If you try this activity with your students, we’d love to see what you do. Share your journey via the #Inspired2Learn hashtag on your preferred social platform.
Discipline: These activities can be applied in any class or subject area.
Age level: All
Time: 5-15 minutes (or longer if you build out some of the activities more)
Every minute of class is an opportunity to build community but with some intention, those last minutes of class can be a great time to deepen relationships. These activities can take a few minutes or half an hour depending on how much time you have available. Some require advanced planning (Finding Smiles, and Bring Something to Share) but most can be done with no materials and in the spur of the moment. \
Something wonderful happens when we feel seen for who we are and what we contribute to the well-being of others. Focused and specific feedback on how we positively relate to others is good for our self-esteem and encourages us to lean into our authentic selves. We can encourage this kind of awareness in our students by giving them the opportunity to look for the good in one another. In this #Inspired2Learn activity each student is paired with someone whom they will secretly observe, noticing what this classmate does that makes them smile. The observation period lasts over the span of a class period or a few days. At the close of your chosen time period students share what they observed with one another.
In one of her Hooray for Monday posts, Inspired Teaching President and Founder Aleta Margolis explains why we sing in all our workshops. She lists a variety of reasons for why singing is important including:
- Singing creates connections and builds community.
- Singing makes us breathe. It rewards deep breathing; bigger, deeper breaths equal louder, stronger, and more resonant sound.
- It makes us vulnerable – we sound different when we sing than when we speak, so those in our community hear a different part of us when we sing.
- Singing literally creates good vibrations – in our chests, throats, and heads.
- Singing supports language development.
- Music has the power to elevate our moods. Singing makes the day feel different.
We like to sing a handful of songs that have been part of the Inspired Teaching repertoire for many years. You can sing anything with your classes and even have students bring in the songs they’d like to sing. Here are a few of our favorites along with little zines that you can print and fold with lyrics for each.
This activity is a challenge and often takes many tries before the group is able to effectively make it work. It would be a good thing to try multiple days in a row to demonstrate growth.
Begin sitting in a circle.
Say: “In this game, our job is to count up starting with the number 1 and going as high as possible, with only one person speaking at a time. The group must start over if two people speak simultaneously. Ready? One…”
When group needs to restart you simply say, “One…”
Start with eyes open and try with eyes closed later as a challenge.
If the group develops a strategy (ex: going around the circle) congratulate them for finding a strategy to “solve” the game, then challenge them to count up randomly.
According to Merriam Webster a “shout out” is “a public expression of greeting, praise, or acknowledgment directed toward a person or group.” You can read more about the popular origins of the word here. In your classroom shout outs are an opportunity for students to acknowledge one another and the contributions that peers have made to their learning.
You can invite shout outs with a simple statement like, “as we close class today does anyone have a shout-out for something a classmate did or said that deepened your learning or made you feel supported in today’s class?” Or, you can start with your own shout-out such as, “I want to close class with a shout-out to Jamal whose question about if fish ever get bored swimming around their tanks has given me something to research tonight. Does anyone else have a shout-out to share?”
These can go on for a while so you may want to strategically time your shout-out sharing for the last 5 minutes of class, or, if you suspect there will be a lot to share give it more time and start earlier!
Chills and Thrills
A “chill” is something that didn’t go well or is troubling you. A “thrill” is something that did go well and brings you joy. When you invite your class to share chills and thrills students often share both.
Chills and Thrills are a fast and effective way to get a sense of either how your lesson landed with your class or what’s going on your students’ lives that might be impacting their ability to learn. These outcomes are dependent on how you set up the activity.
Here are two different ways to set this up:
For feedback on the lesson:
“As we close class today, let’s take a moment to reflect on how this lesson went. Share your chills, the things you wish we’d done differently, and your thrills, things you thought went well.”
Student answers might sound like:
- “My chill is that we ran out of time to work on the problems independently. My thrill is that I got to work with a partner.”
- “My chill is that my experiment didn’t work. My thrill is that I think I finally understand what a chemical formula is.”
- “My chill is that those pictures of the Holocaust were really horrible. My thrill is learning about those german citizens who were fighting against the Nazis.”
For feedback on how the class is feeling:
“It’s Friday, as we head into the weekend think about the week gone by and what you’re looking forward to in your time off. Share your chill, something that didn’t go too great this week, and your thrill, something that you’re looking forward to or that did go well for you.”
Student answers might sound like:
- “My chill is that I had 4 tests in 2 days and I don’t think I did well on them. My thrill is that I get to go camping this weekend.”
