Smart Strategies for Teaching CNA in High School Blog Feature
Sarah Layton

By: Sarah Layton on June 9th, 2015

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Smart Strategies for Teaching CNA in High School

CNA Certification | Health Science | Nurse Assisting

We've been asked several times by instructors and administrators, "Do you help prepare students in secondary CTE Health Science programs for CNA certification?" Our answer is: "It depends!" It depends on what you consider "preparing students for CNA certification."

Depending on your goals in regards to strictly test prep versus overall, well-rounded CNA education and training, you may have a difference in opinion about how we prepare students for CNA in high school.

Certification for CNA

For health science teachers and CTE directors and administrators getting students prepared for CNA certification is an ongoing responsibility, and frequently a struggle. But a necessary struggle…as NHA so effectively puts it, the benefits to obtaining certification may include: more job opportunities, an increased pay scale, job security, and increased subject matter expertise. That’s what you are providing for your students when you prepare them well for CNA certification.

cna in high schoolBut why is it such a struggle? Well, there’s making sure you know what needs to be covered, making sure that content gets covered, and then making sure your students are proficient with that content. Add to that the fact that CNA certification requirements can change, starting that cycle all over again.

And, perhaps more importantly, administrators, directors, and teachers are telling us, “We would like something to cover enough content AND have test prep for certifications covered.”

CNA in High School: More than Teaching to the Test

If CNA certification is what your students are after, keep in mind the importance of teaching beyond the test.

For example, you probably already know that both NHA and NOCTI provide many excellent tools to help prepare CTE high school students for certifications. But did you also know that both companies readily admit that their exam preparation materials are not the same as a core curriculum. They aren’t designed to teach critical knowledge and skills. They are simply tools to help students pass the exams and get certified. That's great!

But what does that mean for those that teach CNA in high school? It means that you need to surround any CNA certification prep tools with core curriculum that will educate students for competency in their field–not just to pass the CNA certification.

CNA Curriculum Resources

This is the fun part, because there are many different ways to outfit your classrooms with the many fantastic resources available for teaching CNA in high school. For example, the textbook Diversified Health Occupations is an excellent choice for schools that prefer traditional instructional methods. For a more modern method, there are many other types of unique resources, including (but not limited to) Today’s Class, Paxton Patterson, PassAssured, Odysseyware, and Edgenuity.

If blended learning is what you’re after, which often provides the best-of-both worlds for students, combine textbooks like DHO with a subscription to an online resource with automatic assessment and access from outside of the classroom like HealthCenter21.

HealthCenter21 rounds out prep materials and provides in-depth understanding of tested material rather than just ability to check the right boxes. HealthCenter21 provides an extensive library of resources that can be used for students interested in completing the CNA certification. The library takes a mix-and-match approach where instructors pick and choose the learning modules that students need.

HealthCenter21's Nursing Assistant curriculum includes these modules:

  • The Health Assistantcna in high school
  • Infection Control
  • Client Status
  • Body Mechanics
  • Special Populations
  • Patient Comfort
  • Nutrition and Elimination
  • Rehabilitation and Restorative Care


This is more than checking the certification standards boxes. Here is a short version of our teaching model, which we base on Grant Wiggins' and Jay McTige's masterful Understanding by Design theory. Each step repeats for each topic you are going to cover.

Explore: Short Teacher PowerPoints to kick things off, followed by classroom discussion questions. The power points are not designed to “teach.” They are just there to introduce the topic and build interest for students. Don’t PowerPoint your student to death!

Learn & Practice: Students sign into our online system to complete interactive lessons and take short quizzes. Assessment at this stage is considered formative. If you don’t have online resources, you can replicate the system with textbooks, lectures, and skill demonstrations.

Reflect: Students reflect on what they have learned. We often use current event writing assignments. The current events let students relate what they learned to the real world, and the writing assignments help students with common core language arts requirements.

Reinforce: The reinforce stage is where students get to apply the new skills and knowledge. We give projects that require a deeper understanding of the material to complete.

More CNA Info

Need more information about teaching CNA in high school? There are some great resources out there. Here are just a few:


Learn More about HealthCenter21 >


About Sarah Layton

Sarah is a contributing author to the AES blog. She is committed to helping instructors and students succeed both in and out of the classroom.