As regular readers know, two months ago we did some pretty successful lessons on self-control (“I Like This Lesson Because It Make Me Have a Longer Temper” (Part One) — using the famous “Don’t eat the marshmallow” experiment) and last month began an experiment having students regularly visualize academic success (Helping Sudents Visualize Success and More On Helping Students Visualize Success).


I realized last week that I hadn’t done much follow-up since the initial self-control lesson. So, today, as part of our regular “Friday Reflection” I asked students to share the last two times they “didn’t eat the marshmallow” (the last two times they wanted to do something that they knew they shouldn’t do, but resisted) and how they felt about it afterwards. I’m going to start incorporating this question into these end-of-the-week reflections twice-a-month, though I will also explicitly ask students to share what strategy/thinking-process they used to help them resist the temptation. After I had students share with partners, we “lifted-up” some successful strategies people used, and I think that worked out to be an excellent teaching opportunity.  We discussed the importance of thinking through consequences and trying to distract one’s self.

Here are some student responses (from both my mainstream ninth-grade English and my Intermediate English class):

I wanted to steal an iPod but I didn’t do it because I thought of something different.

The time when I didn’t eat the marshmallow was the time I wanted to steal from the snack bar because I didn’t want to spend my $5.

A time that I wanted to hit Cheng, but I stopped because I remembered we were friends. If felt much better afterwards because I didn’t hit him.

The time I want to hit my little sister but I stopped myself. I felt that if I did hit her she was going to tell my mom and I was going to get into a lot of trouble.

Last week there was a piece of pie that I wanted so bad, but I thought that if I took it I was going to get into a whole lot of trouble afterwards. So I walked away from it and it felt good to do something good.


Since the initial lesson, I’ve been having students take twenty seconds twice each class to visualize themselves being successful in the academic activity that we were just about to begin — reading, writing, speaking, listening.  I’ve given people the option to do it with their eyes closed or open, along with the option not to participate (though, if they choose that option, they need to sit silently while others do so.)

We’re giving monthly clozes (fill-in-the-blank) assessments to my class and another Intermediate English class that is not doing this exercise to see if there are any effects.

As part of today’s Friday’s reflection, I asked students to answer the question “Are you participating in the visualization activity?  If so, what do you see?”  I made it clear that it was okay to say “No.”

It appears that about forty percent of my mainstream ninth-grade English class are doing it, and over sixty percent of my Intermediate English students are.

Here is a sampling of responses from the students who said “yes”:

“Yes, I see a lot of different words that come from my mind when I close my eyes.”

“Yes, I see me writing very well and reading very well.”

“I see myself speaking English.”

“Yes, I see myself reading very good.”

“Yes, I see myself studying and doing my best.  But when I do it, it’s not easy.”

“Yes, I see myself speaking to many people.”

I’ve also begun asking students to see themselves achieving the goals they set for themselves as part of our goal-setting lesson earlier this week.

So, all in all, I’m feeling pretty good — not just about the initial lessons, but also the follow-up.

I’ll keep people posted. And, of course, if anybody has suggestions for additional follow-up activities, I’m all ears….