- “My chill is that my baseball team lost last night. My thrill is that I’m seeing my grandma tonight.”
- “My chill is that I got in an argument with my friend on Monday. My thrill is that we figured out this week and we’re having a sleepover this weekend.”
After a full day of school or a class period, a nice way to reflect on the learning and nod toward what lies ahead is to have students set intentions for the next class period. They can do this in a notebook or share their thoughts verbally with a partner or the class as a whole. Here are some variations on how you might introduce this activity depending on grade level:
- K-2nd Grade – “What’s something you did today that you’d like to do even better tomorrow?”
- 3rd – 5th Grade – “Tomorrow we’ll keep working on the writing we did today. What would you like to accomplish in your writing tomorrow?” -or- “Tomorrow your groups will continue to work on this social studies project. As a group, set a goal for what you need to accomplish by the end of that class.”
- 6th – 12th Grade – “Thinking about what you learned today, set an intention for how you want o build on that learning tomorrow.” (You may need to spend time talking with students about what an intention is, this can be a great lesson in and of itself!)
Take A Quiet Breath
A truly simple but effective way to end class can be with silence and some deep breaths. You can introduce this practice by explaining to students that our minds need time and space to process learning and taking a moment to just breathe in silence and be with our thoughts makes that possible.
Think about the timing for such an activity and find a process that works best for your class. For example, you may want your students to get themselves all packed up and ready to go before you take that moment of quiet, otherwise, their minds will be filled with the activity of leaving. In that case, you could try this:
- 5-7 minutes before class is ending tell students they have 3 minutes to get ready to go and then they need to return to their seats for a short closing. (Your timing will be highly dependent on the age of your students and how much packing up they have to do.)
- 2 minutes before the end of class sound a bell or chime that signals that they need to be back to their seats. Then ask them to take 2 deep breaths in and out, and to sit silently for a minute, and as they breathe through the quiet to reflect on what they learned in class.
- Signal when the minute is over and ask them to take one more big breath in and out.
Students will get better at this with practice and may even come to look forward to that last quiet moment of class. You can make the time longer, introduce things like singing bowls to get them into a reflective state, turn off the lights, encourage them to close their eyes, play quiet music, and more.
Bring Something to Share
A favorite elementary school activity is often bringing things from home to the classroom to share. But this is fun no matter what grade you are in and the opportunity to share something of who you are with your classmates can be an important way to build community. Sharing can be random or tied to a particular goal or what they are learning in class at the time. Here are some examples of invitations to share:
- Bring in a book and be prepared to tell your classmates why it’s something they should read.
- Share a favorite piece of clothing and why you like it so much.
- Bring in a picture of you doing something you love to do.
- Bring in something you’ve outgrown but that you still keep because it is meaningful to you.
If everyone in class brings in something to share you can have them share in small groups or have a few students share each day for a couple of days so the sharing doesn’t take a huge chunk of class time. If you split it up, just make sure to offer an opportunity for every student to share their voice.
Standards Addressed by these Activities
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.1 Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.
Vocabulary Acquisition and Use:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.L.6 Acquire and use accurately a range of general academic and domain-specific words and phrases sufficient for reading, writing, speaking, and listening at the college and career readiness level; demonstrate independence in gathering vocabulary knowledge when encountering an unknown term important to comprehension or expression.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Writing
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Speaking and Listening
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.1 Prepare for and participate effectively in a range of conversations and collaborations with diverse partners, building on others’ ideas and expressing their own clearly and persuasively.
Presentation of Knowledge and Ideas:
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.CCRA.SL.4 Present information, findings, and supporting evidence such that listeners can follow the line of reasoning and the organization, development, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning Competencies
Self-management: The abilities to manage one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors effectively in different situations and to achieve goals and aspirations. This includes the capacities to delay gratification, manage stress, and feel motivation and agency to accomplish personal and collective goals.
Social awareness: The abilities to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacities to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and supports.
Responsible decision-making: The abilities to make caring and constructive choices about personal behavior and social interactions across diverse situations. This includes the capacities to consider ethical standards and safety concerns, and to evaluate the benefits and consequences of various actions for personal, social, and collective well-being.
Relationship skills: The abilities to establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships and to effectively navigate settings with diverse individuals and groups. This includes the capacities to communicate clearly, listen actively, cooperate, work collaboratively to problem solve and negotiate conflict constructively, navigate settings with differing social and cultural demands and opportunities, provide leadership, and seek or offer help when needed.