Small Steps Change Lives Poster Activities

The NASP annual School Psychology Awareness Week is November 14–18. The theme for our 2016 School Psychology Awareness Week is Small Steps Change Lives. Our goal is to highlight how the small steps students take can help build the academic and social-emotional skills they need to promote personal achievement, growth, and resilience, as well as a sense of belonging and wellbeing. Small acts are essential in building greater successes. Resources and messaging can be adapted to students and adults, different age groups, and multiple contexts.

Suggested Activities for Working With Students

Build social skills. The poster provides some initial ideas for prosocial behaviors that can help students develop and maintain 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 friendships. 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. 

Make it interactive. Use the footprint template to create blank footprints for students to write down a strategy they can take to contribute to the classroom or school community. Pin/tape the footprints on the wall to create a path of steps contributing to a positive school community. Have students discuss how all of the positive behaviors and actions help to create a connected and positive school environment. You can also create footprints 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.

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., Stepping Stones, etc.) 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.

Create personal progress steps. Work with the art teacher or individually with students to have them create personal posters depicting the small steps that they have taken to reach a goal.

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.

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 sense of success can buffer kids against negative reactions to adversity. 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 footprint and post on the wall so that students can see the growing path of 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.

Start the day in a positive light. During morning class meetings, the teacher 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.

Classroom lesson. Work with teachers to design a writing, social studies, or health lesson on small acts-or steps-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. Have students write about the 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.

Individual goal setting. The poster includes behaviors that will help any student or adult thrive. Help students consider specific behaviors that they could take to change lives. If you are using the interactive poster option above, let them pick their word 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).

Hold a scavenger hunt. Have students work as a class-wide team to each 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.

Give out "Small Steps" 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 take small steps to change lives. These bookmarks are an excellent giveaway for parents 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. 

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 on footprints 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 achievement such as pride, happiness, self-confidence, and self-esteem. These type of lessons can positively impact the classroom environment. 

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, politics, racism, sexuality, bullying, etc...) 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 events, community social or civil 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, and dedication. This would be a great way to honor students at an awards ceremony that parents can attend.

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 impact the small things we do each really are making on students' lives. Take the time to acknowledge these important steps. Recognize and honor colleagues, parents 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 Small Steps Change Lives note card to send gratitude letters.

Treat yourself and others. Write down on a footprint small steps you notice colleagues taking or impacts they have had on each other and/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!

Guide leadership. Identify parents and/or 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 vary from cultural nights, homework help/tutors, award ceremonies, book clubs, fundraisers etc.

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 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 building. 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 parents. Offer parents increased opportunities to access the school building. Offer homework information sessions, positive parenting classes, trainings on alternatives in discipline, computer training courses, accounting courses, award ceremonies for parents etc. These events allow for 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 as well.

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, but the older student, as well. Ensuring our at-risk students are being supported is a great way to ensure all students are connected to support. 

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 connect dots, too. Let us know what you did using the SPAW feedback survey.

November 14–18, 2016

Download and display this year's SPAW poster.

SPAW Bookmarks


This bookmark gives students and staff key reminders of how Small Steps Change Lives.