I’ve never been that comfortable with the idea of — after a student has been disruptive or “blew it” in some way — giving them a sheet to write about what happened, why, and what they could do differently (though I did try it). They’re not going to be thinking clearly at that moment, and much of the time they don’t have a clue about why they did it, anyway.

I have been trying, though, having students do some different types of reflective activities, and have written about them at Another Way For Students To Strengthen Self-Control? and One Way To Help Students Who “Shut Down”?

Those posts describe studies that show self-control can be replenished by both self-affirmation exercises and by remembering better times. I’ve been trying this by asking students to put their head down and think about those questions for a minute. It seems to work (somewhat), though I don’t know if it’s because of the exercise or just because it functions as sort of a “time-out.”

Now I’m going to try something different.

I’ve created two simple questions that I’ve put on cardstock (you can download a master to use for copying here):

1. Please write at least three sentences about a time (or times) you have felt successful and happy:

2. Please write at least three sentences about something that is important to you (friends, family, sports, etc.) and why it’s important:

There’s space for students to respond.

I’ve explained to the class what the studies have shown, and what I’ll be asking them to do — if necessary.

I’m all for talking with students about their specific problem behaviors, and helping them think through ways that both they (and I) can handle challenging situations better. I just think it’s much more effective to do it later, or the next day, when everybody’s cooled down.

In that moment, when my goal is just to get the student re-focused on learning, I think these questions, and this card, might have a better chance at diffusing the situation more quickly, and helping the student replenish his “supply” of self-control so he/she can get back to that learning task.

Reactions — both positive and critical — are welcome.