Finding Yourself on the Line

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: Due to the vocabulary used in the video and for reflection, this is best for students in middle through high school but could definitely be adapted for lower grades. 

Time: 30 minutes (or longer if you build out some of the activities more) 

Among the many vital things we can learn in school, one of the most valuable for our life beyond the classroom is how our own minds work and how to become more aware of our own response to the world around us. This activity and the video it is based upon works best for students in middle school and above but there are certainly discussions you can have with younger students that address these same ideas.

What to do: 

As a class, watch this video and invite students to write down what stands out to them.  

After watching this video, discuss with the class: 

  • What stood out to you in this video? 
  • When in your life do you find yourself above the line? 
  • When are you below the line? 
  • What kinds of things do you do when you’re below the line to shift your thinking? 
  • What is it like to interact with peers when they’ve below the line? 
  • What is it like to be in class when you’re below the line? 
  • What might we do as a classroom community to help each other spend more time above the line? 

Then you can consider a variety of activities that extend this concept and offer further application of it. For example: 

Mapping your day on the line: 

Offer students a timeline of a day (see this sample handout) and have them think about the day before and draw a continuous line that fluctuates according to where they were at any point during the day. Have them write a sentence describing what they were doing at the highs and lows. Invite them to reflect on what they notice in this map and whether they think their map would look different depending on the day of the week. 

Mapping your class period on the line: 

A variation of the above, in this version you could draw the line (see this sample handout) segmented by sections of your class period and have them draw a continuous line showing the highs and lows within that period of time. Have students reflect on what’s happening that puts them below the line in your class and what might be done differently to stay above the line during those sections. 

Mapping your year: 

In this variation the line spans a year (see this sample handout) and is divided by months. As students to think about where they are above or below the line generally throughout the cycle of the year. This may be more difficult for them but would be very instructive for you if they are self-aware enough to know where they have peaks in curiosity or reaction. This variation may be best suited for high school students whose sense of time is a little more developed. 

Brainstorm ways to stay above the line: 

As the video explains, there are good reasons to be below the line from an evolutionary and self-protective perspective but staying above the line is where we’re best able to learn new things. Brainstorm with your class a series of things they can do individually or collectively to stay above the line and create a poster to put in a visible place from their suggestions. This is something you can refer to when the class or individuals within it are struggling and will be more useful to them since it comes from their own ideas. 

Standards Addressed by these Activities

Common Core College and Career Readiness Anchor Standards for Language

Conventions of Standard English:

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

Text Types and Purposes:

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

Comprehension and Collaboration:

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-Awareness: The abilities to understand one’s own emotions, thoughts, and values and how they influence behavior across contexts. This includes capacities to recognize one’s strengths and limitations with a well-grounded sense of confidence and purpose.

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.

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