attention.
  • Analyze and evaluate the behaviors which result in good or bad attention.
  • Create a graphic representation illustrating good and bad attention and the behaviors associated with each.

Correlation to National Health Standards

(from http://www.aahperd.org/aahe/natl_health_education_standards.html)

Health Education Standard 1:
Students will comprehend concepts related to health promotion and disease prevention through:

  • describing the interrelationships of mental, emotional, social, and physical health throughout adulthood.

Health Education Standard 3:
Students will demonstrate the ability to practice health-enhancing behaviors and reduce health risks through:

  • evaluating a personal health assessment to determine strategies for health enhancement and risk reduction.
  • analyzing the short-term and long-term consequences of safe, risky, and harmful behaviors.
  • developing strategies to improve or maintain personal, family, and community health.

Health Education Standard 5:
Students will demonstrate the ability to use interpersonal communication skills to enhance health through:

  • analyzing how interpersonal communication affects relationships.
  • demonstrating healthy ways to express needs, wants, and feelings.
  • demonstrating strategies for solving interpersonal conflicts without harming self or others.
  • demonstrating refusal, negotiation, and collaboration skills to avoid potentially harmful situations.

Materials needed:

  • TV and VCR
  • Video of "The Lost Children of Rockdale County"
  • Internet Access
  • Large size paper (11in x 17 in or bigger)
  • Markers or colored pencils
  • Old magazines or other sources of pictures that can be cut out (optional)

Teaching Strategy:

1. Ask the students, "Do people (or you) like getting attention? Is there such a thing as bad attention?" Have students think about the types of attention they receive from their families and friends as you show "The Lost Children of Rockdale County" video segment from 00:00 to 10:06. Have students take their own notes about the details of the story or provide some guiding questions such as:

  1. When did this incident occur?
  2. What health problem prompted adults to pay closer attention to the community's teens?
  3. On a scale of 1 to 10, how much attention did the community's adults give to the teens before the outbreak? What makes you think this?
  4. What alerted the authorities to the situation?
  5. What was unusual about this particular outbreak?
  6. How many cases of syphilis were recorded?
  7. How many teenagers were exposed to the disease?
  8. Describe the lifestyle or socio-economic status of most of the teens involved in the incidents.
  9. Where did the teenagers meet for their activities?
  10. What factors contributed to the syphilis outbreak? (What do you think caused it?)
  11. How could it have been prevented, in your opinion?
Show segment 25:15 to 25:44, then elaborate on the guidance counselor's comments about good attention and bad attention. Welcome comments from the students.

2. Direct students to the FRONTLINE Web site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/georgia/ especially the teen interviews on "Separate Lives" and "Role Reversal." (If Internet access is limited, you may print out the transcripts of the interviews as handouts.) Discuss the ideas presented in the interviews. Possible discussion questions include:

Separate Lives

  • What kind of attention are the teens getting from their parents?
  • Do you think they are satisfied with their relationships with their parents?
  • Are there things that the teenagers themselves could do to improve their relationships with their parents?
Role Reversal
  • What kind of attention are the teens getting from their peers?
  • Do you think the teens are happy with their relationships with other teens?
  • There are no boys interviewed in this segment. How would the boys respond to the same questions?
  • Why do you think the girls are willing to have sex with the boys, even though they admit they don't enjoy it?
General discussion
  • Is no attention worse than bad attention?
  • Are there some kinds of attention that might be good sometimes, but bad at other times?
  • Is good attention the same for everyone? How might it differ?

3. Divide the class into groups of two or three students each, and provide each group with a large piece of drawing paper and some markers or colored pencils. Instruct the students to divide the paper into four sections, with two sections under the heading "Parents" and the other two under the heading "Peers." Label one of the sections under each heading "good attention" and the other "bad attention."

The students should then brainstorm ideas on what kinds of behaviors fall into each category and illustrate those ideas on the paper--with words, drawings, photographs from the magazines, etc. You may have to suggest some ideas to get them started, for example:

  • Parents--good attention includes praise, gifts, or smiles and bad attention may include frowns, abuse, constant criticism, etc.
  • Friends--good attention includes smiles, compliments, hugs, etc. and bad attention might include put-downs, punches, arguing etc.
  • Encourage the students to be creative. Also, encourage them to keep track of items that may fall into both categories (sometimes good, sometimes bad). (This activity may need to extend into the next class period.)

4. On a separate piece of paper or on the back of their Good/Bad posters, have the students list behaviors that would most likely result in good attention rather than bad attention from parents and peers. What will make your parents respond to you in a positive way? What is likely to get good attention/results with your friends? Examples here could be good grades, complimenting someone, smiling, completing chores, really listening, etc.

5. With any remaining class time, have each (or selected) groups present their posters and share their strategies for getting good attention with the class.


  • Completion of questions from video
  • Participation in discussions
  • The completed posters (You may want to create a rubric ahead of time which outlines how many examples required, how much color, creativity, neatness, etc. that you expect to see in the posters. A reference to help with developing rubrics can be found at: http://www.tensigma.org)


1. Students may want to question their own parents about good and bad attention. Did they seek bad attention from their parents as teenagers? What kinds of good and bad attention do they receive from their children, peers, co-workers, and bosses? What strategies do they use to seek good attention?

2. Students might role-play several of the situations discussed during the poster creation. Alternative scenarios might be developed: one could result in good attention, one in bad attention.

3. Students might develop a public-service campaign for the daily announcements, school newspaper, etc. providing quick tips on good vs. bad attention.

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