To begin today's lesson, my students and I will have a brainstorming session. I want us to create a list on the board of all of the strategies we use to cheer ourselves up on days that we become discouraged. We talk about what it means to be discouraged and the ways that school, and life, can sometimes be discouraging. I am always surprised at what my students come up with and am proud at their amazing ability to cope with what life throws at them.
On the board we'll put up ideas like:
I always tell them how amazed I am at their great ideas. Then, I share with them that we are going to add one more strategy to the list. Today, we are going to create a pocketful of sunshine for everyone in the room. It will be something we can look at and cheer ourselves up with on those days when life is a little overwhelming.
I hand out a blank envelope to everyone and ask them to write their name on it. Then, I ask them to open the envelope so they can write on the inside of the flap. There, I have them write 2-3 of the strategies on the board that they believe will be useful to remember. This way the strategies will greet them as they open their envelopes!
Next, I hand everyone enough index cards so that they have one for each person in class.
I display my seating chart on the screen, so that we can all see how names are spelled (One year, I had two students whose names were pronounced Kelsey.... One was spelled Celsee and the other was Kelsea!)
Once we have all of our supplies, I present the task: we are going to write a positive, complimentary memory for each person in class. That way, whenever someone is having a discouraging day, they can flip through these cards and be reminded of all of the positive traits they possess!
Now, the rules:
But wait, there's more!
Before I set the students free on their assignment, we talk about specific memories and examples from class. I say to them, "What does it mean when someone is able to paraphrase your ideas in a Socratic Seminar?" Hopefully, someone will raise their hand and say that it means the listener was paying attention to what you had to say. I then challenge my students to think of a specific compliment or positive memory that will prove to each and every one of their classmates that they have been paying attention to them this year.
At the end of class, I hand each student a sticky note and a rubber band. I want their cards banded together and labeled with their names, so that I can check them for appropriateness before I have my TA load up those envelopes.
They love getting them back the next day!