Unlock Potential. Find Your Password! Poster Activities

Suggested Activities for Working With Students and Adults

The NASP annual School Psychology Awareness Week is November 12-16. The theme for our 2018 School Psychology Awareness Week is "Unlock Potential. Find Your Password!" A password is a personal key for unlocking any number of challenges and opportunities in our lives. Our goal is to highlight how taking a thematic word can direct us into taking steps toward positive change. We can encourage our students, as well as adults with whom we work, to unlock strengths and resources in order to build their academic and social–emotional skills, promote personal growth and resilience, and nurture a sense of belonging and well-being. A password can help us set goals or lead discussions to help children and adults create the connections necessary for skill building. Resources and messaging can be adapted to students and adults, different age groups, and multiple contexts.

Suggested Activities for All Ages

Counseling Activities

Build social skills. The Unlock Potential: Find Your Password poster provides some initial ideas for prosocial behaviors that can help students develop and maintain deep friendships. Discuss the ideas on the poster and consider why they might be good suggestions for the students in your group. Help them brainstorm other activities that will help them build self-confidence and connect with others in order to unlock their potential. Have them role-play specific behaviors with you or other members of the group and discuss when would be ideal times to try to engage in these behaviors. Consider sending each student with a homework assignment to try one new or challenging behavior from the list and report back at your next meeting.

Connect with school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports. Consider your school rules and how these behaviors support them. Help students see how engaging in these behaviors will help them meet personal or classroom goals. Encourage teachers to provide intermittent positive reinforcement in the form of verbal comments, thumbs up, or even school-wide tokens (e.g., key, leveling lock) for engaging in these types of behaviors. Include the words and explanations in the school's morning announcement. Consider using the poster as a kick-off to a year-long focus on positive social behaviors. For example, create a bulletin board that changes weekly or monthly to highlight different behaviors and other aspects of positive school psychology. Use the key, lock, and character cut-outs for students to add their passwords, ideas, and actions to the board.

Create personal progress steps. Work with the art teacher or individually with students to have them create personal posters depicting how they can unlock their potential. These may feature a password or a key thematic word, as well as the steps that they have taken to reach a goal.

Practice perspective taking. Engage students in a discussion or activity about what it would feel like to be on the giving and receiving end of the activities. Use role-playing to help them understand another's perspective. Highlight the power of empathy and gratitude to create broader understanding, acceptance, collaboration, thankfulness, and well-being in school.

Use the Three Good Things writing exercise. Teach students about the power of focusing on the positive. Instruct the students to write down three good things that happened each day for a week. The three things can be relatively small in importance ("I answered a really hard question right in Language Arts today") or relatively large in importance ("The guy I've liked for months, asked me out!"). Next, to each positive event listed, they write a reflection on one of the following questions: "Why did this good thing happen?", "What does this mean to me?", "How can I increase the likelihood of having more of this good thing in the future?"  (Reference: "Positive Education: Positive Psychology and Classroom Interventions". sas.upenn.edu. N.p., 2017. Web. 5 May 2017.)

Promote individual goal setting. The poster includes behaviors that will help any student or adult unlock potential! Help students consider specific passwords, thematic words, or behaviors that can unlock their potential and effect positive change in their life and the lives of others. If you are using the interactive poster option, let them pick their password for the day and take them with them to be brought back and posted on the wall later (or on a personal poster they have created).

Build self-esteem and confidence. Lead a discussion about what perseverance means. With students' help, list the steps needed to learn a new skill such as riding a bicycle, learning to swim, or memorizing the multiplication table. Have them write these steps perhaps in a game (reference NASP poster and collecting keys to unlock your password) and discuss how they connect to success. Have students write or draw a picture illustrating a time when they persevered and succeeded even though they felt like giving up. Then, discuss the feelings associated with their achievements such as pride, happiness, self-confidence, and self-esteem. These types of lessons can positively impact the classroom environment.

Give out "Unlock Potential. Find Your Password" bookmarks to provide a regular visual reminder. This bookmark reflects the School Psychology Awareness Week theme as well as key reminders of how students and staff can highlight a personal key for unlocking any number of items in our lives. A thematic word can direct us into taking steps toward positive change in their lives and the lives of others. These bookmarks are an excellent giveaway for families/guardians attending Back-to-School nights or conferences. They are also excellent data collection tools for students. Have them tally on an attached paper how many behaviors they engage in during the course of a week. You can order bookmarks for a small cost through the NASP website.

Link to the Gratitude Works program and THRIVE wristbands. Identify one of the actions that embody gratitude and select one of the Gratitude Works activities to do.

