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Can Having Students Tell About Positive Events In Their Lives Impact The Classroom?

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As I write in my book on teaching English Language Learners, I have students write a short weekly journal where they share two positive events that happened in their lives and one not so positive occurrence (and what they could have done to make it better). Then, each Friday, they share what they wrote with a partner. I’ve always viewed it as just an opportunity for some writing, speaking, and listening practice, and as a way for me to identify writing issues we need to cover in class.

Though I always do a Friday reflection with my mainstream classes, I don’t always ask them to respond the same question.

There have been some studies that have come out recently that have found a very positive impact between couples when they tell each other about positive events that happened in their day.

I haven’t found anything online that relates this idea to the classroom, but I’m wondering if this kind of sharing helps the classroom atmosphere, relationships between students, and the attitude of individual students. My ELL classroom is generally more positive than my mainstream ninth-grade class. Perhaps I should incorporate this question more regularly?

What do you think? Do you do anything similar?

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Author: Larry Ferlazzo

I'm a high school teacher in Sacramento, CA.

5 Comments

  1. I love your Journal/Sharing Activity.
    I am certainly going to add this to my classroom weekly activities list.
    Thank you!
    Here is my “Similar Gr5 Activity”:
    Every Friday my students write in their Home Journals. They write about their week at school: the cool experiments they conducted, the game they played at recess, the field trip they went on, the Assembly they attended, the math concept they grasped!
    They use proper letter format: e.g. “Dear Mum & Dad, …” , but I do not correct these “authentic” letters for punctuation, spelling, grammar, organization, ideas, voice, presentation, etc..
    Parents read the letter over the weekend and then write (full page(s)) letters back (addressed to) their child. (They make a wonderful keepsake at the end of the year as well.)
    Best Regards,
    Ally

  2. That’s interesting! I read about the “tell each other about 5 good things that happened today and why they were good” bit in _Happy at Last_, a cheesily-titled look science-grounded ways to become happier (a good counterpoint to _Stumbling on Happiness_, which is a fascinating roundup of all the studies showing why humans are terrible at figuring out which decisions will make us happy). Anyway, I can see that being a good classroom activity. You’ve probably read about the profound effects that just having students discuss their goals and values can have in term of countering stereotype threat. I think simple activities like this can have major results.

  3. This is a great idea. I’ve done this orally during “share time” but I really like the written idea. There have been personal writing topics in my class where the kids ask me to not show anyone what they write about. They enjoy being able to get their feelings out without worrying about parents seeing it.

    Thanks for posting on this topic.

  4. I agree with the notion that talking about positive events generates positive feelings between people. A few years back I had a difficult class where I instituted a daily “mantra” about responsibility followed by a sharing of “good things”. It was not only received well but began to be looked forward to and the high school freshmen class would remind me about “good things” if I forgot to start of the class with it.

    I also require that students include an “Appreciation Statement” at the completion of their portfolio in June. This statement must thank people – friends, teachers, parents, neighbors, anyone – who helped the student survive the transition from middle school to high school. Not only must an appreciation statement be written, it must be signed by anyone named in it, so that person is aware of the appreciation.

  5. An admired third grade teacher who has past on used to have two journals in her classroom. One was for the everyday journalling rlated to school but the second was the Heart Journal. This teacher taught children to seek the positive in their lives and write about it. I saw the changes in the chidren. I believe it is an effective tool to use for many reasons, many of which are not in state standards but of exptremely high value.

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