Classroom Activities

Start the day in a positive light. During morning class meetings, the teacher can pick one password that can help set goals or lead discussions to help children create the connections necessary for skill building. Further, teachers can pick one item that represents a positive social interaction. That would be the theme of the morning meeting. As they share, each student takes a turn to do or say something that reflects the general idea.

Design a classroom lesson. Work with teachers to design a writing, social studies, or health lesson on small acts of positive behavior that can have a larger impact on peers, adults, and students themselves. Have students pick different suggestions from the list or develop one of their own to relate how even small behaviors, particularly interpersonal ones, can leave a lasting impression on others and change the course of your day and that of others. Some suggestions could be: Have students write about the password or thematic word or behavior and why it is important to them or to others. Talk about how kind acts ripple and change how everyone is feeling and acting. Work with speech pathologists to include the words in vocabulary and concept formation lessons.

Hold a scavenger hunt. Have students work as a class-wide team to find someone throughout the day who is demonstrating one of the concepts or behaviors from the poster. See if together the class can identify all of the concepts. Or have students select five concepts to find that day, and see if each student can find people demonstrating these concepts. Provide an opportunity to share at the end of the day.

Create problem-solving connections. Help students create leadership groups that focus on areas they are interested in. Topics could include issues portrayed on in the media or on the news (civil unrest, crime, violence, social justice, politics, racism, sexuality, bullying) Work with students on developing strategies for expression of their thoughts and ideas. Areas to consider: working with others with opposing views, strengthening their public speaking skills, and attendance to community, social, or civic events. These groups can also be used to teach problem-solving and conflict resolution skills.

Empower your students. Consider nominating students for the NASP Student Power Award. This award was created to honor students who support others and recognize students for progress toward personal goals, optimism, problem-solving, eagerness, resiliency, and dedication. This would be a great way to honor students at an awards ceremony that parents can attend.

Bulletin Board Activities

Make it interactive. Print the gaming key, lock, and/or character templates for students to write down a keyword, their password to help direct us towards positive change, and contribute to the classroom or school community. Pin the key, lock, and/or character on the wall to create a display of steps contributing to a positive school community. Have students discuss how all of the positive behaviors and actions help to create positive changes and connect with each other. You can also create keys and locks with words on them and put them in an envelope taped to the wall next to the poster along with a large poster board or sheet of paper. Students can pick an action they have taken that week or one that they have seen someone else do and tape it to the blank sheet.

Catch them being good. Praise and positive attention can go a long way in boosting students' positive behavior and can greatly impact school climate. Positive emotions and the sense of success can buffer kids against negative reactions to adversity. This can help children unlock their potential and thrive. Work with students and staff to identify and reinforce positive behaviors when they are exhibited throughout the school. Write the positive act or behavior on a key or lock found online and post on the wall so that students can see the power of a password and how to unlock potential, making positive choices and the progress created by the good things they do. This can be part of a larger school-wide positive behavior interventions and supports program or specific to individual classrooms. Browse your local library for books that help teach these skills.

Suggested Activities for Working With High School Students

Standing in the Shadow of Our Success. This activity is used to review and reflect on personal and group accomplishments. Individually, participants are asked to consider their roles in their groups' success. One by one, participants are asked to physically stand in the shadow (the place in the room) where they felt they contributed most in moving the group forward. For example, someone who helped facilitate a large group discussion might go stand by the board. Participants are invited to say one or two sentences about their contribution.

Index Cards. Participants are given two cards with the SPAW image on them (can use the downloadable key and/or lock available on the NASP website as an alternative). On one card they are asked to write one thing they've learned, changed, or tried that made a powerful positive difference. On the other card they are asked to write one question they (still) have. After writing the question, they should add one person they could ask to brainstorm answers, one thing they could try to answer the question, or one small step toward gaining understanding and power over this lingering question.

Videos. Brief videos and podcasts relating to SPAW are posted on the NASP website. These can be viewed with your students in order to foster conversations about personal passwords and how these passwords can help us set goals or lead discussions to help children create the connections necessary for skill building. Link viewing these videos with discussion and activity generation. Brainstorm with your students on a range of activities that can be utilized around the theme, "Unlock Potential: Find Your Password!" Activities may be considered for individual work as well as group work or whole school initiatives.

Game ControllerGame Controller. Have students use the game controller image to think about which buttons they use to access resources in their lives. Print out the controller image and have student label each button as a resource they can access in their lives in order to unlock their potential, create connections, and develop the skills to thrive. Further, have students outline their password, which is a key thematic representation for unlocking any number of items in their lives and can direct them into taking steps towards positive change.

If You Really Knew Me ... Know Your Password Group Activity. Before you start, demonstrate what one round will look like.
Lead a discussion about attentive listening before beginning the activity. Help students define what attentive listening means and what it looks like. It is fully hearing what the other person is saying without interrupting and not thinking about your own thing or how you want to respond while being spoken to. It includes facing the person who is speaking, making eye contact, nodding or using other physical responses to what is being said, etc.

How to Play:

  • There should be space for everyone to stand in pairs.
  • Students are assigned to groups of two, with one called student A and the other student B.
  • Student A silently listens to student B for one minute (or shorter for younger groups).
  • Student B finishes off the sentence, "If you really knew me, you would know that ..." What is being shared about themselves can range from
    • Family information-"If you really knew me you would know that I am the youngest of 4 siblings."
    • School information-"If you really knew me you would know that my favorite topic in school is Art." 
    • Favorite/least favorite things-"If you really knew me you would know that I hate broccoli." 
    • Anything else they want to share about themselves.
  • Student B repeats this sentence over and over again, completing it with a new piece of information each time. After a minute the roles are reversed and student B listens while student A shares.

Adults Matter, Too

Recognize colleagues. School psychologists and other adults working in schools face what can sometimes feel like overwhelming hurdles to meet students' needs. It can be easy to lose sight of the power of the small things we do that really are affecting students' lives. Take the time to acknowledge these important steps. Recognize and honor colleagues, families/guardians, or even community members in your school or district who has made an impact on the lives of students, families, and the greater school community through the Possibilities in Action Partner Program. The program description, suggested selection guidelines, press release, and Possibilities in Action Partner certificates are available online.

Express gratitude. School administrators, teachers, and other school professionals can promote gratitude in students by modeling it. For example, schools could have periodic gratitude days, during which staff members announce what they are grateful for and ask students to do the same. In particular, it is beneficial for staff members to focus their thoughts and feelings of gratitude to specific people or students in the school and to directly express their gratitude in person. Use the downloadable and adaptable Unlock Potential note card to send gratitude letters.

Treat yourself and others. Write down on downloadable key and lock (available on the NASP website) a password or key thematic word you notice colleagues exhibiting which has had a positive impact on each other or students. Tape to it a small candy bar, tea bag, or other treat and put them in staff mailboxes, on their desks, or in a basket in the staff lounge. Be sure to keep one for yourself!

Unlock your potential. Recharge yourself by allocating a few minutes this week do something that you enjoy or find relaxing. This will help to relieve stress, build resilience, and enhance optimism. Encourage those adults around you to recharge and unlock their potential as well.

Guide leadership. Identify parents and guardians who demonstrate an interest in leading a group or organizing family-friendly events. Assist them in organizing meetings for the families and community leaders to attend. Events can include cultural nights, homework help/tutors, award ceremonies, book clubs, and fundraisers.

Involve your community. Work with school leaders to identify community agencies that work to create positive school climates. Many agencies are often looking for ways to get involved with schools and reach families. Consider contacting foodbanks, law enforcement agencies, recreation centers, and religious organizations. These organizations often work with families prior to enrolling in school so the creation of ongoing partnerships can create a connected and positive environment where all stakeholders are working towards one goal.

Embrace culture. Encourage your school to embrace and honor the variety of cultures that exist in your community. Work with school leaders to infuse cultural lessons throughout the school year. Get your families involved. Reach out and ask about ways they would be interested in sharing the variety of cultural experiences that exist amongst the school community. Create Show and Tell opportunities within the classroom that will allow students to highlight strengths or areas of interest and aspects of their culture.

Engage families. Offer families/guardians increased opportunities to access the school building. Offer homework information sessions, positive parenting classes, trainings on alternatives in discipline, computer training courses, accounting courses, or award ceremonies for parents. These events allow the school environment to become a welcoming and warm environment that not only offers educational support to its students but also to parents and guardians.

Create critical connections. Identify at-risk students and assign a staff member or older student (mentor) to check in with them at the beginning of each day, and again before school ends. This system will be beneficial for the student who is being checked on, and also for the older student. Ensuring our at-risk students are being supported is a great way to ensure all students are connected to support.

Use social networking. Participate in NASP's SPAW social media campaign with #UnlockPotential. Engage on social media to share your SPAW ideas, highlight creative activities, and connect with colleagues celebrating SPAW in a variety of ways. Read inspiring posts for additional unique activity ideas. You can also stay connected to your colleagues and see what is happened around the country by visiting the NASP website for daily recaps posted throughout SPAW.

Share Your Ideas.

A number of these ideas come from school psychologists who created their own activities. We want to let your fellow school psychologists know about your creative ideas so that they can unlock potential, too. Let us know what you did using the SPAW feedback survey.

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The annual NASP School Psychology Awareness Week poster can be used in many different ways to inspire all school personnel to help students thrive! The poster is also available in Spanish

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